Thursday, June 07, 2012

Reflections on "Out of the Box," Dissonance and Anglican Comprehensiveness

"Voices of Witness: Out of the Box"
debuted a week-ago-tomorrow and has already racked up over 3000 views on IntegriTV's YouTube Channel -- and is "in the mail" via DVD to every bishop and deputy to General Convention. And a study guide is Coming Soon to the Integrity website ... here's the page to bookmark.

If you've not watched it yet, of course you'll want to go right now and see for yourself. But first, check out what viewers are saying about the groundbreaking documentary giving voice to the witness of transgender Episcopalians:
Fiercely, beautifully, compelling. Enlightening and comforting to ALL of us who need to courageously live into our true selves, whoever that is and wherever that takes us. - Sharyn D, Los Angeles CA
Powerful, heartfelt and beautifully done. Thanks for this blessed gift. – Donna M, Pasadena CA

Someone at my parish told me during coffee hour today how much they loved this film and how proud it made them feel to be part of the Episcopal Church! I hope to share it widely here in Oregon, I think it might be especially useful for clergy.—Andy M, Portland OR

Just watched it -- so terribly impressed -- thanks to all who made this film possible -- As a form LCMS Minister of Education I was especially impressed with the priest who left the LCMS and who spoke so clearly about God's love for us all. – William R, Washington DC

Gripping, heart- wrenching, challenging.... Outstanding! – Ann R, Alexandria VA

Moving, thoughtful, and the humanity of transgender people shines through every frame. This is a wonderful tool to educate all about a subject that is so misunderstood and feared. Great work!!! -- Bill B, Los Angeles CA

And as seen on twitter: "awesome, inspiring, powerful, needed, feeling called to replicate this in Jamaica."
Of course, there are dissenting voices. (After all, this IS [a] America and [b] The Episcopal Church.) I was intrigued by one of those ... Kendall Harmon over at Titusonenine ... not because he has another perspective (which of course I expect) but the way he chose to frame this introduction to the piece on his blog.

Entitled A new Video on Transgenderism put together by TEC Reappraisers to be shown at G. Convention 2012 he introduces the discussion with this disclaimer:
This is an important video because it represents the prevailing theology among the TEC elite. It is something you need to be aware of as illustrated by the fact that it is planning on being screened at General Convention 2012, and that it contains two members of the House of Bishops in its content. You, however, need to make your own decisions about whether to view it since the theology advocated will cause major dissonance--KSH.
Wow! Just "Wow!"You'd think after all these years I'd be past the point of being flummoxed what comes from the Titusonenine side the aisle but I have to admit -- they got me again! Seriously.

The idea that theological "dissonance" requires what amounts to A Warning Label is ironically antithetical to just about everything I was raised to understand was uniquely Anglican about being Anglican -- especially the gifted ability to hold in tension seemingly irreconcilable "dissonances" -- Protestant/Catholic come to mind just for starters.

Try as I may to wrap my brain around what lies behind a disclaimer that urges caution in viewing an alternative theological perspective 'since the theology advocated will cause major dissonance' all I can come up with is Henri Nouwen's "house of fear." Dissonance (according to Merriam Webster) is defined as
1 : lack of agreement;
2 : a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord
So if there's no place for lack of agreement in conversation with each other there's no actual conversation. And if there's no place for clashing or unresolved musical intervals or chords then there's no actual music. Or at least nothing I'd consider worth listening to.

Isn't the "dissonance" of the voices of those with whom we disagree most often the ones who challenge us to grow and change? And aren't the "dissonances" of clashing or unresolved musical intervals exactly what make great musical moments great?

Of course I could go on and on but I have other work to get to and -- at the end of the day -- I guess I've talked myself out of being flummoxed. Kendall represents a cadre of folks -- bless their hearts -- whose criterion for being included is being agreed with. We've lived in that tension -- that dissonance -- for years and now that the Episcopal Church has pretty definitively come down on the side of historic Anglican comprehensiveness our mission is to move forward with those who are ready to claim, proclaim and celebrate that. And if others can't live with the "dissonance" then there it is.

Nevertheless, it (dare I say it?) .... Makes the Heart Sad.


Jim said...

Wow! That is incredibly powerful video.

I think the reaction is perhaps a microcosm of our conflicts.


uffda51 said...

It’s nice to know I’m apparently now one of the TEC elite. I’m wondering just what it is about the “theology advocated” that is controversial. When Jesus is quoted as using the word “all” I don’t recall any footnotes beginning “except for the following groups.”

People who have actually seen the film refer to it as “compelling, enlightening, comforting, powerful, heartfelt, beautifully done, a blessed gift, gripping, heart- wrenching, challenging, outstanding, moving, thoughtful, a wonderful tool, awesome, and inspiring.” It’s tough for me to understand the fear that would create the need for a warning label for this 27-minute film. I’ve worked professionally with three highly skilled transgender people, going back to the 70s. I never met anyone who was afraid of them, nor did I encounter any co-worker who did not fully support them.

Speaking of dissonance, the musical interval known as the tritone was referred to as the “the devil in music” or “Satan in music” in multiple18th century writings. How this name originated is lost in the mists of time but some trace it to Guido of Arezzo, a Benedictine monk and composer in the 11th century. The interval appears in every piece that (the very Lutheran) Bach wrote, and virtually every other piece since the Baroque period. Dissonance is in the ear of the beholder.

Matthew said...

I watched the video and thought it was well done. Congrats to Louise. I read an article recently about those with intersexed conditions and realized that even though I am gay there is really so much I don't even know about other queer people.

Ann said...

Transgenderism? How is this state of being an "ism" -- pathetic blog coming from a house of fear.

MarkBrunson said...

The Titus group are totalitarians - as such, viewing anything that presents a differing, well-reasoned opinion is to be avoided. They are clever enough to know they can't forbid viewing it, so they present a "compassionate" warning, which is enough to induce fear of the video in an already fearful following. Manipulative, cunning, fear-mongering. It's what they actually worship.

RonF said...

Well, now, I've been singing in choir too long to let this one go.

And if there's no place for clashing or unresolved musical intervals or chords then there's no actual music. Or at least nothing I'd consider worth listening to.

Indeed such intervals and chords add much richness to music. But I've sung a lot of music that didn't have them and was quite beautiful and uplifting. And where I have such music with such they are first incorporated into the music - but then they are resolved! I would say that music filled with dissonant or unresolved intervals and chords that remains unresolved is not music at all, but merely performed noise that, in worship, brings no glory to God.


"I would say that music filled with dissonant or unresolved intervals and chords that remains unresolved is not music at all, but merely performed noise that, in worship, brings no glory to God."

And where I hang out, we have folks who believe improvisational jazz is "God's music." So there you go.


From my staff colleague who said it better than I could in our parish newsletter in October 2006:

"I want to worship in a jazz church. I will boldly say that jazz is God’s chosen music, because God is the greatest of all improvisers. Consider the Genesis creation story: God had an idea, a theme, a place to start and maybe a place to end, but the “getting there” is improvised. God is tinkering with creation throughout the scriptures and through the Holy Spirit to this day and beyond. Our God is a God who frustrates the designs of the nations, defeats the plans of the peoples – creation is still being improvised. Like creation, the best jazz is often unfinished, open to co-creation, “shot with contest and dialogue,” in the words of Cornel West.

We need to learn to improvise. I am not interested in a religious practice or experience that is the same every time – I want to be surprised, to not know where a spiritual path may lead, to have spiritual discipline and also to be open to what happens when two or more “players” go off on an improvisational journey to God knows where. That’s where the “aha” moments in religion come from – not from a faith that is predictable, rigid, static and steeped in fear. Like jazz, healthy religion is not for control freaks – it unleashes sensibilities that cut against the grain of hierarchies and elites. It is about joy and energy and liberation."

janinsanfran said...

The "dissonance" is that love melts conventions and rigidities and that is frightening. What a painful prison to bind oneself within ...