For All Gentle Thoughts and Mild

I took last week off, just to have some time to rest and to enjoy the weekend. Now I am back in full force.

To be honest – there is so much to write about and so much on my mind: from Trayvon to the Voting Rights Act and all of the victorious things happening for LGBT rights in the US – to the heartbreaking reality LGBTQ people face in Russia and other European countries where violence against LGBT people is becoming a societal norm.

I’ve thought about our garden and about our hopes and dreams for our homestead and our hopes for communal living and communal farming with our friends in the future.

I’ve thought about music and the power of singing and a wonderful interview I read with Dar Williams. (Shout out to my friend Kim for introducing me to Dar).

I had my birthday last week. (The big 3-2).

We booked our honeymoon/anniversary/legal marriage trip. We can’t even wait.

I keep thinking about how much I love this amazing woman who is my wife and partner for eternity.

I cannot stop thinking about having kids. I find myself crying every time I read Mommy blogs and articles, and a ridiculous giddy joy when I see babies laughing. I ache inside in a deep place as I long for motherhood, and feel excitement as I know it is growing closer.

The idea of family bonds has been at the front of my thoughts – my wife, our friends who have become family, our future kids – it’s how we form our own families – including those who have already been family (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.)

It’s like that old song “Make new friends; keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

I think family is the same way.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the joining of families is.

It makes me excited for the future, but also gives me assurance that as we take the next few steps in life together, we will be surrounded by love – family and friends.

The following is a hymn that we sang at the marriage of our friends Claire & Austin. It has been on my mind, and we sang it at our own congregation recently, too.  I want to share it with you today and leave it with you to think on. There are more verses, but these are the ones most on my mind.

For the Beauty of The Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour,
Of the day and of the night;
Hill and vale and tree and flow’r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on Earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Love,

C.

Advertisements

Losing My Faith to Find It

A couple of days ago, I had a thought come to me and asked for others to contribute their thoughts, and I had hoped for more discussion, but I understand these things don’t always go as planned or hoped for – but even with this longer post, I still hope for more dialogue.

But with the dialogue I did have – with the couple of posters, a couple comments on facebook, and a very long conversation with my wife – something became very clear – our view of, our experience of, and who we believe Christ to be (we can pretty much sum all of that up by saying our Christology) is central.

Lately, I have found myself angry – because of injustices and excuses for injustices – more specifically, I have found myself incredibly angry at racism, homophobia, immigrant-phobia (more racism with a twist), politics, and in all honesty – angry at the Church for its participation in some cases, and its silence in others. I became angry at people (usually people seen as leaders in the Church) who seem to talk more about conservative politics, “old glory” (the flag) and “God and country” more than the risen Christ and the hope we have in him.

Another place I find myself often these days, and I think because of the sins of the Church – is a crisis of faith.

James Fowler, a minister in the UMC and someone who has studied psychology has a model of faith development in which we have a crisis and possibly (depending on what we do with that crisis) – grow. For anyone who has taken a basic psychology class, this model is very similar to Erik Erikson’s model of identity development. Fowler has an entire book on the topic, but I also highly recommend this article: http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm

Though I know this theory rather well, and though I believe it to be true – it hasn’t been what is on my mind. What has been on my mind the most is asking myself the question: why do I hold on to my faith, anyway? Why don’t I just quit and stop associating myself with a religion, that in this country, isn’t what it says it is? Many of us have become disillusioned and disgusted with the American brand of Christianity that seems to disenfranchise and demonize rather than provide real hope and love in the world. It seems to focus more on what we shouldn’t do, rather than what we should be doing. The book of 1 John and Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbor seems to get lost in a rhetoric that is overly political and even more so: us vs them.

Last year, when extremely hurt by the Church over a very sad and ridiculous day of political action, I even toyed with a chorus to a song which really went nowhere because I thought it sounded too angry, but I will share it now:

I pledge allegiance to the Church
Of the United States of America
And to the Republican whom it serves
One God inside our box
Divided between the sheep and goats
Justice only inside this flock

———————————————–

It isn’t my finest, I know. And in case you were wondering, that republican, of course, was Mike Huckabee.

What I wanted to share was the feeling. The anger and the sorrow. Anger is an interesting emotion in that it is usually covering up something else. (A nice bit of information I learned in my training as a therapist.) Here, it is covering sorrow.

I was sorrowful because so many people were standing against rights of human beings, sorrowful that the Church was participating in such a sad and pitiful act while people were starving (gluttony, anyone?), sorrowful that people did not look into the real reason behind the boycott (money going to a hate group. don’t believe me? look up the FRC at the Southern Poverty Law Center site), sorrowful at all the hate coming out of people’s mouths, very sorrowful for Christ being so misrepresented.

So am I losing my faith in Christ over a bunch of conservative (and many believed they were well meaning) Christians eating chicken sandwiches in my face about a year ago?

No.

But I know some people who did.

Pat Robertson said this week he wished there were a vomit button (instead of a like button) for pictures of gay couples on facebook. People protested against marital rights, in the name of God. People have started the process of limiting voting rights in states throughout the country. Russia passed some scary laws against LGBT people. So-called evangelists have helped, in recent years, to ignite so much hate in Africa, that some countries made being gay a crime punishable by death.

Am I losing my faith because of all of this?

No.

But I know some people who did and are, and let me tell you – it is a daily struggle for me.

Why do I hold on to my faith in Christ?

I have thought in recent weeks about stopping, but then I think of my church, in the UCC (United Church of Christ), and the wonderful supportive loving community I have found. I just can’t leave.

And I think of the gospel and what it really says about loving God and neighbor and about all those commands to live out that love in a tangible way.

But even more, I think of Jesus.

I think of what all I have learned about Jesus through my union with D. How her love for me, and mine for her have taught me about intimacy, vulnerability, steadfastness, loyalty, joy, and companionship more than any other life lesson I could have imagined. (Though I know we will learn even more when we become parents together.)

In all honesty, since I have been with D, my love for Christ has only grown, and continues to grow – exponentially.

Christ – it is my love for Christ that drives me to be so sorrowful for the church. It is my deep knowing him that aches my soul when I see him painted so negatively and misrepresented.

Christ asked his disciples a question –

They told him what other people thought he was – a prophet, sometimes a specific one reincarnated.

Prophets tell us things; they see things; they sometimes had these amazing and seemingly impossible things happen when they were near.

But Jesus got real specific, “Who do you say I am?”

Bless Peter’s heart. He was pretty bold: “You are the Christ (the Messiah).”

The Messiah.

Messiah is much more than prophet. Saying someone was the Messiah could get you killed. And it did.

Messiah – not just someone to tell us things or give us rules.

Someone to know. Someone to love. Someone to follow.

Who do I say Jesus is?

Well, like the ones who said something earlier this week, I believe Jesus is the Christ. I believe he is risen, and I believe this changes everything.

One poster so beautifully said “he commands my life and my death.” – so true.

Another so wonderfully stated that his belief impacts how he cares for others – that he strives to be kind. Yes, and amen.

I do not walk away from my faith because of the Church at large. I stay with my faith in Jesus because of Jesus Christ himself. Because I have known his love. Because I have literally felt his love and known him to sing over me, rejoicing. Because I have known his beautiful gifts and sacraments in community, friendship, marriage, and communion.

I do not walk away from Christ, because Christ is my center, and he is the center of marriage with D.

I truly believe that it is our answer to the question, “Who do you say I am” that will determine how we relate to ourselves, to God, to each other, and to our environment.

When we see God’s great love and we know it, when we see Christ literally make all things new, when we see the beauty of the Creator – it is the working out of our salvation that will flow out of us – living as God’s great work of art, loving God and loving others – truly loving them (See my post: “Confessional” for more on what that love should look like, or for that matter, read 1 Corinthians 13). We will care for our environment, because we love the Creator who made it.

Mike, someone who wears a lot of hats at the college I went to- church leader, professor, student development vp – said something to a group of students, “what if people know the wrong Jesus?”

It has stuck with me through the past few years since he said it.

I think it is true – some people do not know the real Jesus – they know someone presented and misrepresented by the Church. If we don’t do our own searching, how can our faith be our own?

Deanna and I have started watching a new show on ABC Family, called “The Fosters” – I recommend it. It’s a drama about an interracial lesbian couple raising a family – adopted kids, a biologically related child, and foster kids. It is a beautiful picture of family, and I think the kind of picture of how family is a picture of Christ and the church.

This week, there is a quote (spoiler alert) that I was surprised about for a TV drama to get so right.

One half of the couple was talking to her father, and he started talking about sin and how she was away from God and he didn’t understand why she didn’t go to church anymore. She relayed a story of when he made her talk to a youth minister when he found out she was gay (when she was still an adolescent.) She then said it was so wounding, that she never went back to a church again. The conversation stayed tense and a little heated, and she left.

Later, her dad shows up unannounced at the couple’s house, looking remorseful and bothered, and her partner invites him to stay for dinner. To my surprise, the other dinner guests are a catholic latino family, and when the dad asks, they defend the lesbian couple – saying, “What is more Christian than family?” – they go on to press the dad for how he can love his daughter but not stand for her equal treatment. Beautiful – but that isn’t the quote.

When he leaves, his daughter walks him out, and they have a few words about him being welcome, then he says, “If my sending you to that minister all those years ago drove a wedge between you and God – well, that’s the biggest sin of all.”

I almost fell off the couch.

This show captured what I had been trying to say. It captured the difference between Jesus the prophet who does signs and miracles and has all this power and all these rules – and Jesus Christ – the Messiah – the real Jesus – who is our good shepherd, and who often told the disciples about how he had other people, all people – drawing them unto him, not rejecting them or taking an us and them approach.

There was this song in the red back hymnal (if you don’t know what that is, it is a whole other story) called “This Same Jesus”

Well, this same Jesus,

who spoke to the woman at the well when men shouldn’t talk to women, especially not Jewish men talking to Gentile women

who touched those considered untouchables

who chose the outcasts and hated of society as his disciples

who loved those who were looked down upon

who said all people – all people

this

same

Jesus

has come.

is present.

and will be.

And there is always room at his table.

For all of us, whoever we may be.

And he calls us to do the same.

And that is why I believe.

Love,

C.

Q & A: Who do you say…?

I am doing something a little different today as I am preparing (read: thinking, processing) for writing this week, and as I am working out a lot of my own thoughts about faith.

This morning, I am thinking about a question Christ asked his disciples and how that question and its context have powerful implications for us. How we answer it affects the way we treat ourselves, the way we treat others, and the way we treat all creation (creatures, environment, etc.)

Rather than just writing about it, I prefer dialogue.

So it’s your turn, and I will chime in later with more of my thoughts and hopefully we will have a good conversation going.

“Who do you say that I am?” And how does it affect your life, the way you treat yourself, others, and creation?

Thoughts?