back to blogging and a request for help
I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged! As you might have guessed, things have been insanely busy. We bought a house (which I love!), moved into it (always a crazy process), painted and patched and plumbered, adopted two lovely cats (whom you'll meet soon), and wrote like crazy (among other things, I have now completed two projects on my mind for a while -- some writing on 2 Corinthians for Church House Publishing in the UK and a chapter for the next Emergent Manifesto book with Baker Publications). And then there are some other exciting things I'll be posting about later.
But now I'm surfacing for breath and find that it's been months since I've posted to SarahLaughed.net. Wow. Quite a long break after over three years of continuous bloggins! It's good to be back.
I'd like to share one of the exciting things in the pipeline with you now. In response to the phenomenal success of An Inconvenient Truth and as further means to building an effective, grass-roots movement to increase awareness of the crisis our planet's climate is in, Al Gore and The Climate Project has invited 150 leaders from faith communities to join them for training as presenters who can take the message as volunteers around the world. I'm among those invited.
The Climate Project is providing partial subsidy of accommodations for the training, so the hotel will only cost me $80. It looks like a flight to Nashville and incidentals (getting to and from the airport and whatnot) will cost something like $300 - $350.
I've just taken leave of absence from the Episcopal Divinity School due to hefty tuition bills, and as rewarding personally as my recent writing and work for IMPACT Boston has been, it hasn't left a lot of room to pay for travel, and presenters for The Climate Project are strictly volunteers; we're not allowed to collect honoraria or other payment aside from reimbursement for expenses. In other words, this isn't a career move or a financial boost for me; it is, however, an opportunity to make a difference with respect to an issue that I'm passionate about, that affects all living things on this world, and that has disproportionate, devastating, unjust, and growing effect on the world's poorest.
Can y'all help get me to Tennessee for this training? If so, please consider donating toward the cost of my participation, and, if you feel so moved, lending your voice to the effort on your own blogs and social networks.
Thank you for your support -- both with respect to this and with all of the kind and encouraging notes and constructive feedback you've offered me. They all mean a great deal to me.
seminary headline for the times
From the BBC comes this headline:
EDS shares up on HP buyout report
The snippet of the article in my RSS reader says:
"Shares in EDS rise by 28% on reports that it is close to being taken over by Hewlett-Packard."
And you know, I actually did a double-take before I realized it wasn't about my seminary.
Now I'm picturing seminary alumnae having to sew patches on their albs, stoles, and chasubles advertising the corporations that bought out their alma mater, and perhaps a little ticker-tape below webcam broadcasts from the chapel: "Hebrew bible reading brought to you courtesy of Staples, Inc. -- keeping parish offices together since 1974."
But no -- seminaries are too small a market for the likes of HP and Staples, I'd guess.
engaging God's mission
Lately there has some discussion in the partisan blogosphere as to whether one should give to Episcopal Relief and Development if one disagrees with one or more things going on the The Episcopal Church, or to Anglican Relief and Development if one doesn't, or if it's better to give to some other organization entirely.
I plan to update this post to offer links to the organizations I mention and to ones to which I refer, but I want to go on the record as saying immediately and unequivocally:
If you want to give to change the world, to relieve global poverty, than the theological bent of particular people involved in the organization doesn't matter much.
What matters much, in my reading of the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Jesus, God's Christ, is our giving is that we're engaging God's mission by doing so, and that means giving as much as possible from compassion for the poorest and most marginalized and as little as possible from our sense of what will accomplish any partisan church or civic political aims.
So yes, I support Episcopalian Relief and Development, and rejoice when others do. They do amazing work, partnering with indigenous ministries for maximum efficiency and sensitivity to local context, and spending as little as possible on overhead versus aid. I've looked into them, and I feel on solid ground in saying that their work is worth supporting, whether you're an Episcopalian or not, and whether you're a fan of any particular policy or other tendency of The Episcopal Church or not. Episcopal Relief and Development, as far as I can tell (and I would welcome any data I should take into account that might demonstrate the contrary), is doing important and urgent work that's Good News to the poor.
I have not investigated to the same degree organizations such as Anglican Relief and Development (which, as I understand the situation, was formed by groups seeking to break away from The Episcopal Church to provide aid especially from organizations and people who, for a variety of reasons, can't accept funding for or don't feel comfortable donating to anything associated with The Episcopal Church) and Five Talents. I hear good things about what they're doing, though.
What I encourage everyone to do is to INVESTIGATE. Ask questions about how much money goes to fund people in the U.S. (you'd be surprised at how many organizations claim to be about ending extreme poverty involved and that still spend most of their income right here, one white people better off than me). Ask them about their partnerships with organizations indigenous to the populations they serve. Personally, I don't chalk up anything I give to organizations that spend more than 15% of their total budget as PROGRAM budget OVERSEAS part of the 1% that organizations such as the ONE Campaign is advocating.
In other words, how much is my giving helping comfortable American citizens live comfortably while they talk about extreme poverty? Talking about extreme poverty is important, but does not necessarily relieve extreme poverty, and personally I prefer to fun initiatives -- such as Global Voices -- that give voice to people outside the U.S. and who work directly with if not being immediately among the populations most affected by extreme poverty.
And with respect to organizations abroad, how much budget goes to administration as opposed to program -- i.e., the program of relieving extreme poverty, as opposed to talking about relieving extreme poverty? What accountability measures are in place to assure that checks cashed are used by the organization for its stated mission?
Personally, I don't many organizations -- faith-based or no -- that match Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) in terms of efficiency, cultural sensitivity, and working to channel relief in directions that foster autonomy.
If you want to register your disagreement with The Episcopal Church in some way, though, I'm going to do something crazy:
I suggest, a la St. Paul's advice in his letter to the churches in Rome, that you strive to outdo ERD in collections gathered, in accountability offered, and in effectiveness in getting relief and means to economic sustainability to those in extreme poverty. Do that and I'll stand up and cheer at the top of my lungs.
Because in the end -- I have to say as some who takes seriously Matthew's report of Jesus' talking about 'sheep' and 'goats' -- I don't give a rodent's posterior about which organization sends which people which tax form.
I just want a world in which every child has a chance -- clean water, enough food to get by in reasonable health, enough health care to end childhood mortality from diseases we have for decades had cheap technologies to cure, enough education and a clean enough environment to make a living by their own hands.
We could do it -- not just because we have the resources (and we do -- because God has blessed this world with more than enough resources), but because, I think, there's critical mass in this world such that if those of us who believed this but aren't making a big deal about it decided to make a big deal about it, we could witness firsthand the changing of the tide that God is doing.
I'll write more about this soon, I'm sure -- especially given that this is Lent, and that I've got certain ideas (for which I'm deeply indebted to the prophet Isaiah, among others) about in what kinds of fasts God is engaged and honors -- but I wanted to go on the record about this much right now.
Thanks for listening.
Real Live Preacher on new wineskins and Episcopalians
I'm a huge fan of Gordon Atkinson, AKA Real Live Preacher, and am also glad to call him a friend. Today he was talking about eating a whole can of olives, and, as sometimes happens, he ended up thinking about homosexuality and the church. Specifically, The Episcopal Church:
To be honest, I don’t think anyone knows quite what to do in church anymore. For years church people told us that homosexuality was evil and not just a sin but a very bad sin. They had us all scared of homosexuals, that we might even become one or something if we were around them. And you just assumed that the Bible was chock-full of commandments about homosexuals and them even going to hell for being that. I mean, you just assumed that because the church people were so sure of themselves and talked about it like it was a fact.
But then some people started reading the Bible very carefully, all the parts people said were about homosexuality. And some of them said, “Oh shit! The Bible hardly says anything about homosexuality at all. And what it does say is pretty hard to understand.” So those people said we should just leave homosexuals alone and let them come to church and let their relationships be between them and God, like all relationships are.
But now, see, the ones who thought homosexuality was a really bad thing were getting tired of the changes. It seemed like you hardly heard a hymn in church anymore, and people were dressing sloppy on Sundays, and women were preaching, and you could hardly find a King James Bible anywhere. So I think they just decided to dig their heels in on this whole homosexuality thing. And it became like a religious war, and it’s gotten so bad that even the Episcopalians are fighting over it. And that’s scary because you expect the Baptists will make fools of themselves over stuff like this, but we’ve always counted on the Episcopalians to keep their wits about them and be careful and never ever allow themselves to get so divided over something that they might actually split their church in two.
Read the whole thing here.
trust me ... I'm a musician.
A lot of people are talking about a YouTube and propaganda war about an energy bill currently before Congress that would affect our use, development, and disposal of waste from nuclear energy.
This is not a new debate. Little about the terms in which it's being conducted surprises me. Not surprisingly, I have opinions about which vote is best for us and our children, and I'd be happy to share them if I thought people would give a rodent's posterior about what I thought. But I'm a New Testament scholar, arguably something of an expert on 'emerging church' movements, perhaps an authority on preaching, and with stretching a thinker on what it means to be Church and in communion. I have no credentials at all beyond what a decent undergraduate university education provides, so I'd assume in general that nobody really cares what I think about the safety or intricacies of policy regarding nuclear power.
But wait a minute ... I am a musician! I actually made my living for some time from strumming, plucking, singing, and writing stuff for plucking, strumming, and singing. It wasn't all that grand a living, but it did (along with chefcraft -- a field in which I had far less training) fund my first seminary degree) fund my first seminary degree, and paying an overseas student's tuition, no less.
So maybe I should be pulling out my credentials as a singer/songwriter, a guitar shredder, a bass thumper, and/or an electronica messer-of-aroundage when I want to talk about politics, energy policy, and related matters.
Why do I say that? Well, there's someone named Elizabeth King who's presenting herself in this debate about nuclear policy as an authority on the issue because she's a "musician," despite that I can't for the life of me find anything at all out about her as a musician.
Hi. My name is Dylan, and I make a mean lamb stew. I also know a lot about the various branches of Judaism (including Christianity) during the Second Temple period. I make music using bass, guitar, and various MIDIness, as well as my voice, and I suspect that a lot more people (a couple of dozen or more!) know me as a musician than know Elizabeth King as a musician. And for that reason, I think you should support whatever I advocate with respect to nuclear energy. If you want to know what that is, drop me a line.
I suspect that nobody will drop me a line on this subject. But if you have any idea why any reasonable person trying to decide whether Elizabeth King is a solid advisor on energy policy would do so on the basis of her reputation as a musican, please DO let me know. Heck, if you know anything at all about Elizabeth King's musical chops, let me know; I'm dying of curiosity as to what they are and in what way they surpass Bonnie Raitt's, as well as why musical credentials should lend weight to claims made about energy policy.
Dylan (who is dying to get ahold of Guitar Rig 3 and a Reverend Jetstream humbucker beauty she's had her eye on, and feels, thanks to the Anglican blogosphere, very nearly within her grasp)
P.S. -- What does it say about me that I can't watch the disputed "What's Happening Here" video without thinking at least as much about the guitar Bonnie Raitt is playing as I do about anything nuclear? Lord, have mercy on me, a slave to the beat; really, I do care about Creation and its survival at least as much as I care about that Guild acoustic she's playing and how she's managed to care for a voice that delivers that much soul over so many years. Really.
what he said.
About the Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Olympia who claims to be both Christian and Muslim, I'll point to AKMA's post on the subject and say that I think he's spot on. I understand that it's not unusual for people to feel a need at some point or points on their spiritual journeys to explore other traditions. That's often healthy. I explored converting to Judaism at as a young adult, long before I started the ordination process. And while it's not hard to tell from my lectionary blog (and especially my entries on Pharisees) that I continue to respect the Jewish faith profoundly and continue to underscore points of commonality between Christianity and Judaism, I chose not to convert to Judaism specifically because it's not possible to convert to Judaism and still be Christian, and in the end, I knew that I was and would always be a Christian -- grafted on to Israel, according to my tradition, but not a Jew.
I don't share Bishop Warner's view that an Episcopal priest claiming to be Muslim and Christian offers "interfaith possibilities" that are "exciting." Real dialogue and real respect involve acknowledgment of real differences. I know far more of Christian tradition than I do about Islam, but even I know that there are fundamental differences that mean one cannot be both Christian and Muslim as well as many points of common ground that mean that Christians and Muslims can live in peace, learn a great deal from one another, and work together around common goals. My sense is that Christians best show respect for Islam and for Muslims not be pretending that our religions are really the same or that they are entirely compatible, but rather by listening deeply to Muslims and by working with Muslims to show that living in harmony does not mean singing in unison.
I don't condemn the Rev. Redding for wanting to explore points of connection between Christianity and Islam. Nor do I condemn her for converting to Islam. If she believed that Islam is right about Jesus' being a prophet and no than that, about Muhammad being God's prophet, and that Islam is the best path to God, it is more honest for her to convert to Islam than to continue mouthing things she no longer believes. But I am surprised, to say the least, that she felt the need to conduct her explorations and discernment under the glare of the media. I want to say to our Jerry Springer culture that it is possible to have a thought without issuing a press release about it!
And at the same time, I hope that the Rev. Redding is treated graciously. She's obviously wrestling with some very big questions, and she won't be helped in that process by people yelling at her. I hope she'll take some time off from work and away from the spotlight she's attracted to meet with her spiritual director, her imam, her bishop, and her friends, and also for extensive quiet prayer, study, and reflection over a substantial period of time. Whatever comes of her discernment, it will be conducted most fruitfully in peace, and I hope she finds the salaam she is seeking.
"I'm not a theologist."
... that's what Titanic film director James Cameron told the Associated Press during his bid to convince the public that it's BIG NEWS that a tomb was found in the 1980s in which about ten people, including one named Yeshua bar Josef, or "Jesus (or Joshua), son of Joseph" -- or it might be Hanun bar Josef, a different name entirely; scholars disagree on how to read the script. Because OF COURSE, there was only one guy named Joseph in the ancient world ever named his son Joshua.
By the way, my name is Dylan, and I'm a singer-guitarist-songwriter and occasional poet. Anyone who believes Cameron's line on this tomb who also wants to buy my autograph, guitar picks (since surely there's only one singer-guitarist-songwriter named Dylan), or copies of A Child's Christmas in Wales that I've signed (since surely there can be only one poet named Dylan) should drop me a line. Maybe this new line will put me through seminary. If I study hard, I might even become one of the "theologists" whom Cameron hopes his REVOLUTIONARY DISCOVERY will inform.
state of the union
Is it just me, or is it ASTONISHING that the State of the Union address closed with a generic "God bless," and not even a "God bless America"?
Under a different president, I might have taken this to be a statement against nationalism: "God bless God's children," or "God bless the world with justice and peace."
I can't believe that was the intent here.
It's a head-scratcher.
Bono to be knighted
Bono (of U2) will be knighted by the Queen of England in recognition of his humanitarian service and contribution to music. Because he's not British, he can't use the title "Sir."
I'm sure his bandmates will use the title for him, though. A lot. Accompanied by chuckling and punching his arm.
news and commentary page rebooted; submissions sought
I started Grace Notes because the lectionary blog, while definitely a product of my voice, is intentionally very limited in scope, and I wanted a place where I could more generally get to know people and be known in a more holistic sense.
Not long after that, I started a news digest page as a place where I could highlight important news and interesting commentary on Anglican news and church politics; since I thought I'd mostly be linking to others, I called the page "Dylan's digest." Then my work for The Witness magazine kicked in, and my Anglican news energies were nearly all directed there, so the digest languished.
I think the time has come to revive it, though, or something somewhat like it. I'm going to start posting commentary on Anglican developments -- my own writing certainly, and perhaps others' too. I've started that by posting commentary on an overlooked piece of the constitutional changes that the Diocese of San Joaquin just voted on and the most recent proposal from the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), and I encourage you to read it here.
Since the page will be carrying much more than summaries or links to pieces published elsewhere, the name "Dylan's digest" doesn't quite fit, however. I've tentatively titled it Anglicana; if you've got a suggestion of a better name for it, though, please feel free to suggest it. Also, if you'd like to submit a piece of commentary or analysis on news of the Anglican Communion for potential publication there, please do email it to me -- preferably in Rich Text Format (RTF), but otherwise a Pages or Microsoft Word file will do.
And do visit Anglicana this week for the San Joaquin/ACI article; I hope you'll find it worth your while. Future entries in the genre of church news and commentary will be there, rather than on Grace Notes. See you there -- and I hope here too!