Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Christmas season.


All my roommates can attest that the Christmas season starts, for me, in October.  That’s when I begin baking cookies and planning presents and hanging Christmas lights and dancing wildly around my room while conducting the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Carol of the Bells.
Yeah, I’m that girl.  I’m Christmasing before Macy’s.
I’ve toned it down for Kristi (no decorations till Thanksgiving) but I’m still blasting the Muppet Christmas Carol “It Feels Like Christmas” on my commute.  First snow?  You bet I’m playing in it.  And on the altar of my heart, all year round, is a string of white Christmas lights.
I’m a Christmas kid.
I was raised a Christmas kid.  Come November, our house was full of Italian cookies baking.  Mom and Dad put up a pine tree every year even though Mom was allergic and it made a heroic mess of the floor.  In December, we hung a wooden Christmas tree with a drawer for every day - an Advent calendar with an ornament for each day till Christmas Eve.  We filled every shelf with Santas and carefully set up Mom’s dime-store creche.  And on Christmas Eve, the whole neighborhood set out luminaria:
Christmas means family and tradition - especially of my mom, who worked so hard to give me a normal childhood in the midst of my dad’s compounding illness and my growing loneliness.  
Then I went to Saint Olaf College where CHRISTMAS IS INESCAPABLE.
Christmas trees in the commons.  A fire in Fireside.  Lutefisk and lefse in the caf.  Alumni showed up in snowflake sweaters.  
And stressed out students steal the caf trays just to slide Old Main Hill, and above quiet hours you’ll hear Boe Chapel bells.
And I sang in the Saint Olaf Choir and guys there is NOTHING LIKE THIS.  ANYWHERE.  EVER.
Ever.
And then:
I met this incredible, amazing, wonderful, brilliant, compassionate, funny, wonderful woman.  And we fell in love.  And it was Christmas.
How could I not be a Christmas kid after all this?  How could I not be unbearably exuberant at the first sign of snow?  How could I not have a smartphone half-full of carols and choirs? 
But.
Good and loving and lectionary-conscious friends remind me every year that I’m rushing the Advent season by starting my Christmas music at the same time as department stores.  I’m not waiting for Christ properly.  I’m not taking time, savoring the season, waiting in the darkness for the light to shine.
To this I say:  Tough Christmas cookies.
I know what they mean.  And I won’t subject anyone to my ridiculous Christmasing before the time is due.  But the Christmas season has become, for me, more than cookies and choirs and tradition and celebration.  It’s more than presents and It’s a Wonderful Life and eggnog.  
It’s the kingdom of G-d on earth and it’s bursting out the church door into every corner of the world.
At the heart of everything the secular culture puts us through to get to Christmas - the constant chirp of spend! spend! spend! and the endless renditions of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the radio - is something good and real and trustworthy.  Something about love and compassion and generosity.  Something about G-d bless us, every one! and G-d rest ye merry gentlemen and turning the world around.  It is, truly, “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Maybe it’s just the naiveté of a silly twenty-five-year-old who ought to know better, but my heart’s choir is singing O Holy Night all year round, and I hope to G-d-with-us it always is.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Never Been Kissed"

Tonight's Glee was about teh gays.

This is a really empty summary, but it's true.

It dared to ask:

What does the world do to people like Kurt - boys who don't fit our mold of masculinity?
What does the world do to people like Coach Beiste - straight women who don't fit our mold of femininity?
And how does what we do affect Dave - the closeted Neanderthal football player?

I grew up gay.  I always was.  Even when I was coming up with a complicated scheme to ask Eric to the Sadie Hawkins Dance or flirting with Nate in French class, every move was made to draw the attention of the girls around us.  At sixteen, I finally opened my mouth and admitted it - to myself, and to my friends.

I was never bullied.  I was never made fun of.  A few friends did tell me that I was going to hell.  But they were friends, and they had the goodness (I do think it was goodness) to tell me what they thought was truth to my face.  In the high school world of cattiness and backstabbing, I was treated like a human being.  (Church was another matter, as I've said before.)

In my senior year, I came out to my entire AP Psychology class.  We were told to re-create the box of ourselves - the outside that we showed to everyone else, and the inside that we hid.  I built a triangle box, and covered it in rainbows, and when the time came for my turn to share whatever I cared to share, I opened the box.

Many of my classmates opened their boxes and bared their souls that day.  But I was the only one to receive a card the next day - started by two of my classmates, and signed by all of them, saying, "Thank you for your courage."
(And yes...I still have it:

And I still have it.)
Now, it was a high school of six hundred to a graduating class, and there were only thirty in AP Psych.  And there was certainly cattiness everywhere, and mean things thought and said.  And I was fighting my own darkness - it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns.  But when I think about how my sexuality was handled - all I remember is love.

My world is not the world for all gay children and youth.  Many of us are born into families that hate us.  Many of us go to church and hear ourselves damned.  Many of us go to school and are mocked and teased and hated even more.

Some of us end up on the street.

Some of us end up on drugs.

Some of us end up in abusive relationships because it's the only place we can find love.

Some of us - Seth, Asher, Justin, Billy, Tyler, Raymond, and now Brandon - can't survive.

And I think all of us feel alone.

I was blessed to be born to a family and a church and a community that loved me.  It is the church's job now to be that community to every one of my suffering queer brothers and sisters.  There is too much hurt in the world, and too much joy to be had, for us to be silent.

The Anglican Covenant.

I grew up Episcopalian.  For many and various reasons I started a-wanderin' from the Church when I was fourteen, and left officially at twenty when I was confirmed into the ELCA at Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf.

It was a tricky choice to make at the time (May 2005), because the ELCA was not officially recognizing the ordination of gay and lesbian partnered people, while the Episcopal church had been doing so since 1996.  Mom pointed this out to me on more than one occasion, but I was committed to joining the Lutheran church; I thought I'd found a denomination that was doing church differently, where the theological integrity of the Episcopals (which I loved) was combined with the passion and joy of the Evangelicals (which I also loved).

It would turn out, in the long run, that many of the things which drove me nuts in the Episcopal Church - tradition for tradition's sake, the perpetuation of hierarchy, the reluctance to throw out people who perpetuated oppression and cruelty, and a basic inability to keep out pastors who never should have been granted positions of spiritual power - are present in the ELCA as well.  But I believed then, and still do now, that the theological groundings of the Lutheran Church allow more space to fight against these things than I found in the Episcopal church.  (Check back in four years and see if I'm still singing this song.)

The ELCA has finally put one leg into its big-boy pants and allowed the ordination of individuals in publically accountable lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships, a.k.a. the queer folk.  We've still got a long way to go, but the major administrative roadblocks are down.  And I recognize that the ELCA's non-decision is a nice, covenantal, loving way to try to keep everyone together, and I'm trying to respect that even though I personally would very much like to tell certain members to take their oppressive, heterosexist, cruel, anti-Christian and anti-Lutheran ideas and go play elsewhere.

Today, I read that the Anglican Communion - of which the Episcopal Church is a province - has its very British knickers all in a twist about teh scary gays, or as they persist in saying "the homosexuals" (which is inherently heterosexist - try googling "gay Christians" vs "homosexual Christians" and see the diversity of results!).  There is apparently now a committee trying to get everyone to sign The Anglican Covenant, which as far as I can tell is a big sheet of paper that says a lot of vague things, but if you read every letter down the left side it spells out "PRIESTS:  NO WOMEN, NO GAYS."

It's been my opinion for a while that the Episcopal Church should just say PBbbbbhtt! to the Anglicans who can't get their big-boy pants on, but I know this is not a very Christian opinion and blah blah blah.  I'm somewhat with Bishop Spong on this one:  "Look, y'all, if you're not going to have a grown-up conversation with me, then I'm not going to have one with you."  I don't have to care.   Pbbbhttt! I can say to them!  Take your pointy hats and your funny curse words and go play somewhere else.  But I do care, because this is my home church that you're messing with, and I care about my queer brothers and sisters in all churches.

So I've been reading blog posts & articles on it, and I have to say:  Anglicans are blessedly verbose.  I do love them for it, but good grief.

I'll end with this comment from Matthew Duckett's Is The Anglican Covenant Catholic?  I do think that Bob's concept of "gnostic lite" fits well for my Lutheran brothers and sisters in the NALC, LCMS, and WELS:
As I read your analysis, what came to my mind is that those wanting the Covenant are at least "gnostic light," if not full-on gnostic. They hold the truth. They know if you are worth of membership, and will vote on it.

By this understanding, this would reduce the Anglican Communion to nothing much more than a bunch of Freemason-like friends that admit women as members (even if they can't be positions of power). Truth is what the Memberhip Committee says it is.

I'd rather miss looking through the glass dimly with my friends. Jesus had words about those who say they see clearly.