A Point to Silence?

I didn’t write anything yesterday, hence my silence. I’ve been ruminating on that fact all day today. Am I already slacking in my new found intent to write? In my defense I did not completely neglect my process yesterday. I did complete my three pages of stream of consciousness writing that I’ve been forcing myself through, but I couldn’t find anything worth writing about on here. I felt stuck in silence.

Today I have been thinking more about this whole issue of silence. Let me give a quick disclaimer, though; the chaplaincy program I am currently in is very psychoanalytically focused. We have structured group processing twice a week. Yesterday, during one such session, one of the facilitators stated that in group work silences are always either pregnant or thundering.

I am still not exactly sure what he meant by the latter, and I am still uncertain as to how much I agree with that notion anyway… that silence is always anticipatory. Is it always only a precipice over which the group dives deeper? Can silence never be the hoped for depth in itself?

I get the whole idea of silence being a burden that one carries. I recently attended a public lecture by Walter Brueggemann in which he argued that silence in the face of social injustice is a way of being complicit in suffering. It reminds me of Martin Niemöller’s famous quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. (http://bit.ly/1pyItca)

Silence can be profound, however. I am coming to a point where I am getting exhausted by the noise of our society. Everywhere I go it seems that there is a constant drone of underlying commentary. Everyone gets their two cents in plus some. Turn on any TV and it appears that we have moved from talking with one another to talking over one another. The chorus crescendos as we yell over the louder in order to be heard. Where is the silence?

How ironic it is that I pontificate on the virtues of silence through the writing of a blog. Isn’t this a form of self-aggrandizement in itself? So it goes I guess. So it goes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Helping Me is Hurting You

This is my gym:
Image

And, this is me after a 45 minute “boot camp” workout:

Image

I look fabulous right? As a matter of fact, I loathe working out. It is one of the few things in life that I really truly hate with passion. No matter how persistent and consistent I become, I never seem to find that place of deep satisfaction that drives so many others. But, I do it anyway. I push myself three to four times a week to suck it up and go exercise. It pains me to do something so unpleasant, but I do it because I know that it is good for me. I eventually do see some benefits – more restful sleep, more energy, better mood – no matter how much I want to deny it.

Conversely there are those things in life that regardless of how good they feel I know that they are not that great for me. Girl Scout cookies. Practically any deep fried, golden brown vegetable (okra and pickles, I’m looking at you). And above almost all else, beer… sweet sweet beer.

Image
As much as I love these things, I know deep down that I cannot live my life as a complete glutton. There is more to living than being a total hedonist. Just because something feels right does not mean that it is the thing to do or pursue.

Growing up I remember being taught in my BaptoCatholic culture that society at large had an “if it feels right do it” attitude, and that this kind of belief is in direct opposition to a “life in Christ”. I don’t necessary disagree even now as an adult, which is why I found the recent reaction by some to World Vision’s acceptance of the LGBT community so sadly ironic. For a really good response to this catastrophe from the perspective of one who still somewhat identifies as evangelical see Rachel Held Evans’ op-ed piece here:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/31/how-evangelicals-won-a-culture-war-and-lost-a-generation/

I get that there are multiple interpretations of the Bible’s stance on homosexuality. I would even acknowledge that my beliefs, and the beliefs of my denomination (The Episcopal Church) are still a minority opinion within larger Christendom; and I want to readily admit that I will be held accountable for my beliefs, and I may be wrong. I believe, though, in the idea that God loves unconditionally; that when the Bible speaks against homosexuality it is speaking against an act that was coercive and used to establish dominance; and that loving, meaningful same-sex relationships are fundamentally different, are fundamentally justified through Christ’s call to love authentically with one’s whole being.

I digress.

Here’s the thing for me. I get that these evangelical groups thought they were doing the right thing, just like World Vision thought they were doing the right thing in becoming more inclusive. But sometimes what we think is right, what may feel good to us, is something that causes deep pain and suffering. I am absolutely outraged, like Ms. Evans, that our culture wars here in the pampered, self-centered first world have directly led to an increase in the suffering of folks around the world who desperately need our help.

Who do we think we are?

Seriously, who do we think we are? Who were these mysterious “evangelicals” that pulled their support, threatening the very lives of children they support financially. Talk about being Pro-Life.

But my camp is equally to blame. Where were we in all of this? Why are there not more mainline progressives supporting the work of organizations like World Vision? Where were we to pick up the slack when all of this went down? Why were conservative evangelicals such a overwhelming voice that they were able to bully World Vision into rescinding their position?

Now look, I’m being pretty cruel in my assessment here, and I am feeling conflicted about that in the moment. One of my major issues with the deep divisions in Christendom right now is the lack of dialogue that we are engaged in. The way forward has to allow every voice at the table. Everyone should have the freedom to be authentically themselves. BUT, while every voice deserves to be heard, every voice also deserves to be critically engaged and critiqued.

I stand with my position on homosexuality not balled tightly in a fist but held gently in outstretched arms. I want to talk about it. I want to respectfully hear out the voice of the other in conversation. Dialogue must be at the root of our way forward.

All of that being said, I feel no qualms about calling out wrongs when I perceive them. For too long I have been too timid. There is a balance to be struck certainly, but when our own infighting in the west on issues of morality lead to the starvation of helpless hungry children around the globe we are sinning in the most egregious of fashions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rebirth on the Edge of Existence

I am starting this old blog up again. In so doing I am reminded of a story my parish priest likes to tell on herself. During one of her very first Ash Wednesdays as a celebrant and priest, she was working her way along the altar rail imposing (or whatever proper verb form of imposition should be used here) ashes and stating, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” After making the sign of the cross on one young child’s forehead she was met with his beautifully honest and humble reply, “You should know, I’m not very good at remembering things.”

You should know too, I’m not very good at blogs, or tweets, or generally anything requiring consistent writing on my part. This continues to be a major source of struggle and frustration for me. In hopes of coming to terms with my own approach-avoidance to writing I have begun working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I am only into my third day, but I’ve gotten inspired enough that I want to try my hand at this blog thing again.

I am currently working at a hospital as a chaplain-in-training, and I am preparing to move with my wife to Alexandria, VA in July in order to start seminary. My life is full of powerful, moving, and challenging experiences day in and day out. For some time I’ve wanted a forum to discuss my thoughts and musings as I experience life on the edge of existence. It’s at once educational and overwhelming, meaningful and meaningless, inspiring and devastating. It is the complexity of life lived all encapsulated within a day’s hard work.

Anyway, I hope what you find here is mostly enjoyable, maybe sometimes thought-provoking, and regardless of all else at the very least worth your time. Thanks for checking in, and I hope you’ll drop back by soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment