Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writer

When I was younger and too afraid of people to accept my call, I dreamed of being a writer.

Agatha Christie

I dreamed of secluded fame, of fresh-printed books still smelling of wet binding glue and Emmy Rettino Kegler (or any of the many pen-names I came up with) embossed along the hardcover spine.

I filled journals, notebooks, floppy disks, hard drives with short stories and poems.

Writing gave me control.

I didn't have to fulfill any requirements, follow any rules I didn't want.

I could make my characters speak only in five-word sentences.

I could leave out any words beginning with S.

I could use em-dashes and semicolons fifteen times in one paragraph.

I could break the line here,
or
here, or
                                                   here.

I could have my happy ending.  I could decide how the poem ended.  I could choose who lived, who died, who finally confessed their love and who walked away to start a new life.

I didn't have a lot of happy endings in high school.
I don't suppose a lot of people do, no matter what the storybooks say.

I didn't have a lot of control over my life.  School, even after school activities, are highly dictated by rules and regulations and teachers and coaches.  And I knew something was very wrong at home - something beyond how physically sick my father was - but I didn't know what.  And for a very long time I thought there was something wrong with me - and writing was one way to get down into the isolation I felt, the differentness of me, and imagine a better world where I didn't feel so unlike everyone else.

Writing was my way of knowing that what I was experiencing - pain, heartache, inner turmoil, transition, fear, anger - was real.  And it was also a way of asserting that I believed it was not the final reality of my life.

I wrote because I believed my life could be better.

I had a few things published - no big deals, just poems or short stories submitted to various teen publications and contests.  I made my first $100 at fourteen from a writing contest, and bought a portable CD player with it.  That was the last time I openly shared anything I'd written with my friends - too much of the rest was unfinished - too much of the rest was dark.

I didn't write as much in college.  There was too much going on - too many friends - too many events - and then this beautiful, totally new thing with this beautiful woman named Kristi.  Oh, and too much schoolwork, I guess.  I'd come up with story ideas and jot them down, but I didn't feel the ache to write like I used to.

I didn't think of myself as a loner anymore.  I didn't need to write to change my world, because my world was really, really good.  So I stopped thinking of myself as a writer, and started thinking of myself as a pastor.

When I took up blogging, I was writing to chronicle my journey through seminary.  I still didn't think of myself as a writer.  I was just blogging what's on my mind at any given time.

So it was sort of a shock, several months ago, to have one of my newly dear seminary friends say:

"You're such a good writer."

I haven't been told that in a non-academic context in ten years.

I haven't been called a writer in a very long time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sermon for May 15 2011 (Good Shepherd Sunday / Youth Sunday)

Texts here.

In reading over the texts and working with our youth as they prepared today's service, I couldn't stop thinking about the December Christmas pageant. I guess it's because today is Good Shepherd Sunday - I don't have a lot of sheep in my life, but at the Christmas pageant - well, then we have sheep! We have sheep and a donkey and, if we have enough kids, maybe a camel.

The sheep in our pageant are usually the littlest ones - the ones that, in some ways, need the most shepherding.  They haven't been in the pageant before. They're not sure when to walk in.  They aren't sure of the story, or what their part is in it.  But we bring them - again and again - and after a few years as sheep, they graduate to donkey, to shepherd, to angel.

Many of our children and youth leading today were raised in the church. Many of our adults were too.
Parents, grandparents, godparents, guardians, family - by them our children are brought to church like the first shepherds carried the first lambs to the first Christmas manger.  And these little lambs we call the children and youth of LCCR bleat through the hymns, and trot up and down the aisles, and fight with their siblings and friends like baby goats butting heads.  But we bring them, and we welcome them - even squirming, fussing, kicking, bleating.

Some of you know that, as the Children's Education Associate, one of my less official tasks is to help children and youth transition from classrooms for education to the sanctuary for worship. This is always a time fraught with excuses, and a little bit of whining. "I'm tired. My sister woke me up early. I was up late last night. I'm not going to church. I'm waiting for my parents to come get me." (That last one works when you're six, but I send sixteen year olds to worship on their own.)

And every now and then, one of these precious lambs and sheep of the church of Christ will ask me outright:
"Why do I have to go to church?"
One of my less official tasks is to answer that question.

So: Molly, Jake, Grace, Kayla, Abby, Alex, Audrey:
what I am trying to tell you when I teach, and what I tell you all this morning, is that no one can answer that question but you. I hope all of us have the start of an answer to this question - to why do I have to go to church. I know that I am still working out my answers now. So today I will tell you why I am here, in the hope that my answer to the question helps spark answers for yourself.

I am here because coming to church is an act of rebellion.

Coming to church is a rebellion against culture - culture that says:
The most important relationship is the one that gets you noticed.
The way to find your value is to count how much money you have.
You are beautiful if others admire you.
You are powerful if others fear you.
The most important person in your life is you.

The church - at its core, and at its best, says :
The most important relationship is the one we have with our neighbor.
The way to find your value is to understand your life as a baptized child of God.
You are beautiful because you are made in the image of a beautiful God.
You are powerful when you are weak.
And the most important person in your life is who we are, as a community,
gathered in the presence of God, in the hope of Jesus' resurrection, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today we read about the early church of Acts - the church of signs and wonders, of all things held in common, of glad and generous hearts, of daily new members added. A church that centered itself in the Spirit. I'm just finishing my finals after my first year of seminary. After a year of studying Scripture and church history, I will tell you something: this is not the whole history of the church. The history of the Christian church and the narrative of the Bible is this: God is with us, always loving us, continually calling us to love each other - but in our Scripture and our history we also see the many ways we have fallen from that love.

A lot of Scripture and church history is theological battles - believers against other believers, drawing lines about who was out and who was in. Much of Christian history is a history that said there were people who were unimportant or unacceptable,  who were not worthy or welcome, who were not called or welcomed to lead the people of God.
The poor. The very young and the very old. The weak and powerless.
The oppressed and the ones without influence. Women. Widows and orphans.
Non-white. Non-English speaking. Disabled and handicapped. Deaf and blind.
Quiet and shy. A little too loud.
The uneducated. The sick. The tired. The suffering. The abused.
Gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and intersex and and queer and questioning.
The stranger. The doubter. The agnostic and atheist.
The broken.
The sinner.
The people who, for whatever reason, were kept out of the body of Christ.

But over and over again, in Scripture, in our history, and in our present day lives, God breaks through our boundaries to bring all into the family of God. God rebells against the lines we draw, against the lie that something can separate us from the love of Christ. God insists that when the shepherd calls our name, nothing can prevent us passing through the gate. God insists, against all realities and against all odds, that we have the opportunity to have life, and have it abundantly.

And I see that insistence in our life here at LCCR. For me, coming to LCCR is another act of rebellion - rebellion against our sometimes painful Christian history. So I come for the wildness of our our passing of the peace - crossing borders, getting out of our comfort zone. I come here for the unity in our communion - for the moments when we are fed together. I come for the stories of our past - for Scripture and history that testifies to God's presence and love for us.  I come for those moments when I so clearly hear the gospel and see the movement of the Spirit, for those moments when we rebel against the thieves of life, for those moments that spark my imagination and vision for what the church has been and can be.

We are all brought here,
carried like sheep on the shepherd's shoulder.
We all butt our goat heads against the lies of culture and history,
and we wonder like wide eyed baby lambs at the beauty of our past and the hope of our future in God.
Because coming to church is an act of rebellion.
And we come through the Gate that was opened for us -
the Gate that is the One who knows our name,
the Gate through which we come in and go out,
the Gate where we find green pastures, still waters, a welcoming table in the midst of hate -
the Gate which does signs and wonders among us -
the Gate where we find life, and find it abundantly.

Texts for May 15th 2011

Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

John 10:1-10
"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate
but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Glossolalia



This month's edition of the Concord (the seminary student-run newspaper) is Big Words.  One of my dear friends was brave enough to write about her experience in the Assembly of G-d and the meaning of the word "glossolalia" - the act of speaking in tongues.

When I was seventeen, I attended an Assembly of G-d church, as I've mentioned before.
There I spoke in tongues.

I could say "I learned to speak in tongues" as I had not known how before, but that makes it seem that such behavior was required, or taught, and it was neither.  I can say "I received the gift of speaking in tongues" but I am wary of claiming this gift of the Spirit, as if to exalt myself over others.  The best way is to say "I spoke in tongues" - I observed others speaking in tongues, and over time I felt moved to do so as well.

This is very odd to think about, and to explain to people; who am I to have done such a charismatic, pentecostal thing?  But I did.  I did not speak in a babble that all understood in their own language (as in Acts 2) - I did not speak in a babble that others interpreted, as mentioned in Paul's letters (1 Corinthians 12, for example).

Rather I spoke in a babble that I sensed inwardly as an experience of praise - a prayer that was so exhilarated and overwhelmed that words could not come fast enough, what I interpreted and named as "a sigh too deep for words" (Romans 8:28).  I do not know what others' experience was, but this was mine - that my mouth could not keep up with my heart.

This I have not done openly since leaving the AoG congregation - yet to this day I can feel the overwhelming movement inside me, threatening to burst out my sternum, in these odd moments of joy and connection.

At these times I clamp my mouth closed, terrified in the midst of our Lutheran chants of of Agnus Dei, Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi I might start babbling again.  I have learned that, when absolutely necessary, I can breathe out the words without vocalizing them - my lips forming the words with no sound to accompany them, like Hannah praying at the doorpost of the temple of the Lord (1 Samuel 1).  I do and do not like doing this.  It terrifies me that I am moved to do this, and it troubles me.

There are others at Luther Sem who have spoken in tongues in past congregation.  A few of us have found each other and had long talks about what it meant to us then and what it means now and how to interpret it within a Lutheran framework.  I call us the Evangelicals in Exile (with the irony of most of us now being members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

We have all agreed that we wouldn't feel safe speaking if the Spirit rested upon us during worship - but that we still, from time to time and place to place, feel moved to speak.

We have all agreed that it is very, very odd to confess such a thing in such a place as Luther Sem.  It was odd to confess it at Olaf, as well - I remember defending it then, trying to put words to a wordless experience.  Mainline Protestants do not have a framework for understanding glossolalia - to them, it is babble.

But what is it to me?

Is it a gift of the Spirit?

Is it the remnants of a scared seventeen-year-old girl imitating what others are doing?

Is it selfish, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14: "For those who speak in a tongue [without interpretation] do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church" ?

I do not know.

I share this in trepidation, but moreso in support of my friend's bravery; she is quite an amazing woman to be so open in so public a way, in a community such as Luther Sem.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the Sojourners situation

I love Sojourners magazine and blog and frequently read, quote, link, retweet whatever's going on there.

But this... I don't get this.

Believe Out Loud, an organization advocating for open welcome and inclusion to LGBT people in mainline Protestant congregations, wanted to run the following ad on Sojo's webpage on Mother's Day:



Sojourners said:  No, thank you.  Our position is not to take sides on this issue.

Then they said it again, and again.

...

Note that the video is not about officiating marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian people.  Nor about the ordination of partnered gay and lesbian people.  Nor about transgender or intersex or other non-cisgendered individuals, at all.  The ad said:  A lesbian couple with a son should be welcomed at church.


To me, the acceptance of gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and intersex and queer and questioning is as much a "wedge issue" for Sojourners as calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan or advocating for health care reform or advocating for immigration reform are.

They've already been called out to this effect in their comments section, by wiser people than I, so I am thankful for that.

I understand their position, and Kristi supports their decision, so I recognize that there is a diversity of opinion about this subject.

But for me, I say:  I am not a wedge issue.


Welcoming me and my partner to church is not a wedge issue.

I believe that Jesus would have welcomed me, as I am.  Not with a command to "go and sin no more" but as I am.  That is absolutely the only way I can be in the situation I'm in - to be in relationship with Kristi, to be out about that relationship, and be pursuing ordination.  The only way I can do that is if I honestly, truly believe that our life together is acceptable to G-d.

I can understand the "We do not take a position on this issue" cognitively, but if that's the position taken, I have to stay back from any resulting discussions.  Once you say, "We do not take a position," you have said "We do not see that one side has more theological merit or Scriptural accuracy or movement of the Holy Spirit than the other."  This is scary, for me.  This means I am no longer safe.

I recognize that there are times and places when I have to defend myself, and I accept that as part of the life I have chosen.  I could have chosen to leave the church, and crippled myself spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.  I could have chosen to be celibate, and crippled myself spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.  I chose instead what I earnestly believe to be a path righteous before G-d, and that is my life with Kristi as a servant of the church.

I did not choose to be gay, but I do choose to live my life to the fullest regardless of how difficult that can be.  To do otherwise, honestly, would be death - not a metaphorical death, but literal.  I do believe that if I attempted to live a life of celibacy or of atheism that I would physically die.

I still get very beat up about all this.  I have been defending my right to love, to happiness, to marriage, to children, to ordination, to a "normal life" for ten years, and I do not care for it.  I recognize that defense has to happen, but I do not consider it my calling to constantly engage in situations where it is required.  Sometimes, oddly enough, I like to spend time with people who agree with me. Sometimes, against all human instincts, I like the dominant position to be one I agree with. 

For me, then, it is very hard to consider praising Sojourners for being so thoughtful and non-divisive.  What I see is another organization that was not willing to stand up for me and my queer brothers and sisters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Where are you from?"

Jami and I ushered at Wednesday chapel last week.  Last week was Alumni Week at Luther Sem, when the school hosts a reunion, and welcomes the almost-graduated seniors into the alumni circle, and has a donor dinner to recognize alums and others who donate and make it possible for a lot of us to afford school (myself included).

So there were a lot of older people at chapel on Wednesday - a lot more people than usual, and a lot older than usual.

One gentleman asked me, as I welcomed him to worship and handed him a bulletin:

"Where are you from?"

And I said:  "Here?" because I didn't understand the question.

He said:  "You live here?"

I said:  "I go to school here."

I found this puzzling, but thought he was just being chatty.  But a minute later, another older gentleman asked me:

"Where are you from?"

And so I said, now prepared:  "I go to school here."

And he said:  "Where are you from originally?"

So I said:  "Saint Olaf College."  And he was an Ole too, and we chatted a bit, and so on.

I was asked by five different gentlemen, "Where are you from?"  By the fifth I decided that it was because they were older, and not expecting to see female students at the seminary, and therefore expected I was married to a seminarian or perhaps I lived in the neighborhood and liked to help hand out bulletins.

But I compared notes with Jami... who'd greeted just as many people but only been asked "Where are you from?" once.

And some other friends weighed in on the situation, and we determined that it was not my gender that puzzled the gentlemen but ...

Well, here's a picture of me and Jami.


Pretend you're an older gentleman.  Lutheran.  A pastor.

And you're white.

And Midwestern.

Now ask the girl on the right:

"Where are you from?"

...

When I was growing up, Mom used to tell me that we were Italian, that we were Unusual, that we Looked Different From Everyone Else.  I was raised on stories of My Italian Family Overcoming Trials - my grandfather's naturalization papers said "Italian-South" for race, his name was changed from Emiddio to Walter when enrolled at school because no one could spell his Italian name in English, etc.  I think this came out of Mom's own experience - being a dark-haired, very Italian-looking, Eastern-accent-having woman working in higher education in the Midwest in the 1970s and 80s.  There were probably a lot of older, male, Lutheran, white, Midwestern people saying:  "Where are you from?"

But I went to an elementary school that had a visible Hmong population, and then middle and high schools with African-American and Latino/a-American and Korean-American and Thai-American and Everything Else-American students.  My best friend Mandy and I got mistaken for sisters, and she was Irish.  I didn't experience what my mom did - I was just another White Girl.  I got the invisible knapsack full of privilege.  I couldn't borrow anyone's makeup because I had olive skin, and I tanned more quickly than all of my friends - that was it.

I remember sensing that dichotomy between what my mom said and what I experienced.  I remember being told I was Italian, Descendant of Mistreated Immigrants, Dark-haired Mediterranean Amongst Blondes - but by my peers, I was always treated like I was White.

The same thing happened at college.  I was aware of being Italian only because I was aware of being not Norwegian - of being unfamiliar with lutefisk and snowflake sweaters and the tune to "Jeg er so glad".  But I didn't feel like I Looked Different.

Yet "grown-ups" - Boomers and Gen Xers - want to know:

"Where are you from?"

I know that my same-generation friends notice that I have darker hair and skin than them, but only because they say "Oh, okay" when I say I'm half-Italian.  They notice that I'm darker, but they don't say that I Look Different, because to them, I really don't.

But older generations want to know:

"Where are you from?"

And my answer is:

I'm from Here.

I'm Minnesotan.  I'm upper middle class.  White.  Privileged.  Raised in a suburb. I speak with a Midwestern Standard dialect.  I eat lefse at Christmas and I own a Norwegian sweater.  I went to Saint Olaf, college in middle of a cornfield.  And I'm Lutheran.

I am about as White as a dark-haired dark-eyed girl can get.


I'm from Here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why I have six Bibles and no notes

I own a lot of Bibles.  These are just the ones I could grab immediately - there are more packed away in the basement:

But I don't read them.

And most of them are unmarked - even the study Bibles -



Even my high-school Bible, which I received and decorated at Teens Encounter Christ -

- is mostly empty.  A passage underlined here, a note there.


I know why I don't write in my Bibles -

First of all, to write in them I have to read them, and I don't, except for class assignments.

And second, very few of them have good margins, and most of them are so terribly thin that the ink bleeds through easily.

But the real reason I don't write in my Bibles is that I'm sure that I'll regret it.

I'll choose the wrong Bible - e.g. it was Oxford in college but now at seminary I have profs who prefer HarperCollins.

I'll put all my notes in one Bible and then a new, "better" translation will be released.

I'll be seventeen and do this:

and then be ashamed of that Bible for the next ten years - sure that someone will look at it and see not how I struggled with my sexuality but rather how haughty and self-centered I was.

Or I'll never get through the whole Bible, and someday someone will see that my gospel of Luke is full of highlighting and my Leviticus is crammed with notes but Proverbs has nothing, and they'll know I'm a sham and I should never be a pastor.

Or I'll lead a Bible study and crack open my well-worn, colorful, crammed-with-notes text :
reblogged from alternative-christian.tumblr.com
and accidentally shame someone there into thinking she's not a good enough Christian because she don't love Scripture like Pastor Kegler does.

Love for Scripture, and attendance to it, can be Gospel - the force that liberates us, that promises us justification through Christ.

But it can also be Law - that which condemns us, bringing to light our failings and brokenness.

Martin Luther, a lover of Scripture, taught that the Bible was both Law and Gospel - both condemnation and justification - and that neither could ever be taught without the other.  Law without Gospel - condemnation without justification - is death to the hearer.  Gospel without Law - justification without condemnation - is "cheap grace," salvation without cost, a blank check to live however the listener cares to.

To see the well-worn, triple-highlighted Bibles of others is Law to me - a revelation of my own failings and a force of guilt.  So the challenge now is to find the Gospel ...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do I love Scripture?

Pastor Nadia was here for the Book of Faith Jubilee last week, and she did a plenary on experiencing the text (i.e. all the awesome stuff they do at HFASS to make Scripture come alive) and presided over a HFASS Eucharist.

And it was fantastic, in an anti-excellence pro-participation way, and I loved it.

But something she said during the plenary has stayed with me, and troubled me.

She said:
“I love Scripture.”

And it troubled me because I don't.

I knew when I was young that I was supposed to love the Bible.  Especially when I was going to an AoG church, I would have said "Yes, I love the Bible."  But I learned to carry it and quote from it like a teenager - to impress others.  Not to be impressed with the story.

And after leaving the AoG congregation, I spent time fearing the Bible.  Whenever I opened it I had to protect myself from the passage, contextualize it, say "Well, that's meant for a different place and time" - because how else does a seventeen-year-old girl theologizing on her own learn to explain Romans 1:26?

(This is how a seventeen year old Emmy handles it.)

When I became a religion major, I learned historical criticism.  I learned to turn my Bible upside down and shake it till the "real truth" of the story fell out - and I shook hard, because that seventeen-year-old was still pretty sure that if she didn't shake hard enough, she'd get hit.  I think I was taught well, but I applied it wrong.

And when I became a Sunday School teacher, I learned to find the pertinent passage for the day, and puzzle over how to explain it to small children in a way that didn't dumb down or over-sweeten the message.

And all the while I was so afraid to love the Bible - because people who talk about loving the Bible, about the beauty of the Word, about the inspiration of Scripture, about the saving Word, are not the kind of people who ask me to pastor them.  No, Bible-loving is for Bible-thumpers.  I stay away from that kind of language because I am not that kind of girl.

So when Nadia said, "I love Scripture," I realized how much I don't - how much, when I come to the text, I'm still turning it upside down, shaking it, saying "What's it really mean - and how am I supposed to teach that?"

This isn't a bad question.  But it can't be my starting point.

I know that I love the Bible - that I love the stories, and the Story, and even the messiness of it.  I don't love all of it - some of it is Law to me, revealing my failures and shortcomings; some of it is Straw, Martin Luther's metaphor for how the Bible holds Jesus just as the manger held the baby.  But this book holds the story of my people - of God liberating us at the Red Sea, of the prophets calling us back to righteousness and justice and mercy, of the pain of Job and the psalm writers and the Lamenter, of Paul trying to explain this crazy idea of Christianity to both Jews and Greeks -

of God who was so sick of us making stuff up about how to worship properly that he showed up in human form and walked among Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles and revealed the radicalness of God's love.

I want to learn to love Scripture, to not be afraid of it, to dwell in its images and stories, not because it is Truth but because it is the closest thing I have to it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Casual theology.

I lost my temper in Pentateuch class last Tuesday.

I really, really like Professor Fretheim, and I really, really like the course material, and I really, really like having a class with six of my very best friends here at the seminary and sitting in our little heretics corner / Pentateuch Party / babe seminarians section.  I do.  I really do.

But I've come to hate the class.

For a while I thought it was because there were some members of the class who got out of undergrad with a very, very limited understanding of the meaning of G-d's grace (i.e.:  people who devour bacon cheeseburgers while insisting that Leviticus 18:22 should be established as an American constitutional law).

And during Tuesday's class I thought it was because I am literally sick of hearing people refer to G-d as He.  He, He, He, He, He, He, He.  Sick of it.  I understand that everyone is in a different place in the process of understanding who G-d is and how to speak of G-d but really.  Are we, the next generation of public Christian leaders, this shortsighted about G-d?

On Tuesday we had a lot of He He He He He.  (Not from Professor Fretheim, who is as mentioned phenomenal, but from various classmates.)  I sort of gave up on the discussion midway through and just tuned out, coming back when Fretheim spoke.

After class I realized my problem isn't so much with He He He as with how everyone who uses it seems to be talking about G-d - how casually we speak of G-d.

I mean this is G-d.  Adonai Eloheinu, melek ha'olam.  Ruler of the universe.  Creator of everything.  Spirit that gives life.  Redeemer of humanity.  And we talk about HIM like HE is something we can grasp, like HE is something we not only understand but can make assertions about.

Other students spent so much time in Pentateuch on Tuesday arguing about how to understand the Biblical stories of G-d changing G-d's mind (Exodus 32:14) because "G-d has perfect foreknowledge and immutability."  And we spent so much time arguing last semester in Systematic Theology about similar things.

We have these preconceived notions of G-d, completely unexamined and only vaguely established in philosophy or scripture or neither, and we absolutely insist on them because we perceive that everything rides on it and we're not prepared to accept that maybe it's just not true that everything rides on it and maybe it's just not true that our preconceived, subconscious, and vaguely founded notions are actual truth.

We need to be honest about our own assumptions about G-d and we need to stop making such blind assertions about G-d without knowing why we came to them and what truly rides on them.  And we need to stop being so casual about the Holy Name of the Creator of All Things and the Savior of the World.

And that's why I don't say He,

and that's why I don't write the full word.

Because, when I force myself to skip easy pronouns and use alternate names, it makes me think about what I actually believe about G-d.