Tag Archive for ST4R

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.

Adversarial Advent: Peace

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

I’m a little behind this week, but 9 Sunday 2018 was the second Sunday of Advent, and the theme is Peace.

Peace. What does that word even mean in a word where it seems borders are growing stronger, are closing more tightly? Where is the Peace when the military of one nation fires tear gas canisters over the border into another nation to stop the flow of refugees? Oh, and the nation being fired into isn’t officially an enemy nation?

Refugees. The Gospel of Matthew includes a story or Mary and Joseph fleeing their homeland and seeking refuge in Egypt. Why did they do this? Because of violence carried out by the minions of King Herod, the puppet dictator put in place by the Empire. Why are refugees seeking asylum in the US? Because of violence caused by puppet dictators put in place by the US government. The parallels can’t be denied, to me.

If anyone was looking for the so-called “War on Christmas,” this is it. A so-called Christian nation firing upon refugees seeking asylum and respite from violence. The US is Rome, and this Empire must fall if there is to be Peace.

Amen, and blessed be.

Adversarial Advent: Hope

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and the theme is Hope.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was a mere 12 days ago, and it seemed there was (again) a record number of deaths reported. Yesterday was World AIDS Day. George H. W. Bush died the day before that, and people were telling us to not remind the world of Bush’s legacy regarding HIV/AIDS. Refugees are being attacked on foreign soil by US troops. Climate change seems irreversible.

And the theme for this first week of Advent is Hope.

I am an adversarial theologian. Not because I think it’s cool and edgy to poke holes in tradition, but because mystical traditions don’t necessarily provided what’s needed for the here and now. Adversarial theology, for me, is practical theology. But, this is where I struggle as a priest.

I’m nearly out of Hope, you see.

What Hope can I offer? I won’t offer the Hope of mysticism. Instead, the Hope I will try to offer is the Hope that I be as compassionate as I can to those who need it the most. There are times when that seems so small in the face of all the very real threats that exist in the world. Add to that the threats that might not be real but my anxiety and psychosis warns me of anyway, and that Hope seems even smaller.

I will continue to try. To paraphrase the words of my teachers, “I offer compassion, because nothing else truly helps.”

Amen, and Blessed Be.

Cursing the Transphobic, TERF Edition

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We draw the Circle…

To the Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East and Air, the South and Fire, the West and Water, the North and Earth, the Center and Spirit; to my Gods and Dæmons and Guiding Spirits: BE HERE NOW.

  • To the Outdwellers and Hungry Ghosts: you are given license to remain within the Circle, but dare not interfere with my work lest you be separated from the Flame Imperishable and be forever entombed within the Grinding Ice. Be still, and await instruction.
  • I call Great Earl Halphas and his six and twenty legions: to your siege Towers go! Furnish us with the weapons we need, and send us forth to the places appointed.
  • I call Botis, Great President and Earl, with his sixty legions: bring us your reconciling counsel.
  • I call the Crimson King—who is known as Lucifer, the Light-bringer; who is known as The Adversary; who is Satan—arise and aid us as we bring adversity to those who would destroy us.
  • I call Pancrates All-Power and Paneris All-Strife, the fourth and fifth beings of the mighty Tetrad++—may all rejoice!—give us the determination to wield armaments of Great Earl Halphas and the adversity of the Crimson King.
  • I call Great Cæsar WALWARWAT—who is the Pangender Serpent, the wingéd snake with “golden skin and eyes of flame”—cover us with your protective wings, encircle us with your mighty coils, let us take refuge in your strength, O Beloved Progenitor.
  • I call Thánatos—who is the Angel of Death, the Giver of the Gift of Eternity.
  • I call Mary Magdalene—greatest of the disciples—give us the courage to let our intentions be known.
  • I call Yeshua—the Lamb who is the Destroyer—cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly. Make the first to be last, and the last to be first.

In the names of the Beloved Gender-expansive Ones, I come to the altar of Hell.

There are those claiming to be daughters of the goddess who would deny the reality of the many gendered forms of the Children of the Divine. They wail and gnash their teeth at the thoughts of gender being anything other than penis or vagina.

These lesser beings pretending to titles such as Witch and Foremother want us to live in fear, if we are to live at all. They applaud our death, and pervert the TDoR, gleeful about our murders. In answer to that, we have a reading from the Fourth Book of the Incarnations of Immortality:

  • “Let there be war!”

Outdwellers and Hungry Ghosts: I give you a task! Bring to the cissexist supremacists and their enablers their worst fears and ideas of hell. Break their glamours and make them suffer.

In the names of the Beloved Gender-expansive Ones, I come to the shores of Purgatory.

These lesser beings pretending to
titles such as Witch and Foremother

want us to live in fear. In answer to that, we have a reading from the prophet Frank Herbert:

  • “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Great President and Earl Botis, if the cissexist supremacists and their enablers repent their ways, joining our side in this battle, bring reconciliation between us and guide the Outdwellers and Hungry Ghosts away from all who make peace.

In the names of the Beloved Gender-expansive Ones, I come to the gates of Heaven.

These lesser beings pretending to

titles such as Witch and Foremother

call openly for our torment and death.

  • Thánatos, I beseech you to withhold the Gift of Eternity for the Beloved Gender-expansive Ones for as long as possible. And if the deaths of our Beloveds cannot be forestalled, then into your arms we commend their spirits. Exalt and elevate them so that they be numbered among Themselves.
  • Mother Mary of Magdala, Consort of God, I ask that you grant us your courage to be ourselves in the face of such reckless hate.
  • Yeshua, you are the Lamb who is the Destroyer, but yours is also the hand that heals. Deliver us from our mortal destroyers, and care for us when our hearts become heavy with grief.

I ask all these things. I ask all these things and more. We have not chosen this conflict. Our choice is to resist in what ways we can, or be destroyed. And for those who cannot fight, I ask that they be protected and concealed from the villains that seek to destroy them.

By the Powers that are mine to command and the Powers that are mine to request aid from, so mote it be!

  • I thank my Gods and Dæmons and Guiding Spirits. Stay if you will, go if you must, in perfect love and in perfect trust.
  • To the Outdwellers and Hungry Ghosts, I give you license to depart. Fulfill your charge! May there be peace between us, now and forever.


To the Guardians of the Watchtowers of the Center and Spirit, the North
and the Earth, the West and Water, the South and Fire, the East and Air,
I thank you for your presences. Hail, and farewell.


The Circle is open but unbroken, for we merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!

NaNoWriMo as Self Care

Monday, 29 October 2018

NaNoWriMo–National Novel
Writing Month–happens in November. You know what else happens in
November? Well, in the US we have elections. There’s also the
International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on the 20th.

That can be a lot of heavy stuph.

This
year, I’ve been tasked with compiling the List of Names for my church’s
TDoR memorial service. Preparing a sermon would be less emotionally
taxing. But, it is a ministry I will perform.

So, I’m hoping
this year to use my NaNoWriMo project as a form of self-care this month.
I’ll have more than enough things to fear and mourn. I’ll need some
light in my month, even if I have to bring that light myself.

Full Moon Journey, 25 September 2018

[image courtesy Wikipedia]

I haven’t gone on a shamanic journey* in close to fifteen years, but I went to one on the evening of 25 September 2018. Before the journey, we were asked to consider what we wanted to manifest in this next moon cycle. I said I wanted to manifest clarity about what I want to manifest. You see, I had a bit of a run-in with Melek Ta’us on Mabon and he was really exerting his will and presence over me. A good portion of the clarity I was seeking revolved around my relationship with him.

The journey started, and I was outside a faerie gate in the high desert. Passing through the gate, I met up with my current familiar: Jack. Jack is a jackrabbit, and I met him as my familiar when I was at the Sekhmet Temple in January 2018. He led me around to the far side of what’s called Bullet Hill, because locals use it as a backstop for shooting. On the far side of this hill, was a portal that when I stepped through it and found myself at my cabin on the shores of the Lake of Fire. I hesitated before opening the cabin door. In the distance I saw the Lost Bison, the being who had been my familiar for years before. He made eye-contact with me, and ran off into the woods. Lucifer was also there, as he was the last time I was at this cabin, and he encouraged me to enter.

When I finally opened the cabin’s door, I had stepped into the kitchen and it was very dark. I was going to turn around, but Jack urged me to keep going. Turning to my right, I saw a brightly lit room and the rest of the cabin looked like the house of Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring, but with Mary Magdalene seated in Goldberry’s place. She, too, encouraged me to go to the bedroom.

With a sigh, I did as she said. While I couldn’t see Melek Ta’us in the room, I could sense his presence nonetheless. I wouldn’t permit him to speak, saying he’d said altogether too much at Mabon. I set clear boundaries for him, and suggested that we might go on a date in the future but committed to nothing. Additionally, I established a safe-word for use with him:

  • Kerberos

If I utter this word, he is immediately stop whatever he’s doing. He agreed, and it seems he’s taking it seriously as not long after the journey ended, I had to use the safe-word on him.

Back in the cabin’s sitting room, Mary was tending the fireplace. “Was that so bad?” she asked me. I exited the cabin to find both Lucifer and Luna by the fountain at the lake shore. Luna, sensing she wasn’t needed to protect me, took wing and flew off. Lucifer smiled, and Jack led me back to the mundane world.

_____________

* I am aware that there are those who might find this cultural appropriation. The journeys I went on at PantheaCon in the early 2000s were led by a person, T, who called herself a shamanic practitioner. T had been trained by a Tibetan shaman and was very clear to never call herself a shaman.

This journey was led by a woman, Z, who had been trained by another woman was originally from Columbia, C. C had selected Z to be her successor.

Rock Psalm: “Lost in Paradise” by Evanescence

Yesterday, 5 September 2018, my daughter and her husband took me to see Evanescence and Lindsey Stirling at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. The concert was nothing short of a sacramental moment, to borrow a phrase from my Roman Catholic upbringing.

Lately, I’ve taken to thinking of love songs as hymns. By thinking that I’m sinning to G’D instead of to a mortal lover, there can be less pain. With two divorces and other failed relationships behind me, love songs that once gave me joy can be hurtful.

As I started singing along with “Lost in Paradise,” I mentally shifted to singing to G’D. This happened right at the line, “All the promises I made, just to let you down.” Suddenly, the song became a psalm and I was singing about reconciliation with the Divine. I kept this frame of mind throughout the piece. But my concept of G’D–including my visual concept–took on an interesting image at the line, “I’m just as scared as you.”

G’D, scared? And about our relationship? Well, that made perfect sense. We’re in this together.

And as a polytheist, the mental image was not only me as a younger, ageless woman, but so was the god in this image. In fact, the god who seemed to appear to me as I sang was Antinoüs. The Emperor of the World of Peace, the Divine Boy visited me as I had a divine experience at a rock concert.

Ave, ave Antinoë! Ave, ave Antinoë!  
Haec est unse vita venit! Ave, ave Antinoë!
Hail, hail Antinoüs! Hail, hail Antinoüs!
This is where life comes from! Hail, hail Antinoüs!

The Adversarial Theologian Strikes Again

Friday, 10 August 2018

Really, I should have known better. A friend posted a suggestion to refrain from using gender binary language for a month. When one of their friends challenged this, saying they don’t care about gender, just “be human,” I had the feeling that person might be a problem if I were to get involved in this post. I should have just liked my friend’s post and went about my merry way.

Instead, I commented about using gender-neutral pronouns for G’D in my sermon on August 5th. As I expected, the other commenter asked why I would do that. I offered a theological reason, and the commenter literally blasphemed (“J’sus Chr;st!”) and took me to task for preaching.

And yet, I must thank my friend or their thread. The other commenter’s diatribe came at a point when I was once again wondering if I should just throw it all away and give up on ordained Christian ministry.

The other commenter’s comments rekindled the flame of my Christian ministry. And if I can’t be ordained by any Christian body, then I will found my own Christian order and ordain myself.

I rather like the sound of Constance Antinoë Magdalene McEntee, Pontifex Maxima.

The Baffling Case of Faith and Works

Sunday, 5 August 2018

I
think I was in fifth grade when I first learned that names had
meanings. This idea fascinated me, and I decided to look mine up. My
birth name was David, and the definition I found of that name was
“beloved.” Years later as an adult, but still before my gender
transition, I was in church listening to a sermon―it might even
have been about the same reading as today―when the preacher offered
another possible definition of David: lover boy.  

Today’s
readings from Second Samuel (11:26 – 12:13a) and Psalm 51 (1-13)
are related, and they’re related to beloved King David being a
lover boy.

During
my short time at seminary, I got to be part of the worship play
Stories
Seldom Told

by one of my mentors, the late Rev. Lizann Bassham―may she dance
barefoot forever with the Cloud of Witnesses! It was a very casually
set play, designed to be read dramatically by the performers rather
than acted out. This play is a feminist retelling of several stories
in the Bible, stories told from the points of view of women who are
regarded as minor characters. One of those stories was that of
Bathsheba. In her story, she describes how it simply wasn’t
possible for her to refuse King David’s advances. The concept of
consent was irrelevant. David was  king, second only to GoD and
chosen by GoD themself! It simply wasn’t possible for her, or
anybody, to deny him.

King
David was overthrown by Bathsheba’s beauty, to paraphrase the
prophet Leonard Cohen (1984). In last week’s reading from Second
Samuel (11:1-15),  David has Bathsheba brought to him. He has sex
with her, getting her pregnant, and then panics. The text said David
“lay with” Bathsheba. But as we know she wouldn’t have been
able to truly grant consent due to the power difference, it’s more
accurate to say David raped Bathsheba. He then tries to get Uriah,
Bathsheba’s husband, to go home. But since Uriah had prepared
himself―body,
mind, and spirit―for
battle, he would not go home even to have sex with his own wife as he
felt it would be improper for him to do so while there was still
fighting to be done for GoD and king (McKenzie, 2010, p. 450). David
realizes he won’t be able to pretend Uriah is the father of the
child he got on Bathsheba, so he contrives to have the man killed in
battle. A dead husband would never be able to tell how he hadn’t
sired Bathsheba’s child. David making Bathsheba one of his wives
also helps hide this rape. The prophet Nathan isn’t fooled by the
David’s treachery, and calls the king out by cleverly telling him
parable of a powerful man who takes advantage of a marginalized man.
David is incensed, saying the powerful man should be destroyed. Then
the prophet tells his king, “Thou art the man” (McKenzie, 2010,
p. 451). This revelation shakes David to his core, inspiring “the
baffled king [to compose]” (Cohen, 1984) Psalm 51, begging to be
forgiven and praising GoD’s compassion (Clifford, 2010, p. 815).

Pulling
meaning out of these first two readings didn’t seem that hard to
me. The message seemed fairly clear, and seems reminiscent that
lesson they drilled into us in high school literature classes:
absolute power corrupts absolutely. These readings certainly show
that David abused his power as king. There was no one person on Earth
who was more powerful than he. GoD themself had granted David the
power to rule. But David abused this power, actually condemning Uriah
to death in an effort to hide that he raped and impregnated
Bathsheba. But there’s something else to be found in these
readings. That is, even those chosen by GoD are still human,
fallible, and prone to being seized by vice. That even those who seem
to have GoD’s favor will still do things that would need to be
forgiven (Clifford,
2010, p. 815). Another way to word the high school lesson power’s
ability to corrupt is to be vigilant against power’s corrupting
influences, and to be prepared to call out our beloveds if they seem
to go too far.

When
have we acted like the “baffled king” (Cohen, 1984) and lover boy
David, abusing our power and acting selfishly, then causing harm in
an effort to hide what we’d done? When have we expected too much of
somebody because of the position they held, holding them to
improbable standards for the power they wield? When have we acted
like Nathan, and “[stood] up to our friends” (Rowling, 1998, p.
221), to quote Professor Albus Dumbledore?

Shifting
from Second Samuel and Psalms to the epistle, when have we been
unaware of the power we ourselves have? When have we been uncertain
how to use our power, especially trying to combine our power with the
power of others?

The
Oxford Annotated Bible

calls today’s selection from Ephesians (4:1-16) “Appeal for unity
amid diversity” (Berenson 2010, p. 2057). My initial reaction was
to think, “Yeah, sounds like Paul, alright. We mustn’t be too
individual!” Researching the text, I learned there’s quite a bit
of debate regarding who really wrote The Letter to the Ephesians, and
I found compelling arguments both for and against Paul as the author
(Cohick, 2010, p. 15; Coogan, 2010, p. 1973). This letter, the
commentaries suggested, is somewhat unlike the letters that are known
to have been written by Paul. It’s possible this letter was written
by somebody else in Paul’s name, perhaps even one of his disciples
(Coogan, 2010, p. 1973). I have the tendency to be wary of Paul. He
and I don’t always agree, and knowing that the authorship of
Ephesians is in question means … Actually, I’m not really sure
what it means to me.

But
also in my research, I found that it wasn’t so much that the author
was speaking out against diversity, but admonishing the Ephesians to
harness that diversity to a single unified purpose. So, my fears
about the author being opposed to diversity was unfounded. I’d
jumped to an erroneous conclusion.

The
first three verses of Ephesians 4, to me, seem unlike some of Paul’s
other letters. Here, the author seems to be saying faith alone isn’t
good enough. We have to do the work, too. The text seems to suggest
that orthopraxy―correct
behavior―will
lead to orthodoxy―correct belief. Those first three verses seem
more in line with The Letter of James, chapter two verse 17:

“So
faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

That
verse in James, plus the three before it,
seem
to directly contradict what Paul says in The Letter to the Romans
(3:28), that it is by “faith apart from works” that we are saved
(Cargal 2010, p. 2119). The idea that faith without works is a
problem ties into the readings from Second Samuel and Psalms. David’s
“works” regarding Bathsheba and Uriah betrayed his faith. David
had faith in the GoD he professed to serve, but his actions weren’t
in line with this faith. The prophet Nathan pointed this out,
prompting David to compose Psalm 51 as a song of shame.

And
the very start of Ephesians chapter 4 is interesting, too. The author
calls themself a “prisoner in the Lord” rather than identifying
themself as an apostle. The author also suggests we should all be
bound together in this faith, sharing being prisoners in Christ
(Cohick 2010, p. 111). It’s an alarming analogy for those who look
to Christ for liberation, but one that doesn’t seem so out of
character for the scriptures. Inverting earthly power structures, as
baffling as it seems, runs all throughout the Bible.

When
have we been like the church in Ephesus, having to be reminded that
while our individual gifts might seem insufficient to the tasks at
hand that together with others we can do great things?

Today’s
Gospel reading (John 6:24-35), like Second Samuel and Psalm 51, seems
fairly straight forward and easy to follow. Some of our multitudes
from last week (John 6:1-21) want to know where Jesus went. But,
we’re told these multitudes weren’t his true followers. They just
wanted to be fed. They challenge Jesus, going so far as to ask him
for signs proving he is who he says he is. They referenced Moses and
the manna from heaven. Jesus responds by interpreting Exodus to be a
prophecy about himself (Neyrey 2010, p 1892). It’s as if Jesus is
establishing
a form of apostolic succession
for himself even as he’s establishing scriptural fulfillment.

In
today’s Gospel, the crowd is demanding works so that they might
have faith in Jesus. Jesus rebukes them, saying they must do the work
of believing to demonstrate their faith. This seems almost at odds
with the reading from Ephesians and might leave us baffled,
wondering: “Well, which is it? Are we justified by believing or are
we justified by working?” Maybe it’s both. To me, at least part
of the message seems to be clear. We need to be there for those who
need us, and we need to do be there for those who need us regardless
of the doctrine of justification.

When
have we been like the multitudes, challenging others to prove their
worth to us rather than taking them at their word? How have we
reacted when others challenge our identities?

My
first name is no longer David and my middle name is no longer
William. I am Constance Anne. When I chose those names in January
2011 and looked them up, I found that Constance means “steadfast”
and Anne means “grace.” At that time I thought it was a prophetic
choice as I would need the steadfast grace of GoD to get through
gender transition with my psyche intact. But now, I see how it’s so
much more than that. Our works might sometimes or even most of the
time seem baffling when compared to our faith. And yet, GoD is there
for us anyway, offering grace in that steadfast way.

_____________

Sources

Berenson,
Jennifer K. “The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians.” In The
New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
,
edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 2052-60. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2010.

Cargal,
Timothy B. “The Letter of James.” In The
New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
,
edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 2119-25. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2010.

Cohen,
Leonard. “Hallelujah.” From Various
Positions

(sound recording). New York: Columbia Records, 1984.

Cohick,
Lynn H. Ephesians:
a New Covenant Commentary
.
Cascade Books. Eugene, Or. 2010.

Coogan,
Matthew D. “Introduction to the Letters/Epistles in the New
Testament.” In The
New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
,
edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 1973-74. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2010.

Matthews,
Christopher R. “The
Acts of the Apostless.” In The
New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
,
edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 1919-71. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2010.

Neyrey,
Jerome H. “The
Gospel According to John.” In The
New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
,
edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 1879-1917. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2010.

Rowling,
J. K. Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

London: Pottermore (Barnes and Noble Nook digital edition), 2012.