Category Archives: Religion

Sexual Wholeness As Justice Work

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

Pursuing sexual wholeness is a radical act of justice. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the church has a problem with sexuality. Many of us can quote the statistics and cite the scholarship. We can tell heart-rending stories of hurt and anguish as we wrestle with death-dealing, conservative theologies that keep many of us suffering in silence.

And yet the prophet Micah begs us to consider what the Lord requires of us.

The Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, a black womanist theologian and ethicist, suggests that misunderstandings about sexuality send more people to the grave than any other issue. If there were one aspect of our humanity we wrestle with the most, then it is being in our very blessed and yet problematic bodies. From the time we are born until the day we leave this earth the pressing issues of our existence seems to be what do we do with our bodies, how do we treat the bodies of others, and what in this relating is good?

Beloveds, we have a problem with embodiment—plain and simple. When we survey the social-political landscape and we point our eye to prevailing issues of immigration, education, poverty, voting rights, LGBTQ equality, fair housing, and transgender visibility, it becomes crystal clear that we have an issue with our flesh, and with the very embodiment of humanity. And when we are honest, the church in general, and the black church in particular, has not been the most helpful, nor the most truthful, nor the most kind, nor the most just in dealing head-on with the very true reality that we are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies.

This is why my sisters, brothers and siblings, I suggest that sexual wholeness—the coming together of being sexually faithful and faithfully sexual—is a justice issue.

The question, then, is what do we need to do if we are going to be Jesus-loving justice workers in the world?

I am so glad you asked. The prophet Micah helps us by giving us three simple yet profound considerations:

1. Do justice. "Do" is a word that conveys our intentions for completing an action. And so, as Dr. Cannon would say, “Do the work your soul must have.” This means that we must engage in the living, working, and sharing of life that makes us come alive. And then we must ground that work in the character of God that is just.

2. Love kindness. The art of being kind is often lost on ourselves. And so to love kindness is to stop and take a moment to care for yourself even as you care for others. In fact, Dr. Cannon suggests that in order to be a justice worker in the world, we need a disciplined devotional life.

3. Walk humbly with God. Move in this world with awareness that our connection to God is experienced in our relationship with others. How can we rightly relate to others if our walk with God is not right-sized? Dr. Cannon suggests that, in order for us to ethically relate to others, we must see the imago dei—or the image of God—in ourselves and others.
Therefore, Beloveds, engage in the work of becoming sexually faithful and faithfully sexual.

Do this work knowing full well that it is what the Lord is requiring of you.
Because pursuing sexual wholeness is a radical act of justice.

Originally published by Many Voices as part of Revolutionary Rhetoric, a nine part sermon series.


The Great Commandment

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." – Mark 12:28-31

Below is a statement from Believe Out Loud. While it sums up their mission, it also sums up what I am trying to do with my Sunday posts on religion.

Since the advent of the modern gay rights movement, Christians have raised their voices for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. We have long looked at discrimination in our culture and wondered how is this injustice consistent with Jesus’ message to love our neighbors as ourselves?

Throughout the years, we found support with other like-minded Christians. Together, we gathered to study, pray, struggle and grow while embarking on a mission to make our churches and communities reflective of the inclusive love Jesus teaches.

Today, forty years after the first openly gay man was ordained in a mainline Christian church, we are a diverse, thriving rainbow representative of the entire Christian faith. We are moms and dads, city dwellers and farmers. We are middle of the road, strictly sidewalk and off the beaten path. Different but alike, we find unity of purpose in our Christian faith: to spread the joy and justice of LGBT equality.


Rock of Ages 

1 Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2 Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3 Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4 While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

From Wikipedia:

Rock of Ages is a popular Christian hymn by the Reverend Augustus Toplady written in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775.

Traditionally, it is held that Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics.


Love Lifted Me

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

Refrain:
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!

All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.


A Gay Christian Life


Lewis is a 19 year old gay man who just came out to his family. He’s also a Christian in a very Christian family. Lewis started a new blog called “A Gay Christian Life.” He hasn’t been too encouraged to write a lot because he hasn’t gotten many hits, but let me assure you that his story is worth reading. He has two posts up so far, one about coming out and the other about a meeting with his pastor. It’s a story that is familiar to a lot of our coming outs, both the ups and downs of it. So please go check out Lewis’s blog “A Gay Christian Life.”


Just a Closer Walk


Just a Closer Walk with Thee

I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Thro’ this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.


In this song, we acknowledge our human inability to live righteously, but we also express awareness of the grace and strength that God gives us in our daily walk. Even such an esteemed saint as the apostle Paul acknowledged his need for this grace: “But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” … For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a, 10b ESV)

This song is one of my all time favorite hymns.  Though I was raised in the church of Christ, my mother was raised a Baptist.  She and her sister played the piano and the organ at their church growing up.  Mama always loved to sit and play hymns at the piano in our living room.  More frequently than any other song, mama would play “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”

Homecoming 


Mark 5:19 – Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

One of the reasons that I decided to come home this week was because the ladies at my home church have been begging for me to come home. I’ve also been homesick. I may live in Vermont, but home will always be where my family is. I have been blessed by the job that I have and the friends that I’ve made, especially those who are most supportive. It’s not easy being away from home, but it’s what I must do for now. We must be thankful for what God does for us.


The Rainbow 

Rainbow Christ Prayer: LGBT Flag Reveals The Queer Christ

By REV. KITTREDGE CHERRY
Colors of the rainbow flag reveal the many faces of the queer Christ in the following Rainbow Christ Prayer I wrote with gay theologian Patrick S. Cheng
Rainbow flags were flying around the world in June for LGBT Pride Month. Rainbows are also an important symbol in many religious traditions. The Rainbow Christ Prayer honors the spiritual values of the LGBT movement. 
The prayer matches the colors of the rainbow flag with the seven models of the queer Christ from Patrick’s book From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ.
Let us pray… 
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: heaven and earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on earth. In the rainbow space, we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world! Amen.
I got the idea for the Rainbow Christ Prayer as I reflected on Patrick Cheng’s models of the queer Christ. Patrick and I each spent years developing the ideas expressed in the Rainbow Christ Prayer. It incorporates rainbow symbolism from queer culture, from Christian tradition and from the Buddhist/Hindu concept of chakras, the seven colored energy centers of the human body. The prayer is ideal for use when lighting candles in a rainbow candle holder.
The Rainbow Christ Prayer has been welcomed and used by many progressive Christian communities, but denounced as blasphemy by conservatives at Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
I first wrote about linking the colors of the rainbow flag to queer spirituality in my 2009 reflection on Bridge of Light, a winter holiday honoring LGBT culture. Meanwhile Patrick was working on his models of the queer Christ based on LGBT experience. In 2010 he presented five models of the queer Christ in his essay Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People at the Jesus in Love Blog.
In a moment of inspiration I realized Patrick’s various queer Christ models matched the colors of the rainbow flag. 
Patrick and I joined forces and the Rainbow Christ Prayer was born. With wonderful synchronicity, Patrick had already added two more queer Christ models, so he now had seven models to match the seven principles from Bridge of Light. He wrote a detailed explanation of all seven models in his book From Sin to Amazing Grace published in spring 2012 by Seabury Books.
Gay spirituality author Joe Perez also helped lay the groundwork for this prayer in 2004 when he founded the interfaith and omni-denominational winter ritual known as Bridge of Light. People celebrate Bridge of Light by lighting candles, one for every color of the rainbow flag. Each color corresponds to a universal spiritual principle that is expressed in LGBT history and culture. I worked with Joe to revise the Bridge of Light guidelines based on my on own meditations on the chakras and their connections to the colors of the rainbow flag.
The symbolism of the rainbow resonates far beyond the LGBT flag. 
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the rainbow stands for God’s promise to support all life on earth. It plays an important role in the story of Noah’s Ark. After the flood, God places a rainbow in the sky, saying, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16).
Lastly, in the Book of Revelation, a rainbow encircles the throne of Christ in Heaven.
Originally published on Jesus In Love; Image via Andrew Craig Williams

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

“We Shall Overcome” is a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The song is most commonly attributed as having descended lyrically from “I’ll Overcome Some Day”, a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley that was first published in 1900.

A couple of the usual haters appeared at Knoxville Pride yesterday afternoon to wave their anti-LGBT banners and shout abuse. Not having it was the touring Washington Gay Men’s Chorus, who encircled the haters to deliver a rousing rendition of We Shall Overcome.


Blessed

1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.
4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
5 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10 But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
11 By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen. – Psalms 41


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