Less Snark More Education, Please

This morning, I found an article on my Facebook feed from Buzzfeed. I own up to reading online magazines and pop sites and generally I enjoy humor and news and occasionally combined but this article really, really bothered. me.

It’s an article about doctors sharing anecdotes about the “dumbest patients” they’ve ever treated.

Here’s the link if you want to add to their click rates for the day, or if you want to read the article without giving them any additional revenue, click here on the Do Not Link site.

The article is mostly stock photos of doctors looking bemused posed beside the quoted “dumb” situations. Most of the situations have to do with sex, such as:

  • Not understanding how the Nuva Ring works
  • Not knowing that it takes penetrative intercourse to get pregnant
  • Not understanding particular vocabulary regarding how to take medicines
  • Not knowing how STDs are passed or proper use of condoms
  • Feeding an infant coffee instead of formula

All of the patient’s concerns are heartbreaking and leave them extremely vulnerable to disease, unintended pregnancy, and more, and I’m ashamed that they were used for click-bait fodder.

Instead of mocking people’s ignorance on the internet, perhaps we should all be pushing for more comprehensive education about our bodies?

These people came to their doctors because they didn’t know what was going on with their bodies, with their sexual needs, with their health. Some people don’t even have access to doctors (or are too embarrassed to ask), but post on places like Yahoo Answers. They ask questions that may seem ridiculous to all us supposedly well educated and extremely privileged folks, but it’s a huge sign that people aren’t being taught about how their bodies work all over our country.

Perhaps on the surface it seems laughable, like an article just for kicks, but at my age now, and having worked in and around sexual human rights issues for so long, it kills me to see a) how lacking our basic knowledge is throughout our country and b) how mean people are when people are vulnerable.

Right now though we don’t live in a culture where a straightforward article about the systems behind these “dumb patients” are examined (at least not on pop internet sites), we live in a click bait world. It’s callous and it doesn’t offer any real solution to the problem. No where does the article share how the doctors dealt with the situation, just leaves the anecdotes for shits and giggles.

The Buzzfeed article pulled the anecdotes from a subReddit, just as an FYI. I don’t really recommend visiting. I sympathize with the need to vent, because I imagine that doctors and nurses see so much that they can only triage in terms of information and education, but to share it like this? It amplifies the venting into mockery and makes the rest of us think that’s ok.

What are the solutions, that’s what I want to know? How do we get more education into schools, to parents, to adults? How do we treat honest and vulnerable questions as a sign of curiosity and desire for better health instead of “dumb” questions to laugh at? And how do we shift a culture that seems to nearly bathe in snark into one that honestly enjoys earnest community?

I talk about BedPost Confessions a lot, I know. It’s kind of my offering as an answer to some of those questions. We, my co-producers and I, focus on adults and combine education and ethics inside of a framework of entertainment. We select pieces that are amazing, sexy, and well crafted of course, but we look for humanity and vulnerability in our submissions first and foremost. We take confessions from the audience but we don’t read ones that are illegal or cruel (and we get some cruel mocking ones). If the confession is filled with confusion? We try to answer the question. We honor where everyone is at in terms of needing education. We want the space to feel as secure and warm as possible, knowing that people may feel that they are taking a risk coming to the show.  It’s not about “safe” necessarily, but it is about kind and loving, open to vulnerability and learning, at least I hope it is.

We work with a number of sex educators as well, all of whom have had their work cut out for them in the school systems. We offer space to community groups to come and table to share advocacy around sexual rights, and we work with adult stores who offer real educational experiences along with their wonderful wares.

I get it. Snark feels good. It’s easy. Those anecdotes or answers we find on Yahoo are low-hanging fruit for comedy. But that’s not good enough for me. That doesn’t, in my opinion, further real cultural change towards health, pleasure, and wellness. And it makes me mad. Snark may mean that people just don’t see any real hope? I think there is real hope. I’ve talked to enough people after our show, or through groups like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance to know that real lives are changed when people open up and share in community with empathy and with courage. It is amazing stuff and guess what? There’s humor there, too. Our show is funny, or so I’ve been told.

It just doesn’t wind up hurting people, even if they are just anonymous folks on the internet or the audience. And if it does? I want to know about it.

We need more education, that much is clear. Can’t we do it without continuing a cycle that shames?

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My #FaithFeminism-Holding Not Harming

I want to talk about the Divine Feminine.

Today, after a really nice lunch out on the town, I drove home and listened to NPR. There was a story on Here and Now focused neuroscientists studying the effects of abuse and neglect on the childhood brain. Basically? Abuse and neglect, even in the short term, causes drastic and dramatic effects on the brain, so much so that the scientists were calling it a public health issue and a neuro-toxin.

Which? Duh.

I hate to sound sarcastic about it, but if you look at any mammal that is taken from parents and then malnourished, abused, neglected, you see signs of real issues. They bite, or try to get affection and then hiss. They hide. They have neuroses like being afraid of a particular gender or a sound. Some of those take years to shift and change, and some patterns don’t get reset.

Look at any story or study on kids in orphanages, overbooked with kids who don’t get touched, and you’ll see extreme behavioral issues which take extreme therapy (and time) to heal.

In the story, a mother and father discussed raising an adopted child who had been abused and neglected. He showed signs of this deprivation and it took a great deal of time and effort, love in action, to help him, help him relearn. The words from the parents were validated by the science, which again, I’m happy about, but it seemed intuitive to me. Why wasn’t this known before?

While I’m glad that science proves this (because MAYBE we’ll start to get a grip on really practicing love, compassion, empathy, touch, gentleness and protecting children who then will grow into adults who can do the same for their children), I’m angered that it takes science to create “proof” when the signs are visible and have been for centuries.

It’s not surprising, I suppose. We live in a culture that still holds fast to spare the rod/spoil the child. Really, the rod is what causes the spoiling. It damages the brain, in some cases irreparably.

I’m a Texan, and many Texans talk a lot about Christianity. I think about the small children at our Texas border who have already gone through hell (enough that their mothers and fathers sent them away in the hopes of something better), and now are languishing in detention centers while being faced with armed guards, refusing to let these children come unto us, whole towns voting on keeping them out. Not just here, we have children all over the world facing war and abject cruelty, which only creates cycles which will be extremely difficult to heal from.

I was raised Christian and have struggled with the very idea of faith-just search spirituality in my blog and you’ll see what I mean. I react poorly to what I see as an entirely masculine form of religion. God as a father, cruel and punitive. God as a source of phallic power, women as help-meets. God as a gate-keeper of love, only some receive it. Purity culture, run rampant. It’s left women in the position of servant, vessel, chattel, symbol upon which to project all manner of toxicity and abuse.

The Divine Feminine has been tamped down, enslaved, silenced, kept in the background, and treated generally like dirt while wars are waged in the name of Christ, children are cast out instead of taken in, and women are taught that they are only worthwhile as a supplementary to men, our very body and sexual self considered sinful.

The goddess needs to rise.

Last night, I had this weird half-dream about such a creature, a giant mother-figure populating war torn areas with therapists and healers per person, swaddling people, holding them for as long as it took to heal, settling down nations with a calming force of peace-allowing the tears and rage and fear and frustration, but holding it, not directing outward into more rage but just letting it dissipate and replacing it, over time, with trust.

Maybe it will take a new kind of feminine power/not-power to shift things.

This kind of force could protect the earth, which is traumatized, could protect children who grow into cruelty learned from parents who were taught it by theirs, to hold instead of harm, could allow for sexuality and pleasure and gentleness rather than repression, consumption, and greed. It would teach sharing not dominance.

I don’t suppose that’s actually a theology, or maybe it is, but it felt, in the half-asleep state I was in, to be the answer. Holding, not harming. Stopping, just stopping and holding.

I have not been to seminary. I have not studied a wide variety of texts or books on queer and feminist theology. I just know that there has to be something different, either something very old or very new, and it has to involve a balance bringing women and the pillars of real compassion, the hard work of peace, and the idea of plenty, not scarcity, into consciousness.

There is so much holding to do and we need strong arms, of all genders, to be willing to reach out and take in, breathing peace in and out. A bosom of endless nourishment each to each other, caressing all with milky-sweet breath and gentled touch.

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Clothing Swap!

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All! Tomorrow is a clothing swap at the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas!

“Come bring your unwanted and old clothes, shoes, and accessories, and trade
them in for a new-to-you wardrobe!

All gender expressions and sizes welcomed and encouraged!

Free snacks provided (but feel free to bring some, too)!

Please make sure your items are clean and in gently used condition. If you
want to drop off clothes early, we’ll be open Friday from noon to 8PM
getting ready.

Also, we will send items left after the clothing swap to refugee women and
children at the border. If you would like to bring children’s clothing, we
will have a donation box as well.

Don’t forget to forward this to your friends or invite them on Facebook

See you tomorrow!!!!

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Fadi Skeiker Workshop Happening In Austin

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Fadi Skeiker (a shadow and object puppeteer), has come all the way from University of Jordan to visit Austin and to teach a workshop.

Performing Virtual Advocacy
An event hosted by Austin Community College

Workshop facilitator: Fadi Skeiker (University of Jordan)

Participants in Performing Virtual Advocacy workshop will be guided into devising scenes for three imagined characters who are living in different Arab Spring states. The facilitator will be using applied theatre and devising techniques as tools to craft the monologues of the three characters. Participants will be using social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter as sources of information; therefore, participants are asked to bring their smartphones/tablets/laptops to the workshop; and are asked to do a bit of research on Arab Spring states, such as Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia..etc. prior to attending the workshop. No previous theater experience required.

Workshop is going to be at the 301 Gallery Theater, Rio Grande Campus, Austin Community College (1212 Rio Grande Street). The workshop is free and open to to interested participants in the community.

Monday July 21 from 6-9pm

To register in the workshop, please email or call:
fadiskeiker@hotmail.com
phone: 737.333.9299

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The Women’s Community Center Of Central Texas

I have news!

As of next week, I will be the Director of Development for the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas.

This new organization serves women and girls of our area, providing them with resources, information, education, and more to help them empower themselves and be the best they can be.

Here is a little more from their website:

 

Mission
The mission of the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas is to promote the well being of Texas women and girls and to build positive connections among people and organizations that do the same.

Vision
We envision and work for a central Texas community in which all women and girls have the resources they need to build the lives they want. The Center will be a hub where women, girls, and allies from all walks of life come together to support each other and find empowerment.

Values
Equity – Working within a human rights framework, we affirm the inherent dignity and worth of every individual and the unique contributions they can make to the Center and the wider community.

Community – Fostering positive connections among organizations and people, especially women, and creating spaces for those connections to happen.

Intersectionality – Recognizing that women have very different experiences shaped by their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, immigration status, and other characteristics, we commit to understanding and supporting each other.

Respect – Board, staff, and volunteers commit to listening to each other and to every person who seeks us out as the experts on their own experiences and treating everyone with courtesy and kindness.

Accountability – Board, staff, and volunteers are all accountable to each other and the community. Every person involved with the Center is responsible for doing their part to build community and create positive change for Texas women and girls.

Positive change – Fostering personal growth for women, the growth of connections among women and girls, social changes that increase women’s well-being, and the evolution of the organization as a force for these values.

I will be raising money, supporting volunteers, helping with events and generally spreading the word and advocating for the center. I’m so thrilled that my own mission and vision are so keenly aligned with the Center, and that I can use all my skills for something so special and powerful.

Look for more of their blog cross posted here, and for more outreach from me in the coming months. Meanwhile, if you’d like to get involved, feel free to contact me here.

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Walking Away

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My 4th was spent in Marfa. Normally, I dislike the holiday both for the reasons you’d expect from me (a disillusionment and anger at our nation for atrocities, racism, and lack of equal rights) but also because I’m not ever too keen on crowds and plastic pedestals of pride and victory, the patriotic emails from politicians and companies both, begging me for my filthy lucre. I do like a good cookout, though. We started the day at Above All Else where there were also several shorts focused on protecting the treaty lands of South Dakota, and impassioned requests from Lakota elders that we all work together to stop the pipeline.

After the films, we went outside to meet with the elders who spoke about their village they’ve established as a protest and barrier against the Keystone. It was so clear to me, under the huge sky with the wind rustling past us, that we must act, and together. A new way must be midwifed. It’s coming, it’s most certainly present, but it has to be born. We all have to do it, and we all have to learn when we are centered in the story using our own individual skills and powers, and when the story is what matters, not us individually. That’s a complex skill, but we can do it. I saw it in action yesterday. Community, real family, interdependence, patience and compassion while holding a fierce line and living so, so differently, that’s what it will take.

The rest of the day we wandered, eating ice cream and getting sunburned. We landed at El Cosmico for their cook-out, by Frank, beer, and cold tubs. A wild encampment filled with dogs, children, rag tag clothes, and dusty arty people both in the Empire, but seeking ways out of it. I felt my privilege so deeply, just being there, and wondered if it was possible to walk away from structures of power when everywhere I go, there they are, so there too am I.

Can we live outside it? Is it so tangled in us that we enjoy our film festival experience all while sharing films about the empire that is killing the planet, dining well, driving long distances in the great desert using fuel. Sometimes my mind gets caught up in itself.

At dusk, we drove to a park on the outskirts and listened to music from the band stand as the wind whipped and the stars appeared in a crescent moon sky. Just looking up is a dizzying experience. The sky extends, like arms or a maw, to swallow you into itself. The stars range from edge to edge, more than I’ve ever seen. My eldest ran to the playground, a scrappy grouping of old metal slides and spinning circles, and watched the display of locally bought and shot fireworks. My youngest and I danced on the pavement to the music, doing the shag, swinging in circles. Sublime.

The darkness fell, and I lost track of everyone, then found them, and then suddenly had a feeling of fear. Existential maybe, but about just flying off the face of the earth into that dark open embrace of space. Even as I was connected to the ground, I tangled my own limbs into my husbands, my children, for extra touch points of gravity. I watched the people laugh and dance, hug and play, thinking of the vastness of the desert, of space, and of our own hearts. So close together all of us, but sometimes it’s so hard to keep ourselves connected. And we have to stay connected, so easy to say. Why so hard to do?

We drove home in the hypnotic dark, sought out the Marfa lights, made up silly theories about them in the car on the quiet ride back. We tumbled into bed, dirty and dusty, reddened by the sun, possibly changed by the day and the kiss of the desert, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll take what we learn with us. Hard to tell what will stick, what we’ll take with us as we walk. Can we even walk away, and can we do it together? Maybe it’s walking towards something. Something better. 

The boys still sleep, curled up like little wild animals, unaware of what the future will bring.

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Instagram Makes Me Feel Talented

A recent walk around the neighborhood.

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Amplifying The Good

I’ve been struggling lately with vision, goals, what I should be doing with my time to best support a new way of being in the future. I’ve talked about empire a lot, this corporate consumer model that extracts good and worth out of people and the world, leaving little left.

This is an incredible little video, idealistic and succinct, which brought some hope to my heart.

350.org – A new economic paradigm is not only possible, but plausible.

How We Live: A Journey Towards A Just Transition from Kontent Films on Vimeo.

It’s clear that we CAN live differently. It’s a choice, and not necessarily and easy one, but we can choose.

All I know is, I want to live in a different world, one made by our hands. All of us, working together to build and birth something new.

Here’s a woman, Vandana Shiva, leading the way with saving and cataloguing seeds. She’s amazing

Two Options from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

There are lots of intersections where change can be made, vision renewed, systems reconfigured. From slow food to home farms, storytelling to theater for justice, Moral Mondays to Cowboys and Indians facing the Keystone, people all over are waking up to the possibility that something can indeed be done. There are healers, ministers, farmers, artists, activists working together in ways they never have before. It’s new, sometimes people don’t intersect as well as they should, or even know they can, but it’s happening.

It’s challenging, especially in a world where bad news is blasted from every social media outlet. Just today I could have posted about 10 horrifying and demoralizing stories of things so big that I wind up freezing, for issues which I don’t know how to help. I get down. I feel helpless. I wonder what it is I’m doing that makes a difference. But I do know how to help when things get broken down to steps. And I try to remember that there is as much or more good happening, and that I have to help amplify the good. That in every article of horrifying news, there are always ways to discover change. For every shooting there are now groups like Everytown pushing for gun reform. For stories about prison human rights abuses, there are groups like the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition helping to expose the problems.

Amplify. Organize the good. Create community around the good. Listen to and create space for people to tell about the good. Build pathways between groups of goodness that may not even know about each other. Because there is a pull in the hearts of so many, and people need to know who is out there doing amazing things.

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Of Adam’s Rib

I have been, like so many, watching the horrific case of Elliot Rodger, a young man who brutally murdered 6 people. He committed this act of violence after leaving multiple videos and a lengthy and detailed manifesto focused on his pain and rejection by women, his inability to connect with people, and his sense that the world wasn’t responding to him as it should. The 137 page letter is chilling.

I am not a psychologist, nor an academic. I can’t speak accurately about his mental state, though I, like so many again, have opinions, unprofessional as they may be.

I’d like to think he was a sociopath with extreme narcissistic focus (mirrored in a deep and unabating self loathing and huge levels of anxiety). Women were the symbol of wellness, power, and worth. I don’t think there were very many human beings in his life that he actually saw as separate differentiated individuals. His writing about his life was devoid of empathy or compassion about anyone else’s circumstance, only how other people affected his life, not being happy when they helped him and hating them when they got in his way or failed him. His piece makes it seem like the only person who cared about him was his mother.

Nothing in the manifesto, save the end of it, was about non-reality, only about him and his idea world that would come to fruition if people would just behave the way he wanted them to behave. In this case, it was women he felt entitled to, and particular kinds. But his writings show some pretty messed up beliefs about sex and his early experiences with his body and sexual imagery, entitlement and dominance-the lessons of which are all mirrored in our culture. He seems to have found sex particularly disgusting, but also nearly an addiction.

I don’t like that the narrative around the shooting is focused primarily on mental illness. Not because I don’t think he was extremely disordered, but because we focus on this as an individual mental health issue, rather than a cultural and societal illness. We cling to the idea that these rampages are purely isolated occurrences, that somehow these young men, nearly always white or raised in a white cultural milieu, just snapped. Why they snapped? That’s not something we dare deal with. far easier to erroneously blame his attack on schizophrenia or autism, rather than look at the much bigger problems and dynamics that might combine into a perfectly violent and murderous storm.

It’s an additional part of a failed narrative to blame violence committed by people of color as acts of moral and character failing, rather than mental illness. We say that its about drugs and gang violence, that people of color aren’t educated enough or whatever other dismissive bullshit passes for excuse. We rarely give them the out of mental health issues. Racism pure and blunt.

And as for hate crimes, we allow that narrative as well, but only in some specific cases. Shooting up a synagogue is an obvious act of anti-Semitism, for example. Beating up gay men, or killing trans individuals, joining groups that attack based on race, are seen as hate crimes..

But in the cases where women have been killed (and there are many cases of men killing women for issues pertaining to sex), we don’t allow a more realistic narrative, one of hate, entitlement, control and the toxic effects of modern Western masculinity. It’s just mental illness. As Ruby Hamad states so eloquently:

His mental state may have played a role in his crimes but Rodger’s digital trail leaves no doubt that he was heavily influenced by a culture of hatred towards women. He did not choose a sorority house any more randomly than the Brussels shooter chose a Jewish museum. Both were targeted attacks against a specific group of people in the community, and both presumably driven by a violent ideology.

It’s true that not all of Rodger’s victims were women, but his male victims were chosen because they were allegedly getting the sex Rodger felt he was entitled to: “I’ll give you exactly what you deserve … all of you men for living a better life than me. All of you sexually active men. I hate you.”

It is disturbing that even when a killer leaves vast trails of evidence detailing the exact motivations for his crimes – hatred towards an identified group – because that group happens to be “women”, we prefer to engage in mental gymnastics rather than admit that this hatred is a real and not uncommon thing.

Elliot Rodger may have acted alone in his killing spree but he was far from alone in thinking he was entitled to women’s bodies, that sex with women was his right, and that the women who denied him this right deserved to be “punished”. As feminist blogger Melissa McEwan argues, “Dismissing violent misogynists as ‘crazy’ is a neat way of saying that violent misogyny is an individual problem, not a cultural one.”

For all the talk of women’s empowerment, ours remains a toxic culture that denies women’s subjectivity, insisting, for example, that the “friendzone” is a real thing because men can’t seem to grasp the simple fact that women are not slot machines into which they can insert “niceness” and get sex in return.

Jackson Katz wrote about all of these things after Newtown, and begged the media to focus on nanhood not guns or mental illness when writing about such shootings. I’m not sure you can leave out guns and mental health, or manhood or masculinity. Guns relate directly to masculinity. Our current cultural hatred of vulnerability and compassion relate directly to how we accept or deny mental health services. Our cultural mental health itself is in trouble, with its focus on power, dominance, greed, achievement, control of resources by any means necessary. That’s tied into masculinity as a representation.

The misogyny is real. Violence against women as a hate crime? I think it’s real as well, and directly related to the symptoms listed above. We don’t accept the idea of hate crimes against women and here’s why I think that is-women aren’t seen as separate from men, but as a subset of men. Two great authors have amazing articles on the subject of this act being a hate crime and a symptom of misogyny built into our culture, Soraya Chemaly and Pia Glenn. Race also played a role, as noted here by Zac Cheney-Rice.

For about six years I produced a women’s comedy festival here in Austin. For women, by women it was an amazing gathering of talent, humor, and skill. Each year I did press I’d get the question of “Why have a women’s comedy festival?” I always wondered if the Latino Comedy Project got that question. Or if Cine Las Americas heard statements like that? Or if Ballet Folklorico, or Alvin Ailey, or the Bay Area Black Comedy Festival had to answer questions about justifying their difference, their uniqueness.

Something about women separating themselves out irritates our culture. Or maybe it was, as I thought quietly, years ago, that women aren’t a “culture” on their own. They are a subset of men, drawn and born out of Adam’s Rib as per our very bible. Not unique in our own selves, but a helpmeet to serve Adam, and this mythos fills all our cultural norms about women and their role. How can you hate that which is part of you, right? But you sure can keep it in line, because it belongs to you.

When you see women as a sub-set of you, as a resource or as something that you own or control, it twists and toxifies the relationship.

This is about so much, this shooting. It is indeed a mental health issue-for our whole culture is mentally, emotionally, psychically unwell when it comes to power, greed vs softness, love. It is indeed a gun issue since so many guns are just available but also act as a cultural symbol of that desire for dominance, masculinity pathologized. It is most certainly a gender issue and an issue of hatred of women (seen as a resource that now are trying to be viewed as equals).

Since Newtown, there has been discussion of Aggrieved Entitlement, a state of experience that men, white men in particular are experiencing as our culture shifts dramatically.

Masculinity is equally resistant to any type of critical self-examination. The combination of the two, and an intervention which seeks to examine white masculinity in America and its relationship to violence, is destined to create a hostile reaction on the part of many white men.

In all, I am legitimately taken aback by the sincerity of the pain and offense at the idea that white men could be experts at committing singular types of crime in America.

Moreover, in surveying the comments and reactions to my (and other) essays about Adam Lanza, white masculinity, and gun violence, there is a tone of real hurt.

White Masculinity, like Whiteness, imagines itself as normal, innocent, and benign. The very premise that the intersection of those identities could result in socially maladaptive and violent behavior which is evil, and yes I use that term intentionally, is rejected by those deeply invested in a particularly conservative and reactionary type of White Masculinity, as something impossible. To even introduce such an idea is anathema to their universe. The language is verboten. The Other is suspect until proven otherwise; “real Americans” as “good people” are to be judged by precisely the opposite premise.

I don’t particularly want some new DSM diagnosis for individuals. Aggrieved Entitlement, while it makes good sense on paper, as a label doesn’t necessarily solve the underlying issues which are racial, gender based, spiritually inculcated of how our culture operates.

This is about so so much, so much that it’s nearly unbearable to take in, to understand, to heal. So much easier to just pick a camp of blame. Right now there is so much pain. I wish truly we’d all collectively do the work of healing. I admit I don’t truly even know where to begin.

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Church

The Organic Cathedral

The Organic Cathedral

I’ve spent a lot of time in churches lately.

I used to spend time there, and then as noted in previous posts, rejected organized religion and institutionalized dogma. I didn’t especially fill in the time with mystic training, or what would be identified by most as spiritual exploration but I think my desire for such never waned and so I found myself producing theater, studying systems and groups in a grounded curriculum that focused on the humanity of participants, and also exploring and deepening my relationship with sexuality. And, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a couple of rounds with therapists.

In all that time, both in the physical church and outside of it I’m aware that the most spiritual or numinous have not been inside churches. They’ve been in homes, on grassy fields, under trees in the deep woods, in kitchens, on stages, in hospices, in quiet conversations on picnic blankets.

Numinous. It’s such a wonderful word. I’ve read the definition so many times and often craved to feel what I thought it meant, some huge overwhelming shivery trembling holy presence, but now I recognize it so much more as a subtle shimmering inside me, the presence of well, presence. Quiet, still, but alive and beaming in connection between. Between people. Insight. That moment when I know the right question to ask, or I understand intuitively what a person might need to feel safe or to sit with discomfort. When I feel slight chills about a creative idea or performance. That moment when perhaps a thousand physical cues congeal or spark into a metaphysical understanding of a situation, place, person.

Is it God? Or god? Or the space of us between us?

In all this filming of Mary Ann Barclay, in her true calling towards ordination, I’ve felt the most of that numinous presence in these small groups, in the prayer circles in a home, at a table at Chili’s, in a library. While the rain fell on the car as we drove and just sat thinking about the injustice done to her and so many.

When I was a child I wanted to be baptized. This was after my father died and I assume that my child’s mind was terrified at the thought of death and needed some kind of reassurance. So my mother helped provide that for me by meeting with our minister at the Presbyterian Church. He was a fine old minister, Dr. Franklin was, but he was just about to retire. He asked me a few questions to determine my readiness as this would be a baptism out of order. Normally they’d do a 6 week catechism class prior to the event. He asked me, and I can remember this clearly, “If the church burned down, what would we do? Could we have church?” And I said, “We’d just have church outside with each other.” I remember him laughing and exchanging warm looks with my mother and he said, “Oh, she’s ready.”

I saw a FB comment in all the aftermath of Mary Ann’s denial of ordination, a child about that age as I was, saying, “I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t I want Mary Ann to be my pastor? God loves everyone?”

Perhaps that is what the institutional church is the most afraid of beyond sexuality, beyond gender, beyond rules. God, whatever that force may be, loves everyone. The institution can’t control where the spirit goes. Who it calls upon, how it seeks itself in others, why it calls who it calls.

Spaces do not matter, gender does not matter, orientation does not matter. What matters is, at the essence, is love. One can place rule upon rule upon rule on spirit, build a church out of bricks and rigid stone, but without love? That’s not church.

My own pastor Jim Rigby said this in reference to another minister friend, Layton Williams, recently attacked for speaking out about LGBT issues:

“You know that the problem is not in the people of the church, many of whom want justice as badly as any of us. The problem is in the systems of power we surrender responsibility to. When our allegiance to the church is greater than our allegiance to the gospel, it makes our dreams of a better world impossible. We all want a better world, but we don’t want to lose our own place in the system which gives us our credentials, our credibility and our acceptance: and locks some people out at the same time. We on the inside have broken hearts for those locked out, but until we actually risk our approval and status for the outsiders, until we are willing to cross the line, nothing will change-Jim Rigby.”

Maybe I’m just holding on to some childhood ideal reaffirmed by a man I admired. Maybe I just had child’s mind at work, that precious time not over thinking things. Or maybe there is something very heretical and powerful that moves about and reveals itself if we’d just hear it, regardless of rues we make to keep things in place. Like that sweet child speaking. Like Layton, Jim, and yes most certainly Mary Ann.

Church is us. It’s just us.

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