The Discomfort of Faith-My Experience at the Methodist General Conference

 Gay Issues, Methodism, Religion, Society  Comments Off on The Discomfort of Faith-My Experience at the Methodist General Conference
May 192012
 

Candle in the darkI’ve been thinking back over the time I got spend recently at the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church held here in Tampa this year. It was a big event, and it was a mess from a church polity standpoint. Like Congress, little of great substance was accomplished, and few longstanding issues were resolved, but that may be a good thing.

I’d like to take some time to reflect on some of my experiences as a volunteer there, and as someone who wound up being involved in a demonstration that resulted in one of the morning plenary sessions being cancelled.

Among some other things I did, I especially liked handing out the daily newspaper, and was approached two of those days by female ministers (interestingly enough) who wanted to know how I got involved with RMN, and then tried to “straighten me out.” They had apparently been to some program where they had some musician give testimony about coming out of “the lifestyle.” I also think they had been provided a script because they both started the conversation with the same question, “How did you get involved with that group?”

I explained to one of the ministers that I understood someone could decide to get married and not have sex with a member of the same-sex, but that did not mean that person had changed. She said, “Well, he has nine children now, so I think that says something.” I responded with, “Well, you know, that’s just a skill, and we gay people are very talented. We can pick up skills quickly.” That’s when she decided she’d talked to me long enough.

The other female minister rocked my world with an unexpected response. My primary response to people who talk about it being a choice is to explain to them that there have to be at least two options for it to be a “choice.” So that means, if they believe I could wake up tomorrow morning and decide to find women attractive, they could wake up the next morning, and decide to find people of the same sex attractive to them. That would constitute a choice. Well, believe it or not, this Minister responded that, yes she could, she could even remember the exact summer and the girl with whom she could have made that decision, but she resisted. I decided to let that one slide, because all I could muster at that moment was a feeling of sadness for her, for having made the choice to deny who she was for her entire life.

I just as well get in my 2 cents worth, as everyone else, friend and foe, has expressed an opinion about the protest. The difficulty is, they all are, to some degree, correct. Some thought it wrong and disruptive and possibly turned off some people. On the other hand, sometimes you have to call something out for what it is. I don’t think I would have crossed the bar, had it not been for the African Delegate comparing my life to that of an animal. Sadly, I think the net effect of the protest action could be zero, but I just really don’t know.

I’d like to note a personal campaign I’ve been waging of late. Whenever I read stupid things the hate crowd spouts about gay people, I try to find a way to contact them, and ask them to “say it to my face.” (You can read about my favorite one here.)

I had a conversation with the Bishop presiding at the time. I walked up to the daïs before he could leave and called him out. I told him that I was not raised to sit in the back of the church bus, and that he should not expect I would sit by and watch as a delegate from that same church stood up on the floor of a General Conference and compared my life to that of an animal, and worse, that the presiding officer would not gavel him out of order, and remove him from the hall altogether. I pointed out that had I been a delegate and said the same thing about the Africans, he would most certainly have called me out of order. (Personally, I think there should be some consideration of a letter writing campaign to that Bishop providing personal stories, and pointing out a disappointment in his lack of leadership.)

For me, one of the good things that came from this experience was a lot of thinking about the future of the Methodist Church, my place in it personally, and what I need to do about it. On the day after the action I was discussing it with my partner. He’s not Christian. He asked me, as he often does, a challenging question. He asked, “So why do you stay in a Faith that makes you uncomfortable?” He’s a master of the obvious.

After having to think about that for a while, the answer I gave him was that a sound faith doesn’t make one comfortable. That faith is, in fact, there to make us uncomfortable. It’s that uncomfortable state that drives me to be my better self; that makes me want to change the world; to make things better for others; and especially as people called Methodists, to take a stand for social justice. It is my faith that makes me so uncomfortable I have to work to do justice. It’s my faith that makes me uncomfortable when I see injustice, or people hurting, and it is that uncomfortable feeling that moves me to act.

I spent four weeks teaching a Sunday School study on Micah 6:8. One of the things I learned in preparing the study (We teach best what we most need to learn is a fundamental truth in my experience.) is that all the commandments in it are actions…things we are supposed to “do,” not things we are supposed to believe. When you think about Micah 6:8 and the Great Commandment from Jesus, it’s never about doctrine, it’s about something you are expected to do, and it’s often something hard, and something that makes you uncomfortable…”do justice; love mercy, walk humbly with God; love your neighbor; turn the other cheek; love God; pull the splinter from your own eye.” “In as much as you have DONE it unto the least of these.” It’s always about having to do something. That’s faith. Faith isn’t a belief God will take care of us, it is faith that calls us to do right, even (maybe especially) when it’s hard. It is in true faith we are called to take care of others.

Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:3) Paul’s not a big fan of “works,” but here’s one time when he talked about “work produced by faith.”   And it’s written about in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” If one has faith, one can DO. True and honest faith is always causing us to do something, working to make us uncomfortable with the status quo.

Dr. Martin Luther King was an obvious person to inform my thoughts these past weeks, and he said this about faith, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

I believe too many people today are looking for religion to make them comfortable. So, we bend the gospel to talk about prosperity, when faith really calls us to relinquish our material wealth and follow Jesus (follow, another of those darned action words). We bend religion so that we can exclude people we imagine to be different from us…women, slaves, people of color, Muslims, and of course LGBT people, even when the Bible tells us, “come unto me all ye…” I always thought God actually did mean “all.” We bend religion to justify yanking away the social safety net, when Jesus says, “in as much as you have done it unto the least of these…” Continue reading »

Blood Diamond

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Blood Diamond
Apr 222007
 

Blood DiamondA fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond.

Directed by
Edward Zwick

Genres
Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Cast
Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Antony Coleman, Benu Mabhena, Anointing Lukola, David Harewood, Basil Wallace, Jimi Mistry, Michael Sheen, Marius Weyers, Stephen Collins, Ntare Mwine

Leonardo DiCaprio has become one of the premiere American actors. With a set of natural instincts that lends a non-showy, believable quality to all of his performances, versatility, and movie star size charisma that fills up the screen and emotionally hooks the viewer into his character and story, it is hard to think of another male American actor (with the exception of Johnny Depp) who is consistently giving an audience its money worth; these two gentleman have taken the reins from Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, as those two Oscar-winning future legends of the silver screen gracefully age into more mature roles.

In Blood Diamond, it is Mr. DiCaprio’s performance that raises this film above it’s standard Hollywood fare of a script (although it is a solid script) into something memorable. His performance here as an opportunistic diamond smuggler equals that of the one he gave earlier in the fall as “Billy Costigan” in The Departed, although the two characters couldn’t be more different from each other. It may be his best performance yet, and in terms of sheer charisma and memorability it certainly rivals his mega-star making performance as “Jack Dawson” in Titanic.

I liked Blood Diamond a great deal, but do not think it is a great film. A good movie? Yes. Very mainstream and formulaic, but it is raised up quite a bit by DiCaprio’s character and his terrific realization of it. If I had read this script beforehand, I never would have thought of Leo for this role- possibly George Clooney or some other star known for “roguish charm,” but not Leo. But now, having seen it, I can’t imagine anybody else as “Danny Archer;” it is a fully realized, winning performance.

Mr. Hounsou was wonderful as well, and I liked the chemistry between the two men in their scenes together. He was able to make the audience feel the gamut of emotions his character experiences during the course of the movie- pride and hope, fear, outrage, resignation, mistrust, desperation, and determination, and beautifully rises above the somewhat limiting way his role was written.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

The Last King of Scotland

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on The Last King of Scotland
Apr 222007
 

The Last Kind of ScotlandBased on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s

Directed by
Kevin Macdonald

Genres
Drama, History, Thriller

Cast
Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, Giles Foden, Andy Williams, Martina Amati, Peter Salmon, Michael Wawuyo

Much of what you will see is true, and did occur in Uganda’s history. Amin’s doctor, played by James Macavoy, is the main fiction in the movie, but one would think they are watching a historical event. Macavoy’s character is so real. The doctor grows from a free thinking, adventure loving, womanizer, to a scared, concerned, and enlightened person. The viewer watches through Macavoys eyes as he witnesses the horrors of Amin’s (Forest Whitaker’s) presidency and regime.
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardly moving his face or body? I’m not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitaker does it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around the next minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero.

This movie will scare the viewer because of its realism, and how it builds up to a tension that is hard to endure. The visuals are not for the squeamish. Go ahead and hide your eyes during the “tough” scenes. It is still worth seeing this movie for the fast paced story, realistic drama, fascinating tale, and for the unbelievable acting. By the end of the movie the audience is exhausted, but satisfied that they saw a worthy flick.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...
snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake