Sunday, June 17, 2018

Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride

Since 2009 I've shared every year during the month of June a series of "Queer Appreciation" posts. Each series is comprised of a number of informed and insightful writings to mark Gay Pride Month . . . or, as I prefer to call it (since 2011), Queer Appreciation Month. I always made a point of including in each series a diverse range of writers and topics, and in general the writings I share are positive, proactive and celebratory.

I begin this year's series with an article by journalist and author Michelangelo Signorile. This article was first published June 4 by The Huffington Post.


Queer Pride Has Found Its Purpose,
Once Again, In Rebellion

By Michelangelo Signorile

The Huffington Post
June 4, 2018

Rebellion is in the air as the resistance to Donald Trump’s presidency and the hate it has given license to continues. And both seasoned LGBTQ activists and new, younger queer people are at the forefront of much of it – organizing, engaging and challenging bigotry.

This is true not only regarding the demand for accountability in the larger world but also among LGBTQ people and groups as well. And while some might bemoan this as “infighting” or the perennial “eating our own,” it actually is the true spirit of LGBTQ Pride, which kicks off all across America this week and goes through the end of June.

For decades, our annual marches and parades, which included chants for visibility within a larger, heterosexual-dominated society – “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” – have been vital in highlighting homophobia in American culture. But a chant that goes way back to the Stonewall era and the early pride marches – “Out of the closets and into the streets!” – was about accountability to each other as well. It was about what individuals needed to do, challenging themselves and their own complacency, fears and biases. And that’s still hugely important in many ways.

Today we see it playing out in the LGBTQ rights movement as queer people make demands of LGBTQ groups – for example, pressuring pride events to stop associating with entities that have a history of racial bias and stop accepting sponsorships from companies that do business with weapon manufacturers.

In New York, a group called the Reclaim Pride Coalition has demanded that police officers not be present in uniform with weapons because of the visual threat they represent to African-Americans and others who experience police brutality regularly in America today.

It’s a demand that Heritage of Pride, the organizer of New York City Pride, has pushed back against, and it seems like a heavy lift, considering LGBTQ police groups march in pride parades, proudly in uniform, and that the New York Police Department is also intent on making sure visible security is present. But activists persevere, challenging people in the LGBTQ community to think about and confront the issue.

In Washington, the group No Justice, No Pride last year engaged in civil disobedience during the Pride march and is once again pressing Capital Pride, issuing a statement this year that reads in part: "All signs indicate that Capital Pride 2018 will once again celebrate weapons manufacturers, corrupt banks, and police departments, aligning itself with those who profit off of the oppression of the most marginalized members of our communities."

The same is happening in smaller cities with a shorter history of pride marches, like Salt Lake City. Just days before the Pride Month kickoff, a group of prominent local activists sent a letter to the Utah Pride Center asking that Chase Bank and Wells Fargo be dropped as sponsors, charging that the banks have a “history of discrimination against the most at-risk in [the LGBT] communities.” Similar controversies are sprouting up around the country.

Resolving these issues won’t be easy, and the tense town hall meetings and protests of the past couple of years are likely to continue and escalate for a while. But they nonetheless are a direct result of the growth of the LGBTQ movement and the intersection with so many other movements. At a time when police brutality against people of color is a focus of progressives and when there have been energetic protests of companies that support the gun lobby in the aftermath of school shootings, it’s vital that these issues are given focus at LGBTQ Pride in a meaningful way.

That is and always has been of the purpose of pride events – to challenge and spark debate. Or, at least, that’s been the traditional (for lack of a better word) purpose, which may have been suppressed and obscured as corporate sponsors began courting pride celebrations over the past 25 years and, more recently, during the relatively heady Obama years, when the focus was on winning marriage equality in the courts and gaining acceptance among the public. As I’ve pointed out many times, many LGBTQ people were overcome with victory blindness in the wake of achieving marriage equality at the Supreme Court in 2015, not seeing all the work ahead on so many fronts.

But in addition to energizing LGBTQ activists within groups like Rise and Resist to take on Trump and the extreme-right political agenda – which threatens to roll back LGBTQ rights – the rise of Trump has been a jolt in so many other ways. Queer people couldn’t be truly integrated into the larger progressive resistance, after all, if we weren’t grappling with issues of bias or complacency among our own and challenging ourselves, especially as the presence of queer activists in the resistance is undeniable.

Lesbian and transgender leaders like J. Bob Alotta, executive director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation, and activist and author Janet Mock were prominent speakers at the massive 2017 Women’s March. Gay and lesbian African-American activists, such as DeRay McKesson and Alicia Garza, have been at the forefront of Black Lives Matter. Latino queer activists like Bamby Salcedo have been on the front lines in the fight for immigrant youth and LGBTQ immigrants.

Gays Against Guns became a driving force in the fight against gun violence after the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016. And among the Parkland, Florida, high school student leaders who organized marches this year after the shooting at their school are youth such as Emma González, who proudly identifies as bisexual.

How could the LGBTQ rights movement be part of a larger movement challenging companies doing business with the National Rifle Association, for example, if pride events are taking money from the very same companies?

It’s inevitable and hugely important that these heated debates take place. And yet queer people are amazing at coming together, joining forces even as we have sharp differences and engage in self-examination. That’s where we’re underestimated by many in the media and even by some LGBTQ leaders who fret about the appearance of division.

In a similar example, there has been so much talk of Democrats and progressives being divided headed into November’s midterm elections – Bernie Sanders supporters vs. Hillary Clinton supporters, the establishment vs. the grassroots, and insiders vs. outsiders – but progressives and Democrats have come together and turned out to vote in large numbers and solidly behind a diverse array of candidates in primaries and special elections since Trump’s election. This has belied the overblown claims of deep divisions in the party, even as there are very real disagreements

The same is true of queer people. Despite the tensions and differences, we know the battle we’re up against – authoritarianism, far-right religious extremism, white supremacy – and we know why we must beat it back, staying united.

We’ve been in this fight in America for a long time – long before Trump – and we know how critical it is right now. We’re resilient, and we can do many things at once – including challenging each other and the rest of the world.

Pride 2018 is getting back to its rebellion roots, within our own movement and against the forces intent on harming us all. And that’s exactly what Pride is supposed to be.

– Michelangelo Signorile

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
A Spirit of Defiance
Making the Connections

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Time by the River

Twice now in the past two weeks I've spent time at the same spot by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. I was at this spot by myself on Tuesday, June 5, and then again last Sunday, June 10, with my friend Mahad (above). We both found this time by the river to be a very peaceful and grounding experience.

This particular area of urban wilderness is close to the Winchell Trail, a largely unpaved trail that winds about 2.5 miles along the west bank of the Mississippi River from Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park. It follows what was once an Indian trail, and is mostly hidden. In fact, it remains unknown to many long-time city residents.

Named after Newton Horace Winchell, state geologist from 1872 to 1901, the Winchell Trail is touted as "the first rustic hiking trail" in Minneapolis.

Above and below: At Hajduk Spring, a falling spring that comes directly out of the limestone bluff. It's considered the best example of its kind in the Twin Cities area.

Go and pray beside the river
and you’ll wash your spirit clean.
Give away the things
you don’t need.
Let it all go and
you’ll soon see.
And you’ll wash your spirit clean.

– "Wash Your Spirit Clean"
by Tim Veazey

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Down By the River
A Delightful Summer's Afternoon and a Moving Tale
Mississippi Adventure
River Walk
Adventures in Mississippi River Bluff Country

Images: Michael Bayly and Mahad Abdullahi.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Something to Think About . . .



Related Off-site Links:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Cites Bible in Defense of Breaking Up Families and Blames Migrant Parents – Adam Edelman (NBC News, June 14, 2018).
Three Reporters Push Back on Sarah Sanders' Lie That It Is Simply "Following the Law" to Separate Immigrant FamiliesMedia Matters (June 14, 2018).
Catholic Leaders Denounce Sessions’s Asylum Decision: “We Have Truly Lost Our Moral Compass” – Kevin Clarke (America, June 13, 2018).

UPDATES: Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, June 14, 2018).
Children's Detention Center Tour Reveals Trump Mural That Would Look "In Place In a Banana Republic" – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, June 14, 2018).
Department of Homeland Security Say 2,000 Children Separated at Border – Tal Kopan (CNN, June 15, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda

Like many people I've been appalled by news and images of the treatment of migrants at the U.S. southern border by the policies and actions of ICE and the Trump administration, in particular the separation of children from their parents.

About this situation, Ryan Devereaux writes at The Intercept:

Hundreds of children are now being separated from their parents in courts along the border every week, with little to no system in place to reconnect those families as they pass through the criminal justice and immigration systems. With shelters for children separated from their parents rapidly hitting capacity, the Trump administration is actively exploring ways to lock up immigrant kids on U.S. military bases, including, according to a recent McClatchy report, through the use of “tent cities.” As for the adults caught in the zero tolerance push, Reuters reported last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was beginning the transfer of roughly 1,600 detainees to a handful of federal prisons across the country.

Michelle Goldberg, meanwhile, in her unsettling New York Times op-ed, "First They Came for the Migrants," offers the following.

We still talk about American fascism as a looming threat, something that could happen if we’re not vigilant. But for undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.

There are countless horror stories about what’s happening to immigrants under Trump. Just last week, we learned that a teenager from Iowa who had lived in America since he was 3 was killed shortly after his forced return to Mexico. This month, an Ecuadorean immigrant with an American citizen wife and a pending green card application was detained at a Brooklyn military base where he’d gone to deliver a pizza; a judge has temporarily halted his deportation, but he remains locked up. Immigration officers are boarding trains and buses and demanding that passengers show them their papers. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decreed that most people fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence would no longer be eligible for asylum.

But what really makes Trump’s America feel like a rogue state is the administration’s policy of taking children from migrants caught crossing the border unlawfully, even if the parents immediately present themselves to the authorities to make asylum claims.

How did we get to this?

Well, the first thing to remember is that, as DeNeen Brown documents in her May 31 Washington Post commentary, the U.S. has a long and cruel history of separating children from their parents. Brown highlights a recent tweet from the African American Research Collaborative which succinctly encapsulates this history: “Official U.S. policy: Until 1865, rip African American children from their parents. From 1870s to 1970s, rip Native American children from their parents. Now, rip children of immigrants and refugees from their parents.”

In his Intercepted podcast of May 30, Jeremy Scahill also offers some historical perspective on the Trump administration's immigration policy and agenda, one that examines the culture of impunity, abuse, mistreatment, and neglect that permeated the ranks of Customs and Border Protection and ICE under the Obama administration. Such a culture, notes Scahill, "helped Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda to take hold faster and have a broader impact than it would’ve if these institutions had been confronted and held accountable [under the previous administration].

Following is an excerpt from Scahill's podcast.

There is a systematic, anti-immigrant campaign being waged in this country. And [I'm] going to get to Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and this whole authoritarian apparatus in a little while. But first let’s go over some essential context.

Back in 2014, lawyers and human rights advocates who work with undocumented immigrants began noticing a sharp uptick in reports of abuse, neglect and other mistreatment of children, while in custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And the allegations were horrifying: Agents punching a child in the head, another kicking a child in the ribs, invasive and traumatic searches in the genital areas of teenage girls making them scream, threats of sexual assault, denying medical care to a pregnant teenager, using a stun gun on a boy, causing him to convulse and his eyes to roll back in his head.

In June of 2014, the ACLU and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security. And the complaints documented the cases of 116 unaccompanied children, ranging in age from 5-years-old to 17. According to these organizations, a quarter of the children said they were physically or sexually abused. They said they’d been placed in so-called stress positions and were at times subjected to beatings by Customs officials. More than half of the kids reported receiving death threats from U.S. government agents.

DHS basically did absolutely nothing with this extremely disturbing information. So, in December of 2014, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request. And last week, they released thousands of pages of documents. What emerged from these internal documents was a pattern of atrocious abuse and neglect. These documents are all – all – from before Donald Trump was president. They describe a system that was run under the Obama administration. In fact, here is how the ACLU and University of Chicago law clinic described what was discovered through the FOIA request. In a recent report, they wrote that the records “reveal the absence of meaningful internal or external agency oversight and accountability. The federal government has failed to provide adequate safeguards and humane detention conditions for children in CBP custody. It has further failed to institute effective accountability mechanisms for government officers who abuse the vulnerable children entrusted to their care. These failures have allowed a culture of impunity to flourish within CBP, subjecting immigrant children to conditions that are too often neglectful at best and sadistic at worst.”

That was during the Obama administration. And remember, Hillary Clinton was a supporter of deporting unaccompanied minors. Speaking in 2014, just as human rights groups were raising alarm, she said: “We’ve got to do more – I started this when I was Secretary [of State] – to deal with the violence in this region, to deal with border security. But we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

We should also remember that Hillary Clinton played a key role in the coup in Honduras in 2009 that caused a sustained exodus that included unaccompanied children making their way to the United States illegally. And Clinton responded to this by openly saying that children should be deported, including some who fled the violence in a destabilized Honduras.

In 2014, U.S. deportations hit their highest point. Under Obama, more than 2 million people were deported. Toward the end of his presidency, Obama did try to change some of that course – he tried to stop some mass deportations – but that was ultimately stifled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Remember, the ACLU said that during the Obama administration the failure to stop the abuses being meted out by Customs officials, “allowed a culture of impunity to flourish” and that it was “too often neglectful at best and sadistic at worst.”

Fast forward to today: Donald Trump is president. The racist anti-immigrant Jeff Sessions is the attorney general. And one of the so-called adults in the room, Chief of Staff John Kelly, is an infamous xenophobe and a radical extremist on immigration. We know that from his time running U.S. Southern Command. John Kelly made no bones about his support for deporting children, which he called, “the name of the game to a large degree.” In an interview with NPR, Kelly said, “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

The tone and policy on immigration under the Trump administration is a frightening abomination. It is anti-human, not to mention anti-human rights. ICE now has a commander in chief who openly advocates violence against undocumented immigrants and Trump’s obsession with a tiny group of gang members who are in the U.S. legally and illegally is really a thinly veiled attack on immigrants in general. "These aren’t people. These are animals," Trump recently said.

Trump can hide behind the technicality of saying: Oh, I was just talking about MS-13! But we know. We know what he really thinks, because he has told us: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. . . . They send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them, they don’t want to take care of them. Why should they?”

Donald Trump presents a set of threats that we did not see under Obama. He presents threats we may well not have seen under a President Hillary Clinton. But at the same time, it’s a mistake to not understand how we got here on immigration. Part of it is the racism, the bigotry, the hatred that fuels Trump and his real supporters. And it’s terrifying.

But we also have to recognize that powerful Democrats have also been terrible on issues impacting undocumented immigrants. The culture of impunity, of abuse, of mistreatment, of neglect that permeates the ranks of Customs and Border Protection and ICE spread under Obama. They weren’t held accountable when they could’ve been and they should’ve been. And that helped Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda to take hold faster and have a broader impact than it would’ve if these institutions had been confronted and held accountable.

Under Trump, it has now become official policy to literally rip children from the arms of their parents when they cross the border to seek asylum. This is not MS-13 and their kids. This is people fleeing political violence that, in some cases, has been aided, encouraged or caused by U.S. policy. They are separating children from their parents and sending them into detention.

And the Trump administration knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s deliberate. It’s done with intent. The point is to punish people who flee violence, to send them a message that we will shatter your family – and probably abuse your children – if you dare seek life for you and your kids. In fact, we are going to prosecute you as a criminal if you do. In one case, there was a 53-week-old infant who was taken to a court hearing without a parent.

It’s sick. Absolutely, pathologically sick.

– Jeremy Scahill
Excerpted from “White Fear: As the GOP Veers Toward Fascism,
Establishment Democrats Face a Grassroots Insurgency

May 30, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
Anguish at Southwest Border as More Immigrant Children are Separated from Parents – Suzanne Gamboa and Daniella Silva (NBC News, May 22, 2018).
Taking Immigrant Kids from Their Parents Shows Contempt for Families – Dr. Reshem Agarwal and Dr. Marsha Griffin (Houston Chronicle, June 3, 2018).
We Must Protect Migrant Children from Abuse by U.S. Border Patrol – Claudia Flores (Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2018).
“Barbaric”: America’s Cruel History of Separating Children from Their Parents – DeNeen L. Brown (The Washington Post, May 31, 2018).
U.S. Lost Track of 1,500 Immigrant Children, But Says It's Not “Legally Responsible” – Dakin Andone (CNN, May 28, 2018).
From Families Split to “Lost” Children, the Stories Behind the Alarming U.S. Immigration Headlines – Annalisa Merelli (Quartz, May 29, 2018).
Yes, Donald Trump Is Making White People More Hateful – Joshua Holland (The Nation, May 2, 2018).
The Trump Effect: New study Connects White American Intolerance and Support for Authoritarianism – Noah Berlatsky (NBC News, May 27, 2018).
Taking Migrant Children From Parents Is Illegal, U.N. Tells U.S. – Nick Cumming-Bruce (The New York Times, June 5, 2018).
Over 10,000 Migrant Children Are Now in U.S. Government Custody at 100 Shelters in 14 States – Michelle Mark (Business Insider, May 30, 2018).
Trump Has Quietly Cut Legal Aid for Migrant Kids Separated from Parents – Meredith Hoffman (Vice, May 31, 2018).
ICE Is Sending a Message to the World’s Asylum Seekers: The U.S. Is No Place of Refuge – John Washington (The Nation, May 29, 2018).
“It’s Horrendous”: The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken from His Father – Miriam Jordan (The New York Times, June 7, 2018).
For This Mother and Daughter, Separated a Year Ago at the Southern Border, Trump's “Zero-tolerance” Policy Isn’t New – Ashley Cleek (PRI, June 6, 2018).
Trump Continues to Enable Cruelty and Abuse – Michael B. Hamer (Michael-In-Norfolk, June 1, 2018).
40 Democratic Senators Call on Trump to End Family Separations at the Border – Noah Lanard (Mother Jones, June 6, 2018).
Jeff Sessions’ Deceitful Spin on Family Separation – Jenny Samuels (ACLU, June 7, 2018).
Judge Says Yes to Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Family Separation Policy – Joel Rose (NPR, June 7, 2018).
1,358 Children and Counting — Trump's “Zero Tolerance” Border Policy Is Separating Families at Staggering Rates – Ryan Devereaux (The Intercept, June 8, 2018).
“Children Are Being Used as a Tool” in Trump’s Effort to Stop Border Crossings – Liz Goodwin (The Boston Globe, June 10, 2018).
The Language of the Trump Administration Is the Language of Domestic Violence – Jessica Winter (The New Yorker, June 11, 2018).
First They Came for the Migrants – Michelle Goldberg (The New York Times, June 11, 2018).
On the Border, a Discouraging New Message for Asylum Seekers: Wait – Simon Romero and Miriam Jordan (The New York Times, June 12, 2018).
Catholic Leaders Denounce Sessions’s Asylum Decision: “We Have Truly Lost Our Moral Compass” – Kevin Clarke (America, June 13, 2018).
“Despicable”: Outrage Over Trump's Plans for Tent Cities to Imprison Child Migrants – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, June 13, 2018).

UPDATES: Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, June 14, 2018).
Children's Detention Center Tour Reveals Trump Mural That Would Look "In Place In a Banana Republic" – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, June 14, 2018).
Department of Homeland Security Say 2,000 Children Separated at Border – Tal Kopan (CNN, June 15, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
No Room for Them
Something to Think About – December 25, 2016
Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as U.S. President

Image 1: A U.S. Border Patrol agent detains young migrants in 2015 in La Grulla, TX. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
Image 2: Photographer unknown.
Image 3: Men from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras being detained last week by Border Patrol officers north of Penitas, TX. (Photo: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)
Image 4: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Image 5: A child from Honduras watches a movie at a United States Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, TX, in 2014. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
Image 6: An ICE detention facility in the U.S. (Photo: The Los Angeles Times)

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Gorgeous One . . .

. . . of Whom Only Our Ecstasies Really Speak

Writes Daniel Ladinsky in the introduction to his book, Love Poems from God . . .

Meher Baba once wrote, "Love and understanding never condemn but always seek to help and encourage." His words do justice to a Divine Higher Power and could be a kind of litmus test we use before we imbibe any doctrine, for what we believe surely affects us, and affects all we are connected to. And are we not connected to everything? Love does not threaten or forbid, love does not restrain our wondrous spirits or enact prohibitions. I think God loves bootleggers – defiant poets who ferment the air as they sing and lift the corners of our mouths. Words about God should never bore because God is the opposite of boring. And what we say about the Gorgeous One should make Him appear a knockout. Whoever made this universe is a Wild Guy. I think only our ecstasies offer any real clues about Him.

– Daniel Ladinsky
Excerpted from Love Poems from God
Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

pp. xiii-xiv

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God
Beloved and Antlered
Vessels of the Holy
"Make Us Lovers, God of Love"
No Altar More Sacred
An Erotic Encounter with the Divine
Redemption in the Sensuousness of the Moment
Sometimes I Wonder . . .

Image: "Shiva" (Model: Paulo Pascoal; Photographer: Francisco Martins.)

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God

In Adam's Return, Richard Rohr writes about the Lover archetype/God-figure found within all the mystical traditions yet missing from mainstream Christianity.

It was a rainy Saturday yesterday here in Minneapolis. A good day to potter around indoors, catch up on household chores . . . and do a spot of blogging!

Pottering around the kitchen I saw on our all-purpose kitchen table a book that my housemate Tim is currently reading. It's Adam's Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation by Richard Rohr. It's about how men can journey toward both authentic masculinity (as opposed to toxic masculinity) and an ever-deepening experience of God; the two goals being intertwined.

Leafing through Adam's Return I found myself reading the chapter that explores what Rohr identifies as "the four parts of a man's soul." These parts can also be understood as archetypes or God figures that men are invited to enter into and, in accordance with their individual inclinations and gifts, embody. These archetypes are the king (or wise man), the warrior, the magician, and the lover. Of the four, the lover has been the most neglected, indeed frequently maligned and discredited, in the Christian West. Rohr contends that this is because many "official" expressions and structures of Christianity (for example, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church) do not integrate and validate the sensual, pleasure-loving, erotic part of a man. Instead, this part is distorted in its suppression, taking on "devious and destructive directions."

Now, I should say that I'm wary of books about masculinity as, in general, I've found that they focus solely on the experiences and examples of heterosexual masculinity. It's as if queer men don't exist, or cannot be considered masculine. My interest in the Pagan spiritual path and, in particular, the ancient archetype (or God figure) of Cernunnos (left), has introduced me to a much broader and inclusive understanding of the "sacred masculine," one that welcomes and celebrates queer incarnations of both masculinity and union with the Sacred.

Although Rohr's Adam's Return does not name or discuss homosexuality in its exploration of masculinity and male initiation, it does at least offer an understanding of masculinity that neither maligns nor explicitly excludes the experiences and relationships of queer men. It feels like an uneasy compromise, though, doesn't it? And perhaps it is. After all, Rohr is a priest within a Roman Catholic religious order, and Roman Catholicism is far from integrated when it comes to the diversity of human sexuality. Could this account, perhaps even in an unconsciously way, for Adam's Return being similarly unintegrated with regards to queer men and their experiences? Regardless, the book is what it is, and for some it will be enough; for others, not so. The fact that I don't feel compelled to read it in its entirety, probably indicates where I stand on its lack of inclusion and integration regarding queer men.

That all being said, there are many important insights to be gained. For example, in another part of the chapter that caught my attention, Rohr offers an insightful and helpful historical and cross-cultural view of male initiation in relation to the four archetypes. He notes, for instance, that "classic male initiation tried to be a most daring, holy, and holistic thing. It blessed the penis and the naked body, honored holiness, the teacher, and the elder, turned military discipline against the ego instead of others, and held the whole thing together inside a sacred wholeness, the natural world, the big picture, or what Jesus would call the Kingdom of God."

Rohr also observes that, "Most culture initiated just one or another part of a man, which is why we cannot totally idealize them. With a broad brushstroke, I would say that Asia and aboriginal Australia tended to initiate the magician, Africa and most primal cultures idealized the warrior, the Latin and Mediterranean worlds honored the lover, while Europe and North America have always sought to develop the king (which is probably why the "Western" culture dominates the earth!).

Interesting stuff, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, here's that part of Richard Rohr's Adam's Return that discusses and explores the archetype of the Lover and its significance for men in their quest for psychological/sexual health and maturity, and for connection with the Divine both within and beyond. This excerpt has some added links and is accompanied by images depicting what I perceive to be men together experiencing the transforming and life-giving connection with one another and thus the Divine. Enjoy!

Do you think St. Francis really stopped being the king of parties? Do you think David of the dance, the psalms, the harp, and many lovers ever stopped being erotic? Could Rumi, Kabir, Tagore, or Hafiz have possibly written their sacred poetry if they were not sensuous and sensual men? Did St. Philip Neri really stop telling jokes and drinking wine? Did Mozart ever stop having fun? Did the cloistered contemplatives not know joy? I don't think so. They just moved joy and pleasure to the highest level which is the very definition of a mystic. The contemplative, or saint, is the most refined and highest level of the lover archetype.

It is strange that the West has largely created cultures of conspicuous consumerism, when it took as its ultimate hero and God figure a poor and simple man. You would think our God figure would be Dionysius or Pan. Why do most Eastern and Native peoples of the world consider the West to be greedy and materialistic? Why do we produce such a high rate of physically addicted people? Why is the search for affluence and pleasure our main concern? Could it be because we have not blessed the good side of joy and pleasure? Now it comes back and bites us from behind. When we consciously seek a certain amount of creature comfort in my life, I find that it satisfies me, and also will never satisfy me. That is a very life-giving and creative tension to live in.

I do not find the same kind of approach and avoidance attitudes towards pleasure in Hindu countries, among most Jews, and surely not among Native peoples. The lover part of a man was never paid his dues or given legitimate permission in Western Christianity. As many say, sexuality and sensuality is our ever recurring and "unhealed wound." Like petulant schoolboys, we Christians sneak all the fun that we can at the expense of underdeveloped countries, our neighbors, and the health of our own bodies and souls. We feel duly guilty about it all, but we don't usually stop. We priest deny ourselves sex, but then we insist on four-star hotels and restaurants. Carnival Catholics countries became a necessary decadence to justify receiving the ashes the next morning. Something has not come to balance inside us, and we remain schizoid. We go to the outer world for our daily pleasures, but we seldom allow them to bring us to God, or even to ourselves. We remain split. Flesh is bad and Spirit is good in our terrible dualism. Yet the Christian religion is supposed to be incarnational – a love affair between flesh and spirit. It is really quite strange.

Ours is the only religion in the world that dares to believe that God became flesh. The religion that chews on the flesh of God has a very sensuous, sexual symbol for the transformation of the lover; we call it the Eucharist. Christianity says that God is Love but does not appear to really enjoy the lover. Despite all the Bach Masses, Baroque churches, incense, vestments, and luxuriant art, we still made our religion into a moralistic matter instead of a mystical joy. Our operative God image was much more a banker, a judge, a timekeeper, or an accountant, but seldom a real lover – in any sense that the normal man understands. Like Michal, the daughter of Saul, we despise David for dancing half naked in church (1 Samuel 6:16); we look away from Shakers, Pentecostals, and holy rollers. Religion should be a proper and dignified thing, we think. The hot sins for the Baptists and Catholics are always associated with the body. This is no religion of incarnation.

Frankly, it is the Hindu sacred poets, Sufi mystics like Rabi'a and Rumi, the Christian saints like John XXIII, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, and Therese of Lisieux, or Jewish masters, like the Baal Shem Tov, Abraham Heschel, and Martin Buber, who seem to have met the lover God. The mystics of all religions know this lover God, but they are never allowed to set the tone for the ordinary Christian, Jew, Hindu, or Muslim on the street. We were all lost in law, customs, and holy wars, which largely nullified any chance of a truly love-based ethic for any of the three monotheistic religions. As Paul said so strongly, reliance upon moralisms makes grace impossible (Galatians 3), and it even leads to the death of the soul (Romans 7). Moralisms keep us making lists for God instead of making love to God.

In short, if religion does not integrate and validate the sensual, pleasure-loving, erotic part of a man, it takes devious and destructive directions. If you do not bless it and bow to it, it turns on you and controls you, as we have seen in the recent pedophile scandal. If you bless it, it also shows its limited value and longs for something higher. The most loving men I have met, the most generous to society and to life, are usually men who also have a lusty sense of life, beauty, pleasure, and sex – but they have very realistic expectations of them. The smaller pleasures have become a stairway and an invitation to higher [I'd say deeper] ones, almost by revealing simultaneously their wonderful and yet limited character.

The true lover wastes no time in guilt and no time in gluttony either. As Dom Bede Griffiths said, "Sex is far too important to eliminate entirely, and it is far too important to do lightly. The only alternative is to somehow 'consecrate' it." I am personally convinced this is true.

– Richard Rohr
Excerpted from Adam's Return:
The Five Promises of Male Initiation

pp. 128-131

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Manly Love
Reclaiming the Power of Male Touch
Beloved and Antlered
Integrating Cernunnos, "Archetype of Sensuality and the Instinctual World"
Edward Sellner on the Archetype of the Double and Male Eros, Friendships, and Mentoring
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
Rockin' with Maxwell
Vessels of the Holy
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
No Altar More Sacred
To Be Held and to Hold
An Erotic Encounter with the Divine
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace

Image 1: Genia Minache
Image 2: The "Cernunnos" type antlered figure or "horned god," on the Gundestrup Cauldron (National Museum of Denmark).
Image 3: Elmer Bäck and Luis Alberti in Peter Greenaway's 2015 film Eisenstein in Guanajuato.
Image 4: Adam's Return cover art: "Mystic Christ" by John Guiliani.
Image 5: Subjects and photographer unknown.
Image 6: Jerome and Lorenzo. (Photographer unknown)
Image 7: Shutterstock. (Source)
Image 8: Ben Baur and Marc Sinoway in the 2012 TV series Hunting.

Saturday, June 02, 2018


Images: Michael J. Bayly.