Friday, August 28, 2015

The Choice (and Risk) That Is Love

For reasons that I won't get into here, I've been thinking a lot about love lately.

And so it was that one recent sleepless night I found myself leafing through bell hook's book All About Love: New Visions. I first read this insightful book shortly after it came out in 2000. I remember being very intentional in reflecting and journaling about it . . . and one part, in particular, has always stayed with me. It's when hooks highlights M. Scott Peck's definition of love in his classic book The Road Less Traveled.

Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, Peck defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

"Love is as love does," continues Peck. "Love is an act of will – namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love." This definition, notes hooks, because it emphasizes the choice that's made to nurture growth, "counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."

This evening I share more of bell hooks' thoughts on M. Scott Peck's definition of love. With its emphasis on choice, risk and growth it's challenging stuff, to be sure. But I also find it hopeful, helpful and inspiring. Perhaps you will too.

Most of us learn early on to think of love as a feeling. When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect with them; that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called "cathexis." In his book Peck rightly emphasizes that most of us "confuse cathecting with loving." We all know how often individuals feeling connected to someone through the process of cathecting insist that they love the other person even if they are hurting or neglecting them. Since their feeling is that of cathexis, they insist that what they feel is love.

. . . Like many who read The Road Less Traveled again and again, I am grateful to have been given a definition of love that helped me face the places in my life where love was lacking. I was in my mid-twenties when I first learned to understand love "as the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." It still took years for me to let go of learned patterns of behavior that negated my capacity to give and receive love. . . . It took me a long time to recognize that while I wanted to know love, I was afraid to be truly intimate. Many of us choose relationships of affection and care that will never become loving because they feel safer. The demands are not as intense as loving requires. The risk is not great.

So many of us long for love but lack the courage to take risks. Even though we are obsessed with the idea of love, the truth is that most of us live relatively decent, somewhat satisfying lives even if we often feel that love is lacking. In these relationships we share genuine affection and/or care. For most of us, that feels like enough because it is usually a lot more than we received in our families of origin. Undoubtedly, many of us are more comfortable with the notion that love can mean anything to anybody precisely because when we define it with precision and clarity it brings us face to face with our lacks – with terrible alienation. The truth is, far too many people in our culture do not know what love is. And this not knowing feels like a terrible secret, a lack that we have to cover up.

Had I been given a clear definition of love earlier in my life it would not have taken me so long to become a more loving person. Had I shared with others a common understanding of what it means to love it would have been easier to create love. It is particularly distressing that so many recent books on love continue to insist that definitions of love are unnecessary and meaningless. Or worse, the authors suggest love should mean something different to men than it does to women – that the sexes should respect and adapt to our inability to communicate since we do not share the same language. This type of literature is popular because it does not demand a change in fixed ways of thinking about gender roles, culture, or love, Rather than sharing strategies that would help us become more loving it actually encourages everyone to adapt to circumstances where loving is lacking.

. . . Some folks have difficulty with Peck's definition of love because he uses the word "spiritual." He is referring to that dimension of our core reality where mind, body, and spirit are one. An individual does not need to be a believer in a religion to embrace the idea that there is an animating principle in the self – a life force (some of us call it soul) that when nurtured enhances our capacity to be more fully self-actualized and able to engage in communion with the world around us.

To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. We are often taught we have no control over our "feelings." Yet most of us accept that we choose our actions, that intention and will inform what we do. We also accept that our actions have consequences. To think of actions shaping feelings is one way we rid ourselves of conventionally accepted assumptions such as that parents love their children, or that one simply "falls" in love without exercising will or choice. . . . If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a manner that devalues and degrades its meaning. When we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust.

– bell hooks
Excerpted from "Clarity: Give Love Words,"
chapter one of All About Love: New Visions

There's so much to think about, isn't there? . . . Love as an action. . . . Love as a choice involving risk. . . . The difference between cathecting (a word I'd not come across before) and loving.

Like most people I long to meet someone with whom I experience a mutual and deep sense of attraction and connection. From this basis we would choose to embark on a shared journey, a relationship, of love. You could say that the oxygen for such a relationship would be the daily conscious choices we would make to risk and extend ourselves for each another and for the relationship we'd be forging together.

I hope to experience such a loving relationship one day – a relationship that would be experienced and embodied in a range of ways, including sexually and sacramentally. I'm certainly ready to take the risks involved in embarking on and creating such a relationship. It's just that the experience of a mutual and deep sense of attraction and connection with another eludes me. Why this is the case is a mystery to me, one that I must admit can leave me feeling dejected at times. Approaching 50, I can also find myself feeling impatient and fearful that time has run out for me. But then I connect with family and friends or spend time in quiet prayer and/or in nature and soon hope and balance return. More often than not, I live in hope and with the "radical attitude" of active waiting, trusting that one day life/God/the universe will provide an opportunity for me to choose (and risk) being, as Nada Surf* sings, "on the inside" of a loving relationship.

. . . Making out with people
I hardly know or like.
I can't believe what I do
late at night.

I wanna know what it's like
on the inside of love.
I'm standing at the gates,
I see the beauty above.

Only when we get to see
the aerial view
will the patterns show.
We'll know what to do.

. . . I'm on the outside of love,
always under or above.
I can't find my way in,
I try again and again.
I'm on the outside of love,
always under or above.
Must be a different view
to be a me with a you.

. . . I wanna know what it's like
on the inside of love.
Of course I'll be alright,
I just had a bad night.
I had a bad night.

* Thanks to my friend Pete for introducing me to Nada Surf's "Inside of Love."

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Love as "Quest and Daring and Growth"
Quote of the Day – October 5, 2010
Getting It Right
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
Love as Exploring Vulnerability
The Art of Surrender
The Gravity of Love
To Be Held and To Hold
To Know and Be Known
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
In the Garden of Spirituality – James B. Nelson
Passion, Tide and Time
Quote of the Day – September 11, 2012
Love Is Love
Love at Love's Brightest

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jim Smith on the "Tears of Love and Faith" of LGBTI People and Their Families

My friend Jim Smith (pictured at right) is a gifted and inspiring minister of the Gospel; of Jesus' good news of God's transforming love.

I remember well having the honor of witnessing this first-hand when I served with Jim on the board of CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN in 2011-2012. At that time an effort was being made by reactionary elements within both society and the church to amend the Minnesota constitution to define civil marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman. In challenging such efforts, Jim came up with a truly creative and visionary idea: to gather and film over 300 Catholics singing David Lohman's powerful song "For the Children." Jim oversaw the making of this idea into a reality. He then went on to serve as the key organizer of C4ME'MN's August 15, 2012 event, "I Do! Believe in the Freedom to Marry." This event saw over 300 people gather in Minneapolis' Loring Park to view the final cut of our music video.

Thanks to Jim and so many other Catholics dedicated to the radical inclusiveness of Jesus, the "marriage amendment" was defeated and, soon after, marriage equality achieved in Minnesota – two years before the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that legalized marriage for same-sex couples across the United States. (For The Wild Reed's overview of the role played by Minnesota Catholics in winning marriage equality in the civil sphere, click here.)

Jim, now associate director of DignityUSA, a founding member organization of the Equally Blessed coalition, recently penned an op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter blog, NCR Today.

It's a powerful piece, to be sure. I especially appreciate Jim's description of the fourteen families from Equally Blessed who will be among the thousands of Catholics joining Pope Francis at next month's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. These families, notes Jim, will include "parents of transgender or gay children who have been challenged over thousands of days and nights to love those kids unconditionally, who know viscerally what it means, in the words of the prophet Micah, 'to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly' in their parental roles; gay couples with children who live by the promise to raise those children 'according to the love of Christ'; transgender, intersex and gay persons themselves who are coming through a fire of marginalized existence into the freedom of God's beloved, finally knowing their 'sin' is not who they are and whom they love, but what chases us all – greed, fear, hate, hubris."

Following is Jim's August 25 NCR Today commentary in its entirety.


We Invite Our Bishops
to Include LGBT Catholics
Wholeheartedly in the
World Meeting of Families

By Jim Smith

National Catholic Reporter
August 25, 2015

There is an encounter in the Christian scriptures that has the power to take one's breath away.

Jesus is invited to the home of a religious leader. A woman, an outcast and sinner, shows up too. Safe to say, she is not invited. In the scene, one of the most poignant in the Gospels, the woman positions herself close to Jesus, washes his feet with her tears (her tears!) and dries them with her hair. It is as if all the moments of this outcast's life, her sufferings and joys and sins and successes, are collected and reconciled in those tears and given to Jesus in the form of love.

But the host is repulsed by this encounter. Jesus, by authority of his own pure love, invites him to honor her dignity and faith (Luke 7:36-50). We're not told if the leader is changed by the encounter. Over 2,000 years later, we're still not sure.

In just a few weeks, throngs of Catholics will enter the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. These people will bring the same tears of love and faith brought to Jesus so many years ago. Fourteen families from our Equally Blessed coalition will be among them: parents of transgender or gay children who have been challenged over thousands of days and nights to love those kids unconditionally, who know viscerally what it means, in the words of the prophet Micah, "to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly" in their parental roles; gay couples with children who live by the promise to raise those children "according to the love of Christ"; transgender, intersex and gay persons themselves who are coming through a fire of marginalized existence into the freedom of God's beloved, finally knowing their "sin" is not who they are and whom they love, but what chases us all – greed, fear, hate, hubris.

These Catholics have much to bring to the table of the World Meeting of Families. We are not the enemy of the many bishops, including Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Pope Francis, who will also attend.

In fact, we are allies in the mission of the church to strengthen familial bonds, to unify the Body of Christ in her beautiful diversity, to bring Good News to the poor, to welcome the stranger and to bring hope to the brokenhearted. Our own hearts have been broken, sometimes by our own church, so we bring real experience to what Pope Francis has famously called "the field hospital" of the church.

We invite our bishops and our good pope to include us wholeheartedly in the "big tent" gathering of Catholic families in September. But if they don't, we will still be in the room. Like that woman in the Gospel, we will be there with our tears of redemption and love to mingle with many other Catholics. No question about that.

The real question is, will there be voices in the background gasping and whispering? We hope not. We hope for outstretched arms from fellow sinners and saints, for we are all of us in our great diversity, one body.

Jim Smith is the associate director of DignityUSA and a member of the Equally Blessed Coalition.

Above: Standing at right with (from left) Jim Smith and Fr. John Brandes – Dignity/Twin Cities Mass, Sunday, August 9, 2015. John Brandes is an inspiring figure for both Jim and I. In fact, he is the inspiration for the character of "Father Brandon" in my semi-autobiographical Wild Reed series The Journal of James Curtis.

On the evening of May 27, 2011 members and friends of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN gathered at my home to watch the "rough cut" of our first video project, simply titled Catholics for Marriage Equality. Pictured above (from left): Jim, Lisa, and Grace and Janet.

Right: Jim with yet another inspiring figure: MN State Senator Scott DibbleDecember 2011.

Above: Jim Smith, March 25, 2012. Jim, then C4ME-MN Parish Inreach Coordinator, is shown addressing those gathered for Week 5 of C4ME-MN's series of Lenten prayer vigils at the chancery of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese.

At the time, here's what was written about this series of vigils at Sensus Fidelium, the blogsite of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN: "The primary purpose of the vigils is to gather Catholics and other people of good will to pray for Archbishop Nienstedt. Specifically, we pray that he may choose to redirect his energies and the financial resources of the Archdiocese away from the divisive ‘marriage amendment’ and toward actions that reflect Jesus' Gospel call to care for the poor and marginalized. The vigil also provides an opportunity for Catholics to pray that the archbishop and all the bishops of Minnesota may be open to the love and beauty embodied in same-sex relationships and families. Many who gather also pray that the bishops may be open to the experiences and insights of the majority of U.S. Catholics who support civil marriage rights for same-sex couples."

In June of 2012, Jim was featured in a CNN Belief Blog article entitled "Can 'True Catholics' Support Same-Sex Marriage." In discussing the division that the proposed "marriage amendment" was causing in Minnesota, Jim noted: "I'd much rather this wasn't happening. But it does provide some real opportunities because it challenges us to talk to each other, Catholics talking to other Catholics."

Above: Jim welcomes the 300+ attendees of the August 15, 2012 "I Do! Believe in the Freedom to Marry" event in Minneapolis' Loring Park. The C4ME-MN music video of "For All the Children" was premiered at this event.

Above: After the November 2012 defeat of the proposed Minnesota "marriage amendment," Jim and I were invited to Washington, DC to be part of a gathering of pro-marriage equality Christian and Jewish faith leaders from Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and Washington. This meeting took place on December 3-4, 2012 at the Washington, DC headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign. Here we acknowledged and celebrated the then recent advances in marriage equality in our respective states – advances in which people of faith and religious organizations played key roles. As Sharon Groves, Director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program, reminded us, "The faith work in all the states was the 'win work' in all the states."

We also shared what worked best in our respective campaigns, and strategized and planned for further nationwide advances in the journey toward full equality for LGBT individuals, couples and families. It was a very inspiring event, and Jim and I were honored to be part of it.

Of course, included among these 'people of faith' who played a critically important role in the advances in marriage equality in 2012 were many Catholics! In the photo above Jim and I are standing with Catholic marriage equality leaders from Maine, Maryland and Washington. Pictured next to me from left: Anne Underwood, Co-Founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Maine; Ryan Sattler, primary Catholic lay organizer for the Maryland Marriage Equality Campaign; Joseph Palacios, Co-Founder of Catholics for Equality; Cynthia Beliveau of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Maine; Jim; Barbara Guzzo, co-founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Washington; Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder of New Ways Ministry; Marianne Duddy-Burke, President of DignityUSA; Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry; and Chris Pumpelly, Communications and Development Director of Catholics United.

For more images and commentary on this gathering, click here.

Above: An informal celebration of the achieving of marriage equality in Minnesota with (from left) Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden, Jim, Paula Ruddy, and Mary Kay OrmanMay 14, 2013.

Above: Standing with Jim and five of our fellow CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN board members at DignityUSA's National Convention in Minneapolis on the evening of July 4, 2013. From left: Lisa Vanderlinden, Cheryl Maloney, Kathleen Olsen, Brent Vanderlinden, Mary Beckfeld, me and Jim. Two board members, Mary Kay Orman and Bob DeNardo, were unable to join us that night.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
LGBT Catholics to Pope Francis: Let Us "Work Together Towards Creating a Church Where All Families Know That We Are Truly Loved and Welcomed"
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
"The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
Quote of the Day – August 19, 2015

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic LGBT Equality Groups Getting Shut Out of Pope's World Families Meeting in Philadelphia – Michelle Boorstein (The Washington Post, August 19, 2015).
LGBT Catholics Say World Meeting of Families is Missing an Opportunity – Julia Terruso (The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 19, 2015).
LGBT Group Rejected by Philadelphia Archdiocese Won't Back Down – Antonia Blumberg (The Huffington Post, August 19, 2015).
Philly Archbishop Evicts LGBT Events Scheduled for World Meeting of Families; New Ways Ministry and Equally Blessed Respond – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, August 18, 2015).
New Location and New Opinions on LGBT Catholic Events in Philadelphia – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, August 26, 2015).
Let’s Have a World Meeting of ALL Families – Ray Dever (Bondings 2.0, August 28, 2015).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

Ever since the 2014 Family Synod, some Catholic bishops (and Pope Francis himself) have expressed criticism of what they refer to as “gender ideology,” by which they seem to mean gender theory. Gender theory, however, is not by any stretch an “ideology,” but a sound academic attempt to understand the complexities of gender as encountered in the real world. The only “ideology” I’m aware of about gender is that espoused in Vatican doctrine, which reduces everything to a simplistic binary; everyone is either male or female, with distinctive roles appropriate to each; and that our primary social purpose is to find a suitable mate of the opposite gender, marry, and produce offspring. This is simplistic, patent nonsense, which should be obvious to anyone who simply observes the reality outside the lens of what is fondly believed to be the “traditional” family structure. There are many societies around the world in which traditional family structures recognized more than two genders. The hijra of South Asia are one example of a socially recognised third gender, now being recognised in government documents in some countries. Some Native American societies recognized even more than three genders.

– Terry Weldon
Excerpted from "Binary 'Gender Ideology' Refuted:
The Complexities of Gender
Queering the Church
August 20, 2015

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – June 12, 2015
Lisa Leff on Five Things to Know About Transgender People
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"

Related Off-site Links:
What is Gender? OR Why the Term is Both Meaningless and Indispensable – Anna Magdalena (The Catholic Transgender, August 16, 2015).
Transgender and Catholic – Nick Stevens (The New York Times via The Progressive Catholic Voice, May 24, 2015).
Beyond Male and Female: Gender Trouble, Biology Trouble – Terry Weldon (Queering the Church, September 25, 2011).
Sub Secretum – Jacqueline White (The Progressive Catholic Voice, January 19, 2009).

Friday, August 21, 2015

Love Is Love

For "music night" this evening at The Wild Reed I share gay singer-songwriter Tom Goss's haunting ballad, "Breath and Sound," featuring Matt Alber.

Tonight's post also serves as the latest installment in my "Dancer and the Dance" series. This is because the "Breath and Sound" music video features a number of dancers whose movements add a new dimension to the song by powerfully conveying a message about the universality of love: No matter the dancers, the dance is always the same. Love is love.

Notes EDGE writer Kilian Melloy:

Drawn from [Goss's] album Wait, the song "Breath and Sound" features backing vocals by fellow out recording artist Matt Alber. The two artists have worked together several times in the past, most notably on "Who We Are," a video they made before the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." That video portrayed the grief and loss of a civilian who has lost his service member boyfriend in Afghanistan. Goss and Alber have also frequently teamed up for live performances.

The new video, directed by Michael Serrato, eschews shots of the musician strumming a guitar or singing into a microphone, and focuses on dance, with three pairs of performers – one heterosexual couple, one lesbian couple, and one gay male pair – telling the same story through movement: Falling in love, seducing one another, and finding happiness in each others' arms.

"I've been dreaming about this video for two years now," Goss recounted in a chat with EDGE. "Over those two years I was chatting with directors and dancers and ultimately, something about my vision was flawed. One night, while thrift shopping, I started talking to Michael about this wild idea I had. He immediately grabbed hold of it, got excited and pulled the vision together with strong ideas of his own. It wasn't until both Michael and I started brainstorming that the idea became something achievable."

It's the same crux
You think I'd have learned enough
To let my heart go
Yeah, to let my heart go

But it is safest
If I try deny this
Then watch it unfold
Then to watch it unfold

But I know enough
I'm longing for your touch
And I think, oh
Just a little bit of breath and sound
Just a little bit of reaching out
Just a little bit to find what I'm seeking

And, oh, one first touch my heart'll do the rest
Otherwise I'll never find the strength
Winter time had never felt so cold . . .

Continues Melloy:

The exquisite choreography is by Andrew Pirozzi. "He is the Supermanesque dancer in the straight couple," Goss noted of the choreographer. "That's actually his wife he is dancing with. They were electric together (as they all were). He's brilliant and a joy to work with."

While many of Goss' videos star himself – often in comic roles, sometimes in dramatic ones – the handsome singer does not appear in "Breath and Sound."

"We shot a lot of footage of myself," Goss revealed to EDGE. "The first edit of the video actually had that footage interspersed throughout. However, as we were watching it, we realized that we were losing interest every time the images of me singing were introduced. It distracted from the dance and the story being told by the dancers. So I ended up on the cutting floor. It was the right decision."

The editing cuts between the three couple as they enact identical choreography, and the action taking place on a bare stage with darkness as a backdrop. Once the dancers get each other's outer clothing off, all six are attired in black underwear. The choreography hints at physical coupling, but much more present is a sense of emotional bonds forming and being explored.

The finished work is a powerful and touching testament to the sameness of human connection, whether it takes root between same-sex couples or those of mixed genders.

That message of the universality of love and connection lies at the heart of the choreography, and informs much of Goss' music. In an August 18 interview at Huffington Post, published the same day the video premiered on YouTube, Goss addressed that theme.

"There's a reason the first verse focuses on the straight couple alone – that's what they are used to seeing. I want straight people to be drawn into a familiar story, one they understand and relate to," Goss told interviewer Lori Duron. "Once there, I want to show them that this exact same story is being lived by the LGBTQ community.

"As a gay man, I don't want special privilege," Goss added. "I just want to love – passionately, fearlessly and completely."

To read Kilian Melloy article on Tom Goss in its entirety, click here.

. . . In the morning
I won't say that I'm not scared
It's just that you're holding
My fears and pain

Now I know your touch
Once is not enough
And I think, oh
Just a little bit of breath and sound
Just a little bit of reaching out
Just a little bit to find what I'm seeking

And, oh, one first touch my heart'll do the rest
Otherwise I'll never find the strength
Winter time had never felt so cold

But with you by my side
We're on the way to getting right
All of the things we'd left behind
Take your time

Just a little bit of breath and sound
Just a little bit of reaching out
Just a little bit to find what I'm seeking

And, oh, one first touch my heart'll do the rest
Otherwise I'll never find the strength
Winter time had never felt so cold

And, oh, just a little bit of breath and sound
Just a little bit of reaching out
Just a little you to set me free

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On
A Beautiful Collaboration
The Dancer and the Dance
The Soul of a Dancer
Five Takes on Five Dances
Desert Dancer: A Story That Matters
Dance and Photography: Two Entwined Histories
Gay Men and Modern Dance
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Quote of the Day

A gay man [Ron Belgau*] who has chosen celibacy is . . . the only Catholic experience of being LGBT [to be represented at next month's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia]. He represents the tiniest fraction of LGBT Catholics in this country and around the world. The vast majority of Catholics have family members who are in same-sex relationships or are seeking relationships or deciding how to live openly in the gender they know themselves to be. Hiding this fact would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.

– Marianne Duddy-Burke
Quoted in Patricia Miller's article,
"Archbishop Boots LGBT Catholics from Philly Church"
Religion Dispatches
August 18, 2015

* Notes Julia Terruso in her 8/16/15 Philadelphia Inquirer article, "LGBT Catholics Say World Meeting of Families is Missing an Opportunity":

Ron Belgau [left], editor of a website called Spiritual Friendship, is to speak, along with his mother, at a session titled "Always Consider the Person: Homosexuality in the Family." He is gay and celibate.

"I accept and try to advocate for the church's teaching on sexual ethics," Belgau said in an interview from St. Louis, "But I am also not banging people over the head with that - I do advocate for celibacy, but I do think there's a tendency in the current conversations to make a much bigger deal of that."

Belgau said he thinks LGBT Catholics are cast out of the church more than others who do not live in accordance with its teachings, such as by divorcing or using contraception.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a national Catholic LGBT group, said Belgau's role in the meeting is a step, if a small one.

"The good news is, gay issues are going to be talked about openly - it's on the official agenda, and that's a step forward, and I want to make clear we have no objection to gay people who choose celibacy," Duddy-Burke said. "But it presents a limited view, to say the least, and an unrealistic view of how most gay Catholics and their families live."

She said gay Catholics don't check their activism at the church door anymore: "Over the past 45 years, we've become more visible and more vocal and have sort of said to the church, 'You can't just deal with us as sinners, you need to hear our stories.'"

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic LGBT Equality Groups Getting Shut Out of Pope's World Families Meeting in Philadelphia – Michelle Boorstein (The Washington Post, August 19, 2015).
LGBT Catholics Say World Meeting of Families is Missing an Opportunity – Julia Terruso (The Philadelphia Enquirer, August 19, 2015).
LGBT Group Rejected by Philadelphia Archdiocese Won't Back Down – Antonia Blumberg (The Huffington Post, August 19, 2015).
Philly Archbishop Evicts LGBT Events Scheduled for World Meeting of Families; New Ways Ministry and Equally Blessed Respond – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, August 18, 2015).
Notre Dame Hosts "Gay in Christ" Conference Promoting Gay Celibacy – Eliel Cruz (Religion News Service, November 5, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Stop in the Name of Discriminatory Ideology!
The Real Meaning of Courage
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
Beyond Courage
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Be Not Afraid: You Can Be Happy and Gay
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men - A Discussion Guide
The Catholic Church and Gays: An Excellent Historical Overview
The Dreaded “Same-Sex Attracted” View of Catholicism
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part I)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part II)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part III)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part IV)
Somewhere In Between
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality
Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality

Image: Gregg Webb.

Photo of the Day

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – April 4, 2015
Photo of the Day – May 24, 2014
Photo of the Day – October 17, 2012

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Remembering and Honoring Dorothy Olinger

My dear friend Dorothy Olinger, SSND passed away on Monday. She was 92 and died peaceful in Mankato, Minnesota. As she had requested, her body had a natural burial at Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Above: With Darlene White (left) and Dorothy Olinger
– Minneapolis, October 18, 2014.

I last saw Dorothy at the Call to Action MN Fall Conference, which took place in Minneapolis last October. At this event, Dorothy was presented with CTA-MN's 2014 Leadership Award, and the following was said about her:

We honor Dorothy for her tireless work as teacher, mentor, organizer and passionate conveyor of the New Creation Story. For nearly 20 years, she was the guiding light of Global Education Associates Upper Midwest. In the early 1980s, Dorothy’s life was changed as she began to learn and internalize the work of the great geologian, Thomas Berry. She embarked on a journey of deepening her own understanding of this unfolding evolutionary story. And so, in the final career of her 70 years as a School Sister of Notre Dame, Dorothy directed the work of GEA where she was able to share the story that had become the passion of her life. . . . For many, she pioneered our journeys into this “new way of thinking” about the universe and our place within it. We are eternally grateful.

I was just one of many people who appreciated the opportunity that last October's CTA-MN conference provided to personally thank Dorothy for her pioneering work. As regular Wild Reed visitors may know, I recently developed a workshop on evolutionary spirituality entitled "Companions on a Sacred Journey" which I'm presenting to groups of local Catholics. Dorothy and her work were a real inspiration for me in learning about the "new universe story" of evolutionary spirituality, and thus in developing my workshop. Thank you, Dorothy!

In honor of Dorothy's inspiring life and legacy, I share this evening an excerpt from James Conlon's book The Sacred Impulse: A Planetary Spirituality of Heart and Fire. It's an appropriate excerpt to share as Dorothy beautifully embodied the "letting go" that Conlon says is the hallmark of all who move beyond the ego-self to become "cosmic people." Without doubt, Dorothy was a cosmic person; a person who through her spirituality of evolution joyfully modeled for many (myself included) the letting go of all that is narrow, rigid and stagnant so as to fully embody reverence, appreciation and the possibility of grasping what is truly real.

One of the great challenges for people today is to move from the self-enclosed "autistic" ego-self to become cosmic people. Their pain and struggle are also the energy source for fashioning a planetary community that is vital, compassionate, and whole. Such an undertaking requires that we face the challenges before us, realize within ourselves the energy necessary to move forward, embrace new ideas, and listen to the collective wisdom that bubbles up within us through the voices of Earth.

In classical theology, this spiritual path that we are being invited to embark upon is known as the via negativa, the negative way. It invites us to give up even denial and to open ourselves to the struggles of life. This spiritual practice takes us beyond the dark night of the institutional soul, the dark night of incipient despair that permeates our psyches, and the dark night of dismantled and misdirected leadership. To embrace the dark night of our times is to give up the illusion that we are in control of all dimensions of our life. To live into the via negativa is to allow ourselves to let go of many of the formational belief systems that we have inherited from our culture and our churches. To let go of a God who is fixed and distant. To let go of a tradition that claims to possess all truth and that imposes contradictions on our impulses and wholesome aspirations. To let go of a historical and static religion that sees incarnation, revelation, and crucifixion as events frozen in time. To let go of human arrogance and denominational superiority. To move beyond the inheritance of a world that has repressed our imaginations, fostered conformity, and denied radical restructuring.

Julian of Norwich reminds us that "seeing God cannot be a continuous experience." That is the nature of who we are. Meister Eckhart said, "Only those who let go can dare to reenter." In other words, unless you let go of your marriage, the marriage may not survive. Unless you let go of trying to be the teacher, nobody is going to learn. It's all about letting go and daring to reenter. We are both divine and finite. That is the paradox we are trying to live with. Our lives are marked by what we have let go of: relationships, jobs, places. In our spirituality of letting go, we learn reverence and appreciation. Letting go of illusion makes it possible to grasp what is truly real. In letting go of the enemy, we discover forgiveness. Letting go of self-centeredness and competition uncovers the possibility of gratitude and partnership.

. . . Our relationship to Earth is imperiled. . . . The planetary community is both collapsing and being born right now. We are all familiar with the long list of environmental ills: the greenhouse effect, the death of rain forest, toxic waste, topsoil depletion, species extinction, and on and on. Another predictable result of cultural collapse is fundamentalism. Whenever a culture dies, clarity gets lost. Things get muddy. People want answers that do not exist. That is why fundamentalism is so strong in times of cultural transition. It gives the illusion of clarity where it does not exist.

We need to allow the structures to die, whether they are ecclesial, political, educational, or medical. The paschal mystery is being reenacted in our midst: incarnation and death, but also resurrection. Things die, but life continues.
– James Conlon

For more on evolutionary spirituality, see the previous Wild Reed post:
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
In the Garden of Spirituality – Beatrice Bruteau
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ilia Delio
In the Garden of Spirituality – Judy Cannato
Divine Connection
Resurrection in an Emerging Universe
Resurrection: A New Depth of Consciousness
Earth Day 2015
Out and About – Autumn 2013

Monday, August 17, 2015

Remembering Julian Bond, 1940-2015: "Tireless Champion for Civil and Human Rights"


Above: An iconic image that anyone who has ever found themselves marginalized and/or denounced because of their commitment to justice and peace could relate to. It shows members of the Georgia House of Representatives voting to deny the newly-elected Julian Bond (center) his seat in 1966. The representatives voted 184-12 not to seat Bond because he had publicly endorsed opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court overturned their vote and Bond took his rightful place in the legislature. From 1967 to 1975, Bond was elected to four terms in the Georgia House, where he organized the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

I don't know if you can possibly measure his imprint. It’s extraordinary. . . . You can use the term 'giant,' 'champion,' 'trail blazer' – there's just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian Bond.

I was saddened to hear the news yesterday of the death of Julian Bond, the iconic civil rights pioneer and founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization for which he served as chairman for ten years. Bond was also a co-founder and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, and the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1998 to 2010. At the time of his death, Bond was 75. He died after a short illness resulting from complications of vascular disease.

The following statement by Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), provides a powerful testimony to Bond's life and legacy, with Dees noting that with Julian's passing "the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice."

We've lost a champion.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC's first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC's president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.

With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Julian is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children.

Not only has the country lost a hero today, we've lost a great friend.

Julian Bond was a strong and tireless advocate for LGBT rights. Just weeks before his death, he emphatically declared in an interview with Anderson Cooper that "gay rights are civil rights."

In October of 2009, on the eve of the National Equality March in Washington, DC, Bond shared in a Miami Herald op-ed why he was committed to being part of this march for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. At the time, I highlighted Bond's op-ed at The Wild Reed, as I was heartened and grateful for his words. I still am, of course. Indeed, Bond's whole life of service, activism, and visionary inclusion will continue to inspire me. Thank you, Julian.

It clearly inspires other gay people too. Washington Post correspondent Danielle Paquette writes that as Pamela Horowitz, Bond's wife of 24 years, was leaving the intensive care unit just after her husband's passing, a nurse stopped her to offer condolences.

Recalls Horowitz: "She told me, 'I want you to know it was a privilege to take care of him. As a gay American, I thought he was a hero.' And for her to say that, for her to be the last person who was with him, I thought it was a nice way to end."

Following is an excerpt from Julian Bond's October 2009 op-ed, "Rights Still Need to Be Won."

The civil rights struggle for legal equality in America today is no less necessary, nor worthy, than a similar struggle fought by blacks several decades ago. Now, as then, Americans are denied rights simply because of who they are. When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans gather in Washington Sunday for the National Equality March, they will invoke the unfulfilled promise in our Constitution that they, too, are due equal protection under the law.

I will join them in their march because I believe in their equality and believe in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that promises to protect it. I will join them because the humanity of all people is diminished when any class of people is denied privileges granted to others. I will join them because I know that when heterosexuals stand up and call for justice alongside their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters, the sooner justice will come.

In the ugly days of racial segregation, we had a dream. In August 1963 we came to Washington and declared that dream to the nation. Among us that day were LGBT Americans such as Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the ’63 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His homosexuality caused discomfort among some leaders of the day, and they played down his role in the march. But his heroic work has served as a model for civil rights organizers ever since.

We can no longer pretend that civil rights do not include rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Flimsy justifications for anti-LGBT bias are giving way to evidence that society is strengthened, not weakened, when LGBT people are given equal protection under the law. Where they are free to marry those they love, the sky has not fallen. Where they cannot be denied employment and housing simply because of who they are, the sky has not fallen. Where they serve nobly in the military without the burden of secrecy, the sky has not fallen. Rather, when all people are free to live up to their full potential, all of society benefits. Yet the United States still permits all these forms of discrimination. And this is why we must march. [Thankfully, Bond lived to see two of these forms of discrimination overturned in the US: the federal bans on gays serving openly in the military and on civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.]

My friend Coretta Scott King said in 2000: “Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination.” That is why the NAACP resolved several years ago that “we shall pursue all legal and constitutional means to support non-discriminatory policies and practices against persons based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or cultural background.”

– Julian Bond
October 2009

Above: A young Julian Bond with the great American singer, actor and social activist Paul Robeson. (Photographer unknown)

Above: Julian Bond in 1957 when his family moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia. (Family photo)

To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to help finance filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley's documentary Julian Bond: Reflections from the Civil Rights Movement, click here.

Above: Julian Bond and Martin Luther King cast their ballots to fill Bond's vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Atlanta on February 23, 1966. Bond was refused his seat because of his endorsement of a statement that charged the U.S. with committing aggression in Vietnam. A subsequent ruling of the Supreme ensured that Bond took his seat in the Georgia legislature. (Photo: AP)

Above: Georgia State Rep. Julian Bond on the streets of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on September 15, 1968.(Photo: AP)

Above: In this photograph by Vernon Merritt III, the Getty Images website identifies the man with whom Julian Bond (center left) is shaking hands at the 1968 Democratic National Convention as Bayard Rustin (1912-1987). I think this is incorrect. I believe Rustin is actually standing at far left behind Bond. Years later, Bond would note that Rustin's homosexuality "caused discomfort among some [civil rights] leaders . . . and they played down his role" in the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Yet Bond was always adamant in saying that Rustin's "heroic work has served as a model for civil rights organizers ever since."

At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Bond became the first African American nominated for U.S. vice president by a major political party. But he had to withdraw his name because he was just 28 years old — seven years too young to hold the second-highest elected office.

Above: Julian Bond at the Civil Rights Symposium in December, 1972. (Photo: LBJ Library)

Says Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Birmingham who helped Bond when he brought students to Alabama to visit civil rights sites: "I don't know if you can possibly measure his imprint. It’s extraordinary. It stretches his entire career and life in so many ways. That was, I think, his real calling in his later years was to make sure that history stayed alive so that people could understand the connection between 50 years ago and today. You can use the term giant, champion, trail blazer — there's just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian Bond.

Above: Julian Bond speaks at the "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement" panel at a summit in Austin, Texas in 2014. (Photo: Jack Plunkett/AP)

Writes Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post: "He strove to vanquish discrimination against anyone who knew oppression, his friends and family said, recently advocating for gay couples who wished to marry. He’d snap pictures with anyone on the street. He talked to the president.

Related Off-site Links:
Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond Dies at Age 75 After Brief Illness – Associated Press via The Guardian (August 16, 2015).
'Giant, Champion, Trail-Blazer': Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond Dies at 75 – Deirdre Fulton (Common Dreams, August 16, 2015).
Family, Friends and Obama Remember Julian Bond – Danielle Paquette (The Washington Post, August 16, 2015).
Julian Bond's Life in PhotosTime (August 16, 2015).
The Courage of Julian Bond – Garrett Epps (The Atlantic, August 17, 2015).
Julian Bond (1940-2015): Remembering Civil Rights Freedom Fighter Who Chaired NAACP, Co-founded SNCCDemocracy Now! (August 17, 2015).
9 Powerful, Thought-Provoking Julian Bond Quotes – Kenrya Rankin Naasel (Color Lines, August 17, 2015).
Julian Bond: Gay Rights Are Civil RightsThe Daily Kos (July 22, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond Will Be Marching Tomorrow For Gay Rights
The Same Premise
Separate is Not Equal
Quote of the Day – August 10, 2013
Marv Davidov, 1931-2012