Monday, January 15, 2018

Traci Blackmon: Where are the dreamers?

I've been a church-goer my entire cognitive life and a priest for 20 years this week.

It would be impossible to count the number of sermons I've heard and a challenge to come up with the most profound among them -- as I have been blessed to receive from many of the most powerful, prophetic and pastoral preachers of our generation.

And then there was yesterday. Then there was Traci Blackmon. Then there was "Where Are the Dreamers?"

"Prophetic resistance is only possible for those who can still dream. They come with weapons of hatred and division that they have used for generations. But we who believe in freedom. We come in the name of love. We come in the name of justice. We come in the name of equality. We come with dreams of a better world. AND WE WILL NOT STOP COMING!"
Her words not only called for persistent vigilance for all of us as we face the ongoing systemic challenges we face as a nation -- they offered a profound reminder of what we are actually called to do as we challenge the church to not settle for what it has become but aspire to what God would have it be.

My words of gratitude fail me. Just watch.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The question is, which is to be master?"

"Through the Looking Glass" is a phrase many of us have defaulted to over these last tumultuous months as we have experienced the normalization of "alternative facts" in the service of replacing our democracy with a plutocracy led by the Narcissist-in-Chief in the White House.

It turns out to be a very apt analogy. Check out this moment between Alice & Humpty Dumpty:
Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Alice: "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things."
Humpty Dumpty: "The question is, which is to be master—that's all.”

And then listen and learn from these words from Jared Yates Sexton [@JYSexton on Twitter] --

Part of the reason Trump has been untouchable is because he’s been able to define the language and thus owns the situation, normalizing his behavior. The "shithole" situation is a perfect example.

Trump uses an offensive term that’s unacceptable, suddenly everyone is using it, even to criticize him. The word’s automatically normalized. When the word becomes widespread, suddenly Trump’s original comment isn’t as bad anymore because the word has now entered the lexicon. It’s on TV, in conversations, on social media.

We unwittingly buy into that paradigm, and when we do we enter the realm of ideas on HIS turf. He owns the game after that. When we traffic his language were only normalizing his behavior. We’re swallowing it, regurgitating it. It’s dragging us deeper and deeper into the mud and soon we’ll forget what it’s like outside of the filth.

This isn’t a strategy by Trump, but a matter of instinct and obsession/symbiosis with cable news. It’s ever changing talking points that infect daily discourse. When we parrot him, even to mock him, we’re giving power to his vocabulary that not only hurts our culture but moves this battle onto his terms. It’s quiet, but it’s of the upmost importance.

Try your hardest not to give it power. Don’t mock him with his crass, pathetic words. That’s lowering the bar. Attack Trump with the language of a society you’d like to have. Don’t accept this crude, twisted farce he’s creating.

We not only have the power to resist -- we have the responsibility to resist. Because Humpty Dumpty was right -- the question is which is to be master. And we are well and truly in the midst of the struggle to answer that question.

In that struggle it is our call, our challenge and our privilege to refuse to give hatred mastery over love -- to refuse to become the evil we deplore -- to refuse to allow racism, misogyny and oppression in any form triumph over equality, justice and compassion.

It is -- in the words of Assata Shakur -- our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Banned Words With Friends

ICMYI ... news of this move right out of the Fascism 101 playbook broke yesterday in the Washington Post:
The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
The news prompted my brilliant friend Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite to issue this challenge:

And the idea of Banned Words With Friends was born.

SO ... since we're in Advent and the Magnificat is echoing in my heart and mind, here's my rise to Susan's challenge:
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones of entitlement
and has lifted up the vulnerable.
He has filled the hungry with good things —
like an evidence/science-based strategy to end global warming —
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of diversity,
the promise he made to our transgender siblings,
to Sarah and her fetus forever.
Your turn ... Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feeding Hungry Hearts: Diocesan Convention 2017

I realized yesterday that my first Diocesan Convention was when my now 32 year-old son was 2 ... so this year marks the 30th anniversary of taking my place in the councils of the church here in Dio L.A. Where on earth did the time go?

When we gather for our annual convention, worship and liturgy is always at the center of the work of the church -- and this year Bishop Taylor delegated the planning of our convention liturgies to a committee of folks gathered from across the diocese and charged us with these simple guidelines:
Worship and music that are familiar enough so that folks can worship easily and naturally; and worship and music that express the inclusive ethos of our Diocese.
Here are some things we would like you to know about that work as we prepare to gather tomorrow in Ontario:

We were aware in our planning process that we have a unique opportunity this year as our convention falls literally on Advent Eve. We start on Friday in Ordinary time and as we work and pray our way to Saturday evening on the cusp of Advent: a time of expectation and new beginnings. We have recognized the gift the liturgical calendar has given us as we craft liturgical expressions of this moment -- both in the liturgical life of the wider church and in our collective lives here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The theme of Convention is "Feeding Hungry Hearts" and we have kept that in front of us throughout the planning process. We made the considered decision this year to amplify voices from within the Diocese of Los Angeles in our liturgy in general and in our prayers and music in specific.

We are blessed by multicultural diversity in our diocese and we have made liturgical choices to highlight that diversity throughout our time together. Working with our Director of Music for the Convention David Milligan (St. Paul's, Tustin) we have intentionally selected accessible hymnody reflecting the inclusive spirit our diocese as a gathered body and equipping us for robust corporate worship.

We have fielded a Convention Choir of those who will gather under David's direction to lead corporate worship. In collaboration with Stillpoint we will once again be providing prayer stations throughout Convention and a prayer chapel will be available for individual prayers and intercessions.
In addition, during the Friday Eucharist there will be two stations for healing prayers on the Convention floor for those desiring prayers for healing.

You can download a copy of our Convention Booklet here ... and please do keep the work of the Diocese of Los Angeles in your prayers as we begin this new chapter in our life together. We pray that our worship throughout our 122nd Annual Meeting will both feed and heal our hearts in order to equip us all to be agents of God's love, justice and compassion in the world.

Members of the Convention Liturgy Committee: Michelle Baker-Wright; Marge Cooley; Aimee Eyer-Delevett; Norma Guerra; Susan Russell (chair); Kay Sylvester; Fernando Valdes; Mark Weitzel; Rise Worthy-Deamer; Keith Yamamoto. Consulting: Serena Beeks; Elizabeth Rechter

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Waking Up in America Today

That morning you wake up
remembering the over 500 people
shot in cold blood by another maniac
with access to assault weapons
knowing that thousands ...
are still without power and water in Puerto Rico
and still stunned that the USA voted to oppose
a UN resolution condemning the death penalty
for LGBT people --
aware that tomorrow is the deadline
for Dreamers to hold onto the thread of hope
that keeps them in the only country they know
and that last night militarized police in Saint Louis
again brutalized peaceful protesters
as Congress again regroups
to take down Medicaid --
this time through the budget process.
And the Breaking News
while you're brushing your teeth?
Raging debate over whether or not
the Secretary of State
called the President a moron.

This is not making America great, my friends.
By any measure known to humanity it just isn't.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Finding Gratitude Where I Can

    This morning I'm finding gratitude in the evidence that we can still be outraged as a nation at the outrageously inexcusable excuse for a President who is currently inhabiting the White House.

    And yes: this IS me choosing my words carefully.

    At this point we could be so inured by the constant assault of racist, sexist, nativist, white supremacist, (etc. etc. etc.) diatribes, tweets and actions emerging from the Shop of Horrors masquerading as the White House that we become resigned to the damage this lunatic is inflicting on our body politic in general and on those most vulnerable and marginalized in specific.
    But here's the deal, Mr. President. We are not hapless frogs in a pot passively allowing the water temperature to slowly rise until we are too incapacitated to resist.

    We are an increasingly woke people organizing, strategizing, and onto your bull****. The more smoke you throw in front of it the more we know to pay attention to what's going on behind the curtain. And every time you come for one of us you come for all of us.

    We're on to you. We're done with you. And we are going to resist you and the toxin of white supremacist heteronormative patriarchy you represent until we reclaim the aspirational values of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are indeed created equal. We are not throwing away our shot. Indeed, we have only begun to fight.

    That's what I'm grateful for this morning.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Again We Remember

Today we will gather in the chapel at All Saints Church at 12:10 p.m. for our daily Noon Eucharist and remember those we lost and how we were changed sixteen years ago on the day that has come to be known as simply a number: 9/11. Revisiting how we marked that anniversary fifteen years ago today at All Saints Church ... 9/11/2002 ... as we continue to hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide and we strive to be the change we want to see.


The candles massed in front of the altar burn in tribute to the names being read from the lectern – Naomi Leah Solomon, Daniel W. Song, Michael C. Soresse, Fabian Soto – as other names scroll above the altar projected on a video screen – John Bentley Works, William Wren, Sandra Wright, Myrna Yashkulka.

The church is silent save for the reading of the names and the careful footsteps of those who come forward to light a candle -- the gentle thud of a kneeler lowered for prayer --the quiet rustle of pages turned in a prayer book.

“American Airline Flight 11”– Anna Allison, David Lawrence Angell, Lynn Edwards Angell, Seima Aoyamma. The names began at 5:46 – the west coast moment when the first plane struck – and will continue through the morning until we gather for Eucharist at noon. The table is already set. The red frontal – blood of martyrs – covers the altar. The chalice is vested, the missal marked. The credence table is ready, too: flagons of wine, silver chalices and ciborium lined up – ready to hold the holy food and drink of new and unending life we will share here at All Saints Church.

“All Saints.” Charles’ deep voice breaks the silence as he begins reading the next segment of the list of names: “World Trade Center, continued” – Paul Riza, John Frank Rizzo, Stephen Luis Roch, Leo Roberts. I remember the ancient words of comfort from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” As Charles tolls the names of the dead that assurance echoes again and again in my head. These names I do not know – some I cannot even pronounce – each and every one known to God. Beloved of God.

“United Airlines Flight 93”: Christine Adams, Lorraine Berg, Todd Beamer, Alan Beaven. Gone from our sight yet gathered into God’s embrace -- seated at the heavenly banquet we can but glimpse through the sacrament we are preparing to share -- the offering of praise and thanksgiving we will present at this altar.

I look again at the ciborium massed on the credence table – the candles flickering in the polished silver – the light of lives lost reflected in the vessels holding the bread of life. It staggers the mind to consider what they represent – the magnitude of the collective loss of love, joy, hope and possibilities taken on that day a year ago with such sudden unexpectedness.

Takashi Ogawa. Albert Ogletree. Gerald Michael Olcott. The pain of death and loss mingles mysteriously in the promise of life and hope. Body and Blood. Bread and Wine. Strength for the journey and hope for the future. Hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide. Hope for the end of wars waged in the name of the God who created us not to destroy but to love each other.

Dipti Patel. James Matthew Patrick. Sharon Christina Millan Paz. “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.” Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.