Anarchic Feminism
The state has no interest in granting women the right to equal pay, unchallenged reproductive autonomy, self-determination, freedom from objectification, or true judicial recourse as a result of sexual assault. As long as the state privileges capitalism, it privileges the market’s right to determine that some workers are worth less than others. Suppressing the wages of all who slave for the profit of the few. And women are the key to patriarchy’s reproduction of the system in subsequent generations.
Statism and capitalism protect the rights of those who hold capital to raise up workers within a framework of patriarchal privilege; the suppression of women as child-rearing folk who raise obedient children to do as they’re told, so that they may be obedient wage workers when the time comes. So it will do and has done everything it can to discourage women in the workplace by privileging men in wage and advancement. And to discourage them in other arenas both public and private so that they may be subservient to the aims of the system.
The state freely exercises the right to curtail women’s health choices (not surprisingly all forms of reproductive health before and after pregnancy), because women are the means to producing wage slaves. And poor women in particular are increasingly coerced under threat of penalty or punishment to relinquish their rights to reproductive health, because the poor will raise up more workers who expect less. This is a contributing factor to racial issues in state-capitalism, because people of color provide a convenient and historically viable population to disenfranchise due to the history of slavery, because they – as minority population – have already been devalued as human beings. 
Women will be objectified by capitalists – via media, entertainment, and policy – objectifying them at every turn so that women themselves remain demoralized, and the culture at large is suspicious of them when they exercise autonomy and self-determination. Capitalism controls the views of what women may aspire to; ideals of beauty that perpetuate objectification; and diminished expectations about how high they might aspire to power in the public sphere or even in their own homes. Because capitalists own the means of distributing these messages, these images and the very outlets for societal expectations about women and what they may achieve, women are disadvantaged by the system itself.
This is why, increasingly, we hear conservatives question what “legitimate” rape is, why courts seem increasingly likely to issue diminished sentences to folks like Brock Turner, valuing male potential over women’s actual experience of being sexually assaulted. It’s why the Trumps of the world may malign or mistreat women with impunity, and the media portrays it as entertaining, even in its “shock” value. Sadly, it isn’t shocking to women who experience it daily. This is why after nearly 100 years of suffrage women still vie for their God-given rights as individuals to determine their value independently of a system that undermines it at every turn.
This is where rape culture originates. It comes from state-driven capitalism, where patriarchal culture and the profit motive assign relative value to who is able to produce and who is ripe to consume. And women – as the “producers” of succeeding generations of wage-slaves – are expected to indoctrinate their children with the values of obedience, subjugation to authority, and consumption. Women are vessels, in this world view; and the state – fully vested in the interests of capitalists and protector of their profits – will ultimately try to undo a hundred years of women’s progress for the sake of protecting the “masters” of the economy by ensuring these “vessels” serve their purpose, don’t overstep their bounds, and don’t – via self-determination – decide their desires lay elsewhere. Their humanity is diminished deliberately for the sake of profit.
The assault on sexual minorities is about the sacrosanct framework of a patriarchal, state-supported, capitalist economy that is uncertain how to handle people who defy the prescribed roles of men and women in this system. Transphobic terror is based in fear of the autonomy of the individual to break these bonds. Just ask any FTM trans-person who has benefited from male privilege in ways large or seemingly small (I have.), or the FTM trans-person who is told that sex work (objectification) is their only recourse to financial independence (I have.), whether they choose it for themselves as an autonomous and freely chosen profession, or not. 
Capitalism values the exaltation of the male who is “destined” to create capital, and only the female inasmuch as “she” creates (reproduces) consumers or low-wage workers and is consistently led to believe she can’t be more than objects for the pleasure of the male psyche, or outlets for their dominance. Ask why birth control and abortion are so rigorously targeted by conservatives. Or why, in light of recent polls, conservatives even speak in back channels about repealing the 19th amendment!
In this capitalist model, we are only worth what we “produce” or what we “consume.” And it is fully supported by the state, created to advance these aims. As long as the state stands, as long as the capitalist model exists, women will never have autonomy. This is what I rail against.



O Brother, where art thou?

One of the Principles of the Gregorian Way is that religious communities are schools of holiness. This isn’t to say that every one who comes to walk the way of Gregorian religious life (or any other form of religious life for that matter) becomes holy. But, it is an affirmation that holiness is possible, and that religious life is well suited to lead people in that direction. No one embodied this truth more so than Brother Ron Fender, who died unexpectedly on Friday after having left our Winter Convocation together in upstate New York. He was simply one of the holiest people I have ever met. And now he has gone to his eternal reward.

Ron was a walking example of the kind of transformation made possible by the Love of God. He knew so deeply that he was loved that he never considered not loving in return. And that he did…for every soul he met. He loved them. And he had a particular love for those who live on the margins of our society, in the darkest places, in the dangerous places. He loved them with a sacrificial love that caused him to spend his life and efforts caring for their most basic needs. 

Ron was one of my dearest friends in the Brotherhood. We shared some deeply holy moments together. He made me laugh, and sing, and he visited me in San Francisco where we visited together the holiest place in the world for him…City Lights Bookstore. He loved Jack Kerouac, and Ginsberg, and when we arrived I remember we dropped to our knees and he kissed the ground of that place where the Beat Generation gave him his voice and sense of adventure.

Ron spent himself to care for others. His poor health belied the joy of his spirit and his self-sacrifice. He would do anything within his means for you if he felt that it would make you know of God’s love for you. But the toll on his personal health was unmistakable. He was a mere 61 years old when his heart gave out. This is the truth of some holy women and men…they know how better to care for others than their own selves. And Ron did that in spades.

I was blessed to have been present when Ron was interviewed to join our beloved Brotherhood. I was there at all of the pivotal moments of his time with us…when he was clothed as a novice, when he made his first profession, and when he took life vows. I had the chance to sing at his first profession, and it was apparently a moment that he treasured. He treasured it so much, in fact, that over the years he asked me time and again to reprise my performance. I always politely begged off. For some reason, this past retreat together, I said yes and performed the piece one last time. Ron sat quietly and wept while I sang. I had no idea he would be gone two days later. I thank God that contrary to my fears and anxieties, I managed to find the strength of voice to sing it for him one last time. I nearly didn’t. I can’t imagine the regret I would have felt had I not.

My Brother Ron was a Saint. That is not a word I toss around lightly, even though I know that we are all numbered among the saints of God in some way or another. But Ron was a capital-S Saint, the kind that few of us are rarely privileged to know in person. The kind of Saint whose work and witness in Christ is so immeasurably large, so deep, and so transformative in the lives of others that you can barely wrap your head around it. Ron knew he was loved by God, and he spent his last years of life receiving it, turning it around, and magnifying it for the world he inhabited that you couldn’t help but know and trust that Gd’s love was truly present. What a rare gift. For us. For him. 

But Ron wasn’t a Saint of the plaster statue variety. He was a Saint of the down and dirty and tired variety. The kind who gave you hope that one day you might also be capable of being truly holy. He made you want to be better. He made us all want to be head over heels in love with God. And his fortitude for the hard work of Kingdom life made us all envious and aware of our own blessed limitations. 

Life in religious community is a school for holiness. It is there that we are fully allowed to bring our authentic selves, to receive love joyfully, and to return it. It is not like other families we are a part of, or other organizations we may join. It is different. It is a place where we let go and lay ourselves bare to the love of God and take the risk that it will break us open, make us vulnerable, destroy our selfishness, and fill us with gratitude so that we can be free to love others as God does. Ron epitomized this transformation. It does not make us super-human. Rather, it makes us beautifully, deeply, rawly human in such a way that we become fully alive. 

There was no one more alive than Ron. My beloved Brother. And in his life and in his death, he is still teaching me what it means to be alive. And I will never forget him for teaching me this. As he joins with our other brothers who have entered the heavenly choir, I have no doubt that Brother Ron Fender will still teach me what it means to love. And so, even while I grieve his loss, my heart is full.

Rest eternal, beloved friend and brother. One sweet day, we will meet again. And oh, how we’ll dance in the light of God together. 

Marian Retreat: Day 31

Marian Retreat: Day 31

As many of you know, I have devoted the last 30+ days to retreat, reflection, examination and prayer as I prepare to make a total consecration of myself to Jesus through Mary, his Holy Mother. In a few short days, I will undertake to give myself to Mary in an act of consecration, so that she may help me be more devoted to Christ. The following is an incomplete list of those things I have ever more completely dedicated myself to as fundamental to my journey in faith:

That Love is the first principle of the entire Cosmos. It is the creative and life-giving energy of God. And is revealed in the Divine Life of the Trinity.

That there is absolutely no violence in God, and any revelation we have of God’s work in human history in the person and life of Jesus Christ must be interpreted or re-interpreted in light of this fundamental non-violence. This means the atonement, judgment, sin, and our expectations of the coming of Christ at the end of history.

That the Reign of God, both present and yet to come, is characterized by the unity of every living being with God and with every other creature – indeed with the entire Cosmos – in the love, peace, and utter non-violence. Where no one is cast out, excluded or diminished. That the Reign of God is characterized also by a complete lack of power or privilege exercised by one person over another for any reason.

That the Blessed Virgin Mary is the highest reflection of human agency in the work of bringing the Divine Life into being in human history through the power of the Spirit. She is the highest example of “assent.” Not mere “consent” suggesting the giving of permission, but of “assent” implying agreement.

That as the Godhead is utterly and completely non-violent, God will not coerce, bribe, threaten, or withhold grace – but relies on our assent to accomplish the Divine Will, which is the Reign of God. God does not shove Love down an unwilling throat.

That the Incarnation is our invitation into full relationship with the Divine; the revelation of God with us and in us that constantly orients us towards Love, Union, and Selflessness. And that Mary is the perfect embodiment of these things, having given her very flesh over to bear the Word of God into the world.

That in the sacrament of Baptism, God fully gave God’s own self to us, and has gifted us with both the agency and the grace to accomplish a life transformed; to be freed from the powers of this world that destroy; and to be filled with the Spirit of Love so that we may be free to seek peace without fear or violence, loving every person as ourselves.

That Mary, being the only singularly human person who never failed to do what God desires, has taken us as her children at Christ’s urging from the Cross, “Behold, your Mother…Woman, behold your son.” And as such, she – in full assent to the work of her spouse, the Holy Spirit – is committed to lending us her grace and strength to conform ourselves more deeply to the non-violent, self-giving, and boundless love of God, so that Christ may be Incarnate over and again throughout the Cosmos. In us. In all. And she does so for the love of her Son.

That no power in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God in Christ, but that Mary, indeed, is the one who can bring us closer, should we desire, to being what God intends for us. Because she is, alone among human beings, intimate with God as Daughter, Mother, and Spouse and desires nothing more than our own intimacy with God as children of peace. Mary always turns our gaze to her Son.

That in giving myself over into Mary’s care and protection, she will guide me always to her Son. That she is my Mother. That God is my Father. That Christ is my Brother. The the Holy Spirit is my heart’s Desire. And that this model of self-giving love is the surest way to lay aside all fear in order to live fully into the love of God as the first principle, and the Kingdom where there is no longer any violence, but only the peace which passes all understanding.

That in making my consecration, I pledge to being ever more committed to the principles of love, non-violence, unity among peoples, justice and an end to oppression, the relinquishment of my own desire for power over others, and the determination that no one rules over my own life but God. That the only principles to which I owe my faithfulness are those taught by Christ. That there is no nation to which I declare allegiance but the Kingdom of God. And that I trust the Blessed Mother to be an unfailing custodian of my prayers, gifts, and actions so that, by her grace, they may be favorably disposed of to the Glory of God alone.

Pray for me as I prepare these last few days. As I pray for you that you may be inspired to work for peace.


Hail Mary

MY DEATH is on the page, is in the book,

is on the shelf, is in the house, a tale –

ribbon marked in red by father’s calloused hands

freshly from the plow, a virgin field,

in the hour when enough was never quite.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY LIFE is wrapped in rags and straw

in the grain in the mud in an old pine box;

the bray of beasts, a mournful tune whose price

has now come due, and fearfully is whispered

as a mother’s grieving voice within

an upper room now locked and bare illuminated;

where death’s sore song is gravely now intoned.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY HOPE is in the spear of light, the

thunder-roar, the whispering that,

over and again, softly in an open mouth, says,

“be not afraid,” the sword-pierced

heart that trembles, quickened as a deer

that flees the arrows; the sweet and tender

sorrow of our mad and ranting prophets

who foresaw another glory altogether.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY NAME is in the hammered stone,

the broken bread, the wounded flesh,

the jug of wine poured out upon the ground;

oblation for the saints who hover waiting

while bells recall a low-born handmaid, weeping,

begging in the gutter for a crust of bread to eat.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY SUFFERING is in the bread, the fragrant oil,

the salt that sows upon this toiling ground;

a mouth parting gently to receive

a hungry kiss with worthless silver bought; while

there beneath a concrete bridge she sits and weaves

a crown for a forgotten wedding day.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY GLORY wears a mantle of blood-roses

twined with thorns, or yet a shroud

of linen finely woven and perfumed;

whose barbs so prick the thumb, or threads

do bind the root of this tongue sweetly.

Be it done. To me. According to your word.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY PEACE is freedom bought, our price

the patient gaze, an old man’s eyes that

loving rest on beauty’s perfect face,

the darkening words of prophets in

a mother’s ear depart;

whose sleep will these long valleys fill,

and these low mountains blanket

with soft flowers, tender blooming.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY LOVE is in between these words, is

in the pause, the silence of an empty

house, a story — left behind for those

who in these haunted waters wade.

Behold, you pleasingly beloved.

The skies will soon burst open.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

On World AIDS Day 2014

HIV/AIDS has defined my generation. As a gay man approaching fifty, it doesn’t take amazing powers of observation to note that there are far fewer gay men in my generation than there ought to be. Of the men my age that I do know, a large percentage of them are HIV positive. I am lucky to have escaped HIV infection myself.

By the time I was 30, I’d lost many of my closest friends. Many more would succumb since then. They were frightening times. And those times are not over yet.

I came out before we knew what HIV/AIDS was. We heard whispers of “gay cancer” and “gay pneumonia.” We watched on as the media called the disease GRID (Gay Related Immune Disorder) and immediately stigmatized our community. I remember having to go back into the closet after having been out, because I worked in the food service industry and we worried about the stigma. And quite a stigma it was…even after we knew what it was and how it was transmitted.

I remember once being refused treatment by an emergency room hospital nurse because she was convinced that I must have AIDS even though I assured her I did not have the virus. This was in 1994. I still remember her with her plastic helmet and visor covering her face, the plastic covering and gloves that she wore and her refusal to take a blood sample.

Since I was first sexually active, I have never been able to enjoy an intimate sexual experience without the threat of HIV looming in the background. It was always there…waiting. I have take the “test” more times in my life than I can count, and it never gets easier – waiting to know.

I have watched my HIV positive brothers and sisters stigmatized, watched as our community struggled to change behaviors, struggled with how to communicate about sero-status (or not), and watched as pharmaceutical companies profited off of our desire to live even while reaping huge financial benefit.

I remember buried lovers and partners. I remember buried best friends and people I thought I’d grow old with. I have witnessed untold suffering and struggle even among those who have survived.

I watched HIV/AIDS undermine the movement towards LGBT* rights, and I have watched the struggle with the disease knit together gay men and lesbians into a strong community of support, for without those women who cared for us during the worst of the pandemic among the gay community, we would never have survived it.

I have watched HIV/AIDS decimate countries and populations across the African continent. I have watched as at risk populations shift and morph due to ineffective education efforts, cultural dynamics, homophobia, and economic circumstance; watched rates of infection soar among African-American and Latino populations, watched as younger gay men ignore the lessons we’ve learned only to have HIV spike again among young gay men; watched infection rates soar among the trans* community, among older straight populations who think that it doesn’t affect them; watched HIV take root in southeast Asia, the populations of South America.

I have watched cottage industries around HIV/AIDS support turn into multi-million dollar cash cows.

I have watched candle-light vigils shrink as our LGBT* community sinks into the complacency of HIV/AIDS as a treatable disease.

I have watched survivors grow weary with fatigue and survivor’s guilt, and watched sero-positive friends deal with the effects of long term medication. And still, death awaits them eventually. What is it like to live your life as a dying person for twenty years? Thirty years?

I have witnessed friends who still dedicate every bit of free time to AIDS Walks and Runs and Cycling routes that traverse the nation, afraid that if they stop no one will remember or care anymore about the trauma of this disease. About the people we’ve lost, the great creative minds, the lost potentials, the love and the laughter.

As far as I’m concerned, there can never be enough conversation, never enough reminders about HIV/AIDS and it’s consequences. Mine is a generation where grief, sorrow, and the trauma of this disease is always just beneath the surface. It has informed our struggle for rights and for acceptance.

AIDS is not over. HIV infections continue to soar. And current estimates suggest that nearly 50% of HIV positive people don’t even know that they’re infected. Today, World AIDS Day, is important. We must never let the dialogue stop until HIV/AIDS is wiped off the planet. Whatever it takes. However long it takes.

Please share this if you wish. Remember those who have died. Remember those who still live with this disease every day. Remember those of us who have survived and grieve and struggle to remind the world that it is not over yet.

Learning to Wait Again In Hope

We are an impatient people. We hate waiting. We want the things we want – now. We rush to build careers, rush to get married – to find love. We can’t wait for weekends. In the world of social media and the endless news cycle, we rush to judgments and criticisms. We speak without thinking, without waiting.

We sit on the edge of a precipice, ready to leap at the slightest provocation, expecting that whatever awaits us on the other side will quickly catch us so that we never really run true risk. It’s the hallmark of entitlement.

It’s no wonder that the one season of spiritual and liturgical time dedicated to waiting is one that almost no one pays attention to anymore, let alone honors. Advent shouldn’t just be for Christian folk. It should be for everyone. Sadly, some Christian folk don’t even bother with the season. And the world is worse off because we don’t show it what it means to slow down. To wait. To wait in hope.

I’ve become convinced that beneath the frenzy of our lives, there lingers either carelessness or hopelessness. Either we don’t care about what the future holds, or we dare not hope. And this is a terrible indictment of a culture that has lost its spiritual center.

We don’t seem to have a problem pausing in momentary and transient celebration. We can do so in the most hedonistic and overindulgent ways. And we don’t seem to have any issues with stopping to momentarily mourn something or someone that has passed away – even though we often do it with a moribund nostalgia.

But we aren’t a culture that thinks ahead to future hope, unless of course it involves career trajectories and marriage plans and long term retirement plans for investment.

Advent hope is different. Without a future vision of the day that the world becomes whole, when peace and justice reign, when wars shall cease and all will be well – what do we have to work for?

The Christian season of Advent is a time not only of remembering, but of hoping. We remember the coming of our teacher and Lord Jesus in his earthly life, and we await the return of that hope in a future time when the Creation will be restored at the return of the Christ consiousness.

For the non-Christian world, our celebration of Advent should be a witness to a hope that transcends the particulars of Christian faith, and offers a pause in our lives to reflect. Just what DO we hope will become of us? What is our part in that future hope?

Can we pause from the busy-ness of the world and its preoccupations long enough to indulge in hopes and dreams that one day the world will find its center again and make peace instead of war? Where we will ensure that all have enough?

Can we pause long enough to think about a vision of a world that is restored and pulled back from its folly? Where we will no longer take out our anxieties for enough on our fragile planet?

Can we take a break from the frenzy of our lives, day in and day out, to consider that the future we bequeath to our children ought to be one of hope rather than hopelessness, and are we willing to take the time to offer them that vision here and now?

Advent is a season for hope. A hope remembered, a hope restored, and a hope renewed in the midst of care and worry. Take some time to pause and reflect.

What world do you look forward to?

When I tell you…

When I tell you that I believe in God, it is not a judgment on whether or not you do. It is a confession that in the deepest part of myself, I feel vulnerability and awe at the mystery of being and have chosen to name it God and engage with God as a means not of gaining pat answers but framing questions.

When I tell you that I pray, and that I’ll pray for you, do not take it as meddlesome or superstitious. Understand that what it means is that I want to engage with what troubles you on the deepest level that I know how. In a way that reflects the pains and fears that connect us as human. It means I am giving the fullest and deepest part of myself to your concerns. I pray to be a better person than I am.

When I tell you that I am a religious person, and that I go to Church, I am not confessing weakness, but my greatest strength. Because I am a selfish human being just like any of us can be, I am letting you know that by means of faith and community, I am trying to unlearn what it means to be selfish. So that I can be a better friend, lover, son, and person. And, because in Church I get to experience ritual and rhythm and song as a means to celebrate the mystery of everything unknown and unknowable, it helps me to become humble. I hope.

When I tell you I read the Bible, I am not saying that it is to the exclusion of science books, history, economics, or other texts. What I am saying is that the stories of the Bible speak to the meaning-making part of myself, rather than the intellectual side which is daily under assault with information. And that those stories and their varied layers of meaning help me to find my place in the world and in my culture, and a means to respond with goodness. It does not mean I think many of those stories literally happened, but it means that I think they’re true. True in the sense that their value lies in what they teach us about being human and our search for meaning and our greater purpose.

When I tell you I am a Christian, I am not confessing that I am better than anyone else, but in fact that I am more needful than others. It means that I choose to follow the ethics and teachings of a lowly man who spent time with outcasts and riled up the authorities and proclaimed love, mercy, forgiveness, and justice. Precisely because I recognize my need for these things, and because I want to be able to offer love, mercy, forgiveness, and justice to others, I follow Jesus and his Way. And often, I do it poorly.

And when I tell you all of these things, understand that it is because I think this way of life makes me a better person so I can be more present for you…not that I think they will also make you a better person than whatever you have chosen to believe already makes you. Trust your own goodness. You don’t need me to tell you how to be better.

If I prove to be hateful and mean-spirited and judgmental, then you have every right to tell me that the path I’ve chosen is just not working for me. If I try to shove my beliefs down your throat as something I think you need to believe too – or else – then you have every right to call me out on it.

Do I believe that we all need to be better people? Yes, I do! And I have chosen the path that my own experience has proven to me works to help me become a better person. If you want to be a better person, I’m glad to encourage you, but I’m not going to choose your path for you. It’s not my place. Whatever path you choose, I will love and support you on that journey. Even if we see the world differently.

The world is made better by individuals deciding to become better people. Not better than others, but better than one’s self. We don’t all have to follow the same journey to get there, but we do need to agree on one very fundamental thing…

It won’t happen without all of us.

Some Love Notes to My Church

Welcome and hospitality are not the same thing. You can claim to be welcoming all you want. But it’s what follows next that matters. Be hospitable. Don’t filter out those who don’t agree with your theologies, your politics, and your agendas. You run the risk of making “inclusive” a dirty word, or worse a false idol.

Stop writing endless articles about how to appeal to “Millennials”, “Spiritual But Not Religious”, “Nones” and “Dones”. These are people not commodities. Worship and the work of living the Gospel are not products. And as long as you’re concerned with getting people’s butts in the pews so they can write checks to keep the doors open, then you are offering approximately nothing of any value.

It’s widely noted that there is plenty of room at the table for differing opinions. And it appears that this now seems to mean that everyone has the right to express them ad nauseum over every little detail, decision, and movement in the Church. Unkindly, arrogantly, endlessly. Don’t believe me? Check out social media groups dedicated to various topics of interest to the Church. The level of dialogue is disgraceful.

Check writing is not a ministry. It’s an escape route. And if your church is struggling to keep the lights on or to pay its clergy properly, then perhaps fundraising for outside enterprises and agencies is nothing more than an exercise in self-deception. And, as a side note, passing the collection plate a second time to do these things is really tacky.

Your unhealthy obsession with leadership, authority, and power has now become self-destructive. A culture of suspicion has evolved around it, kind of like the one in Washington, where every choice or opportunity for movement is thwarted by voices clamoring — too much change! not enough change! Right now we see leaders who can’t or won’t lead, authority exercised poorly or not at all, and power struggles that will never serve to address the problem. Until you all stop carrying on with either maintaining or undermining your models of leadership, power and authority, you’ll never be able to do what you are called to do – serve.

Stop making decisions based on what successful corporations do. I mean really? When did that become OK? People have walked away from the Church because it ceased living the Gospel and became more concerned with the status quo, and now we think that using a corporate model to manage our downsizing is appropriate. It’s not. Corporate values simply do not jibe with Gospel values.

Stop whining about collars. I have some truth for you that I speak in love. If you continue to remain concerned about whether or not your clerical attire welcomes or puts off those who might want to approach you, then you are a narcissist. Sorry, but you are. A doctor doesn’t worry about whether or not a lab coat will make them more accessible. Put your collar on and then show up for the expectations that people will have of you as a result – good, bad, or otherwise. You took that responsibility on when you became ordained.

Jesus is the center…the very definition of what we are and why we are. Don’t turn him into some cartoon super-hero, but don’t water him down to just a nice guy either. Better minds than yours have struggled to understand the fullness of who Jesus is. And have written volumes about it. You aren’t going to manage to turn Jesus into a convenient sound-byte for a world whose attention span has grown too short for anything else. You’ve got to have a complete message delivered in the living of it, not just in the telling.

Stop complaining about the Creeds. If you can’t bring the same level of thoughtful, spiritually engaged discernment to the Creeds that you bring to the Scriptures, then you’re just acting like a fundamentalist. They insist that everything is literally true. You insist that because it can’t be literally true that it must be worthless. Stop throwing the baby out with the straw.

The Church is a symbol to the world and is the Body of Christ. Yes, that symbol inspires both good and bad feelings in the world around it. It’s done a lot of harm, and it’s done tremendous good. It has been a comfort to countless generations of people, and it has been a terror to others. Own it. Atone for it. Offer people the Good News. But don’t stop being the Church to get the message out that we’re listening to the needs of the world. The words we use, the symbols, the liturgy, the call to ministry – these are an antidote to the ills that plague the world. They offer a competing vision to the values that the world holds dear. STOP trying to be comfortable!

I love you,

Br. K

This Unruly Church

Sometimes I wonder that the Church hasn’t collapsed under the weight of its own artifice. Granted, I don’t believe that the Church has become willfully self-deceptive, but I think it has become so absorbed in the politics of relevance, the neuralgia of post-modernism, that it has lost all trust in its own proclamation. We have become so consumed with the institution and edifice of the Church, that we have nearly forgotten the mystical Body of which we are but a part, and what it means to inhabit the Good News of Jesus Christ that we are called to proclaim along side all of those faithful past, present, and future.

It doesn’t take but a deeper look to see the Church’s discomfort with its responsibility to steward the Gospel message – a message that is not simply about social justice, but also deep repentance, lively personal faith and trust in God, and individual engagement with the call to follow Christ. We have become so captivated by social politics and our institutional response, that we have ceased to reflect on the Gospel’s importance for each of us as individuals called to embody Christ’s love and compassion. We have, in short, substituted institutional mission for personal discipleship and so opportunities for transformative faith are lost. And that makes our future look grim.

In practice and proclamation, the Church too easily diminishes an important truth. What we do now matters – not merely for the survival of the institution which will fail if it ceases to fulfill the Gospel Proclamation, but for the call to discipleship of its members. We seem to have lain down any sense of the eternal Body in which every person called to follow Christ has a place and a vocation to answer for – versus the institution where we preoccupy ourselves with membership that is contingent on financial contributions, location, convenience, political and social affirmations, and the aesthetics of worship. The Church doesn’t belong just to us here and now. It belongs to those who have inhabited it in the past and also those who will do so in the future. And while we consume ourselves with issues of polity, authority, structure, and relevance based on the transient models so fashionable in today’s world, we run the risk of neglecting the creation of disciples to take up the Church’s mission tomorrow.

The Church proclaims peace, but is at war with itself. The Church proclaims love, but has not yet learned to love itself, nor does it — if action is any indication – trust in its own message of redemption. And the Church is so eager to apologize for itself, that those who come looking for God’s comforting Spirit to anchor themselves in an unruly world of moral complexities and ambiguities are merely left with bread that doesn’t ease their hunger. In an age where social pressures and anxieties threaten to pull apart so many things that once cohered, the Church’s willingness to invest so deeply in its own angst to be socially acceptable makes it ever less likely that we will effectively proclaim the Good News until we act as if we believe it.

Living the Kingdom Life

When providing Spiritual Direction, or when counseling my brothers on enlivening their spiritual lives, I often use the language of “living the Kingdom Life.” I ask the indulgence of those who are offended by the implicit patriarchal language, it is not my intent to be patriarchal here. But Kingdom language is so culturally embedded that I find it hard to approach this subject deeply when tripping over substitutes for Kingdom language that don’t yet feel satisfactory.

In talking about Kingdom Life, I make a distinction between kairos time and Chronos time – what it means to live in God’s time versus that of the impatient world which seems never to have enough of it. And what it means to try to open our hearts to inhabiting the Kingdom in the midst of the world that swirls about, with its own agendas and twisted power dynamics standing in such contrast to the vision of the Kingdom that Jesus presents. We religious are fond of saying that we live “in the world without being of the world.” But what does this mean?

The first step, if you will, of embracing Kingdom Life is to recognize that it is not some far off reality waiting to be ushered in. It is not the “end time” that brings to fruition this holy and life-giving reality of the Kingdom that Jesus spoke about. The Kingdom is here, and now, immediately available like a treasure to be found.

There seems to be implied throughout our Scriptural stories and traditions that the Kingdom is very near, and it is near when our perspectives change, not when some set of conditions in the world converge to usher it in. This holy reality – this place and time signified by the expression “the Kingdom of God” is being freely offered in the present moment, and it is up to followers of Christ to open themselves up to receive it, to accept it as the gracious invitation it is. As a gift!

This is in essence, for me, what Kingdom Life is…a life centered around thanksgiving. A recognition of everything that is – in our present reality – as gift. And a decision to live a life patterned by prayer and thanksgiving in recognition of that reality.

I have said before, and I maintain, that a life of service as followers of Jesus stems not from trying to earn God’s favor. But rather as an act of gratitude for having already received not only God’s favor, but God’s own self in love. Relationship with God is patterned for us by the life and witness of Jesus in his own relationship with God. By relationship, I mean accepting the invitation to enter into the Divine Life symbolized by the Trinity – a relationship characterized by mutual self-giving love, acceptance of the love freely offered, and a recognition of the whole of reality as the Creator’s gift of God’s own self to each of us as beloved.

So much is implied for the shape our interior lives might take when undertaking to embrace the Kingdom Life made present reality by accepting that this life – all of our present reality and our experience of it – is in fact the self-giving self of the God we call “Father.” A gift that is given purely out of love and nothing more. Because we believe that is God’s nature.

A life patterned in thanksgiving, the Eucharistic life, is what Christians are called to. One in which the rhythms of prayer, Eucharist, and devotion are but one part. Kingdom Life is one in which our vocations, our acts of service, the choices we make around seeking justice, fairness, and mercy are all informed by gratitude. The grateful response that is only logical when one has given themselves to us in utterly unconditional love fully and unequivocally. Humility, awe, reverence, and reciprocity are natural responses to such a gift. There is no greater truth that needs to be witnessed to by the faithful Christian than this love that has been freely given, because everything else grows naturally out of our response to this reality. This is Kingdom Life.

The Beatitudes, The Great Commandment, the Golden Rule – all are traced back to this self-giving love of God, and are witnessed to in Jesus’ response to that same love and his willingness to impart it to us in his teaching and ministry. Kingdom Life is the faithful patterning of our lives after Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection all point to the reality of life lived in response to God’s self-giving. And the Holy Spirit – Jesus own movement of self-giving love to us – completes the invitation to community based on life as gift. This is Kingdom Life.

When we lay down the world’s agendas and our own; when we open ourselves to the invitation to the community of God that is based on mutual self-giving; when we stop barring ourselves through guilt and shame and judgment to receiving this gift; when we seek in love and service to remove the obstacles in ourselves and in the systems of the world that arrogantly (an unsuccessfully I might add) attempt to bar entry to this gift; then we are, in fact, living in the Kingdom that Christ promised.

If you, as Christians, would pattern your lives on Christ, then seek what it is that Christ patterned his own life upon. Go and -re-read the Scriptures. Read them through the lens of Jesus who gave his own life – fully even unto death – to receiving the fullness of God’s self-giving love to all of us; a love that is fully manifest in all of reality, all of Creation, and then in return offered himself to God in self-giving love for all the world to see. Jesus entered fully into the Kingdom Life he promised. And he left for us a teaching and a pattern, and the gift of the Holy Spirit so that by opening our eyes and hearts we might do the same. Not in some future time, but right here and right now.