Friday, July 24, 2015

five minute friday: ten

Time again for Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday; "ten" is word of the week! How does it work? Write for 5 minutes, unedited. This time I wrote offline in my typical manuscript / semi-cursive, so it may be a shorter than if I typed, but also likely rocks a different feel. Here's my pair of ten-spots:


The first ten that came into my mind was the song, "Children, go where I send thee—where shall I send thee? Ten for the Hebrew children, ten for the ten commandments.... one for the little bitty baby, who's born, born, born in Bethlehem." I could reflect on the numerical count – ten!– of the tribes of Israel or the ten commandments, but won't, because after that I couldn't stop thinking how in competitions and some other assessments ten is the number of perfection. I've told people my public piano performances routinely are a 10, frequently the perfection plus of 11, occasionally only a 9.

As I bask in the rhythmic music of city traffic outside my window, I remember summers in Truro. For a month every summer my close friend K's family rented Al Hanscomb's beachfront cottage with "All Hands Come" bannered over the front door. K invited me along with other friends and classmates to visit for a week each summer; her two sisters were there, too. I had a lot of my own struggles during those times, yet being with K's family, with other friends, fun on the sand dunes, sun on the beach, evening treks into Provincetown made my own stuff manageable and still make my memories of those summers into a solid ten/10. Three of us slept in each of the two queen size beds in the loft, and you know queen size is meant for two, not three sleepers! Remembering a time as a ten when I also honestly recall the pain and brokenness of those days helps give me hope and assurance for a full, totally "tennish" life for myself in the days to come.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

marriage equality again: july synchroblog


photograph with legal reuse rights from greekgod on rgb stock

This month I'm synchro-blogging again! The topic for July is Gay Marriage.

I posted the original version of this a month ago as (why not) marriage notes after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of marriage quality on Friday 26 June Obergefell v Hodges. For this synchroblog post I've made a few changes and additions.

Synopsis: Please, no marriage anywhere for anyone any more.

News and social media outlets recently announced the United States Supreme Court's approval of same-sex marriage―marriage equality. You realize "same-sex" isn't necessarily GLBTQ marriage, just as opposite sex marriage isn't necessarily not-GLBTQ? Social media resounded with sights and sounds of celebration; not much jubilation from me, though. But why not?

The whole structure of marriage and legal commitment must change. After all, it's been evolving for millennia, anyway! It was so wonderful and freeing when a lot of people started committing to significant otherships rather than legal marriage! There needs to be some way of reliably indicating your desire for hospital visitation, etc. as well as protection for kids, but the legal (pertaining to, under the formal regulations of the states of the USA, the feds, or of other *legally* constituted governments) apparatus of marriage? I feel marriage is pretty much an anachronism, though as long as the legal institution exists and subsists, everyone who's not already legally married needs the right to get married. But then again, as long as govt involves itself (governments involve themselves) in this yoking up biz, why not guidelines and allowances for plural marriage? Why not? You know that's a form of biblical marriage!

Genesis 2:21-24 that some cite as proof God mandated and blesses a certain spousal configuration dates from the era of King Solomon's monarchy—only about 3,000 years ago! This text is from the Yahwist or "J" Pentateuch source; the Yahwist was King Solomon's theologian.

21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

How many wives did Solomon own? According to some tallies, 700 wives and 300 concubines. I know very little of its long and complex history, but maybe someone else can tell me, how long has this marriage notion been about love? Seems to me it mainly used to be about joining and uniting families, fortunes, dynasties, kingdom /queendoms and protecting land rights. You know that's still the case! And sometimes about diluting the too inbred gene pool of particular royal families.

Side note: How about ditching the antediluvian terms wife for female spouse, and husband for male spouse? Along with every living language, English retains fragments of many ancient words, but spouse, life partner, lifelong companion would be more up to date.

Besides finding some effective mode of protection for vulnerable children and others, I also want to be clear that I very very very much support publicly committing to (hopefully) a lifelong, (hopefully) an exclusive relationship with a significant other, but please do not involve or include legalities. If you're religious, how about during the Saturday or Sunday liturgy? If you're not religious or have other preferences, how about gathering at the beach, in the mountains, or in a lovely garden? During a chilly winter, someone's home that's large enough to hold your guests, or maybe a restaurant or other function room? You gotta have good eats, of course! I've provided bright contemporary cupcakes as a possibility for the sweets portion of the feast.

End notes: 1. BTW, this perspective has almost nothing to do with my libertarian spirit or my classical liberal heart.

2. It's a different topic for another day, but while we're referencing scripture and marriage, why make the church and other religious entities agents of the government?

other July synchroblog participants:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Brian Kaylor: Sacramental Politics

Sacramental Politics: Religious Worship as Political Action (Frontiers in Political Communication) by Brian Kaylor on Amazon

Notice of material connection: I received this book for free from The Speakeasy, with no requirement to write a positive review. I am disclosing this to comply with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255.

Interesting, uneven, and thought-provoking—also essential, if you dare!

Sacramental politics coverSuch an important book! Everyone in the USA and elsewhere who sometimes attends church and/or calls themselves Christian could benefit from reading and considering Sacramental Politics. Unlike some other countries, USA never officially has possessed an established church or religion, yet author Brian Kaylor mostly reflects upon and analyzes politically-oriented religious behaviors in the contemporary USA, though he delves a bit into this country's political past, mentions the Confessing Church in Germany with its Barmen Declaration, and also discusses this country's most active branch of the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church USA. How fascinating that with our institutional separation, functional interaction of religion and politics in this country, they routinely have prayer rooms at the party connections. I think I knew that, but...

Overall, author Kaylor's perspective is not what some of us might observe and reflect upon regarding the dominical sacraments / ordinances of baptism and holy communion being politically, socially, and cultural subversive. In fact, he never quite gets there, possibly because of his anabaptist background, but he offers so much else. It's impossible to highlight all the rich highlights in a review or even in a more basic book report, so I'll mention only a few.

The seven chapters includes (the biblical number) seven categories; to entice you to start reading, they're about Religious Worship as ...

(1)Political Rhetoric
(2)Partisan Politics
(3)Public Policy Promotion
(4)Political Messaging
(5)Political Space
(6)Inherent Political Action

So many aspects of our lives as Christians to consider! Whenever someone complains about "politics" in the church in a club, or anywhere, I remind them "to be human is to be political." At least that's been the case since humans moved away and grew their affiliation groups larger than Abraham of Ur's nuclear family. Are our public prayers as pastors, as lay people, as politicians, or as office holders directed only to Divinity, or are they news bulletins and hortatory speeches primarily intended for the human audience? Is God's political party red, blue, purple, or other? Does God even "do" politics? Given that Jesus died from the actions of imperial powers, God clearly has been majorly involved not only in religious practices, but also in political, cultural, and general human endeavors of every kind.

When we interpret scripture, have we gotten into the irresponsible habit of imposing our perspectives and predilections onto the scriptural texts―eisegesis? Or do we at least attempt faithfully to extract and apply scripture's perspectives onto our decisions and into our daily lives―exegesis? It can be close to impossible to separate out our social, cultural, and political experiences from the witness of scripture. Faithfully contextualizing texts that come from a very different culture and that variously are between 4,000 and 2,000 years old always is difficult and dangerous. They didn't have parliamentary government, the great republic's imperium in imperio, internet fund-raisers, or corporate lobbying, and it's truly impossible to overlay a lot of scripture injunctions onto our current ways of being and living. A king like the other nations? The parliament that appears so effective for that country in the other hemisphere that also has a much smaller, far less diverse population?

The book's early chapters that dissect and analyze the content of praying, preaching, campaigns, etc. became confusing, mind-boggling, dull and repetitious. A lot of that information would be more clearly presented as a chart or in a table. My favorite chapter and probably the best-written and most clearly expressed is chapter 5, "Religious Worship as Political Space." Partly because public and liturgical space is a favorite topic of mine, partly because I know about Friendship Park and ongoing concerns about the international border between USA and Mexico. I've participated in the annual Posada sin Fronteras at least twice, but that was before the feds put up yet another barrier wall to interfere even more with interactions between the two countries.
election day communion buttonProbably due to my being in several states of disarray at the time, despite being online a lot, I'd missed out hearing out and participating in Election Day Communion on Election Day Night in 2012, but I'll be looking for one in 2016!

Brian Kaylor's vision and resulting content of Sacramental Politics is important for anyone, but the entire book needs a thorough, tight, no-holds-barred editing. Many paragraphs are long and unclear, and Sacramental Politics probably wins the prize for total number of parenthetical remarks and observations. Most of those could be eliminated and their content expressed in other ways. Many probably aren't even necessary! I noticed several misspellings that an editor probably would have caught and changed, and it's Agnus Dei – not Angus Dei – something autocorrect most likely didn't know. Also, despite the literary convention of sometimes using a noun as an adjective and that I like a lot, "Episcopalian" is the noun, "episcopal" the descriptive adjective. It may feel like another minor quibble, but it would be good if Kaylor would indicate United Methodist if that's the church body he's referring to, and in a similar way ELCA/ Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or PC(USA) Presbyterian Church USA if those are his referents. Because there also are more conservative – rather than progressive mainline – denominations with the names "methodist, lutheran, and presbyterian," it's important to specify which. Also, I found almost every one of the quotes from other documents or sources extremely interesting, so why not format them in the same easily-readable type size as the rest of the text, yet still indent it in blockquote style?

If the author edits and updates this book, it would be wise for him to run the content past people actively involved in each Christian tradition. For example, some Lutherans and other protestants offer an option for the private, individual confession that Roman Catholics nowadays call the sacrament of reconciliation, but like most other protestants, Lutherans claim only two actual sacraments: baptism and holy communion—confession and Absolution/Penance lacks a physical, sensible, earthly "sign." Although Latter-day Saints often refer to their main weekly worship service that features the bread and cup of Holy Communion as "Sacrament Meeting," they use the terminology of ordinance rather than sacrament, so no, the LDS church does not have only one sacrament, but quite a few ordinances. The first church of my involvement was American Baptist-USA, but I'm not acquainted with current liberal baptist practices and even if I were involved in a community of baptists, with their truly local polity my experience might be far different from most others. Martin Luther's Two Kingdoms theology confuses even those from a solid confessional Lutheran background, but briefly, none of the Reformers could imagine any aspect of life being outside God's divine sovereignty.

If any congregations, pastors, judicatories or even lone solitary individuals would dare, they need to read and consider this book! Because Sacramental Politics focuses almost exclusively on the USA, they'll discover God never has been a Democrat of any era or any variety, a Republican from any place or space, a Libertarian, a Communist or a member of the Green party, or even a declared Independent. But you know, God still is passionately political!

The book includes scores of useful references and an index.

my amazon review: interesting, uneven, and thought-provoking—also essential, if you dare!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

free: five minute friday

It's time for Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday; "free" is this week's word. How does it work? Write for 5 minutes, unedited.


In scripture and from the USA's Founding Fathers the words freedom and liberty sound and resound. The Apostle Paul talks about the glorious liberty of the children of God; John the gospel writer tells us if the Son Jesus Christ makes us free, we will be free indeed. Scripture most often uses "eleutheria" for freedom; eleutheria carries more of a Thomas Jeffersonian accent on liberty than a Fourth of July / Independence Day emphasis on freedom—from oppression, captivity, from control by other governments: a free country is not a colony, free people are not colonials.

God charges us to, Jesus insists we obey the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant. "To be saved, keep the commandments!" But does following the demands of the commands bind us so tightly we have no space, no freedom to move or act on our own, do the commandments constrict us rather than free us? We can use the example of the broad limits of bounded freedom: we have agency to act, move, create, and be anyone, anything, and anywhere we desire, as long as we do not violate and move beyond those outer limits. Martin Luther's detailed exposition of each of the Ten Commandments in his Large Catechism might make any of us almost despair of being obedient and living free at one and the same time, but obeying the commandments (sometime Jesus' encapsulated version, "Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourselves" seems simpler and easier to follow) is similar to the citizen of a country such as USA, Canada, Germany, UK, etc.: these are free countries with free citizens, as long as everyone live and acts within the measured boundaries of the laws of the land.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

testimony tuesday: surprises & festal shouts

For the first time ever, today I'm linking up with Holly Barrett for Testimony Tuesday.

Wilshire Blvd on Sunday transit signs on Sunday

"Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance." Psalm 89:15

I love all of Psalm 89, and every time we pray it during vespers verse 15 always pops right out―RSV, NRSV, and ESV translate into "festal shout" what others describe as a joyful call, worship joyfully, joyful sound, joyful shout.

During the past couple of weeks God again has revealed his faithfulness in terms of my own dreams, yearnings, aspirations and ongoing attempts to find a place in a big city, to continue free-lancing as graphic artist and designer, and to discover a healthy living situation. I need to know my story is worth telling and worth listening to. I want to know some of my experiences can help clarify and heal others. Today I testify again to death and resurrection: a series of deaths of a lot of unhealthiness in my total situation, followed by sometimes jarring, sometimes gentle nudges and revelations of newness. Without lining out many details, I'll admit despite stunning coastal beauty, Previous City had a small-town feel and often functioned like a small town, but without nearly as much of the neighborliness, intimacy, and sometimes plain nosiness of typical towns.

I moved only a couple weeks ago, and what a difference 12 hours and 120 miles made! I love hearing sirens and traffic first thing in the morning! Last night I so enjoyed basking in the nearby sax riffing into the cooling, dark night air. Literally thanks partly to the housing crash in fall 2008 that along with the growing and expanding internet changed the trajectory and parameters of freelancers and – to some extent – of other artists, designers, and related creatives, I was able to port my clients to my new living space. Truly due to my faithful persistence in the Spirit, I found shared housing with three (soon to be four) other people.

My header pics are from the couple of dozen I took on nearby Wilshire Blvd on my way home from church last Sunday. I've always loved warm, sunny weather, and these days I'm festal shouting with the psalmist in the midst of this surprisingly beautiful month of July. Surprising? Yes! I haven't been annihilated, but I have been resurrected!

testimony Tuesday

Friday, July 10, 2015

five minute friday: hope

Again this week I'm participating in Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday; "hope" is the prompt. How does it work? Write for 5 minutes, unedited.


Christianity is about hope, but does one need to follow Jesus Christ in order to claim a changed future that's different from the usual almost endless recycling of the same (disappointing) events?! In Greek and in Spanish – and probably in some languages I've never studied – hope and expect are the same word! That means when a person claims hope, at the same time they tell us they fully expect their hope to be satisfied, fulfilled. How about most of us English-speakers? More concretely and more locally, how about me?

Although scripture tells us hope is the evidence of things not seen, I believe we humans can have that hope, those expectations because of what we've seen and experienced as we live trusting the God of Life whose ultimate answer is resurrection. So we haven't actually seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted that future event, but we have ample evidence of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness in our individual and corporate pasts. I began by asking if one needed consciously to follow Jesus in order to hope? I believe knowing about his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension does give a person more solid expectations, but anyone who has lived on earth any length of time already has experiences to draw upon that will help them trust a still uncertain and essentially unknown future.

This wasn't quite the free ramble I anticipated (expected, hoped) to write, but here it is.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Westermann & Lessing: The Bible...

The Bible: A Pictorial History. Photography by Erich Lessing; text by the late Hebrew Bible scholar Claus Westermann

bible pictorial history coverThe Bible: A Pictorial History comes from Seabury Press, which I believe is now a HarperCollins imprint.

The 9.3" x 8.3" x 0.9" dimensions of this book especially appeal to me. It's not a huge big "coffee table" style tome, but quite lightweight and comfortable to hold. The arrangement of contents is intriguing: it starts out with a 42-page introduction and overview of the Hebrew bible by Claus Westermann, who creates an expert synopsis as only someone who knows a subject in depth can do. A reasonable size serif typeface on heavy off-white paper enhances the book's total attractiveness. Then the photographs begin! All full-color, mostly full page, featuring geography and cultural artifacts—"archeological treasures of the Bronze and Iron Ages," as the flyleaf tells us. Mostly Old Testament passages in Revised Standard Version (book is ©1976) along with a few from Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus that well may relate to the image on hand accompany the illustrations. These references are in considerably smaller type than Westermann's words, yet still very easy to read. Eight pages of a Pictorial and Literary Index with B&W thumbnails of the illustrations and further notes on locations and artifacts conclude the book.

This truly is a magnificent achievement, and if it still were in print, it would make a splendid gift. As a matter of fact, I received my copy as a gift – still in the original shrink-wrap – on the last meeting monthly meeting of the Faith, Order & Witness Committee I attended. before relocating a few miles north to another city.

my amazon review: magnificent.