Friday, May 15, 2015

how much to talk about *that* from the pulpit

to talk about lgbt, or not to talk about lgbt. priest with daisy. cartoon by rob g

A friend of mine told me that he sometimes debates about how much to talk about lgbt matters from the pulpit, or if it is just better to talk about love and inclusion in general.

Here are some thoughts I have in response to that question:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice... (Desmond Tutu)First, there are times when for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of those whom God has made, it is necessary to take a stand and to speak up. This is especially the case when men, women and children who are made by God and loved by Him are being treated unjustly or as less than human. That doesn't mean that this is always the time or the topic; just that there are times and topics that one must speak about. It does mean that trying to be "neutral" helps the oppressor, not the victim, and in the Bible we regularly see God on the side of the victim.

See related post on this blog.

Secondly, in talking about Jesus and his interaction with others, I think it is easy for those of us who are western Christians to be generally pleased with all of that, but none of it threatens our comfort zone, the status quo today, or the privileged status of the many of us who are privileged. The things that the religious people of Jesus' day hated -- him spending time with Samaritans, women, lepers, prostitutes, and so on. -- are not relevant to us. Samaritans seem like another denomination, lepers are few and far away, etc. Somehow one needs to help people see the connection between Jesus and the marginalized persons of his day, and us and the marginalized persons of our time (the people that typically are despised and hated by the religious today).

Third, especially in congregations where the parishioners are privileged, I would consider: how do I help us as a body, see the greater body that we are part of, and the systemic injustice that is around us which is affecting my brothers and sisters  (even if it is not affecting me in obvious or direct ways), Are we part of the community of creation, or a little religious club?

Fourthly, I would speak up and acknowledge our brothers and sisters. It is critical to break the silence and to stop the violence of dehumanizing and subhumanizing others. No more pretending that some do not exist. No more shaming. No more contributing to shame by refusing to acknowledge men, women and children whom God has made and whom He dearly loves. No more obliging people to hide, lie or "fit in" to be accepted and loved.

I remember being at a somewhat volatile church meeting which was discussing a decision (at a regional denominational level) to allow same-sex blessings. I stood up and in my comments, I referred to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. And at the moment of saying these words, the thought came into my mind: no one has ever said this phrase aloud before in this congregation...

And that's a reason to speak about LGBT people -- not LGBT issues but PEOPLE -- from the pulpit. To acknowledge their existence and humanity.

Fifth, understand that as local congregations, we need our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm going to say that again. The local church that you and I participate in, needs our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. Without them, we are incomplete. The body of Christ is all of God's children. We can't pick and choose who is in and who is out. Jesus showed us this by his life of embrace, and by giving his life for all. The eye cannot say to the hand, I don't need you. Similarly, straight followers of Jesus cannot say to followers who are LGBT, we don't need you. And if we are ashamed of them, then we need to treat them with even more honour.

Sixth, people don't know where you stand unless you say. If they themselves are lgbtqi, they won't know if they are welcome. They won't know if they are, to use Jeff Chu's words, "desperately and fiercely wanted". Or if it would be better to just leave now and find a better place to be part of. Those who have lgbtqi friends and relatives won't know if they can bring their friend or loved one to church, or if they can speak with you about their life together. Some will not know and others will assume wrongly, and both of these can be barriers to personal growth and community. This can also result in deadly consequences when someone who might have turned to a friend, family member of pastor for help doesn't because they do not know if they will be embraced or rejected.

What are your thoughts on this? What else should be on this list? I'd love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

[i come with joy]

The hymn sung during the Eucharist this past Sunday reminded me of my recent posts about moral circles, and about how the Eucharist is the great leveler:

I Come with Joy

I come with joy, a child of God,
forgiven, loved, and free,
the life of Jesus to recall,
in love laid down for me.

I come with Christians far and near
to find, as all are fed,
the new community of love
in Christ's communion bread.

As Christ breaks bread and bids us share,
each proud division ends,
The love that made us makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.

The spirit of the risen Christ,
unseen but ever near,
is in such friendship better known,
alive among us here.

Together met, together bound,
by all that God has done,
we'll go with joy, to give the world
the love that makes us one.

Text: Brian Wren (1936 - ), © 1971, 1995 Hope Publishing Co.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

jesus goes to church

jesus goes to church. cartoon by rob g

Jesus tries to go to church and, instead, gets directions to the least of these. How perfect is that!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

jesus' early math education

Ever hear a sermon about Jesus doing math? Probably not. Here a rabbi gives the young Jesus a key lesson:

jesus wants to do math his way, but is warned by his teacher. cartoon by robg

Thursday, April 30, 2015

[see me: picturing new york's homeless youth]

portraits of homeless youth by Alex Fradkin, from See Me book.

"For the Reciprocity Foundation’s 10-year anniversary, Tagore [co-founder of Reciprocity] teamed up with award-winning photographer Alex Fradkin to challenge common perceptions of homeless youth — by giving these young people the power to portray themselves on their own terms."

The result is an exhibition and a full colour book See Me: Picturing New York City’s Homeless Youth.

Check out more portraits at the See Me book website.

Read the buzzfeed article.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

[stop using the words of MLK as a weapon...]

Austin Channing, responding to people who are using Martin Luther King's words about non-violence, to speak against the rioting in places like Baltimore, and who in the process miss the bigger picture and the reality of the lives of black people:

Austin Channing on folks using the words of Martin Luther King as a weapon. 2015-04-29

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

homeless =

I was looking for alternative words for "homeless person" the other day, and one of the top Google results brought me directly to this: - homeless person - negative connotations - snip

How's that for bias and for perpetuating negative views of people who do not have permanent housing?

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness / the Homeless Hub has a much more helpful typology of homelessness which understands the range of what homelessness can look like.

If you're interested, here's a link to the page at

Friday, April 24, 2015

[an example of the eucharist as the great leveler]

Even when people line up for the Eucharist instead of it taking place around a table, the Eucharist can expand our moral circles.

Here's an example where what was happening up front, impacted one of the parishioners still in the pew:

Read Rachel Held Evans' commentary related to the Eucharist and this video.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

the eucharist as the great leveler

richard beck preaching about the last supper. words paraphrased from Unclean p. 114. cartoon by rob g

When was the last time you heard that from the pulpit? And what kind of response do you think such a statement would get?

In his book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, Richard Beck says:
...the Last Supper is a profoundly deep and powerful psychological intervention.
The Last Supper becomes a profoundly subversive political event in the lives of the participants. The sacrament brings real people - divided in the larger world - into a sweaty, intimate, flesh-and-blood embrace where "there shall be no difference between them and the rest."
(p. 114)

Beck also talks about the Eucharist as the great leveler.

Monday, April 20, 2015

subvert the moral circle!

If you have not seen my previous post about moral circles, read this first and then this.

boundary diagrams: backyard, walled city, moral circle. by robg

The concept of the moral circle makes for a great diagram, and can be thought of as "going around me and my family," kind of like a fence around your backyard with you and your family happily inside it, and those who are "not family" (like strangers and stray dogs) kept outside. Kind of like the walls that used to encircle towns and cities in medieval times.

Jesus subverts the boundary-oriented moral circle...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

on the 7,665,716,806th day...

god created you beautiful! cartoon by robg

Do you think that the last time God looked at what he made and said it was "very good" was the sixth day of creation?

Not a chance. When he created you, he said, "Very good!" "Beautiful!" "Wow, will you look at that!"