Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Developing a male identity

Below are some notes from Randy Woodley's workshop, "Beyond Color Blindness" which I have edited to refer to gender rather than ethnicity. The fit isn't perfect, of course, but I did find the similarities strking and helpful.
Male Identity Development

1.On a personal level, the goal of Male Gender identity development is to abandon sexism and to develop a non-sexist male identity.
2.Another goal is to deconstruct the systems of oppression and sexism and reconstruct them resembling the Kingdom. For Christians, the personal and the systemic are not mutually exclusive but they are necessarily intertwined.
Outcomes of Male Identity Development

•Understand social constructs of gender and gender theory with the
implications and purposes they have served in America.

•Understand the system of advantage men have in America
and avoid perpetuating personal and systemic racism.

•Don’t just “help”victims of sexual discrimination/abuse but speak up against systems of oppression and challenge other Men to do the same.

•Understand the many factors that contribute to one’s gender identity development, including family, society, politics, history and how racial identity also influences the quality of an individual’s racial group identification.

•Develop a Biblical theology of diversity and inclusion based on Scripture and Jesus’ view of the “Kingdom.”
•Understand how particular Western pedagogies perpetuate oppression.
•Learn how Jesus’ call to meekness and humility can be
implemented on systemic, organizational and societal levels
concerning entitlement and opportunity.
•Learn the value of humor and laughing at ourselves and our racial identities.
Also read the following quote, substituting Male for White.

Excerpt: What’s a White Guy to Do? Scott Johnson
My Dad was a racist.
He never sat me down and instructed me on the fine points to White superiority, but I certainly picked it up. Dad intentionally made sure I knew how to milk the cow, drive the tractor, and shoot clay-pigeons, but he never actually taught me to hate people on the basis of cultural or physical attributes. Nor did I inherit it in my Norwegian/German genes. Rather, I acquired it by listening to the way adults acted and talked. Racism—in my case, anyway—wasn’t taught, but caught.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Making Space For The Rabbi

This post is part of a conversation on Christine Sine's blog: about "Spiritual Practice" defined as anything one does regularly as a way of connecting with God. There some very interesting posts, including one on Crying as spiritual practice. The blog is well worth the read.

I remember bitching and moaning to Richard Foster about the disadvantage of being 2,000 years too late to actually follow Christ in the same way as “The Twelve” did. For me trying to actually be a disciple of someone behind the cloud of unknowing didn’t seem fair. The Twelve could actually see Jesus in action, ask him about what was going on, complain to him and each other about it, discuss it around the campfire, scribble pithy notes to be someday inserted in their gospels, etc. “We're at a great disadvantage!" I whined. Richard said something like, "Maybe you're just too focused on yourself and what you are doing to notice what Jesus is doing. Give Jesus a chance to act before barging in asking WWJD?" A bit of reflection revealed that no one really has a clue what Jesus would do in any given situation anyway, and to ask that question, at least for me, is an exercise in futility and/or arrogance.
After some soul searching and actual listening, I started the practice of stepping back in every daily encounter to see what Christ was about before I inserted myself into the situation. I began to ask, “What IS Jesus doing?” I tried to hold off on my own inclination to “do something” and just wait until I could see the Rabbi in action. I’ve been at it for a little more than thirty years and it has become a treasured and life changing practice. I still find it extremely difficult in many ways. It’s difficult to be patient when a situation seems to require a quick response. It’s difficult to suppress my own “wisdom” and avoid projecting it into what seem like familiar situations. It’s difficult to avoid emotional reasoning in situations that unleash strong feelings. The biggest difficulty is that Jesus never seems to really do that much at any given time. He never seems goes for the big kill, the profound answer that solves the problem or the deep insight that completely changes people right before one’s eyes. He seems to almost always prefer some small act of love or acceptance or grace that insinuates more than proclaims the depth of his love or the extent of his willingness to sacrifice. Plus, I guess if I were honest, I never really get to do much. Sometimes I get to point to what happened and say, “Yep, that was Jesus alright.” Sometimes I get to share in the aftercare, i.e. meeting the needs, sharing resources, or some act of service. Mostly though, I just marvel at all that Jesus is doing in every situation, in everyone’s life, all the time. I mean that seriously and literally, ALL the time.
I still hope I’ll get to do some serious healing sometime – even just with a sick pet or a broken household appliance. In the meantime, I feel like an authentic disciple, though. Not one of the big three or anything – maybe a Nathaniel or an Andrew. That’s plenty for me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Theolog: Blogging toward Sunday: More rejection

Here's an interesting short that I found instructive. How much of our arrogance as Christians stems from our unwillingness to realize that we're always wrong. Our best theological thinking doesn't come even near to understanding the mystery of God nor the paradox of our living in mystery while claiming certainty.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

(More swimming) Diggin deeper

I am happy when I hear statements such as "We must value the special gifts women bring to pastoral leadership." Generally what follows, though, is a litany of stereotypical "women's qualities." Of course, there is some truth to those observations, but such responses miss the point entirely. Women are important to pastoral leadership because they are women and not men. It's really that simple. If a field of yellow flowers ask, "What could purple flowers bring to the meadow?" there could be a long list of qualities that many purple flowers might bring, but the truth is that the chief reason they are needed is because they are purple, not yellow. Yellow flowers have never been purple so they don't really "get" purpleness except in a very external way. Purple looks different. Beneath that difference is a whole different internal wiring and experiential history that really isn't accessible to yellow flowers and perhaps not entirely accessible to a purple flower's awareness either. The whole meadow would benefit if purple flowers were allowed to shape the meadow and make decisions about the meadow based on their natural inclinations rather than based on some qualities that yellow flowers assign to them. If the two colors want to collaborate in such leadership, then the structures and policies that go into meadow making and even the concept of meadowness needs to be the product of collaboration as well. And, if the meadow is not one that can support both colors in leadership, the whole idea of how the meadow is to be organized and run needs to framed by a process that includes the input of both colors.

Analogies always break down but this one just came to mind as I was seeking to put words to what's bothering me about the way we "include" women in leadership roles in our churches. Perhaps some of you have insights that will help us move forward in this discussion.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Swimming between certainties

I'm in one of those places of liminality. I'm learning faster than I can assimilate and the things I am learning are messing with my plausibility structure. I'm swimming between certainties while contemplating giving up certainty altogether.

My teachers are a variety of books, Randy Woodley, my North Valley Community, and a variety of others "too numerous to enumerate." (quote from a wonderful movie, "The 9th Configuration.")

Some soundbites from the process are:

I am learning to attempt to understand Christianity from the perspective of its victims. For example: Gender justice in Northwest Yearly Meeting is sabotaged by this problem: The dominant culture (patriarchal) is the arbiter of justice. So when things are made to be "a level playing field" it only means that Men allow Women equal access to a predominately male paradigm of leadership. We (men) assume that a level playing field is the end of gender justice. Actually justice demands that women's paradigms of leadership, and the assumptions that go with them be given equal value as men's. More than that, they should be considered essential to a full expression of God's kingdom on earth. These paradigms aren't in competition with one another, they are essential components to a single paradigm of leadership through which they inform and complete one another.

Victims of Christianity abound. More later about ethnicity, spirituality, dualisms, etc. If I get time and energy. (don't hold your breath)

I'll continue this thread in further posts. That's all for now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An Eastertide Conversation

“Do you believe in the resurrection?” He asked me.

“That’s where I put my hope.” I replied.

“Then you’re an idiot.”

“Ok, I’ll agree that I’m and idiot, but what does that have to do with the resurrection?”

“Everything. You just told me that you center your life on something that you just hope is true. That’s why you’re an idiot.”

“No, I said the resurrection is something in which I put my hope. I’m an idiot for other reasons.”

“All the evidence is stacked against you, you know. Get your head out of the sand.”

“What evidence?”

“Well, ALL the evidence. For starters, scientists say it’s impossible.”

“No they don’t. They just admit that there’s nothing within the scope of their knowledge of the world that could explain or duplicate such a thing - with the exception of Barry Manilow’s renewed popularity, of course. Resurrection hope has nothing to fear from scientific inquiry.”

“Ok, then there are the historians. They haven’t found proof either.”

“I hope they don’t give up looking.”

“They’ve pretty much debunked much of what your Bible says about it. They’ve raised serious questions about its authorship, later additions, and suspicious political motives in forming the cannon that bring the whole book under a cloud of suspicion.”

“Good historical research and scholarship, both secular and sacred, seek truth and resurrection hope does not fear truth.”

“But the Bible….”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I haven’t put my hope in the Bible. I’ve put my hope in a resurrected Christ, which predates its written accounts by close to a half a century.”

“Even so, I hear that more and more theologians are beginning to move the story of the resurrection into the category of myth or metaphor. They say that the whole doctrine of the resurrection may be just a story that illustrates deeper truths about God and God’s love for humanity. Have you heard about that?”

“Yes, very interesting reading.”

“So why do you stubbornly cling to your old myths about the resurrection, your dogma and creeds that insist you believe the ridiculous? How can you insist on the belief that Jesus conquered death, when death is all around us?”

“Oh, now I see. You think I said I put my hope in the doctrine of the resurrection? You think I’m being loyal to creeds and dogma? You think I am blind to all the evidence around me that shouts down naive beliefs such as the one that Jesus was resurrected?”

“I couldn’t have said it better. That’s exactly what I am saying. That’s why I say you’re an idiot”

“You asked if I believed in the resurrection. I said it was where I placed my hope, yet you continue to talk about my belief as though it’s the source of my hope. I haven’t put my hope in a belief, creed, dogma, doctrine or any theological structure. My hope rests in the experience of Christ in me – the Divine presence – the inner Light. Further, my hope is not some sentimental attachment to a past event, nor is it rooted in belief in life after death. It’s a response to what God is doing now. My hope is to be a person who loves unconditionally, as only God can love. My hope is that the presence of the living Christ in me will transform me into a person of moral vision and heroic faith. My hope is that the Light will open my eyes to systems of evil from which I benefit and in which I may be inadvertently participating. My hope is that I can partner with God in the creation of something beautiful – God’s Kingdom on earth. My hope is to be a reconciler, a healer, a peacemaker, and a person of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And it’s not just me; I’m part of a faith community that longs for these same things.”

“OK, so explain how the resurrection leads to such hope…I don’t get the connection.”

“The Easter story is a story of hope and life coming out of ashes. It’s the story of evil being redeemed to play a role in God’s mission. It’s a story of immeasurable love, supreme sacrifice, and profound forgiveness. It’s a story that goes beyond itself so that even the cross, with all its cruelty, now hangs around our necks as a symbol of life. Easter is not just a thing in itself; it is a never-ending event that is as fresh and powerful today as it was two thousand years ago. Easter is always happening, everywhere, all the time. The resurrection is, not was. Easter proclaims that God is Love is God is Love is God is Love is God…and so on forever”

“Doesn’t that then, show that the resurrection story is just a myth or a metaphor?”

“A myth is a fiction meant to convey a truth, and a metaphor just represents a truth, but is not the truth itself. The resurrection is neither. It is mystical, but not mythical. It is not a metaphor pointing elsewhere, it is self-revealing and, as such, both points to truth and IS the truth. It is truth in the same way that Jesus is the truth. My hope rests firmly in that truth, though I understand neither its depth, height, nor its various manifestations. I’ve staked my life on the resurrection and am witness to its reconciling power even among those who have never heard the Easter story. Many of these other things make up my belief as well, but my hope rests on this one thing.”

“Ok, then. Your answer is that you DO believe in the resurrection?”

“That’s where I put my hope.”

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Coffe Cup Church

Small talk is exchanged over steaming lattes or cups-o-Joe. It’s obligatory and comforting and brings the conversation to the point at which confession begins. Not really a “Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” type of confession…more of a “Here’s what’s going on with me,” kind of thing. A confession none-the-less. It’s rarely actual sin that’s discussed; more often it’s fear, guilty feelings, anger, job stress, marriage, temptation, parenting stuff, or some kind of relationship glitch. It’s something that bears some weight on the heart and needs to be shared – aired out to someone safe and trustworthy. It’s always spiritual, though not always about God or religion. Sometimes joy is confessed or feelings of accomplishment, moments of well-deserved attention or credit for having done well. These things cry for airing as much as anything.

As the confession finds authentic and unconditional love, it grows bolder, and risks greater disclosure. Truth spills out with its accompanying feelings and tests the capacity for mercy and grace in the listener. Finding unfettered acceptance and understanding, it pours out, full-orbed, and rises with the steam from the cups as a prayer of thanksgiving from both listener and speaker.

This dance of love continues with confession, reflection, gratitude, encouragement, question, and counsel moving to the movement of the Spirit and the rhythms of healing.
Cups empty, they rise to leave with a handshake or a hug. Eyes are dried and smiles, authentic, not forced, give testimony to the meaning of the moments spent huddled in sharing.

A miracle has occurred in the presence of the other patrons though invisible to their eyes. The promise of Christ that we would do greater things than his miracles has been fulfilled, though unspectacularly, in the confines of this tiny coffee shop.

We’ve all done this dance, either as confessor, listener, or both. It’s the ministry of reconciliation taking place as we live into our belief that all are ministers. This great joy is not out of reach for any of us who take the time to listen or muster the courage to share.
This is church at its best and its most powerful.