Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Radical welcome"

Last night I started to write up some of what Tanya Erzen said at the presentation she gave at my church the other night, which was about the two years she spent studying the "ex-gay" movement and how it fits into the agenda of the "Christian right". But, man, was some of that stuff depressing and anger-inducing. So I decided to share some other things first, which fit in with the notion of churches (and individuals) practicing "radical welcome".

Radical welcome kicks welcome to the next level. It asks, Who would never even come to the door, because they are so sure we will not receive them, and because, historically, we have not?
Click here to read Now *that's what I call "good news"!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Episcopal bishops reject ultimatum

Episcopal bishops reject ultimatum from Anglican leaders

Episcopal bishops risked losing their place in the global Anglican family Wednesday by affirming their support for gays and rejecting a key demand that they give up some authority to theological conservatives outside the U.S. church.

In strong and direct language, the Episcopal House of Bishops said it views the Gospel as teaching that "all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants" in the church. The bishops also said they would not agree to an Anglican plan for leaders outside the U.S. denomination to oversee the small number of conservative American dioceses that disagree.
Read the rest here.

Wish I had time to write something about this, but I only just learned the news when Demetrius read me the headline on Yahoo, and I have to get to sleep soon. But I've pulled together a few links...

An Important Letter from The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

Presiding Bishop's homily at House of Bishops' closing Eucharist

From Father Jake: House of Bishops to Primates: "NO!"

Integrity Applauds Bishops' Strong Stand Against Primates

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Site update

FYI, to anyone who might be reading, I have just upgraded the template for this blog, and some things were lost in the move. I will be adding them back as soon as I can.

Living together in different worlds

Also at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing, ePluribus Media and Street Prophets

It was just this week that I discovered the 60 Minutes segment on Daniel Tammet. I guess it came to the forefront due to Pi Day, which was on the 14th. Via Yahoo, 60 Minutes segment on Daniel Tammet

Meet Daniel Tammet, a 27 year-old math and memory wizard. He can do things with numbers that will truly amaze you. He is a savant. . . with a difference. Unlike most savants, he shows no obvious mental disability, and most importantly, he can describe his own thought process. Join correspondent Morley Safer as he explores the extraordinary life and mind of Daniel Tammet.

He, like our son, has Asperger's Syndrome. Demetrius and I watched one of the video segments together yesterday morning. In the evening, one of the mothers at Son in Ohio's social skills group had a copy of Daniel Tammet's book, Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. I'm very interested in reading the book, but in the meantime I'd like to share a bit of what I've found captivating about Daniel's story. And it's not the "gnarly number powers" that many people focus on, but rather how he experiences the world differently. His anxiety:
That anxiety keeps him close to home. He can’t drive, rarely goes shopping, and finds the beach a difficult place because of his compulsion to count the grains of sand. And it manifests itself in other ways, like making a very precise measurement of his cereal each morning: it must be exactly 45 grams of porridge, no more, no less.
When Son in Ohio was 4, he was obsessed with the number 4, having 4 of anything, etc. It was imperative that we park on level 4 of the parking garage at the library, or he would have a "meltdown". Crying, absolutely beside himself. I have to admit, I found it hard to be sympathetic. He had a little sister who was two, and with kids that age, any outing can be a challenge. So, once we'd finally arrived at our destination, to have the level we park on become a life or death issue?

But as time went on, and we learned that his difficulties were due to Asperger's Syndrome, we had a better understanding of the importance of order and control. In a world that seemed chaotic, unpredictable, and alien, it helped to have a handle on something that was reliable, orderly, and unchanging. I had to smile when I heard Daniel Tammet say that "numbers are his friends", because Son in Ohio's imaginary friend was named "Mr. Alphabet". The alphabet was his longest running special interest, spanning the course of several years, but others included states and capitals, planets, and rainbows.

Rainbows? That one threw us initially. But rainbows were always the same, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Well, they are *supposed* to always be the same. But there are plenty of people out there who have no idea how vile an offense they are committing when they omit Indigo. You do *not* want to leave colors out, or there will be hell to pay! Oh, and if you're doing an alphabet book, don't even *think* of cheating on the letter X--saying it is for eXtraordinary or some nonsense like that. If our son found a new alphabet book at the library, the first thing he did was flip to X to see if they used a real X word. But I digress--the point is that all of his special interests were orderly systems of one kind or another, and that seemed to provide a measure of comfort.

Here's the other segment from the interview that really caught my attention:
But at the end of the day—genius or not—that brain does work a little differently.

"One hour after we leave today, and I will not remember what you look like. And I will find it difficult to recognize you, if I see you again. I will remember your handkerchief. And I will remember you have four buttons on your sleeve. And I'll remember the type of tie you're wearing. It's the details that I remember," Tammet tells Safer.
This brought to mind the time when our son attended summer "day camp" in the same classroom where he'd gone to preschool that year. Exact same classroom, but different teachers. When I arrived to pick him up at the end of that first day, he remarked to me, "Sarah is calling herself 'Donna' now." Now, "Sarah" and "Donna" did indeed have some similar features, such as hair color and length, and the fact that they both wore glasses. But I imagine most kids would said, "My new teacher looks a lot like the teacher I had before" or something like that. The fact that he went straight for the conclusion, "Apparently my teacher changed her name" was one of our first big clues that the world did indeed *look* different to our son, because he naturally focussed on different things.

Our son lives with us in our home, but in a way we live in different worlds. Of course, we could say that for any two people, but we don't think of that most of the time. I think most of the time we assume we are operating on the basis of some shared reality. But we learned over time that our son did *not* experience the world in the same way we did. Looking back, I feel a little bad about not being more patient in dealing with some of those early fixations and sensitivities. But then again, I was navigating in uncharted territory myself.

One of the memories that stands out from right before our son's diagnosis is another mother suddenly running up to me and screaming that my son had knocked her child down. I was completely blindsided and never did figure out what happened. My attention at that moment had been on my daughter, who was in a toddler gymnastics class, and I'd been helping her walk across a balance beam. The other woman was in full "protective mother mode" and that's understandable as her child was smaller than my son. But at that moment I felt utterly confused, helpless, and clueless about how to respond. No doubt the world of parenting I experienced was very different from hers.

Wrap this thing up with some sort of conclusion? I wish. For now, all I've got is that we really need to work on being gentle to each other, because we have no idea what kind of world our neighbor might be inhabiting.
More links about Daniel Tammet:

Transcript of the 60 Minutes Segment here.
Audio on NPR's Talk of the Nation: A Look at an Autistic Savant's Brilliant Mind
Daniel Tammet's website and blog
From the Science Channel (includes more video) Brainman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

War protest at National Cathedral

This action alert is from Faith in Public Life

3,500 Christian Leaders from 48 States to Protest War at National Cathedral, Mass Arrests Expected at White House

(Washington, DC) – Christian Peace Witness for Iraq will begin with a worship service on Friday, March 16 at Washington National Cathedral to be attended by more than 3,500 people of faith from 48 states, followed by a candlelight procession through the center of our nation’s capital, where thousands will surround the White House bearing the light of peace, and 700 will risk arrest by remaining in prayer in front of the White House. The service begins at 7 p.m., and the White House vigil will begin at 10:30 p.m. It will be the largest Christian peace demonstration, as well as the largest single civil disobedience action at the White House, since the beginning of the Iraq war four years ago.

More than 190 Christian and interfaith peace vigils and actions will also be held around the country in conjunction with Christian Peace Witness for Iraq-- including large-scale acts of moral civil disobedience organized by Christian Peace Witness coalition member group the Declaration of Peace .

WHAT: Christian Peace Witness National Cathedral Worship Service, Procession and Action at White House

WHEN: March 16, 2007 at 7pm

WHERE: The National Cathedral
Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW
Washington, D.C. 20016-5098

WHO: Features speakers include:

Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal and author of God’s Politics

Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of America in the King Years and a Presbyterian Elder

Rev. Raphael Warnock, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.

Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, President of the North American Conference of the World Council of Churches.

Rick Ufford Chase, convener of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq’s steering committee and former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

Celeste Zappala, a United Methodist and founding member of Gold Start Families Speak Out, whose son was killed in Iraq in April 2004

SPONSOR ORGANIZATIONS: Adventist Peace Fellowship, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Brethren Witness, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Christian Alliance for Progress, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Declaration of Peace, Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, Faith in Public Life; Kairos: A Time to Speak, A Time to Act; Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA, National Council of Churches, No2Torture, On Earth Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, Pax Christi USA, Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Protestants for the Common Good, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The meaning of a "Black Value System"

This is related to my post about A Black Theology of Liberation from the other day. In addition to the overview link I posted, I had also looked at a PDF that went into detail about what is meant by a Black Value System. This part stood out to me, and I think I heard it echoed when listening to Barack Obama speaking at an event in Selma commemorating the voting rights march that took place there 42 years ago.

Disavowal of the Pursuit of "Middleclassness"

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the "talented tenth" of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor's control.

Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:

Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of "we" and "they" instead of "us".

So, while it is permissible to chase "middle-incomeness" with all our might, we must  avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black "middleclassness": If we avoid the snare, we will also diminish our "voluntary" contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Anyway, I thought that excerpt was worthy of some reflection. In yesterday's post, I linked to the lively exchange between Sean Hannity and Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, about whether Trinity United Church of Christ espoused a "radical separatist" agenda. What I failed to mention at the time is that I do "get" why many White people are uncomfortable with the wording Hannity referred to from the church's web site--commitment to the Black family, the Black community, etc. Hannity asked, wouldn't it sound racist if you substituted the word White--if there was a church that openly stated it was all about supporting and strengthening the White community.

And I can't judge him for asking that. I've wondered the same thing in the past. Wright responded that churches have been that way for ages--White by default. White is "generic" to many of us, so we don't even use the word as a descriptor when we are describing a new person we met, for example.  But that's not an easy concept to "get".  It's going to take some serious thoughtful discussion among people of good will. Which means, and this is just a guess, it will likely be taking place somewhere other than Sean Hannity's television program.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A word of hope from Bishop Gene Robinson

Crossposted at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

In the past week or so, I've been watching for any word from Bishop Gene Robinson in response to the communique that came our of the recent meeting of the Anglican primates in Tanzania. This evening, I learned that he has written this in response to a plea he received for a "word of hope"...

Let’s remember that, for now, nothing has changed. The Episcopal Church has been bold in its inclusion of us, “risking its life” for us in dramatic ways over these last few years. Not perfect, but bold. Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it. That is yet to be determined. Let’s not abandon hope simply because that is possible. The Primates have the right to make requests of us (nevermind the threatening tone of those requests). We do not have to accede to those requests in exactly the terms in which they are made.

Nothing is surprising in this development. None of us thought this issue was settled, did we? None of us expected our detractors to stop their efforts – whether their goals be genuinely about the authority of scripture and its playing out in our lives as Christians, or whether those goals have more to do with power and money and influence. (BOTH are represented in the actions taken.) We are fighting a larger battle here. As you have heard me say before, we are engaged in the beginning of the end of patriarchy. Did any of us believe that such a battle would be won without resistance? Did any of us believe there would be no more bumps in the road? Did any of us foresee smooth sailing into the future?

We still have countless allies. We are not engaged in this struggle alone. There are countless heterosexual members of this Church who now “get it.” They have heard our stories, felt our pain and taken up our cause as their own. There are countless heterosexual families who have joined The Episcopal Church (they are numerous in my own diocese) because they want to raise their children in such an inclusive Church. There are countless lgbt people who have come to our churches for the comfort and solace and grounding in Christ that we offer – and we dare not lose hope or momentum for them as well as ourselves.

Read the rest here. I don't really have any thoughts of my own to add, but am happy to hear from Bishop Gene. As I was searching for a word *from* him, Google searches yielded more than a few words written *about* him. I admire his strength and am thankful that he has the strong faith needed to carry him through times like these.

Also, click here for a transcript of Bishop Katharine's podcast this morning, and here for additional thoughts from Bishop Gene.

And I just gotta add, there is something about seeing that man's smile that just makes me feel a little better about the world. Thank you for that, +Gene.

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