Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking for Truth Despite Stereotypes

Anyone who knows me knows that books are a passion of mine and that I often get more excited about a good book than-well-almost anything.

I'm reading one of those books right now. The title is Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left. I recommend this book for Christians AND non-Christians alike.

For those of us who are not Christian, too often it is too easy for us to brush off an idea as ridiculous or unjust simply be virtue of it being a "Christian" idea. It is too easy for us to lump all Christians into a very narrow category, which really may only represent Fundamentalist Christianity. (Which, although loud and influential in politics due to the media's fear of them, giving them even more power through that fear-my statement, not the books.) It is too easy for us to say something like: "Christians are homophobic" or "Christians are against a woman's right to choose" or "Christians are close-minded" or "Christians take the bible so literally that there is no room for interpretation" or "feminists can't be Christians" or "Christians believe that anyone who is not 'saved' is going to hell." I have heard all of these statements and more as justification for wrighting off all of Christianity as hypocritical snd unreasonable in today's world. This book reminds us that Christianity is far bigger than those narrow statements.

I recommend this book to Christians- liberal and fundamentalist- to remind them that Jesus preached and acted against dogmatic blindness and championed reason and morality both as paths to just action and mindful living.

For such a small book (119 pages), it carries a Big message and a lot of thoughtfulness. I think I'll probably read it at least once more. This time, my own copy so I can highlight it and make notes in the margins instead of just notes in my head.

As a Unitarian Universatlist who has embraced Paganism as well as the teachings of Jesus, often it is hard for me not to criticize Christians- lumping them all into a pot of melting judgemental ideals. Nevermind that my best friend is working toward ordination as a Christian miniter and that most of my family are Christians. As a UU, I am dedicated to the ideals of diversity, justice, equiality, social involvement and personal mindfulness. In that spirit, I must include not just Pagan, Buddhist, Humanist, Hindu, Muslim, and Schientific ideas and ideals into my world of tolerance, but also Christian teachings. I must, as a UU, be open to learning TRUTH wherever it is found.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rick Warren and my Horizontal Equivalent to Nosebleed Seats

When I first heard that Barak Obama invited Rick Warren to do the invocation at his inaguration, I reconsidered -for a minute-whether or not I wanted to go. I wasn't too sure that I was willing to subject myself to Warren's potential bigotry against me and others whose love does not conform to his narrow vision of acceptability. Intellectually, I understand Obama's reasons: to reach out to the religious right and bring them into the fold of American Pluralism. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Yesterday, I started reading a book by Jan G. Linn that a friend of mine sent me to help in the research for my sociology paper this past semester. I didn't have time to read Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left in time to use it for my paper. However, I needed something to read while at work this week, and there it was, waiting patiently for me to make time for it.

As I picked it up and started reading, I kicked myself for not doing so before I turned in my paper. I had a lightbulb flare up in my brain, right in the middle of Chapter 3. I now understand more fully why Obama invited Warren to the inaguration. In writing about "Bigger Christianity", meaning bigger than the narrow fundamentalist box, but bigger, like the sermon on the mount, big and inclusive and true. Linn says true Christian prophets "should bring light to any situation. Light dispels darkness, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, bitterness, and on and on. That alone is no small standard to live up to. But they must also model a desire to promote reconciliation between individuals and groups of people. Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable." I will repeat that because I'm hoping you will feel a loud bell and a glaring spotlight in your brain, as I did when reading that: "Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable."

I realize (though I don't identify as Christian, I still hold some Christian truths to be self evident-many of them are also Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Humanistic truths.) that my resistance to Warren's imminant proximity to me when I go to the Mall on January 20th is only serving the narrow fundamentalists' purposes by further solidifying the barriers between "us" and "them". In this context, "us" may be applied to mean: LGBT people and our allies, Liberals, Democrats, or those who believed Obama stood for change, tolerance and justice. "Them" can be applied to mean: all the narrow minded bigots who choose ignorance over enlightenment. (Crap-I just did it again- skewing my language that way creates a barrier. Let's just call that a tangible demonstration which illustrates my whole point.)

Obama, it seems (I hope), is a much bigger person than me in that he seeks to overcome his own personal, perhaps even selfish, desires to exclude Warren in order to break down barriers and replace them with bridges between people like me and people whose vision is not as big. Inclusion, not exclusion is the only way to build those bridges.

I find it interesting that Linn uses the therm "prophet" because, in my Religion in American Culture class, we also used that word in the contesxt of "prophetic" vs "priestly" versions of American Civil Religion. "Prophetic" leaders are those who are inclusive and forward thinking, like MLK, JFK and BHO. "Priestly" leaders are those who seek to narrow the scope of who is a "real American". "Priestly" leaders are short-sighted and elitist like Reagan, the Bushes and Jerry Fallwell.

Though I still abhor Warren's support for the anti-marriage proposition in California, I can at least try to see him as a fellow human being trying to live by his ideals as best he can. I also can take pity on him for the limitations of his vision, based not upon the teachings of his saviour, but upon the smallness of his own fearful heart.

It seems that everything I touch now highlights the intersections between spirituality and politics: books I read, classes I take, votes I cast and the trip I am about to take. Did I mention (yes, I believe I did) that I am, after all, going to the inaguration. My Christmas present from Pop and Linda is space in Pop's study on the floor in which to lay my sleeping bag! It is no manger for a crib, but more like camping-which is one of my favorite things to do!

I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Deb can't sleep on the floor, and all the above floor spaces are already claimed, so I will be making this trip on my own. Ive never been to Baltimore before. I have no sense of direction. I'd get lost in my own backyard if the dogs didn't show me how to find the house, and I'm driving over the river, through the woods and within the mountains to get to Baltimore. YippeeEEK!

I'm still trying to finagle the days off (I want to spend a couple of days with Pop and Linda) and make my list for packing (note to self-add "map" to the list). I'm also have to try to figure out how much money I need for gas, train/subway fare, food, a big cheesehead hat that says "Obama is #1" and other souvenirs to prove that I really was there and that it was not some dimented dream left over from the chemo-brain that still haunts me now and then. I've started walking at work again when I'm in a place that has a hallway instead of a room that is about 3 steps by 3 steps big, because I know I'll be walking and on my feet for a long time on the day of the inaguration, 24 days from now. (23 on the day I finished typing.)

I do not have a ticket. I will not bring a ball gown with a sparkly purse. I will not be meeting with Carl Levin for a glass of local Michigan grown wine. I will not be able to hear Obama (or Warren) without speakers or see him without a huge screen TV. (Deb is going to tape it for me at home so I don't miss it.) I look forward to enjoying the inaguration much like I enjoyed the concerts at Pine Knob as a kid when Julie, Rob and I would sit on the roof of the Kohnen house a few miles away. Except with more people and more liklihood of getting lost, but with less liklihood of falling off a second story roof and breaking my skull. YippeeEEK!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Beating the System

Excerpt from journal December 25, 2008 in the wee hours of the morning:

I checked on my fall term grades today. [Today for me, yesterday for non-nightshifters.] I got 4.0 in both classes. I'm not sure I deserved it in the Sociology of Religion class. I feel like I could have done better on the paper, if I had spent more time on my church visits and on the writing and revisions. [I wasn't as precise with my language as I am when I write a sermon, where every single word is carefully and deliberately chosen and where I usually do 6-10 revisions. For my paper, I did have 6-8 false starts, but only one and a half revisions, although I reworked it several times in my head and even did a kind of an outline, which I rarely do.] I'm pleased with the grade, but not sure if I deserve it.

My overall GPA is now 3.97, up another .01. I still think that I should have gotten a better grade way back when, in the volunteerism class. That is the one class, I think, that kept me from a perfect score. I can't remember, there may have been one other as well. [If so, I probably deserved a less than perfect score, or I would remember it.]

It's funny, I never really cared about GPA before. It is just a number after all, and you can't categorize someone's character [or intelligence] with a grade. I still don't really care so much about the grade, but instead it has become like a competition between me and the system. I win the game if I learn so much and work so hard that I can win a 4.0. I think, perhaps, I have begun to look at grades much the way others "play" e-bay.

The Past Speaks to the Present

I just finished reading Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. Ms Beals was one of the "Little Rock Nine," African-American high school students who were the first to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957-three years after Brown vs the Board of Education. I read the version abridged for young readers. It was very powerful. I imagine that the adult version is probably even more so.

As I read it, I couldn't help but wonder if those nine brave men and women will be at Barak Obama's inaguration. I hope so, front and center, because without them, we would not have won him as a president.

I'm bummed that my dad's house is already going to be full to the brim with guests there for the inaguration. There's no room at the Pop and Linda Inn. I was hoping to go and stay with them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!!
Happy Hannukah!!
Super Solstice!!

To me and Deb, it feels like the day after Christmas since we did our gift exchange yesterday. I have to work tonight, Thursday night and Friday night, so we decided to celebrate on Tuesday, my day off. We opened presents and Deb made a delicious prime rib and our friend Barb came over.

Today, Little Bit's ashes came via UPS. They also sent a three dimensional paw print that they took for us, with her name embossed on the edge. We cried over it, and set her and her print in the window until we can bury/scatter her under the mulberry tree where she loved to dig trenches looking for rodents.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rest in Peace Yidder Didders

Little Bit O' Honey 1996-2008

Little Bit died Monday morning after a long weekend of difficulty breathing and pain. On Saturday, the vet found a tumor in her mouth that we were hoping to be able to remove in surgery on Monday. Sunday night, she began to have seizures and yelped in pain a few times. She was gasping and panting for breath. By Monday morning, the tumor had grown and she had lost 6 pounds since Saturday.

The vet agreed with us that at her age, with sudden weight loss, seizures and quick tumor growth, that we could love her best by letting her go to sleep and die peacefully.

Little Bit was an alpha dog until the end. She expressed a fierceness that bordered on snotty toward other dogs, and loved her people with a fierceness that scared away fears and pain. She always protected us when we were sick or upset.

She is much loved and much missed.

We love that dog.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

St. Nicholas, Jack Frost and Serena the thievin dog

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!!

Today is the day that St. Nick and his buddy Pete sneak into houses round the world and fill shoes or stockings with yummy treats and fun trinkets. Sometimes, if they can't get inside, they leave stuff outside. (Kind of like our dog visitor did with my bra.)

Today, the snow is beautiful and Jack Frost has been busy painting windows and freezing boogers. It really is beginnning to feel a lot like Christmas.

I need to buy some Equal Exchange Cocoa from church, so I can make some hot chocolate for these cold times. Not only is that the BEST cocoa I've ever had, they pay fair wages to those who harvest the beans. (Many companies use slave labor or criminally low wages, we just don't hear about that.) The Equal Exhange Fair Trade Cocoa has a unique flavor that some may not recognize at first, but I'm telling you, I am now reluctant to use other cocoas, not even for the ethics, but for the incredible taste! Yum!

Tomorrow is the big day, Deb and I have been getting excited choosing recipes, buying fattening ingredients, getting new cookie sheets, and working out the logistics of having 3 young friends all here to help with making and decorating dozens of cookies. I know, we'll be a little later than usual this year with baking, but I'm almost as excited as I was about Obama's election. Not quite as intense, but it is an awesome anticipation that I feel. I can't wait to see Maddie, Ana and Cassidy get creative with junk food!!

We're a bit worried about Little Bit though, she hurt her paw (actually 2, but one seems okay now, and her back seems sore) when she jumped off of the couch--ouch. I love that dog.

Serena seems to feel quite at home at our house. She and Pippen have started wrestling in the snow. I went out by the greenhouse yesterday and found my bra that Serena stole. It was frozen solid. So solid that when I tossed it down to the basement to be washed, it made a loud crashing sound, as if I threw a piece of wood down, or, a frozen steak. Serena's new favorite place to lay is on the loveseat, in Deb's spot. Or, if she is kicked out of that spot, next to Deb, pressed as close as she can possibly snuggle. She curls her feet under like a deer when she sleeps, but howls like a hound. I wonder if she's a genetically modified being? I have a feeling all 3 of us will be in trouble when she goes home because she has been totally spoiled with us. She seems unaffected when I ask her to do something or yell at her, but Deb gets upset with me when I do. It's hard not to yell when she tries to lick my food.

I wrote this at work in the wee hours of the morning, dreaming (while trying to stay awake) of home, warmth, love and saint Nicholas. Thank you for being a part of my dream by joining me at my blog.

Note: Serena was picked up a few minutes ago. She didn't want to get in the van, but was very happy to see her girls again. Ellen said that she already liked to sleep on the couch and lick people's food, and was happy with how calm she was instead of the hyper hyper dog she was when they picked her up from the kennel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nothing exciting to say today

Sorry about the (once again) long pause between posts. I have been working on a paper for my sociology of religion class, and reading and studying for psychology. For just two classes, I'm learning and studying a lot. It feels good to be using my brain that much, but does leave me preoccupied.

I don't have a whole lot to say today, I just wanted to touch base. My brain is kind of fried. Finals start next week, oddly enough, that is less stressful than working up to this week. I have one final next week and one the following week. That is no sweat.

We have cleared a spot in the living room to put up a holiday tree, we just have to decide when to put it up. Deb and I are both excited that on Sunday, we will get the girls all day to work on holiday cookies!!! Until then, we have their dog, Serena. She has totally bevome one of the pack, except that she doesn't sleep with us. She prefers the couch. The little booger, however, has decided that everyone else's food tastes better than hers, even though I thing she eats the same brand. So, today, I switched her bowl with Indigos and put some extra in the one she ate out of, since she is a lot bigger. She is a very sweet dog.

I applied for graduation a few weeks ago. If I continute to take 2 classes a semester, I should be done in August. Since I should be graduating with honors, if I want to be recognized, I have to wait until December next year to walk. If I don't care so much, I can walk in June. I don't want to walk at all, but Deb really wants me to. I've been invited to join 2 different honor societies, but I haven't sighned up yet. This recognition all feels weird to me.