Thursday, February 21, 2008

For the Love of Frida

Frida Kahlo with her parrots (self portrait)

I don’t know why I never really knew of Frida Kahlo until seeing the 2002 movie Frida starring Salma Hayek. I have always loved the painting of Diego Rivera, but never knew of his artist lover & wife until seeing the movie.

I can’t wait to get some free time to wander down to Philadelphia and take in the exhibit of her art work, photo’s and writings. In many ways I relate to her in that she suffered for an institution and art form which she loved.

Having survived polio, she did not move around as easily as most of us, yet she lived her life with a passion, zeal and purpose that is at once remarkable and inspiring. She was the “real deal” and did not shrink away from the tough stuff of life, but embraced it and lived through it with grace and love.

Would that we all would imitate her love and passion for life and for those who life is not so kind to. Anyone who could date Trotsky and marry Diego Rivera has to be a special and remarkable woman!

Frida with self portrait of Diego Rivera

Frida felt both love and pain at a deep existential level which found its way into her art and passions. Loving Rivera so that she is smaller and more rustically girly in her wedding portrait and depicting herself in male attire and with a short cut hair style after their divorce, she felt deeply all the passions of being human---both good and not-so-good.

Portrait of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

“Eleven days before dying from a pulmonary embolism or a suicidal overdose, Kahlo sat in a wheelchair during a protest against the CIA overthrow of Guatemala’s president. In her last finished work, a still life, she painted her epitaph. She carved “Viva La Vida (Long Live Life)” on a watermelon tombstone.”1

Viva Frida Kahlo!

1 Geoff Gehlman. The Allentown Morning Call

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bible as Weapon

Just home from the first gathering of an Adult educational series I am leading for Lent called “Bible 101” (which I concocted in another parish where it was called The Bible for Dummies which my current parish thought un-genteel and degrading.). I told them that the Bible was full of wonderful stories, wisdom, history, poetry, drama, some comedy, a lot of tragedy, social teaching, economic teaching and so on, to use it for any other ultimate purpose than to bring ourselves and others into a relationship with the Living God was a misuse of it. In other words to teach history, social norms, poetry, economics, or any other thing solely from it was to degrade it.

Growing up in a somewhat conservative area in a somewhat conservative evangelical Anabaptist protestant denomination I learned at a young age that the Bible was the “inerrant, changeless Word of God” and while the true meaning of this was lost on me as a teenager, I accepted it in some flat-footed way which made me more afraid of it than supported and inspired by it. We would have “sword drills” at Youth Group to see who could find a certain verse or a certain book the fastest. What genius, to turn Bible study into a competition! I later found out that it was (naturally) St. Paul (yeah the same guy who brought us women keep silent, homo’s stay out and slaves to be obedient) who coined this phrase.

It wasn’t until I was older and somewhat better grounded in things biblical that I realized how bad calling this wonderful book a “sword” actually was. It became the handmaiden of the military-industrial complex and worse, was used to gore people right and left.

This is probably why many Americans don’t see any problem using scripture to justify war, oppression, violence, and all other kinds of activities which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. A recent blogger posed the question “Why Would Jesus Puke?” I think there could be tons of reasons but many of them are the way those who claim to follow him use and appropriate scripture. I hope someday to invite people into this question and see how long a list we could come up with!

Indeed the current controversies in the Anglican Communion boil down to how you read, interpret and use scripture. If Paul had said nothing about homosexuality perhaps this would be an easier time for L/G/B/T persons in the Christian Church. But he did and for those of us who take scripture seriously enough he was speaking of certain cultic practices which involved straight people engaging in homosexual acts in order to receive a pagan God’s blessing. Lets also be clear, in Paul’s world there was no such concept as sexual orientation. Indeed ALL humans were assumed to be heterosexual. End of debate. So if everyone was assumed straight, then engaging in homosexual behavior was indeed a distortion of their “true nature”.

Even Freud thought homosexuality “disordered”.

It was until the early 18th century that the idea of any other God-given orientation was conceivable. At that time there was the “discovery” that a small percentage of humans may actually be biologically, psychologically and sexually attracted to their same gender! So while I will cut Paul a break (“But I had no idea!”) I do not cut current Christians a break who continue to harass, marginalize and reject their “other oriented” bro’s and sis’s as being exceptionally evil or perverse when they have better science and psychology at their beckon call.

I was a deputy at the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church and voted against Resolution B033 which effectively caused the Episcopal Church USA to take two steps back from openly gay clergy. Much to my deputation’s credit we did not vote for it. We can at least sleep at night now that we have witnessed how this legislation has been used against our own people. Many talented gay people are shut out of consideration of any positions which may bring influence, fame and a nomination for bishop. Many of my colleagues in the House of Deputies now express regret for voting for it. The pink ceiling has been put in place.

So back to the scriptures. My deepest desire and prayer for all Christians is to take the Bible more seriously than being a rule book for excluding others. To stop thinking of it as a sword to sink into people who differ from them and to work for justice, equality and normalization of gay relationships and stop all this hand-wringing being orchestrated by off-shore homophobes who are financed by on-shore homophobes. Groups like the Institute for Religion and Democracy need to be exposed for what they are and not responded to as if they are a legitimate voice in the Church.

Yes. To take the Bible seriously might mean that one gets at the meaning and use of scripture and that the final Word of God is Jesus, not some idol made of paper with a binding we call Holy Scripture. And as I recall Jesus had quite a bit to say to his pious detractors about rejecting others as “impure”. (cf. Matthew 21:31)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's NOT the Robins

I was standing out in front of St. Andrew’s a couple of days ago on a sunny and cold day after our recent “icing” and noticed that the small cherry tree near the from entrance was covered with Robins. A mother and child were coming up the walk and I pointed them out to the child. “It’s kind of early for them isn’t it?”, the Mom quipped. And I informed her that Robins are here all winter, they don’t migrate. And I told her it wasn’t her fault as many songs we learned which were “spring” songs gave us the impression that Robins were the true ensign of spring. Wrong. I had been set straight a few ago by an avid bird watcher on this matter and never forgot it. So when I see Robins in the winter I am glad, but I don’t make too much of their presence as a biological sign of the imminence of Primavera.

That evening I was watching the news and the sportscaster reported that the Philadelphia Phillies were to report to spring training in Clearwater, Florida the next day. Now THAT my friends is a with-a-doubt, sure and certain, beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt ensign of the approach of Spring! The Boys of Summer do not start too early or too late to shake out the late fall and early winter cob webs, get those joints moving again and practice their batting, pitching and catching.

I don’t expect Spring anytime soon on seeing a Robin. I DO expect Spring’s return when I hear the Phillies are migrating to Clearwater! Yesiree, Spring is most certainly near!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why I Have Decided to Give Barak My Vote

I began my distant relationship with Barak Obama when he gave the nomination speech for John Kerry 4 years ago. I thought his speech was electrifying, inspiring and motivational. I actually worked door to door for the Kerry/Edwards ticket as a result.

I like Hillary too. I have always thought that she had a lot on the ball and was very disappointed at the lack of cooperation she received for trying to come up with a solution for the Health Care Crisis in our country. I felt that she handled her husband’s sexual infidelities as a woman who was committed to working out the hard stuff of marriage. She tried. Many women criticize her for that. I don’t.

Through the last two months I have watched debates, stump speeches, interviews and primary results. I rode the fence as to which one I was for in the Pennsylvania primary coming up on April 22. I was ambivalent; I liked both Hillary and Barak for different reasons. I was proud that a woman and an African-American man were the leading candidates. Wow, have things really changed???

But in the last month I have grown weary of the feeding frenzy which the political process produces in having one candidate attack another. I thought the competition was initially healthy for the party, the political process and our national dialogue on issues that are critical. But lately I am ready to get behind one candidate and move forward to November.

Barak Obama has shown me that he has the right stuff. He is not another Ivy League patrician seducing the Democratic Party with big talk. He has not taken PAC money from drug companies, medical organizations and military contractors. Barak seems to attract a wider diversity of people than Hillary which will be critical to the campaign against John McCain if we are to win. And in politics, winning counts, indeed it may be the only thing that counts in the big picture (take that Ralph Nadar and keep your butt at home this time!).

Recently I have seen Obama surge ahead and think that is a sign for all of us who were undecided to this point. A “brokered” nomination at the Democratic Convention would not unite us. In fact it may be a disaster. A clear and undisputable front runner going into that Convention would be healthy for the party and the country.

We have a candidate who has a broad appeal to Independents, the young, moderate Republicans. I still like Hillary but will pull the lever (yes, we will re-institute voting machines in Pennsylvania this election!) for Barak in order to unite the party and to get us focused for November.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Where The Mind is Without Fear

A good frind reminded me of this giant of poetry and Nobel Laureate. As a child in India I read his poems for school and am glad my friend Katie-Did reminded me of his genious...

Where The Mind is Without Fear
Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

From Rabindranath Tagore's GeetanjaliMahfuj, Stockholm