Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Playing Second Fiddle...and It Feels Good

So, finally I have a call, or something to a church.

Beginning November 10, I will be the Associate Pastor for Diversity and Mission at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis. This is sort of a coming home for me, First Christian is where I become accaquainted with this crazy family called the Disciples of Christ, it is also the church that sponsored me during my ordination process and where I got ordained in 2002.

The position is part time, so I will be keeping my full time job with the Presbyterians. It's not really a called position, it's a contract position because of the odd situation First is in. The church has lost members, part of a long decline. They have a great guy as a long term interim, as they decide their next steps in transformation. This position will help with that, but it will also allow me to do some of the stuff I love to do, such as mission.

The interesting part of this job will be that part of my position is to get the church ready for Web 2.0. I will be updating the website which needs it. How many pastors get to do that as part of their job?

I think being an Associate will be better suited to my Aspie tendencies. We shall see.

So, that's what's going on. I'm psyched.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Do I Look Like a CEO To You?

BusinessWeek magazine has an interesting profile of Bram Cohen, who developed BitTorrent technology. He has Aspergers and the article explores his difficulties in being an CEO as opposed to a tech.

It reminds me a bit of how I might not be able to be a Senior or Solo Pastor, but might do better as an Associate Pastor.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Empire, Shempire

Many of the progressive Christians I hang out with routinely refer to America as an "empire." I've always had trouble with this. Yes, America is a powerful nation and has not always done the right thing, but are we equal to Rome?

Tony Jones, believes that contrary to the standard belief among liberal Protestants, we are not an empire. He gives his reasons as such:

An empire has, by definition, an emperor. As frustrated as you may be
by the malicious buffoonery of the Bush-Cheney oligarchy, they do not represent
an emperor. Exhibit A: They won’t be in office as of January 20. In
fact, it looks as though they will have virtually no power in the governance of
the United States as of that date (unlike, for instance, Vladimir Putin, who set
himself up as prime minister of Russia after constitutional term limits ended
his presidency). I was a classics major in college (geez, I hate it when
people tell me that what they majored in during college makes them an expert in
that topic), and I lived in Rome. I know how and why the Roman Empire
fell, and it did, indeed, have a lot to do with office of emperor and the abuses
inherent thereto.

We, on the other hand, are about to elect a new president. And with an Obama presidency (barring some unforeseen tragedy), there will be thoroughgoing housecleaning in Washington. This is what never happened in Rome. Julius Caesar, who overcame the other two members of the Triumvirate, ruled Rome pretty well. His adopted heir, Augustus (nee Gaius Octavius) was arguably the greatest ruler of that empire. And from there it was pretty much downhill (with notable exceptions). Why? Graft. Immorality. And the “divine right of kings.”

Presbyterian Pastor Jim Bonewald argues that just because we don't have an emperor doesn't mean we don't share the characteristics of an empire. I disagree. Part of the whole concept of empire is that it has an leader that is almost considered a god. The other characteristic is that the State tends to have an overall power over everything. Maybe this is a simplistic analogy, but look at the whole Star Wars saga: the old Republic was a representative democracy with an Senate and checks on power. The Empire had a emperor that ruled by force.

It has become very fashionable to see the United States as an empire during the Bush years and especially after the invasion of Iraq. But even though the government did get into a stupid war which sought to extend its influence, and even if it did try to erode civil liberties, this is not the same as an empire. President Bush will step down in January. A new president will take over for 4 to 8 years and then he will step down and be succeeded by another president. President Bush is not seen as a god and the State is not seen as the overarching institution in society that controls every aspect of society.

I have always thought there was a certain ideological tint to this tossing of the word, empire. Many who throw the word in regards to the United States rarely talk about other nations or regimes that have acted imperially, such as the old Soviet Union.

My own thought is that it gives some progressive Christians a sense of cache. Here are the noble Christians, fighting against the horrible empire.

The United States have done many bad things in the recent past, including torture and the misguided war in Iraq. Christians are right to challenge those policies. But the United States isn't an empire. To do so, is to make light of the people who have been oppressed by real empires.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Aspergers and Clinical Pastoral Education

As I was talking with a fellow pastor this afternoon, I realized something:

We started sharing our experiences with Clinical Pastoral Education. CPE is "on the job" training for a pastors to be, to learn about themselves in difficult situations. I've heard others take it and say it was the hardest time for them emotionally. My first boyfriend did it and would cry like a baby about how hard it was.

For me, it didn't seem so emotional.

That's not to say it wasn't difficult. I worked in a nursing home during my stint in 2001-02. One of my first visits was with a family where the father had brain cancer and was in bad shape. The family thought that the would get better and asked me to pray for them. There was NO chance this guy was going to get better. So, I prayed the best I could, trying not to say he was going to get all better. It was hard; I had to give these people hope, but not false hope.

The fact is, my experience was more "Vulcan" if I can say. One of my classmates berated me at the final meeting saying that I was to aloof. (I never really like this woman, I thought she was too needy, wanting people's sympathy.) But the fact was, it was my aspieness showing.

Looking back, I can see that the reason I was somewhat more distant than others was because of my Aspergers.

There's not much reason for this post, except an understanding as to why I acted the way I did back then. I was afraid that I was some unfeeling monster. Nope, just an aspie chaplain.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Marrying the "Enemy"

A few weeks ago, my husband Daniel and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I've known him for over three years and he has made my life much, much better.

And yet, he pisses me off. Worse, I piss him off.

Why? Because we are a mixed marriage. But the problem isn't that we are of two different races, though we are (he's Norwegian-Swedish).

The difference is one of ideology. He's a Democrat and I'm a Republican.

My love will at times talk about politics and express his opinion of course. I usually cringe a bit, feeling somewhat unconfortable, wanting to talk about something else, than this issue that tends to divide us. At some point I might bring up another viewpoint which is more conservative and then he becomes unconfortable. And so it is, during this election year.

But the thing is, even though he drives me crazy with his liberal views and visa versa, I love him. I love him for his boldness, his creativity, his capacity for deep emotion, his love of children.

In the end, I love him because he is Daniel, not because of his political affiliation.

I sometimes wonder if "mixed marriages" like ours are becoming less frequent. The book, the "Big Sort" posits that Americans are starting to sort themselves into communities where people think the same. We live in cities or suburbs that are political homogenous and the same goes for other groups including places of worship.

Look at the Internet. People can go to blogs and read magazines that only support their own views. Conservatives can go to Fox News, Liberals to MSNBC.

In some ways, sorting ourselves might be easy. Not having to deal with someone who disagrees with you. No having to see that person as a- well, person, with thoughts and feelings beyond what they think about tax policy or the war in Iraq.

I live in Minneapolis, probably one of the most liberal cities in the nation. That means, most of my friends are liberals. I roll my eyes when they say something that goes against my views, but you know what? They are still my friends. And the thing is, they keep my thinking sharp and allow me to rethink my own views, again and again. Isn't there something in the Bible about friends being like "iron sharpening iron?"

If there was a wish I had, it's that people would start having more friends with people who they disagree with. It might be a more richer relationship than anything they have imagined.

I should know. I'm married someone that drives me up the wall.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Blessed Are the Aspies...

For a while, I've been wondering what are the positives of having Aspergers. Via Gavin Bollard, there is an article explaining the good side of having "autism lite." Here's a brief and important quote:

When contemplating disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome, there is a tendency to focus on negative aspects, such as difficulty in reading social cues. But many of those with Asperger’s syndrome have positive traits as well, which has led some people to question whether it should be viewed as a difference rather than a disorder.

Read the entire article.