Friday, July 31, 2015

The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On

The Wild Reed's 2015 Queer Appreciation series concludes with dance troupe Full Frontal Freedom's powerful sequence of "emotions in movement" performed to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' 2013 hit song "Same Love," a song that has become an anthem for LGBT equality.

The title of this post comes from the fact that even as we celebrate recent marriage equality victories (see, for instance, here and here), much of what the Full Frontal Freedom dance group said in 2013 about the ongoing struggle for justice remains as true and important today as it did two years ago.

We were so grateful that Mackelmore and Lewis took a stand and loudly cheered for marriage equality. But, our work as a community is far from done. . . . This song – which honors our movement's struggle – is so compelling that we thought it a fitting tribute to express our emotions in movement as a contemporary dance.

"Same Love Dance" is choreographed by Emrhys Cooper and Ryan Hanson with assistance provided by "The Ninja Twins," Nick and James Aragon. The dancers featured in the video are Nick Aragon, James Aragon, Nicole Bondzie, Filippo Calvagno, Ryan Hanson, Emrhys Cooper, Charlotte Price, and Hannah May Evans.

Oh, and one last thing: Despite what the dance troupe's name may imply, there is no "full frontal" nudity in the video below.

Related Off-site Link:
The Challenges That Remain After Marriage Equality – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, July 29, 2015).

For previous installments in the 2015 Wild Reed Queer Appreciation series, see:
Vittorio Lingiardi on the Limits of the Hetero/Homo Dichotomy
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Standing with Jennicet Gutiérrez, "the Mother of Our Newest Stonewall Movement"
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
Clyde Hall: "All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful"

For other Wild Reed dance-related posts, see:
A Beautiful Collaboration
The Dancer and the Dance
The Soul of a Dancer
Five Takes on Five Dances
Gay Men and Modern Dance
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Celebrating the Unique and Influential Kate Bush

One of my all-time favorite recording artists, British singer-songwriter Kate Bush, celebrates her 57th birthday today. Happy Birthday, Kate!

Over at Edward Keeble and Alexandra Pollard have posted an insightful piece that celebrates the uniquely talented Kate Bush by highlighting how her work has influenced fifteen well-known singers and bands, from Madonna to Florence and the Machine.

Keeble and Pollard introduce their piece by noting the following:

It's something of a rite of passage for young musicians in this day and age, particularly female ones, to be compared to Kate Bush. Too often, this comparison is lazy and inaccurate – but there are many, many musicians to whom it undoubtedly applies.

Bush burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory back in 1978, with her acclaimed debut album, The Kick Inside, released when she was just 19-years-old. Once she reached the ripe old age of 21, she decided to take a 35-year break from touring.

It's not the conventional career trajectory for a musician – but then, there's very little conventional about Kate Bush. Over the past forty years, her distinctive sound, her blend of art and pop, and her unflinching aesthetic have influenced generations of brilliant musicians.

To read in its entirety "Happy Birthday Kate Bush: The Musicians We Wouldn't Have Without Her," click here.

Here at The Wild Reed, I celebrate Kate's birthday by sharing the following hour-long 2014 BBC documentary, The Kate Bush Story, featuring interviews with such luminaries as Elton John, Tricky, Tori Amos, David Gilmour, Lindsey Kemp, and Peter Gabriel. The first five minutes alone of this entertaining and insightful documentary will give you a sense of just how unique and influential Kate Bush is. Enjoy!

For me to get into the creative process I have to have a quiet place that I work from. And if I was living the life of someone in the industry, as a "pop star" or whatever, it's too distracting; it's too to do with other people's perception of who you are. And what's important to me is to be a human being who has a soul and who hopefully has a sense of who they are, not who everybody else thinks you are.

– Kate Bush
November 2005

For more of Kate Bush at The Wild Reed, see:
"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"
"Can You See the Lark Ascending?"
Quote of the Day – August 17, 2014
Scaling the Heights
"Oh, Yeah!"
Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (and with Kate Bush)
"Rosabelle, Believe . . ."
Just in Time for Winter
"Call Upon Those You Love"
A Song of Summer

Opening image: Kate Bush receiving the Editor's Award for her Before the Dawn concert series at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards – December 2014. Notes

[Kate Bush's] sold-out 22-date residency in London, which ran from August to September [2014], was her first major live commitment since 1979. Bush accepted the Editor's Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards from actor Sir Ian McKellan. The event was hosted by comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

In October she thanked fans for their support for Before The Dawn, calling it “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life” and adding: “It was a truly special and wonderful feeling for all of us.” But she also suggested it would be “a while” before she appeared again.

Two shows in mid-September were filmed for a possible DVD release. The residency led to reignited interest in her back-catalogue, making chart history when she became the first female artist to have eight albums in the top 40 at the same time.

For The Wild Reed's compilation of "Before the Dawn" review highlights, click here.

For Martin Glover's eloquent and insightful exploration of the mysticism that imbues the persona and music of Kate Bush, click here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quote of the Day

It is time for us to encourage school leaders, both religious and lay, to refuse to comply with demands [by bishops] that they fire LGBT employees.

Many Catholic schools were founded by women religious. The sisters have a remarkable history of protesting nuclear weapons, racial injustice, income inequality, prison conditions, human trafficking, the death penalty and environmental degradation.

With such a legacy behind them, why would Catholic schools willingly participate in the radical injustice of terminating the vocations of its devoted LGBT employees and subject them to such financial instability and deep humiliation?

Most Catholic schools seem to have a clear advantage over the bishops. The laity has far more respect for women religious than they do for the hierarchy. The majority of Catholics in the United States strongly support the rights of LGBT people. And more than enough Catholic theologians and ethicists have argued cogently for the full inclusion and equality of LGBT people in the church.

Why, then, not call the bishops' bluffs? Imagine the pushback and negative press a bishop would get if he stripped a Catholic school of its identity for refusing to fire an LGBT employee. Imagine the momentum that could be built and the empowering precedent it could set for other schools facing the same turmoil.

– Jamie L. Manson
Excerpted from "Catholic Schools Must Refuse
to Fire LGBT Employees
National Catholic Reporter
July 29, 2015

Related Off-site Link:
Sister of Mercy Joins Parents in Protests Against Firing of Lesbian Educator – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, July 24, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on the Firing of Kristen Ostendorf
Quote of the Day – September 2, 2013
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Church Fires "Openly" Gay Music Director
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People

Image: Kristen Solberg.

I Caught a Glimpse of a God . . .

. . . all shining and bright.

This haunting line, almost imperceptibly whispered by Kate Bush in her song "Suspended in Gaffa," came to me many times during a recent afternoon walk along Minnehaha Creek, close to my home in south Minneapolis.

In every leaf and stone, every wave of water and ray of light, I sensed the sustaining and transforming energy of the sacred. This experience of the Divine Presence in the natural world was one of renewal. It restored within me balance and harmony, clarity and hope.

My time immersed in the beauty of nature and the presence of the sacred recalled for me the "three generous promises" I made to myself earlier this year at the "Stirring the Fire" retreat of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates.

• To stay open and responsive to the invitations all around me to spiral forward with focus, direction, and energy.

• To create sacred time and space to experience the Divine Presence as together we spiral forward with focus, direction, and energy.

• To trust that even when I feel it's not happening, I am in some beautiful and mysterious way spiraling forward with focus, direction, and energy.

In the days since that afternoon, other reflections have come to mind and heart. A number of these are from people from whom I draw hope and inspiration. I share some of these reflections today, along with some of the images I captured while out walking that summer afternoon along the creek.

The natural world itself is our primary language as it is our primary scripture, our primary awakening to the mysteries of existence. We might well put all our written scriptures on the shelf for twenty years until we learn what we are being told by unmediated experience of the world about us.

We are spiraling, spiraling together.
Onward, inward, creature to creation.
Holy Mystery, Mother Earth – Child Birth.
This is Mother Nature, this is sacred.

I walk to the trees and feel their friendly bark.
I press their fragile leaves into my hand.
I stand amidst the dancing of the grass
and listen to the silence of the land.

If I fail to see the sacred in living things
and even in this random flake of stone
then to my eyes the Universe is closed
and I wander as a stranger all alone.

In gentle voice this world is full of words
that calm the talking tumult in my brain.
"Stand still and learn to see with spiritual sight
or the pain of all your searching is in vain."

Rod Cameron, OSA
"At Kambul"
(Karingal: A Search for Australian Spirituality, 1995)

Once the scales have fallen from one's eyes, once one has seen and believed that reality is put together in such a fashion that one is profoundly united to and interdependent with all other beings, everything is changed. One has a sense of belonging to the earth, having a place in it along with all other creatures, and loving it more than one ever thought possible.

Suddenly [he] felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror — indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy — but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. . . . [He] raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible color, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on [him] humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Boorganna (Part I)
Boorganna (Part II)
In the Garden of Spirituality – Rod Cameron
In the Garden of Spirituality – Richard Rohr
"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"
Halloween Thoughts
"Something Sacred Dwells There"
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Divine Connection
A Return to the Spirit
Earth Day 2015
The Glimpse of His Face at Morning

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LGBT Catholics to Pope Francis: Let Us "Work Together Towards Creating a Church Where All Families Know That We Are Truly Loved and Welcomed"


The U.S.-based LGBT Catholic coalition Equally Blessed has written to Pope Francis, requesting a meeting with him during his September visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

Writes Laurie Goodstein in today's New York Times:

In a formal letter sent to Pope Francis at the Vatican, groups representing gay and transgender people, Catholics, and Hispanics said the church in America was in the midst of a “pastoral crisis” over gay issues and asked to meet with him while he was in the United States. While some American conservatives are eager to see Pope Francis make use of his popularity on this trip to advance the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage, gay Catholics want him to acknowledge their rejection by the church, and to welcome them as full members with equal access to sacraments like baptism and marriage.

“We see so many people we love abandoning the church because of the kinds of indignities and pain that they’re subjected to,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, who signed the letter requesting a meeting with the pope, “whether it’s being denied a kid’s baptism or hearing a priest make horrible comments during a homily. Everybody’s got stories of pain and alienation, and those things do real harm to people. And it needs to end.”

Pope Francis and the church in the United States are both struggling to navigate a new era. Despite years of opposition from various religious groups, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Polls show that six out of 10 American Catholics are in support. And while American bishops are pressing for what are billed as religious freedom laws that would protect the rights of those who object to serving gay people getting married, Catholic institutions, and parishioners, are far from unified.

While some parishes welcome same-sex couples and march in gay pride parades, some priests in other parishes refuse to baptize the children of same-sex couples or to give communion to openly gay mourners at their parents’ funeral Masses. Dozens of Catholic schools have fired openly gay teachers — most recently a priest working at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and a director of religious education in a private academy outside Philadelphia — only to face revolts from Catholic students and parents.

With gay Catholics clamoring to be heard, and the pope expected to address a crowd of more than one million in downtown Philadelphia to close a landmark Catholic event on family life called the “World Meeting of Families,” the stage for a reckoning is set.

Following is the complete text of the letter sent to Pope Francis by the Equally Blessed coalition and signed by Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA and Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD.

Dear Pope Francis,

Like millions of others, we are eagerly anticipating your Pastoral Visit to the United States.

Some of us will be among the crowds that will greet you in person. All of us will be following your travels and praying that this visit helps bring better unity to the Body of Christ.

We are writing to request that you meet with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics and their family members during your visit.

Some of us write as Catholics, or as leaders of Catholic organizations, and others on behalf of the many Catholics among our constituents. We know that your schedule is very busy, but this is a compelling pastoral need, and would promote great healing and reconciliation in our Church and society.

Many LGBT people and family members have experienced a resurgence of hope for full acceptance in our Church as a result of your words and reports of personal meetings with LGBT people.

We see your visit to the U.S. as an opportunity for you to hear from us how central our faith is to our lives, and to work together towards creating a Church where all families know that we are truly loved and welcomed.

Currently, our Church’s teaching and pastoral practices surrounding LGBT people are causing an enormous pastoral crisis, as well as upholding systemic, institutionalized discrimination against LGBT people and our families.

In the U.S. and around the world, we are experiencing alienation from the Church, higher rates of poverty and violence, and discrimination in employment, housing,educational opportunities, and access to health care.

LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable, with nearly half of the LGBT young people in the U.S. considered to be at-risk. Lacking support at home, at school, or from faith communities, LGBT youth suffer bullying, experience depression, self-mutilate, attempt suicide, use drugs, become homeless or enter foster care at rates far higher than non-LGBT youth.

This is a crisis that the church can help to address through effective pastoral care and programs that provides love and support for these youth.

In the U.S. we have seen strong support of LGBT issues among all Catholics, including rapidly rising support among Latinos as greater numbers of Latino LGBT people come out. Latino Catholics have felt new support, which is reverberating into their large circles of families and friends.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, "about six in ten white (61 percent), Hispanic (60 percent), and other non-white Catholics (60 percent) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally."

At times, these Catholic families feel unwelcome in our Church, as they fear or experience condemnation of themselves or their loved ones. This is something that pains us all.

All of these concerns are important to us as Catholics, and we know they are important to you. We ask that you meet with representatives of the LGBT Catholic community and our family members to hear our stories of perseverance, hope, and struggle. We believe your personal attention to our concerns could help hasten greater justice, in the U.S. and across the globe.

We are happy to meet at a time most convenient to you. Please contact us at or 617-669-7810 so that we can work out the logistics.

Be assured of our prayers for your ongoing leadership and service.

In hope,

Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director, DignityUSA

Sarah Kate Ellis
President and CEO, GLAAD

Related Off-site Links:
LGBT Catholics Call for Full Access to Marriage and Ordination in Catholic Church – DignityUSA (July 5, 2015).
Fortunate Families Barred from 2015 World Meeting of Families – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, June 6, 2015).
Gay and Transgender Catholics Urge Pope Francis to Take a Stand – Laurie Goodstein (The New York Times, July 28, 2015).
Pope Francis’s Mixed Messages on Sexuality – Laurie Goodstein (The New York Times, July 28, 2015).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 15, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 19, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 28, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
The Raising of Lazarus and the Gay Experience of Coming Out
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
"The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Marriage Equality Ruling
Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.
More Progressive Catholic Perspectives on Ireland's Historic Gay Marriage Vote
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Devil We (Think We) Know

Mama, she keeps them unprepared
to meet the enemy
that's comin' unto us. . . .

Down in the heart of town
the Devil dresses up.
He keeps his nails clean.
Did you think he'd be a boogeyman?

To date there have been two especially insightful comments posted over at America in response to James Martin, SJ's op-ed about a self-described "Satanic" group that unveiled yesterday in Detroit a statue of "Baphomet" (left), which Martin describes as "a goat-headed god that has become a kind of stand-in for Satan."

What Martin doesn't mention is that the Satanic Temple, the organization that erected this statue, uses the literary Satan as a mythological foundation for a non-supernatural religion. The aim of this "religion" is to promote skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity. Both of the group's co-founders are self-proclaimed "atheistic Satanists" – they do not believe that Satan actually exists.

The group actively participates in public affairs, political actions, and lobbying. Its focus is on the separation of church and state, and it uses satire against religious organizations that it believes interfere with freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Despite all of this, Martin believes members of the Satanic Temple are "playing with fire," and cites events that inspired the book and film The Exorcist to illustrate his belief in – and fear of – a "personified force" of evil capable of possessing individuals against their will. "These people have no clue what kind of forces they are dealing with," writes Martin of the Satanic Temple members.

Using the language of my Christian faith, I understand evil as the absence of love, of that transforming Christ-spirit of compassion and justice that Jesus so powerfully and beautifully embodied . . . and called all who claim to be his followers to embody.

When we follow Jesus' example, we are Christ in the world. When we don't act and live in ways that embody compassion and justice, we are anti-Christs. Each one of us, then, is capable of being the "personification," to use Martin's terminology, of both the Christ and the anti-Christ.

Martin comes close to this way of thinking when he quotes St. Ignatius Loyola who, he says, was "able to describe some of the ways that the evil spirit works . . . like a spoiled child (wanting to get his way); like a 'false lover' (wanting us not to reveal our selfish motivations and plans); and like an 'army commander' (attacking us at our weakest point)."

And what of demonic possessions? Of people being taken over against their will by "the devil" or "evil spirits"? I think it's unfortunate that with our modern knowledge about addiction, psychosis, dissociative identity disorder and various other forms of mental distress and illness, we still attribute these complex and, yes, often very disturbing and destructive realities to a personified notion of "the devil." As Joe Waters says of such thinking as expressed in Martin's article, it is "backward, frightening, Medieval."

Below is Waters' comment in its entirety, followed by PJ Johnston's response to Martin's America piece. Both were originally published July 27, 2015 as comments on the America website.

Oh my goodness. I don't know where to begin with this article.

First, Father James, I love your writing but I'm sorely disappointed with this post. Backward, frightening, Medieval – should I go on? I just discovered that this bright, lovable and intelligent priest is living in the 5th century with unicorns, sea monsters and fixed stars.

You think this statue is dangerous? You know what is REALLY dangerous? Talk of Satan, Falls from Heaven, imps, hooves, tails, and talk of scary goat-headed gods. Yes, evil is REAL! Does it take the shape of some statue or "personified force"? No more than that the earth is 6000 years old, that Elijah went to heaven in a chariot of fire, and we were thrown out of some perfect garden because of a woman, a snake and a weak man.

. . . [T]his is just the type of talk that turns people off to Christianity. Inflexible, threatening, outdated and – if the current generation of Gen Y and Z have any say in it – extinct. You warn this group that they are "playing with fire." At least they have one. Yours is almost out. Maybe that's why you are so frightened.

When are we really going to think and live like real men and women and not be ruled by superstitions and scary bedtime stories? Evil is real. So is God's love and power. That statue is just a piece of rock. That rock in your heart is the only evil you need to worry about. Start with the evil within and the devil without will exist no more.

– Joe Waters

Maybe it would be helpful if we all engaged in a meditation exercise. Imagine that the statue was called "Fred" and didn't look like Baphomet, but more like Pan, and the group called themselves Freddists. Or imagine that the group in question was an organized group of Wiccans with a statue of the Lord and Lady. Now imagine that the groups' politics and professed religious values were (other than the name involved) exactly the same as the Satanic Temple. I believe that if that were the case, laudable Jesuits with a commitment to religious dialogue such as Fr. Martin and Frank Clooney (who wrote about the Harvard Black Mass last year) probably would make effort to understand the beliefs and practices of the groups in question, foster dialogue and understanding, and build common ground on the basis of the positive features inherent in the religion as Nostra Aetate suggests. In fact, liberal-tending Jesuits and the Satanic Temple have some of the same social and political enemies (Evangelical/fundamentalist Christians with right-wing politics), so were it not for the name, it's possible to imagine that there would be an effort to make common cause. I know that intellectually-speaking, educated Jesuits are familiar with the theology of inclusivism, so it seems as there must be some special animus driving the refusal to adopt this strategy vis-a-vis the Satanists, and I suspect the issue is the name. In this regard, C.S. Lewis (who in his Last Battle declared that an honorable follower of the Narnian devil Tash was necessarily really a devotee of Aslan, because the real Tash can only accept evil and the real Aslan can only accept honorable deeds) was more far-seeing than the contemporary Jesuit critics of the Satanic Temple, who appear to be getting hung up on the label rather than the thing indicated. (I am sure many of the Satanists are as well, in that the "God" many have learned to reject is nothing like the actual God of love Christianity teaches. It might be helpful to consider how this misunderstanding on the Satanists' part is reinforced by public misunderstanding and attack by Christians).

When I was an undergraduate, Christian consciousness about Wicca wasn't very far along, and Jesuits and liberal Christians often wrote op-ed pieces similar in tone to this one about Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. Now almost no one would. (Frank Clooney has rightly written positive pieces about inter-religious dialogue with Wiccans). I think that Christian awareness is likely to evolve on the Satanic Temple as well, and you're likely to find yourself in 20 years wishing that you'd taken more care to understand these groups and engage in dialogue, rather than wasting moral capital and compromising the credibility of the Jesuit project of inter-religious dialogue.

– PJ Johnston

There's also been some informed and helpful comments shared on James Martin's Facebook page in response to his "Playing with Fire" article.

Writes Gary Scheuer: Baphomet was actually a "god" invented by the Church so it could persecute and murder Templar knights at the instigation of King Phillip. It was the Church that "played with fire" when they burnt Jacques de Molay at the stake.

Writes Lindsay Wiggins: Playing with fire? Your own Christian god is about as maniacal, angry, genocidal, jealous, torturing, hateful and spiteful as possible. If Satan were real, there's very little worse he could do than what Christians happily praise their own god for having already accomplished.

Writes Jean Edouard Pouliot: "Worshiping" Satan is taken far too seriously. I suspect that most people calling themselves Satanists are doing it mostly to tweak we believers about our superiority, our tendency to freak out about the supernatural and our ardent desire to have government legislate our beliefs into law. I actually find their presence on the national stage to be rather useful. Nothing shows the idiocy of placing the Ten Commandments in public spaces than having a Satanist want to put their own monument there as well. Suddenly, even the devout (yet lame-brained about the need for a separation of church and state) understand the issue. Government spaces need to be resolutely neutral about advocating for one faith or another, or none. We Christians have become so immune to viewing our displays as unusual (from the viewpoint of a supposedly secular government) that we are mightily offended when our displays are "taken away." They should never have been allowed in the first place. Satanists, as far as I know, do not pose a threat to children, and are not violent. Can we say as much for our own believers, let alone clergy and bishops? We may feel that objectifying evil makes it easier to counteract by personifying it as a terrifying and monstrous presence. But that gives Satan far more power than he actually wields, don't you think? In the same way that America has done itself more damage by overreacting to the terrorist threat since 9/11, I suggest that Christians have done more evil in the name of fighting Satan than not. The Salem witch hysteria comes to mind as one signal case – nineteen innocents executed because they thought the Devil was causing a few unbalanced girls to scream and twitch. Let's keep the current hysteria under wraps and discern whether these supposed devil worshipers are for real, and dangerous or just giving a bunch of mischievous brats eager to give their pious brethren as an early Halloween scare.

Writes Aaron Salzman: I realize that exorcisms have been performed, but I still have a hard time believing the things I hear about Satan (especially because there seems to be a perfectly scientific reason for these "possessions." What evidence besides the extreme cases of so-called exorcism prove Satanic or evil forces at work rather than just human meanness? What hope is there at a better future, and what choice do we have in creating a better future, if Satan is forcing humans to destruction and chaos? Why would God allow for this if he is all-powerful? I think this Calvin and Hobbes comic sums my feelings on this up best.

Writes Dominic Bosco: Fr. Martin, this article actually makes me question my recently found respect for you. Surely there are other subjects and current events that are far more deserving of your attention and illumination. If you must give a statue of Baphomet attention, please dedicate more effort into researching something that you do not understand.


Postscript: Let's Leave Pan Out of This, Okay?

One of the things that I've always found rather annoying is the identification of the Christian concept of Satan with the Greek god Pan (right). According to historian Ronald Hutton, this specific association is modern and derives from Pan's popularity in Victorian and Edwardian neo-paganism, a religious movement frowned upon by the Church. Medieval and early modern images of Satan tend, by contrast, to show generic semi-human monsters with horns, wings and clawed feet.

Notes Wikipedia:

In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. His name originates within the Ancient Greek language, from the word paein (πάειν), meaning "to pasture." He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is also recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.

In modern times there has been a revival of reverence of the ancient god as a figure representing not only traditional and neo-Pagan forms of pastoral worship, but as one symbolic of Romanticism, poetry, artistic craftsmanship and panentheistic notions of divinity or deity.

. . . [Literary historian] Douglas Bush notes, "The goat-god, the tutelary divinity of shepherds, had long been allegorized on various levels, from Christ to 'Universal Nature' (Sandys); [for poet John Keats] he becomes the symbol of the romantic imagination, of supra-mortal knowledge."

To read about Pan's appearance in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willow and about Matthew Claridge's contention that this description of Pan shares similarities with ones of Christ, see the previous Wild Reed post, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – March 23, 2011
Pan's Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
Conversing and Arguing with the Theology of Philip Pullman
Questioning God's Benevolence in the Face of Tragedy
To Believe in Jesus
Responding to Bishop John "We Are at War" Finn
Oh, Give It a Rest, Papa!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Can the Klan!"

Remembering the time Minnesotans united
to say 'No' to racism and the Ku Klux Klan.

I'm sure you've seen Rob Godfrey's powerful photo at left. It shows black police officer Leroy Smith helping an unidentified Ku Klux Klan supporter out of the sun during a recent white supremacist rally at the South Carolina Statehouse. The image has gone viral on social media, with The Huffington Post's Dominique Mosbergen noting that Smith is being praised for his "extraordinary show of professionalism and grace under trying circumstances."

The KKK is infamous for its hateful and violent words and actions against blacks, Jews, immigrants, Catholics, gays and lesbians, and people of color. Wikipedia notes that the Ku Klux Klan, or simply "the Klan," is the name of "three distinct past and present movements in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism." The current manifestation of the Klan is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2012 the KKK was estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members.

In August 2001, members of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol, and I joined with over 1,000 people to protest and counter their message of hate and intolerance.

In the lead-up to the Klan's rally, Thelma McKenzie, president of the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions, attempted to put a positive spin on the KKK's presence in Minnesota.

"I think it's good the Klan is going to have their rally," she told Minnesota Public Radio. "It tells us they're still there and it awakens us to deal with it."

McKenzie also said that news of the planned Klan rally had brought people of diverse racial backgrounds together - something which, she said, was bound to disturb members of the white separatist group.

Yet not everyone was in agreement on how best to display rejection of the Klan and its rally on the steps on the Minnesota Capitol on August 25, 2001. The city of St. Paul opted to hold an anti-racism event at Central High School at the same time the Klan demonstrated at the Capitol, while the Minnesota DFL Party said it would host a rally at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul.

I chose to respond to the Klan's rally by getting involved with a coalition called "Can the Klan," which organized a demonstration at the capitol during the Klan's rally.

At the time I was the founder and lead organizer of an activist group called Queers United for Radical Action (QURA). The members of QURA (and, truth be told, there were never more that a dozen or so of us) described the group as a "network of LGBT activists dedicated to educating ourselves and the wider LGBT community on the threats to democracy, human life, and the environment posed by the nexus of corporate globalization, militarism, and environmental degradation." We also sought to "organize and participate in educational and non-violent direct action events in order to facilitate positive and radical social and economic change, and to facilitate and share a uniquely queer spirit of resistance to all forms of oppression."

Below is the flyer I designed and which QURA distributed in the lead-up to the "Can the Klan" rally in St. Paul on August 25, 2001.

Following is an excerpt from an August 25, 2001 Minnesota Public Radio News article about the Klan's presence at the Minnesota Capitol and the "Can the Klan" counter demonstration.

Forty-six men dressed in hooded, white robes or brown shirts with swastika arm bands stood defiantly on the steps of the state Capitol waving Nazi and Confederate flags. The members of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan took turns blasting various racial groups and calling for a pure white race. Michael McQueeny, a grand dragon of the KKK from Wisconsin and the rally organizer, set the tone of intolerance.

"How long can the white race continue to deny and attempt to cover up the fact that the world we live in resembles a horror film? Every day crime in America is getting worse, and vicious crimes by Negroes are so common that most people have become immune to the crime that exists around them," McQueeny said.

McQueeny and others shouted through a bullhorn and public address system, but the chants of an estimated 1,200 anti-Klan demonstrators prevented most observers from hearing the speeches. . . . Klan organizers billed the rally as a recruiting event. They actually had no opportunity for contact with anyone who might have come to hear their pitch, but they did hold banners displaying their organizations' phone numbers.

. . . About 75 state troopers stood between the Klan and their opponents. Many more police stood by away from the demonstration. The Department of Public Safety says four demonstrators were arrested and one person was treated for dehydration. A few eggs were thrown, but no one was injured.

After the rally, anti-Klan protesters were declaring victory. Spokesman Mike Huber of the group "Can the Klan" says more people than expected participated in opposing the KKK and its racist agenda.

"The turnout showed people are willing to come and stand up. Even some people have been speaking publically saying that this was going to be a violent demonstration. I think we proved that it wasn't and people weren't going to be scared by those scare tactics," said Huber.

Huber says Can the Klan is planning to hold ongoing public meetings to discuss racism. He says they will be better organized the next time a group like the KKK comes to town.

Above and below: Images I captured during the August 25, 2001 "Can the Klan" rally at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Above: Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality was one of several speakers at the "Can the Klan" rally.

Wrote Kim DeFranco in her August 29, 2001 Fight Back News article, "Minnesota Says: "Can the Klan, Say No to Racism!":

Before the white supremacists came out, the Can the Klan rally started with Michelle Gross, one of the organizers stating, "They are here to recruit and gain a foothold in Minnesota. We can't hand over anybody to the Klan. It's important for everyone who is against the them to come out and speak out against them."

Amid speeches, music, drumming and chants, demonstrators prepared for the Klan's arrival. The crowd was diverse and multinational, as different communities around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area came to express their anger.

People held signs: "No to Racism! No to Klan!" "This is not a time for silence - speak out against racism now!" and "When I was in school, we called it a 'dunce cap'! Hate is stupid!"

Related Off-site Links:
Waiting for the KKK – Brandt Williams (Minnesota Public Radio News, August 24, 2001).
Klan Rally – Loud, but Peaceful – Tim Pugmire and Elizabeth Stawicki (MPR News, August 25, 2001).
Minnesota Says: "Can the Klan, Say No to Racism!" – Kim DeFranco (Fight Back News, August 29, 2001).
White Americans Are the Biggest Terror Threat in the U.S. – Peter Gelling (Global Report, July 24, 2015).
Black South Carolina Trooper Explains Why He Embraced a White Supremacist – Dan Barry (The New York Times, July 25, 2015).
The KKK Issues Plea for Members to Kill Gay People – Joe Williams (Pink News, August 13, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Celebrate
Quote of the Day – June 19, 2015
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
At the Mall of America, a Necessary Disruption to "Business as Usual"
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

We believe that the Church’s truest integrity is at risk when it emphasizes orthodoxy and doctrine without meaningful engagement with human and historic realities. We love the Church: We draw deeply from its rich traditions of spirituality, compassion, service, and justice. But we also recognize (and need to take responsibility for) our many historic blind spots — persecution of heretics, oppression of indigenous peoples in the name of “mission,” and second-class status for women.

While it is painful for us to have to publicly dissent, we are convinced that this is a moment when insistence on doctrinal adherence is clashing with what we believe the Spirit is unfolding in our history — just as it has in the past, with issues like slavery, the rights of women, and the environment. Many Christian denominations have listened to the movement of the Spirit and moved toward both full inclusion and full embrace of the gifts of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers.

The Church is at its best when it listens to the Spirit speaking in our times and through human experiences.

– Joan Dawson McConnon,
James J. Maguire and Mary Scullion

Excerpted from "On Gay Marriage, Let Spirit Guide the Church"
July 21, 2015

Related Off-site Link:
Sister of Mercy Joins Parents in Protests Against Firing of Lesbian Educator – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, July 24, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Marriage Equality Ruling
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
A Head and Heart Response to the Bishops' Opposition to Marriage Equality
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality

Image: Kristen Solberg.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Recalling a Visit to the Missions of San Antonio and Remembering Bartolomé de Las Casas, a "Passionate and Prophetic Defender" of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

I recently read that UNESCO has added 27 new sites to its World Heritage list of natural and cultural wonders of “outstanding universal value.” Among the additions: the Jordan River baptism site in Jordan, believed by many to mark the spot where Jesus was baptized, and five historic Catholic missions in San Antonio, Texas.

Writes Andrew Mach of PBS Newshour:

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee approved the listing of the five Spanish Roman Catholic structures, which includes the Alamo, that were built in the 18th century in and around what is now San Antonio.

The UNESCO description calls the missions “an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, illustrated by a variety of features, including the decorative elements of churches, which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous designs inspired by nature.”

The missions were the only site in the U.S. considered for world heritage status during the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany.

I visited the San Antonio missions in August of 1999. I had traveled to Texas from Minnesota after being invited to present "In the Footsteps of Spring," my multi-media presentation on the coming out process as a spiritual journey, to the Dignity San Antonio community.

My time in San Antonio was memorable. My presentation was well-received and I was very much welcomed by the local Catholic LGBT community. I also remember thinking how the dry heat of San Antonio was very much like Australia!

Above and right: My hosts in San Antonio were a lovely couple, Nickie Valdez and Deb Myers.

In 2010, Nickie and Deb were the recipients of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio's Community Leadership Award. Following is what the SDSA website says about Nickie and Deb.

Valdez was one of five founders of Dignity San Antonio, a GLBT Catholic advocacy and support group. In the 1970's, she was a founding member of Forward Foundation, which organized the first Gay Pride Parade and ministered to inmates at the Bexar County jail.

In the 1980's, Valdez worked to create the Trinity Council to bring together local GLBT friendly churches and educate the community in self-acceptance and self-worth. She was a founder of the San Antonio Lesbian/Gay Assembly to advance GLBT issues at the local and state level.

Valdez' work extended beyound religious issues, into HIV/AIDS awareness, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the National Organization for Women and the advancement of people of color. She organized PRO San Antonio, an interfaith network of GLBT friendly clergy, churches and lay people.

Myers has served on the local, state and national levels of Dignity USA for the last 24 years. The majority of her time has been spent on the Liturgy Committee that organizes the liturgy and music for the weekly mass. She is a moderator for the Progressive Religious Organizations of San Antonio and has worked with the group since it's founding in 2006.

In addition to her advocacy work, Meyers served on the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission, the Archdiocesan Anti-Violence Effort Committee and the Mayor's Commission for a More United San Antonio under former Mayor Ed Garza. She is a physical therapist at University Hospital.

Above: The Mission Concepción.

Notes Wikipedia:

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña (also Mission Concepción) was established in 1716 as Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais in East Texas. It was originally meant to be a base for converting the Hasinai. The mission was moved in 1731 to San Antonio. After its relocation most of the people in the mission were Pajalats who spoke a Coahuiltecan language. Founded by Franciscan friars, this is the best preserved of the Texas missions.

The Battle of Concepción was fought here on October 28, 1835 between Mexican troops under Colonel Domingo Ugartechea and Texian insurgents led by James Bowie and James Fannin. The 30-minute engagement, is described as "the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution" by historian J.R. Edmondson.

Located at 807 Mission Road, Concepcion was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 15, 1970 and is part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Restoration of the mission's interior was completed in March 2010 after six months of work. Catholic Mass is still held every Sunday.

Above: Mission San Francisco de la Espada (also Mission Espada).

For the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the era of colonial conquest was catastrophic. This era began in 1492 and continued well into the nineteenth century. In many ways it continues to this day. It therefore includes the 1700s, the time when the missions in San Antonio were built. A figure that inspires in the midst of this terrible era of conquest is Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484-1566). The following from Robert Ellsberg's All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time, will help explain what I mean.

Bartolomé de Las Casas
"Defender of the Indians" (1484-1566)

"Christ did not come into the world for gold."

Bartolomé de Las Casas was the most distinguished of a number of Dominican friars who raised their voices against the rapacious violence inflicted on the Indians of the Americas. Las Casas was not content to denounce the excesses of the Conquest. Reading the gospel from the perspective of what he called "the scourged Christ of the Indies," he articulated a theological understanding of religious freedom, human rights, and the relation between salvation and social justice, that was scarcely matched again in the Catholic church before the Second Vatican Council. Five hundred years after the collision of cultures in the Americas, Las Casas is chiefly recognized as a prophet, who anticipated by many centuries the church's "preferential option for the poor."

As a boy of eight, Las Casas witnessed the return of Columbus to Seville after his voyage to the [so-called] New World. He made his own first trip to Hispaniola in 1502. After studies in Rome for the priesthood he returned to the New World, where he served as chaplain in the Spanish conquest of Cuba. Though a priest, he also benefited from the Conquest as the owner of an encomienda, a plantation with Indian indentured laborers.

In 1541 however, he underwent a dramatic conversion, prompted by his witnessing the genocidal cruelty inflicted on the Indians. He soon joined the Dominican order and became a passionate and prophetic defender of the indigenous peoples. For more than fifty years he traveled back and forth between the New World and the court of Spain, attempting through his books, letters, and preaching to expose the cruelties of the Conquest, whose very legitimacy, and not merely excesses, he disavowed.

Although the main attraction for the Spanish in the New World was gold, the Conquest was ostensibly justified by evangelical motivations. The pope had authorized the subjugation of the Indian populations for the purpose of implanting the gospel and securing their salvation. Las Casas claimed that the deeds of the conquistadors revealed their true religion:

"In order to gild a very cruel and harsh tyranny that destroys so many villages and people, solely for the sake of satisfying the greed of men and giving them gold, the latter, who themselves do not know the faith, use the pretext of teaching it to others and thereby deliver up the innocent in order to extract from their blood the wealth which these men regard as their god."

Las Casas vehemently opposed the notion that the gospel could be spread through slaughter or compulsion of any kind. While others claimed that the Indians were a lesser race, he affirmed their full humanity, and thus their entitlement to all human rights. For his writings on human equality and his defense of the right to religious freedom, Las Casas deserves to be remembered as a political philosopher of extreme significance in the history of ideas.

But Las Casas's theological insights went far beyond a simple affirmation of the Indians' human dignity. Identifying the Indians with the poor, in the gospel sense, he argued that in their sufferings they represented the crucified Christ. He wrote, "I leave in the Indies Jesus Christ, our God, scourged and afflicted and beaten and crucified not once, but thousands of times."

For Las Casas there could be no salvation in Jesus Christ apart from social justice. Thus, the question was not whether the Indians were to be "saved"; the more serious question was the salvation of the Spanish who were persecuting Christ in the poor.

In 1543, with court officials in Spain eager to be rid of him, Las Casas was named bishop of the impoverished region of Chiapas in southern Mexico. There he immediately alienated his flock by refusing absolution to any Spaniard who would not free his Indian slaves. He was denounced to the Spanish court as a "lunatic" and received numerous death threats. Eventually he resigned his bishopric and returned to Spain, where he felt he could more effectively prosecute his cause. There he died on July 18, 1566, at the age of eighty-two.

Related Off-site Links:
San Antonio's Missions Declared a World Heritage Site – Tracy L. Barnett (USA Today, July 6, 2015).
Pope Francis Apologizes for Catholic Church's "Offenses" Against Indigenous Peoples – Nicole Winfield and Jacobo Garcia (Associated Press via HuffPost Religion, July 9, 2015).
LGTB Catholics Find Worship with Dignity – Abe Levy (My San Antonio, October 11, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Paulo Coelho
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Clyde Hall: "All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful"
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"

Images: Michael J. Bayly.