Saturday, June 23, 2012

Forgiveness in the Abstract is Always Easier

That's what I have to say to those who want to start sermonizing about forgiving Jerry Sandusky.  I have no intention of forgiving Jerry Sandusky.  I have no right to forgive him, he has not wronged me.  I don't even know the guy.  And I'm still having a hard time working on forgiving the guy on the ELCA Clergy facebook group who said something that annoyed me so I'm not about to lecture sex abuse victims about forgiving their abusers.  

Now I'm not too keen on all the spewing and scapegoating about "that monster".  I find the so called "jokes" and the wishing of prison rape on Jerry Sandusky abhorrent.  Rape is not a joke.  It is not okay.  Those jokes are particularly upsetting if you realize most victims of sexual abuse in prisons are not, contrary to conventional wisdom, child molesters, but youth who have been sentenced as adults and put in with the adult population in prisons.  And if you consider the likelihood that those youth were probably abused in some way as children before that, it is a particularly offensive "joke".

Jerry Sandusky like other high profile criminals has become our monster that we can put in a cage and excuse ourselves of the hard work of making systematic changes in the culture that allows child abuse to happen.  

And he's also the poster boy for people who have never been sexually abused to lift up and talk about how much God loves him to show everyone how Christian they are and how brave they are to talk about loving Jerry Sandusky.  I call bullshit.  Show me a sexual abuse victim who has truly forgiven her abuser (not been shamed into it by her religious community like um, I don't know,  an isolated cult that also abuses puppies?  Never mind, I digress) and then I'll be impressed.  Show me a victim who has not forgiven his/her abuser and I will talk to them about God's forgiveness and healing for them even if they can't forgive. 

It's easy to forgive in the abstract.  It's much easier for someone who is not a sexual abuse survivor to talk about God's love for Sandusky than for someone who has personally hurt them.  So if you are a preacher and were planning to talk about forgiving Sandusky in the pulpit tomorrow, I know it's late but I'm going to suggest you reconsider.   Instead talk about how you were able to forgive someone who really really hurt you.  Or talk about how you are still working on that.  Or talk about the birth of John the Baptist.

No We Can't Put it all Behind Us

Now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse, the calls (mostly from Penn State folk) are already coming in for "Okay let's put it all behind us and move on."   Let's forget all about it.   Let's focus our attention all on one person, call him a monster, and get on with what is really important-- college football of course.  Let's not examine ourselves as to how  we let  a football program became so important that people were willing to completely ignore what was really more obvious than people want to admit.  Let's not observe that while horrible and disgusting, we can understand why a pedophile (and possible sociopath as he seems to have no concept that he's done anything wrong) can do the horrible things he did, we seem to be less willing to examine why so called normal people became enablers of abusive behavior.  

No let's just move forward.  I'm always preaching about moving forward and getting our eyes off the past.  But in some cases moving forward just means ignoring what has happened in the past and not doing anything to make certain the future is any different. 

A hearing for former high-ranking Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, facing perjury charges related to the case will come up in July. I wonder how much coverage that will get, or will we decide it's time to move on?  

The ugly truth is that there will always be child molesters.  So far there's been little to no success in changing them.  What we need is more protection for children, less access for molesters to children, fewer normal people willing to protect and enable them.  Even if it means putting football programs in jeopardy.   Even if it means giving up your privileged life as the wife of one.

Yes I'm going there.  I'm calling Dottie Sandusky to account.  I don't believe she had no clue.  I do not believe she is a victim.  She was prepared to testify against her own adopted child.   One of the responsibilities that comes with being in a country that granted, has some work yet to do with women's rights, but at least criminalizes men throwing acid on your face if they don't like how cook dinner is that white privileged women who have resources do not get a pass when it comes to offering up their and other women's children in order to keep their privileged position.  Those damaged children's lives are on her as well.  I'm not saying it would be easy for her to face the truth and do what she needed to do to protect those children.  Too effin bad.  Sometimes the price of getting to be a grown up independent equal citizen is that you are responsible for doing hard things.

So while I  see it is a very good thing that eight victims of a powerful influential man were believed, we still got some work to do.  And if that's what people mean by "moving forward", yes let's move forward.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Loss, Grief, Resurrection, Transformation

"We are the Church"

These are the closing remarks of our Bishop Steven Ullestad's sermon at our Synod Assembly Opening Worship Friday night.  I think you had to be there.  

I was there and the tears were streaming down my face by the time he got to this part.  And I was not the only one.

Loss, grief, resurrection and transformation.   

Our synod has been through hell and back.  We've lost a substantial amount of congregations in the wake of the 2009 CWA.  

And many of those exits were just plain nasty and ugly.  And he acknowledged that in the sermon.  He referenced and showed clips of the movie "We are Marshall", about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players on the Marshall University Football team.  

Everybody yells "WE ARE MARSHALL" - that's how we got to WE ARE THE CHURCH.

But it was when he said "We rejoice that we will never be the synod we once were" is what got me.  

Because that is, in the end what the work of grief is all about...coming to terms with the fact that you are different, life is different after loss and learning to embrace and love the new you, the new life that comes about after that life.  

And Christians of all people should be able to rejoice in new life.

But we don't.  We bitch and moan that the church is not what it used to be.  We blame and scapegoat and whine that if we just a) did what our grandfolks did or b) stopped doing what our grandfolks did  the church will again be what it used to be.  

Well that church that used to be is dead and it ain't coming back.  God never leads us backwards - only forward.

But it's hard.  There was a time in my grief where just the idea of not being in grief anymore saddened me.  Because my grief allowed me to hang on to Loren in some small way.  To give up that grief was to let go of our past.  

But it was the only way I could embrace the newness that was waiting for me.  At some point I had to just decide that I was not going to be sad anymore.  And I did.  

I think at this year's assembly we made a communal decision that we were not going to be sad anymore.  

After the bishop's sermon he asked every pastor who lost their job because their congregation left the ELCA, every member who lost their church because their congregation decided to leave the ELCA, every person who lost friends and family because of the leavings to stand. 

 And then he had the whole assembly pray for us.  And in those prayers I believe there was a letting go of the sadness and anxiety and anger and regrets  and an embracing of the newness that resurrection brings.  

And we decided to stop being sad.  

And the rest of the weekend was a celebration of what we have done this year  and a renewed commitment to mission for the future.  It was a joy.

The disciples were never the same group they were before Jesus rose and ascended to the Father. We will never be the synod we once were.  We will never be the church we once were.  We can rejoice in that. 

We are the CHURCH!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Five - More Randomness

So the RevGalBlogPals are into Spontaneous Thinking today...  In honer of that I offer a randam picture of a Goldfinch in a tree right outside my window.  I took it with a new camera I bought for myself because I was not happy with the zoom on my other cheaper one.  I keep an envelope stuffed with cash that people give me for gifts and save up until I want something for myself.  I thought this was a good use of that cash.  How is that for a random thought?
1.  What religion/faith besides yours captures your curiosity and why?  Both Quakers and Roman Catholicism.  I know, they are totally opposite right?  That's probably why. I like Roman Catholic stuff in worship way too much to ever be a Quaker but I am appreciate their simplicity idea of just shutting up until the Spirit speaks and listening to other people speak.  I don't think I could ever do that which is why I think it's important. 
And sometimes I think the Roman Catholic church is really the one true church.  Just really screwed up. 

2.  What is the first or most memorable pop song you ever learned as a kid?
I remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show the first time.  And we all went to school the next day singing "She loves you YEA YEA YEA"

3.  If God were a color.....(finish this sentence creatively)
Not a color - the RAINBOW.  Of course.

4.  If you were going to make a sandwich right now for lunch, and you magically had all the items you need for it, what would that sandwich be?
 Grilled fresh Sourdough bread from San Francisco,  smoked extra sharp ceddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon and thinly sliced honey crisp apple.

5.  How are you doing?  Really, how are you?
Really?  Well I had a rough night last night as I suffer from acid reflex and I seemed to suffer all the ways you can from it last night.  Not just heartburn but nausea , coughing, burning throat.  Okay, well you DID ask! (And don't bother commenting all the things in my diet I need to give up--I won't do I tell you!)

But the good thing was as I was walking around (lying down makes it worse) I looked out my window where their is a light and saw my woodchuck wandering around looking for trouble.  He didn't seem to find any as my flowers were all intact this morning.

Bonus:  What are you enjoying/loving right now? 

Having always had a lot of cats and letting them roam pretty free (no comments about THAT either) I never felt like I should have a bird feeder.  My cats are all elderly and we live in open country now so they only go out with supervision now so I put out a finch feeder with thistle right out side my window.  It did not take long before I had goldfinches and house finches.  In an attempt to attract different birds I've put out sunflower seeds and grape jelly on my picnic table.  All that attracted was more finches but they are delightful to watch.  They are very busy.  I know there are blue jays and cardinals I see once in a while but they don't care to come.  But I'm happy with the finches.
And I'm taking off for the Synod Assembly and am expecting it to actually be an enjoyable experience.  And I'm convening the hearings for the Social Statement on Criminal Justice   It's been very stressful trying to decide what to wear.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And You Thought YOUR Confirmation Classes were Tough...

I've taken it upon myself to upload an image and short story of a commemoration from the Lutheran and any other Christian Calendar that interests me every day on Facebook.  It's really been fascinating.  If I can't find something uplifting and inspiring, I can find something downright interesting Like St. Dunstan who was known for being very good at outsmarting the Devil.  He was a blacksmith and the Devil asked him to shoe his horse.  Instead he shoed the Devil!  This, as you can imagine, was very painful and the Devil begged him to unshoe him.  Dunstan agreed, but only if the Devil agreed to never enter a building with a horseshoe over the door.  The devil agreed, and this is where we get the idea of a lucky horseshoe. 

St. Boniface, Apostle to the Germans, whom we commemorate today was killed while preparing some Frisians (a Germanic people from the modern day Netherlands to Denmark) for confirmation on Pentecost eve by a gang of pagan Frisians.  . Although his comrades were armed Boniface urged them to lay down their arms, saying "Cease fighting. Lay down your arms, for we are told in Scripture not to render evil for good but to overcome evil by good." All were massacred.

The story is told that his killers were looking for gold and silver but instead found pages of scripture in his bags.  There is also a story of Boniface attempting to save himself by holding a bible over his head.  

Along with the remains of Boniface, the Fulda Cathedral holds a slashed bible, known as the Ragyndrudis Codex, which is said to be the Bible which was held by Boniface when he died.  Father Anonymous will, no doubt, attempt to dispute the authenticity of this story but the association of this book with Boniface's martyrdom is goes back pretty far. 

To me it doesn't matter whether or not it REALLY is the very book, anymore than if the chains in the Church of the Chains of Peter and Paul are really the actual chains.  Peter and Paul were held in chains and seeing them makes it real.  Looking at that slashed manuscript makes it real to me that there was a man who was slashed to death while trying to each people about Christ.  To me, relics are not magic  nor history, they are icons we need the same way we need water and bread for the sacraments.  We are earthly people and earthly things help our faith.

Which is why I use power point and pictures in Confirmation, to bring this back to my heading.