Food

I refuse to moralize you
I refuse to fight you,
count you,
or categorize you as good or evil.
I’ll try not to restrict you
unless I absolutely have to.
I’ll make sure to invite you in
even during the times where
I feel
I don’t deserve you.
Because I can’t exist without you.

You are not my enemy.

I want to honor you,
in all your smells and tastes and textures,
with good preparation.
I will honor
where you come from
and honor the way
you bring people
into community.

You are sacred.
You are sacrifice.
You are life.

Staring at a blank page, banging my head against the wall

When I write about
not being abusive
to allies,
I get told that I’m oppressing the marginalized
and that allies should just sit down
and shut up.

And I wonder:
when did verbal abuse in social justice
become ok?

When I write about
not shaming those who can’t
march,
or call,
or who can’t speak out
because doing these things are not possible,
or could put them in danger,
I get told that my/their silence is assent.

And I wonder:
when did shaming and ableism in social justice
become ok?

When I write about the elephants
in the social justice room:
anti-semitism,
elitism,
holier-than-thou attitudes,
racism,
homophobia,
transphobia,
I don’t get told anything-
because
people who think they are doing all the right things
don’t want to be told that they might be doing
something wrong.

And I wonder:
when did social justice lose it’s
compassion?

It’s hard not to despair
when I want to write about these things
since all I see is that
we, collectively, are doing the work of
our oppressors

But,
I suppose
when you think about it,
when you
really, really
think about it:

Oppression is all we know how to do.

I am a Patriot

I woke up in November to a country
that wasn’t what I was promised
by my parents
by school
by Plymouth Rock and
Strawberry Bank.

No more Lady Liberty,
no more freedom of Religion,
no more melting pot,
no more School House Rock America.

And yes, this was the Beautiful Dream.
A dream that wasn’t true for many,
but we could dream it,
All of Us

But there is no more love for Patriots.
(No, not the football team, or what the GOP
calls as Patriot.)
I’m talking about Patriots:
Those who love our country enough to march in the streets,
throw tea over the sides of boats,
to conscientiously object to their government,
the ones who say,
“NO!” one more time
because they wake up one morning to an America that isn’t their’s anymore.

I want to be a Patriot
It’s there in my heart
I want to free this country from an ideology and theology that kills people
and help it find it’s compassion again.

But it’s hard to be a Patriot
when half the country wants you dead because of who you love
or the color of your skin
or because of the religion that you practice.
It’s hard to be a Patriot when half the country believes that true patriotism
is bigotry and xenophobia.
It’s hard to be a Patriot when members of my own family believe that true patriotism is
bigotry, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

I want to be a Patriot.
I really do.
But how can I be a Patriot,
how can I even say the Pledge of Allegiance,
when the dream of America,
the Great Experiment,
is dead?

Moving and Moving Forward

Most of you know by now that the wife and I are moving to the Chicago area in March. There’s a lot of feelings around this move for me: excitement, fear, stress, wonder, and grief. It’ll be sad to leave the Bay Area as we’ve both lived here for over 10 years, built a witchcraft tradition, and made many many wonderful friends. That is definitely the hardest part about this move.

But we’ve also both realized that it’s time for change. We’ve both been a bit stuck creatively, and this will give us a chance to start some things over and try new things: creatively, spiritually, and overall. We’ll be meeting new people, trying new things, and dealing with seasons again. We’ll be closer to the east coast, which will allow us to reconnect with my family and friends from that side of the continent.

It will be different, and we’re both pretty ok with that.

For me, I’ll be figuring out new directions for my ministry and my creative endeavors. The biggest realization I’ve had over the last 6 months is that it’s time to let go of This Week In Heresy. I had originally stopped because I was burnt out. I felt like I was having a lot of the same conversations, just with different people. Finding new interviews had become a chore, not fun or interesting. But as the “hiatus” lengthened into November and December, I realized that TWIH wasn’t going to come back. I have some ideas for other media ventures, and maybe some new podcast-like things, but TWIH is not one of them. The website will stay up as an archive of the interviews I’ve done as they are still a great resource and are still awesome. I don’t regret doing the podcast at all, and it was really cool while I was still into it, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s time to move on to something new.

I’ll still be writing on this blog (and my Dreamwidth blog) and since I’m not doing the podcast anymore, you’ll probably see me write here more. I’m also working on another writing project that I’m not sure when it will be done, but it’s interesting and I like it a lot. I’m also really busy coordinating all the moving stuff on the California side, while the wife is sorting out stuff on the Chicago side.

It’s funny how you know it’s time to move on to something new, and while it will be sad to leave here, I know (and the wife knows) that it’s time.

On Grief

There’s been a lot of discussion about grief since the election: what is “proper” grief, when to get over grief, and people denying the grief of others. Two months ago, this post would have probably just been a rant about not telling people how to grieve, but then my friend Bubby Jerimyah D’Luv died suddenly.

And the grief over the election fell into grief over Jerimyah. I lit my candle for him, and wore my rainbow socks to his memorial. I was his friend, but I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with him. But I have my memories of the times we did spend together. Going to Hobbee’s. Doing the body acceptance workshop. The look of happiness on his face when I went to visit him in the hospital and we talked about going swimming together sometime.

“What is remembered lives,” I said at the memorial.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, one of the Mothers of Refuge, Emerald O’Leary, passed. So, grief again. She was a sassy Irish lady, who was an amazing artist. One year at Easter she, with the other artists at Refuge, made Easter hats. She came up to me right before service and handed me this glorious hat saying I should wear it for service. So I did (the picture is on my Facebook page, so there’s proof!). There was a lot I didn’t know about her, but what I do know, I cherish.

I lit my candles for her, too, and remembered that she, too, will live because we remember her.

And then, this week, my friend Cynan passed away. He was always a gentleman and a big bear of a man. He was mostly a friend, but we also some adult fun with each other a bit in the first few years I was in the Bay Area. I remember hanging out with him and his wife in their apartment a long time ago, with Cynan in his big chair and Kim in hers. I don’t even remember why I had gone over that day, but it sticks in my memory. I remember him singing in the hallways at Pantheacon, and smiling as I heard his voice down the hall. He also gave amazing hugs, and you knew you were hugged. We hadn’t talked as much in the last few years, except at cons and parties if he was there, but he was always present when he was in the room, which I can’t really explain much better than that.

I’ve been lighting candles for him, too.

Which also brings me to the fact that we’re moving to Chicago at the end of February. Today I realized, that there’s grief there, too. We’ll be leaving friends and the coven to start something new in a new place. It’s exciting in the fact that things will be new (and I’m looking forward to seasons and summer thunderstorms again), but it’s also sad to be leaving what we have here.

And when we’re in Chicago, I know I’ll be lighting my candles for that grief when I get my altar set up.

I’ve studied a lot about grief, since working with those who are dying is part of my vocation. In fact, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ work is something that I’ve studied in depth. But I think that there’s a lot of people who really misunderstood her work on the stages of grief, and if you read her books, you’ll see that she explicitly states many times that the stages of grief are not a straight line. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are non-linear. Sometimes a person may not even go through one of the stages, or experience more than one at a time. It’s a huge misunderstanding to expect someone to just go through the stages and be done with their grieving in a set period of time.

What Kübler-Ross tries to explain in her work, and what I’ve experienced myself in working with those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and in my own grief, is that you need to respect the grieving process. It doesn’t matter what the person is grieving over, either. Whether it’s a loved one, a pet, the election, a celebrity, or even a sportsball loss. No matter the source, the grief is real.

We’ve been taught, in American society at least, that our grief should be something that we hide, or if we don’t “get over it” quickly we’re somehow mentally ill, or being stupid. It’s worse if someone is grieving over a pet, or a celebrity, or something others deem not worthy of any extended period of grief.

I think that what we’ve been taught is wrong.

I think that not showing our grief, wailing, crying, singing laments, or being denied the ability to publicly express our grief is wrong.

So I give all of you who are grieving, no matter what you are grieving, the permission to cry out loud, to shout, to rage, to sing, to wail, to write, to do anything you need to express that grief. I give you permission to grieve whether someone else thinks it silly or not. I give you permission to not talk about your grief, to hermit, to be alone in your grief. I give you permission to grieve for as long as you need to. I give you permission to grieve publicly, in community, and if I am there to witness your grief, I will make sure you are allowed that space without someone bothering you or telling you that your grief is invalid.

And I will give myself this same permission, because I am grieving, too.

To the Conservatives and Trump voters who follow me or know me:

I posted this to a conservative sf/f author’s website today. They have talked many times about feeling “othered” in the sf/f community because they’re conservative, even though they’re LGBTQA affirming (including writing many books about LGBTQA/gender-queer romances, etc). I’m posting it here, too, for those conservatives who have been saying today “But, I didn’t vote for Trump because of his racism/sexism/homophobia!”

“People like me, moderate liberals who would like to compromise across the gap, are scared this morning. And, I think, rightfully so….

I wasn’t sure I was going to write this to you, but in the interest of understanding, I thought I should. I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time, and I know, you, personally, support LGBTQA folks. I know, through your blog here, that you’re conservative, and really, that doesn’t bug me much since I grew up in New England and so I’m a more middle of the road Democrat and I think that compromise is a good thing.

That being said, and I know you’ve felt backlash from this, is that the “conservative” party leaders that are now in power, have, for years, actively been against the basic civil rights of LGBTQA people. It’s written into the party platform. And, while I wish more conservatives like you were in power, they’re not. Conservatives that want to compromise have been basically run out. The unfortunate side effect, though, is that if you do openly support the party, you’ll be seen with suspicion. I truly believe that groups are not monoliths, and that we need to remember that not all of the individuals in the group support everything about the GOP, etc., but I hope that you understand that there are so many people terrified that their civil rights are going to fly out the window in the next year, that they are seeing the monolith, not the individuals.”

In another post in another forum, I also said:

If you don’t want to be labeled as such, prove it. Put your leaders feet to the fire about racism, sexism, and homophobia. Get other folks who voted for Trump to tell their congresspeople to make sure that all people’s civil rights are important, not just white people’s rights (and yes, that includes Muslims and transgender people). Prove to me that you actually will hold them accountable and that they are actually following Jesus, who fed the poor, helped the sick, and other marginalized people. Because, what you’re seeing today is the real fear of people worried that their families will be spit up, people deported, etc.  You may have had anger at the establishment, but what cost will the anti-establishment anger have? We don’t know yet…

The pragmatist in me wants to believe that the Constitution will do it’s magick and keep things from being colossally bad. I want to have hope that there will be so much in-fighting in Congress that none of Trump’s campaign promises will get done.

Honestly, I’d rather not have to be wary (or fearful) of half of my fellow Americans. I want to be able to feel as if this country is still the “Home of the Free and Land of the Brave” still. But today, I just can’t feel that way.

Again, if you’re a Trump supporter or conservative, as I said earlier, I invite you to prove me wrong. If you want me to believe you, then show me that you truly believe that EVERYONE deserves to have their civil rights respected. Show me that you’ll be holding your congresspeople accountable to ensure freedom and justice for ALL, not just white cis-gendered, Christian heterosexuals. If you truly believe that you’re not a bigot, then prove it by making sure my civil rights (and those of Muslims, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQA people, Mexicans, and others) aren’t left to a popular vote, but guaranteed by law.

Your anger at the establishment is valid, heck, I have it, too. But right now, as I said earlier, what cost will it have?

Make a plan and VOTE on Nov. 8

Friends,

We’re in the last few days of this election. At this point, most folks will know who I’ve voted for and who I support.

But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you make a plan and make sure you vote on or by November 8. If you haven’t turned in your vote-by-mail ballot, make sure you do so, or make a plan to drop it off at a polling place on election day. If you’re voting in person, make a plan as to how you’ll get to the polls on Tuesday. If your state still has early voting this weekend, go for it and bring your friends.

If you’re in Santa Clara county, polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm. If you’re in line before 8 pm, you’ll still be able to vote.

Know your rights at the polls! If you are harassed, or if someone is looming over you or trying to look over your shoulder, let the election officials know! If you’re an election officer, don’t let anyone try to intimidate your voters!

Overall, let’s take a deep breath and get this over with so we can move forward.

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Jesus

“No, no…pleases don’t fall asleep! I’d like to have this conversation.” He said, as I was typing in my bed. I was tempted to nap right then, but I did want to write. I turned on my Hated Bands playlist and invited Him to have a seat.

He laughed. “It’s easy for people to hate what they don’t understand, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Definitely. Or to think someone is evil because they like something you don’t.”

He gave me that look.

“Okay, Okay! Guilty. But, seriously, how can people like Trump and say they believe in You? How can they say they believe in You, when they are generally being discriminatory, racist, white supremacist, homophobic, transphobic and more? I mean, people really believe that they need to take up weapons to fight these things in Your name!”

He grinned, but His eyes were sad.

“My words have become Rome. They are not what I taught then, but I can’t help what My words and My actions became. Humanity has used what I’ve taught for their own ends. There is only so much I can do as an Ancestor and Deity. You all have to own your own mistakes and find the compassion to forgive them…eventually. Humans are good at torturing themselves and hurting themselves. You should know that by now.”

I nodded. “Yes, we tend to do ourselves in quite handily.”

We sat in silence for a bit.

“There is hope, though.” he said.

“Is there?”

“Oh yes! It’s in your art and film. There are stories of humanity’s great awakening by more than one author. There is, somewhere in the human psyche, a need to believe that some day we’ll move past our hatred and violence, or at least make it so that the violence and oppression are unacceptable and that learning, art, music, compassion, love are normal instead of the exception.”

I nodded. Yes, we have a lot of that, and a lot of the art I consume is of that. “But we’re far from that place,” I said.

“Yes, that’s true. It’s like any wound: you have to go through a lot of pain and discomfort until it goes away. The unfortunate thing is that you were born in the middle of the pain, so it seems like things will never get better.”

“Really? You mean it will get better?”

He smiled sadly. “Eventually.”

That didn’t really inspire hope, but I have always had at least a little in my heart.

“That’s the spirit!” He said, as he stood up to leave. “I have hope that you will continue to spread the teachings of love and hope. It doesn’t even have to be in My name. I’ll tell you a secret: My hope was always to make people see others as human beings, to see themselves in others. It was never any more than that, really. The religion isn’t important, but that is.”

He left the room while “Sympathy for the Devil” was playing…

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Ereshkigal

“You humans are very strange creatures,” She said as She sat down.

I took a sip of my cocoa. “I can’t argue with You about that. We tend to do a lot of weird stuff to each other and to our planet. We are stubborn, willful, quick to anger, but then we can be full of compassion, joy, and happiness.”

“Well, yes, that’s very true.” She paused. “But your species doesn’t learn very well from it’s past, does it?”

“No, unfortunately.”

“You all come through My realm, one way or another, and yet you never seem to listen to the Ancestors that came before you. They leave you books and pictures and art and music, and still there are those who willfully ignore or deny the atrocities done. They deny the signs of those who would only seek power for their own ends and feed on the hatred of others. They would willingly ignore the human race’s ability to change and adapt based on perceived notions of a lack of perfection in word and deed.”

I grimaced behind another sip of cocoa. I was rather glad that this conversation was in my head rather than physically real. Then again, I suppose if Ereshkigal became visible in the coffee shop, it would make things rather interesting.

She raised Her eyebrow at me.

I quickly answered:

“Some believe that it is only through perfection that we can change society. Others believe that we can only get to You and the other Gods through perfection. They believe that if we make mistakes somehow we’re not good enough. And, I think, sometimes some of us will shame and degrade others for mistakes long after the mistake was made and learned from.”

“What do you believe?”

“Well, I believe…I….” I stumbled.

“Do you not have an opinion?”

“I do…it’s just that…well…it’s not very popular…”

She raised her eyebrow at me again. “Priest.” She reminded me.

I took a deep breath. Right.

“I believe that demanding perfection from each other actually does more harm than good. If we don’t take the time to explain to someone who makes a mistake out of ignorance what they’ve done wrong, there’s no room for change. If we just tell someone they’re a horrible person and that they should just sit down and shut up, then all that does is build resentment.”

“And what of those who do it out of malice?”

“Well,” I said, “sit down and shut up can be a bit more effective then. I think there are some people I won’t be able to change.”

She laughed. “No, you can’t change everyone. You can’t change anyone unless they see the need to change.”

“But what about people’s anger?” I said, frustrated. “How can I acknowledge someone’s very real feelings around their oppression, but call them out on their lack of compassion towards those who want to learn and grow? I mean, I get that people get sick of educating people. I get tired of it, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to back away and just leave it alone!”

The Queen of the Underworld looked at me for a moment with sad eyes, then stood up to walk around the room. She stood behind the Latinx couple with a baby.

“Their daughter will get bullied and they will not be able to find an apartment because of their skin color and speech.”

She moved to stand next to the white man at his computer. “He doesn’t know his privilege, but he makes donations to charities every year because he can take it off his taxes.”

She moves to the white man and Asian looking man talking. “They are friends and meet here often. They both have conflicts of faith.”

Then she stood next to a teenage girl. “She knows that the world is wrong right now, and yet she will be a beacon of hope and change as she gets older.”

She wanders around standing near people and showing me their pasts and futures. Their humanity, their oppressions, their privileges, their struggles.

“They will all learn what they need to learn in this life. You are one teacher in a sea of teachers that they will come across. You don’t necessarily need to acknowledge their oppressions, but you need to absolutely acknowledge their humanity.”

I nodded.

“Remember what the Morrigan told you: you cannot save them all. And sometimes Death, in Spirit or in Fact, is a mercy, not a punishment.”

I nodded again. She sat down again.

I tried to think of something else to say, but my words were failing me.

She touched my face. “Don’t worry, my love, when they come to me, they will finally learn. It is not your place to demand perfection, but is is your place to try and emulate that which you hold dear. You will fail sometimes, but if you can tell me that you did the best you could when you arrive at My Gates, then I would be satisfied.”

I nodded.

“Yes,” She said as She got up to walk away, “You humans are very odd creatures.”

Midnight Epiphanies

I have never been a good scholar. Oh, sure, I’ve written scholarly essays that gave me the grades I needed to pass the classes that I was in, but when it comes to scholarly concepts (especially when it comes to the human condition), I fail. I fail at getting the words right. I fail at being the person that the other social justice scholars think I should be. I even tried writing a book that talked about all of these concepts of privilege, oppression, intersectionality, and all of the other concepts that I’m supposed to know as an educated feminist. Even in that, I failed, because I know that there are other people out there who can explain them much better than I can.

Yet, here I am, after reading essays by bell hooks, in the middle of the night, writing an essay about my failures as a social justice scholar. Or, to be more accurate, my failure to be a scholarly social justice writer. My wife, who is as much my priest as she is my wife, suggested to me that I read those authors who write passionately. My mind thought of all the Womanist theologians who inspired me through seminary (and while I am not black myself, I found Womanist theology a breath of fresh air after reading the droning that is white feminist theology in my seminary days), and my brain connected “bell hooks” with “you should read her work.” So I fired up my Kindle, downloaded several of her works, and started reading “remembered rapture: the writer at work.”

And here I am, writing, in the middle of the night about my failure as a scholarly writer.

I’m still a theologian, though. I think about religion and spiritual matters all the time. It makes me hope that even though I won’t be scholarly in my writing, with mounds of footnotes that reference Rahner, or Tillich, or Spong, or any of the other classical or modern theologians, that the theology police won’t come and confiscate my theologian card. Frankly, regular, scholarly theology can be incredibly dull to me. They have the same conversations over and over again about the same few topics using twenty-five dollar words in 1100 pages, when, in my mind, they could have edited it down to about 100 pages and moved on with more important things. I felt this especially true when I was reading white feminist theologians (although, I think I can forgive them for it since in the misogynistic world of academia, women are forced to go above and beyond to prove their sincerity).

I could go on about my gripes with modern scholarly theology, but that’s not really why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this essay.

No, I’m up in the middle of the night because I’ve had an epiphany about my own writing.

I am just not a scholarly writer, hence the talk about my failure as a scholarly writer. You see, I wrote a book about radical inclusion. It was filled with explanations about the concepts I mentioned earlier: privilege, intersectionality, etc. All of that stuff about social justice that I’ve learned over the years and talked with many people about on my podcast. This book goes into very specific details about what I think is wrong in the Pagan community, and my ideas about how to bring in radical inclusion, or, at least, a set of questions one can use to bring radical inclusion from the head to the heart (as Bishop Flunder of City of Refuge would say). I poured out 25000 words into a document that I then sent to others to read.

But if I’m honest with myself, there was something about it, even in my excitement of having written it (or really, having written 25000 words on anything at all). I knew in the back of my mind that it was a failure. I could feel that there was something missing, something not quite right. I wasn’t seeing something in it that I felt should have been obvious. I thought that maybe I was too close to the writing and that I needed others to read it to help me find out what I was missing.

When the first comments came in, especially the more pointed and honest ones, imposter syndrome and depression hit me really hard. At first I was defensive. When I talked with my wife about the comments, she helped me put them in perspective, since many of them were very valid commentary about my own privilege and knowledge. I took a look at my own defensiveness, did some work around my depression and imposter syndrome, and left the commentary to sit for awhile. When I looked at it again, I realized that it was all true. It wasn’t the fault of the people giving me their comments, far from it, it was my own. And tonight, the epiphany is that I tried to write something “how to” and scholarly, which I’m not good at. As I said, there are many people who can, and do, write about these topics in a scholarly and explanatory way much better than I can.

The second half of this epiphany came earlier today when I asked my wife about which writing she thought was my best. She told me that it was the writing I did when I Spirit was coming through and when I wrote about the things I’m most passionate about. When I thought about it, I knew she was right. All of my blog rants, prose pieces about deities and spiritual experiences, human stories around my faith and belief, those were the things that always felt “right” when I wrote them. They were the pieces that felt the most satisfying to me when I put them out into the world.

If I really think about it, I’m more of a works versus faith type of theologian. I’m more interested in how spirit moves through us. In how people use spirit for good and in observing the ways humans interact with each other. For example: I could explain radical inclusion by citing scholars and theologians in a massive tome, or I could tell you a story about a young autistic boy who gave me a hug at the doctor’s office and the mother’s profound relief that I not only accepted that hug, but treated him like a human being instead of a freak. The first I’m miserable at. The second, however, still tugs at my emotions and makes me want to write.

I’m a scholarly failure, and I’m actually rather OK with that.

It only took 25000 words, my wife, some beta readers, and a bell hooks essay for me to figure this out.

And one late night (or early morning) essay writing session for me to really believe it.

(This post was written in the wee hours of the morning of September 23, 2016)