July 30, 2006

In The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, Dorothee Soelle writes

after some initial hesitation, I decided upon the concept of “resistance” as my focal orientation. Later, perhaps, in a different time, it might be possible to write a book on “mysticism and revolution.” But for those who live in the transition to the third millennium of the common era, however “resistance” seems to be the formulation that is more accurate and closer to reality.

I find this helpful in thinking about the situation that we are in today. In other posts I have lamented about the helplessness I feel in the face of such suffering and conflict in the world. The pain experienced by the world’s people and other sentient beings is staggering. How are we to face this? What in the world can we do.

With this quote, I think Soelle is saying that complete, real, sweeping change is not within our reach right now. For now, it is not about revolution. The structures of domination are too strong, too solid. But, Soelle counsels us not to give up and to continue to resist. She writes

I do not want to be separated from those all over the world, who in seemingly hopeless situations practiced the madness of the No! from a different love of life. What I can do in the context of the rich world is minute and without risk in comparison with the great traditions of Résistance. The issue is not to venerate heroes but together to offer resistance, actively and deliberately in very diverse situations, against becoming habituated to death, something that is one of the spiritual foundations of the culture of the First World.

She calls us to continue to say No! even if it may not bring about the revolution we desire. When she writes about what she does being “without risk” I wonder, however, how much risk our resistance should involve. I have a feeling that my life is too comfortable. Too easy. Blogging or preaching or talking simply isn’t enough in the face of the suffering in the world. We must push ourselves, I must push myself, to take more risks. Marcella Althaus-Reid, a feminist/queer theologian reminds her readers over and over throughout her books that liberation theology (in the Latin American context of the 1970s and 1980s) was amazingly dangerous business. But, yet, priests and peasants and religious women and so many spoke the truth, offered resistance, at great risk to everything precious to them, including their lives. Theologies of liberation – theologies of resistance – must also be risky today. The world is not just because justice is not easy. There is not enough love in this world because love is not easy. If these were unrisky, easy things we would not be in such dire need of them.

Conclusion to myself (and readers)….
We must continue to say No! even if it will not change everything. Resistance is all we can do. And we must do it even if it is not easy. If it hurts. If it is frustrating or unfun. Justice and deep love are not easy, comfortable, risk-free endeavors. And we cannot do it alone – we need community, we need mindfulness, we need to be grounded. And this is where Soelle’s mysticism comes in. But that is for another post.

Book Review: The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony

July 29, 2006

By East Coast standards, I married pretty young – 24. It has worked out beautifully, but was, um, shall we say quite the challenge early on. In the midst of this challenging period, a friend of mine suggested I read The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony and I felt like it was very helpful and very accurate and I sure wish I would have read it before getting married and having a wedding. It isn’t that I wouldn’t have gotten married had I read this book first, but rather I would have done it with a different mindset. After I read this, I got online at and sent “used” copies to several of my closest friends. If you are between 20-37 or so, I suggest you get yourself a copy. It is heterosexual focused, but if you can stand the hetero-ness of the whole thing, there is probably helpful stuff for all people regardless of orientation.

The book is not perfect, and Paul (the author) can make some big jumps in her conclusions. So don’t read this as a super-controlled scientific assessment (which it isn’t supposed to be anyway). I found that the book wasn’t anti-marriage or pro-marriage, but rather just touched up on a lot of the realities, myths, struggles, and ideas that Gen X (and a little older and younger) face when it comes marriage — like how so many go into marriage with the subconscious expectation that it will make life complete or fix things that marriages just can’t “fix.”

I was especially thankful on her section about the “wedding industry” that markets absurdly expensive weddings (the perfect dress, the biggest ring, the best food… the most important day of your life!) to individuals and couples and that often contributes to a loss of perspective about what the actual marriage after the wedding might involve. I managed to prevent this madness for our, by “average” wedding standards, small and cheap wedding, but I felt that pressure and that implication that if you make the wedding great, everything else will follow.

One of the most helpful things I got from this book was the articulation of a feeling that I and many of my friends have — that you are not complete until you are married and that being married will “make things okay,” which, until this book, I hadn’t recognized as so widespread/generational/cultural.

Secondly, I appreciated the feeling from the book that divorce can be okay, is sometimes better, but that sometimes a marriage just takes a little more work. I was glad she made it clear that marriage has had too high of expectations hoisted upon it, that it is hard work, can be great, can be hard, and can be rewarding. She is legitimately hard on the “pro-marriage” camp that promotes marriage as the savior of civilization and that advocates staying married at all costs. If you want an anti-divorce book, this is not it. But if you want a fair treatment of many of the struggles that the twenty and thirty somethings face in trying to make a life with a partner, in the face of work, high expectations for marriage, our parents’ marriages and divorces and a culture that sends amazingly mixed and strong messages about marriage, sex, and “success” this is a great place to start. Particularly for those thinking of getting married or struggling in the early years of a marriage, this might be particularly helpful.

Happy reading.

An evangelical pastor who rejects the marriage of Christianity and the Republican Party

July 29, 2006

This New York Times article covers a very brave pastor in Minnesota who dared to challenge the assumption on the part of many Christians out there that the Republicans party and Christianity should be closely intertwined.

Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword”” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,”” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

I was especially appreciative of this quote: “He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into ‘idolatry.'” If you aren’t familiar with Christian conservative churches, turning things into idols – clothes, money, popularity – is a big thing that folks are counseled against. I’m not a huge fan of the “idol” language myself, but all and all, I think it works and has a good effect in Christian churches when used responsibly – it offers language to say “Hey, you aren’t focusing on the important stuff.”

One final quote that I found to be quite wise and I really wish would pick up more steam in evangelical/fundamentalist circles across the country:

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

I’m not saying I’m totally in love with Pastor Boyd. But thank goodness for someone willing to remind folks that Jesus was not a freaking Republican.


Senior Iraqi Official Says, "the break up of the country is inevitable."

July 25, 2006

I read in The Independent yesterday a story not so much covered by mainstream U.S. Media.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable….. “Iraq as a political project is finished,” a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: “The parties have moved to plan B.” He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. “There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west,” he said.

I suppose we can hope that this will make things better for the country that the United States so mercifully “liberated.” Of course, the problem remains that a big oil field is in the north under Kurdish control, and one in the south under Shia control, leaving the Sunnis with no oil field. That will not likely go so smoothly.

You can read the article here


July 22, 2006

It is just so sad and frustrating to watch the Middle East crumble. I, of course, do not think that people should go around abducting soldiers no matter who is being abducted and who is abducting. However, no matter who took your soldiers and no matter how much you love them and want them back, it doesn’t seem to be fair to then to kill lots of civilians on the other side in order to get back your soldiers (even if that actually would get back your soldiers, which does not seem all that likely). It says, essentially, “Hey, the lives of a very few of our people are just way more important than the lives of a very lot of civilians on the other side” which doesn’t seem right. I think it is the whole proportionality thing. You can’t just bomb a whole freaking country, or even parts of it, just because some people take a very few number of your soldiers. And, plus, I’m sorry, but has anyone not figured out that increased military action DOES NOT equal more stability and safety? This goes for both Israel and the U.S. There is not a military solution to Al Queda nor to the issue of Israel being smack dab in the middle of a bunch of Islamic/Arab countries. I mean, even if it did work it probably wouldn’t be something I advocated, but it not only doesn’t seem like the best solution in a ethical sort of sense, but it practically doesn’t achieve the desired results. I know these are not amazingly deep insights, but still important things to be said. And, plus, I do my best blogging when I have something far more pressing to work on, like the sermon that I should be writing right now….

Take That Left Wing Freak Show Back to Where it Belongs

July 20, 2006

I am preparing a sermon titled Radical Love: Responding to the Christian Right to give at First Parish in Cambridge on Sunday, and, eventually, after some tweaking (I find the second time I give a sermon it is usually sooo much better) I’ll give it at FUUSM.

This leads me to point out what I think is a key quote of our times. It comes from an ad against Howard Dean that was run in Iowa. It goes like this:

A farmer says he thinks that “Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading …” before the farmer’s wife then finishes the sentence: “… Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

This represents, I think, the vision that *some* people have about a cultural divide in our country. I know that some of my lovely relatives in Kentucky might not feel very far from where the farmer and his wife are. And I’m sure that there is some equally catchy phrase that more liberal leaning folks could come up with to make fun of or point out the very different-ness of those who are more conservative. My sermon goes to the heart of what I study in religion and what I envision my ministry and life to be: I do not think that conservatives are somehow different people than liberal people. I think that all people want to be loved, want to raise their families in safety, want to connect somehow to the divine, want to have a purpose in life, want to have fun, and so on. The challenge for me and, I think, for our country and the future of our democracy, and our faith (that is UUism, but really the challenge to all faiths) is to find a way to better understand the ways that we are all journeying along trying to do this sense-making and find ways to build bridges of understanding and to increase awareness and knowledge about those things that seem amazingly (and scarily) different to us. I am, I am sure, to many in my hometown in Ohio and maybe to some of my family in KY who love me dearly, somewhat of a left-wing freak show. I am a latte-drinking, New York Times reading, vegetarian, recycling-everything, Unitarian Universalist, pro-reproductive justice, pro-queer, feminist bisexual. Yet, to those in my family who might be more politically and culturally conservative, I am just Elizabeth because they know me. I am not an other. We disagree, but there is not a complete rift because we are people to each other.

So, to me (usually, when I am being mindful) conservative Christian, mega-church attending, anti-choice, Republican, farming, Fox-news-watching, Bible-reading folks in Kentucky and Ohio (and around the country) are not “other” to me because I grew up around them and I know and love many of them and know they are not a freak show, but are real people struggling to make sense of their worlds. They may be less-informed, but it is typically not mean-spirited. I am not suggesting that this is The Answer to what can appear to be a deep cultural and political divide in our country, but I believe that it is the start of that. Seeing people as people, seeking to be in community with them. Seeking to truly love them in the spirit of unconditional love – the inherent dignity and worth of all people – and, really, seeing the beauty of all people. I think that the so-called culture wars will never be won if they are understood as wars or battles or red state vs. blue state. We need to be in community, real community, with people who are different than us. Conversation will cause conversion. Not force and not making fun of people or lamenting about them (ahem, I do this far too much) in the privacy of our own homes and insular communities.

Lack of Posts

July 20, 2006

Friends and readers, The lack of posts lately comes from a bit of a feeling of “what good could it possibly do.” I know, I know. Blogs are not meant to change the world, rather it is just one way to learn, share thoughts, etc. But, with the Middle East sort of crumbling into madness and the increasing realization that the Bush administration is really not just a bad presidency but is, in many ways, doing deep deep irreparable harm to our country, democracy and world… well, it just feels a little miniscule to post my thoughts here while Rome is burning, so-to-speak. Also my internet is not acting correctly, which makes it even more annoying for things not to load or to time out, etc. But, never fear, I will be back. If anyone thinks of a way to do something about all the madness around us (the globe heating up, the U.S. torturing people regularly, Israel and that whole situation, Iraq, Iran, AIDS in Africa, etc.) do post a comment here or post a suggestion on your own blog. I know, I know. We can only do our small little resistances and hope for the best. But that sure is feeling inadequate right now. I just have this really strong feeling that my children will say, “Mama, tell us again what it was like during the Bush regime,” and I will tell them that my response was to blog about it and lament about it every day. And preach a sermon on it every once in a while. And they will wonder why we didn’t do more and I will try to explain that we didn’t know what to do. Except by then the Middle East will have imploded, there will be no more California or Florida, or Amsterdam or Venice or New Orleans (they will all be under water because Antarctica has melted) and democracy will be something we use with quotes around it in the U.S. As in the U.S. “democracy.” As Chalice Chick often says on her blog, sigh.

p.s. Sorry if this depresses anyone. I will be more optimistic soon. Sometimes I just run out of optimism juice.