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)

The New Sound Of Pentecost — City of Refuge UCC, January 31, 2016

(This was written for my church family at City of Refuge UCC for their last Sunday of their Consecration Month which had the theme “Sounds of Pentecost.” It was read today, January 31, at the their regular service.)

The first time I came to Refuge, I had a vision. Everyone was up at the front laying hands on someone who needed healing, while I stayed in my seat because I was being shy. I was waiting to see what the Spirit of Jesus looked like at Refuge, because most churches have a particular way Christ manifests in their church. Now, in most churches, it’s one large Christ that looks over the congregation.

But, as we all well know, City of Refuge is different. There wasn’t just one Jesus over the Church, there were many. Each person had Christ with them, and each one looked different, depending on the person He was looking over. That vision was when I knew I had to be at Refuge and to learn from everyone there. It was my own personal vision of Pentecost through all of you who were there the first time I came to service.

I know I haven’t been able to come to Refuge for awhile, but the Pentecostal Gift that is City of Refuge lives in my heart, lives in my soul, lives in my spirit. I hope I was able to show you all that even though I am Wiccan and come to Christ through different means, that He is the one who is speaking through my practice. That He helps guide my soul through love, compassion, healing, and inclusion. And because of all of you at Refuge, I am now channeling that sound of Pentecost through my own work of teaching radical inclusion in the Pagan community. Because through you I learned that even if we call Spirit by different names, that love, that compassion, that healing speaks through all of us.

And what I saw that day was a true vision, because we all have different words to talk about Christ. We don’t all see Him in quite the same way, but we all know His love. We all know when He’s talking through someone, even if how we see Him isn’t the same as the person who is sitting next to us. We can hear it in the praise of the singers. We can hear it when someone talks in tongues because the Spirit has come upon them. We can feel it from the person who is praying quietly in the corner. We feel it in the drum. We can see it when the people dance. We ARE Christ for each other, even if we are far apart.

Those of us who work for radical inclusion, radical hospitality, radical love, and radical justice ARE the new Sound of Pentecost. I believe we, all of us who speak of love, compassion, and justice, we ARE the Coming of Christ in our time. We ARE His voice and His fire. We ARE his hands and his feet. WE are the Common Christ. This is the strongest magick we possess and it is the strongest spell in all the Universe.

So Mote It Be and Amen

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