Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"My Gay Marriage Harms Nobody"

The following piece is something I wrote for the political website FrumForum as a response to another author concerning the passage of same sex marriage in New York State. 

On September 15, 2007, I got married.

It was a pretty normal, run-of-the-mill event — as weddings are. It was held in a small, picturesque Episcopal Church outside of Minneapolis. The sanctuary was decorated with flowers. The families of both parties were there, beaming with excitement. The only thing that might not make this event a typical wedding was that I was getting married to another man: my partner, Daniel.

At that wedding, we pledged to be faithful to each other. Our relationship was blessed by the Episcopal priest and those gathered, including both of our parents. Our wedding (and Daniel was insistent we call it that) was soley religious, since Minnesota doesn’t allow for same-sex marriage. At some level, it didn’t matter that our marriage was not recognized by the state. It was important that we made a committment to one another in front of the gathered community and in front of God.

But a year later, it did matter.

Keep reading...

Photo: Engagement photo of Daniel and myself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aspies and Grief

Gavin Bollard has a great post on his blog regarding how persons with Aspergers grieve.  Maybe one of the big things about those of us on the autistic spectrum is that we don't have emotions.  The reality is we do have emotions, but they are expressed very differently than most neurotypicals.

Gavin shares a recent trauma, how it affected him and how others were affected by him:

We all deal with strong emotions, such as love, anger and grief in our own ways. My wife tends to cry things out but I often internalise them and take them on board as stress and at times, self-harmful behaviour. In the kids, these emotions can manifest as meltdowns or as general destructive behaviour. Sometimes there's nothing to see on the surface at all.

The point is that although we each feel these emotions and we feel them at similar strengths, our reactions vary widely both in intensity and visibility...
For some reason, our society seems to think that it's okay to quantify emotions based on visible reactions. If an event occurs to two people and the woman is crying while the man is not, then the woman needs the most care and attention because "she's the one who is really hurt". The solution is to talk in a quiet voice and bring lots of cups of tea and chocolates.

The man, by contrast isn't bawling his eyes out, so he's obviously not hurt. There's nothing that you need to do for him. There's no need to tread lightly because "he's not even upset".

In fact, if the event is of an appropriate level, for example the death of a loved one, then anyone not outwardly grieving is "fair game". You can take things out on them and you're more or less expected to say "what's wrong with you man?". The words "you don't care" should also be used in conversation to him.

Sound familiar?

It's something that many neurotypicals do and yet so few realise how wrong it is.
 Gavin's point is that just because someone is not crying doesn't mean that they are not feeling any emotion.

I saw this a few days ago and was planning to write something about it.  Like Gavin, life stepped in a provided an object lesson.  Late Wednesday evening, my Aunt Nora died.  For the last five years, she suffered the horrible affects of Alzheimers and was being taken away from her loved ones bit by bit.  I've known this woman since I was a baby, so of course it is sad to me.  But, I'm not really bawling my eyes out.  I'm rarely the one that is overly emotional in times like this.  For a long time, I wondered if something was wrong with me.  It's not that I didn't feel sad- it's just that I didn't react in the same way others did.

We live in this world where we expect people to grieve in a certain way.  But there isn't one way to grieve.  Those of us on the spectrum do feel sad and sometimes we can feel sad in ways far stronger than neurotypicals.  But we don't show it in the way that others do.

I think about this as I think about my Dad.  All of his sisters and brothers are now dead and he's the last one.  I know that he is grieving, but typical him, he doesn't show it.  I don't think this is because he is autistic, but he is the typical male of his era.  

But as someone that doesn't express emotion like others, I do understand and I will let him grieve in his own way.

Sometimes the tears don't show on the outside, but they do appear in our hearts.

Welcome to Theobot!

I think I forgot to tell folks that I now I am writing a lectionary blog called Theobot.  Don't expect sterling Biblical scholarship, but do expect some musings from a guy trying to figure out what God is saying in these texts. 
Check out the link to this week's post on the Old Testament text.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Progressive Christians" and Yours Truly

I've been noticing lately within Mainline Protestant  circles, the rising use of the word "progressive" as a way to describe Christians who might have once used the term "mainline Protestant."  The biggest change to note is over at the religion megasite Patheos, which changed the name of one of their religion portals.  What was once called "Mainline Protestant" is now called "Progressive Christian."  That change has brought about a discussion of the term and there have been some fairly good posts about name change.

That said, I'm also a tad bit wary of the term.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Retreads: Change We Can Believe In

I wrote this blog post in March of 2010 on how persons on the autistic spectrum don't like change and how that relates to the modern Mainline Protestant congregation.

In my short time as an ordained minister, I am finding one the most challenging things to take on is congregational transformation. It's one thing to plant a church, quite another for a 133 year-old church to change some of the things its been doing.

In my 17 months at First Christian, I know that people approach change with fear and trepidation. It's scary. It's the unknown. It might lead to people leaving the church.

Change is scary because it wrenches us out of our well-worn ways of doing things. It takes us out of our safe routine. It's just damn uncomfortable.

Believe me, I know. I don't like change.

It's funny how this fear of change so relates to me, especially since my Aspergers diagnosis. One the traits of this form of autism, is that I tend to follow some well worn ways of doing things. I don't like surprises. I don't like things messing up my ordered life.

So, of course I end up with a life partner that lives life at the spur of the moment.

For someone who is autistic and likes his very ordered life which calms him to have someone in your life who loves to be spontaneous can seem like a nightmare.

Sunday Sermon: June 19, 2011

Matthew 28:16-20 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
June 19, 2011 (Trinity Sunday)
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

It was fifteen years ago, around this time that I preached my very first sermon.  In fact, it wasn’t to far from here at Grace-Trinity Community Church in Uptown Minneapolis.  I remember being so nervous.  I didn’t really enjoy public speaking and to some extent, it’s still hard for me.  I remember counting down the days until I preached.  I practiced the sermon with the pastor of that congregation who continually told me to speak louder and to try again, and again, which only made me more nervous. My parents drove in from Michigan to see me preach.  I don’t think I sleep that much the night before.  I can remember that Sunday going up to the pulpit and reading my sermon to the gathered congregation.  And I think I didn’t do that bad of a job.  At least that’s what everyone told me.  I’ve preached many times since that sermon in June of 1996, but I’ve never forgotten the emotions surrounding that first time.

What made me so completely nervous was the fact that I was getting up in front of people feeling oh so very naked and vulnerable.  I was sharing my life with other people and that just made me nervous.  Somehow, I was able to get though that sermon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Autism and Faith

I stumbled upon this blog post that offers tips for faith communities in becoming more welcoming to persons with autism.  There are tips for Christian and Jewish communities. And here is a post about autism within the Muslim community.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sermon Podcast: Pentecost Sunday

June 12, 2011 (Pentecost Sunday)
Texts: Numbers 11:24-30, Acts 2:1-21

Here's what I preached for Pentecost 2011. Click below to hear the podcast.

Sermons @ First Podcast: June 12, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sermon Podcast: Palm Sunday

I thought I'd start sharing some of the sermons I have via First Christian's podcast page.  Here's one from Palm Sunday of this year. Click on the link below to hear the sermon.

"To Be Continued..."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The "Heresy" of Pacifism

A friend of mine and I had a very short talk yesterday about the use of the military and that got me thinking overall about pacifism in the church. Maybe it's just me, but there seems at times to be a kind of unspoken pacifism in the church. That in and of itself is not a bad thing in my view, I tend to believe every follower of Jesus should strive to deal with conflict in a nonviolent way. But it seems at times that the pacifism that is running around tends to be more ideological and less willing to deal with the situation at hand. In short, it tends to think more about the letter of the law and not its spirit.

In a perfect world, refraining from violence would be a perfect tactic in dealing with problems. But we don't live in a perfect world and the actors we deal with are not always rational actors.

In thinking about this question of war and the Christian faith, I did some surfing and stumbled upon the blog called the Row Boat by Nathan Schnieder. In a post written in 2009 entitled, "Niebuhr, Pacifism, Realism, Peacebuilding" he critiques Reinhold Niebuhr's essay “Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist.”

I have not read Niebuhr's essay (though I intend to). But I did like this review of the essay as well as some of Schnieder's criticism. Niebuhr's organizing take on the world, Christian Realism, is something that I wished was preached more in mainline Protestantism. There's a lot to dig into here, but I want to focus on Niebuhr's take on nonviolence. In short, we look at whether or not the nonviolence practiced by Ghandi was Christian or not:

Niebuhr asks how biblical modern nonviolence theory really is. In the first half of the twentieth century, peaceniks preached peace but generally lacked a method. But by the end of World War II, most believed they had found one in the work of Gandhi. The method of nonviolent resistance perfected in the Indian independence movement quickly began to take hold in the civil-rights struggle of black Americans. (For Niebuhr, as well as for Martin Luther King, the chief source was FOR member Richard Gregg, who lived with Gandhi in India before writing his classic The Power of Non-Violence.) Many Christian pacifists believed that Gandhi was in some sense a fulfillment of Christ’s promise.

Yet does Jesus’s scriptural example really have anything directly to do with Gandhian resistance? Jesus exhibited no interest in the overthrow of an unjust social order, beyond noting that its temples would crumble and its poor would always remain. He stood up for all sides of political divisions—centurions, tax collectors, oppressed Jews, and dejected prostitutes. Sure, he advocated taking blows without complaint, and did so himself; but he also spoke of swords and lashed out at merchants. Jesus’s witness was mainly pacifist, but it would be an exaggeration (and a disappointment) to say that this constituted Jesus’s essential message. Ascribing to him a Gandhi movement would be a stretch.
Schnieder then tries to explain Niebuhr's Christian Realism:

The sum of Niebuhr’s thought is often described as a Christian “realism.” It takes seriously the inevitability of sin and selfishness in human affairs, then seeks a set of social arrangements which provide a modicum of justice and the freedom for Christian witness to flourish.

Violence and war have a place in this. They have a certain necessity for him, though Niebuhr hardly had great confidence in their capacity for do-gooding. An adventure like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which sought to transform a crumbling society into a model democracy through transformative violence, was hardly something he could get behind. But an intervention in Darfur against a coordinated genocide, more likely yes.
Some folks say pacifism is biblical.  But then again, as Schnieder says, genocide was also favored in the Bible as well.  In the comments, Schnieder explains a bit more how Christians who take nonviolence seriously should make decisions:

I also mean to agree with Niebuhr that Christianity doesn’t equal Gandhian political struggle. Yes, there are resources in the Bible to support it, but there are also resources to support genocide. Jesus’s own efforts seem much closer to anti-political pacifism than political resistance. The point is: I think nonviolent resisters have to take fuller responsibility for their commitments. They can’t just say, “This is what Christianity tells us all to do, so we have to do it.” Instead (and I think this is actually more empowering), they should say, “I am a Christian, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do, and I find deep resources to guide me in it in my faith.”

Indeed.  We need to take responsibility for our actions instead of hiding behind the Bible. 

So what does this all mean?  Well I think that it means that not every war is a good war to get involved in or support and it also means that not all wars are bad wars to be avoided.  We have to be willing to look at the Bible and prayerfully consider what God would have us do and then in faith move forward. 

I think the best example of Christian Realism being lived out by a person is the foreign policy of President Obama.  More on that later.