Friday Link Love

Away we go!

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“I am in a state of shock” — Flannery O’Connor

A lit class in 1961 tries to understand “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” They, um, miss the mark. O’Connor responds in part:

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.

H/t Keith.

On a different note but still related to the power of story:

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The Bible Is Not a Diet Plan — Religion Dispatches

On Rick Warren’s “Daniel Plan” for fitness, which he cribs from the pages of an apocalyptic text:

I can’t begrudge anyone whatever motivation they need to live a healthier life, and Warren deserves respect for using some of his enormous cultural capital to fight obesity—especially now that biblical values are suddenly synonymous with consuming fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. But I am in awe at the superhuman degree of willful blindness it must take to read a profound story of conquest and resistance, of identity and assimilation, and discover, at the bottom of it all… a diet plan!

A story, sacred or secular, is a test of our empathy: an invitation to enter into the trials and hopes of a stranger. And it takes a remarkable self-centeredness to deliberately reject that invitation, to mine that story for anything that helps us grow our portfolios or shrink our waistlines, and throw away the husk of the human at its heart once we’ve sucked out all we can use. We can read selfishly just as we can act selfishly.

A big AMEN to that.

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A Mother Tries to Atone for a Deadly Hate Crime — NPR

At 40, Julie Sanders is a mother of three from Portland, Ore. But when she was 16, Sanders belonged to a white supremacist group — and one night in 1988, she witnessed a murder. Since then, she’s kept the event a secret from most of her friends and family.

She has broken the cycle and raised thoughtful and courageous children—one of them is defending a cross-dresser in his high school who’s being hassled—but it doesn’t feel like enough:

“But, I just still feel like not a good person,” she says. “And I don’t forgive myself.”

Sanders recently completed a degree in social work. She plans to work with kids who are at risk of joining hate groups.

How “much” atonement is enough? Is it even fruitful to think that way?

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Half Drag — Leland Bobbe

These are closeup portraits of drag queens with half of the face made up and half au naturel. Says the artist: ‘My intention with Half-Drag is to capture both the male and the alter-ego female side of these subjects in one image.’

What is feminine? Masculine? Beautiful? Where does authenticity originate and how does it find expression? These are some of the questions that come to mind as I look at these.

Not to mention that the images are amazing. The makeup itself is artistry.

;

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Offline: How’s It Going — Paul Miller

I featured Paul’s year-long no internet experiment a while back and here’s an update:

The first two weeks were a zen-like blur. I’ve never felt so calm and happy in my life. Never. And then I started actually getting stuff done. I bought copies of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, and Aeschylus. I was writing at an amazing pace. For the first time ever I seemed to be outpacing my editors.

Without the internet, everything seemed new to me. Every untweeted observation of daily life was more sacred. Every conversation was face to face or a phone call, and filled with a hundred fresh nuances. The air smelled better. My sentences seemed less convoluted. I lost a bit of weight.

Three months later, I don’t miss the internet at all. It doesn’t factor into my daily life. I don’t say to myself, “ugh, I wish I could just use the internet to do that.” It’s more like it doesn’t exist for me. I still say “ugh, I have to do that” — it’s just not the internet’s fault.

But now that not having internet is no longer new, just normal, the zen calm is gone. I don’t wake with the sunrise while chirping birds pull back the covers. I still have a job. I feel pressure and stress and frustration. I get lonely and bored. My articles aren’t always submitted on time. Sometimes my sentences aren’t good.

I’m just stock Paul Miller. No more Not-Using-The-Internet custom skin; I’m just myself. And it’s not all sunshine and epiphanies.

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The Veil of Opulence — NYT

This is a long but clear excursus on how we decide what’s fair and what’s not as a society, for the purposes of, say, designing a tax policy. It’s hard to figure out where to excerpt, so read the whole thing, but here’s the crux: the veil of ignorance (a traditional way of evaluating what’s fair) has been replaced in many quarters by a “veil of opulence.” Chopping mercilessly at the article:

The idea behind the veil of ignorance is relatively simple: to force us to think outside of our parochial personal concerns in order that we consider others. What Rawls saw clearly is that it is not easy for us to put ourselves in the position of others. We tend to think about others always from our own personal vantage; we tend to equate another person’s predicament with our own. Imagining what it must be like to be poor, for instance, we import presumptions about available resources, talents and opportunities — encouraging, say, the homeless to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to just get a job, any job, as if getting a job is as simple as filling out an application. Meanwhile, we give little thought to how challenging this can be for those who suffer from chronic illnesses or disabling conditions. What Rawls also saw clearly was that other classic principles of justice, like the golden rule or mutual benevolence, are subject to distortion precisely because we tend to do this.

Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence. While no serious political philosopher actually defends such a device — the term is my own — the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view — “What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?” — the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: “What system would I want if I were so-and-so?” These two doctrines of fairness — the universal view and the first-person view — are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. “If I were such and such a wealthy person,” they ask, “how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?” We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions…

…The veil of opulence assumes that the playing field is level, that all gains are fairly gotten, that there is no cosmic adversity. In doing so, it is partial to the fortunate — for fortune here is entirely earned or deserved. The veil of ignorance, on the other hand, introduces the possibility that one might fall on hard luck or that one is not born into luck. It never once closes out the possibility that that same person might take steps to overcome that bad luck. In this respect, it is not partial to the fortunate but impartial to all. Some will win by merit, some will win by lottery. Others will lose by laziness, while still others will lose because the world has thrown them some unfathomably awful disease or some catastrophically terrible car accident. It is an illusion of prosperity to believe that each of us deserves everything we get.

Interesting example in the NFL draft.

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One final link: I preached some time ago about Dan Savage and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage sitting at table together. Here is the video of that debate. I haven’t watched any of it yet and caveat emptor because Dan is famously salty in his speech. (Though I should also warn about Brian Brown, since many people find his perspective much more offensive than an errant F-bomb.)

Anyway, I link, you decide.

At the Table

MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
June 3, 2012
Why We Worship
Luke 7:36-50

IN THIS CORNER! Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, a group dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage and protecting what they call “traditional marriage.” Brian is a Catholic father of seven who has made it his life’s work to fight what his group’s website calls the “threat to marriage.”

AND IN THE OTHER CORNER! Dan Savage, a writer and host of a radio show about love and relationships. Dan is a vigorous supporter of gay rights and marriage equality. He lives with his partner Terry and their son in Seattle, clear across the country from Brian Brown. Dan and Terry began the “It Gets Better” project after a recent spate of suicides by gay teens who were the victims of bullying. The videos tell the teens to hang in there, that life is worth living, that high school can be brutal and nasty but that it gets better. He’s also a colorful, some might say caustic, speaker and writer, and believe me when I tell you he is not everyone’s cup of tea. You have been warned, so don’t write me letters.

Brian Brown recently challenged Savage to a debate over the Bible and marriage. These are two men who are used to giving full-throated defenses of their position but they have never faced each other. “You name the time and the place,” Brown wrote on his website, throwing down the gauntlet.

Dan Savage accepted the invitation to debate. But there will be no crowd of supporters, booing and cheering each side. There will be no grandstanding speeches, no protesters on the sidewalk outside shouting each other down. Dan Savage has invited Brian Brown and his wife into Dan’s home, to meet his family and have dinner and debate on marriage equality. They will meet not onstage, but at table.

And Brian Brown has accepted.

I’m trying to imagine these two, pitching this event to their spouses.

Brian Brown: So, honey? You know that potty-mouthed gay man who’s been so critical of the pope and represents everything we’re fighting against? We’re going to his house.

And Dan Savage: You know that guy on TV who says that our relationship is a threat to families and dangerous for children and society in general? Well… guess who’s coming to dinner!

Now for any of you shifting uncomfortably on those nice pew cushions, this is not a sermon about gay marriage. We may talk about it at some point, at a time when there’s the opportunity for back and forth, but it’s not something I would ever spring on you.

This is a sermon about the Eucharist—the Lord’s Supper.
It’s a sermon about communion. It’s a sermon about what can happen when people sit around a table together.

In the words of Dan Savage, as he wrote about this invitation: “[In doing this] I… acknowledge Brown’s humanity by extending my hospitality, and he… acknowledges mine by accepting my hospitality.”

Now let’s not lose our heads here.
Do I think there’s any chance that either of these guys is going to change his mind on gay marriage? No.
But will the sharp edges of this debate soften just the tiniest bit? Possibly.
Will Dan greet Brian with a basin of water and oil for anointing his head? Doubtful, though I’m sure that would be a big hit on YouTube.

Might they come away from this experience changed a little? Possibly. I certainly hope so. In fact, I’ve staked my life on it.

Nine years ago this weekend, I was ordained a Minister of Word and Sacrament. I’ve staked my life on the conviction that the sacraments have gracious, mysterious power in our lives, that we learn at this table what it means to be community at every table.

Whenever we share a meal and share our lives—
whether this meal [at the communion table] or a potluck with the church
or a picnic with our families or even an uncomfortable dinner between two political adversaries,
the Spirit of Christ is present and there is hope for transformation.

The table is intimate. The table is up close. There’s nowhere to hide.
There’s no podium to clutch for support.
No talking points on index cards, nothing but each of us, all of us,
living in these frail bodies that need nutrition and hydration in order to survive,
these bodies that are fueled, not just by calories
but by love, dignity, community, reverence.

We bring those needs to the table, like it or not, which is what makes Dan Savage’s invitation, and Brian Brown’s acceptance, such a resonant image for our rancorous times.

In the Greek language, the word for host and the word for guest are one and the same. Which is appropriate: in true hospitality, there is a mutuality. There’s nobody in charge at a table. The host is just as vulnerable as the guest, in a sense, because even the most gifted host cannot control what will happen when you get people together, elbow to elbow.

The table is a powerful place. I think this is why some of us struggle with relatives who get nasty over Thanksgiving dinner. People ask me how to respond when Aunt Edna goes off on one of her tirades… and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that. Except to say that part of what makes it so hard is that people who make racist comments, or who question the other political party’s patriotism, or who demonize “those people” are breaking the rules of the table and turning the meal into something it’s not.

It’s not that you can’t have disagreements over a meal. We will come to this table in a few moments and I know that the people in this room are split down the middle on gay marriage, give or take, just like the country is; pick any other issue in this election year and it will be a similar story. But when we climb up on a table, any table, and make it into a soapbox, when we show contempt for the very person who’s passing us the squash casserole, when we approach the meal from a posture of judgment and power rather than mutual sharing and good faith—then table fellowship is lost.

“Jesus of Nazareth, come to my home to eat.” Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dine with him. But he does not extend hospitality. He does not treat Jesus as an honored guest, nor like a guest at all. He dispenses with all the usual customs of hospitality at the time: a kiss of peace, a washing of the feet. Jesus is an inconvenient afterthought. Just like our boorish uncle Bob who won’t stop yammering about the President’s birth certificate, or those evil Republicans, Simon turns the table into a place to assert himself. And Jesus calls him on it: These practices matter, Simon. They aren’t just niceties, they show care and respect. And you blew it. And Simon is the one who’s poorer for it.

By contrast, Jesus receives hospitality from a woman who isn’t even sitting at the table. She does all the work of the host, but she does it messy. She does it at a slant. She doesn’t wash his feet with a basin, she bathes them in tears. She doesn’t kiss him hello at the door, she bends over his tear-stained feet and kisses his feet. She’s sloppy and embarrassing and Jesus adores her for it. She is a sinner, we’re told, but she shows great love. Or perhaps I should say, she is a sinner AND she shows great love.

It’s the “and” that gives us hope. Because we, too, are broken. We’re as broken as Simon:
so capable, so influential, so learned—
but so stingy, so small, so unable to let go of being right that we can’t enter the joy of real relationship.

And we’re as broken as the woman, we feel like outsiders in our heart of hearts (oh if people only knew what I was really like), but so frantic for something real that we will trip all over ourselves in a grand sloppy display of pure desperation and need.

Part of the inspiration for this series on worship is to explore the theology behind our practices of worship. I get questions all the time about why we do certain things at IPC. Why do we allow children to come to the table before they have been confirmed? Why do we move the passing of the peace on communion Sundays—from early in the service to right before the invitation to the table? Why don’t we cut the bread ahead of time so everyone gets their own piece, which would be more sanitary?

Those are all good questions. And there are all kinds of theological dimensions to them, but it turns out that really, all of those questions have the same basic answer. We do those things because we are in this together. Because we need the love of Jesus that is offered at this table; we need it as individuals and as a community. And if that’s true, then nobody is excluded from the table of God: not children, not Pharisees, not women with alabaster jars.

We’re in this together, so when we come to this table, we come to be reconciled, and sharing the peace with one another allows that reconciliation to take place.

We’re in this together, and being in a community means we share a common loaf. Communion is not a private affair, between us and God, it’s a big unholy family-style meal of bread touched by others’ hands and a cup with little crumbs of bread floating in it, and Jesus says you people are a mess, I love it and I love you.

“She has shown great love.”
So does God show great love for all at this table.
So may we all show great love.

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Image: Dan Savage talking about the It Gets Better project on YouTube. 

 

Friday Link Love

A bounty today:

High Speed Liquid Flowers — Colossal

“High speed photographs of colored water.” Amazing:

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A Company’s Stand for Gay Marriage, And Its Cost — NYT

It’s a very interesting story because it blends the personal with the corporate and the political:

“I understand that your company donated $250,000 or so to the effort to ban the marriage amendment,” read one [critical e-mail]. “I am very concerned that with an increased visibility and acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, one of my children, who would have grown up and been happily married to a husband, could be tempted to the lesbian lifestyle.”

I support people putting their money where their mouth is. I’ve bought from Replacements Limited several times over the years. I wish I hadn’t already completed the set of china we got for our wedding.

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13 Great Books on the Horizon — NPR

You can look forward to a host of new titles by writers who’ll keep you riveted without insulting your intelligence, whether you prefer thrillers, literary fiction, biographies or page turners in just about any genre. Books are among the joys that make summers memorable, and this year we’re spoiled for choice.

Every summer I make an informal pact with myself not to read any church administration, organizational leadership or theology books for the summer. Maybe I’ll check some of these out.

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An Anne Geddes Baby Manifesto — McSweeneys

Occupy Flower Pot!

We reject the premise that all babies are cute and worthy of being surrounded by fluffy, pastel, scented debris. We reject the serving up of people in the early stages of cognitive development in giant teacups, unable to comprehend the tropes they are helping to propagate, specifically regarding colonialism and unsupervised use of diuretics. We reject the reverse anthropomorphism of humans into bumble bees, especially in so anatomically simplistic a manner, without so much as a solid thorax to recommend the likeness.

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Fifteen Ways to Stay Married for Fifteen Years — Huffington Post

We’re going on 18 years and yes, I’d agree with every one of these on one level or another.

Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can let go of the idea that marriage is temporary — and will end if certain awful conditions are met — the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress. Yes, you may find yourself in a horrible situation where it’s absolutely necessary to get a divorce. But going into it with divorce in the back of your mind, even in the way way way back of your mind, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary angst. Accept that you’re going to stay with him. He’s going to stay with you. Inhabit that and figure out how to make THAT work, instead of living with the “what if”s and “in case of’s.”

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Bone Flutes Found in German Caves Point to Roots of Creativity — LA Times

Researchers have discovered flutes dating back to as much as as much as 45,000 years ago using radiocarbon-dated bones found in the same layer of the archaeological dig.

Awesome.

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John Waters Tries Some Desperate Living on a Cross-Country Hitchhiking Odyssey — NYT

Loved this article. The Freakonomics podcast had a feature several months ago exploring whether hitchhiking is as dangerous as we think. Conclusion: probably not. Stil, I will live vicariously through John Waters, methinks.

May the highways of your life be full of joy and surprise this weekend.

Friday Link Love

Away we go:

Man Barely Able to Stand Does the Unthinkable — YouTube

I would like to know more specifics about how the yoga teacher helped him, but yes. Amazing.

h/t: Teri Peterson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Gets Sidetracked While Singing Children’s Songs — McSweeney’s

They get his gee-whiz pegagogical voice just right:

Actually, some might call the wheels on the bus a “discovery” more than an invention, as most things in this world are a discovery of invention, rather than a fabrication out of nothing. This brings up something I want to discuss briefly here, if you will allow, because I think the misconception that a lot of people have, uh, concerning, concerning SCIENTISTS. Oooo, “Scientists.” That word. Strikes fear into the heart of some, and amazement into the heart of, well, me. And probably you, since you are here today in this planetarium, listening to me go on and on about my love for this… hang on a sec, let me… okay, so, we often find people BLAMING scientists for, for, for, these discoveries and inventions… being misused or being funded for misuse. We must remember that the discovery itself is not moral or immoral, it is the application of said discovery that is required to be held to that standard. Also, how cool are wheels on busses, right? And circles, in general. The fact that you can take a circle and divide it by its radius and you get pi, everytime, is astounding to me. Gives me chills every time.

More at the link. And for those keeping score, this is the second week in a row that I’ve featured NdGT on Friday Link Love. Why? Because he’s kind of a big deal.

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The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen — That Organic Girl

This post offers a list of foods that are most important to buy organic (if possible) and a list of foods for which organic isn’t that critical.

I’m a pretty half-***ed consumer when it comes to organic goods—I basically get what’s available and what my kids are likely to eat. (Caroline just informed me that she no longer likes the big three: apples, oranges, or bananas. C’mon, WORK WITH ME KID.)

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Speaking of food,

The Anti-Diet — The Londoner

As I wrote on my Pinterest boards, “Best overview I’ve read on how to lose weight without dieting. Covers exercise, emotionally based eating, sustaining a discipline, the importance of enjoying food… I don’t know about the cravings piece (e.g. if you crave carbonated drinks you need more calcium) but it’s interesting.”

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Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves — Religion Dispatches

Just so we’re clear:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

More. Much more.

Last week a conservative member of my denomination told NPR, “From the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, the only sexual relationships that are affirmed in scripture are those in the context of marriage between one man and one woman.” To quote my friend Michael: biblical scholarship FAIL.

You want to be against gay marriage? You can do that. But the Bible doesn’t help you as much as you think it does.

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And just for fun, and to fill my quota on posts from Colossal:

Gale-Force Winds Directly to the Face — Colossal

So very entertaining and bizarre. It’s exactly what it sounds like:

Have a great weekend, all.

Speaking of North Carolina… A Repost

This was the second post I wrote on The Blue Room, related to Prop 8 in California. It relates a bit to what’s going on down in North Carolina.

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Nothing like tackling a controversial issue on the second day of a new blog!

I’m not going to say much about Judge Walker’s decision declaring California’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. But I am thinking about a few things today.

I remember seven years ago this summer, going to the Fairfax County Courthouse to get authorized to perform weddings in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In accordance with Virginia law, I had to fill out a form, get a letter from my presbytery saying I was a minister in good standing, pay $30, and take an oath. I remember walking out of the courthouse afterwards, calling Robert and laughing: “Hey! I’ve got the ‘power vested in me’ now!”

Something about that whole transaction felt very, very strange to me at the time. It seemed quite odd that I, a minister called by God and ordained to serve a local congregation, was now in effect performing a service on behalf of the state… that a couple whose wedding I officiated would not be legally married until I signed the license and sent it back to the county.

I remember when Robert and I went to get our marriage license (sixteen years ago!), the clerk asked us a long list of questions that we had to answer with “I do” and the like. As bureaucratic processes go, it was unexpectedly moving. Almost… liturgical? We left, and one of us said to the other, Did we just get married? Because it kinda feels like we did. Hey, if only we’d kissed afterwards, we could have saved everyone a lot of time and money…

This was in Texas, where I’ve also performed weddings, but unlike Virginia, there were no legal hoops to jump through beforehand. I’ve often wondered why Texas doesn’t vet its clergy like Virginia does. Could it be that Texas’s requirements and processes for getting a marriage license are more stringent, making the credentials of the officiant less relevant? I haven’t gotten a marriage license in Virginia so I have no idea. I hope one of my smart readers has some info about this.

The point is this, however: seven years ago, when I got ordained, I had not given much thought to the nuances of how gay marriage could or would be enacted from a policy perspective. But it seems clear to me now, as many others have said, that we need to separate the religious service of marriage from its civil aspects. I believe it is the only way forward, and it also gets clergy out of this agent-of-the-state weirdness. Even some of the opponents to gay marriage acknowledge that the legal rights of partnership should not be denied to same-sex couples.

I’m thinking about a couple whose wedding I recently officiated. I woke up the morning of their wedding rehearsal with a start, realizing that I hadn’t said anything to them in our premarital counseling about getting a marriage license. It isn’t my job to remind them, but usually it comes up, and I tell them to bring their paperwork to the service, if not the rehearsal, so I can sign it.

At the rehearsal I mention this to the groom and he says, “Oh, we’re actually not planning to get a marriage license. We really don’t care what our status is with the government. What matters to us is that our union be blessed by God.”

Now, inside I’m thinking, This is a really, really bad idea. This couple already has children together, and let’s face it, there are tangible benefits to being “officially” married… which of course is a big part of why gay persons are fighting for this civil right. And I told some friends afterward about this and several suggested that they probably already were married and either didn’t want their family to know, or wanted the imprimatur of the church on their union. I also felt a little put out: then what am I doing here? Play-acting? Fake marrying?

Later I realized: they cared more about the liturgical and sacramental aspects of marriage than the legal ones. Isn’t that something? What I was doing there was not play-acting, but what I as a clergyperson am supposed to do: to ask God’s blessing on the union between two people, to pray for their welfare, and to support them as they pledge their lives to one another.

And whatever legal/contractual arrangement they have with one another, as important and beneficial as that is, is a separate issue entirely.

What do you think?

Ten on Tuesday

1. In spite of pacing myself last week, working on the book was hard work, and I’m tired. Trying to go easy on myself. Unfortunately, well, there’s just a lot going on.

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2. I do feel good about what I accomplished last week. I did a ton of editing on my first (very rough) draft, and now I need to enter those changes into Evernote. (Still need a word count feature, guys!) Then I need feedback, then lots more drafts.

The Collegeville Institute has a nicely stocked kitchen, including Nutella, which I never buy because it’s, well, deliciously sinister, but it’s great on a sandwich with peanut butter. I call the PB&N sandwich the “Collegeville Special.”

One fun thing, there’s started to be some buzz about the book. The group last week was very encouraging. And I actually got a call the other day from a freelance reporter working on an article on Sabbath-keeping for an Episcopal Church publication, wanting to interview me.

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3. Caroline is at camp this week. That’s been unexpectedly hard. I suspect she will have some homesick moments but will mostly have a blast. It’s a Girl Scout camp with a swimming/water focus, which will bring some familiarity to a brand-new experience. I can’t wait to hear all about it on Saturday morning.

I did something in worship on Sunday that may have been a little self-indulgent, but heck, being the pastor has to have some privileges. And when you’re in a small church with a small group of kids, you can do stuff like this. During the children’s time, I talked about today being Caroline’s first camp experience, and I asked one of the older boys, who’d just come back from Boy Scout camp, to give some advice to Caroline. Then I asked the whole congregation to add words of advice or encouragement. Then I told all of the kids to look out at the people in the congregation and remember that wherever they go, this church family cares about them and prays for them. It was a nice “Tiny Church” moment.

That day C was wearing her T-shirt from the divisional swim meet. We’d forgotten to have her teammates sign the back of the shirt at the swim team party the day before, so she had her family do it instead. She also brought a Sharpie to church and had people there sign it. It made me feel smile to think that as she went into this new experience, that her family and friends “had her back.”

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4. Speaking of the swim team party, Caroline had a pretty good season. She got stronger in all four strokes, with her times improving by up to 26% (depending on the stroke) over the season. Caroline had really wanted the coach’s award, and was striving for it all summer. It went to her friend K instead. Afterwards I gave her a hug and she said sincerely, “I’m not upset. I’m happy for K. She’s my best friend.”

That was my proudest moment as a swim-team mom.

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5. In the car with Margaret the other day… we were talking about the age difference between the kids and which years they’d be at school together:

Me: So when you’re in second and third grade, all three of you will be in the same school. And then in high school, you and Caroline will be there together one year, until she goes to college. And you and James will be in the same school for two years, until you go to college.

Margaret: And then James will go to college. And then you will cry.

Me: Yes, probably.

Margaret: But it will be from joy too.

Me: Yes, definitely.

Margaret: Besides, Grammy and Pops will be there where we go to college!

…OK, what’s great about this conversation is the assumption on her part, that of course she will go to Rice University in Houston… hah! YES!!

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6. I’m in complete denial about the mess that is happening in Washington over the debt ceiling. Seriously. What a train wreck. La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you.

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7. I know it’s not time for Friday Link Love yet, but I love this article in Newsweek by Andrew Sullivan called “Why Gay Marriage is Good for Straight America.” I’ve thought for a long time that marriage equality was fundamentally a conservative notion.

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8. My BFF is coming into town on Saturday night for several days! Woo!

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9. I started out thinking that Google+ would be my Facebook replacement, and it might be that, but it’s actually been a Twitter replacement. More on that some other time, perhaps.

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10. And finally, someone posted this to their Facebook. I remember when he first said this and my jaw dropped. Love the prophet Stephen:

post prop 8 ponderings

Nothing like tackling a controversial issue on the second day of a new blog!

I’m not going to say much about Judge Walker’s decision declaring California’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. But I am thinking about a few things today.

I remember seven years ago this summer, going to the Fairfax County Courthouse to get authorized to perform weddings in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In accordance with Virginia law, I had to fill out a form, get a letter from my presbytery saying I was a minister in good standing, pay $30, and take an oath. I remember walking out of the courthouse afterwards, calling Robert and laughing: “Hey! I’ve got the ‘power vested in me’ now!”

Something about that whole transaction felt very, very strange to me at the time. It seemed quite odd that I, a minister called by God and ordained to serve a local congregation, was now in effect performing a service on behalf of the state… that a couple whose wedding I officiated would not be legally married until I signed the license and sent it back to the county.

I remember when Robert and I went to get our marriage license (sixteen years ago!), the clerk asked us a long list of questions that we had to answer with “I do” and the like. As bureaucratic processes go, it was unexpectedly moving. Almost… liturgical? We left, and one of us said to the other, Did we just get married? Because it kinda feels like we did. Hey, if only we’d kissed afterwards, we could have saved everyone a lot of time and money…

This was in Texas, where I’ve also performed weddings, but unlike Virginia, there were no legal hoops to jump through beforehand. I’ve often wondered why Texas doesn’t vet its clergy like Virginia does. Could it be that Texas’s requirements and processes for getting a marriage license are more stringent, making the credentials of the officiant less relevant? I haven’t gotten a marriage license in Virginia so I have no idea. I hope one of my smart readers has some info about this.

The point is this, however: seven years ago, when I got ordained, I had not given much thought to the nuances of how gay marriage could or would be enacted from a policy perspective. But it seems clear to me now, as many others have said, that we need to separate the religious service of marriage from its civil aspects. I believe it is the only way forward, and it also gets clergy out of this agent-of-the-state weirdness. Even some of the opponents to gay marriage acknowledge that the legal rights of partnership should not be denied to same-sex couples.

I’m thinking about a couple whose wedding I recently officiated. I woke up the morning of their wedding rehearsal with a start, realizing that I hadn’t said anything to them in our premarital counseling about getting a marriage license. It isn’t my job to remind them, but usually it comes up, and I tell them to bring their paperwork to the service, if not the rehearsal, so I can sign it.

At the rehearsal I mention this to the groom and he says, “Oh, we’re actually not planning to get a marriage license. We really don’t care what our status is with the government. What matters to us is that our union be blessed by God.”

Now, inside I’m thinking, This is a really, really bad idea. This couple already has children together, and let’s face it, there are tangible benefits to being “officially” married… which of course is a big part of why gay persons are fighting for this civil right. And I told some friends afterward about this and several suggested that they probably already were married and either didn’t want their family to know, or wanted the imprimatur of the church on their union. I also felt a little put out: then what am I doing here? Play-acting? Fake marrying?

Later I realized: they cared more about the liturgical and sacramental aspects of marriage than the legal ones. Isn’t that something? What I was doing there was not play-acting, but what I as a clergyperson am supposed to do: to ask God’s blessing on the union between two people, to pray for their welfare, and to support them as they pledge their lives to one another.

And whatever legal/contractual arrangement they have with one another, as important and beneficial as that is, is a separate issue entirely.

What do you think?