Yesterday I read about a Baptist pastor here in Tempe who's making international headlines. He claims that the solution to the AIDS epidemic is in the book of Leviticus--all we have to do is kill off all the gays.
I'm dumbfounded that such hate speech actually gets spoken by anyone in 2014. I am surrounded by dear friends who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. And here some misguided Bible thumper is busy claiming that genocide of them is a good idea.
I am so angry that stringing words together is difficult. I realized something yesterday that helped free my anger to do something fruitful: I have no power over this Baptist preacher. It is highly unlikely that I or anyone who shares my views will ever change his mind.
What I can do, however, is speak truth to the power of this white, privileged, Christian male. It's simple: he's wrong. His interpretation of scripture is wrong. His approach to Christianity is wrong.
I'm planning to participate in a peaceful protest in front of Faithful Word Baptist Church on December 14. That's one more thing I can do.
Advent is the season that calls us to reimagine--sometimes in a radical way--what it means to be a Christian. It's a season of possibility, of discovery, of untrodden paths. It's a time to find out what we're really made of. Are we willing to speak up against voices that are supposed to be trustworthy when those voices break trust? Are we willing to say someone's wrong when doing so might bring us harm? Are we willing to be led by the innocence of a newborn infant, rather than the power of a king?
On this Feast of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, another celebration is underway: the fortieth anniversary of the ordination of the Philadelphia 11, the first women to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. I am grateful for God's prophetic call on the lives of these women. I am grateful for their obedience to God--which manifested as disobedience to the unjust, unholy policies of their church. I am grateful that these women paved the way for other women to respond faithfully to the call they hear from God without fear. I am grateful for the first experience I had of Sunday liturgy at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, at which the first thing I noticed was a woman standing at the altar as an ordained deacon--and no one was rioting. No one even batted an eyelash (except me). I am grateful that the presence of ordained women is normal in the Episcopal Church. I am grateful that the face of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Presiding Bishop, is a woman (and one of great wisdom). I am grateful for this church that perceived its own call to be prophetically transformed after eleven women stood up, risking everything that mattered to them, to respond to God's will. I am grateful that these eleven icons of Martha made it possible for me to sit more easily, like Mary, at the feet of Jesus and hear what he has to say.
Sister Thea Bowman was a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, and she changed the face of the African-American Roman Catholic Church. Sister Thea was a woman who led with joy, story, music, and a sharp intellect. She was a woman who had the power to speak prophetically against injustice in ways that would soften the hearts of even old white bishops--again and again. Her power was the power to tell a story, to preach without a fourth wall, to engage others at the level of senses and emotion and experience. She died from cancer a couple of weeks before I turned eight years old. It was another twenty years before I knew who she was. When I make my solemn profession as a Benedictine Canon next spring, I plan to take Sister Thea's name as my religious name. I see in Sister Thea a bright, strong, gentle, humble, magnetic leader who could tear down any Jericho walls with the dulcimer sounds of her story-telling-and-transforming voice. Do I have the courage to be more than I am? Do I have the humility to let go of my own weighty importance so I can fly with the wild, light Spirit in whom I put my trust and hopes?
The psalms appointed for morning prayer in The Book of Common Prayer today included Psalm 44, and I couldn't help but think of the girls kidnapped in Nigeria with these words on their lips: We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, for you delighted in them.
You are my King and my God; you command victories for Jacob. Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down our assailants. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes, and have put to confusion those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name for ever.
Yet you have rejected us and abased us, and have not gone out with our armies. You made us turn back from the foe, and our enemies have taken spoil for themselves. You have made us like sheep for slaughter, and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughing-stock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the words of the taunters and revilers, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten you, or been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way, yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread out our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. And as the final words of this psalm come around, I can't help but think that the hands and feet and deeds they seek from God are the ones given by God to me--and you.
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off for ever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
In a unique collaboration between Fey Publishing and Solarwyrm Press, and thanks to an idea put together by M. Kate Allen, a new anthology of short stories will be produced at the end of May 2014 in honor of the over two-hundred Nigerian girls who were kidnapped at gunpoint by the religious terrorists of Boko Haram on April 14, 2014. All proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to http://www.notforsalecampaign.org, an organization that seeks to uncover and put a stop to human trafficking and slavery of all kinds.
The stories in this anthology will address enslaving and enslavement. To the extent that you, the writer, are free from the dangers and enslavement that these Nigerian girls and millions of others presently suffer, you are asked to take great care in considering your own privilege as you weave your tale. The stories in this anthology will seek to name the dynamics of privilege and unjust, unearned power and also seek to highlight ways in which those who are powerless may be thwarted or lifted up by any number of outer or inner forces. Writers are particularly encouraged to explore silence, indifference, and ignorance as forms of oppression.
This is a chance for people whose voices are free to join together to speak powerfully for the sake of those whose voices have been stolen away. The money raised from the sales of this anthology will do financially what the stories of this anthology aim to do narratively: contribute to a culture of liberation that reveals, names, and destroys all forms of oppression.
All short stories should be between 1,500 and 5,000 words long. All submissions are due to Jax Goss (solarwyrm at gmail dot com), editor at Solarwyrm Press and the editor of this anthology, by May 15, 2014 at 11:59PM Pacific time. The anthology is due to be published on or around May 31, 2014 by Kristen Duvall of Fey Publishing. Any questions about the content of the short stories, the fundraiser for the Not For Sale Campaign, or any other aspect of the anthology may be directed to M. Kate Allen at lifeloveliturgy at gmail dot com or at http://www.lifeloveliturgy.com. Note: I invite you to share this call for submissions far and wide, whether by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or on your own blog. I also personally invite readers of Thealogical Lady to consider submitting a story for this anthology. Thank you.