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So, after the advice of some friends, I wrote my pastor, letting him know what I felt. He just wrote back. Here is the email conversation. It gave me some hope.

My email:

Hey Tim,
I have been meaning to write you since Tuesday, but its been a busy week.
I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about text group on Tuesday. More specifically, I wanted to talk about what you said when we started talking about Richard Hays’ commentary on Corinthians. You may not even remember what you said, but, after I groaned, you said something along the lines of “he’s not a moron, he’s just wrong on that one issue.” Now, I’m with you–I agree that he’s not a moron (obviously), and thank you for conceding that he was wrong on this issue… but, I still felt pretty hurt by what you said. I’ve been thinking about it the last few days, and I wanted to at least let you know what I felt so that I stop letting it stew inside me. That one issue is more than just an issue to me–as much as I don’t want it to be, its a really big part of my life. When something prevents my friends from getting married, when it causes people to leave the church cause they don’t feel welcome, when it causes others to dismiss those people as ‘unfaithful’, when it gets me kicked out of graduate school (with Richard Hays’ chapter in Moral Vision being one of the main theological sources that the Wheaton provost looked to), I can’t help but see it as more than just one issue.
I’m sure that I’m sounding (and probably being) too sensitive. But, I had to tell you, perhaps cause I felt a bit silenced, and I guess I feel silenced at church quite a bit.
I’m not sure what I expect, or even hope for, out of this email. I just wanted to be honest. I hope this email finds you well, and that I don’t sound like a jerk, or like I’m bashing on E-Way, because that’s really not what I intended….
Peace,
Brandy

And here is his response:

Brandy,

Thanks so much for writing.  I really appreciate when folks are honest about their pain, especially with me.  My humor certainly gets me in trouble on occasion.  I had intended my Hays comment as banter — my way of saying, “I know you well enough to know how you would react when Dan mentioned his name.”  But I certainly understand how that could be an unintended yet painful barb
– overly reducing your opinion
– being cavalier about an issue that has defined your pain but has barely affected my life

I’m very sorry about that and will certainly try to be more sensitive in the future.

I would like to talk to you about your feeling silenced at EW.  How do you experience this — from what directions?  This is certainly not what we hope for.  I have thinking a bit about your comment a couple weeks ago in regards to hospitality.  You were having trouble identifying the source of the feeling that morning.  I would love to explore this more with you.

I hope that you know that your presence and friendship is one of the special parts of Emmaus Way for me.

Tim

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This morning, like every Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., I went to text group. Text group is a small group of us at church who get together with the pastor to discuss the upcoming weeks sermon. The idea is to have the sermon be guided by diverse dialogue, as opposed to just one person’s opinion. It’s a smart idea, and I enjoy going, despite the fact that I’m really not that helpful, and find that I do not really say much at all, let alone much that’s productive and constructive.
This morning, we are at text group, talking about 1 Corinthians 15. Tim (the pastor) is trying to get a sense of how this concept of body-vs-spirit that Paul’s talking about (which we all seemed to agree was not the same type of dualism as its used today, but rather, Paul ‘speaking the language’ of the Hellenistic, Neo-Platonic Gentiles that he is trying to share the Gospel message with), can be understood and explained in our context, by people who aren’t Biblical scholars. He’s probing us for commentaries on this topic.
Dan, one of my favorite people at the church (I have favorites, not gonna lie there… not to mention, I don’t think anyone from church reads this blog, and those that I might suspect would, would probably also fall under the favorites category….) tells me, in jest, to close my ears, as he is going to say something I don’t like. He proceeds to recommend Richard Hays’ commentary on 1 Corinthians to Tim. I groan, like I always do when Hay’s comes up in a conversation on Biblical scholarship.

At this point, Tim quickly responds “Sheesh, Brandy, he’s not a moron, he just is wrong on this one issue,” and we move on, continuing to try to interpret and understand the text in front of us.

Fair enough. I get it. I know Richard Hays is a brilliant scholar.  And perhaps I’m not being charitable enough, or just too damn sensitive.

But this ‘one issue’ is one that effects my life every fucking day, whether I want it to or not. This ‘one issue’ is what  makes people believe that I am not a faithful Christian. This ‘one issue’ has prevented people in love from getting married, and has prevented people called to the ministry from being ordained. This ‘one issue’ has gotten people kicked out of seminaries (often with Hays’ Biblical interpretation of ‘this one issue’ as their theological guide), and has caused others to take their own lives. This is not just ‘one issue’ that sits on the sidelines and has little consequences on the Christian faith—this is people’s lives, this is my life.

Like I said, perhaps I’m being too sensitive. I’m almost sure that I am, and I know Tim did not mean it maliciously. But, Tim can push this aside as one issue among many, one place where people disagree on Biblical interpretation in an understandable way, one issue that becomes an abstraction that means little. I can’t. Because this ‘one issue’ is not all that I am (not even close), but, because of the theological reflections of people like Hays, becomes for people the sign of my faithfulness to God, or rather, my unfaithfulness. And that makes it a whole lot fucking more than “just one issue.”

He thinks

The reason it is so hard

So damn hard

For gays and lesbians to come out

Is not because of society’s failure to accept us,

But rather,

because of our own consciences

“bearing witness that it is wrong.”

And it’s a little ambiguous whether “it” means

Us, or our relationships

But no matter, I can understand what he’s getting at.

I can even understand, at least as little bit

Why somebody might presume to know

What is weighing on somebody else’s conscience.

But what I cannot even begin to understand

is why he might think

That my conscience would be all tangled up

In guilt over who I love

Love.

When we are surrounded by so much hatred.

And yes, I would be a fool to claim my conscience is clear,

When the world around me is falling all to pieces,

And half the time I am only standing by watching, wide eyed,

Paralyzed with fear.

And so yes, he is right.

My conscience is heavy.

Heavy with guilt over the fact that gay and lesbian youth

Make up a third of teen suicides

And nearly half of those who are homeless.

And out of those 500,000 gay and lesbian youths living on the streets

In our nation alone,

At least 50,000 of them are right here in Los Angeles.

And knowing their pain,

Having felt it myself,

Still, I don’t take the time to fill out the application

To go down and volunteer to actually do something about it.

And yes,

My conscience is consumed with guilt

Over the sins of my country.

Over the wake of dead bodies we have left in Iraq.

Will continue to leave in Iraq.

And yes,

My conscience is consumed with guilt

Over the fact that I have only recently begun to consider the humanity

Of those young men and women

Who probably did head out to Iraq

thinking they were soldiers fighting for freedom

And not for destruction.

And yes, my conscience is heavy

With the weight of the long list of other genocides

That have taken place in my own lifetime,

And about which I have done nothing.

Nothing, other than watch movies that document the devastation

long after the time to act has already passed.

And yes, I am deeply troubled

By the fact that my own city has one of the nation’s widest divides

Between rich and poor,

And still my own anger over this fact

Has yet to move me to action.

And just yesterday,

I saw a homeless man pushing a shopping cart

Full of recycling

That he had to dig from our dumpster

Because my own neighbors and I forget to recycle

While the planet is literally melting around us.

Forget, even, to leave our recyclables

At the side of the dumpster

So this man doesn’t have to climb into our garbage

In order to find a few pennies worth of cans,

When he doesn’t even have a place to rinse off the shit

Once he climbs out.

And I saw him yesterday, and I meant to say thank you.

Thank you and I’m sorry.

I’m so fucking sorry.

But I didn’t say anything other than hello.

Because I was embarrassed.

And so, all of these things,

And all of the other countless ways I have failed to love

As I was so clearly, so concisely

instructed to love,

are part of a long list of things

that weight heavily on my conscience today.

And the list includes all the pain my country has inflicted

On a world struggling to take its dying breaths.

And all the wars, murders, and injustices;

all the rapes of women, children and countries

that I have condoned, and even encouraged

with my silence.

And it includes all the privilege that is afforded me

By my birthplace and my skintone,

And all the excess and waste and hatred

That weaves its way into the fabric of our daily lives

So tightly that we don’t even have to turn our heads away,

Because we don’t even see it anymore

But no,

The consensual, mutual, beautiful

love

that I share

With the woman who shares my home,

My bed,

And my life,

Is not anywhere on that list.

“There are glimpses of it now;  small relief fit in when we allow ……even still, I think the best is yet to come…”- Johanna Chase, “Yet to Come,” Azusa

Such is the line from a song by a little indie artist by the name of Johanna Chase. Johanna’s music has impacted me in many ways lately, this song especially (scroll down to the bottom of this post if you want the full lyrics, its a beautiful song. Also, her song, “Get up Good” is, I think, a beautiful lyrical representation of Soren Kierkegaard’s, as de Silentio, idea of the virtue of the absurb being realized by infinite resignation in Fear & Trembling, but that’s a whole other story… you can, and should, check out her music at indiebug.com).

Anyways, that line of the song is what I have been thinking about lately, especially in light of today. Today was a good day, no, it was a great day. I’m too lazy and tired to explain that now, but, suffice it to say, it was the best day I’ve had since I’ve been back to Duke after the summer off.

Yet, as I got home tonight, happy and tired from a good day, I couldn’t help but be sad. As the reader, you may be confused. Wouldn’t happiness be a more appropriate emotion for such a good day? I would think so too, but my emotions told me otherwise, and after thinking about it for awhile, the line from Johanna’s song made me realize why.

Being a person who hasn’t had the best of….luck…., especially in the last year, a song about the best being yet to come brings with it a lot of encouragement and hope. And days like today, and other fleeting moments remind me of the reality of that hope, and keep it afloat. But, at the same time, knowing that days like today are…fleeting…is more than mildly depressing. Because that means that things are going to get shitty again before the ‘best’ comes, that the good is just that–fleeting. And that just sucks.

Yeah, the bad times of life make the good times really, really good–constant feelings of isolation makes the sense of solidarity that much more fantastic, a real treat. But, conversely, the occasional, fleeting good times make the hard times that much more frustrating and tiring. Or maybe I’m just too much of a pessimist and need to take the good for what it is.

::shrug::

Yet to Come- Johanna Chase, from Azusa

Car lights and city nights and I’m only trying to figure how a system might be build without stilts to fit us all under. Every system seems flawed, every politic jarred and stunted, but I still hope that something better is coming.

Maybe, its just my experience and maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe the poor choose to be poor and the homeless just want to roam, but even still I think the best is yet to come, the best is yet to come.

Home is comfortable and the food and the water are free, but even in my home town no one gets me. I feel like a prophet bringing some crazy news and the ears that hear it only hear the blues. Maybe, that’s just my experience, and maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe God is simple and life is simpler still, but even so, I think the best is yet to come, yea the best is yet to come.

Oh, and there are glimpses of it now; a small relief fit in when we allow the work of another something bright–it will soon take everything, gather up everything and make it right. I think the best is yet to come, yea the best is yet to come.