January 2012 Archives

After talking with one of the full-time chaplains where I do Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), I've put together a first draft of a gender variance 101 document for hospital chaplains. I welcome and encourage comments. Is there something I got wrong or could express better? Is there something else I could address?

You are also welcome and encouraged to post/forward/retweet/share this with others.

The document (a work in progress) is here: trans101.pdf

While this document is intended for a specific hospital, a generic finished version will be published here at a later date.

See also: When a Transgender Person Is in the Hospital

God's Protectors

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There are some really tough people out there. In fiction, we have people who are even tougher. There are heroes and villains who singlehandedly take on multiple adversaries and triumph.

There are also many examples of people who use teams of bodyguards, armies, or other groups of protectors. They may talk tough, but they need a lot of help/

For those who believe in a god, what is your god like? Does this god need to be protected from insults? From bad theology? From transgressions of god's law?

If so, what does that say about your god? Why does god need you for protection?

Whenever we punish others for saying or doing something we believe our god doesn't want, or for demeaning our god, or for misinterpreting what god says, I have to wonder how weak and vulnerable we are imagining our god to be. Maybe instead we are defending ourselves and our own understandings of god, because we are too weak and vulnerable to allow competing thoughts.

Be careful what you pray for

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If I have a resolution for 2012, it is this:

Stop praying for things I'm not willing to work for.
The usual phrase is "be careful what you wish for: you might get it." For me, it's "Be careful what you pray for: you might have to work for it." For all of the miracles in the books we call the Bible, I don't think life works like that very often.

If one were to pray for stronger muscles, would the expectation be that one morning the muscles would just be stronger? More likely, opportunities would present themselves for the muscles to be exercised.

One story I have often heard is about a person praying for patience, and then getting stuck in traffic and stopped behind freight trains.

My mistake was asking to trust God more.

Of course I didn't wake up trusting God more.

Instead, as a condition of my starting Clinical Pastoral Education, I had to have a Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella antibody titer test, which required a routine blood draw.

On Tuesday, December 27, a nurse and a physician made three attempts to come up with a single vial of blood. They came up with two partial tubes.

On Thursday, December 29, I got a call telling me the tubes were insufficient and I needed to come in for another draw, either Friday (December 30) by 4:00PM (I work until 5PM), or Monday (January 2) before 5PM.

I had Monday off, so I arrived at 1:45 PM to find they had closed at 1:00PM.

On Tuesday, January 3, a doctor and nurse made two more attempts to draw blood and failed. They told me a previous titer test would be ok.

On Wednesday, I called my physician's office. They couldn't find the records, but would search elsewhere. I got a call back that the records - from a previous physician - had been destroyed.

I'm starting to panic. [see that lack of trusting?] All of this HAS to be done by the 16th.

I look up my previous doctor on Google and it looks like she has relocated to Ohio. I'm hoping it's another doctor with the same name, but when I call her listed number, AT&T helpfully offers to connect me to a similar business as this number is disconnected.

This doesn't seem to be helping my trust.

I look up the physician who shared a practice with my prior physician and call her office. They have the records, and can FAX them to the place where I'm doing CPE. This gives me hope, but I still stop by the CPE site after work. They tell me it's not what they need and I will still have to give blood.

I'm losing hope. I share my worries with my spouse and with my friends on Facebook. I start to wonder if this isn't some kind of message to stop.

Thursday I have another appointment at the CPE site. Yet another doctor is going to attempt a blood draw, and he's going to try a little squiggly surface vein that has failed many times before (including one of the first draws in this saga).

I feel a pinch, and I hear and feel a little movement, and he mutters something and pulls the needle out. I know he too has failed.

The nurse shows me the full-to-the-brim vial.

Oh me of little faith.

We don't get magically stronger. We get stronger by exercising. Runners push themselves another few hundred feet. Weight lifters add a couple more pounds to what they're lifting.

What we often call "tests" might more properly be called "exercises". Our faith isn't tested so God knows how much faith we have. It's not even tested so we know how much faith we have.

Our faith is tested so that our faith may increase.

I'm going to try to remember that, when I'm praying for God to strengthen me, I'm really praying for tougher exercises.

Help! I'm being repressed!

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Compare this with the oppression in America:


"Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media, and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."

- Pat Robertson, 1993 interview with Molly Ivins

"But you take a look at the rhetoric, the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church."

- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in an interview with Fox News

"When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940's, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate."

- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago

"When I was talking, I was speaking out of fear that I have for the church's liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate, for which I'm sorry," George said. "I didn't realize the impact of what I was saying. ... Sometimes fear is a bad motivation."

- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago

The wealthy:
"It's a war," Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. "It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."

Steven Schwarzman, CEO, Blackstone Group


Here's a clue: reduction in privilege is not the same as oppression. The revolution was not oppression of King George. Emancipation was not oppression of slavers. The civil rights act was not oppression of racists. Women's suffrage was not oppression of men.

Though they apparently cannot see it, Evangelicals, Catholics, and the wealthy have a privileged place in America. They get most of what they want. But like a spoiled child, when things don't go their way, some people in these groups cry oppression.

Not getting everything one wants is not oppression. It's being part of the world.

Why I Keep Going

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When I was in elementary school, I always felt like an outsider. I was a boy who wasn't good at sports, and I was beat up regularly - not only by the known bullies, but also by those who were bullied.

At our church's youth group, other kids stole from me. Some were the same kids who beat me up in school.

At church, the leaders sometimes didn't know what to do with me, as I questioned Evangelical doctrine.

When I got to High School, I still didn't feel like I fit in. By then I also had a name for my feeling that I didn't fit into my gender.

I was doing volunteer work entering text for a small magazine when the womyn-born-wimmin-only signs went up at the women's collective.

All of these experiences (and more) taught me that I didn't belong, that I wasn't enough, that I shouldn't be trying to do whatever I was doing or being where I was. As I near fifty years of age, I'm still trying to overcome these feelings. They make me question whether I'm really called, whether I'm worthy, whether I am capable. I struggle with this every day.

And yet, these same experiences taught me that there are many people who feel they are on the margins - who have been told they're not talented enough, or attractive enough, or that something they've done makes them unacceptable, or that who they are is detestable.

The Jesus of my youth wanted us to believe in Him so we would be saved and go to Heaven. We had to have the right faith, of course, because error was how Satan got in, so our mental energy was spent on conforming with the Truth.

Gradually, I came to see Jesus whose efforts were to reach out to those outside of community and to restore them to their connectedness with others. And those people, once they found they were accepted and loved, reached out to others on the margins and outside.

I'm not Jesus. But I am one of those who has been brought back into community, first by a couple of self-help groups, then by the Chicago Lesbian Avengers, and then by three UFMCC churches and two United Church of Christ congregations. And as someone who has been brought back into community, it is my responsibility to reach out to others.

For me, that call sounds like creating new communities of faith that are closer to those created by the earliest followers of Jesus. I'm not really trying to get back to the roots of Christianity, though, or to say that there is something wrong with the mainline congregations and the megachurches. Instead, I'm seeing that these institutions effectively feed many - but not all - of the people who want to be part of Christian community. And so, for those who find it difficult to connect with those settings that are available, I believe there needs to be other choices.

While I'm still shaking off the messages that I don't belong, I'm feeling called to create a safe space for people who feel they don't belong. It's difficult to keep moving forward when I feel too small for the job, and yet, maybe that's what makes this call important and real to me: I can still feel the loneliness and rejection.

Sometimes I wish I had overcome these feelings, so that I could move with much more confidence toward the work I feel I need to do. But if I overcome these feelings, will I still know how important this work is?

So I keep going - not because I'm confident that I can do this work - but because I know the work needs to be done... for people like me.

Five Hopes for 2012

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Sally at RevGalBlogPals asked for a list of five hopes for 2012.

  1. That the world would be a little less selfish and a little more loving. Each step we make toward loving each other reduces violence, neglect, need, and suffering.

  2. That the USA would be a little less divided, and we would see each other more as siblings and less as the enemy other.

  3. That the church would focus a little more on the needs of people - for food, clothing, shelter, community, and education - and a little less on its own need to have its doctrine validated.

  4. That individuals who feel excluded, unloved, and disconnected would find a way to be a little more a part of a community and a little less apart from community.

  5. That I would have a little more faith that God is leading me where I should go and a little less fear that I won't be enough.

May you be blessed by whatever God, creative force, or physical laws govern your life.