Wednesday, February 07, 2018

One more time: God is NOT a Boy's Name

And lo it came to pass that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington adopted a perfectly reasonable, well-thought out resolution calling on those considering revisions to our prayer book to (and I quote:)
... utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.
I suppose in the Age of Trump I shouldn't be surprised by anything -- particularly anything that involves just how virulently patriarchy, misogyny and sexism infect our human family in general and our American psyche in specific. But I'll admit I was.

Oh, not by the IRD/Breitbart/Daily Caller crowd who never met a step forward toward a more expansive expression of God's inclusive love by the Episcopal Church they couldn't turn into a Sky Is Falling Click Bait Headline for their base to devour. We're a familiar target.

And it's not like I live in such a bubble that I don't know there are folks for whom the very notion of prayer book revision strikes terror in their souls, giving them PTSD flash backs to green books and zebra books and lions and tigers and bears ... oh my!  The last process for prayer book studies which led to the current (please, please, please do NOT call something published in 1979 the "new" prayer book) Book of Common Prayer began in ... (wait for it) ... 1950.

But seriously, people. This is 2018. It is long past time to explore how and where our finite language for our experience of the infinite can be expanded rather than limited by binary, gendered imagery for God. Yet, there is this comment by an Episcopalian on the ENS article on the Washington resolution ...
When God took the form of a human God chose to do so as a male. While taking the form of a mortal Christ taught us to pray to “Our Father.” This seems like a pretty clear self-identification by God with the male gender.
... and multiple others like it on various Facebook groups and  pages.

In 1973 Mary Daly famously wrote "If God is male then the male is God" -- a misapprehension feminists have been debunking for decades. And yet in 2018 -- as we're being called by our transgender and gender fluid siblings to look beyond binary language for gender in general -- in the church it seems that we sadly are still not past the debate about whether or not God is a boy's name. Seriously.

I’m imagining future generations (assuming we don’t flat out kill the planet and there are none) looking back at these discussions with as much bemusement as we do looking back at our forebears who threw Galileo under the bus

"Imagine thinking that just because the Bible only used binary language gender fluidity isn't a thing!" they will say -- shaking their heads in disbelief. "That's as bad as thinking that just because the Bible says the sun revolves around the earth Copernicus was crazy and Galileo was a heretic!"

Verna Dozier in her awesome book "The Dream of God" wrote: "I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

It took "the church" 350 years to realize that Galileo knew more and different things than his biblical ancestors did about astronomy and to get itself back on the right side of history by apologizing to him. Let's see if we can't do a better job of getting ahead of the curve on gender -- and putting the patriarchy behind us.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Traci Blackmon: Where are the dreamers?

I've been a church-goer my entire cognitive life and a priest for 20 years this week.

It would be impossible to count the number of sermons I've heard and a challenge to come up with the most profound among them -- as I have been blessed to receive from many of the most powerful, prophetic and pastoral preachers of our generation.

And then there was yesterday. Then there was Traci Blackmon. Then there was "Where Are the Dreamers?"

"Prophetic resistance is only possible for those who can still dream. They come with weapons of hatred and division that they have used for generations. But we who believe in freedom. We come in the name of love. We come in the name of justice. We come in the name of equality. We come with dreams of a better world. AND WE WILL NOT STOP COMING!"
Her words not only called for persistent vigilance for all of us as we face the ongoing systemic challenges we face as a nation -- they offered a profound reminder of what we are actually called to do as we challenge the church to not settle for what it has become but aspire to what God would have it be.

My words of gratitude fail me. Just watch.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The question is, which is to be master?"

"Through the Looking Glass" is a phrase many of us have defaulted to over these last tumultuous months as we have experienced the normalization of "alternative facts" in the service of replacing our democracy with a plutocracy led by the Narcissist-in-Chief in the White House.

It turns out to be a very apt analogy. Check out this moment between Alice & Humpty Dumpty:
Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Alice: "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things."
Humpty Dumpty: "The question is, which is to be master—that's all.”

And then listen and learn from these words from Jared Yates Sexton [@JYSexton on Twitter] --

Part of the reason Trump has been untouchable is because he’s been able to define the language and thus owns the situation, normalizing his behavior. The "shithole" situation is a perfect example.

Trump uses an offensive term that’s unacceptable, suddenly everyone is using it, even to criticize him. The word’s automatically normalized. When the word becomes widespread, suddenly Trump’s original comment isn’t as bad anymore because the word has now entered the lexicon. It’s on TV, in conversations, on social media.

We unwittingly buy into that paradigm, and when we do we enter the realm of ideas on HIS turf. He owns the game after that. When we traffic his language were only normalizing his behavior. We’re swallowing it, regurgitating it. It’s dragging us deeper and deeper into the mud and soon we’ll forget what it’s like outside of the filth.

This isn’t a strategy by Trump, but a matter of instinct and obsession/symbiosis with cable news. It’s ever changing talking points that infect daily discourse. When we parrot him, even to mock him, we’re giving power to his vocabulary that not only hurts our culture but moves this battle onto his terms. It’s quiet, but it’s of the upmost importance.

Try your hardest not to give it power. Don’t mock him with his crass, pathetic words. That’s lowering the bar. Attack Trump with the language of a society you’d like to have. Don’t accept this crude, twisted farce he’s creating.

We not only have the power to resist -- we have the responsibility to resist. Because Humpty Dumpty was right -- the question is which is to be master. And we are well and truly in the midst of the struggle to answer that question.

In that struggle it is our call, our challenge and our privilege to refuse to give hatred mastery over love -- to refuse to become the evil we deplore -- to refuse to allow racism, misogyny and oppression in any form triumph over equality, justice and compassion.

It is -- in the words of Assata Shakur -- our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.