Monday, May 16, 2011

an invitation

If you haven't already heard, consider this your invitation.

The inaugural Wild Goose Festival is happening at Shakori Hills camp ground, not far from where I live here in Durham, North Carolina. Here is how the folks putting on the festival describe it:

The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation.
In adopting the image of the Wild Goose we recognize that in the current climate of religious, social and political cynicism, embracing the creative and open nature of our faith is perhaps our greatest asset for re-building and strengthening our relationships with each other, with our enemies, with our stories, our texts, and the earth. In that spirit, in a festive setting, and in the context of meaningful, respectful, and sustained relationships, we invite you to create with us!
They have worked hard to put together a lineup of folks to engage, encourage, and challenge. The speakers and musicians include Beth Neilsen Chapman, Michelle Shocked, Rev. James Forbes, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Jay Bakker, David Wilcox, Derek Webb, T-Bone Burnett, Jim Wallis, Tom Prasada-Rao, Over the Rhine, Billy Jonas, Nancy Sehested, Shane Claiborne, Vince Anderson, Aaron Strumpel, Vincent Harding, Liz Janes, Agents of the Future, Denison Witmer, Alexie Torres-Fleming, John Dear, Pete Rollins, Richard Twiss, William Barber, Ed Dobson, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Diana Butler-Bass, Jim Forbes, Lynne Hybels, the Lee Boys, Ashely Cleveland, Andy Gullahorn, Sarah Masen, the Reading Brothers, Lawson and Lobella, David LaMotte, Chip Andrus, Marcus Hummon, David Boone, Rich Hordinski, Tracy Howe Wispelway, Darkwood Brew, Chuck Marohnic, Trent Yaconelli, David Bazan, Dudley Delffs, Anna Clark, Karen Bjerland, Nathan George, Nelson Johnson, Scott Teens, Tony Campolo, Soong-Chan Rah, Doug Pagitt, Donald Shriver, Peggy Shriver, Matt Pritchard, Sean Gladding, Bart Campolo, Frank Schaeffer, Peterson Toscano, Gareth Higgins, Derrick Tennant, Mark Yaconelli, June Keener Wink, Joyce and Peter Majendie, Ted Swartz, Angela Carlson, and Vic Thiessen. (Sorry -- I couldn't bring myself to make all the links.)

The design of the festival is conversational. We will gather around stages and camp sites and meals to talk about how faith and justice and art and love weave together.


Wild Goose Festival - June 23 - 26, 2011 - Shakori Hills Farm, NC from Wild Goose on Vimeo

You can sign up here.

Come join me.

Peace,
Milton

Sunday, May 15, 2011

sunday sonnet #29

“Called as partners in Christ’s service”
sings quite easily as a hymn,
but we begin to get quite nervous
when the reality sets in

of what it means to live together
like our predecessors back in Acts:
bonded by a faithful tether,
always having each other’s backs.

Sounds good – but it can get real tough
when the conversation turns to cash
and making sure we all have enough
means I have to share my private stash.

"They’ll know we are Christians by our love"
means we have to learn to share our stuff.

Peace,
Milton

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

an open letter to jim wallis

Dear Mr. Wallis:

Yesterday, you published a post on your blog articulating why your magazine refused to publish an ad from the “Believe Out Loud” campaign, which calls for the full inclusion of LGBTQ folks in our congregational life. In explaining your choice you said, in part:

But these debates have not been at the core of our calling, which is much more focused on matters of poverty, racial justice, stewardship of the creation, and the defense of life and peace. These have been our core mission concerns, and we try to unite diverse Christian constituencies around them, while encouraging deep dialogue on other matters which often divide. Essential to our mission is the calling together of broad groups of Christians, who might disagree on issues of sexuality, to still work together on how to reduce poverty, end wars, and mobilize around other issues of social justice.
As one who grew up Southern Baptist and found Sojourners to be people who stretched and challenged my concept of who I was called to be in this world as a follower of Christ, I am deeply disappointed by your words because they lack the courage and conviction that I’ve seen in your work for justice over the years. I’m sorry to see you, well, play politics and play it safe. At least that’s how it feels to me -- and I know from reading just a few of the comments on your blog that I am not the only one that feels this way. Had the issues regarding equal acceptance and equal marriage were being drawn along racial lines, would you have written the same paragraph?

Last week on Grey’s Anatomy, Callie, one of the doctors who was about to get married, and who was also lesbian, was doubting herself and her commitment to the one she loved because her parents had walked out on the wedding since “the church” would not sanction it. Miranda, one of my favorite characters, challenged her to stay true to her commitment. “The church has a lot of catching up to do with God,” she said. Her words rang in my ears as I read your post.

You are falling behind.

None of us has the luxury of deciding what parts of God’s calling we are going to live out. I understand that we all have interests and abilities that perhaps lead us into one area or another with greater emphasis, but cannot decide, as you have done, that we won’t take up an issue because it’s too controversial or it might affect our ability to raise awareness – or funds – in other areas. Your work in fighting against the injustice of war and poverty is important and valuable. Yet how can we deal only with economic poverty and not come to terms with the spiritual bankruptcy that allows us to discriminate against GLBTQ folks in Jesus’ name? If we, who have the choice to say it doesn’t affect us or it is not our top concern, do not make it a vital issue in our lives how will things ever change? You advocate for the poor because you know their voices will not be heard on their own. Does that stance not demand a universal application?

You are right to think that taking a stand will cost you. Trying to not have to take a stand will cost you more. I also understand, as you say, that not all of us who call ourselves Christian agree on this issue, just as Christians have been divided each time they have had to catch up with God when it comes to including and loving one another. At this crucial intersection of faith and justice, please don’t settle for playing it safe. Whatever you deem your priorities, who knows that you are in this world for such a time as this.

Peace,
Milton

Monday, May 02, 2011

fearless love

I went to sleep last night after hearing President Obama announce the killing Osama bin Laden and woke up to any number of blog posts and commentaries already written. You people need less sleep than I do – and I’m running on fumes. Those of us who love to put words to paper find moments such as this begging for us to write something while, at the same time, I wonder what I have to say that will add constructively to the virtual Tower of Babel filling everything from Facebook to Twitter to the Huffington Post. My reality is writing is part of the way I process what I see happening in the world and in my life. Though I would love to feel that I am saying something original and profound, I’m willing to own that I’m mostly writing to help me sort things out and choosing to do that in conversation with whomever chooses to join in because I believe we sort things out better together than on our own.

Osama’s death doesn’t change much of anything as far as I can tell. Even early this morning, one of the headlines at the Huffington Post talked about the possibility of reprisals from Al Qaeda. We are not safer because we killed him. We will still have to take off our shoes at the airport, still spend a ridiculous amount of money on national defense, still have to listen to our politicians whip themselves (and us) into a frenzy of fear to try and get elected as the one who can protect us. We are still running scared. Some have talked about his death as closure for what happened on 9/11, but their statements beg the question as to what is being closed. The grief is not over. His death replaces no one, nor does it measure us as some sort of equitable revenge. Ghandhi’s oft-quoted words find particular resonance today: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Nothing is solved or healed or bettered by killing Osama. We got revenge, not justice. The satisfaction will be short-lived.

I am left particularly incredulous by those who chose to “celebrate” his death, particularly those who clothed that celebration in Christian terms, as though this was some sort of victory for Jesus – that would be the same Jesus who said, unequivocally, “Love your enemies.” I’m pretty sure assassination was not one of the ways he imagined that love being expressed. Osama’s death is not a religious victory not a triumph of Christianity over Islam. We are not in a holy war. Our nation has chosen to participate in an increasing spiral of violence the consequences of which are far from over. Bin Laden didn’t represent Muslims any more than Fred Phelps or Terry Jones speak for all of Christianity. His presence and actions in the world called us to check our character and our resolve as Christians to show whether or not we are willing to follow Jesus in difficult and dangerous days. We appear to be about as reliable as Peter in the courtyard.

Here’s the part in the post where I begin feeling the creeping resignation that those who share similar views will read on and those who don’t will either stop reading or take time to send some sort of comment to tell me I am idealistic or na├»ve and even God knows there comes a time when you have to open a can of Whup-ass on those whom you see as enemies. I despair because most of the posts I read today – and perhaps this one – weren’t written with the expectation of a genuine conversation about how to live out our faith. We are writing to be heard more than we are writing to listen, which is the way in which Christianity in America has become most acculturated: we operate by the same polarizing, violent rules of conversational engagement that paralyze our country.

Since early this morning I have had a David Wilcox song on my mind called “Show the Way.” The opening verses say,

you say you see no hope
you say you see no reason we should dream
that the world would ever change
you're saying love is foolish to believe
'cause there'll always be some crazy
with an army or a knife
to wake you from your day dream
put the fear back in your life
look, if someone wrote a play
just to glorify what's stronger than hate
would they not arrange the stage
to look as if the hero came too late
he's almost in defeat
it's looking like the evil side will win
so on the edge of every seat,
from the moment that the whole thing begins
it is love who makes the mortar
and it's love who stacked these stones
and it's love who made the stage here
although it looks like we're alone
in this scene set in shadows
like the night is here to stay
there is evil cast around us
but it's love that wrote the play
for in this darkness love can show the way
As I spoke of this song, a friend reminded me of another Wilcox song written when the AIDS epidemic was the designated dividing line among Christians called “Fearless Love.” The song tells the story of someone in a protest stand-off between the two sides. The verbal violence escalates to someone throwing a stone and hitting a man who was HIV postitive on the head and causing him to bleed. The person holding the sign of judgment was then confronted with what to do about the bleeding person at his feet.
your mind snaps back to where you stand
your church is here to fight a cause
and at your feet a fallen man
whose head is cradled in his arms
though his blood contains his death
and though the lines are drawn in hate
you drop your sign of Bible verse
and help the wounded stand up straight
oh yes the high religious still will scorn
just like that did all that time back
they'll say you helped the other side
they saw you haul that soldier's pack
but now how could you carry that man's sign
in your heart the choice was clear
you didn't join the other side
the battle lines just disappeared
when fearless love, fearless love
fearless love makes you cross the border
“Nothing changes just because one guy gets killed, even if it is Osama,” said one of my eighth graders as he came into class this afternoon. Fearless love, however, changes all of us.

Peace
Milton

Sunday, May 01, 2011

sunday sonnet #28

Sometimes a life can get defined
by a single moment or event:
as the “doubter” Thomas gets confined,
though that image does not represent

the complexity of his whole being
nor his broken spirit on that night
when he spoke of touching and seeing --
there’s not one way to grieve that is “right.”

When Thomas asked to touch and see
the others named him by his doubt
when hours before their judging spree
they had been the ones freaking out.

After the cross, not knowing what to do
I would have asked to touch and see him too.

Peace,
Milton