My father’s mother was raised in an extremely religious family. Her father, a minister in a Pentecostal church that I would best describe as Holy Roller, believed in demonic possession. Sadly, my Grandmother was stricken with a variety of physical maladies that left her constantly ill and often bedridden. Following the teachings of her upbringing, his mother dragged my father to one church after another, all in the hopes that someone could cure her. Taking the miracles of Jesus as literally true, she was certain that someone out there possessed the ability. This belief was so strong that she sometimes gave money to televangelists who promised to do the very same thing.
Jun 30 2011
Jun 13 2011
Growing up, I was told that we were created in God’s image. But no one really explained the concept to me. I assumed that God was static, unchanging, and altogether perfect. To the best of my knowledge, it had always been this way. Was my behavior to resemble this as well? Any number of theological loose ends was never tied up, either from ignorance or theological neglect. Sometimes it is easier to say nothing than to risk the potential offense provided by the truth. Fast asleep is a comfortable place for many, particularly in houses of worship and everyday communities which are deathly afraid of change.
May 03 2011
Recently, I’ve started to examine gender dynamics inside my Meeting. As I began I started from the premise that every religious gathering reflects the particulars of the larger world outside it. I’ve contemplated many of these, but I haven’t examined one specific facet of this in much detail until recently. In participation, active membership, and consistent attendance, women significantly outnumber men. In the Young Adult Friend group which I help organize, the most consistently involved members are female. Men often seem reluctant to take the plunge, nervously circling and re-circling the outskirts, hanging back, anxiously sailing around the perifery. Male participation is often minimal and short-lived. There is no in-between here. The few who do come to stay often become fixtures of the group, but they are always in the minority.
Apr 28 2011
In an essay submitted for a college class, a young woman recently wrote about her sexual relationship and resulting pregnancy with her high school band director. Though she changed some of the details and names in her paper, enough autobiography was left intact that statutory rape charges against the man have been filed. Various news agencies, websites, and blogs have pursued different angles when presenting the details of this case. The story found within the link posted above treats the accused like a common criminal, inviting us to view him in the worst possible light, while simultaneously encouraging our sympathy for the victim. If this were a clear-cut case of non-consensual sexual assault, then this approach would be more appropriate and justified. But as we learn more, and confront different perspectives of this multi-layered story, the truth itself begins to drift into grey area territory. Separating facts from bias might as well be our eternal homework assignment.
Apr 24 2011
On this Easter Sunday, I reflect that among the followers of Jesus were sex workers. In the Gospel of Matthew, an particularly telling exchange takes place between Chief Priests and Elders who have questioned Jesus’ very authority. In response, he tells a parable, which concludes, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Though much has changed between now and then, this statement still has the power to shock and offend.
Apr 13 2011
An occasion marked perfunctorily, but rarely beyond it by much of the media, yesterday was Equal Pay Day. The day was so named to underscore how far into the calendar year it takes women to equal their male colleagues regarding income, which is well over four months. Even when mentioned at all, few networks felt it necessary to spell out precisely how this inequality manifests itself, nor wished to show the persistent adversity faced by women who challenge established ways. That would have required in-depth analysis and a panel of talking heads, which may have shed some light on the topic, though not necessarily. Accordingly, it is a bit of an understatement to reduce the challenges that face women by referring to one, singular glass ceiling. In reality, there are many glass ceilings. Some of them are higher than others, and each of them has to be shattered in different ways. Every industry has its own standards and historical gender makeup, and so strategies to equalize income between men and women will need to reflect this.
Mar 27 2011
I begin this essay keenly aware of the fact that, before the end, I am probably going to strike a nerve with someone. A part of me feels that I ought to keep some of these thoughts to myself out of respect for the recently deceased. In ordinary circumstances, I would. But in today’s news cycle, sandwiched as the story is between a war in Libya and a nuclear disaster in Japan, if I don’t speak my mind now, I’ll likely not get a second chance. So I might as well say my peace.
Mar 11 2011
I think I read the first ten pages of the late fifties UK classic The Comforters about ten times over before I really got it. As it turns out, my reaction was not uncommon. The reader is supposed to be initially confused. Spark’s novel deliberately scorns omniscient narration, opting instead for a grand experiment in Bretchtian allegory. We learn about each character, each interaction, and each conversation as though we were observing it all passively, with no foreknowledge, like some persistent fly on the wall. As the novel progresses, a basic skeletal framework gradually develops into something grander, and within the concise space of two-hundred pages, Muriel Spark’s book reaches its conclusion. The effect deliberately mimics the creative process.
Jan 03 2011
As we often lament, every minority or marginalized group can be easily stigmatized, slandered, or reduced by what is not factually correct. How one personally deals with it is a matter of individual preference; I would not dictate terms to anyone if I could. Tactics may differ, but the response does not. Sometimes, despite our best attempts, as the context changes, we wait our turn to be vociferous opponents as well as allies. We live in an age that has good reason to be cynical, but we often go too far, applying it heavily to everything, particularly that which we take offense. Passion is not at fault here, but the volatility of debate is.
Dec 20 2010
At Meeting yesterday, the subject of raising children found its way into the messages of many. Prompted perhaps by the presence of happy children singing Christmas carols early into worship, vocal ministry focused on the dual blessing and challenges of parenthood. Many moving, emotionally rich stories were shared. Each of them had a common thread, but each also stood separately by themselves as their own unique offering. Much wisdom and humor was present as well, and I am a fan of both. As some contemplated the fragility of the infant Jesus, it seemed fitting that this would be the unofficial subject of the day. When it works well, the exercise in instantaneous revelation that is most Quaker worship is a rich, multi-layered experience, one that, in this instance, left several in tears.
Dec 16 2010
As we move towards becoming a more empathetic society, certain regrettable characteristics must be directly addressed. The eye for an eye sorts would have us believe that we are opting for weakness, regardless of our efforts to establish fairness and equality. The paradoxical ferocity of our impulse for justice would seem to belie these fears, but they still remain in the minds of many. Unless we honestly take stock of how each of us is negatively impacted by a noxious undercurrent of violence, we will only be treating secondary symptoms of a larger disease. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how many degrees separate our complicity.