Sunday, May 20, 2007

Falwell, personality, politics and religion

In response to Jerry Falwell's death, I've been reflecting on personality, politics and power, especially as it relates to the church.

I'm going to go back years, to my life as a young adult, living in Virginia. Those were Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Jim and Tammy ruled the religious airwaves.

Back then, I was not a particularly religious person. I wasn't really a Christian, though I had some vague notion there was a God, a Creator.

I wanted nothing to do with religion, as represented by these demagogues -- and let me emphasize, they were big. They and their like-minded minions seemed to define communal religion, which was mean, grasping, greedy, small-minded and selfishly ego-centric.

I wanted nothing to do with it.

I remember the Bakers taking away their toll-free number for prayer, and leaving one only for people to call in donations for their many projects, like mansions, more diamonds for Tammy, etc. People calling in for prayer concerns were just being whiny and taking up too much valuable time.

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell ... well. White (straight) male supremacy. Everybody do as they say. They're in control.

Falwell attacked women, gays, Jews, anyone not ultraconservative. Even Teletubbies, for Heaven's sake.

His legacy is one of prejudice, and of playing to prejudices for political gain; of combining church and politics for personal power and glory.

May God have mercy on him.

I believe God does have mercy, and Falwell is healed, and literally, sees the light now.

Thank God I'm not a member of his or Robertson's church. I'm an Episcopalian, right? We believe in welcoming all to the table. Women aren't flamboyant armpieces or relegated to silent kitchen duty, but have a place in the church. We believe in the via media, and using reason.

Except the Falwellians have made a pretty good assault on the Diocese of Central Florida, and they rule with impunity in other places. Iker, Duncan et al would rather subject us to ecclesiastical fascists like Akinola than recognize a female presiding bishop. They call for foreign interference in our national church, overturning the whole tradition of the church they claim to uphold, to get their way. For power.
Like Falwell, they play on and incite prejudices. They used one diocese having a openly gay bishop, chosen by the people of his diocese, in the same process that made them bishops, to start this whole comtemptible mess.

No more than I would have been a member of Falwell's or Robinson's church do I want to be a member of their version of the Episcopal Church.

I've said a lot on this matter. For a more succinct view, go to Padre Mickey's Dance Party: This Is All I'll Say On The Subject.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Motherhood, Revelation and miscellany

I was kind of glad Mother's Day wasn't hyped like a commercial event at church today. The focus was on Rogation Day and the usual readings for the day.

Before church, I called my mother at the nursing home to wish her happy Mother's Day. She was pretty incoherent, and kept repeating "Oh, God," in alarm as though something must be wrong. I'm not sure if she understood I was wishing her happy Mother's Day. She sounded like she might be in some pain, too. She subsided into silence after a minute or so.

It's hard to tell what's physically wrong, what's Alzheimer's, and what's deafness with her.

I spoke to the nurse afterward. She said Mom had fallen asleep. I asked the nurse about pain, and she indicated she expected Mom would never heal completely from the broken hip, and would have some discomfort. The nurse said Mom does have some more lucid moments, usually when she first wakes up. I'll call earlier next time, and try to catch her then. I always call in the morning, but sometimes my mother is asleep or out of range of the phone, or not lucid -- the case the last few times I've talked to her.

Mom's a time zone behind me, so that's about time I'm getting to work during the week.

I went into the church service with that on my mind.

As we were leaving after the church service, the clergy was handing out long-stemmed geraniums. As I got near the exit, the deacon, who was handing them out at one door, said loudly, "They're only for mothers."

I didn't take one -- hadn't planned to, but as I started down the walk, I reconsidered, and went back inside, and took one from Father M., who was chipperly handing them out without vetting the female's maternal status.

I don't have any children, but I am a mother.

I do have a baby, and if there's anything to this Christian stuff, I will see him again.

You see, I got pregnant during my brief, young-and-foolish marriage. By the time I was certain I was pregnant, I miscarried. Later, I said maybe it was for the best, but I really wanted that baby I call "him" because something made me sure it was a boy, though I was only two months or so pregnant when I lost him.

I did the second reading today, from Revelation 21-22, and it included these words:
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."

The word of the Lord!

John tried to describe the undescribeable, and succeeds to some degree. We don't have the mind to fully appreciate the Kingdom of God, anyway. But images of healing and life, flowing like a river, come through pretty clearly.

And if the promises are true, I shall look upon the face of God, and He shall be my light. And in that light, I shall see all those whom I love, but who live no more, and they shall be healed and restored and whole. That includes my baby.

If it isn't true, I don't care a fig about this eternal life stuff.

But I believe it is true, in some wonderful and mysterious way that's beyond my comprehension. So I went back and claimed a pink-and-white carnation, and have formulated into clearer thought and word, feelings that have been rattling in the back of my brain for years.

Thanks be to God.

Out of circulation

The reason I haven't been writing a lot or posting on your sites much lately isn't 'cause I don't love you wild and loony religious-zealot-malcontent bunch of fellow bloggers. I started working part-time again, so I'm putting in some long hours during the week, but pretty much have my weekends free. Yazzoo!

Last year, when I did cooking demos part-time, it was long, on-your-feet-all-day weekend hours and I never had a day off. So we'll see how this goes. I'm working at a little junior college in the evenings, and the pay is pretty decent.

Weather gone wild

I put this ("Weather gone wild") in as a headline for a newspaper story I wrote last week, and the editor let it stand. It has been wild and weird in Florida.

I had gone on line a few days earlier, pulled up a satellite image to check the wildfires blooming all over South Georgia and pretty much the whole state of Florida. At first, I thought I'd pulled up an old satellite pic from last year by mistake, because there sat a tropical disturbance, with all the classic counterclockwise whirling shape of a tropical storm, off the southern coast of Georgia.

But no. It was nothing left over from last year. While we were on red alert for fires inland, a tropical-storm watch spread over the Atlantic coastal waters.

Some days, the smoke hung heavy like a pea-soup fog from fires burning to the north of us, to the east of us, to the west of us -- didn't much matter from whence the wind blew -- there was a fire, whose smoke the winds carried our way.

Luckily, there haven't been any wildfires near me, so far.

We got just enough rain from subtropical storm Andrea to dampen the brush's enthusiasm for flame just a bit, and clear the air some, but we're still in a critical fire-threat situation.

The sky was hazy as I headed home from church and a stop at the grocery store this afternoon. It was hard to guess what was cloud and what was smoke hanging in the air. Now, it's thundering to the north of us, and lightning strikes are dangerous. Even with accompanying rain, the mega jolt of heated electricity can spark a new fire.

It's a couple of weeks until the official start of hurricane season, and the National Weather Service is predicting we should start getting rains on time. Thank you, Lord.

And Lord, I hope you won't think I'm being uber-demanding for praying we won't get any nasty storms this year, just a little tropical storm or two, with rain.

Thank you again, Lord.

Signing off for now.


We're getting rain, glorious rain!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

And all manner of things

OK, I don't want my fellow bloggers especially those two whose names start with "M," to get all cranky with me. No, not MadPriest this time. Mimi and Mickey, my confreres in saint-listing.

It's Dame Julian's feast day, you know, and you know she's my fav, right up there with Mary Magdalene. I feel her spirit poking around in my psyche, sometimes, trying to find something saintly. Trying to pull Christian love out of the mishmash that passes for my mind.

Sometimes she succeeds, with teachings such as:

"This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love."

"Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanour of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus."

When things get tough, as they are wont to do, I quote Julian under my breath: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." I say it like a breath prayer, over and over, and it's incredibly comforting.

On days when it all just seems too hard, Julian reminds me about God's will, not mine, and that I'm supposed to hang on tight to him, "in whatever circumstances."

One of Julian's writings I first read was her vision of God holding the Earth in his (or her) hand, and it was something as small as a hazelnut ("a small, brown nut") held in his mighty palm. Yet he would never, ever lose it, but would treat it tenderly.

It takes my breath away how well this mystic of the Middle Ages understood the fragility of our island home, this fragile Earth.

Thank you, Mother Julian. I love you.

Julian is probably the best-loved of all the English mystics. She was born around 1342, and her feast day is observed May 8. She's believed to have died on that date around 1417.

Presiding Bishop Katharine was called a heretic after her election at GC 2006 for quoting a Julian passage referring to "Mother" God. Apparently, the accusing bishops aren't up on their saints of the church.

For James Kiefer's bio and more samples of Julian's writings, go here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A glimpse through a glass, darkly

When I looked ahead in the liturgical calendar and found Monnica's feast day coming up, I also read the Bible passages for her feast day, May 4.

One of them game me goosebumps and a little chill up my spine. It was from the Gospel of John. It was one of those "aha" moments, when a passage just clicks, and I have a new understanding or perception. This one gave me a vision of the aching and yearning of a torn creation seeking its Creator, but the promise of something to come from that pain. This is what I wrote about it for the newspaper column, but you know the rest of the story:

The question of pain and suffering in this world comes up often when
people ask me about faith. The question is part of my own wrestling with God.

A faith so simplistic it never addresses doubts isn't deep enough to carry me through the really rough times.

Why, if there is a merciful God, do suffering, sickness, death and mourning exist in this world?

As I was looking at some of the readings coming up in the church calendar, I read John 16:20-24, and I believe it points toward an answer. It gives me a glimpse of things I cannot see clearly, but then Paul told us in his first letter to the Corinthians, "Now we look through a glass, darkly, but then, face to face."

In the passage from the Gospel of John, we are told "Jesus said, 'Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.'"

We will weep and mourn. It has been so since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden. Bible stories tell us God used to walk in the garden with them in the cool of the evening, and they could walk and talk with him and look upon the face of God.

Then Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden.

For the first time, they experienced life that wasn't in the Kingdom of God. They experienced suffering, pain, grief, death, injustice.

No more could mortal look upon the face of God and live, until Jesus came into the world. He came and lived among us for 33 years, in the form of a human.

Just as water can flow into a parched desert for a very short time and nourish flowers into bloom, and bring fish and shrimp to life to provide plentiful food for the multitudes, so did Jesus. He came into a parched world and offered life and hope; the Kingdom of God swirled about him like a cloak and touched so many people, leaving hope behind him.

Without hope, we could not endure this world, which rejoices in our suffering.

Now, we wait for Christ to return, never to leave us again. Now, creation aches from being torn from the full presence of God. We wait; we are in the hour, awaiting the birth of our new beings.

We spend most of our lives begging God to spare us.

"Save us from the time of trial," we say in the Lord's Prayer. But we are being refined, and God patiently works on us, just as a purifier of silver holds the metal in the hottest part of the fire to purify it. (Malachi 3.3)

We wait in darkness, but know the light is coming.

We will look upon the face of God again; he will look back at us, and our suffering will end.

"Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

God gives us a glimpse into his kingdom.