Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out and About - March 2010

On both February 22 and March 2 I attended hearings at the Minnesota State Capitol on a number of marriage equality bills currently before both the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate.

One of those who testified at both hearings in support of the bills was lifelong Republican and Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the University of Minnesota, Dale Carpenter (above at left).

“Because I’m a conservative, I support the recognition of same-sex marriage in Minnesota,” said Carpenter. “It’s good for stable relationships, good for families, and good for kids.”

For more on these hearings, see here and here.

Testifying against the marriage equality bills on behalf of the Minnesota Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops was Michael Becker, priest and rector of the St. Paul Seminary.

For a report and analysis on what Becker had to say, click here.

Above: On Sunday March 7, members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform gathered at my home for a mailing of our Synod 2010 brochure. I serve as one of the coalition co-chairs.

CCCR’s September 18 Synod of the Baptized is entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” and will feature a keynote address by Professor of Catholic Studies and author Paul Lakeland on “The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission.”

In addition, recommended practices and actions for reform will be presented and discussed in numerous break-out sessions. Each of these sessions will be facilitated by a core group of people who for the past year-and-a-half have been focusing on an area of current church practice that many Catholics experience as being disconnected from the gospel message of love. These include Bishop Selection, Church Authority and Governance, Church as a Community of Equals, Mandatory Celibacy/Clericalism, Catholic/Christian Identity, and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

A special Action Coordining Team (ACT) will also be commissioned at the 2010 Synod, and all present will have the opportunity to be part of the ACTion as together we take the Synod’s recommendations for best practices, and thus renewal and reform, out to our families, parishes, and communities. Sound exciting or what?!

For more information about CCCR’s Synod of the Baptized and/or to register online, click here.

Above and right: Also on March 7, I had a number of friends over to watch the broadcast of the the 82nd Academy Awards. It was a fun night. As usual, I had a ballot for folks to fill out and a prize for the person who picked the most winners.

For my 2010 “Oscar Observations,” click here.

Above: Theologian and author Roger Haight at Holy Wisdom Monastery, Madison, WI, Sunday, March 14, 2010.

I traveled to Madison with my friends Paula, Eileen, and Bernie (left) to hear Dr. Haight address the question, “If God is Everywhere, Why Do We Need the Church?”

For a report of Roger Haight’s presentation, click here.

For a reflection inspired by my time at Holy Wisdom Monastery, click here.

Above: At left with Eileen and Bernie Rodel - Holy Wisdom Monastery, March 14, 2010.

Above: A St. Patrick’s Day celebration!

For more images plus a great article about St. Patrick and those snakes, click here.

Above: The good folks who comprise the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform board of directors, pictured at our March 20 retreat at a supporter’s lake house in Minnetrista.

Above: A view from the lake house. For another, click here.

Above and left: Enjoying good food in the company of good folks, including my friend Phil and his parents John and Noelle - March 20, 2010.

Quinn and his mistress Noelle!

Above: Downtown Minneapolis - March 2010.

Above: Members of the the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Work/Study Group at my home on Sunday, March 28, 2010.

Hey! Is that the
March Hare on my table?

With Quinn, after a very long walk earlier today to Regina’s Fine Candies (a St. Paul institution!) to purchase Easter chocolates!

Above: Quinn, John and Phil, enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon of the last day of March, 2010.

When the evening falls and the daylight is fading,
from within me calls - could it be I am sleeping?
For a moment I stray, then it holds me completely.
Close to home - I cannot say.
Close to home, feeling so far away.

As I walk there before me a shadow
from another world, where no other can follow.
Carry me to my own, to where I can cross over.
Close to home - I cannot say.
Close to home, feeling so far away.

Forever searching; never right,
I am lost in oceans of night.
Forever hoping I can find memories,
those memories I left behind.

Even though I leave, will I go on believing
that this time is real - am I lost in this feeling?
Like a child passing through, never knowing the reason.
I am home - I know the way.
I am home - feeling oh, so far away.

“Evening Falls”
Lyrics: Roma Ryan
Music: Enya
(from Enya’s 1988 album Watermark)

Roger Haight on the Church We Need

Earlier this month I traveled to Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, WI, with my friends Paula, Eileen, and Bernie to hear theologian and author Roger Haight address the question, "If God is Everywhere, Why Do We Need the Church?"

It was a very insightful presentation, one which began with Haight observing that the clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church is "starving us" to the extent that for many Catholics, spiritual nourishment is being found outside the official church. This isn't surprising, Haight says, as "spiritual nourishment is a higher value than institutional loyalty." Nevertheless, institutional loyalty can also be a strong motivation for people to stay and help make the church a place where spiritual nourishment can be experienced.

"There will and should always be loyal dissent," he said. This dissent is fueled by the desire to make the church a better place. The problem today, however, is that the clerical leadership does not view such dissent as "loyal."

At one point in his presentation, Haight observed that the "deep changes" of Vatican II have been "hijacked," and that we are currently experiencing a clerical leadership that identifies with a "strident right-wing faction." For this to be rectified and for the reforms of Vatican II to be fully realized and expanded, institutional representation of the laity in the governance of the church is essential. Accordingly, all must work to democratize the structures of the church.

Haight believes that the clerical leadership can no longer be trusted, largely because it has yet to adjust to the pluralism of our world today. It's an authoritarian and totalitarian culture situated within a pluralistic and democratic one. He is adamant that difference within unity is good, not bad. Yet the official church can still only talk about either relativism (bad) or absolutism (good). It needs to become more historically conscious.* Such a consciousness will illuminate the reality that many religions and religious expressions can be true and different at the same time.

As to the question that was the title of his talk, "If God is everywhere, why do we need the church?", Haight acknowledged that "no one needs the church absolutely. It's a voluntary organization." Still, without a church, Christianity would die. An organized structure is required to contain, foster, and pass on the community's beliefs, practices, and traditions. Also, there's a "truth character" in all religions, including Christianity. Such a character is best witnessed by a community. Finally, groups can generally be more effective than individuals.

Haight concluded his presentation by outlining the characteristics and qualities of "the church we need." First, consistent preaching that nurtures the faith of the people in the church is needed.

Second, established institutional equality between men and women is needed. That such equality doesn't already exist is both a scandal and an institutional sin, says Haight.

Third, we require a church marked by declericalization and a collegial exercise of authority. Such authority would help overcome polarization, would be consultative of all the faithful in all matters, and would appeal to experience and conscience.

Fourth, we need a church willing and able to address the needs of young adults.

And finally, we need a church that is modest, ecumenical, and open to other faiths.

* Write Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler in The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology: "In the historically conscious worldview, reality is dynamic, evolving, changing, and particular. The method utilized, anthropology formulated, and norms taught within this worldview are contingent, particular, and changeable, and the acts condemned by these norms are morally evaluated in terms of evolving human knowledge and understanding."

Recommended Off-site Link:
No Zombie Jesus: The Vatican and Roger Haight - Jason VonWachenfeldt (Religion Dispatches, April 10, 2003).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hans Küng: "We Are Facing a Structural Problem"
The Roman Catholic Pyramid is Crumbling
Re-forming the Vatican Doesn't Mean Destroying the Church
Clearing the Debris
Eugene Kennedy on Roman Catholicism's "Post-Hierarchical Blues"
What It Means to Be Catholic
No Patriarchy Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Many Voices, One Church
Staying on Board

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Spring's Return

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Spring Garden
"Jubilation is My Name": Spring in Minnesota (2008)
A Springtime Visitor
Spring in Minnesota (2007)
In the Footsteps of Spring

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act

Continuing with The Wild Reed’s special Holy Week 2010 series, I share today a third excerpt from Andrew Harvey’s 1998 book, Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ.


Of one thing we can be reasonably certain: the event that precipitated Jesus’ arrest and so his death was the turning over of the money changers’ tables in the Temple. Everything that Jesus had preached on his journeys throughout Galilee – spiritual and economic egalitarianism, the need to exist in direct, unmediated relationship with God – exploded in one all-embracing act of holy indignation performed at the heart of religious and political power.

Jesus was not just “purifying” the Temple by overturning the tables; he was symbolically destroying it. His was a consciously iconoclastic act.

. . . Such an act, in the troubled atmosphere of Passover, amounted to direct provocation. Did Jesus want to be delivered to the authorities and martyred? Did he believe that such a martyrdom would inspire the repentance and transformation of his people? Did he expect his act of divine blasphemy to shock his contemporaries into a higher awareness, to be a kind of furious initiation into a new life? We cannot know. My own belief is that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and what he was risking, and that his willingness to risk death did not reflect any lust for martyrdom or any self-conscious mystical desire to enact the part of the Messiah, but the holy desperation of someone who understands that in certain circumstances the only possible choice is one of open rebellion against injustice and oppression, whatever the results.

The time had come for Jesus to risk being a sacrifice for his revolutionary ideas. Conceivably, Jesus could have survived the hatred of the religious and political authorities that his teaching had aroused by hiding or continuing to teach in small villages or open country, but how could such a political withdrawal effect the kind of transformation of society he knew was essential? The passion of his vision of the Kingdom and the agony of tenderness for all beings that propelled it, propelled him to the moment when he crystallized all of his anger, hope, prayerfulness, and social and political ideals in one symbolic iconoclastic act that he knew would risk his life.

. . . The time had come to risk everything and sacrifice everything for the Kingdom; to demonstrate in his own being and action the total fearlessness and boundless courage that divine love demanded of anyone who wanted to be an instrument of justice and mercy, to reveal the full majesty of that divine identity that could suffer and triumph over even the most terrible of ordeals.

– Andrew Harvey
Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ
Pp. 80-82

NEXT: One Overwhelming Fire of Love

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The “Incident” in the Temple
The Passion of Christ (Part 2): Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers/The Eros of Anger
Pasolini’s “Wrathful Christ”
Why Jesus is My Man
An Enlightened Exploration of Integrity and Obedience
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi

Recommended Off-site Link:
Andrew Harvey’s Official Website

Image: Robert Powell as Jesus in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth.

Quote of the Day

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same [surge in right-wing anger and extremism]. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that [openly gay Barney] Frank, [civil rights hero John] Lewis and [black representative from Missouri, Emanuel] Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. . . . By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

– Frank Rich
The Rage is Not About Health Care
The New York Times
March 27, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
It’s Still Out There
Frank Rich on the “Historic Turning Point in the Demise of America’s Anti-gay Movement”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trees on Summit Avenue

I share this evening some images I captured earlier this month when walking along Summit Avenue in St. Paul. I was on my way to attend Mass with the Cornerstone Old Catholic Community, which meets at St. Paul on the Hill Episcopal Church.

These images are accompanied by a poem by J. Daniel Beaudry.


by J. Daniel Beaudry

Tree, gather up my thoughts
like the clouds in your branches.
Draw up my soul
like the waters in your root.

In the arteries of your trunk
bring me together.
Through your leaves
breathe out the sky.

For more about Old Catholicism, click here.

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

The Essential Christ

Continuing with The Wild Reed’s special Holy Week 2010 series, I share this evening a second excerpt from Andrew Harvey’s 1998 book, Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ.


What is surprising, as recent writers are starting to point out, is not how little we know about the historical Christ but how much. If we cannot always know exactly what he said and did, we can know the kinds of things he said and did. A profound synthesis is now emerging as to exactly who Christ was in his social and political context, and what kind of teacher he was. When this vision is absorbed into Christian practice it will revolutionize everything about Christianity. It will not destroy it, as scandalized conservative critics claim, but renovate and re-inspire it, in a way that, I believe, restores the full radical passion and revolutionary power of Christ’s real path – one that combines the deepest mystical absorption in the divine with the most absolute and selfless work for justice and compassion in the world.

In other words, the essential Christ – the mystical Christ, the one who dared not only see and know the divine and its love in full truth but also to act in every arena to see that that truth became real in its full subversive splendor – will come again to be the inspiration of those who take the Christ-path. Christ’s challenge to everyone – to enter into living communion with the Father-Mother, to pour out every skill and energy in a passion of adherence to the truths of that love and that fire in reality – will only grow in power as the courage, intelligence, and unstinting enactment of the sacred laws of unity and compassion of the historical Christ become ever-clearer.

Such clarity can only deepen the wonder of those who love Christ and increase the focus of their energies on the “actual” – on changing abusive relations of power and trying to realize the Kingdom on the earth. To follow Christ, the new vision of Christ makes clear, means to abandon all safeties and securities except those rooted in God, to subject not merely the self but also the world to ruthless analysis, to become clear about the deforming and betraying nature of power in all its forms, and to dedicate one’s life to standing for justice and compassion in an uncompassionate and unjust world. Without millions of beings willing to make such a leap into authentic love, how can the forces that are destroying nature be reversed, or a bearable and livable life for the billions of beings suffering from actual and psychic poverty be created?

Trying to create an alternative Kingdom of love in the night of Roman patriarchy, the man Jesus of Nazareth has everything to teach us now. We have a great deal to learn not only from his humility and fearlessness but also from his analysis of the divine life of the Kingdom and of the nature of the world and of how to overcome evil within it and represent the healing transforming powers of love. And we have everything to learn, too, from the mysterious and poignant passion of his life itself – the life that burned itself away in service to the truth of divine love and justice and the potential glory of human beings who lived in dynamic harmony with them both.

NEXT: One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act

For Part 1 in this series, click here.

For more of Andrew Harvey at The Wild Reed, see:
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
The Passion of Christ (Part 4)

See also the related posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
An Enlightened Exploration of Integrity and Obedience
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi

Recommended Off-site Link:
Andrew Harvey’s Official Website

Quote of the Day

This is what has made clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church the subject of so many scathing reports, whether from the news media or grand juries: that a cover-up occurred at high levels in many dioceses. When a scandal of this proportion is uncovered, journalists will naturally want to see how far it goes – the basis for the latest round of stories. To say that sexual abuse in other churches or other sectors of society does not get the same media attention misses the point. The issue isn’t that Catholic priests are allegedly prone to commit sexual abuse, but that a small percentage of them were freed to do so, again and again, due to gross mismanagement, secrecy and lack of accountability on the part of church authorities. However dated most of the sexual abuse cases are, this story still calls out to be covered because some of those who failed to stop repeat abusers remain in positions of authority.

– Paul Moses
Weighing Weigal’s Case Against The Times
March 29, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Let the (Blame) Games Begin
Game Over
An Offering of Ashes
The Roman Catholic Pyramid is Crumbling

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Theocons Dig In - Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Dish, March 29, 2010).
Roman Catholic Church Abuse Allegations Ripple Across the Globe
- Brett Michael Dykes (Yahoo! News, March 29, 2010).
A Papal Conversion
- John L. Allen, Jr. (The New York Times, March 27, 2010).
Credibility Gap: Pope Needs to Answer Questions - National Catholic Reporter (March 26, 2010).
Catholics Find Ties to the Church Tested by Crisis - Vanessa Gera (Associated Press, March 30, 2010).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Well, Better Late Than Never, I Guess

In news to which seemingly no one has expressed the least surprise, Latin pop singer Ricky Martin has announced that he is gay.

On his website today, Martin posted a lengthy statement that ends with, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

Well, good for you, Ricky! Meanwhile, the general consensus throughout the blogsphere is: Well, finally!

I can’t say I’m a fan of Ricky Martin, although I can appreciate the contribution he’s made to the music world. I just wish he could have found it within himself to come out when at the height of his fame, and not wait now when, really, he’s somewhat of a “yesterday’s hero.”

I definitely think that for many people coming out can be a very long and protracted process. I think particularly of those who marry young and start a family before realizing who they are sexually. Yet this wasn’t the case with Martin.

No, it appears that Martin intentionally chose to be closeted when he was at the height of his success (and thus influence) as part of a very tactical move to guarantee a lucrative career. No crime in that, of course. But I must admit I find it disappointing.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, many assumed Martin was living life as a gay man, and his welcoming of twin sons via a surrogate in 2008 went a long way in confirming what most people sensed: the guy was gay.

Above: Ricky (left) and friend on a Caribbean beach.

And now that his highly successful career has seemingly run its course, he opts to come out. Some, of course, may want to praise him for his “bravery.” Personally, I reserve such high praise for those artists and celebrities who from the start of their careers or from a point early in them, make the decision to come out, regardless of the price that may be paid in terms of success (and income). Gay entertainers who have done just that include George Maharis, Ian McKellen, Adam Lambert, Neil Patrick Harris, Darren Hayes, Rufus Wainwright, and the late Stephen Gately.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely happy that Martin has finally come out, and I recognize that even at this late stage, it may well have been a difficult decision for him. I just can’t bring myself to seeing him as a hero for doing so, primarily because I can’t help but wonder what an incredibly powerful role model he could have been if he had mustered the courage to come out when at the height of his success, a move that I really don’t believe would have devastated his career - despite what
Barbara Walters may think. (Hmm, am I being too harsh? Certainly not everyone agrees with the perspective I’ve shared, as demonstrated by many of the comments in response to this Entertainment Weekly article about Ricky Martin’s coming out.)

Anyway, I appreciate’s rather humorous take on the news of Martin’s coming out, excerpts of which are reprinted below.


He Bangs . . . He

After years of no one speculating about the skimpy-Speedo-wearing, surrogate-sponsoring father of two, Ricky Martin has finally opened his boca about what he means by “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

In an announcement almost as shocking as a weather forecast at the North Pole, Martin (finally) admitted his sensual dance moves and scarf-sporting style wasn’t just due to his Latin lifestyle. He is gay.

And to be more accurate, according to his public announcement, Martin is a “fortunate homosexual.”

We agree with our favorite have-you-even-made-a-CD-since-we-were-in-elementary-school singer in his fortunate qualities. We’re much more excited in this announcement than when Clay Aiken made the same announcement to the unsurprised world.

. . . So, we’re supposed to be surprised by all this, Ricky? C’mon.

You make Elton John look like a toolbelt-toting Home Depot fanatic.

We knew ever since we laid eyes on you wearing that shimmering long-sleeved shirt on the cover of that self-titled album we secretly fell in love with.

And we love you even more for it. We know that it often takes more courage to tell the truth than to live a lie, and we wish you nothing but future happiness in your “vida loca.”

Recommended Off-site Links:
Yep, He’s Gay: Ricky Martin Comes Out of the Closet - Rolling Stone (March 29, 2010).
Ricky Confirms: “I’m Gay” - The Advocate (March 29, 2010).
Ricky Martin Comes Out and No One is Surprised - Samantha Gordon (, March 29, 2010).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jesus: Path-blazer of Radical Transformation

For Holy Week last year I shared reflections from various authors, along with the powerful artwork of Doug Blanchard, in a special “Passion of Jesus” series. It turned out to be quite the undertaking!

This year I aim to be less ambitious, though hopefully no less inspiring for those of us drawn to love Jesus and to emulate his embodying of the Christ Spirit.

What I’ll be doing is sharing insights from Andrew Harvey’s book,
Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ, beginning today, Palm Sunday, with the following excerpt in which the divinity of Jesus is explored.


Jesus is not claiming to be uniquely divine; what he is claiming is to have realized his divine identity and to be doing works in the power and with the effectiveness that such realization brings. He is implying that everyone who realized like him their “oneness with the Father” would also be able to perform miracles and inflame others to compassion and justice. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus makes the astounding prediction (John 14:12): “He that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”

Had Jesus wanted to be revered as a “unique” savior with “unique” powers he would never have made such a promise; the “belief” he is asking for in him is not as a “savior” but as a path-blazer, as one who has opened a path for others to follow and to come to live in exactly the same atmosphere of truth and empowerment. Like the historical Buddha, the historical Jesus presented his enlightenment as a sign of what was possible for all human beings if they gave, suffered, and struggled enough and realized the divine truth of their natures. As Jesus says in Luke 6:40: “The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” To become “perfect as his master,” the disciple will have to take on the burden of realizing, as his “master” did, the truth of his divine identity; a far harder task than merely “adoring” the master or following superficially some of his or her injunctions.

As Jesus says in Luke 6:46: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” What Jesus clearly wanted was not even the most exalted kinds of lip service or celebration; he wanted to inspire everyone to become like him, their complete human divine self, and live consciously and actively in the holy fire and charity of the Kingdom. What else could change humanity?

Another set of dogmas or laws, even another “religion,” would not change anything. Only a radical transformation – the way Jesus knew he was pioneering and representing – could alter the conditions of power on earth and reveal the mercy and splendor of the Kingdom to anyone who underwent its rigors with faith and sincerity.

Being called a “master,” being set apart from others, would only unravel and destroy the core of his message to the world – that everyone would live in the divine glory of joy and power as he did; what Jesus wanted was a far more demanding intimacy of recognition. In the Gospel of Thomas, he is reported as saying, in Logion 2, “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds he will be troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished and he will rule over the all.” The “safety” of being a “follower” has to be abandoned for the “trouble” of discovering the vastness and majesty of one’s own and everyone’s divine identity, and for the “astonishment” that follows on such a discovery and such an effort (an astonishment that dissolves all previous categories of understanding and reveals the divinity of the universe). The safety of being a “seeker” has to be exchanged for the “trouble.” “astonishment,” and responsibility for rulership of being a “finder.” Only then can the truth of what Jesus is and knows be recognized as the truth of all beings, and known not through worship but as he knows it himself in direct, suffering, astonishing, ecstatic knowledge.

- Andrew Harvey
Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ
Pp. 60-61

NEXT: The Essential Christ

For more of Andrew Harvey at The Wild Reed, see:
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
The Passion of Christ (Part 4)

See also the related posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
An Enlightened Exploration of Integrity and Obedience
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi
Bishop Gumbleton: A Priesthood Set Apart and Above Others is Not the Way of Jesus

Recommended Off-site Link:
Andrew Harvey’s Official Website

Image of Jesus: Artist unknown.

Friday, March 26, 2010


This evening’s “music night” at The Wild Reed spotlights the beautiful and talented Lenny Kravitz, whom I recently discovered features in the acclaimed film Precious.

Notes Wikipedia:

Leonard Albert “Lenny” Kravitz (born May 26, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and arranger whose “retro” style incorporates elements of rock, soul, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk and ballads.

In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, Kravitz often plays all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion himself when recording. He is known for his elaborate stage performances and music videos. Kravitz has had multiple number 1 hits on the US Top Singles Charts, though none by himself on the Hot 100, and many more worldwide. He won the Grammy Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category and most consecutive wins in one category.

. . . Kravitz identifies himself as both a Christian “through choice” and a Jew, which he described both as “all the same to me.” He also notes that spirituality “has been an important issue in my growth”, given his upbringing by parents of different faiths. Such spirituality is prominently featured on many of his songs, such as the lyrics on his album
Baptism, and having his back inscribed with a tattoo stating, “My Heart Belongs to Jesus Christ.” During another interview, he quipped “I’m half Jewish, I’m half black, I look in-between.”

I recently purchased a number of used Lenny Kravitz albums at Cheapo Discs in Uptown, Minneapolis. I’m particularly enjoying his 1995 album Circus, which includes the songs “Can’t Get You Off My Mind,” “Magdalene,” “God Is Love,” “Circus,” and Resurrection.

Of course, Kravitz’s most well-known song is “Fly Away,” from his 1998 album 5. Other songs worth checking out are “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,” from his 1991 album, Mama Said, “Believe,” from 1993’s Are You Gonna Go My Way, andFlash” and “What Did I Do With My Life” from 2004’s Baptism.

I particularly appreciate the lyrics of this last song, some of which read as follows:

Did I love all that I should?
To everyone in my sight?
What did I do with my life?

Did I exercise giving and forgiveness with all my might?
Did I honor my freedom and did I live in the light?
Did I cherish my moments?
Did I take a good enough bite?
What did I do with my life?

Did I learn what I came to learn?
Did I listen with my heart?
Did I do what I came to do?
Did I play my part?
Did I see all the beauty?
Because living is an art.
What did I do with my life?

You can live any way you wanna.
All you have to do is dance.
Achieve anything you thought of;
You just have to take the chance.
You can fall in love with your life
’cause that truly is romance.
What did I do with my life?

Learn to love your life,
’cause that truly is romance.

Lenny’s sexuality comes from his innate smoothness and
rocker bad-boy mystique. Kravitz is the perfect combination
of men: he can be soulful and sweet, but also rugged
and just plain hot;
when someone says ‘you look like a rock star,’
Lenny Kravitz is probably their template!


Kravitz’s most recent album is 2008’s It Is Time For a Love Revolution.

Following are excerpts from a review of this album by La Shawn Barber.

At 43, Lenny Kravitz is more self-reflective than usual.

He recently spoke to Maxim magazine about his newly declared sexual abstinence, “a promise I made until I get married.” Sex-free for the past three years, Kravitz wants more than just a physical connection. “I’m looking at the big picture.”

Relishing the satisfaction that can result from practicing self-discipline in a gratify-me-now culture, the four-time Grammy winner told Australia’s Herald Sun that abstinence “frees you from a lot of things and it also takes a lot of power away from people who are trying to seduce you... Ultimately I'm trying to do the right thing, to honour myself and the other person and honour God.”

From the moment I heard “Let Love Rule,” the first single from his 1989 debut album of the same name, I was a Kravitz fan. At the time, he was married to The Cosby Show actress Lisa Bonet, whom I also adored. A cool mix of rock and psychedelic soul, Let Love Rule gave me a new appreciation for the 1960s and 1970s music that influenced Kravitz.

Son of the late Roxie Roker of The Jeffersons fame and the late Sy Kravitz, a television producer, Kravitz followed up his debut with Mama Said. By this time, he and Bonet were history. The single “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over” sounded like a touching lament over the break-up. Kravitz would go on to make six more albums (excluding a greatest hits collection) and score such hits as “Fly Away,” a rousing remake of The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” and “Again.”

Kravitz’s eighth studio album, It Is Time For A Love Revolution, is a 14-track manifesto of love’s power to rule over lust and material things. Released by Virgin Records last week, the album is his first in four years. Fans will find the drum-heavy style familiar. Often described by critics as a “retro rocker,” Kravitz deftly handles lead and background vocals and mostly all the instruments, except for strings and horns on a few tracks.

To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Following is “Baptized,” from Kravitz’s 2004 album Baptism.

I don’t want to know emptiness,
Take me down to the water.
Wanna be baptized in your love,
Far away from the loneliness.
Take my heart and wash away my fear,
Let me be baptized in your love.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Will Lenny Kravitz Start a Celibacy Revolution? - BeliefNet (March 24, 2008).
Lenny Kravitz Interview - Chris Heath (The Telegraph, June 16, 2009).
A Conversation with Lenny Kravitz - Kam Williams (The Black Box Office, March 16, 2010).

For other featured musicians at The Wild Reed, see:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X