Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In the Local Paper

This was a column I wrote for our local paper; it was published last week, but I'm just getting around to posting it now.

Spiritual Abuse and the Church

One of the most sacred things about the ministry is that people share amazing stories with you – about their lives, their troubles, and the ways God has (or has not) been present in their lives. This is an enormous privilege, one that I do not take lightly. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

But one of the saddest things I have encountered is the number of people who have related to me their stories of spiritual abuse and survival. Here are just a few of the stories I have heard: people who have been browbeaten into submission to some so-called “essential doctrine” of faith; people whose faithful intelligence and probing questions were met with hostility rather than openness; people who have had their humanity denigrated and denied because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their addictions, or their economic status; people who have been told that if they just had more faith, all their problems would disappear; people who have heard for years, even decades, that they are just plain worthless; people whose pasts were constantly held against them, even as they tried to live in a new way. This betrayal at the hands of the church is a grievous wound in the Body of Christ.

How brave are those who dare to share their stories and speak out against spiritual abuse! In rejecting such abuse, a person must separate oneself from the abusive community; but their faith in God’s goodness often endures. When those who have been battered by the church are able to hold onto the core belief in a good and loving God, and even seek out another congregation to grow in discipleship and faith, it is nothing short of miraculous. What courage it takes for those who have been badly wounded by the church to risk entering another community of faith. It would be far easier to reject faith and God altogether, after having been treated so abominably by God’s people.

To you who have been spiritually abused by the church, I apologize. You deserve better. I apologize for my fellow clergy, who are often so zealous in doctrine that they ignore human need standing in front of them. And I apologize for my fellow Christians, who are so blinded by their self-righteousness or struggling with their own feelings of inadequacy that they cannot see another child of God in their midst. I am sorry for what you have suffered by those who have misrepresented Christ. God has made you in God’s own image, and you are a holy reflection of God’s light in this world.

To those of you who believe you are doing God’s work by revealing all the sin of the world and holding it up to account, I say, enough. The world already knows all about the reality of sin and the sharp pain of sin’s wounds. We do not need any more reminders of how broken we are or how damaged this world is. What people need to know about is not sin, but forgiveness; not bleak despair, but enduring hope; not judgment, but grace; not death, but new life. We do need the healing, forgiving love made known to Christians in Jesus Christ. Remember these words of Isaiah, spoken by Jesus at the outset of his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Matthew 4: 18-19).

This world needs to be wooed by Christ, captivated by the stories of his power and love, and renewed by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. That cannot happen by crushing a spirit. Doctrine has a place, but if it cannot withstand honest questioning and deep, faithful examination, it is not worth its privileged place in the church.

Those who encounter God will be radically changed – but it is up to God to do the changing and to dictate the terms of that change. Who knows how, when, and in what ways we will be transformed by God? We cannot and should not force that change, especially in others. We can only invite God to be present, to fill our lives with grace, to shape us more fully into Christ’s image – and to trust God to do the same in the lives of others, however God will.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Secrets, Surprises, and Confidences

Today we hosted a surprise baby shower for our pastoral intern.  It was pretty amazing that we pulled it off - not least because we have kids in our Sunday school class who, God help them, simply cannot keep a secret.  Also, I was amazed that Intern didn't think anything was up when her mom, her in-laws, her grandparents, grandparents-in-law, and 1-year-old daughter all showed up for church.  She just thought they were there to hear her preach.

This got me thinking, yet again, about the difference between secrets, surprises and confidences.  Talking about it with one of the newer parents, we arrived at some great definitions for use especially with kids, though they are by no means unique:

Secrets: "covering up wrongdoing."  Asking kids to keep a secret is pretty dangerous stuff.  It's what abusers do to their young victims ("this is just our little secret), it's what corrupt bosses do to their employees ("we'll pay you under the table and keep your employment a secret from the government), and it's what people generally do when they know they're doing something wrong - covering it up.  Secrets, we need to teach our children, are bad.

Surprises: "withholding information to create a pleasant surprise in the near future."  This is what we did with Intern.  We withheld a lot of information so that she could have a happy surprise party in her honor.  I knew she would have been embarrassed to have known about it in advance, but this way, we got to celebrate her pregnancy and the impending birth of her child, and she got to enjoy the generosity of our congregation's love.  A surprise is a special kind of secret - one that is meant to be revealed at the right time, for a positive end.  These are okay to keep - and our kids did a fantastic job keeping this surprise!!!

Confidences: "not sharing information to third parties."  As a pastor, I'm put in the position to keep all kinds of confidences.  About surgeries, illnesses, indiscretions, marriages in crisis, pregnancies of all sorts, and so on.  Part of my vows mean that I don't get to share this information with people, even when I want to or it might make a difference in how another person might treat a certain situation.  I keep a lot of confidences in my professional capacity.

For a lot of lay people, you too keep confidences, even if you don't have "vows" you promised to the church to keep.  Things your friends tell you that they don't want the world to know, vulnerable places in their life or psyche, or just plain embarrassing stories.  Trust is a really important part of friendships, and knowing that you aren't going to tell everyone everything is a good way to be a good friend to someone.

Confidences are meant to be kept, often indefinitely, and I hold them in the highest regard.  That being said, I have been in a couple of situations where I have needed to break a confidence.  I did so with the full knowledge of the person who had revealed the confidence to me.  In one case, it was a case of abuse reported to me which by the law of the state I lived in at the time, I had to report to the authorities, and in another, it was revealing to camp leadership staff a report about something a camper had experienced "down the hill" (not at camp) that was affecting her experience of camp.  (In a few other cases, the person has told me, "It's okay to tell your spouse," and then I use my best judgment as to whether or not Backbencher needs to know the information.)  When I have had to break a confidence, I have told the person involved that I needed to do that and why beforehand.  It saves a lot of drama and preserves one's ability to be trustworthy in future situations.

When someone asks me if I can keep a secret, I always reply, "It depends."  If someone wants me to keep something confidential, I can do that.  If someone wants to plan I surprise, I can definitely do that!  If someone just needs to get something off their chest in a non-confessional capacity, I can probably do that.  But if someone wants to tell me that they are hurting someone or being hurt by someone, that's not the kind of secret I can necessarily keep.*  

In my work with young people in particular, if I'm asked to keep a secret, I say, "I want to keep things confidential - that is, not blabbing information around.  But if you are being hurt by someone, or if you are hurting someone or yourself, that isn't the kind of secret I can keep.  In that case, I need to tell other people so that you can get the help you need.  Because I care about you, sometimes I have to tell someone else."  No person, having heard my criteria for keeping a confidence, has ever chosen not to tell me the situation.

I encourage you all to work to adopt these definitions for use in your personal and professional lives - especially if you work with young people.  J. came up with the "secrets" definition, and I give him full credit for the wording.  

*By virtue of my ordination vows, I must keep confidential anything said to me in a confessional/penitential setting, even if it involves someone abusing another.  It's a specific context, and in our denomination, "confession" isn't as commonly used as it is in other religious traditions.  But it still exists.  In Iowa, as clergy I am not a mandated reporter (though that may change this year), but in my sex educator capacity, I am mandated reporter.  So, for me personally, a lot depends on my professional context.  Also, if my friends want to know that I will keep something silent, it goes "in the vault," where I don't reveal the information to anyone ... sometimes even myself, forgetting about the information!  (I did this when my friend Emily had a crush on Tim, and then couldn't figure out who she had started dating....Kids, it's not a secret anymore as they've been married a few years!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something Fun

from the good people at Feministing. Enjoy!

Christ as Sacrament

This was my sermon from last Sunday. The biblical texts referenced are Numbers 21: 4-9 and John 3: 14-21.

What an odd little story we have in the Hebrew Scriptures this morning. It’s not the grumbling of the Israelites that’s odd – we’ve seen that before (see: manna, quail, water at Marah). In fact, this story is the last of five “grumbling stories” of the Israelites during their sojourn in the wilderness following their liberation from Egypt. The odd part isn't even when God punishes the grumblers with a plague of snakes. Retribution theology runs a strong streak through the Old Testament, though it is by no means the only theology represented there. God punishing people for their lack of faith in God’s providence is a common way that humans understand the way God works.

Retribution theology has never made a great deal of sense to me. So, we believe in a loving God who forgives us our sins, who “so loved the world that God sent God’s only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” and that same God punishes us for the wrong things we do? Mmmm, forgiveness and retribution in the heart of God seem at the core, incompatible.

And in this story, the retribution aspect of God also seems to make little sense. What makes more sense is the healing that follows. When the people, connecting their grumbling to the snake plague, come to Moses and beg forgiveness for their speaking against God, God gives a command to Moses. “Make a poisonous [or fiery] serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” The bronze serpent raised up in the wilderness becomes a source of healing for the Israelites, rooted in God’s mercy and grace.

Theologian Barbara Brown Taylor points out that this bronze serpent served a sacramental function for the Israelites. “Looking up at the serpent reminded the people to lift their hearts to God,” pointing to the true Source of the healing they experienced. That’s what a sacrament is, you know. The Reformed definition of a sacrament is “a visible sign of God’s invisible grace.” A sacrament is a physical thing that points to God’s intangible mercy.

In the Protestant church, we have two “churchly” sacraments: baptism and communion, or the Eucharist. But these two things are by no means the only things that can be sacraments. If gazing upon nesting bald eagles reminds you to give thanks to the God who made heaven and earth, those eagles too can be a sacrament. If visiting a friend who’s in the hospital or who simply lives alone, or if trying to repair a damaged relationship calls your attention to the God who desires us to be in relationship with each other, then those people can be sacraments to us.

That bronze serpent stuck around, you know. It made the wilderness journey with the Israelites and when the Temple was built, it had a place of prominence. It seems that the people did not easily forget this story of healing and redemption. But over time, the bronze serpent took on more and more prominence in the life of the people. No longer was it a sign or a symbol pointing to the power of God to heal and restore life – it became the object to which people looked for that healing. The people came to believe that the serpent itself, not God, was responsible for their cure. For that reason, King Hezekiah in the book of 2 Kings, several hundred years later, destroyed the serpent when he restored the Temple to its rightful place as a place to worship El Shaddai – the Lord God. It had become an idol, to which the people made offerings, and even had a name – Ne-hush-tan.

Sacraments can easily become idols when we neglect the source of their power in our lives, when we forget that it is not the object that has power, but that to which the thing points – God. Take, for example, wedding rings. They, too, can take on totemic significance in our lives. On our honeymoon, [Backbencher] and I went to a lovely Anglican church for service – in fact, it was the very church where Oscar Wilde had been married (snicker, snicker). When we arrived and sat down, [Backbencher] suddenly noticed that he was not wearing his wedding ring. Like many men his age, he wasn’t used to wearing “jewelry,” and he’d simply forgot to put it on when he got ready that morning. He looked at me, stricken. What could I say? It wasn’t really a big deal. I mean, if he never wore it, that might be one thing. But this was just an honest lapse, a week after getting it. It’s not like he was out trolling for women or anything – he was with me, at church.

My view about our wedding rings is that they are precious gifts to one another that symbolize our love for each other and signify the vows we made at our wedding; they represent our commitment to our relationship. My ring reminds me of my vow, calls my attention to what I have promised my beloved, and invites me to look beyond the ring to what it symbolizes: our mutual love and commitment, and the ways that God has come alive in my relationship with [Backbencher]. However, my ring is not my vow. My ring is not my commitment. My ring is not my marriage. Without this ring on my finger, I would still be married, and I would still have the same promises and commitments as I do wearing the ring.

We humans get like this, sometimes. We mistake a symbol for that to which it points. So it was with the snake in the wilderness, so it is sometimes with wedding rings, and so it is sometimes with Christ. The image of Jesus Christ lifted up – even the image of the thing upon which Jesus Christ was lifted up, the cross – becomes itself the object of worship and sacrifice. It becomes an idol, an object we worship instead of God, rather than a sacrament, something that points to God and invites us to deeper relationship with God.

Idol worship makes our life and faith shallow. If the object is the thing, then we need not plumb the depths and the mystery of what the object represents. We merely go to the object, and offer it our thoughts and prayers. If our ring becomes our vow, then it is the object that has power, rather than the relationship that has power. And if Christ becomes the be-all-end-all of how we relate to God, then we miss out on the depth and wonder that is God at work in the natural world, in other faith traditions, and through the Holy Spirit blowing where it will. Such idol worship will eventually lead to death, the very opposite of that which God intends for us.

But we need not devote ourselves to idols, putting them in the place of God and forgetting the Source of all that is good. Nor do I believe that the answer is to destroy all the idols in the world or anything that might become an idol. You’ll notice that I do in fact wear my wedding ring, that we do celebrate Communion on a regular basis, and that our altar has a cross upon it. In any event, not only is it impractical to get rid of everything that may become an idol for us, but it would be impossible. Humans seem to have an innate capacity and desire for ritual and sacrament, even if it is not within the walls of the church. Anything that could be a sacrament could also turn into an idol.

The key is to keep our attention focused on the physical objects themselves, but on the reality to which they point. Seeing Christ as a sacrament means that he becomes for us a visible representation of God’s love and mercy for all creation. Christ, whom the gospel writer called “The Logos, or Word, of God,” is a manifestation of what John 3:16 declares: “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only-begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not die, but have eternal life.” We know these words are true because Jesus, in all his words and deeds, is a living proclamation of that truth.

Just as the snake was lifted up to God and gave the people life, so too was Jesus’ lifting up – both upon the Cross and up to heaven – means of bringing us to new life in his name. When we see these events not as things to be worshipped in themselves, we are freed from idolatry and free to see Christ as that for which he truly is: God alive and at work among us, desiring our repentance and making our lives holy and rich. Living sacramentally, with our eyes and souls fixed not on things but on the One who has created all things, helps us do what God would have us do. For the writer of Ephesians tell the truth: We are what God has made us – created in Jesus Christ for good works.

Our calling is not merely to recognize God as the source of life, love and healing, but to reflect that life, love and healing in our own lives. In short, God has created us in Christ Jesus to be living sacraments for the world, so that through us, people would come to see God truly and love God fully.

In this season of Lent, let us celebrate the sacrament of Christ, turn our hearts to all the holiness to which God’s creation points, and embody the Gospel to this hungry, hurting world. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bill Richardson Is My Hero...

...but I am definitely over my crush on him. (That's because of the van dyke, which I think has mercifully been shaved by now). He's my hero because when he came to my small town before the caucuses, he said that he supported civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk. You don't really hear too much of that where I live, unless you're at church and I'm preaching on the subject. So yeah, I was his big cheerleader in our county...for all the good it did.

And now, he's signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico. Thank you, Gov. Richardson! His thoughtful and measured words in the press release accompanying the signing were also outstanding. He acknowledges the difficulty in the decision, how he has struggled and evolved on the issue, and he gives credit to people who believe differently than he does. I admit it - I'm still a sucker for his rhetoric (though I'm perfectly happy to the the POTUS that we do!).

Gov. Richardson raises two issues around the death penalty that have shaped my civil/legal opposition to it: the possibility of executing an innocent person, and the disproportionate way that it is applied to people of color, especially poor people of color. I learned growing up that our legal system believed that it was better to let one hundred guilty people go free than it was to jail one innocent person, and for a long time I was naive enough to believe we meant that. I no longer believe we live by that ideal, but I steadfastly believe it's an American value well-worth returning to.* When an innocent person is executed, you don't get to go back and say, "Ooops, sorry, we got the wrong guy."

Also, when I see the atrocious way that poor people and people of color are treated in our legal system, it makes me want to puke. (Frankly, the way people of color are treated in the media's reporting on legal issues makes me want to puke, too. Just try to remember the last time you saw a white person's mugshot lead the evening news, or be on the front page, above the fold. Bet you saw a black person's mugshot within the last two days, either on TV or in the paper.) DA's often cut deals with white defendants, but bring the full weight of the law down on black ones. Often, a white defendant is said to have made an error in judgment, but a black defendant is just a thug. Ineffective counsel is appointed, and they compound the trouble.

Look at the case of Dominique Green - a microcosm for all that can go wrong. The kid did not pull the trigger, but he still was executed. Oh, and did you know that the white people involved in the shooting - including the one who ACTUALLY COMMITTED THE MURDER - all got off? And that the victim's family asked for him NOT to be executed?! Listen to author Thomas Cahill discuss the case on NPR's "Tell Me More." This may be one case, but it represents a system badly out of whack.

My religious opposition to the death penalty, in addition to the religious aspects of the two above-mentioned reason, is shaped a lot by Augustine (don't laugh, Luis or Jocelyn!), who believed that execution robbed the person of the possibility of repenting of their crime and coming to experience God's forgiveness (and perhaps the forgiveness of the victim and/or victim's family).

Also, Ta-Nehisi has a great post relating to the death penalty, conservatives and small government, which I urge you to mull over. I think it will be the subject of my next post.

* Sorry to end the sentence with a preposition, grammar police.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Things That Make You Go "Noooooo!!!!!!"

Our beloved MML is leaving the blogosphere. 'Tis a sad, sad day at Casa Liturgygeek (or, to be more precise, at Office Liturgygeek). This was the first blog I checked in the morning and in the evening - often even before I checked Backbencher's. It has been thought-provoking and a balm to my soul on many day. Yet Matt is a guy with a ton of integrity, so if this is what he thinks is best, you can be sure he's given it a lot of thought and prayer.

And Matt? If you ever decide you want to guest post anywhere, we'd be glad to have you here. Love you!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beware the Ides of March!

Because, you know, Julius Caesar died on that day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Abortion and Grammar Fun!

Check out this great post from my new pal over at What The F*%$ Would Jesus Do?  I just love it when other people combine things I love - in this case, a cogent pro-choice argument and a grammar smackdown.  

Also, and totally unrelated, I just love it when a plan comes together....

Guilty; or Beloved Children of God, Behaving Appallingly

What a great, and tragic, way to start the morning.  John Sickels and James Christensen, respectively the former assistant police chief and the police chief of Creston, Iowa, were both found guilty of sexual abuse in the rape of a country club employee in 2008.

It's a great way to start the day because these small-town cops obviously thought they could get away with rape, and they didn't.  When first confronted by DCI, they said there was absolutely no sexual contact whatsoever.  Then Sickels said he put his hand down the victim's pants.  Then he said it was consensual sex.  Apparently, Christensen stroked the victim's hair and tried to shush her during the attack, though he now maintains that he never touched her.

Now, my legal experience (apart from my minor in political science) basically comes from crime dramas on television, but I know that once you tell a story to police investigators, you should stick to it, because otherwise you look guilty as sin.  If you say there was no sexual contact, stick to it.  Oh or better yet! - Tell the truth the first time.  You people are cops, don't you know the rules of interrogation?  My God, I'm a freakin' pacifist and I know this!  (Of course, my father also trains interrogators for the military, so that may also be why I know this....)  If you had sex with her, just admit it.  

If the two cops had led with the story of consensual sex when they were first interrogated, I doubt they would have been convicted yesterday.  Which would have been a pity, because I have been pretty sure they were guilty from the first time I heard this story, mostly because the victim has always been consistent in her story, and the cops have done nothing but lied and changed their stories.  I know, I know, innocent until proven guilty, right to a fair trial and all that....which I do believe and which I am sure they did in fact receive.  And they are GUILTY!  

It's also a tragic way to start a morning because a young woman was raped, for God's sake, and by those who are charged with protecting citizens and upholding the law.  Rape is not something one just "gets over," like a car accident or something else.  It is an assault on our bodies, the precious gift God has given to be bearers of holy light and to contain our souls, abusing the sacred gift of sex as a weapon of violence and pain.

It's also tragic because these men, no matter how heinous and stupidly they've behaved, are also men with families, and beloved children of God, and they all are going to be in a lot of pain for a long time to come.  The difference, of course, is that the victim did not choose the pain she's experiencing, but these men could have chosen not to cause themselves, their families, or their victim, this sort of pain.  Beloved children of God - behaving absolutely wretchedly.

Pray that the victim can continue her process of healing, and that these men acknowledge the wrong they have done, and that God gives them all a new path forward in life and hope.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I Live-Blogged ER, and part of what I love about television

So, I used to watch ER in college, and loved it.  Like some people, I drifted away from it over the years, but kept "in touch" via the commercials and an occasional episode.  This being the last season, I have decided to see how it ends.  And I'm glad I watched tonight with all the old all-stars (or, most of the old all-stars, anyway).....it reminded me of one of the things I love about good television.

See, with good television, the characters continue to live on, even when they're off-stage.  They marry, have children, continue to slay vampires, live, love, experience loss and grace.  Now, sloppy writers try to incorporate the life of the actor into the future life of the character, but good writers really take time to think about the character, not the actor, and how the character would have grown/changed/stayed the same in the time off-stage.

Tonight, we saw how things have turned out so far for many of our favorites from ER.  Mostly they are all doing well, with their lives relatively "together," or more so than when they were living the crazy life on ER.  George Clooney, for example, has really settled down, matured, and is a calm and steady presence in a difficult situation.  Julianna Margulies has really come into her own - with awesome confidence and a real sense of self.  She really is George's equal...and his partner.

Lovely jokes among the cast.  A lovely demonstration of the next generation of ER's staff and that County General is clearly in good hands - and the "two generations" working together is so cool.  And I loved how it ended, with Julianna telling George that "the kidney went to some doctor."  She didn't even know it was their former colleague.  

I also love the way that we can "see" that their ... um.... lives do go on.  (sorry for the wretched Celine Dion reference)  Even after this episode, their lives will continue, and we have both a sense of closure and a little bit of joy knowing some of how it turned out.  

This week I was talking with someone from church who is also a Monk fan.  This summer is the last season, and he said he hoped that Monk finally finds out who kills his wife.  I am more ambivalent.  It would be good to know, but on the other hand, there's a certain bittersweet joy in imagining Monk carrying on in his neuroses and his struggle to understand what happened to his wife, and why.  I like to imagine him going on doing what he did in the time I "knew" him.  In a way, it makes him more real, more human.  

And yes, I know he's a character and not real.  But good television lets you imagine that they are.  

Live-Blogging ER, part four

9:45pm definitely should not flip over to Private Practice at commercial.  I don't even watch this show!

9:46pm back to the ER, and Noah Wyle's surgery.  (Oh, Dr. Benton!  That was his name!)  Way to be an awesome advocate for Noah's health care needs.  Please let it go okay.  (Yes, I pray for television characters.)

9:48PM Way to advocate for the heart patient.....and we are back to Noah's surgery.  Arterial thrombosis....And holy crap Eriq La Salle just schooled the surgeon!  Now we see the benefit of a teaching hospital like County General.

9:50pm fibrillation!  ... and baby momma.  The baby is so cute!  Has Angela Bassett still not figured out that this girl is the mom?  I saw that in the first minute.  (Please - I should write for television.)  She should have figured it out when the girl left the ER the first time.  

9:53pm.  Nice new kidney Noah Wyle.  Only doctors can have this kind of humor.  And only doctors would call urine "liquid gold."  And only a doctor would wait until AFTER surgery to call his almost-ex-wife to tell him about his kidney transplant.

9:55pm - Kid with mom and her new heart.  Seeing the new generation take over....awwww.

9:56pm.  Julianna and George in bed.  Mmmmm.  They don't even know which doctor got the kidney.  That it was their friend and former colleague.  I love that.

Live-Blogging ER, part three

9:35PM OK maybe it's not Jamie-Lynn Sigler.  It's not on IMDB anyway, either on ER's episode cast or her page.  But who is it then?  It sure looks like her.

9:39pm Seriously - no plane?  Jerks!  Of course that would happen.  Loved the bit about the human heart.  And, "Do you like reggae?"  (um, sort of)
"You married a sister?"  Nice.  Nice.  "She's half-Congolese...grew up in Paris."  So....she's not really a sister? ... it doesn't really count?  That's just kind of weird.  Maybe I'm overthinking it.  Maybe he was just trying to tell Eriq something about her.

But Eriq's right.  She should know about it.  And of course he'll do the right thing and stay with Noah.  

"Do you like reggae?"  Nice.  They do do a good job with repeating lines like that in different contexts....good television.

Oh, and yes, I realize I'm using the actors' names, because I've forgotten half of their character names and it's just easier to be consistent and use all actor names.

Live-Blogging ER, part two

What's the kid from Sopranos doing on ER?  She's playing a character named Daria.  Can't think of the actress' name.

9:23 pm ....and there's Eriq La Salle.  So many dreamy guys on this show... Love that they are all, in their own ways, catching up on old times.  Nice to hear how these characters and their lives have evolved "off-stage" over the years.  

9:25 back in Seattle.  George Clooney and Julianna Margulies were among my favorite characters back in the day, so I like seeing them again.  (I also liked Noah Wyle and had a soft spot in my heart for Eriq La Salle's character, in part because of his deaf son.)  These two are an artful team - I'd give them my own kidney if they asked.....

Live-Blogging ER, part one

9:17PM Just got the computer from Backbencher...OMG this ep is amazing!  I knew we'd be seeing Noah Wyle and Julianna Margulies, but George Clooney?!?!?!  He's amazing.  They're amazing.  And Susan Sarandon is just the sort of guest star you want for such an episode.

It's been a long time since I watched ER consistently, but I've totally been sucked in to these eps with the guest stars of the past....

Noah Wyle's character has kidney failure, apparently.  And there's a transplant team from County General that Julianna and George .... oh, wait, George just revealed himself to the gals.  catching up on old times.

9:20pm ooh, evidently G and J have kids.  "girls"

Plus the normal insanity of the ER....God I love this show.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The correct term for one who is from Utah is Utahn.  Who knew?  That's the important takeaway from this article.  Oh, and MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice are teaming up for a concert in Orem, Utah.

And no, Shar, I'm so not going to this concert.  I already saw one of them once; it was more than enough.  I'm not that white.  I swear.  I read TNC and everything!

(h/t Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Something Nice About the Catholic Church

They held a very nice Mass for my grandmother last week.  Props to St. Ambrose Parish in Elkton, Florida and to the priest.  It's a lovely little church in the middle of almost-nowhere near East Palatka, with relatively good memories for me, and if you're ever in the area, please go check it out.  The current priest, Fr. Edward Booth is very good and personable, and of course the former priest, Fr. Patty, will always live cheerfully in my memory as a kind and generous soul in the deeply upsetting situation of my Papa's funeral.  His radiance, a reflection of Christ's light, continues to brighten my memories of this place.  The new priest only added to my fondness of the place.  Also, I love that as you walk in the doors of the church, you are greeted with a picture of Pope John Paul II.  

The new priest did a fine job and I was once again reminded how deeply central to the liturgy the Eucharist is.  (I know, duh.)  Then, we walked - walked! - from the church to the cemetery, with the hearse following behind (until they passed us...).  It was beautiful.  Out of a movie.  Only better, because it was real life.  At the grave, the priest did a very lovely committal.  Then my uncle and cousin got up in turn to share stories of Nana.  

You all will be surprised to know that I didn't share anything at the service; I was content to be a granddaughter.  Also, my uncle shared this passage, which expressed my resurrection hope just about perfectly:
 "I am standing upon the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to meet and mingle with each other.  Then someone at my side says, 'There!  She's gone!'  Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all.  She is just at large in the mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination.  Her diminished size is in me, and not in her.  And just at that moment, when some one at my side says, 'There! She's gone!' there are other eyes that are watching for her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, 'There she comes!' "

 It is attributed to Henry Van Dyke, and calls to mind of all those who took up the glad shout "There she comes!" to greet my Nana.  Papa.  Uncle Bud.  My maternal grandparents.  Others I do not know and may never know.  What a joy to know she is not, has not ever been, alone.

Thanks be to God for the gift of life in Jesus Christ, and the new life that awaits us beyond the grave.  

The Sacrifice of Women's Bodies

....seems to be pretty acceptable in the eyes of the Catholic Church hierarchy.  Where do I even begin?

First of all, I know this story is kind of old for some of y'all, but have mercy.  I've been in Florida with my family and Backbencher's for the past several days for my Nana's funeral.  

Second of all, let me also acknowledge that some of y'all reading may in fact be Catholic and/or pro-life.  There is much I admire about the Catholic Church, and its relatively consistent ethic toward life is one of those things (I may not agree with their stance on abortion, but at least they oppose war, too....unlike other pro-life, pro-military 'churches' in this country).  But this is ridiculous.

A nine-year-old girl is repeatedly raped by her stepfather.  Repeatedly.  She becomes pregnant with twins - often a high-risk pregnancy even for adult women, and more so in a girl who has barely reached puberty and whose hips have not widened enough to give birth to one child, much less two, even assuming she survives the pregnancy and the concomitant changes to her internal anatomy - as a result of this rape.  Doctors perform an abortion to save her life, and they and her mother are excommunicated by their bishop.

The MSNBC article notes that, "Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion."  Thank you, Archbishop Sobrinho.  Because apparently women's bodies - or children's bodies, in this case - are less important to the church than are the theological ethic of life that leads the church to have what they call a "pro-life" stance.  What is it that Lincoln said? "I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it."  Or, again, whose CHILDREN are not better for it.

Some of you may be saying, "What about the fetuses that are aborted?  Don't they deserve to be treated better?"  Here's the thing.  Sometimes that is a false argument - to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus (or, in this case, fetuses).  Without the abortion, the nine-year-old would have died, and so would have the lives growing her womb.  An ethic of life that leads to a forced death - not a death this little child CHOSE (which is the death of Jesus) but one that was forced upon her by her rapist stepfather - is no ethic of life whatsoever.  Again, the sacrifice of women's bodies seems to be an acceptable one of the church hierarchy.  

But I am here to tell you, by whatever authority I have as a child of God baptized into the church of Jesus Christ and as an ordained minister within a mainline Christian denomination, the sacrifice of women's bodies is not an acceptable sacrifice to God.  The sacrifice of human bodies, if it was ever acceptable to God (and boys and girls, that is a debate for another day), is no longer acceptable after the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

In short, the sacrifice of women's bodies on the altar of "pro-life" is not acceptable to God.

Oh, and did we mention the stepfather has not been excommunicated by the Church?  Because apparently the ongoing rape of a child is not an excommunicable offense.  I wonder, what would it take for such a one to be excommunicated?  

Monday, March 02, 2009

Creationist Gets Pwned

My, my, my.  I've been trying to figure out from blog-context (blogtext?) what "pwned" meant, to little avail.  I gathered enough to figure out that it is similar to what we old folks used to say about someone getting "schooled," but that was as far as I'd gotten.  (I only use the urban dictionary in extreme cases or if I have some sort of unreasonable deadline.)

Then, I came across this.  (thanks RussellKing @ Street Prophets)  And all became clear.  

Poor Discovery Institute.  Now you know what it means to be pwned, too.  SUCKA!