Thursday, March 30, 2006

Heretics for Jesus H. Christ

UPI Column

Subtitle: This heretic is mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more, or at least, she's going to dispassionately redefine her terms.

(I have to say that the "H." comes from my editor and I howled when he suggested it... Perfect.)

Btw, I have a new photo of me that is more recent than the previous one in my profile --from last weekend with my cyber friends. Thanks to Beth for her mad photo skills.

Julie in Baton Rouge

And here's one with the mad photographer herself (she's such a fox!):

Beth and Julie

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

You Go Girls!

Tonight after grad school, I hunkered down for a long chat with one of my fellow (male) students. He had pushed, ahem, several of my feminist buttons during the break - the old, "Have you ever noticed the way feminists start out being logical and then they just get passionate and stop being logical?"

Steam pours from ears as involuntary, passionate, terribly logical karate chop springs from my right hand.

Then, I regrouped and we decided to chat in the library instead of the hallway (hard to commit acts of retributive terror in the library).

Great conversation ensued (only wished for beer).

We talked about feminist theology, translation of Scriptures (and how every act of translation is a betrayal), the burden of being white and male and looking a heck of a lot like a big red bull's eye for all the marginalized groups of history who are finally getting a chance to shout their anger and more.

God, it was so illuminating, for me too. I love my program. I love my fellow students.

Bill asked me what in the heck anyone can do when he or she is in the privileged group? It seems so frustrating to always be in a position where we are told what we did wrong but no one gives us any meaningful way to right that wrong. I've learned, slowly, that the first step is "shut up and listen." Listening is not a sound bite process, but a sustained commitment to hearing what is uncomfortable to hear, for a long, not-politcally-correct time. The words that fly our way will not be measured and attentive to our feelings. They will be attentive to pain.... which means they usually smart to receive.

The conversation is not over when I get irritated or bored or consider the speaker to be illogical, emotional or deluded. It's not over because I say we've discussed the topics "enough." It's not finished once we agree or when we can't agree. It's over when the victim is talked out and says so.

If we look at the discourse around women in church or blacks in the inner cities and so on, one way to tell if dialog is really ocurring is to see who is controlling the conversation and defining when it starts and stops...

An example sprang to mind. My mother told me years ago (over twenty now) after my parents' divorce that she knew she'd caused me emotional harm. She apologized for that pain and did a lot to repair the damage. Then she gave me the most precious gift of all. She told me that any time more pain came up - memories that hurt or renewed anger or a deeper awareness of how robbed I was, I could come to her, for the rest of her life. Ten years later, twenty years, even forty years. Didn't matter. She would listen and hold my pain. She'd hear it. Until I was done.

So like Jesus.

So completely able to shoulder the burden - not put it off or control it or define it or tell it to go away. No telling me what the right way to grow past it is or how to get over it, or what would be excessive expression of pain.

Just full responsibility and a willingness to embrace me as long as it took. Amazingly, I have not felt much need to really unburden myself because the resentment just had no reason to grow. But in those moments when there is a new flash of pain or sadness, I do know I can call her. And it helps!

We can be like that for others... for blacks, for women if you're a man, for gays, for illegal aliens, for homeless people, for whoever offends, upsets, intimidates or worries us. For whoever we (our people) have harmed.

In keeping with seeing "privilege" and getting a glimpse of how language marginalizes, I want to post a link to Rick's blog. He has a list of why men should not be ordained. If you are blessed with the gift of irony, I think you'll find it zings you right in the bull's eye of your heart. :)

Thanks Rick!

Jim Wallis at Xavier

Thirty years of running Sojourners and he finally has a book tour that's taking the mickey out of the right. Strange.

He led with a story of his first conversion "since evangelicals often have multiple conversion stories" (shared with his mostly Catholic audience). He told of being six years old and in his parents' church when an evangelist came to save souls. He was seated in the front row with the other little unsaved six year old kids who'd already performed enough evil deeds to send them to hell for eternity.

The evangelist pointed a bony finger at Jim's chest, looked directly into his eyes and said, "Son, tonight if the rapture were to occur, your mommy and daddy would be taken to heaven and you'd be left behind. Do you want that?" The Catholics laughed uncomfortably, but I sat with jaw dropped open. Isn't this what children of alcoholics do? They make jokes that are meant to minimize the sucky childhoods they've endured when all around can't laugh... it's too ugly! I hung my head in shame for evangelicals.

Gee, Jim, nice tradition we come out of...

His delivery shouldn't have surprised me, but it did! He went into full tilt evangelical rhetoric to deliver a mostly vague message about the need to become involved with social justice (easy sell to this crowd). I'm all for social justice, but I'm not all for smug self-righteousness disguised as reading the will of God.

If he had substituted missions language into his talk, it would have been the same one that drove me to the mission field in 1983. That's right - there was no substantial difference in the delivery or the shaming/motivating tactics he used to reach this audience. The only real difference is that he had the wrong audience. The Catholics weren't challenged by his talk - they were relieved of the burden of understanding their evangelical brethren. By the end of the night, they could feel smug and justified in their contempt for the religious right and their historical interest in social justice.

So how did he do it?

Well, he used these kinds of phrases:

I want to commission this generation to seek a vocation, not a career.

The faith based communities are the ones who have invariably led movements. It takes the religious to lead a movement of real change. Secular people won't do it.

God has a purpose and plan for your life and it's your job to figure out what that is.

This is the generation that can change things. We are waiting for you.

Get in on what Jesus is doing, on what God is doing and what he cares about.

Blah, blah, blah.

Uh, this is the message of evangelicals everywhere you go. The religious people are the best people, they are the ones who know what God is up to, they are on the cutting edge walking forward with vocations, not just ugly self-serving careers, the 20 somethings will save the world because hey, this is a different generation than the ones sitting next to you who botched it and missed the message back in the day...

Bitter much? Yes!

I could have stood it more if he hadn't name-dropped every ten minutes showing off how many Big Stars he had chatted with and the wonderful life-changing impact about to sweep the world as a result of his insight and vocation!

Now here's the deal... I'm won over to the social justice agenda. I liked when Jim said "political, not partisan." I liked it when he talked about how the right has focused on saving the unborn and forgets about the born... and how to help them. He had some great word pairs that I jotted down and then lost. :) It was the overall tone and style of the thing that upset me.

Get me away from the tactics of leaders who believe they know what I ought to do (or what I didn't do) and who shout it to me. I'm utterly allergic. If I could find one person who is self-deprecating, who knows what needs to be done, but appeals to our own weaknesses, our repeated distractibility and yet finds a glimmer of hope in us anyway, who admits to the scale of the issues and gives me a practical, realistic step I can take today (rather than committing to saving the whole fucking world), I'd join up...

Oh wait! I do know someone like that: He's right here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Notes from real life

Hi everyone.

I'll be checking in with more detail over the next few days. I spent the weekend with my friends from the online forum I host: The Trapdoor Society. We have a retreat about every 18 months and have met five times around the US. This time was in Baton Rouge. Really great to be with cyber friends in person. Always amazing to see them with their real (dyed) hair, earrings, shoe choices, and tinkling laughter.

Came home to some difficult news. Jon has to leave his current forty hour a week job. They are giving us a good severance, but this means that we will now be launching into the less secure waters of home businesses and teaching. More details as we chart a course. It does feel daunting today, honestly.

Tweaked my back on the airplane so I'm a bit stiff and sore today. Still, we're going to try to see Jim Wallis at Xavier tonight. If I make it, I will most certainly report back with details here.

Thanks for your comments Dave and Bill on the UPI Column. Hope to respond to them in short order.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

You Can't Cheat the Dark Gods

UPI column.

I will be gone this weekend (leave tomorrow for Baton Rouge) to see a gaggle of online girlfriends for our annual get together. Unfortunately, that means no blogs from me until I get back next Monday.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. [bg]

Hugs to all!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Snow and Schleiermacher

We got snow! Lots of it. Weird. First day of spring and the ground is covered for the first time in months.

Meanwhile, I'm slogging through an abudance of Schleiermacher. He is the guy who is credited with the diabolical origins of liberal theology - hiss, boo, snipe, snipe. He talks about "self-consciousness" and "god-consciousness" enough to get him a free pass into Terry Cole Whittaker's Science of the Mind!

I love him, though. He pushes so many important buttons. And he loves art. I just wonder if he was cute, too.

He is the guy who makes "experience" a fundamental category for theological reflection (don't you love how I worded that? So all "academic-ky"). And it's experience that I find riveting... yours, mine, ours.

More on that in this week's UPI column, I think.

Anyway, here's a tidbit of Schleiermacher while I sit in the snow for my parting thoughts:

The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence.
(Better translation might be: utter dependence)
For when it is the good that is under consideration, and the ethical object is predominant, truth must be considered more in reference to art than science, if, that is, unity is to be preserved in the work generally.

No God without a world, and no world without God.

And, moreover, it is art in its most general and comprehensive form that is here discussed, for the dialogue embraces everything connected with it, from its greatest object, the state, to its least, the embellishment of sensuous existence.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wake-up Call for Ms. Four Spiritual Laws

New UPI column is up!

After reading your comments last week, I wanted to let everyone know that these columns are only 700 words long. I'm going for provocative over nuanced. But I love to discuss nuances so feel free to ask questions or suggest the missing touches that I can't get to in such a short space.


P.S. For twenty-four hours, I am a featured columnist on the main page of the UPI website: UPI. An honor! (And gone. :) Fun while it lasted... post comments here. I keep getting emails. :))

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Little things


The kids roller blade in the garage, through the basement, up the driveway and out into the big street--dodging cars and the odd dog on a leash.

Caitrin's foot long hair flies.

An archly Protestant friend studies Catholicism and likes it... not predestined after all.

Jon in my bed after five nights away.

Noah studies French, Greek, semantics, and asks "What does Salaamu Alaikum mean?"

Liam smells like sweat and shows off red ears after lacrosse practice.

A UU friend is sane, funny and has my back, thanks be to the Non-Material Layer (NML).

Crocuses bloomed even though I thought I'd killed them last fall with that one mistaken scoop of the shovel. I mourned... but it turned into dancing.

Online friend sends me yaoi because she understands sexy.

Kroger's carries PG Tips British tea... Like, they really have the real British stuff which means fewer trips to the Jungle Jim's twenty minutes away.

Johannah sets foot for the first time in an elementary school... and teaches second graders to count money. She loves the little boy who chews on his shirt when he adds things up.

Jacob plays tasty music on his sax from upstairs and it hugs the house.

Email buddies initiate plan to save the world. They will. They're that smart.

Chickadees weave a home in our new bird house.

Online friends make me cry... tears of sympathy and anger.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Poison Kool-aid Drinker Tells All

My latest UPI Column is now posted.

I hope you'll chat about this one with me. It took about sixteen drafts and far too many hours for this entry. But am I enjoying it!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Old friends

For lunch yesterday, Jon and I met with a dear friend from missionary days. Steve was the one who gave us the pre-married "sex" talk in his suffocatingly hot little apartment in Malaga, Spain, right before Jon and I were engaged. The three of us laughed about it yesterday, because at the time, Steve and his wife, Jean, had been married about four years. Big expert. :)

Five years later, Jean and I became pregnant at the same time, when I was carrying Johannah. The missionary team held a baby shower for Jean and me at our annual team meeting in Spain in 1989. Jon and I had been on furlough in the states at the time so we flew to Spain for the meeting and were surprised with a baby shower. It felt so good to be with this "extended missionary family" where all of our children referred to the adults as "Aunt Julie" or "Uncle Steve."

We returned to the states after that team meeting. Two months later, Jean lost her baby on its due date. That was the same summer that one of our team members drowned in the ocean off the coast of Casablanca while his family played in the sand, and also the same summer that a dear French co-worker was killed in a freak accident involving a pebble the size of a quarter that rolled down a mountain in the south of France, banked into the car window and mortally pelted his temple. He died instantly, leaving behind his wife of seven years.

Seeing Steve brought it all back. The pain, the closeness, the sense of family and destiny rolled into missionary work.

Time collapsed between us as we went back over those years and all the people we have in common. Jon and I spent four years in the 80s in Morocco while this friend has been there since 1984 and continues to this day, fully immersed and fully satisfied. Jon made a Seinfeld crack and Steve responded, "Who's he?"

But it was not he who was out of touch. We were. Morocco has changed dramatically since we were there. One couple on our old team has planted a church in a region we only hoped would ever have a convert, let alone a church. Missionaries are no longer merely taking "cover jobs" but are starting NGOs and doing development work in agriculture and medicine. Development work! Back when we were in Morocco, we were encouraged not to do that kind of work because it might produce "rice Christians."

We spent the requisite time catching up on children: who is married, who turned out to be a brainiac, where others are going to college. We chatted about memories and all the funny peculiarities you remember about people with whom you worked and lived—affection pouring out like hot mint tea.

Poignant and painful.

And sweet.

Another article

I keep thinking I'm done with this but I'm not.

Here's another article that takes the viewpoint that Hollywood is one of the most closeted environments, on par with sports and the military. While Hollywood the city is seen as synonymous with the gay lifestyle, the truth is that to be gay (and out) and an actor (and then to play a leading role!) is still taboo in the movie business.

Good writing in this one too.

Boston Globe: Being Straight with the Gay Community

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Crash fans

I just read a nice blog entry on Rick's blog that talks about the power of Crash in his life. The comments give a sampling of the impact Crash made on lots of people. An impact I respect!

Pomoxian Dave (in the comments section of my Brokeback posts) also spoke about Crash's impact in his work place as a tool for discovering hidden racism within.

I am encouraged to hear that Crash is drawing that kind of response. Any and all insight into how we mistreat "the other" (whoever that might be) is worth promoting and honoring. Whether it be issues of race or homosexuality or something else, I hope we are moved to self-examination and to create a more humane society for everyone (no matter which film one prefers).

Monday, March 06, 2006

LA Times: Breaking No New Ground

Review of Crash's win over Brokeback

Excellent, insightful commentary.

Brokeback Mountain is Robbed

The academy may believe they have engineered the upset of the ages in the choice of "Crash" over "Brokeback" but one has to wonder why they'd be proud of it. Let's take a look at the history of the Oscars and see how it works. A friend on another forum asserts that the academy is operating out of homophobia. The danger here is that we might make the wrong accusation. After all, couldn't the academy just believe that "Crash" is the better movie? Here's his analysis...

For those who doubt that denying Brokeback Mountain was a blatant act of homophobia, let me tell you why it 100% was. I have been an avid Oscar buff for 30 years since I was 10. I follow the awards closely, I've known them all by heart since that age (photographic memory). Precedent means everything to the Academy.

First, until now, no film that had won the Writer's Guild, Director's Guild and Producer's Guild Awards had ever lost Best Picture.

Second, no film that was the most nominated, won the Golden Globe and Director's Guild awards had ever lost.

Third, Brokeback was the most honored film critically EVER prior to the Oscars. More Picture/Director awards than Schindler's List and Titanic combined. The only award that Crash had won was Chicago, because Roger Ebert & Richard Roeper pushed and pushed and pushed for it; Brokeback was the runner-up there, whereas Crash was nowhere to been on ANY other major critics polls. In fact, Entertainment Weekly and Premiere published critical consensus for the year, Brokeback was #1, 3 other Best Picture nominees were in the top 5 or 10 in each poll, and Crash was 30-something in one poll and 50-something in another.

No Oscar Best Picture ever finished so low.

In fact, Crash now becomes only the second film without a Golden Globe nomination for Picture to win the Oscar (the first being The Sting in 1973, but that was only because there was category confusion as to classify it as a drama or comedy, so that almost doesn't count).

Fourth, Brokeback was the highest grosser at the box office by over 50% more than #2 Crash, which the Academy always cares about, since the lowest grosser has never lost. It also won international awards like the BAFTA and Venice Film festival.

Fifth, there has been non-stop buzz in Hollywood the past month that Crash could pull what all admitted would be the biggest upset ever, for one reason - homophobia. For example, Tony Curtis publically stated he refused to see Brokeback on account of the subject matter, and that he knew tons of other people in the Academy who felt the same way. I didn't believe it when I first read it, but it was just the beginning of coments like that. I still didn't believe it on account of the unprecedented number of precursors Brokeback had won, it's position in the culture as "the" movie event of the year (more than just a movie, in fact) to the point that a month ago, when Crash director Paul Haggis was asked if anything could overtake Brokeback, he replied (and I'm paraphrasing closely) - "no, nothing should, Brokeback deserves to win".

He was right - most cinephiles like myself will tell you that Crash was a very mediocre film. But since then, the homophobia talk kept spreading and spreading, to the point where I was nervous all night, despite the "math" that Brokeback was 99% to win.

Not to sound racist, I am not, but can you imagine if the late night comedians seized on Crash or another African-American themed film and joked it to death? I used to find a lot of the {BBM} jokes funny when they first started, but then some turned mean-spirited, and suddenly everybody was publically afraid to embrace Brokeback, which no doubt helped lead to the Oscar loss. Again, sickening behavior. But no doubt Brokeback will live on as a magnificent film and cultural milestone, the Oscar notwithstanding. It just would have been nice to have the validation in front of the world audience, the Academy disgraced itself.

Besides this torrent of facts, I have some other thoughts. I believe that there may also have been some "insider" versus "outsider" voting going on here. BBM took seven years to find a production company willing to risk making the film. They ended up with the independent house "Focus Films." They hired actors all in their twenties, the two leads known but not as A listers. Jake Gyllenhaal is the most well-known of the cast in L.A. The supporting females were known for their teen followings, not adult movie-goer fans. Ang Lee is Taiwanese, an outsider in Hollywood.

Crash, on the other hand, is a movie that showcases the acting talents of many loved and well-known Hollywood actors. They executed a superb Oscar campaign both in interviews and in getting their film into the hands of the academy. And for some reason, there was a thrill in thinking they could turn an upset (and not comply with all the other critical awards that preceded the Oscars).

Lastly, Crash features Los Angeles in her racist subthemes and it appears to me that the movie industry likes to think of itself as addressing racism in a meaningful way (did you notice the montage where all the clips had to do with racism?).

Homosexual rights and the acceptance of the gay lifestyle as on par with heterosexuality is still not a generalized concern in America. The success of Brokeback Mountain is nothing short of monumental in that struggle, given the conservatism of most Americans. In fact, as I tallied in my head my friends who have gone to see the movie (both on and off line) I discovered that I only know one friend who went to see the movie, despite my endorsement, despite my reassurances that this is a movie to see.


How is it doing so well when I can't even think of any friends who would dare see this film?

So it appears to me that Brokeback was denied the Oscar for Best Picture because of a combination of self-congratulations between industry insiders and a desire to not endorse as the chief achievement in Hollywood, a film whose primary theme is delicate culturally. Racism is a rallying cry and no one minds a good racism-exposing movie. It gets us to cathart.

I would so much prefer a movie that gets us to rethink and discover our own shame. Homosexuality is still taboo and gay rights are not a driving concern for most Americans.

To conclude, here are a few links to anti-gay violence for your consideration.

Roanoke Times: article about the recent stats related to gay crimes

SF Chronicle on Hate Crimes

WV: CPR denied to gay man

USA Today article - 18 year old murders two gay men

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Having coffee on the big day

Oscar Night

Rooting for Brokeback Mountain all the way!

My sentimental picks would be all eight awards for Brokeback, but I don't think that is going to happen. So here are the ones I think will win. (I don't like "should wins" as it diminishes the signficance of the actual win.)

Best Supporting Actress:
I don't think this one is going to Rachel Weisz. I am picking Michelle Williams because I am hoping for a Brokeback sweep and this early in the evening award would indicate that one is coming. I also think that the Academy might like rewarding a local girl from TV who has come this far so quickly. So that's my hope.

Best Supporting Actor:
This will go to Clooney. I am thrilled that Jake Gyllenhaal won the BAFTA for this role. It makes me relax about this award. He is the sentimental favorite, though, on all the blogs and Oscar Watch sites. His performance is often overlooked because Heath's was so huge. But for fans of the film, Jake has nearly attained "Buddha-like" status. And he's so hot.

Best Cinematography:
Plenty of people think that "Memoirs of a Geisha" will take this one. I don't buy it. This one is Brokeback's.

Best Score:
I love the Brokeback score. It is just what a score should be - a subtle yet real character in the film that both describes and advances the story. Gorgeous, haunting, moving. Gustavo Santaolla is competing against perennial favorite: John Williams. Williams has won this award seven times. I don't think he's got it this time.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Brokeback has this one too. No contest. Look for Larry McMurty to say witty things. Look for Annie Proulx (author of the short story) to come on stage with Larry and Diana Ossana.

Best Actor:
Philip Seymour Hoffman will win this one. A loss would be a crime after winning every other BA award he's been up for. It's ashame that Heath Ledger hasn't won a single major award (though he has won many of the critic's awards, most notably the New York Film Critic's Award for Best Actor). His performance is just stunning, a "take your breath away" performance. Look for him to win in about three or four years when he matures and the Academy owes him one.

Best Director:
Ang Lee has this one in the bag. This is the only sure thing of the night. He is deserving and AMPAS will agree.

Best Picture:
I am going with Brokeback Mountain despite all the last minute prophets of doom who say "Crash" will crash Brokeback's party. I don't think so. If "Crash" wins, there will be some big time "splainin'" to do as BBM has won every other major Best Picture award. (SAG ensemble doesn't count since that is about ensemble acting and "Crash" is the epitome of ensemble acting - BBM is not.)

So those are the ones I care about.

And now, nail biting time.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Damn I'm Happy

New UPI column is up.

I'm enjoying your comments on these. If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, I'm all ears.