Archive | April, 2015

Pizza Christians

7 Apr

By now, everyone must be nauseatingly familiar with the story of the small Indiana pizza shop that was ambushed by a local reporter with a hypothetical question, “Would you cater a gay wedding,” as if any self-respecting gay couple would ever serve pizza at such an event. When the pizza place said no, an African-American conservative talk show host opened a persecution complex defense fund that collected some half-million clams (isn’t eating shellfish Biblically forbidden?) before being mercifully closed. Virtually all of the donors were some church lady name Annie Nonamus; she must be loaded, no doubt a recipient of the prosperity version of the Holy Book.

Meanwhile, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Rodney Todd, a divorced father with custody of his seven children, tried to support his family on a kitchen worker’s salary. When the local power company discovered an illegal connection to their home on March 25, it was disconnected. Mr. Todd installed a gas powered generator in his kitchen to keep his two sons and five daughters warm.

The particulars after that are too sad to repeat. Briefly, family members were last seen March 28 and the entire family was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on April 6. You do the math.

I am not going to question whether Mr. Todd had reached out to any private or public resources that may have been able to help him. In a world where so many fathers are criticized for walking away from their children, here we have a man who did all he could to keep his family together and cared for.

I am not going to criticize Mr. Todd for having the heater inside. This is no time to blame the victim.

What I am going to question until my last breath, however, is how one faction of society thinks nothing of running to their checkbook to fund a pizza shop in a town of under 2000 residents that was under no real distress, while simultaneously claiming that social programs that are designed to assist people like Mr. Todd are “handouts,” “wasting my tax money,” “for people too lazy to work,” etc.

Where are all these pizza Christians when people like Mr. Todd need help?

Standing on and shouting from their sanctimonious, hypocritical soapboxes, that’s where.

Jesus wept, indeed.

Outcast

2 Apr

 OU†CAST CROP

Four years ago on this day, Holy Thursday, I was informed by the lead pastor of my ministerial internship that I should not attend Easter Sunday at the congregation where I had been an intern for two years. Instead, I should go worship at my home church, the very home church where said pastor would not let me go worship for those two years, not one Sunday a month, not one Sunday every other month, not at all.

Being told to stay away from the people I had worshipped with, prayed with, sung with, learned from, cried with, laughed with, fought for affordable housing with, on the most holy day of the year, was just a bit hurtful.

I forwarded the email to my seminary; this was just the culmination of a pattern of abuse, which included threats that he would prevent me from graduating. After a night to think about it, or perhaps after the senior pastor learned of it, I was told, again via email, why of course I could attend on Easter.  I did attend, and the week after for “intern appreciation day.” Since that time, four years ago, not only have I not fulfilled the remainder of the prerequisites for consideration for ordination, I have only attended church a handful of times, primarily for ordinations, weddings, and funerals.

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It had been a long road back to church for me. Brought up Roman Catholic, I left immediately after my confirmation, disliking the sin and hell focus, along with what I perceived as the subservient role of women. While in college in California, I often attended services at Robert Schuller’s church (both pre- and post-Crystal Cathedral). There may be a myriad of issues associated with him and his theology, but it helped me at the time. What did not help me with any type of religion was the growing realization that I was gay.

As a young adult with a domestic partner and a preteen son, I became comfortable with the seven principles and six sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). It was while attending services of this denomination that I received a surprising call to ministry, at a time in my life where I would have described myself as “spiritual, but not religious” and definitely not Christian. I was very much in tune with the sense of a Higher Power and a Holy Spirit, but the whole Jesus thing really escaped me.

I also was led to believe that in order to “be” a Christian, one had to sign on to a long list of beliefs, including, in no particular order, original sin, virgin birth, bodily resurrection, and hell. Since my views then (and now) are pretty much no, no, no, and no, I certainly did not qualify for any Christian membership card I knew of.

It took me over 7 years to complete the requirements for receiving my seminary degree. Few people and relationships don’t change over the course of 7 years of day-to-day living; add the regular challenge to one’s preconceived notion of one’s belief system, and, without a doubt, the person who graduated in May 2011 was not the same person who took her first class in August 2003.

During an extraordinary meeting with my covenant discipleship group at seminary, the “Jesus part” hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt. I found the UUA no longer fit, and the United Church of Christ was a better option for a Christian lesbian minister to-be.

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When I received the call to ministry during that UU service in December 2002, the sermon was on using your gifts. It became clear during this sermon that all my gifts had done to that point was enable others to buy bigger boats. I had worked for several companies that had gone public and for several people that had gone on to positions such as CIO of a Fortune 500 company. I wanted to use my gifts such as speaking, writing, and empathy to a greater good.

Over the last four years, it has sometimes been difficult to explain to people that I do use these gifts in ministry while I am not an ordained UCC (or any other type) of minister. It has sometimes been hard to not feel like a failure myself. I miss congregational life. I miss preaching. I just didn’t fit into the box. I always felt church was a verb, not a noun.

Outside the politics, the walls, the box, much of my ministry is conducted online. Recently a woman posted a photo of her daughter whom had just passed away. She asked if anyone had any feedback. As soon as I saw the photo, I felt the daughter was helping children ages 6-8 cross over to heaven. (I get these sort of vibes all the time.) After I posted this, the woman shared her daughter left behind two children, ages 6 and 8.

Jeremiah 30:17 – “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord, “because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”

Praise heavens for the outcasts.

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