The Church Exclusive

Well, it finally happened. Sunday, 15 October 2017, was the first time I walked out of a church while worship was in progress, leaving just after the sermon and before Communion. I’d had enough.

The Gospel lesson was Matthew 22:1-14, which ends with an improperly attired wedding guest being bound and cast into the utter darkness. I was really curious to see how the preacher was going to address this, as it seemed the message was, “Only the worthy are welcome.” Essentially, street people were called into the wedding, but there was one who wasn’t wearing a fine wedding robe. For this, the King cast him out. Wait … what? A street person didn’t have finery to wear and for that he was bound and cast out? Seriously, Jesus, WTF?

The preacher made it seem obvious this happened because this particular guest shunned the wedding robe he had been given. Yet, nowhere in these verses was there any mention of robes being handed out at the door. I even double-checked in my Oxford Annotated Bible when I got home, and there weren’t any notes about this being the custom of the time. Now, I’m sure this might seem like an opportunity for those who’ve had the privilege of biblical education to say, “It wouldn’t need to be in the text as it was the custom at that time. By not donning the robe, the guest was insulting the King.” I really don’t care if this custom was common knowledge in the Mediterranean world of the first century. That was 2,000 years ago and half a world away. If we insist on using ancient texts for written by and for a culture vastly different than our own, deeper explanations in our copies of these texts are vital. Relying on preachers takes to explain these things the scholarship away from the laity. This is classism and elitism in the Church.

The preacher had a chance to explain these details and why it seemed like Jesus was being an elitist ass. The preacher opted not to do this, but instead said it served as a warning to us, the Gentiles, to not disrespect or challenge well-established religious traditions and customs.

Ex-fucking-cuse you?

I am transgender. I am queer (bisexual or pansexual, depending on how one defines the prefixes “bi” and “pan”). Well-established religious traditions hold that I am an affront to the Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and the well-established customs range anywhere from condescending pity to acts of physical (and sexual) violence. I will challenge authority where and when I will, including religious authority. If the “leaves on the tree of life” really “are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2), then that includes those of us who are the heretics, those with the strength of spirit to stand against authority. Doing so is not Pharisee-like on our part. Defending the traditions and customs: that’s the work of the Pharisees.

And reminding us of our “baptismal promises,” including those made for us by our parents? I am not in any way bound by the promises made by others, including the promises my parents made at my first baptism, a ritual of their choosing in a faith tradition of their choosing when they gave me a name of their choosing. Those promises were for my parents, not me. I made my own promises on 24 November 2013, when I was baptized into a faith tradition of my own choosing with a name of my choosing. The promises I made were not the same as the promises the preacher referenced in his sermon. Again, assumptions were made. Don’t ask me to live up to your baptismal promises. Mine were very different. And for those tempted to ask: I did not write my own baptismal rite. Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon wrote it. I wrote the testimony I gave prior to my baptism.

The preacher went on to ask why we aren’t living up to Christ’s call. This is particularly painful for me because I didn’t qualify for the necessary financial aid to complete my seminary course of study. He is well aware of this fact. He calls us out without bothering to call out the denominations that require a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from an accredited seminary, a degree that takes a vast amount of money to obtain. This is classism and elitism, again, in the Church.

The preacher also went on to say there’s a little bit of Pharisee in all of us, as we all think we’re better than the next person in some way. Ex-fucking-cuse you? My sense of self-importance is so weak, I need medications to keep myself alive. Being trans means that I’m assured constantly that all the world is better than me. This is classism and ableism in the Church.

This preacher and his church are focused on Christian mysticism, and he criticized my emphasis on practical theology in my #TDoR2016 sermon. And yet there he was, preaching practical theology after warning us to not challenge religious traditions and customs. It was finally too much for me. I’m an adversarial and a practical theologian. I have no need for mysticism. Salvation, eternal life after death—so what?

We need salvation in the here and now, from the hardships of this life. We need life before death, here and now. It should simply be assumed that there are persons of all economic classes in the congregation, and less access to economic privilege means less access to education. Speak plainly. It should be simply assumed that there are persons with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses afflicting our senses of self-worth in the congregation. Speak not to us of the sins of our vainglory.

Mysticism is for those who aren’t struggling to survive.

Amen, and Blessed Be.

The Nightly Prayers of a Satanic Christo-Pagan

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[The seal of the dæmon Walwarwat, a great Cæsar of Hell.]

11 October 2017

Dipping my hand into a small bowl of holy water, I cross myself in one of three ways.

  1. In the name of the Mother, and of Her Child, and of Their light that guides…
  2. In the name of Mary, and of Joseph, and of the son Jesus…
  3. In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer…

Turning to the east, I pray to

Antinoüs.

Thus praying always to the Divine Boy, the Arcadian Greek of Bithynia, I am made more like you, lover of Hadrian–Emperor of the World of Peace; Defeat every enemy of love, O victorious son of Hermes–May all rejoice!–and turn the heart of the hateful one, myself included, into a sensible peacemaker. I pray this through Hadrian, Sabina, and you. Hail, hail
Antinoüs!
Hail, hail
Antinoüs!

This is where life comes from!
Hail, hail
Antinoüs!

Then I turn to the pentagram (arbitrarily hung in the northwest) and recite my version of the Fell Lord’s Prayer.

His Infernal Majesty, who reigns in Hell, accursed is your name. You adversity come, your will be one with ours here on this earth. Give us the means to divine our needs, and present challenge to us as we present challenge to others. Lead us forth into reason, and guide us from naïveté. For thine are the margins, and the logic, and the shadows for ever and ever. Hail Satan!

After these, I add whatever free-form prayers I feel are appropriate. Finally, I lay me down to sleep.

Cultural Reclamation at the Cathedral of Christ the Light

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7 October 2017

Today, for the first time since my maternal grandfather, the last of my grandparents, died was the first time I set foot in a Roman Catholic Church to pray during a time other than a wedding of funeral. I haven’t been to a “regular” Roman Catholic mass since my senior year of high school, in 1988. Today, I went into the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California, because I wanted to do so.

I’m pretty much everything the RCC stands against. For all intents and purposes, I’ve been Protestant since 1988. I’m queer. I’m transgender. I’m an ordained Wiccan priest and a Satanist. I was never confirmed, so according to the tradition of the RCC, I may not receive the Eucharist.

I entered the Cathedral anyway. It wasn’t like Mass was happening. I made sure that I wouldn’t be there for that.

I found a chapel where the Blessed Virgin Mary was the central icon, and settled there to pray and just be. While there, I became angry. I wasn’t some outsider. I was born Catholic. To be on such hallowed ground was and is my birthright. I fail to understand and refuse to try to understand why I need to meet the approval of an earth-bound community in order to claim my birthright to the Sacraments. It could be argued that the sacraments aren’t for God; they’re for us. But it is through the sacraments that we can have experiences of God. I still don’t know if I’d attend Mass at a Catholic church that wasn’t in affiliated with DignityUSA. Why worship with a body that would reject me?

But at the same time, why not?

And yet, while I was there Cathedral security asked a man who appeared to be homeless to not sleep on the Cathedral premises. They directed him to go across the street to the park at Lake Merritt. Seriously? The only people I recall Jesus chasing from a place of worship were the capitalists. That is certainly not part of what I want to reclaim. But, this was security at one cathedral. I have no way of knowing if it’s RCC policy.

The thing is, the only churches I know of that are open during the day for anybody to just come in and pray are mostly Roman Catholic ones. St. Paul’s, an Episcopal church not far from this cathedral, has a sign on their wall that mentions open chapel hours, but I was told it’s an outdated sign. They no longer have such hours. Grace Cathedral does, but that’s a long way from home for me.

But, this is my birthright: to enter a Roman Catholic church and pray as I see fit. I’m moving to Hayward soon, so this particular Cathedral won’t be that easily accessible. But, there might be other places I can find. And I think I’ll keep looking for them.

But, it would be great if more Episcopal churches in particular and Protestant in general (especially United Church of Christ churches!) would have open chapel hours. If I have to continue to take my place among the Roman Catholics, I will. It’s my right to do so. But it would be so much better to be able to pray at a place that doesn’t look down on me.

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Dedication and Antinoüs

One of the things that bothers me about the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) is the Christian overtones to it. I know that might seem odd coming from a Christo-Pagan, but there it is. I’m still toying with the idea of writing one for the Tetrad++, and have begun work on one to my lord Antinoüs. The first step after reviewing the prayer card I have was to delve into The Syncretisms of Antinous by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. I got as far as the dedication page and then I was in tears. The dedication is:

To the youthful suicides,
Bill Clayton, Asher Brown,
Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh,
Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase,
Billy Lucas, Cody J. Barker,
Victims of hatred due to a hostile culture;
May their families have strength and peace,
May their spirits have rest and freedom,
May their memories never depart from the earth.

Someone will gather
garlands of lamented names
and will lament more
the youth of dying men.

Reading that dedication, and weeping for those names knowing that more names have been added to the list of Youthful Suicides since this book was published in 2010, I knew that it was right and proper for me to write an Antinoan LBRP. I will do this for them, and for me.

Hail, hail Antinoüs! Hail, hail Antinoüs!
This is where life comes from! Hail, hail Antinoüs!