Showing posts from July, 2016

The Stones Cry Out

Bishop Karen Oliveto kneels during her consecration at the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to [Jesus], “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 16:39-40) Who knew the last straw would be a study commission? The United Methodist Church has been struggling with sexual diversity in the ministry since 1972. In that year, the General Conference (the quadrennial meeting that decides all matters of polity for the denomination) first amended the Discipline (the denominational rule book) to forbid ordination of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals." Since then, generations of gay and lesbian candidates for ministry have been forced to remain closeted for their entire careers; to lie to to their congregations, superintendents, and bishops; to carefully avoid using certain terminology with church officials wh

Lives That Matter

Richmond, California, Police Chief Chris Magnus attending a rally in 2014. It's a philosophical controversy at the heart of the American experiment, running back to the foundations of Christian theology and, before that, Jewish identity. Christian theologians have called it the Scandal of Particularity; liberation theologians call it the Preferential Option. I can put it in a non-religious frame of reference by calling it Focus. What it comes down to is simply this: In the grand scheme of things, does one life matter? Do I? How about you? How about your partner, your parent, your child? Black Lives Matter is a movement founded in the need to translate generalisms into particulars. White American people have been callously killing Black men for centuries. Until the 1960s, hardly any of these murders were prosecuted. The reason: Black lives didn't matter. Collectively, persons of color were given little or no value by the dominant culture. That began to change wi

Midlife Malediction

It's not all sweetness and light. Middle age is wonderful! Except when it's not. But first the good stuff. When I started this blog in May, 2013, I was 52 years old, finishing my second (and, I hope, final) year as a high school music teacher with no clear path to returning to elementary general music, a year away from being married to Amy, and looking forward to the most active summer of my life. By the end of that summer, we had backpacked in the Olympics and the Tetons, I had blogged more than once a day (that's an average, of course: I didn't blog while backpacking in the wilderness). I wrote about many things: music, education, theology, Biblical criticism, those backpacking expeditions, gun control, politics. Implicit in all these topics, and sometimes very much on the surface, was my transition from prime adulthood to middle age. By and large, I've found middle age to be immensely satisfying. Most of the relationally driven anxieties of my

This Is Not a War. It's Worse.

Pieta, Michelangelo It's one of the most affecting images in Christian iconography: a seated woman holding the body of a nearly-naked man in her lap. The woman is Mary, the man is her son Jesus. He has just been brought down from the cross. It takes another iconic image--Mary holding her infant son--and alters the scale in a way that might seem absurd, if it were not so poignant, so archetypal in ways that go far beyond its theological foundations. Centuries before the first Christians told the story of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, watching her son die, the prophet Jeremiah wrote of this same fundamental experience with these words: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted...because they are no more." (Jeremiah 31:15) You don't have to be a Christian to feel the anguish in Michelangelo's Pieta, or a Jew to ache for the grief in Jeremiah's description. Is th


I get nervous enough when this happens to white, middle-aged me. What must it be like for a black or brown driver? Sometimes professionals make things worse. In January 1997, a month into my second marriage, I had a panic attack that lasted all night. My heart was racing, I was unable to sleep, and I had pain in one arm. I finally asked my new wife to take me to the emergency room in McMinnville. What followed was a 36-hour cascade of unintended consequences as doctors treated symptoms with drugs that caused other symptoms that had to be treated with more drugs until, finally, I had to be admitted for the night--something that had never happened to me before, nor since. In the end, I was fine physically; and in retrospect, I came to pin the incident on a growing awareness that this hurried rebound marriage had been a horrible mistake. And the whole thing could've been avoided if one of those doctors had taken a few minutes to interview me about my emotional state. The