tonight, i followed my recent christmas tradition of visiting a new church for one of their holiday services. a few years ago, i managed to pack in 3 services in one christmas, but this year it will just be the one. i’m not going to make it to meeting tomorrow, even.

tonight’s service was at a church in noe valley called holy innocents. i started my decision-making process based on churches that would be near where i was today and that had an early evening service that wasn’t at 5:00 because I wouldn’t be able to make it for that. i found 3 churches that fit those criteria, via google, and then i decided on this one, because it was a christmas pageant and because the website invites you to come early so you can get a costume.

as i walked through the mission at 5:30, i marveled at all the things that were closed. there was sort of a nice hush over things. i have mixed feelings about holidays, but i like moments that are set aside for coziness, nonetheless. i know it probably sucks for a lot of people who don’t celebrate christmas, but the idea of everyone being still on some level is appealing to me. perhaps that is judeochristianically oppressive of me…

the pageant was wonderful. it not only told the story of the birth in the manger, but also the story of the first christmas pageant, which they attributed to francis of assisi, and we all got to be involved, in costume or not. i was a strange stranger, in my bright yellow bert sweatshirt, with an ill-placed coffee stain on my pants, and a “michelle obama, first lady of fabulous” totebag, but i still felt welcome.

ever since christopher hitchens died, i’ve been doing some extra thinking about religion. it actually happened as i was starting karen armstrong’s the case for god, and if you know me, you know i’m a much bigger fan of armstrong than of hitchens. the way i think of it is that armstrong and hitchens are in opposite camps, not because one believes in god and the other didn’t, but because of their very different conceptions of what god even means and what the debate over religion is really about. because to me christopher hitchens and “the religious right” are on the same side, because they think god is about going to heaven and believing in impossible things. but for me, and from what i’ve read by armstrong, for her as well, god is about living in such a way that the kingdom of god can be here and believing in god is more about trusting in the possibility of that world. and that kingdom/world is not about others going to hell but about merciful, inclusive love and justice…

one of the ways to bring about that world involves discipline, as i am reminded over and over again by armstrong’s tracing of the history of faith. at one of my first quaker meetings, robin m. spoke about discipline. at the time, i thought she was being too hard on herself about whatever it was she was speaking about, and smugly thought discipline wasn’t that important. but the thing with god, for me, i think, is that… things can be fine without god, actually, but they are so much better with god (like sex and love). there is some anne lamott quote, i think, about how god is sort of found by accident, but prayer makes you accident-prone. and so that’s where the discipline part comes in. i’ve been using a method of prayer i found in a book by brent bill recently, and even though i’ve been extra-aware lately of my lack of discipline, i think i’m getting better.

as a quaker and as a liberal, i have mixed feelings about holidays. as a quaker because everyday is sacramental and as a liberal because our society’s main form of christianity is pretty oppressive. and then there’s the whole commercialism aspect etc. but man, i love light in the darkness. as a weak, undisciplined human i love it. every christmas tree in a window makes me smile, every christmas song on the radio (except “do they know it’s christmas,” ugh) makes my toes wiggle, and i’m wearing a red-and-green set of pajamas right now.

anyway, before i left the church, i took a final restroom break before getting on the bart to go home. the toilet paper was running out, and so i hunted down a new roll. and i thought about how sometimes that better, kingdom-of-heaven world that is possible, gets it start from small moments of discipline, like the ministry of putting on a new roll. that sounds potentially sardonic, but i don’t mean anything disrespectful. i mean, respecting the next stranger who comes along, having no idea who they will be.

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so this is what the volume knob’s for.

i’m reading sex god by rob bell right now. among other things. i read a lot of things at once. not at once exactly, but they’ve got bookmarks in them. i open them at least once a week.

rob bell is the guy who does the nooma videos, which robin m. introduced to our meeting about a year ago. they’re a mix of earnest and too clean, but they were definitely thought-provoking. it’s been exciting to read a book by him, even when i feel a bit like i’m being played. as someone who came to see a few of the nooma movies with us said, “this isn’t a movie; it’s a sermon.” and there are aspects of sermons that you learn from and there are parts where you just watch the person’s attempt to teach you and that distracts from your ability to hear it.

anyway, sex god is about sex and god. and in general, it’s smart and loving, two things i like in my sermons. but i was about midway through, and i was noticing a distinct lack of mention of homosexuality. and i got really curious, so i decided to go on the internet and google the words “rob” and “bell” and “homosexuality.”

and then i found myself in the magical land of homophobia! *sigh* not exactly the best way to end christmas night. i forget that people think this way sometimes. i forget that love is lost and forgotten, joy is completely out of the question, and bible-based self-righteous rage is all that is left.

and i am so permeable and malleable still. and that was the first i ever heard of homosexuality really. not from my family. my dad made some gay jokes, but i didn’t know that’s what they were. but when i was in high school and depressed anyway and then starting to come out and then suddenly BAM, i heard that the way i was feeling was a straight road to hell. and i’m having a mean ol’ case of baby fever these days, and the echoes of the way that traditional baby having is not possible in my case (and there is relief, of course. it’s a lot harder for queers to get accidentally pregnant than it is for straight people. but it also hurts.). and it was, you know, the middle of the night, and i just couldn’t stop reading, curling further into that high school angst and sadness.

but at some point fortunately, i remembered joy. i remembered it as something bigger than what was being talked about. i remembered that there might be words written that say that things that feel Right to me are Wrong, but that my gauge of Rightness vs. Wrongness is the joy in it. there is love where i live and it’s better for me than following rules that hurt. and that’s what i know.

in san francisco, there’s a group that’s called gay shame. they do a lot of anarchist action and graffiti and one day i saw a sign they’d made that said, “fags hate god.” and it was so obvious. if all you know is that god hates you, all you’re going to do is hate god. but… for me at least… there’s joy in god too. god is all truth and queerness is part of my understanding of truth. god is in my queerness. hating one is hating the other.

oh, right, back to rob bell. all i could find out from my reading is that no one knows what he thinks about homosexuality. that he keeps being vague about it. the people who sounded so angry were angry because it implied softness. i’m just nervous because not knowing is worse than knowing the worst. not that i need rob bell’s endorsement, but you know, when you’re reading a person’s books about how sex and god are linked, you kind of want to make sure you have the same definitions of sex.

Published in: on 27 December, 2007 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment