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Confronting Anti-Gay Anglicans at Lambeth Palace: A Fantasy Speech for Michael Curry

Joseph Kagunda, the Bishop of Mt. Kenya West, who has led an anti-Gay purge among his clergy.

Joseph Kagunda, Anglican Bishop of Mt. Kenya West, who has led an anti-Gay purge among his clergy.

When +Michael Curry, who becomes Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church two weeks from now, goes to the Anglican Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace next January, I hope he’ll tell the African bishops this.

“You need to stop believing what the white man told you about Gay people. Just because the white man said it doesn’t make it true. It is a fact that the English clergy who came to Africa and brought you the Gospel – may their names be forever enshrined in heaven for it! – also brought with them the racism of England, the imperialism of England, the greed of England, the false ethnic superiority of England, and the homophobia of England.

“LGBTs represent no threat whatsoever to your culture, your churches, your families, your children, your survival or your prosperity.

“Nor is homosexuality a Western import, unknown to you prior to the arrival of the white man. Your own indigenous, homegrown, native LGBT community proves that. So does your own indigenous, homegrown, native LGBT history. In most of your clans, if not all of them, sexual variation was recognized for what it is – a phenomenon of nature, not of choice, a characteristic evidenced early in childhood, an intrinsic part of who that child is. Your cultures historically accepted this variation, they didn’t seek to destroy it.

“Every one of the native languages and dialects of Africa has a name for homosexual persons that predates colonialism. So stop saying it is a Western import. It’s not true, you know it’s not true, and so do your own people.

“Today you work in concert with your corrupt governments, armies and other institutions to scapegoat LGBTs, to distract your people from the real problems of poverty, lack of education, pollution and uneven economic development. Let me tell you, scapegoats are no more permissible today than they ever were in the Christian church. All people are sinners. Christ died for our sins. Do not seek to re-crucify him to enhance your own social prestige. He dined with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, including the likes of you and me. If he were here today he would surely dine with LGBTs and bring them the same kind of spiritual healing he brings to everyone else, Gay or Straight, black or white, male or female, slave or free, rich or poor.

“LGBTs do not need curing; they do not have a disease. They need the same human dignity we seek for all persons. And they need freedom from oppression and homophobia, brought to you by white fundamentalist Americans today as they were brought to you by white evangelical Englishmen in the 19th century.

“You are Africans. You are black. Think for yourselves, and put away the prejudices of your white conquerors, so that your nations, clans, families, citizens and churches can take their proud place in the world as persons entitled to the dignity God gave us all in creation and in our salvation.

“The same things you are saying about LGBTs today are what white Englishmen said about you 150 years ago; that you were morally inferior, dangerous and unworthy of freedom, and thus ripe for exploitation.

“Imitate Jesus, not those flawed but blessed saints who brought you their tainted version of him. Stop this persecution of those who are different from you. You don’t have to accept same-sex marriage, but you must stop the violence your governments, churches and clergy are committing against people every bit as capable of love as you are.

“And let us all remember that the greatest sin we can commit as bishops is discord, disunity and schism.

“Back off. Make peace, not war. Understand who your real enemies are, and be friends with those who offer you friendship and peace.”

I posted this on Facebook this afternoon, and some Episcopalians think I should send it to Bishop Curry. (One person called it condescending.) I don’t expect him to pull it out of his pocket and read it to the African bishops – he’s a gifted preacher and doesn’t need tips from me – but I do think it needs to be said in plain English.

It isn’t the whole story by any means; the three worst anti-Gay Anglican churches in Africa (Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda) are different nations with different histories, cultures and politics. But they have several things in common besides their homophobia; all are former British colonies, and all were taught Christianity in the 19th century by low-church, “evangelical” English missionaries. All three had homophobic laws imposed by their Anglo overlords – laws they now support more than the English do. All three Anglican national churches compete with Islam, Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism, each one homophobic in turn.

I don’t expect any of these countries to “see the light,” make LGBT Pride Day a national holiday and embrace same-sex marriage. But it is reasonable to demand that their Anglican churches stop promoting anti-Gay violence, stop scapegoating and fear-mongering for political gain, and stop tearing apart the Anglican Communion over a triviality like Gay sex when their own citizens suffer such appalling poverty, insecurity and lack of resources.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, last year at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, last year at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York. The parish largely finances the Anglican Communion. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I also think it’s time that Justin Welby and the Church of England be rebuked for cozying up to these violent Anglican bishops. He’s planning on recognizing anti-Gay American schismatics as a legitimate Anglican province and kicking the Episcopal Church to the curb – and he needs to be stopped.

He’s the ultimate target of my fantasy speech. Bishop Curry will be entering a minefield at Lambeth Palace just two months after taking office as the American Presiding Bishop, and I hope he doesn’t allow his own flock to be mistreated.

He will face a lot of pressure in London to be nice, speak diplomatically and turn the other cheek. I hope he understands that Jesus’s advice doesn’t apply in this situation. If he is personally snubbed, as Welby’s predecessor did to openly-Gay Bishop Gene Robinson (and the entire American Church) the last time, so be it. But +Michael doesn’t have the right to make every LGBT person in Africa, and every Episcopalian, be smited too.

We are counting on him to understand what he will face is a human rights issue more than a theological one, and to make no peace with oppression.

This Primates’ Meeting, full of brinksmanship engineered by Welby, is going to be a knife fight. I don’t want +Michael hurting anyone or being hurt himself – but he has no right to be passive when others try to shed our blood.

Jesus often fought with words; +Michael should too.++

Michael Curry, Episcopal Presiding Bishop-Elect, preaching this summer in Hayneville, Alabama at the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian. (Selma Times Journal)

Michael Curry, Episcopal Presiding Bishop-Elect, preaching this summer in Hayneville, Alabama at the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian. (Selma Times Journal)

Finding Out What It Is to Be Truly Human

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

This post will probably be a bit ragged, because I haven’t thought the subject all the way through. But it’s been stirring inside me long enough that it’s time for me to try to get some notes down and hope that they mean something to you. In the past people often called my writing stream-of-consciousness, which I’ve never thought was correct, but maybe this entry will be an example of what they meant.

Here’s a lesson appointed for Morning Prayer tomorrow. I’ll reprint the whole thing so you can see the context. St. Paul, whose writing is always wise and eloquent, claims that he put these gifts aside when evangelizing in Corinth, so that instead he could give “a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If he did that, he was surely a master teacher, but in this letter he will now eloquently explain his wisdom! (I’m convinced he knew that every word he wrote was holy scripture.)

1 Corinthians 2:1-13 (NRSV)

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him” –

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Learning what is truly human, seems to me, is our task in life.

And I can’t say I’ve arrived at the point of knowing; it’s more that I feel like I’m getting there, and also that I feel like I’ve always known. I want to ask, Don’t we all really know what it is to be truly human?

We may not live up to it – most people don’t, the world doesn’t – but that’s because we prevent ourselves from knowing.

We do, all of us, know what it means to be human. But we push that knowledge-awareness down deep inside; we seem to find it painful to know what’s human and not, so we keep ourselves from thinking about any of it.

As Leonardo Ricardo would say, we’re all about “pretend.” When I was a kid our adolescent term was having a “false front.” (Teenagers are experts on this subject, with built-in bullshit detectors.)

I never really lost mine and I bet you didn’t either. I’m not sure anybody does, but boy, does this world have massive incentives to give in to the BS.

Corporate life requires it – any large organization, for-profit or not. Bureaucracy demands we all worship the bullshit.

the-organization-man

Family life demands it in most families – at least the ones we grow up in. I suppose we think we don’t impose it in the families we ourselves create, but then again we probably do.

Commercial life – politics and television – are all about the bullshit. A TV show may make comedy or drama about rebelling against the BS (“The Daily Show,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey”) but every eight minutes it’s “brought to you by the bullshit.”

There’s nowhere you can go (including church) and not be knee-deep in bullshit. That’s all the Church of England puts out anymore, and the rest of them are usually even worse. I don’t really follow the CofE anymore, and even if I did I wouldn’t want to go into this, but the latest thing is some kind of yes-and-no from the House of Bishops about same-sex marriage; “Gay people are welcome, and marriages are legal now, but of course we can’t conduct them, and we don’t let clergy officiate, and they ought not even get one privately themselves, but of course we can’t prevent them, and though it might be possible to offer some prayers after people get the civil rite, prayers aren’t the same things as blessings, you see,” which makes no theological sense at all and therefore is pure bullshit, the Anglican kind, you get the idea, it’s all who-fucking-cares.

June Butler cares, Mark Harris cares, Alan Wilson does, Leonardo perhaps and Louie (Crew) Clay almost certainly. But me, I long since don’t care. Leonardo knows his vocation, to tell the world and church “Let’s quit pretend.” But that’s his vocation and not, thankyouJesus, mine, not where the CofE’s concerned. I don’t fucking care, it’s not human there anymore.

What does it mean to be truly human? One of God’s names is Reality. (h/t Bill Coulter, late great.)

Here in the Episcopal Church we mostly think our places are getting more human all the time; I think that about my own congregation online, and I hope you think it about yours, too – that you’re right to think so. Even the Methodists got human yesterday, though only in New York and we’ll see how long it lasts. The retired dean of Yale Divinity School officiated at his kid’s wedding awhile ago, so two bigotbrains put him up on charges, which were set to kick off Monday till the conference bishop called the whole thing off. Good for him; good for the dean and his wife and his kid and his son-in-law. The dean is quoted in today’s paper thanking God for such a great son-in-law. That was nice; truly human.

But it takes a lot more than being for Gay rights to make us human; have you seen any Gay porn blogs lately? They’re all for Gay rights, at least I presume, but good grief, they’re inhuman.

Or they were until yesterday, when somebody Tumbld this:

catchotd:

We need to quit it with all the “cumdump whore” and “slave faggot” bullshit, you know? We’re willingly throwing ourselves into an identification that’s demeaning and dehumanizing, and that’s so dumb. Like, damn, love yourself; if you wanna scarf down three dicks and swim in a veritable pool of cum, then more power to ya man, you’ve got my respect.

Amen brother

Interesting that the reblogger said Amen.

MEANWHILE, back here at the farm, I try to make sense of my life and keep up with how much I’ve changed these last ten years. It’s really astonishing to me; I can’t make sense of it. I’m 62, my body is starting to wear out and my soul is cleaner than ever. (Should I have written “purer”? That’s what it feels like, even though nothing can be crazier than to proclaim to myself or anyone else “I feel like I’m being purified.”)

That is what I feel, though, and it’s damn weird.

So what was it Paul said again? The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?

I sense, more than know, what that means. Has something to do with a spark of life inside. Some bit of honesty is surely part of it; and increasing [crotchety] impatience with everything that isn’t real.

You know when people get old, they get crotchety; men especially. I’m only 62, which I’m sure to some of you is death warmed over. And only 62, to others.

I want to ask all the old people, “Did something like this happen to you? Is this normal? Is this like the reward we get for living this long?”

I do not know; I’m living this by myself, and no one can ever be sure of what’s going on with them. Our human capacity for self-deception is too great. Every discovery has to be tested; we’re too involved with ourselves to observe objectively.

Mind you I don’t claim one bit of better-than-you; I am after all still looking at porn sites. And on some level I don’t mind that at all – or I wouldn’t if could find any humane ones. The internet was made for porn, so there’s more of it than ever, but very very few where people treat each other decently.

I worry about what young Gay men are looking at these days. The internalized homophobia is just thick – except it isn’t all internalized, it’s disseminated, it’s broadcast, it’s enforced.

Here we thought, those of us who are now veteran activists, that we were rooting out societal homophobia and the psychic kind with it, but it seems like kids are killing themselves as much as ever.

I’d show you graphic examples or provide links, but you don’t want to see it. I don’t want to post them.

Instead here’s a nice thing; my Straight friend Tim found it yesterday.

Now I’ll start to wind this up. When I bought this house ten years ago my sexuality was on a certain trajectory. What turned me on at 20 still turned me on at 50, while my interests got much narrower and more focused – like “I want what I want exactly this way.” I felt some concern about that, like the world stopped containing 3 billion men and now had only 300,000, but I felt I was refining my desires too. Then a couple of years ago, I finally finished the 1000th draft of my third/ultimate novel, and quickly, my sexuality changed.

This wasn’t just my aging body, but the satisfaction/destruction of a gestalt. “The Gospel According to Gay Guys” is (or so I hope) the world’s ultimate love story with the world’s hottest sex.

And then I was done, and I’m not into that stuff anymore. Or I am, but not in the same way. I said it already, I got it out of my system, so it’s out with the leather and in with the sweat pants and pajama bottoms. (I suppose I should sell that stuff on Ebay.)

“Refining” sexuality sounds similar to “purifying” one’s soul. Meanwhile there’s this other thing going on.

I have said the Daily Office twice a day now for almost ten years, and posted it online. I was in love with God at 20 and I’m certainly in love with God even more now.

I think the repetition, as well as aging, is what does it.

I’ve told people on my sites, “Daily Office, twice a day for 30 days, and you’re bound to get closer to God.” Pray twice a day in an organized, disciplined way, and you won’t be able to stay away from God – even if getting closer is the very thing that scares you. (We want to get close, but typically not too close. Getting noticeably close causes most people to panic and back away; sure did me for awhile.)

I think probably nuns and monks, and Wesley with his Method, got this right a long time ago, even though I’m not sure they fully grasped it or anyone can.

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

But here is what I’ve learned: the soul’s desire is union with God; reunion, from before all time, and communion, here and always.

The soul’s desire is that all of life is worship, no matter what we’re doing at the time.

We can’t just will this attitude in ourselves as if it’s a decision we can make. Try that and you’ll forget it completely in 15 minutes.

Instead it works like this. “7 a.m., time to get up for the webcast. 12 noon, time to post the next services. 12 midnight, time to post again.” And the same tomorrow and tomorrow, day after day, month and year until it’s a habit that becomes a way of life.

I can tell you for sure that if I am getting closer to God these days, and I am getting refined and purified, it isn’t any doing of mine. None, zero, at most I just cooperate. At most I’ve just let go of my fear. God is no one to be afraid of; you won’t lose your personality (what makes you human), you’ll gain it more than ever before.

So you won’t be able to stand some things you used to be into. You’ll click off “House of Cards” because it simply got too dark. (The British original was both more humorous and more disturbing; I don’t like disturbing anymore. I don’t want those people in my house.)

Maybe you’ll end up selling all your sexgear, I dunno. (I do know it is better to have started getting it when you were 20-30-40 than to have waited until you were 50-60 to finally let yourself be who you are.) Whatever happens as you age, you really can welcome it, assuming you got on the right path in the beginning.

What’s the right path? The one that commits to being human, to expecting that out of yourself. The one that doesn’t mind wandering away without feeling guilty. The one that’s authentic for you, so you can be authentic with others. This “right path” doesn’t prevent you from hurting, making mistakes, loving and losing; going through dreadful things sometimes. Jesus could have done without some of those wilderness times – but he wouldn’t have been himself if he hadn’t had them.

My life still isn’t all put together, and I doubt it ever will be. Still, I’m almost shockingly happy.

That “human spirit within” is the only way to go. And I pity the fool who doesn’t go there.++

Peak Spiritual Experience Isn’t Easy

dawn-28mfdrt

Yesterday’s Daily Office webcast was so enthralling I had to shut down for today; we may never reach those heights again.

It wasn’t my doing, but the music of Merbecke, Byrd & Tallis, the 3 Great Musicians. People even stayed 20 more minutes for the Vaughan Williams recital, they didn’t want to leave.

Yeah, I picked out the clips, so two bits for Josh… but having entered into that holy space, and knowing that I can’t reproduce it every day (wasn’t me, it was Mr. Big), I had to retire so we could get back to earth. I can’t further explain, but I had no spirit left.

Better to take the weekend off, and come back strong on Monday.

Terrible way to run a railroad, maybe, but I’m sure it’s right. We are not a bunch of cars on a fixed track, going here-there, here-there.

We hit the sun yesterday, and the only thing I know to do is to sit quietly this morning. The few who witnessed it I think will know why. They couldn’t stand it if we hit the sun again; they need some time to absorb it and just get back to normal. Have a piece of pie, pat the dog, get their bearings again.

We thought we saw God, and man, that isn’t easy. Don’t know what Moses went through after the Burning Bush, but in my world it’s major freakout time. Gather with friends, hold the puppy, allow it to happen – and go to work on Monday.++

Steve Grand Finds the Star Machine

Cute kid; better as a video than a song. Hits most of the buttons on the dial, including the flag and a big-ass Pontiac. But —-

If he’d ever learn to sexualize Gay guys instead of Straight ones, he might have something to sing about. Are we really this backward in 2013 that being honestly Gay is considered a noteworthy advance?

I wish him well. That brief flash of nudity was slightly courageous. But the story is 1953, and I’m not impressed that another one’s come out.

What we do after we’re out is what matters. As for the hide-bound country audience, who gives a damn.

The Point: the same things that make this performer desirable – handsome, muscled, talented, smart, nice and above all *male* – make other Gay men desirable too. So don’t throw yourself after the unlikely ones – in their rented Pontiacs, they mostly turn out to be jerks.++

Crop Rotation: My Hot Date with Orville Freeman

Orville Freeman in 1963.

He was about my speed in 1963.

When I was in 7th grade I took a mandatory course in agriculture at Morocco High School. My family lived in town, not on a farm, so I didn’t know a thing about the subject except what I picked up from visits to Grandma’s – where I mostly stayed in the house with her instead of out in the fields with Unca Deed. She owned about 200 acres in the same county, mostly planted in corn and soybeans; he also raised beef cattle and hogs, while she tended the henhouse. The two things I’d learned were that chickens don’t like you sticking your hand underneath them while they’re sitting on eggs (although you have to do it), and stay out of the “itch dirt” at all costs.

Hens get upset when they're trying to hatch babies but you come along and steal them. Plus I was always afraid of chickens; Grandma had a rooster once that attacked my brother at 5 years old; to this day he's got a scar on his cheek shaped like a chicken beak. (Vital Farms)

Hens get upset when they’re trying to hatch babies but you come along and steal them. Plus I was always afraid of chickens; Grandma had a rooster once that attacked my brother at 5 years old. To this day he’s got a scar on his cheek shaped like a chicken beak. (Vital Farms)

I was so good at reading the textbook in that class that I ended up winning the agriculture award that year, which was truly embarrassing considering that most of the pupils in the class (boys only in those days) were farm kids who already knew the difference between a bull and a steer, while I did not. So I asked, with no idea why hilarity ensued. Grinning, the teacher explained that steers had been “clamped.” That is, castrated; yuk yuk yuk.

When I was 15 and ready for driver’s training, I found out that all the farmboys (and half the girls) already knew how to drive – tractors, pickups, the family car. Not me – but in 7th grade I did know the name of the Secretary of Agriculture, which impressed the teacher quite a lot – and the farmboys not at all.

Thus I have never been a farmer, one dinky award or not, but I read all about about crop rotation; don’t keep planting the same crop in the same field year after year or you’ll wear out the soil.

Since then farmers have largely abandoned rotation, because corn is the big moneymaker, so they all practice monoculture now and repair the damage with chemical fertilizer instead – which runs off into streams when it rains, and winds up causing giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. When your world is as small as a farmer’s you don’t pay much attention to what happens a thousand miles away.

Mind you, I like farmers; I like the human culture where I’m from, but I still believe in crop rotation, especially when it comes to planting tomatoes in the garden. They’re a relative of nightshade, which is poisonous, and you shouldn’t keep sticking them in the same spot year after year.

Fruit of the silverleaf nightshade.

Fruit of the silverleaf nightshade; you can see the resemblance, but these guys are not good for man or beast.

This year I’m experimenting with growing tomatoes in containers on my deck – full size fruits, I hope, not those tasteless cherry tomatoes. I’m a little worried about whether this will work out; the vines can grow very large, so you’d think you’d need very big pots, but I only have one. So I did the best I could and we’ll see; I’ll learn something, and that’s half the fun of gardening (and half the frustration).

Is this a big enough pot for a tomato?

Is this a big enough pot for a tomato?

Meanwhile, what to do with that space in the back garden? Planting was late this year; spring has been cold and wet. But now, a month late, everything is in the ground or the pots, and all I have to do is weed and water. I actually like weeding; it’s something physical and mindless to do outdoors, so I don’t live in my head all the time.

All I have in the back are strawberries, a couple of rows of onions, and some flowers, marigolds and petunias. They don’t really fill up the space. I tried to buy some gladiolus bulbs, but Murphy’s isn’t selling them this year, so most of my ground will lie fallow. That’s good for the soil too; it doesn’t have to work every year, so let it rest, like in Bible times.

Strawberries mostly, with some petunias, marigolds and onions just starting.

Strawberries mostly.

Now about my big disaster last year: try to picture a Gay 7th grader who was all thumbs (none of them green), lived in town and didn’t know nothin’ about farming or gardening, because that kid is still me. I got very bold with my experiments last year. Previous experience had taught me that rabbits are the bane of my existence. We’ve got tons of them around here, 4-H projects gone awry maybe; smalltown rabbits love smalltown gardens. Two years ago I tried to grow green leafy vegetables and the rabbits got ’em; I would take Elmer Fudd’s shotgun to them if I could. Last year I mustered all my courage and built a fence, using bamboo sticks, plastic chicken wire and twist-ties. Afterward I felt so butch – so I checked it again the next morning and it was still up!

Take that, you wascally wabbits.

Ready at the rabbit hole.

Ready at the rabbit hole.

Well, my fence lasted a week or two, then one day I came home from Murphy’s to find a young guy and gal messing with my plastic fence, looking all concerned. I parked, investigated and found out what their problem was – a baby rabbit got caught in the fence and was now dangling by a leg.

Personally I’d have left him there as an example to all the other critters. But it was obvious that the girl was all worried about the poor widdle wabbit, which was hopelessly stuck, and the boyfriend couldn’t figure out what to do but for damn sure didn’t want his girlfriend upset. So I sighed and got the scissors and cut a hole in my handmade fence, thus inviting every rabbit in the county to free admission.

I couldn’t have cared less about the girl, and you already know my attitude about rabbits, so I guess I ruined my fence for the guy’s sake. Then a drought came, and what didn’t get eaten by the bunnies withered on the vine, while I swore off building any more damn fences.

I have no mechanical ability whatever. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s simply a fact of life; the same gene that turns on a Gay guy’s verbal ability turns off the switch on his motor skills.

So it’s time for some crop rotation. If I can grow tomatoes and peppers in pots on the deck, where rabbits seldom venture, maybe I’ll fill up my vegetable garden with perennials and tell the rabbits to kiss my grits.

***

Last year I didn’t get cherries because of a late frost after the trees had bloomed. The year before that birds came and ate all my cherries, because I didn’t pick them the very day they ripened. This year they’re back and starting to turn, but they’re not quite ready yet. So I will stay vigilant, with my ladder, plastic bag and maybe a stick or two of dynamite.

Almost ripe.

Almost ripe.

Elmer Fudd was right. When you live in the country it’s all about the shotgun, baby, whatever works, so you can eat.++

Luke would chase the rabbits if I'd let him - he caught a baby one last year and ate half of it - but he's too little to be left alone unsupervised.

Luke would chase the rabbits if I’d let him – he caught a baby one last year and ate half of it – but at night when the critters come out, he likes to snooze in his bed. A workin’ dog he ain’t. (He’s pure entertainment instead.)

Rutgers Tape Shows the Violence, Homophobia & Moral Corruption of Bigtime Sports

UPDATE: Rutgers University fired Coach Mike Rice Wednesday morning; this post was written Tuesday night. The focus of public anger now turns to the athletic director, who was informed of the allegations back in July, took no action until the videos were handed over in November, and finally suspended the coach for three games without pay.

This is the same school where Tyler Clementi took his life after his roommate secretly live-streamed video of him kissing a man in their dorm room, provoking a national outcry about bullying.

I grew up Gay in a somewhat athletic family. I’m not very talented physically, but I’ve participated in most of the sports American boys are taught – and I kept playing for decades after my more athletic brothers quit, especially once I found something I was good at: distance running and other highly aerobic activities. One of the highlights of my life was rafting down the Arkansas River years ago from Salida, Colorado to Canon City. It’s dramatic, risky, exciting, a wonderful physical challenge (“Churn churn churn, paddle paddle, front, back, reverse reverse, look out for that hole! OMG we’re gonna slam into those rocks!”), all while surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. It was like having fantastic sex for six hours straight!

white-water-rafting

I’ve been a sports fan all my life – until the last couple of years, because now I see how money has corrupted elite athletics.

The excitement of physical competition is completely real, for the athletes and the fans. Combine the physical genius of highly skilled players with the shrewd strategies of gifted coaches and you’ve got quite a show indeed. But what we don’t see is far more important than what we do.

Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah. He was willing to win at all costs - including risking the health of his teammates.

Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah. He was willing to win at all costs – including risking the health of his teammates.

It isn’t just Lance Armstrong doping, and coercing all his teammates to do the same; it isn’t just NBA and FISA officials throwing games so the most lucrative teams win. It’s more than just the politics of the Olympics, with all their bribes and intrigues; it isn’t just the NCAA’s exploitation of “student-athletes” at major colleges.

It’s us. The fans. We’re the people who fund these organized criminal enterprises owned by billionaires, often at taxpayers’ expense. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the “500,” just persuaded the Indiana Legislature to divert tens of millions of dollars in property taxes to their private business. “Look at all we do for the city,” they say. “Look at all the tourists we bring in. You did the same thing for the Pacers and the Colts.” Who can argue? Not local hack politicians who did indeed build new arenas for the football and basketball teams, both owned by billionaires.

Now comes Mike Rice, the head basketball coach at Rutgers University (which is soon to join my beloved Big Ten Conference) in a big new scandal. Videotapes of his practices show him systematically abusing his players, physically and verbally.

ESPN and the newspapers describe Rice as using “homophobic slurs” and “throwing basketballs at his players’ heads from point-blank range.” But it wasn’t their heads he usually aimed at. He gives new meaning to the term “crotch rocket,” as in “incoming.”

Who can be shocked that a coach calls his players fairy, cocksucker and faggot? Bobby Knight did that at Indiana for decades, where he’s still revered for two national championships despite his criminal record. Verbal abuse is the stock in trade of many coaches, including high schools, middle schools and Little League, so who’s kidding whom?

Rice’s misogyny, his contempt for women by calling his players cunts, bothers me more. No wonder so many players get in trouble for rape, domestic violence and other crimes.

As professional and Olympic sports (which are also professional) scandals mounted over the years, I turned my attention more and more away from the pros to the college level. I come from a long line of Purdue University graduates; it’s a school we’re very proud of. A century and more ago, the president of Purdue created the Big Ten Conference as the first successful attempt to police college sports, which were headed down the corrupt path. Purdue’s athletic teams have been largely scandal-free since then (unlike those at hated rival Indiana, among many other schools), and the kids who play at Purdue go to class, usually graduate and are successful. They don’t all take basket-weaving, either; I know several who took extremely challenging classes in engineering, pharmacy, math, history and other fields.

But it’s become increasingly clear that Purdue has sacrificed a good part of its educational mission, especially since the creation a few years ago of the Big Ten television network, which makes so much money that it’s caused conference realignment nationwide, as other leagues try to duplicate what BTN is doing.

Rutgers is now joining the Big Ten (which is growing to 14), mostly to get BTN into the New York market. The conference has always been prominent in Chicago and the Midwest; all but one school, Northwestern, are publicly-owned. Now instead of concentrating on its historic Great Lakes territory, the Big Ten extends from the Atlantic to Nebraska – and would go to the Pacific if the money were right.

But the conferences are now, and long have been, subordinate to the NCAA, which The New York Times columnist Joe Nocera calls a “cartel.” The NCAA has a Congressional exemption from monopoly laws while raking in billions of TV dollars.

Need a sports fix? The NCAA has an app for that.

Need a sports fix? The NCAA has an app for that.

Nocera and other journalists are dedicated to showing that the NCAA is completely ruthless at exploiting athletes. They’re essentially slave labor. They get scholarships – unless they get hurt, in which case they’re often on their own, with no way to pay the medical bills from all those concussions and broken bones. Schools just toss those kids away. If they’re poor and Black, they don’t stand a chance.

But because all this is done in the name of “education” and “not-for-profit,” most fans just look the other way and enjoy the show.

It’s maddening to me to go on Facebook and see all the Episcopal clergy I know touting their favorite teams, which they do constantly, without any acknowledgment of the labor issues, the health consequences, the sexism and racism and homophobia that are built into the Big Sports Machine. I mean, world-class football will kill ya – but they’re all glued to their TV screens and texting on Twitter and Facebook.

There’s going to be a reckoning someday. I believe the entire sports edifice will come crashing down in a worldwide spasm of disgust, because the whole thing’s based on human exploitation. People who get outraged by sweatshops in China or sexual slavery in Thailand and Russia will not be able to escape knowing they provide the market for these products.

And no feel-good features on TV, like how that Notre Dame player kept going despite the death of his phony girlfriend (and Grandma on the same day!) will be able to overcome the revulsion, or the knowledge that we all participated in this.

So what if there’s an openly-Gay baseball player someday? That’s bound to happen. Reforms on the periphery are not going to cure what ails sports.

They’re violent. They kill people. They’re racist and sexist and homophobic. They use slave labor in college. They bribe their way to success.

It’s all just a TV show – but the fix is in and always has been.

You’re paying for it, sucker. Why worry about global warming when it’s baseball’s Opening Day?++

Jeter-3000-Poster-REV

Becoming Jeremiah

Jeremiah in his loincloth. (artist unknown)

The prophet in his loincloth. (artist unknown)

One of the pleasures of Lent this year for me is re-viewing the prophet Jeremiah (c. 627-c. 586 B.C.), whose big theme was the destruction of ancient Judah and the Babylonian captivity. He can see it coming, so he warns about it.

Now I don’t know if you have an image of Jeremiah in your mind, but if you do it’s probably like the old man above, with a sour attitude; a male Cassandra, doomed never to be believed until it’s too late. Modern prophets of doom – global warming, anyone? – are often said to issue “jeremiads.” But the prophet’s actual writings are richer than that; here’s a snippet appointed for tomorrow’s Morning Prayer.

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages;
who says, “I will build myself a spacious house
with large upper rooms,”
and who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar,
and painting it with vermilion.
Are you a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
says the LORD.
But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

(Jer. 22:13-17, NRSV)

And I thought, “What a perfect description of slavery in the American South. I wonder how the slaveholders managed to ignore that?”

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages…
But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

Of course, we know how slaveholders managed to ignore that; they fastened on St. Paul’s many times of telling slaves to mind their place – heedless that what Paul actually said was “We are all slaves of something; those who believe in Christ are the joyful slaves of God.”

Racists’ “fastening on St. Paul” is a lot like homophobes’ fastening on him for their proof-texts. As LGBTs we’re all too familiar with this. First they’ll hit us with Leviticus, and when that stops working, since it’s in the Old/Hebrew Testament, they’ll start quoting St. Paul.

I never bother with Bible-quote arguments against homosexuality anymore. They bore me and I’m just too old for them; same shit, different day.

Instead I focus on the prophets – not in their future-telling ability, which is really a minor part of what prophecy’s about, but in the nature of their complaints. What exactly set them off?

There are two answers really; unrighteousness, which is worshiping the wrong god (especially money); and injustice toward fellow human beings.

But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

Those four simple lines, which are over 2500 years old, are the perfect indictment for Dick Cheney, the war in Iraq, Wall Street bankers, the new Pope, income inequality, corporate greed, the Republican Party, the NRA, the National Organization for Marriage, the Tea Party, Anglican schism – and even my next-door neighbor, the one who still flies his flag at half-staff because Barack Obama got re-elected. Or so it seems to me.

I don’t have to watch MSNBC to know what to think about the news; all I have to do is read my Bible.

The prophets were always pissed about Israel’s treatment of the poor! It was also Christ’s constant theme.

Recently my friends at the Polish Episcopal Network posted an icon that summarizes in a single image the heart of the message of Christ.

(unknown)

Give drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison; provide the dignity of clothing to those who have nothing. (artist unknown)

This Polish Network, run by my friends Jarek and Lukasz, are trying to establish a progressive Christian alternative in that very Catholic country, where the national hero Lech Walesa recently denounced Gay people again. There are a couple of new Gay and Lesbian members of the Polish Parliament, and Walesa said they should be seated “behind a wall,” not with the other members. (In response they occupied the front benches instead.) As you can imagine, it’s rough going, but the progressive network has an elderly priest who celebrates mass for them, and the backing and guidance of the American bishop in Paris, Pierre Whalon. Jarek and Lukasz say there is a real desire among younger Poles for a church that is catholic but not Roman. It isn’t feasible to found a church yet – people are scattered all over the country – but they have founded their network. Who is behind this new evangelism? A couple of Gay guys whose very humanity Walesa tries to deny.

Now here’s some news: I am making plans for a pilgrimage in a few months to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where a priest-friend, Margaret Watson, runs an Episcopal mission of nine churches. The People are desperately poor, and yet their faith is so real you can touch it.

YouthWorks volunteers helped reopen St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Dupree, South Dakota, last summer.

YouthWorks volunteers helped reopen St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Dupree, South Dakota, last summer on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Because I am that rarest of Episcopalians, a commissioned Evangelist, Margaret and I are thinking I might be able to help a little with lay ministry training. One priest can’t possibly cover nine churches; the funerals alone keep her racing around, much less regular Sunday services. Fortunately the People have a tradition of mutual lay ministry, and the Bishop and diocese support them in that.

But I won’t be going as an outside expert. I am completely ignorant of their culture and their ways. I know only one thing about them, which is that my first great mentor in the faith, the Evangelist Ervin Faulkenberry, was totally in love with the Lakota Sioux. Every couple of years he used to travel to their big annual pow-wow, called the Niobrara Convocation, where Episcopalians from all the tribes in the state gather for a weeklong reunion.

The summer before I went to seminary at 22, he took the youth groups from Lafayette and Plainfield, Indiana to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Badlands. They helped build a church there, but I didn’t get to go; I had to work and earn tuition money. Years later his daughter Pam sent me a photo of them from August 1973; her mother Emily is in the foreground, Ervin is in the center in the blue shirt, while the kids were working like dogs and sweating like pigs.

Faulkenberry.Mission_SD_1973

Yet I do know the People to some slight degree, through him, through Margaret and her blog, and a general knowledge of Native American history. The Pine Ridge Reservation is the home of Wounded Knee. Sitting Bull was killed there in 1890; Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement led a siege there from February to May 1973. You can read about it here. Fortunately it was over by the time the Faulkenberrys got there.

Why, 40 years later, are the People still so poor? They really have almost nothing – except alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide, diabetes, heart disease and hunger. Meanwhile South Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country thanks to a boom in shale oil and gas. The state government is swimming in so much cash they can’t get rid of it – but they won’t pave any roads on the reservations or build a decent hospital.

Maybe you noticed that two weeks ago, Congress finally got around to passing the Violence Against Women Act, after a year’s worth of Republican objections over two new provisions: it covers LGBT victims of domestic violence now, and for the first time it provides that White men who commit domestic violence on the reservation can face justice in tribal courts.

Oh, the Republicans howled. Protecting Lesbian and Gay victims means approving same-sex relationships! And White men can’t get justice in Indian courts, Indians don’t know anything about justice under law!

But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

The reservations exist because White men stole the Indians’ land. And nothing has changed since then. That’s why all the young people get drunk; they have no other life.

And yet they do; Margaret loves her ministry, and Ervin loved his. When I go this summer, it will be to retrace his steps, to learn a little about what the faithful remnant have to teach.

I’m scared, but I’m also looking forward to it.

Now this part is difficult for me; for reasons I don’t understand, I identify with Jeremiah and the prophets. In some very minor way I am like them. Jeremiah couldn’t help himself; God called, he answered and it was all downhill from there. He somehow had the balls to tell the people of Judah they were wrong.

They didn’t listen. For the most part we don’t either; climate change, anyone?

Rachel Jones wrote about prophets recently:

Their job isn’t to tell the future in stunning detail or stark relief. Their job is to tell us what they see, what they understand; it’s not to explain things. How few of them, sacred and secular, have really understood the profound underpinnings of what they’ve been charged to share? But even in the face of the naked acknowledgment that there is always a lack of total understanding, each prophet eventually succumbs to the compulsion to speak their piece, because they have to; even if it’s imperfect in practice, the true and right message transcends the messenger. And that makes them difficult people to know, much less to be; they are constantly being spoken through, without ever really speaking.  They are serious people, most of the time, even in moments of joy and refreshment.

Am I one of those prophets? Are my friends Leonardo and Grandmère Mimi? In a small way, yes. All of us “eventually succumb to the compulsion to speak our piece, because we have to.”

I am a disciple of Ervin Faulkenberry, who was a disciple of Martin Luther King Sr., the father of a genuine prophet.

More than that, LGBTs as a group, a community, are and have been prophets. The whole reason for saying and doing what we do is not to save ourselves, but to spare others if we can. It’s a tribe I’m proud to belong to.

But I also know this: no matter how much we draw connections between one oppressed group and another, no matter how much we can read tomorrow’s headlines in yesterday’s Bible, the in-our-lifetimes, in-this-decade success of the Gay civil rights movement has come about primarily because it’s White, male and middle-class. To really understand powerlessness and therefore overcome it, we have to go and learn from people who don’t have a thing but faith.

Liberation doesn’t trickle down, it bubbles up. Pray for me if you can, that I’ll learn something from my reservation pilgrimage. What I don’t know is a lot more than what I do.

If I can be faithful while having nothing like the Lakotas – if I can feed the hungry like they do, with two loaves and some fishes – if I can figure out how Margaret manages to serve nine churches in the middle of nowhere – then finally some wisdom may begin. I don’t have any today, but I do know where to go to find it.

When I ran photos Margaret took of the weekday lunch program at St. John’s, Eagle Butte, on my prayer site, the people scoffed, “Why’d he do that? This is just what we do.”

When they’re not finding White people dangerous, they often find us silly. And that’s the key somehow. They don’t want to go to Williston, where the oil and gas jobs are. They don’t want to join the rat race in any way. They want to stay where they are, among their own. Despite all their suffering, and it’s severe, they don’t want to suffer like we do.

Like a person who won’t touch a favorite food of yours, some people just don’t know what’s good, so there’s no helping them.

I’ll go to South Dakota as a pilgrim, and when I get back home I’ll either be better at being me, or much much worse. I’m looking forward to it.

And the conservatives I somehow attract to my prayer site, despite a steady stream of facts from the reality-based community? Let ’em how at the moon, I don’t care.++

Tim_Egan