An inspired form of giving, love breathes life into the heart and brings grace to the soul.

Clear Your Mind, Create Peace

Last week, the LGBTQ group at Marsh Chapel invited Michael Bruffee, president of the Zen society to lead us in a time of meditation. Our meetings usually center on discussion, so this was a change from our normal format. Tyler and I asked a member of the group to write the blog post about the meeting. Here is what she had to say:

Voices are a remarkable thing. Especially in Boston, there’s no such thing as ensured quiet time. Just today I probably heard a thousand different phrases, and if we include the ongoing dialogue in my head, at least ten thousand. We are people bombarded with sentences, questions, prepositional phrases, questions spoken as sentences, and opinions spoken as facts. From this ongoing outer and inner dialogue has sprung a generation of self-conscious, often distracted, multi-taskers who no longer give 100% to any one thing. At any given moment it is far easier for me to split my time rather than devote it. For example, rather than give 100% attention to my English paper for an hour, I end up giving 60% on my paper, 10% choosing music, 20% to a Skype conversation, and 10% to Facebook for three hours.

Standing in line at CVS, waiting to purchase a tube of mascara that claimed to take my lashes “up, up, and away”, I admit I considered not attending the meditation meeting. I have attempted several kinds of meditation before, the majority ending ineffectively at best. Plus, I had two papers to write, a lab to finish, and a least three TV shows to catch up on. But I’m so glad I did. The Zen meditation we practiced had no words involved, just counting each breath up to ten and starting over. Sitting on the cushion, in the midst of minute one out of fifteen, I skeptically started counting to ten. Fifteen minutes sounded like almost forever to me, but it flew by. Deciding to actually attempt the exercise, I studied a spot on the floor, breathed slowly, kept my eyes open, and actually stopped my brain’s natural deviations every once and a while. When the meditation was over, I was surprised at how much I loved it.

The thing about dialogue is, no matter how necessary, it can often end up being messed up. Texts are misread, sentences are mistaken, and words lack follow up all the time. God is the only One I know of that can say the word and out spews perfect creations in all their glory. Sometimes its better to not have words bouncing around like a child in a bounce house. Taking time to literally clear your head creates space for awareness of the sounds we usually talk over or get annoyed by, like the dragging of a chair or the playing of an organ. The expectation of ourselves to be able to go and go from one thought, conversation, lecture, song, without taking time to re-charge and be blank generates stress and pressure. Finding time to stop thinking back or ahead, or at all, and knowing you have the power to clear your mind, can create peace that can’t be explained in words.

(Original post date 11/2/09)

Ecumenism or Heterosexism and/or Sexism?

What happened last week? Well, to start, I would be remiss to not mention The Matthew Shepard Act, which needs only the President’s signature to now pass. Hooray!

The Roman Catholic Church announced last Wednesday that it is now accepting new members from the Anglican Church without them giving up, “the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” In other words, the Catholics, a shrinking church, are beckoning the Anglicans who are seeking a more conservative outlook on the ordination of women and lesbians and gays. Is this right? Can they boast ecumenism?

“When religious institutions become a haven for male, heterosexist privilege, they no longer serve as beacons of a hopeful Gospel in a world in such desperate need of one.”

LD

(Original post date 10/26/09)

The Hopeful

Without hope, we give up. I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living. You and you and you have got to see that the promise does not fade.”

What can I say? Each and every time I watch Milk, a mix of emotions floods over me – from sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, disbelief, happiness, to sorrow. After watching this film with the LGBTQ ministry at Marsh this week, this part of Harvey Milk’s speech really stuck out to me.

Hope.

What does it mean to be hopeful today? In Massachusetts we have better rights as LGBT folk than any other state in this country. We can even get married. It’s easy to lose sight of struggle when we tend to blend in and are better protected. But we should never forget the prejudice, the bigotry, the hate.

We can turn on the television and watch Ellen or Glee or Will and Grace and think, it’s not really that bad, is it? Things will change and people will come around. Harvey Milk wanted to start a revolution, and he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way. Do we share that same spirit today? Yes, many great things have happened in the last thirty years for lesbian and gay rights, but we’re not there yet. Harvey Milk had a vision – he had an idea of how things should look and how people should live and interact with one another on all levels of life, in all areas of life. Is our country modeling that dream? No, we are not there yet. At all.

So what do we do? Watch Milk, feel inspired, talk about it, and put it back on the shelf?

The first step is to always remain hopeful. If we believe in change and something better, our imagination can keep us dreaming. And even more than dreaming, we can form a vision for how things ought to be. This is what we do. Then act. What did Harvey Milk do? He took action. He didn’t like how things were, so he stepped in. He didn’t like how people were treated, so he made a move. He created a community, banded people together, and inspired them. He found power in numbers and offered hope to an often hopeless community.

The LGBT community is exactly that – a community. But it often seems that we are scattered people, living our separate lives and rarely coming together. The equality march in DC a couple weeks ago was a time when we finally came together to show our numbers and to show our strength. Perhaps we need more of this. Perhaps we need to continue with the revolution in order to keep offering hope and to keep hoping ourselves. Because we can’t give up, and we can’t fade out.

LD

(Original post date 10/23/09)

Marching on the Right Side of History

The National Equality March was incredible. Hundreds of thousands (estimated 200,000?!) of LGBTQ people–and their allies–descending on the nation’s capital in what could very well be the best-dressed march Washington has ever seen. Everyone and their gay best friend showed up: children and senior citizens, Californians and Utahans, businessmen and artists and students. All of us united by the belief that civil rights are human rights, and that inequality shouldn’t exist in the land of the free.

Go and watch the C-SPAN video of the rally. The entire thing. If you don’t have 4+ hours, however, here are some highlights:

  • Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Church, reading an invocation by Desmond Tutu. Guess who was on stage with him–Tiffany Steinwert of Cambridge Welcoming Ministries!
  • Youth like Aiyi’nah Ford, Sam Sussman (straight!) and Mario Nguyen representing young people with speeches equally as powerful as Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) and Michelle Clunie (Queer as Folk)
  • In a short and sweet speech, Judy Shepherd making us all wish Matthew was still alive
  • “The Age of Asking is Over. I am Telling!”-Lt. Dan Choi reminding us that “Love Is Worth Fighting For”–and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is worth ending
  • Lady Gaga.
  • The NAACP chairman Julian Bond pointing out that “gay rights are civil rights.”
  • Billie Myers working the crowd so hot it didn’t even matter that she messed up the lyrics to the song she sang (or that she was a British woman singing America the Beautiful [?])
  • Lots of politicians–Babs Siperstein, Kim Coco Iwamoto, Scott McCoy, Christine Quinn, etc.–as well as presidents of amazing organizations (GLAAD, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, National Equality March, etc.)
  • Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black making Milk much more than a movie
  • Lady Gaga.

Perhaps Staceyann Chin says it best. The video doesn’t even do her justice–imagine the roar of this Jamaican spoken word poet echoing all the way down to the Washington Monument. Imagine the crowd, standing united and realizing that yes, we are making history.

(Original post date 10/13/09)

Should I Stay or Should I Go

On Thursday, Dr. Knust gave a lecture on the Bible and homosexuality. For those of you who couldn’t make it, don’t worry – we’ll be posting the video and notes shortly, I promise. It will be worth your time to watch it.

At the end of the talk, she opened it up for questions. Something she said stuck with me. I can’t even remember what the question was, or even, what Dr. Knust’s response was, but somehow she got on the topic of faith traditions and safe spaces. She offered us a glimpse into her own denomination’s negative stance on homosexuality and shared her own ways of combating it throughout the years. Bottom line – they still aren’t open and affirming. Lesbians and gays can’t get ordained. And this is the case for many Protestant denominations. What did she say to do? What advice did she offer?

Leave.

Go somewhere else. If you don’t feel safe or can’t be a part of a community that accepts you and affirms you for every part of your being, you don’t need to stay. If you are trying to find acceptance and fullness from people that aren’t life-giving, get out.

When I first heard her say this, I got chills and caught myself nodding in approval. Reflecting on my own personal struggles of being in a group that denied my leadership because of my sexual orientation, I remembered taking that step and leaving. So I agreed with Dr. Knust. Nobody should have to endure that kind of abuse.

Then, I had a conversation with someone who disagreed with Dr. Knust’s advice to leave. She explained to me her own struggles within her faith tradition because of her sexual orientation, but she hasn’t left. How could she leave something that’s such a vital part of her life? Nothing else would be the same. And what about those people who feel they shouldn’t have to leave? They deserve the same treatment as anybody else. If everyone leaves, who will be left to make the changes? Who will fight for something different?

I’ve been thinking about Dr. Knust’s advice and the discussion I had with my friend. I don’t know which is the right answer. Ultimately, I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer here. Just because I left doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for everyone else. But I think Dr. Knust was on to something, though… don’t stay if it isn’t safe. We all know our own personal limits and boundaries, when to say enough is enough, when our health is more important than pursuing a fight. Each one of us in the LGBT community is different, and we each have our own journeys. We make the choice to stay or leave. We also make the choice to let somebody else pick up the pieces when we can’t fight any longer, when we find ourselves becoming too broken to continue. Be strong, but be wise.

(Original post date 10/11/09)

Looking Back to See Ourselves: Greeks Give Perspective

Imagine a gay culture where youth is glamorized, the athletic physique is ideal, and wealth makes people socially superior. Oh wait, that’s our gay culture! It is also, as we found out in Dr. James Henderson’s lecture “Commonplace Homosexuality in Ancient Greece,” the case in Ancient Greece. Yep, the Ancient Greek culture was one in love with muscles (see: naked Olympics) and young people. Despite the similarities between our culture and the Greeks, though, there are plenty of differences.

That’s because in Ancient Greece, Henderson tells us in the first lecture of the LGBTQ Ministry lecture series, homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships weren’t mutually exclusive. There wasn’t any “coming out” because there wasn’t any assumption of exclusively opposite-sex attractions.

A man married a woman, for sure, and continued to build society by making a family. That wouldn’t stop an older man from wooing an 18-year old guy, though, or a man of the same age for that matter. Throw in relationships with slaves or foreigners on top of that, and you can see how the Ancient Greek society actually differs a great deal from America’s.

Case in point, members of the Greek army were encouraged to have male lovers because it would inspire loyalty and valor in battle. Not…exactly the case in the US military.

I suppose that is what happens when a society has no religious qualms with having multiple partners. Or, for that matter, biological consequences: there were no STDs in Ancient Greece (!) Again, not exactly the case in America.

So is the Ancient Greek stance on sexuality superior to modern America’s? I’m not sure if cultural comparison in terms of “better” or “worse” is necessarily appropriate. Admittedly, I would certainly like to see homosexuality become a non-issue in society. At the same time, my ears did bristle when I heard Henderson say that Ancient Greek women had to be submissive to men, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the social separation of men and women before marriage.

Regardless, the important thing is to be aware that the way it is now isn’t how it has to be. Nor is it, even, how it has always been.

The lecture was a great kick-off to the lecture series–thank you Dr. Henderson! And a thank you to everyone who showed up!

Peace,
Tyler

Remember, Dr. Knust from the School of Theology will be giving her lecture, “What the Bible Does (Not) Say About Homosexuality” on Thursday at 7:00pm in SED 130. It should be great–see you then!

(Original post date 10/6/09)