Ash Wednesday 2019

“What follows has led me to this place where I belong with all erased.”

Today is Wednesday, 6 March 2019. It’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is intended to commemorate the gospel story of Jesus of Nazareth spending 40 days fasting and resisting temptation in the wilderness.

Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I learned that Lent was a time when we were supposed give something up. Sundays and Holy Saturday didn’t count, and could have the thing we were denying ourselves on those days. I would try to continue that practice when I joined the United Church of Christ in 1988.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a call to change our Lenten sacrifices. Instead of giving up something we love, I’ve seen calls to give up something that causes harm either to ourselves or others. I’ve also seen calls to take on a new practice to deepen one’s spiritual life.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I’m completely unprepared for Lent.

Last month at PantheaCon, my spiritual limits were pushed beyond my limits. But, I forced myself to stay as calm as possible due to the work that needed to be done. What was that work? Sending the message that trans people are not only people who deserve their places in Pagan settings, but that we deserve our places among the living as well. That work to an immense toll on me. The recent decision by the voting majority of the United Methodist Church to exclude TBQALG persons from full life in the church did not happen in isolation. Methodists can be found in all places in society, and their church just told them that the Great Commandment and the second half of the Golden Rule can be applied selectively. This, too, will affect people like me because of the fact that Methodists vote, run for and hold public office, can be medical professionals, are hiring managers. Their church has now given them permission to persecute us. And, the Roman Catholic Church has basically said that not only can sexual assault survivors be held responsible for what happened to them, but that Confession must remain inviolate and Confessors don’t have to reveal who among Catholic clergy are predators.

With all these weighing on me, it’s no wonder I haven’t been able to think about what my Lenten practice would be this year. Maybe there are others who are more mentally healthy than I who can endure things like this and still make a commitment. Great! That’s wonderful! I can’t, and I’m done justifying my abilities or lack thereof to others. I’m not as strong as a great many others, and to quote A Clockwork Orange, I offer “no appy polly loggies to thee or thine for that!”

My Lenten practice this year will be to survive. Maybe even to thrive. And with that, I leave you with the following “plainclothes hymn.”

Amen, and Blessed Be.

PantheaCon 2019: Healing the Community

Here’s my take on the four Healing the Community sessions at PantheaCon 2019. Part 1 (Friday) Most of this was talking about what the sessions would be talking about, with the intent that Monday’s session would be when the issues would actually be discussed. While the word “racism” was mentioned, the phrase “trans antagonism” was…

In the Name of the Father

Saturday, 19 January 2019

I’ve often heard criticisms from those who prefer a masculine God that needing a gender-neutral or genderless or gender-inclusive God is unnecessary because of the human traits being projected. Yet, God the Father is fine. Usually, this seems to be due to tradition.

For a great many years, I recoiled at the idea of God the Father. As I thought about the negative responses to a more gender-expansive God, or possibly a God with what would amount to a sexual orientation, I came to understand why a masculine God had bothered me.

For years–decades–I’ve heard my own father explain to me why people like me should be “taken out and shot.” Or hanged, or drowned, or otherwise tortured and killed. True, he worded things ambiguously and might not even have realized he was describing me. But being raised as a son in his house, it was clear that sissies and feminists were bad. His words told me, even if unintentionally, that I was worth less as a person than he and others like him were. Furthermore, I would be educated in schools run by a church where the Fathers would preach about how TBQALG persons were sinful. Why, then, would I think a Divine Father was a good idea?

Then, at age 41, I started my gender transition. My own kids were 20 and 18 at the time. They still call me dad to this day eight years later, and I’m 100% okay with this. I am a woman who is their father.

And so, it’s my experience with being a woman who is a father that I’ve been able to become more comfortable with the idea of God the Father. I cannot separate my experiences as a gendered and sexual being from my religion. If I cannot relate to God on a personal level, how can I have a relationship with God?

Amen, and Blessed be.

In the Name of the Father

Saturday, 19 January 2019

I’ve often heard criticisms from those who prefer a masculine God that needing a gender-neutral or genderless or gender-inclusive God is unnecessary because of the human traits being projected. Yet, God the Father is fine. Usually, this seems to be due to tradition.

For a great many years, I recoiled at the idea of God the Father. As I thought about the negative responses to a more gender-expansive God, or possibly a God with what would amount to a sexual orientation, I came to understand why a masculine God had bothered me.

For years–decades–I’ve heard my own father explain to me why people like me should be “taken out and shot.” Or hanged, or drowned, or otherwise tortured and killed. True, he worded things ambiguously and might not even have realized he was describing me. But being raised as a son in his house, it was clear that sissies and feminists were bad. His words told me, even if unintentionally, that I was worth less as a person than he and others like him were. Furthermore, I would be educated in schools run by a church where the Fathers would preach about how TBQALG persons were sinful. Why, then, would I think a Divine Father was a good idea?

Then, at age 41, I started my gender transition. My own kids were 20 and 18 at the time. They still call me dad to this day eight years later, and I’m 100% okay with this. I am a woman who is their father.

And so, it’s my experience with being a woman who is a father that I’ve been able to become more comfortable with the idea of God the Father. I cannot separate my experiences as a gendered and sexual being from my religion. If I cannot relate to God on a personal level, how can I have a relationship with God?

Amen, and Blessed be.

Broken at Christmas

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Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Christmas. For the religious celebration, it’s the capstone of Advent, when we celebrate the rebirth of Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace. For the cultural celebration, it’s about being with loved ones, sharing meals, and giving gifts.

And it can be hell on earth for a great many people.

For those of us marginalized for our genders and bodies, it can be anything from hoping the bigoted relatives behave themselves to enduring them saying how great our oppressors are to not having relatives to visit because they’re turned their backs on us completely. These things can aggravate mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

It finally happened to me.

What do I, the polytheist Christo-Pagan, do? One relative is an oppressor and is married to another who isn’t. Well, she isn’t an oppressor in that she’s never said anything oppressive to me since I came out. She doesn’t silence or challenge her spouse, though. As I went to bed on the 24th, my depression, anxiety, and psychosis were riding high. The Gifts of Advent–

Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace–seemed far way and untouchable.

I can’t recall the last time I wept on Christmas. I don’t think I ever have in my memory, though my memory is slowing failing.

I’ve long known that Christmas is a time of trauma for many, and I try to be sensitive to that. If I don’t, then I’m failing to bring the Gifts of Advent to those traumatized persons. But now, I have a better appreciation for just how isolating and soul-crushing it can me.

Glory be to Joseph, and to Mary, and to their beloved son Jesus: as they were then, are now, and ever shall be the Holy Family without end. Amen.

Adversarial Advent: Rejoice!

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Today is Christmas: the culmination of our Advent preparations.

My Advent posts have been, again, rather political. This makes perfect sense, as Christianity is a very political religion. It started that way, and it needs to be. But just because Christianity was intended to be a political religion, it was never intended to be the religion of the Empire. That was Constantine’s doing, not Christ’s, when he made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. This political approach to religion is part of what adversarial theology means for me. I don’t look for easy or mystical answers. There is much strife in the world today, just as there was at the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom we call the Christ.

How does an adversarial theologian welcome the rebirth of the embodiment Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love? This might be one of the few times when at least part of the answer, to me, seems easy.

We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. Christ is the embodiment Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. So, we are the reborn embodiments of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. That’s the end of the easy part of the answer.

The hard part is actually bringing the Gifts of Advent into the world every of the rest of the year. There will be times when we forget. There will be times when we’re too exhausted—physically, mentally, spiritually. There will be times when we encounter people whom we don’t want to offer these Gifts to. These are all valid responses, as we are human and humans are imperfect. Sometimes, “I will try again tomorrow,” is the best prayer we have to offer.

And ya know what? G!D is okay with that.

Amen, Blessed Be, and Merry Christmas!

image © James C. Lewis (http://www.noire3000studios.com/)

Adversarial Advent: Love

Sunday, 23 December 2018

This is the fourth Sunday in Advent. We’re back to a purple candle and the theme is Love.

I’ve heard a lot of challenge this year from those who are opposed to trans people, BQALG people, women, and people of color about how we aren’t showing the proper Love to our oppressors. That if we really were the so-called “tolerant left” we’d understand that those who hate us and are literally calling for our destruction are human, too. They say to us that they Love us sinners but hate our sins.

Yeah, right.

But, we on the so-called “tolerant left” are full of Love. We are learning to Love ourselves and reject the vitriol that is levied against us. And so, we can love the sinners who are our oppressors while hating their sins of our oppression.

Yeah. I went there.

Amen, and Blessed Be.

Adversarial Advent: Joy

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Sunday, 16 December 2018

This is the third Sunday in Advent. The candle is pink—for Mary—and the theme is Joy.

I was asked to read the story in Luke 1:26-38, wherein Gabriel visit Mary to tell her she will be the mother of Christ. While I certainly felt Joy at being asked to read, I couldn’t help but wonder what Mary’s initial reaction would have been. I’m guessing it wasn’t Joy. In fact, I’m guessing that whole first year for her after the Annunciation was one where Joy might have seemed far away.

Growing up Roman Catholic, I remember learning one of Mary’s titles was the Mother of Sorrows. In keeping the Catholic tradition of Divine Mysteries, this title was explained as a good thing because adversity brings us closer to G!D. I might be an adversarial theologian, but I don’t believe in the concept that suffering is the path to Joy. Among other things, adversarial theology means find the unpopular opinions in theology and showing to society. Often, I find it difficult and even inappropriate to take these ancient scriptures written by and for a very different culture and try to make them apply to ours. But, there’s something in the lesson from Luke that applies today quite easily.

Mary was facing being shunned by her culture for being pregnant before she was married. This shaming—often called “slut shaming” today—is alive and well in our current society, especially is the mother is a teen as Mary would have been. Teen mothers find themselves in impossible situations. If they abort, they’re called killers. If they give their babies up for adoption, they’re accused of abdicating their parental responsibility. But if they keep their children and try to raise them, they’re still treated horribly by society because they never should have allowed themselves to be in the position to have to choose life in the first place.

This stealing of Joy from these young women is part of the War on Christmas. You can’t worship the child of an unwed mother while condemning those same types of families in the world around you.

I was a teen parent, and the years I spend raising my kids were among the most Joyful of my life. A society that speaks about wanting to protect children needs to actually do that work. Young and unwed mothers must be supported.

That’s how you defeat the War on Christmas: by bringing Joy to people in need.

Amen, and Blessed Be.