Saturday, July 31, 2010
Two recent deaths, Daniel Schorr and Mabel Lang, leave me feeling like two pillars of the universe have upped and left for some other universe. Their deaths are not remotely out of season -- both were 93 -- and yet, somehow, it's the very length of their presences in my life that makes their absence seem so strange.
Death in due time, I can deal with; I grieve, but that's okay. Early death is harder for me. When it comes at the end of a terminal illness, I feel relief for that end, and still feel a kind of helpless rage.
My F/friend Christine Oliger's death is no surprise, yet it is hitting me hard.
The unexpected death of Art Gish, a beloved activist often involved with CPT Hebron / al-Khalil, is also hitting me surprisingly hard.
Death is part of the cycle of life. For Witches, we honor it, but we also honor our grief; and right now, I am grieving.
I am grieving in the Light, and in the comforting Darkness. I have the support of beloved F/friends and family; I am blessed and lucky.
I've also just received word of the unexpected but welcome pregnancy of someone very dear to me.
The circle of death and life continues, inexorably.
Friday, July 30, 2010
New Health and Human Services rules prevent the most vulnerable women from paying for abortion coverage themselves
Then again, yes, I am.
The US Department of Health and Human Services announced recently that "the state high-risk insurance pools intended to provide coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions will not generally include coverage of elective abortions" (National Partnership for Women and Families). Even if women pay for this coverage themselves, out of pocket. Excuse me??
This means the women who are most economically and medically vulnerable -- women with pre-existing conditions, who are more likely to have complicated pregnancies or failed birth control, women who are in the high-risk pool because they are having a harder time getting other health insurance -- women who are more likely to need abortion services, are going to have even more barriers to obtaining safe and legal abortion.
News on this: Google news search "HHS abortion"
Good article to start with: Medical news today from July 19th
The Catholic Reporter says, Eh, it's not news.
Planned Parenthood says, Yeah, it is, and it's a problem, too.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Most of us know, should we be diagnosed with a terminal illness, that we don't want to die in the ICU. We want to say goodbye, to put our affairs in order, to die in a dignified way, without heroic measures, with good palliative care, with our pain managed, surrounded by loved ones or maybe one loved one, maybe alone.
The problem is, most of us don't know how to make the leap from aggressive medical management of our condition to hospice care.
Neither do most of our doctors.
What should medicine do when it can't save your life?
by Atul Gawande
I recommend it. Especially if you identify as an Evangelical Christian, or if you have strong feelings or strong opinions about Evangelical Christians.
If you listen long enough to get beyond the civil union issue and into the breadth of the interview, you might be surprised.
As a lesbian, as a Quaker, and as a Witch, I appreciated a lot of what Cizik said.
For 10 years, the Rev. Richard Cizik was the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents roughly 30 million constituents across the United States.
But he was forced out of that position in December 2008, after remarks he made on Fresh Air about his support of gay civil unions, among other things.
On Wednesday, Cizik returned to Fresh Air to discuss how his life has changed since he left the association and why he started a new group called the Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which he hopes will be an alternative to Christian groups that focus on the culture wars.
For interview highlights, click here.
For options to listen to the interview, click here.
For a transcript, click here.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Lammas is interesting for me for a bunch of reasons. It's my former Coven's, and now my Tradition's, anniversary. It's the time when the days start getting darker, faster, but when there's also an end in sight to July's heat waves here in the Mid-Atlantic. Wherever I've lived, I've loved discovering what's in season locally at Lammas. (One week after Lammas 2008, I moved to Seattle and ate Rainier cherries for the first time. Wow.)
This year for Lammas, I thought I'd share some of what Roses, Too! Coven has written over the years in our newsletter and celebration invitations.
- The cross-quarter days (Lammas, Samhain, Brigid, Beltane) mark turning points in the year when the days get shorter or longer more quickly or more slowly. Since Litha, or Summer Solstice, the long days of summer have slowly been getting shorter. When Lammas comes at the beginning of August, the days start getting shorter more quickly. This may be a sad thing for those who love summer, but a relief for those waiting for the end of sticky heat!
- Lammas is a time of harvesting, of evaluating what we have harvested and what we hope to harvest. The days start growing shorter, faster, as we feel the turn of the year’s wheel towards Fall.
- Summer Solstice was the longest day of the year -- the day with the most hours of daylight in a 24-hour period. From Summer Solstice on, the days begin to get shorter, but at first the change is gradual. At Lammas, the change comes more quickly and is more dramatic, and we can notice more easily how the balance of light and dark changes.
- Lammas is the first of three harvest Sabbats we celebrate. This time of year marks the beginning of the harvest, of storing against the winter. Gardens are going crazy, and we rejoice in the abundance around us. It's still easy to see the Goddess as life-giving Mother. But the harvest is still uncertain. Severe weather, storms or drought, can still destroy crops. And when we successfully bring in the harvest, we also see the face of the Goddess as Reaper -- She Who Cuts the Grain. In Harvest is the death that allows life to continue: seeds for next year's crops, food for the winter. Some traditions celebrate Lammas/Lughnasadh as the wake of the Sun God Lugh, whose sacrifice at Summer Solstice is the death that allows the cycle of both animal and plant life to continue.Ritual: Cornbread!In circle at Lammas, we break cornbread together, sharing the joys and sorrows of what we have reaped in the past year and our hopes for the harvests to come. We ask ourselves, "What have I harvested so far this year? What do I hope to harvest?"Potluck theme: Local FoodLammas is the “loaf-mass,” the ancient Celtic celebration of the harvest of grain. We live in a world full of global networks that ship produce to us from all over the world. In the USA we have access to a stunning diversity of fruits out of season.This Lammas we encourage everyone to look for foods that are locally grown, to reconnect with the seasons of the places where we live. What is being harvested near here right now? What will you harvest?(And don’t forget the protein!)
So, dear reader, my query to you is:
What does Lammas mean to you?
What is happening in nature around you?
What have you harvested so far this year in your life, literally and metaphorically? What do you hope to harvest yet?
What foods are local to where you live? What grows near you? If you live in the city, what are urban gardeners growing?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
With profound apologies to Bill Staines, here are the results of the efforts of the Songwriting Committee of University Friends Meeting.
A Place on a Committee
All God's Quakers got a place on a committee
We don't care if you're plain or pretty
You have to be a member for Worship and Ministry
But everybody's welcome on Hospitality
Religious Education is a good one, too
'Cause all our children really need you
Oversight's got a lot of clearness to do
And Building and Grounds has plenty, too
Our homeless neighbors share our worship space
And provide our Meeting with a measure of grace
Social concerns proceed apace
And the dish-washing tends to itself -- NOT!
Please take pity on the Finance Committee
They beg for money and they hardly get any
We value all our other seventeen committees
But nobody talks to Nominating
So we all got together for a Year of Discernment
It lasted eighteen months and it left us in ferment
We talked about our talent and commitments and souls
And how to share our gifts and time and anything we got now
All our Friends got a place in our Meeting
From setting out chairs to standing and greeting
Christian and Jew and Buddhist and Pagan
And all of our potlucks have options that are vegan!
The Songwriting Committee had no idea this would be of such interest to other Friends, and is humbled and honored by all the interest that's been expressed.
After consultation with the Clerk and some of the Elders of the Meeting, I (Stasa) have been asked to say:
- Performance: Permission granted by University Friends Meeting for use for religious / spiritual performance only, with attribution to UFM for the words. (We cannot, of course, grant permission from Bill Staines for use of the tune. His contact information is here.)
- Links: Feel free to link to this page or to RantWoman's page if you would like to link to the lyrics. (This page: http://aquakerwitch.blogspot.com/2010/07/all-gods-quakers-got-place-on-committee.html. RantWoman's page: http://rantwomanrsof.blogspot.com/2010/07/all-gods-quakers-got-place-on-committee.html.)
Thank you, Friends!
Why is this important? A couple of reasons:
I have come to realize over the last 20+ years that I was truly lucky, and truly blessed, when I came out. First, it never occurred to me to give up my faith because I am bisexual or or a lesbian; second, I came out into a community of faith.
When I realized I love other women, I never thought to choose between my relationship with God and being who I truly am: coming out deepened and enriched my spiritual life.
I also knew other lesbian and bi women, as well as gay and bi men, who were involved in Christian, Jewish, and Pagan spiritual communities. What's more, within a year, my Jewish (now former) partner found for me a lesbian, gay, and bisexual Christian faith community where I felt at home almost immediately, and where I later served in leadership.
This was not how the story went back then for all, or even most, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer folks when they came out.
Even today, one of the biggest struggles LGBTQ people of faith face when coming to terms with their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or both, is the notion that accepting who they are means giving up God.
This is simply not true. What's more, it's cruel.
There are a lot of LGBTQ spiritual and religious organizations. Off the top of my head, I know about, or can find, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, and interfaith organizations; and I also know how to use my Google Superpowers (thanks, Peterson, for introducing me to that term!) to find other kinds:
- Christianity: There are a number of organizations within Christian denominations that are specific to LGBTQ inclusion and equality; there are individual churches, and networks of churches, within Christian denominations that are "welcoming," "open and affirming," etc. (the language varies) of LGBTQ people; there are Christian churches and denominations are that are primarily LGBTQ-welcoming but open to all.
- Judaism: There are Jewish LGBTQ organizations, synagogues, and shuls, within different kinds of Judaism.
- Paganism: There are Pagan LGBTQ organizations, circles, covens, groves, etc., within Pagan umbrella organizations and within different Pagan traditions.
- Islam: I'm afraid I don't know much about the Muslim LGBTQ movement, but I do know there is one. I welcome input from readers who are involved or have friends who are involved.
There's no way I can provide an exhaustive list of resources, but they are findable with the use of the aforementioned Google Superpowers. And folks are certainly welcome to add info in the comments on the resources you've personally found the most useful.
My specialty areas are Quakerism, Paganism (particularly, Feminist Witchcraft), and to some extent Feminist Judaism, so the resources I've listed so far on my website are primarily Quaker and Pagan. As always, if there are resources I've missed that you'd particularly like to see me list, please do let me know.
FLGBTQC is open to all Friends. There is no "card check" at the door. You can't necessarily tell who fits which particular labels. A number of folks don't fit any of those labels. And some folks are even straight.
These are some of the things I love about FLGBTQC.
Yes, it's definitely LGBTQ space. And there's room for all Friends.
And, come to think of it, you don't technically have to be a Quaker to be part of the FLGBTQC community. You just have to come to our events and, well, participate in our community.
And we do have pretty awesome Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business.
I had an interesting conversation with a Friend recently. We've both served as treasurers of Quaker organizations, and I was bemoaning how hard it is to make numbers line up in nice, neat rows at the end of a fiscal year, even when they've behaved well all year. Ze responded by saying, rather airily, that ze hadn't found it that difficult, even when ze was treasurer of zir Yearly Meeting. "Well, I'll be sure to bring your name to the attention of FLGBTQC's Nominating Committee for treasurer next cycle!" I laughed. Ze got very serious. Oh, no, ze wouldn't be at all appropriate, being straight, ze said. "Whyever not?" I asked. Because ze wouldn't be a good representative of the organization, ze feared, being straight and all. "Does that mean our clerks who've been in opposite-gender legal marriages haven't been 'good representatives of the organization'?" I asked, honestly curious. Oh, no, ze replied, I'm sure they've been excellent representatives of the organization. I was kind of left scratching my head. (It turned out ze was trying to respect what ze thought was separate space.)
In all actuality, it's the not-part-of-the-FLGBTQC-community part that would be the barrier, not the straight part. I don't think I communicated the no-card-check-at-the-door, you-can't-make-assumptions part, very well. I hope I'm doing that better right now.
I know it's tempting to focus on equality in civil marriage as the be-all and end-all of LGBTQ equality. I know it's really, really tempting to say, "We have a minute in our Meeting supporting same-sex marriage, so in our Meeting, LGBTQ people have full equality," or, "We marry same-gender couples in our Meeting, so in our Meeting, discrimination's not an issue." Or, "There is a [lesbian, gay man, trans person] in a position of leadership in our Meeting, so LGBTQ folks know they're welcome here."
Did African-Americans achieve full equality when every African-American person became able to marry legally and religiously? (We'll leave aside for now the question of whether or not that's really true in 2011 America.) Has racism in the United States ended with an African-American President of the United States? Put that way, it seems obvious that homophobia and heterosexism won't end when same-gender couples can marry legally and religiously, or with LGBTQ persons in civil or religious leadership positions.
But about your Meeting:
- Are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons represented proportionately in your Meeting's positions of leadership? On your committees?
- Do couples who make long-term commitments and get married do so in the Meeting? Do individuals, couples, and other families who raise children raise them in the Meeting?
- If your Meeting is in a state where same-sex couples cannot marry legally, and couples go to states with civil marriage, do you coordinate with other Meetings so their civil marriage is under Friends' care? Do you witness to the discrimination same-gender couples face in civil marriage?
- When newcomers who are lesbian, gay, bi, queer, or trans come to the Meeting, do they stay, or do they wander off?
- Does your Meeting have a statement of welcome on its website (if you have one) and in its entryway for LGBTQ folks and for people of color, and is your Meeting accessible to people with mobility limitations and by public transit?
- If your Monthly Meeting is part of a Yearly Meeting where there is conflict around the welcome or full equality of LGBTQ persons, and your Monthly Meeting is in unity about lifting up the equality of all people, then it is particularly important that you have a statement of welcome on your website (if you have one) and in your entryway for lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people. Language in the minute and epistle from the Central Committee of Friends General Conference in 2004, available here, may be helpful for you.
Did African-Americans achieve full equality in our Meetings when slavery ended? We are learning, thanks to the tireless work (okay, the sometimes exhausted work) of Friends like Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel, authors of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice, that the Quaker narrative about the testimony of equality and how we walk our talk -- or the testimony of integrity -- don't always go hand-in-hand. That's an uncomfortable truth, and it's uphill work.
Being welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people is part of being welcoming to people of color, people with disabilities (obvious and "hidden" ones, as well), and people of different ethnicities, ages, genders, races, kinds of families, kinds of theaologies within Quakerism, traditions with Quakerism, and more.
It's part of the spiritual hospitality that makes for robust Meetings, deep and centered worship, and robust Quakerism.
Okay, you ask, what if my Meeting doesn't have a marriage minute? What if we honestly don't welcome LGBTQ folks openly and fully? What if we wish we did, but we're just not in unity, and we're not going to pretend otherwise?
Be honest about that. You may be pleasantly surprised by the gifts the Spirit brings you.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
For more information about FLGBTQC, Quakers, where to find us, how to get involved, etc, click here: http://flgbtqc.quaker.org/whatis.html.
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns is a Quaker faith community within the Religious Society of Friends. FLGBTQC deeply honors, affirms, and upholds that of God in all people.
We seek to know that of God within ourselves and others. We seek to express God's truth in the Quaker and in the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual/transgender communities, as it is made known to us.
It is our hope to offer an oasis to those who have been spurned by the world at large. We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life. Our experience with oppression in our own lives leads us to seek ways to bring our witness to bear in the struggles of other oppressed peoples.
We gather twice a year, at our Mid-Winter gathering and at the Friends General Conference Annual Gathering of Friends in the summer. At these times we worship together, discern our corporate witness through Meeting for Worship with attention to business, share our individual journeys, celebrate our lives, heal old wounds, and draw sustenance from the Spirit for our work and life in the world. After almost thirty years, we are still learning to spread love in the face of rejection and hostility and to embrace new friends. We have found faith and voice to speak truth to power and the courage to be open to new revelation.
(adapted from a minute approved 15 Second Month 1999)
Proclaiming the Future
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns
Join us at the Summit (Brown's Summit, NC)
February 18-21, 2011
Need more info?
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The big one is that I'm tired of people ranting at me without actually being in conversation/community with me or the other people they're ranting about.
I've heard a bunch of random comments and outright rants over the last few months from people who just can't understand and just can't support the presence of non-theists in the Society of Friends. These statements, when I've asked these folks, have been based on what they think a non-theist Friend is, and have not been based on conversation with non-theist Friends or on the real, lived experience of non-theist Friends.
On both the Non-Theist Friends email list and in real life -- including the interest group I facilitated at FGC Gathering -- I've heard and read a bunch of rants implying anyone who's either a mystic or not a complete a-theist isn't rational and can't be a scientist. Paired with that have been comments and rants about Pagans' (and Christians') (I hear a Dar Williams song now...) irrational belief in the supernatural. This one often has me scratching my head; but you'll read what I have to say about nature and the supernatural and science and the supernatural in a moment (if you keep reading), so I won't rant in advance of my rant.
Another reason I'm sharing what I wrote in this email is because I don't talk very frequently about what I actually believe; about why I identify as a Pagan; or about why I identify along the non-theist continuum, much less how I'm too theist to fit in with many non-theists, and too non-theist to fit in with most theists. What's more, I just facilitated an interest group where I was rather insistent that we talk about our own experience -- not just about what happens in our Meetings or about the dynamics in our communities when we talk about our own experiences.
So, here it is.
(Please remember this email is taken out of context, and refers back to an email thread not presented here.)
I've just returned from FGC Gathering, and I'm sure I'll have more to share once I've had the chance to ponder what's been written so far and let it simmer in my brain for a bit, like a good stew. But I did want to say that for me, there are a couple of important things in here:
a) There's a big difference between the either/or of theism/atheism, and a *continuum* of theism/non-theism.
When I hang out with people who believe in a creator god who is all-knowing and all-powerful, or with people who toss reason out the window and are satisfied with the explanation "It's God's will / because God said so," it's pretty obvious to me I'm not a theist. When I hang out with people who have no room in their lives for anything science can't prove yet, or with hard atheists, it's obvious I'm not an atheist.
Put another way: if there are only theists and atheists, and if non-theist is a polite way of saying atheist [as someone asserted earlier], then I guess I don't exist. *laughing*
(And the babelfish disappeared in a puff of logic, a la Douglas Adams.)
b) Science and mysticism or spirituality are not by definition incompatible. I'm trained as a scientist. If you can't conceive of what science doesn't know yet, you literally can't *do* science; you can't use scientific method for scientific inquiry if you can't imagine things that don't yet make sense. Many things that have seemed supernatural in the past make sense now thanks to science. Many things that we don't understand now are simply things science can't explain yet. What's more, many of the scientists I know are deeply mystical people -- and some are deeply religious. So to say science and religion are incompatible is factually untrue. It may be your or my opinion; but that doesn't make it a fact.
b1) There are no controlled, randomized, double-blind studies, and there are no well-designed scientific experiments, that prove that any specific spiritual practices (such as prayer, meditation, or magic) "work" or "don't work." [Someone had earlier asserted, forcefully, that prayer doesn't work.] What little research there is doesn't, or can't, define clearly what "work" means, or completely isolate every variable (such as who is affected). There *is* some interesting research that demonstrates certain things, such as brain changes during meditation. But anyone who claims science proves spiritual practices do or don't work is factually incorrect.
c) There's more than one way to conceptualize the Divine / God / Deity / That-Which-Is-Sacred. To insist on conceptualizing it only in certain ways, and to insist on reacting against or defining one's self against only those conceptions, is to give those conceptions primacy and power.
Some non-theists may choose to reject religious and spiritual language completely because for them it's completely tainted by one conception of Deity. Some of us choose to use it in ways that for us are true, accurate, and have integrity.
I can say, with perfect truth and integrity, that the Earth is the Goddess to me. This doesn't mean, remotely, that I subscribe to a belief in an all-powerful creator deity, or that I'm ascribing such characteristics to the Earth. It means that I name the Earth, exactly as it is, to be Divine.
d) This also means that being somewhere along the theist/non-theist continuum, or being outright theist, does not automatically mean ascribing supernatural powers to one's Deity. My Deity is *nature*. You can't get ANY LESS supernatural than that. The Sun doesn't do anything supernatural. Neither does the Earth. Nor do the Stars, the Air, the Water, human beings, my cats, or the danged squirrels who have eaten their way into our car's engine. To say, as Witches do, "Thou art Goddess. Thou art God," is to say that the Divine is right here, in this world, is this world, is you and me.
Compared to some folks, this makes me a theist. Compared to others, it makes me an atheist. To me, it's a pretty meaningless distinction, b/c that concept of Deity is not one that has meaning for me to believe in or not believe in. I don't BELIEVE in a Deity -- I don't believe in the Earth, or the Air I breathe, or the Sun above, or the Water I drink, or the food I eat, or the cats I cuddle, or the rain that falls, or the rocks I carry in my pockets. I EXPERIENCE them.
Friday, July 2, 2010
As I've mentioned before, there are several trips I feel led or called to take this summer which I do not have the financial means to do myself. For health reasons, Beloved Wife and I were not able to go to the FGC Couple Enrichment Leader Training; we were sad to miss it, but glad we stayed home recovering and taking good care of ourselves and each other. I did go to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, and am definitely glad I went! I am still raising money to meet my costs for that trip. Tomorrow we leave for FGC Gathering, where I am serving in several ways; I have done well with financial assistance and work-grants for Gathering. Right after we get back, I leave for North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions, and I need to fund-raise for that.
Here are the details:
Pacific NW Quaker Women's Theology Conference:
- Registration: $250
- Plane ticket + fees: $423
- Misc food & ground transportation: $75.88 (does not include brownies)
- Total: $748.88
- Scholarship: $250
- Gifts: $266
- Total: $516
North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions:
- Registration: $236
- Plane fare: $524.80
- Misc food & ground transportation: ??
- Total: $760.80 + a little more
- $500 total combined from Monthly Meeting and Yearly Meeting
Please click here for information on how to make gifts to my ministry.
Sometimes it's very hard for me to ask for financial support to travel in ministry. It helps to remind myself, in the words of FLGBTQC's co-clerk, that it's ministry given through me. Then I worry less about the personalities involved, and am reassured that it's not whether it's my ministry, and it's not whether what I do speaks to people, it's whether I listen well and discern how I'm called, and it's whether I'm faithful.
Thank you for your support, for holding me in your spiritual care, and for your financial help.
Yours in Friendship,
Voices of Pagan Pacifism
Thank you for your interest in participating in the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project!
We hope this website will become an archive of helpful resources, inspiring stories and challenging essays available to the Pagan pacifist community, as well as the larger community of Pagans, Witches, Druids, Heathens and others interested in pre-Christian and earth-centered spirituality. It’s important to know that we are not alone, and to showcase the work and lives of our fellow peace-makers and social activists!
We conceive of this project as providing a showcase and permanent archive for the many voices of Pagan peace-making in the modern world. For this reason, we gladly accept submissions that have already been published elsewhere, provided they are submitted by (or with prior permission from) the original author and are accompanied by appropriate references and credit to the original publication source (including a link, if available). We also welcome new and original work never published before, by aspiring and previously-published writers alike!
We are currently accepting submissions for work in three main categories:
In all submissions (excepting the interview application form), we are interested in writing with a clear vision and a unique voice, with a minimum of grammatical and spelling errors and suitably credible research sources (when appropriate).
Submissions should be sent either as an attached file (in one of the following formats: .txt, .rtf or .pdf) or in the body of the email itself, along with the name of the writer, a short bio, and any relevant links to online sources or previous places of publication. (If you submit a piece on behalf of someone else, please include their contact information so that we can confirm permission to use their work.)Submissions can be mailed to: submissions [at] paganpacifism [dot] com Please indicate which category/subcategory you think is appropriate for your work in the subject line of your email. See below for details on each of the categories.
I think this sounds really interesting, and I look forward to seeing what comes of it.
I believe this is of especial interest to Pagan Quakers and Quaker Pagans.
Feel free to let me know if you get involved, and what your experience is like!