Thursday, February 28, 2013

A House Divided Again: Really Folks?

So the issue of the day on the PSR Facebook Community page is about making our bathrooms non-gendered in order to create a more fair and egalitarian access. This is a laudable goal, and I support the proposal 100% because it is the right thing to do.

As a person with twenty-plus years of experience with accessibility issues I pointed out that when we examine such issues we need to be clear on compliance with ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. If we ask PSR to spend funds on altering bathrooms then we are creating a legal liability if we do not address issues of access for people with physical limitations. And, ironically, we are much more likely to get the change we want if we approach it from the ADA perspective because ADA is very clear on these issues. This is an opportunity to create a win-win where both populations -- transgender folks and folks with disabilities -- have their needs met equally. And there is precedent for this at PSR itself: when the Chapel restroom was rebuilt a few years back, the result was a fully non-gendered restroom that is fully ADA-compliant. This is the most ideal solution for the "men's room" on the first floor of Holbrook.

So of course when I pointed this out I get shut down by people reminding me that the "original question of the post" was about transgender inclusion not the needs of people with disabilities. So, umh... which group is more equal?

Separate but equal is BULLSHIT.

When you are trying to affect change, don't piss on your allies. When someone steps up and says "hey, here's a way to do this that will meet everyone's needs" then listen and learn: coalition-building gets results. Putting one agenda forward at the expense of other groups does not engender mutual respect and it gives power to the inertia of the bourgeoisie. Put another way: we are stronger when we stand together for everyone's needs rather than cherry-picking which groups we are going to work for.

I was saddened to see that when I -- someone who has seen the results of successful coalition activism -- pointed out an opportunity to make a strong statement that will meet everyone's needs, naïve activists with less experience retreat into a corner of entitled self-interest rather than seeing the bigger picture on how win-win scenarios are stronger victories.

A house divided is not a good home.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Habakkuk Revisited

Who will hear my call?

My voice is impacted by the scar tissue of so many wounds, yet I must scream. There is so much left to do, so much I need to work on, and yet ... it feels like there is so little time left. Am I really living in my Final Days? Or THE Final Days? When did it all get so complicated? I am so fond of seeing myself as an emotional train-wreck, but it begs a central question: just when did this train-called-Philip wreck? I could point to so many places in my history, but each of them seems predicated on an earlier one. Just how far back do we go with this?

Was I ever on the rails to begin with?

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Ok... so there's this thing called the Middler Review. It's this thing we PSR-types do in our middle time in school. We write a thing, we defend it to a committee, yaknow, that kind of stuff. But, of course, I just had to have a moment on Twitter last week... I lost my mind. Had to do something a little daft to deal with my writer's block. So, I give you, a Weird-Al take on the Middler process.

To the tune of Like A Virgin by Madonna >
Like a Middler, drafted for the very first time...

To the tune of She Works Hard For The Money >
She writes Hard For The Middler! So hard for it honey...

To the tune of Micky by Toni Basil >
Oh Middler you're so bad,
you're so bad you blow my mind hey Middler! PSRMiddler!

To the tune of Mary Mary by Run-DMC >
Middler Middler, why you buggin'?
Middler Middler, I need your huggin'!
To the tune of Don't You Want Me by Human League >
Don't you want me Middler?
Don't you want me, ooooh!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mindy McReady

Jeff Conaway.
Mike Starr.
Joey Kovar.
Rodney King.
And just this evening, Mindy McReady.
And then there were five.

That's 5 deaths out of the 40-plus celebrities who have appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew. I know that popular opinion on Dr Drew is mixed, but here's some bottom-line truth about Drew Pinsky and his work: people are alive today because of what this man has done to raise awareness of just how deadly this disease called "addiction" really is. Dr Drew is the real thing when it comes to the scientific study of addiction and recovery, and his prophetic warnings about addiction are speaking to me more loudly than ever before. This disease kills people. Whether directly from drug-use itself or injuries sustained while under the influence... or indirectly from suicide (as it appears in Ms McReady's case)... this is a terminal illness.

I feel compelled to place a small public service announcement here:

You are not alone.  No matter how alone you feel at this moment, you can talk to someone right now. If you feel hopeless or unloved, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now and talk to someone. 800-273-8255.

Again, you are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

I still think of a young man named Jonathan Lemay from Reno NV who I met through social media a few years back; we met on a site called Plinky then we connected through Facebook. I eventually outed myself to him and his basic response was nonchalance. While he never came out to me, I got the idea that perhaps he was seeking some sort of connection with a gay man. I never pushed him on any of this, but then... he disappeared. I later found out that he committed suicide. Should I have been more direct with him about his sexual orientation? Was there a subtle hint of emotional trouble that I missed? Dear God in Heaven, why was I not able to help this young man? He was so full of promise: his knowledge of mathematics was absolutely stunning, he was very literate, he was a really amazing writer, and he was a serious threat to my dominant performance at the online version of Scrabble on Facebook. He was one of the next generation of young adults who could have changed the world...

In the end, my own words fall short. In times like this I fall on the words of poets far more gifted than I. From the wonderful 1986 album One to One, I offer you A Little Bit of Snow by Howard Jones. May these words call to the souls of people in need, and may their light never go out.

A Little Bit of Snow

Please don't throw you away we need you to stay.
When you die a part of us dies,
Not the body but part of the soul.
You have a light for us we need every glimmer.
Don't destroy yourself in a little bit of snow.
When there is no feeling and no pain,
It only lasts a little while...
When one light goes out a part of all of us cries.

Please hang on for us,
Please give you to us,
Don't destroy yourself in a little bit of snow.

Please don't throw you away we need you to stay.
When you die a part of us dies,
Not the body but part of the soul.
Drink the sunshine, warm to the rain.
Keep the glimmer alive for all of us.
And a million matches in the night
Will help to light the way...
When one light goes out, a part of all of us cries.

Please hang on for us,
Please give you to us,
Don't destroy yourself in a little bit of snow.

Drink the sunshine, warm to the rain.
Keep the glimmer alive for all of us.
And a million matches in the night
Will help to light the way...
When one light goes out, a part of all of us cries.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2 of 2: Invocabit

Some words about the beginning of the Lenten season...

As I prepared for this first Sunday in Lent, I found myself wondering about the word Lent itself. What does it mean? So, of course, like the good seminarian I am, I looked it up. It turns out that Lent is a medieval English word, and it is from the same root that gives us "lengthen" and "long." It was originally a reference to how the days are getting longer as we move toward Spring. Now there is no doubt that these next few weeks build up to a remembrance of a very violent episode in our religious history; yet, even our own vernacular language reminds us that the days are growing longer. My friends, God is giving us more light each day. Let us solemnly move through Lent together, never forgetting that this dark tunnel ends in a light more dazzling and full of love than we can perceive. AMEN.

1 of 2: Transfiguration

One of the most informative aspects of my Field Ed has been developing the discipline necessary to thrive in a lectionary-based church environment. I must truly say, I have come to see the blessing of "staying on-lectionary" because so far the Holy Spirit has worked wonders through me, connecting the theological dots from my "assigned" Scriptural text to my chosen secular cultural reference point without failure. Recent examples include connecting the Klingon funeral rite to John 3:16 and the poem In Flanders Fields for Veterans Day; connecting Dungeons & Dragons to Luke's account of the birthtime of Jesus using quantum physics for Advent; and my most recent triumph... teaching my congregation how Paul's 1st Epistle to the church in Corinth relates directly to the design of none other than Angry Birds.

I don't need drugs -- this is who I am naturally.

Another thing I love about my Field Ed site is that on Sundays when I am not preaching, I get to preside over the Liturgy Of The Word and this specifically requires me to write a special opening paragraph for the day. I frequently point out that the way to be a writer is simply to write and this is a good way to get that done. In honor of Transfiguration Sunday (which was a week ago, Sunday 2/10/2013), I present my welcoming text from that day:

In December 1993 I was in a movie theater and saw a film trailer that blew my socks off. Realistic animation of animals beyond anything I'd ever seen. Music, floating directly into my heart. My mind struggled to make sense of the imagery… an entire cross-section of the animal kingdom, walking side-by-side toward… a baboon? Holding a lion cub up in the air on top of a giant rock? And then the animals *bow* to the lion cub. I struggle to describe the impact that trailer had on me. Without warning, the screen goes black and then I see nothing but words… DISNEY PRESENTS: THE LION KING. NEXT SUMMER. True story. I think of this experience when I try to imagine what James The Greater, John The Apostle, and Peter must have experienced when they saw Jesus transfigured. The Transfiguration really was a "trailer" of a great story to come. As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, let us remember: after the coming drama, this story has a good ending indeed.

All praise to my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Emanu-El.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


We move on, eventually. Life has that way of refusing to end. But sometimes, without warning, it comes back. We remember it all over again. And I get angry all over again. No, I'm not angry at Islam. Or the 19 men who hijacked those 4 planes. I'm not angry at the GOP -- well, I am but not about 9/11 per se -- nor am I angry at the hypocrisy of American foreign policy that continues to this day because we still have not learned what God was trying to tell us about the "Other" on 9/11.

What I am angry at, over a decade later, is how people on the west coast. Still. Just. Don't. Get. It. Day to day, it doesn't really enter into my reality. But every once in a while, something will get said. No, they never mean to be insensitive. After all, I was not in New York that day. For God's sake, I'm from literally hundreds of miles south of there. But do you not understand that my father used to work in the Pentagon? That my high school sits literally, directly across the Potomac River from the Pentagon impact site?

You claim to have compassion for all of God's creatures, and certainly you study the vile and heinous things that we Americans have done in the name of safety, democracy, freedom... oil... free-trade... WMDs that never were... fear... but you turn your back on people who chose to serve. Wake up and smell the taint of your own hypocrisy. We are in the middle of an epic of suicide related to the military that has never been seen before. Our veterans need us more than ever. Could you put your heart in front of your politics for just a minute and recognize that we are in the midst of an emotional holocaust and it is destroying an entire generation of Americans in uniform?

Could you take a minute, open a Bible, and please read John 15:1-13? I would respectfully suggest that we should thank God every day for those who serve and we should provide for anything and everything they need. Not just by flexing our political will so that our leaders deploy our military only for just causes, but also by caring for our soldiers whether their service was for a just cause or not?

Jesus did not give less support to Romans who saw Him for who He was just because they were not of His tribe. Why do we even bother to call ourselves His followers if we do not practice such hospitality?

And Jesus cried out and said, 'He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.'
- John 12:44-50

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sad Beautiful

Monday 2/11/2013. North Berkeley BART station. Approximately 4PM.

I see him board the train. He is totally my type: blond, dressed all in black, skinny-as-a-rail, so blond that his eyebrows are yellow. My typical racy thoughts go racing; then the negative thoughts follow -- no way he would actually be noticing me... but still, something about him is archetypal. He has a familiar feeling. Good God, have I gotten so desperate for human affection that I have receded from realistic fantasy even in the daydreams of my wishful thinking?

I then realize the familiarity. My heart sinks and begins to ache. He is hurt. Lost and confused. Has he been crying? I think so. He is still sniffling a bit, and even has a bit of tears still flowing. He is trying to look like a tough goth-ish kid, but there is something so hurt behind those eyes. Is he mourning a loved one? A lost relationship? A pet?

Do I speak to him? Do I walk up to him and say... hey, I see you, you are God's child, and nothing can defeat you? What do I do? God, help him... he looks so sad.

And God help me: would I have noticed his pain if I had not had a lustful awareness of his physical existence first?

San Leandro station. 430PM. My departure point. Farewell, sad beautiful stranger. May God keep you in his loving arms. I see you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

God and My Toilet

Something strange happened at home a few weeks ago...
when I was sitting on the toilet.

No, this is not a pericope about the terminus of my alimentary canal; this is about my toilet seat. A few weeks ago when I was sitting on it, it cracked. When it happened, several things went through my mind as I sat there laughing -- because I must admit, it was hilarious. I didn't injure myself, nothing broke except for a hairline crack in one area of the seat, etc.

Side note -- I think it might be time to admit a secret. Here goes:
I watch too much of Seth MacFarlane's work. But I digress.

In response to this straight-line crack in an otherwise perfectly fine toilet seat I did what humans in the Global North tend to do when confronted with a so-called "first-world" problem: I ignored it. Now, to be clear -- the connection will hopefully become obvious -- I believe that God made the multiverse & everything in each of its universes, including my toilet seat. And, looking back on it now with my knowledge of Euclidean-type physics, it is perfectly obvious what was going to happen. Repeated application of a balanced downward force -- a nice euphemism for "my big fat hairy ass sitting on the crapper" -- on a torus-shaped object with non-uniform tensile resistance equal to less than the force being applied, yields one result. It is only a matter of time.

Parallel to that line of reasoning -- or so I thought -- I had been feeling over the last few weeks that God was softly knocking on my door with a message. And I freely admit that I was afraid of his message. So God did what God is so good at: he kept trying different ways of knocking. And I must really have been trying his patience.

This morning, God was done being patient with me. Aaaaaand... boom goes the dynamite. Or the toilet as the case may be. As I sat down on the toilet this morning, I heard an odd snapping noise, and the seat broke clean into two pieces. With my "balanced downward force" -aka- big fat hairy ass sitting on top of it. Fortunately I did not fall off the toilet or get physically injured. And again I laughed. But this time, I am taking it a step further.

Hear ye hear ye, this formal notice of response to God.
From his disciple, Philip Tanner: Rabboni, I hear you!

You, my dear reader, may now commence with the pointing and the laughing.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

And the Beat Goes On...

Wow. Here we are, again, with several months elapsed. I am literally "over the hump" and past the halfway mark of my MDiv studies. It's weird to look back over the last two years and realize how much I have grown, how much I have changed, but how much more work there is to do. Ordination drama continues... and I've learned to keep my big fat mouth -- and opinionated writing -- to myself. So, there's that. No long tirades against any particular element of the ordaining bodies that I am pursuing. I promise.

One thing I am happy to declare is that I am formally opening negotiations with a publisher. That's right folks, you read it here first: I am formally stepping forward to get myself published. It'll be an independent, small, print-on-demand publishing contract... but hey, it's a start.

The development and clarification of the 4M Ministries vision continues; I might end up being 4M myself, as the Christian ministerial arm of a larger multi-religious federation known as Meta-Faith. Not much that I can report there; it's all just in the initial planning stage. But hey, things are afoot and it is very rewarding to be part of a dynamic divinely inspired larger mission. Blesséd be, indeed!