Tag Archives: Christianity

Today Is Pentecost

[This post is for my White friends and peers of faith. I write from a Christian lens, but I’m imagining that other faith traditions with martyrs will have connection points.]

The tongues of fire are here, and they are speaking every language, and we are here to listen.

Pentecost is rooted in Easter. And watching the tongues of flame head for the heavens yesterday on the Falcon 9 completed that arc of Easter for me, and made me think again about our Christian Easter story. It’s a tough look into humanity—the crowds calling for Jesus’ death, the betrayal, the torturous murder on the Cross.

When you think of the Easter story, who do you imagine yourself as?

I would always imagine myself as one of the disciples, not one of the ones whose name rolls off the tips of our tongues like Paul or Thomas. Not one of the betrayers, either. We don’t like to put ourselves in stories as the antagonists. Although, a few years ago, I started to feel like I would have been Peter, because I have a strong self-protective mechanism. I could have told a white lie about not knowing Jesus a few times.

And then the last couple years I started to feel most like I’d be one of the people yelling for Jesus’ death. I have a comfortable life and I wouldn’t have been throwing it away to follow a crazy person. I would have noticed injustice, but tried to “work within the system” to fix it. I wouldn’t have wanted a revolution. Jesus was revolutionary.

The interesting thing about this moment is that we are putting ideas about what kind of people we are—justice-loving people, kind people, people who want us to all work toward equality, people who follow Jesus—up against the discomfort in how we feel about what’s happening around us. We share words that may not be words of justice—they might be words that lay blame on others and protect ourselves from having to do the work of gaining equality and giving up our own privilege.

Equality sounds good, but the work is scary. Windows are broken.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

As White Christians we have a lot of reckoning to do with how we’ve upheld racist systems in the past and continue to do so with our judgments, our inactions, and our self-protections. Luckily it’s Pentecost, and the flames of the Holy Spirit will speak to us in a language we can hear. Let our hearts and our lives be open to receiving the message.

Welcome to My Coming Out Party

When I write about religion, mostly I sit in front of a blank screen with my cursor blinking back and forth.

Or I go to reference a Bible passage on the Internet, and find myself at Catholic Online, looking over at the “Most Popular” section where I see the headline, “The unrelenting ‘Gay Mafia’ has bullied A&E into suspending ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson.”

Because the Gay Mafia is a thing. And it’s unrelenting. And it hates Christians.

“It’s not Robertson who is intolerant, it’s the activist gays,” it says.

“Robertson’s views are not all his own. They’re God’s. God made the rules, designed the plan for marriage – and He has not changed either. Homosexual behavior is a sin. It is abominable, just as every other form of sexual deviancy is.”

An ad from Farmers Insurance plays on the site in the background.

My brain. It short circuits. The cursor keeps blinking.

And I decide: I guess this is my coming out day.

I’m an activist gay.

Some things are easy for me because of circumstance. I’m white. I’m heterosexual. I come from a well-educated family.

And I’m Christian. As Christian as Phil Robertson or anyone else. I know it in my heart. It’s a thing between God and me. But if you want the credentials (which are unimportant, but I don’t want you to think that I’m a nonfat Christian and Phil Roberston is the whole milk version): I pray every day, we go to church on Sundays, we keep Christ in Christmas, K-Pants goes to Sunday school, I co-lead our church play group, Lent is this time before Easter that we love because it’s spiritually rigorous. We’ve been involved with God for a while.

And there are a few things I know to be true.

1. LOVE is the core. All caps, radical, boundless love. Some love is easy—our souls want it and want to give it. Some love is hard—loving our enemies, sometimes ourselves, often those who are different from us.

2. Anyone who tells you that you are going to hell has been caught in that insidious trap: hubris. We think we know the way to the Kingdom. And He has given us a road map. And we try to follow it. But here’s the thing: He’s the only one to judge. Not us, because we are all of us sinners. And we are walking this earth doing the best we can, trying to blow oxygen on the fire of goodness inside us. But boy do we love to judge others.

3. Sins are a choice. Adultery is a choice. Greed is a choice. Being gay is not a choice. Who would choose it?

I sat next to this guy in his fifties on the subway in New York City right after Ricky Martin came out. We were on our way home from work. My seatmate couldn’t believe that Ricky Martin was gay. In his mind, people were gay because their parents were Bohemian and thought it was cool to be gay.

This is not true. Bands of Bohemians do not raise future gay generations.

Random families across America do. And often these families are religious (and maybe think homosexuality is a sin) or at a minimum something they would never wish for their children. And then somehow, their child is gay.

But the world doesn’t end. In fact, most of the business of being gay is just going about your daily life, having to be more guarded than other people, finding the love of your life, growing your family, filing more complicated tax returns….

Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of Oral Roberts, does a great job talking about this.

You know who else does a great job following Jesus’ examples of LOVE and radical openness? These Christian organizations:

Faithful America, working to redefine Christianity’s voice in mainstream media, and petitioning for social justice

Believe Out Loud, a network of those who believe Love is the greatest commandment

Sojourners, celebrating 40 years of faith in action for social justice

So here I am. Long-winded. Coming out.

If there is a gay mafia out there somewhere, you can count me among your ranks. I’m straight. I’m Christian. I’m standing WITH Jesus and for LOVE.

***

You might also like “Cascadia Scouts: Portland’s Alternative to the Boy Scouts,” another piece highlighting groups who are breaking down discriminatory barriers.

Thoughts on Love

I go to church three blocks from Ground Zero, and I’ve worshipped there—at Trinity Wall Street, one of the oldest churches in Manhattan—since I moved to New York. I’m a bell-ringer (Quasimodo-style), and I met my husband through the church and we had our wedding blessing there.

I wasn’t in New York on September 11, but Trinity was. The parish served as a rescue and prayer center. There’s an ongoing memorial to the victims of 9/11 at St. Paul’s Chapel, our second parish site.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the anti-Muslim vitriol and Rev. Terry’s plans for the called-off Koran burning. A lot of Christians equate God with fear and vengeance (hey, there’s plenty of both in the Bible!), and are happy to add more bricks to their walls of self-protection. They feel the Muslim community center is insensitive to victims’ families, and that Muslims must be up to no good.

Is there any merit to this?

Well, Mayor Bloomberg is on the board of the 9/11 Memorial, where he interacts with families, and insists that none of the families he’s met are opposed.

Fine. But surely the Muslims are up to no good.

I reached out to the Vicar of my church. She knows and respects Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and she spoke in favor of the center at a city planning meeting.

Hmmm. But how do I know for myself?

I decided to check in on some Muslims to see what kind of mischief they were up to. K-Pants and I ran into Ama and Nina at the park. My friend Sonja is Nina’s mom, and they go to mosque every week.

Where was Sonja? Why not at the park with Nina? Apparently, Sonja was at home baking cakes for Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan. I would have taken this as a cover-up, except I’ve eaten Sonja’s cakes, and they are marvelous. Once she left half a cheesecake at our house (I ate it all, and I am still Christian, so these are probably not subversive cakes [but they’re not good for your daily saturated fat intake]).

Then K-Pants and I approached our building. Aha! A Muslim trying to get in. This was Salman. He couldn’t open the door to the building because he had too many groceries in his hands.

Why all the provisions, Salman? Preparing for a catastrophe? Apparently, Salman was also getting ready for Eid. His father has a heart condition and has been in and out of the hospital. His mother was home care-taking and couldn’t go to the grocery store. Eid will be crazy, he says, but I should stop by next Monday or Tuesday because his mother would like to have me over. Hmmm… what for? Trying to convert me? No, they just want to say thanks for the muffins I brought last week.

Not only do I love these people personally, but I’m reminded of what Ephesians tells me about Jesus, whom I respect much more than Rev. Terry: “I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love.”

Whatever faith or un-faith you are, I hope love comes out on top of fear.