Saturday, February 07, 2009

So did you hear the one about the lesbian priest and the Mormon?

No, it's not a golf course joke -- it's a feature article in today's Los Angeles Times:

The piece has been a long time coming ... Times staff writer Duke Helfand interviewed us for it during the Prop 8 campaign and the photo (above by Christina House for the LA Times) was taken on the day of the nationwide post-election Prop 8 protests.

I'd begun to think maybe this wasn't as interesting a story as Duke thought it was and then this morning ... TA DA!

Faith forms a bond for a lesbian priest and a Mormon father of three

A documentary film about same-sex marriage and theology leads to friendship, admiration and new understanding.

By Duke Helfand
February 7, 2009

Who could have foreseen what would happen between the Mormon filmmaker and the lesbian priest? Not Douglas Hunter, even after he took a leap of faith and trained his camera on the Rev. Susan Russell.

And maybe not even Russell, who had undergone a remarkable transformation from onetime suburban soccer mom to priest and outspoken champion of gay rights.But the friendship that took root when Hunter asked Russell to play the central role in his documentary about same-sex marriage and theology would lead two people from different worlds to a new understanding of themselves and their faiths.

Read the rest here ...

And thanks to those who've "picked it up" for comment:
Episcopal Cafe

Mad Priest


... and note that the film will be part of an April film festival in Southern California.


john said...

"spiky-haired"? Maybe you should grow it out and tie it up on pigtails.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

I firmly believe in the personal component: the meeting person to person. It's the way to go!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hey, it could have been "a lesbian priest in a spiky collar!"

Sidney said...

Here's something that really stands out in the article: Susan, like many gay and lesbian people in the church, seems unable to account for the dissonance between her straight and gay lives. How is it possible that a woman could grow into adulthood being thoroughly clueless that she's gay? I have asked a number of gay people in my parish and family to explain this, to little avail. Susan's experience is astoundingly common.

It seems that those who support the cause of gay rights seem unaware of - or don't care about - the extent to which this gap is damaging their cause. In the absence of a solid explanation, logical people will seek the simplest explanations for the phenomenon: such as, the people involved were quite aware of their orientation, but marrying money seemed like a good option. Or they knew they were bisexual, got into a bad marriage and used sexual orientation as a pretext for ditching the marriage. Forgive me for casting aspersions - as I don't know enough details to assert any of these things with certainty. I'm simply acting the role of tough skeptic.

Susan's story, as described here, also adds unfortunate credence to the belief that sexual orientation is a choice.

Susan and others may choose to pass me off as just another cantankerous conservative on his way out of ECUSA, but I'm not (I voted no on 8 and at this time my moderate gay-friendly parish is the best place for me.) I'm simply doing the skeptical listening and I think there are many legitimate questions going quite unanswered.

Neil Houghton said...

GREAT! ...and my favorite part? The stats in the box. RCs? Not so fast fleeing Bishops!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Pre-concieved either/ors isn't scepticism,

nor is it tough, just booooring.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I much prefer "spiky hair" to a liturgical spike.

Well done, love. Well done.

This is almost worth a trip over to Viagraland to see what the Trolls have to say. Or, even watch them as they try to ignore you.

Hmmm . . . as I write this, most of them will be getting ready for church. Okay, out come my kevlar vest and asbestos pumps. I'm heading over there.

PseudoPiskie said...

Sidney: I can't speak for Susan but I can provide one "answer". It is possible that many women know all along that they are more attracted to women than men but because of cultural situations are unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Most women growing up the 50s were expected to get married and have children. If we went to college it was for an MRS. I was asked about getting married until I was 50. We were teachers or nurses or secretaries or stewardesses. Perhaps it was different in urban areas but that was life in the small cities I grew up in. It honestly never occurred to me to have an affair with a woman no matter how much I would have wanted to. It was just something that couldn't be done without wreaking havoc on everyone involved especially friends and family. And back then one didn't do that easily.

I'm now curious to read others' experiences.

bleem said...

I mostly consider self-asserted Christians to be fakers, since they really only embrace those like themselves. But this Mormon dude's spiritual generosity is downright Christ-like: stepping out of the comfort zone to relate to another human being quite unlike himself. Maybe there is a god.

MTGCards said...

I read the article in the newspaper about how Russell has made his "transformation". This really disturbs me as this is totally unscriptural. We know that both of the Old Testament and the New speak out against this act.

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Romans 1:26, 27 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

In order to be a "biblical" Christian we must walk after the manner in which the scriptures were given to us as the word of God. They were given to us to show us what the will of God is and to point out sin.

What has happened is people are getting away from scripture and justifying sin by saying things like, "Jesus says to love everybody". Yes we are to love all of mankind, but if they choose to live in sins, then we are not to associate with them.

Romans 16:17
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Ephesians 5:10-12 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

I would love to stand and debate this issue, if anybody willing, so that you can prove to us that God is willing to allow this kind of act to be allowed anywhere.

JCF said...

How is it possible that a woman could grow into adulthood being thoroughly clueless that she's gay?

Sidney, I don't want to sound like a cantankerous queer, either...

...but how is it possible for a thinking person to so thoroughly diminish the twin forces of homophobia and heterosexism (hetero-normativity), that have dominated for ages upon ages?

I don't doubt that 20 years from now, there will STILL be pockets in the USA, where one can "grow up clueless". For a 54 year-old woman, that pocket was EVERYWHERE.

My God! For all the pathologies that afflict the LGBT community (cluelessness being one of the lesser!), I'm always amazed that so many of us HAVE made it thus far . . . and can now actually EXPECT (with some trepidation, see re Prop H8) things to get BETTER for us!

I say this in all Christian charity, Sidney: if you want to know about Susan's (supposed) "cluelessness", look at your own Shadow Side. What inner secrets most terrify you? Would most turn your entire life upside-down...

...and, at the same time, are most exhilirating? (W/Holy) inspiring? Feel truest, to your deepest self? Demand a leap-of-faith?

That's how you can begin to understand.

Sidney said...

To MTGCards: tell you what, if you will discuss your obedience to Deut 23:19 at the same time, go right ahead:

You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent.

I'm guessing you will come up with all the same explanations for ignoring this gem that you accuse the gay folks of.

To JCF: I do have one inner secret/fear I can relate: the thought that the entire Gospel could be a hoax and falsehood. I'm sure many of you have those doubts too. Are those doubts similar to wondering if you're gay? It would certainly be exhilirating to be released from it all.

IT said...

In another 20 years, it may be "okay" enough to be gay in the broader culture that people will not deny it, and will not try to force themselves into something they, well, aren't, without quite understanding what they are.

If you cannot aspire to marriage and family as a gay person, it is little wonder that people try to be what they aren't to achieve those things. I hope that is changing.

But it is also worth remembering that to live well is to grow, and learn constantly about one's self as well as the world around us. Sometimes that learning is new-self-discoveries that shake us to our core.

I would hate to think that my life was dictated by my callow understanding of the world, or myself, that I had when I was 20. I look back on that time and clap my head like the old V-8 commercial: "WOw! So that's what it was all about! What a fool I was!"

To admit no possibility for change, or acknowledge no potential for error, is to ossify and die.

Sidney said...

I disagree with bleem's praise of Douglas Hunter. I think that, in a way, he and liberal-thinking folk like him who stay in their conservative churches where they don't have to face these conflicts are part of the problem. I'd say the same of all those millions of liberal Catholics who stay Catholic because of all their friends and family instead of standing for something and LEAVING. If it weren't for all these people, we wouldn't be having the problems we're having. Does anybody think that if, over the last five years, a million liberal Catholics had joined the Episcopal Church, that the conservatives would be rattling sabers and posting attendance numbers for ECUSA? Not a chance.

This is why conservative churches won't change. They know from experience that they won't lose their liberals.


Sidney ... with all due respect, why do you think the Episcopal Church looks like it does today? Although God is clearly not done with it yet, there is NO WAY we'd be where we were if saints like Louie Crew and Michael Hopkins and Barbara Harris had not stayed in, labored on and pushed forward.

I think it's TOTALLY a "both/and" ... some are called to leave and others to stay ... and all things work together for good for those who love and serve the Lord.


Sidney ... Although I clearly can't do justice to your question in the context of a necessarily quick blog-comment-reply, I'm going to at least make a stab at it.

Clueless only begins to describe how blind I had been to all the "clues" in my journey that added up to "hello -- over here -- lesbian -- duh!!!"

What I can say, in retrospect, is that having had absolutely no models for what life could look like outside a heterosexual "norm" I made the choices I made at the time with the information I had at the time.

And having had the great "Aha! in the National Cathedral I could not ignore the truth I had discovered ... and made some different choices in response.

Although I hear that the narrative of my journey gives you pause, with all due respect, I'm hardly going to redact my story to make it a better "sell" for homosexuality being a given, not a choice.

In point of fact, I'm quite convinced that sexuality is a continuum -- that some are wired "gay" and some are wired "straight" and MANY are wired "somewhere in between."

And I think the choice God asks us to make is how are we going to live our lives faithfully and lovingly as beings who are not only sexual but spiritual and emotional and intellectual and, and, and ...

And ... at the end of the day ... I think what matters to God is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation. And if we could get the church back to talking about THAT ... well, then that really WOULD be front-page news!

Lorian said...

Just found this article in the LA Times, Susan, and bopped on over here to say how wonderful it was. Beautiful.

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately dialoguing with some more "progressive" Mormon people on Feminist Mormon Housewives, and I become more and more convinced that there is room for at least some raprochement there (and diminution of hostility on both sides) if we can be available without being confrontational.

They have a deep appreciation for spirituality and faith, and can be surprisingly open, in some cases anyway, to hearing about other people's faith experiences.

Anyway, thanks, as always, for all that you do.

IT said...

Hear hear Susan

If I were a believer, I would consider God saying
"wow, you FINALLY figured out the puzzle I gave you, where have you been!!" and then watching to see what you do with it.

Show me any 22 year old who really knows what is going on (as opposed to think he knows everything)

I say this as one who teaches college students....oh to be 22 again....