Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Finding your Patronus

No, this isn't a clickity-quiz to assign a random animal to you. This is how to cast a real Patronus.
(The main idea for this post was in response to a question about finding out what form one's patronus would take, if one were in the Potterverse. I, as usual, went for a deeper response.)

Also, I think it's unlikely that any ghostly white misty shield or animal spirit thing will manifest. Let me know if it does for you, I wanna know!

J. K. Rowling is refreshingly open about how the dementors are a symbol of her own struggle with depression. It should also be noted that one person's experience with depression, or any mental illness, is theirs and theirs alone and ma have little to do with any others' experiences. That being said, there's sound research that echoes Rowling's symbolic defensive spell, the Patronus Charm. The charm is not an attack, and it can't really defeat a dementor, let alone kill one. But it can give you the space you need to survive a dementor attack. Scientifically, depression is far more than simple sadness but instead a complex system of thought structures and chemical imbalances that are very difficult to even identify, let alone unravel. Depression takes on a form of its own, separate from an particular trauma that might have triggered its beginning, and for many people there isn't an specific trauma - yet they are depressed nonetheless. Visualizing one's depression as a dark creature lurking invisibly to pounce and drag you down is terrifying and not usually recommended, however, it is an illustration of how living with chronic depression can feel: you never know when something will just head-kick you right back into the darkness and despair, like you'll never be happy again.
The Patronus Charm, or in science-speak a mindfulness technique for re-anchoring yourself in reality by adjusting your brain chemicals and overriding your brain's active thought processing, can hold off an oncoming storm, or when it can't, it can help to keep you from getting swept entirely away in one. It's not fool proof, of course - you have to 'cast' it before you get swept away (as we see happen to Harry several times), and you have to hold onto it like a climber clinging to a root after falling off the cliff! This takes practice, and forgiveness for when you don't manage to do it. It also might not be the right thing for you in your real-world life with your real-world brain. And it's no substitute for actually attacking the dementors in your life. You do need to actually grieve, or to process what happened to you, or otherwise make peaceful or strong those places in your life that are vulnerable to imbalance. This might require expert therapy, medication, or not, but it will require friends and support no matter what. The Patronus Charm is one tool to keep you alive and in control long enough to actually fight those battles on your feet.

A person's patronus takes a form that arises from the source of joy or happiness used by the mage to cast it. Harry's is a stag for his father and the little he knew of him. Snape's is a doe for Lily, the source of the only time he felt truly happy (even tainted by the falling out). It's so personal that we don't know the sources for most of the characters who we see casting patronuses.

This is different from a spirit animal, which takes its form from the shape of your destiny or your truest self (depending on which tradition you use as your model!)

I suggest that you do some soul searching and figure out a moment of joy from which to anchor your spell. Then, once you have that, work on meditation using that memory as a focus. Try first to just dwell in that memory, experience it anew, and fill yourself with those feelings. Do this daily (or as often as you can) at least for a little while, until you can draw on that nugget of joy easily. This is casting the patronus in its basic form, a shield against the things in life which try to suck your soul and drag you down into depression.

If, somewhere in all that process, a concrete form arises for you, great! If not, and if you find that it matters to you, you can try to find a animate symbol of that nugget of joy that can carry some of that power for you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bending the Knee

In tonight's readings (Exodus 12:1-14, 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, John 13:1-35), we hear a lot about the connectedness of God's people. The Passover story treats a communal, sacrificial meal as the symbol of being under God's protection. St. Paul talks about coming together for the Lord's Supper in a spirit of equality and temperance, and in John's Gospel, Jesus shows us an image of of connecting to one another by being both leader and servant. It's in this last image that we gather here tonight to symbolically do exactly as Jesus said – to literally wash one another's feet. But, is that all Jesus was asking us to do? Or is he asking us to humble ourselves in another way, something more than the literal?

Before Paul talks about the form of the Eucharist that we use each week on Sundays, he talks about how the people come to it and how they partake in it. The Corinthians apparently have been bickering about things, and maintaining social privileges within their fledgling community, supposedly built on equality in Christ. He says “You're not really coming for the Lord's Supper, are you? You're here to eat your own supper, and you go and eat it in a corner, even getting drunk, while your fellow believer is going hungry!” Paul's strong words here call out to us in modern times as we bend down to wash our neighbors' feet and go to the table to break bread together.

When we go through the motions of religion, what are we doing? Both Paul and Jesus tell us that there's something far more important going on. These symbols, these Sacraments are a moment when the barriers between us can become thin, when we can come closer to both God and Neighbor. In the Eucharist, we are supposed to share a meal where no one goes hungry – in the washing of feet anyone who wants to be a part of Christ must bow in service to our fellow human beings. Paul's letter says “ you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (1 Corinthians 11:22) and later “For all who eat and drink without [motion to group] discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (1 Corinthians 11:29). If we dwell here for a moment, what do these actions mean for Paul or for Jesus? For them these are not religious ceremonies, there's no pomp and circumstance, no fine linens or candles, and absolutely no one being above another - just people partaking in one another and partaking in the God who dwells within those others.

So it is no surprise that Paul is furious with those church people who are well off in the world who come to the Love Feast that predated our modern Communion and ate their own food to excess while others in The Body had nothing to eat at all. Can any of you imagine if you went to that altar rail and saw a priest only serving those who had donated a lot? Or if you came to a potluck dinner and saw people who weren't allowed to eat sitting at the tables because they hadn't been able to bring food? I would hope that each one of us would have a major reaction to such a crime, and you can truly sense how Paul says that this would profane the feast and that those who ate without sharing drank their own judgment. But why does that end there at the altar rail or at the potluck buffet line? What about in the rest of our lives? Do we become any less “The Body” when we step outside those doors? Do our excesses deprive those who have nothing, and thus pour our own judgments down our own throats?

What would happen if we each lived just a little bit smaller, just a little bit simpler? What if we took stock of our material lives and said “What do I need here? What do I have that I do not need? What of God's Love Feast around me am I taking for myself that should be someone else's who doesn't have what they need?” And when the God of the Universe, present in the person kneeling before you, washes your nasty feet for you, how will you say that you are in community with his people? How will you tell him that you are coming to the altar each week? To profane it as the Corinthians did? Or to sanctify it with the kind of radical equality that brought Jesus to his knees?

Friday, February 19, 2010

So, unless you've been living under a heterocentrist rock the past year, you've heard of the Ugandan "Kill the gays" bill. In case you were under that rock, let me solve that.

  1. Watch Kill the Gays, and all their friends too!

  2. Watch Americans encouraging Kill-the-gay sentiment in Uganda

  3. and finally, watch Richard Cohen on the "Kill the Gays" legislation on Rachael Maddow (1/2) and (2/2)

So, if you WEREN'T seeing red, I bet you are now. I sure as hell am.

The Kill-the-Gay's bill is *Right Now* being discussed on the floor of the Ugandan Legislature, more-or-less as I type. It's likely to pass i the next few days or weeks, as opposition has not been able to drum up very much support. It's hard to call people to fight against something that, if they fail, will mark them personally for death as gay supporters.

The Nazi mentality is not dead, it is alive and well in the hearts of the Ugandan Government, and in those AMERICAN, supposedly Christian leaders of "The Family" - people who enjoy weekly and even daily TV broadcasts throughout the United States, with huge viewerships of ignorant sheeple. Their money and ideas are infecting not only their immediate followers, but also the entire uneducated world, and my firends, you and I are the ONLY people aware enough to know about it.

I realize that makes me sound a lot like a conspiracy nut, but these are not hidden secrets, these are plain, boldfaced screaming facts, on paper. President Obama addressed the issue directly to The Family at their "American Prayer Breakfast" a few weeks ago (see a clip here). But even this clip doesn't get the whole picture right, as you've already seen in clip 1 above!

There is a group of government cronies in Uganda planning the systematic genocide of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people within, or associated with their nation, including any and all supporters: a bloodshed that would chill your bones.
Where is the outrage? Where is the blockade? The threats of changing government aid into direct aid to the people (instead of funding the government and trusting them to care for their people)? Where is the call to American action against the groups here at home who are instigating an entire nation to violence? Isn't "incitement to violence" a crime in the USA? Why are these "Family" member not in prison, waiting trial before their peers?

And why am I still here?

It might be because I'm depressed about other challenges in my life, but part of me really wants to gather up my swords and other beating-and-hacking things, and go to Uganda and mount a one-man coup until they shot me down. Where is the UN call to arms? Where is the Security Council's sanctions and peacekeeper forces maneuvering in the neighboring nations, or within the UN bases in Uganda? You can't prevent natural disasters like the Haitian earthquakes, but you can prevent human disasters, if you care to. There are endless fundraisers for Haiti, from grassroots efforts to massive, bipartisan government efforts, including two former presidents besides the current one who put the others in charge of it all. How many fundraisers have I seen for protecting living Ugandan LGBT people? 2. Two. TWO. II. There might have been more, but no-one paid enough attention to them for even me to notice... how many have you seen? Oh, and both of these were lgbt lobby/support missions, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and IntegrityUSA, an LGBT org in the Episcopal church. It's probably not just Haitian organizations running fundraisers for Haiti. I'm just sayin'.

Do we not matter to them?

It's these kinds of things that make a man snap... it's these kinds of things that should make a world snap into action. But we have learned nothing, it seems, from the history of the world, from Hitler, Mussolini, TzeDung, Kim Jong-il, or the rest of that litany of human evil? Will we sit by and let history add names to the list, or will we gather up as a race, as a family, and strike down those who would tarnish our fragile existence with hate, mass murder and genocide? Apparently, yes, we will sit by, as we did each time before, failing to "get involved" until someone decided to attack us personally.

Good men, looking the other way: The American Motto.

Who wants to buy me a plane ticket?

~Warren Huber

PS. I didn't know who to tag on this, so if you're confused, it's probably because I think you can either help spread the outrage, or because i think you're not outraged enough.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did Jesus' death end the law, or is it more complex?

Jesus' death and resurrection did fulfill the law, but did not end it. He provides the way, and the way costs us dearly. "Take up your cross and follow me", "Let the dead bury their own dead", "Whoever puts their had to the plow and turns back is not fit for the kingdom of God", "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect" leave little room to say that his act is the end of our responsibility. The fulfilled law still applies, we just know more about its living richness.

However, the fulfilled law has the same words, but new meanings: those of love. With each law, we must study it in great depth, with its literary and cultural contexts intact, its linguistic complexities acknowledged, and its meaning in our very different world, and then we must ask "How is this loving, how can I be loving with this, where is love in this?" Then, we must pray, because there is a new guide -The Holy Spirit- who can teach us the lessons of the new times, the path of love, the path of justice. Then, and ONLY then, can we even approach the full meaning of The Way of Jesus Christ. And we cannot do it alone. We must do it in Community. ANd the community must be able to move when The Spirit moves, because if the source of life moves, and you fail to follow, you die.

Joe DeCaro wrote:
I've heard the same thought (translated)from Rev. Moon who claims to complete the process of salvation begun by Jesus, but it's not nearly worded as well as your excellent post.

Jesus either fullfilled the law or He didn't, period; otherwise it sounds like something out of Vatican I, or even Galantianism, i.e., Jesus "plus".

and MiddleWay replied:
Following your logic you can do whatever you please, you are already covered...

So I go to the Bible, and Thayer's Greek Definitions:

Thayer Definition:
1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
1a) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally
1a1) I abound, I am liberally supplied
2) to render full, i.e. to complete
2a) to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim
2b) to consummate: a number
2b1) to make complete in every particular, to render perfect
2b2) to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)
2c) to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise
2c1) of matters of duty: to perform, execute
2c2) of sayings, promises, prophecies, to bring to pass, ratify, accomplish
2c3) to fulfil, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment
Part of Speech: verb
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G4134
Citing in TDNT: 6:286, 867

This is the translation note for the Greek word Matthew uses in Ch. 5 v. 17 that is translated most commonly as "fulfill". It includes some very helpful interpretation notes as well. Jesus goes on to talk about
Matt 5:18-22 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

And so we see unavoidably that Jesus' fulfillment does not free us from the law, but rather raises us up to a new level of responsibility and mature involvement. Paul explains thusly:
Gal 4:1-5 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

We (humanity) were under a paedogogos, a teacher/caretaker, "the law" until we were mature enough to handle the more complex realities. To re-cast Paul's explanation to our modern context: when you were a child, your parents had rules. These rules were black and white, simple to follow, simple to see when they were broken. As you got older, those rules changed. They became more complex. "Be home by 10" became "Be home at a reasonable time." "Don't hit" became "Defend yourself and others when needed" and "Do as I tell you to" became "Do what is right."

Just the same, God gave us the law to train us in the basics, the simple things we as primitives could handle. They began very very simple: be fruitful and multiply, don't eat from this tree. Then they got a bit more complex: make a sacrifice to God, don't kill. Then still more complex: the 10 Commandments. And more complex still: Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Now we've gotten to the "child" stage. All the laws have been spelled out that can be spelled out, and in their most direct way. Following the letter of these laws will keep us safe, help us grow, and help prepare us for the next level. Then Jesus came, and told us about the next level of complexity in understanding the Way of God. He told us:
Matthew 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

as well as the many many other teachings about love, anger, judging, the Beatitudes, and the like.

The old law was not "wrong", Paul tells us earlier in Galatians, but incomplete and oversimplified: fit for children. Now that Jesus has brought forgiveness and we have gained some maturity, we are ready for the new Law, the greater Law, the more complicated and challenging Law: the Law of Love. A Law that our now adolescent world can handle, or at least begin to. "Adolescent" describes our world very well, don't you think? As we continue to struggle to understand our world, ourselves, and our God, we wrestle with these new laws, learning the deeper truths within and behind the old laws. And someday, when Christ comes again, we will be mature: adult children of God as we were meant to be.

In Christ,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Arrogance

I’m the quiet kid that sits in the back of the room, that everyone makes fun of, unless I speak. That’s just who I am. Those who take the time to know me seem to end up thinking I’m an ok guy, and so I have a lot of friends for an introvert. I’m not going to re-write Lenny’s rant on this, but just setting the stage for where I’m going with it. I mentioned in a comment that one of my personal pet peeves about people’s misunderstanding about me is that I’m “arrogant”. One could suggest that this bothers me so because I *am* arrogant, but I think I would have fewer friends if I really were such a jerk. Every once in a while, though, something happens to make me question myself again.

A few days ago I discovered that a close and good friend of mine that I haven’t seen in several years attends an evangelical bible college that is one of the epicenters for anti-gay propaganda and the “ex-gay” organization PFOX. They are on SoulForce’s list of colleges that discriminate against LGBT people, banning out people from enrolling, and throwing out students who come out after enrolling. SoulForce’s “Equality Ride” of LGBT Christian students has come to this school 3 years in a row to ask them to change, and been arrested for their peaceful protest and asking for dialogue. This school, Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, is the font of such foul bigoted tripe as this publication about the “health risks of gay sex”, this pack of lies, and this entire website dedicated to spreading this poison.

What was I to do? This isn’t just a passing acquaintance, this is someone I prayed with, sang with, fought with, cried with, baby-sat children with, led worship with. The ONLY thing he didn’t know about me was that I’m gay. Could I let it go? My friend is in Youth Ministry, and is going to this school to earn a degree in that. He has, and will have, kids and teens under his care. Kids who look up to him, and whom he plays a major role in forming the religious views through which they view and act in the world, and how they feel about themselves. Statistically speaking, some of the kids he leads now are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and many more in the future years to come will also be. And I’m his friend. So I come again to the question “What was I to do?”

If I let it go, then I resign myself not only to loosing a friend, but also failing to reach out to that friend: failing to spread the good things I know in my heart through the relationships I have; failing to be honest to myself, my God, and my friend. Beyond that, I would be failing to say something that could help that first kid who comes to my friend with tears in his eyes as he says for the first time “I think I might be gay”.

But, if I let it go, at least I wouldn’t be arrogant.

I could just live and let live, let my friend go unchallenged, untouched, uninformed about how much his views and those he is learning at this school hurt and harm me and those LGBT Christians who grow up with those thoughts in their ears. And escape pride on my part. I can just be silent, and do nothing.

Or I can do what I did: stand out on that limb and say something and risk pride, risk “arrogance” for the sake of love.

I wrote him, and confronted him about his school choice, challenging him to think and talk. I first asked him to contact me about it, with out getting into it right away; basically giving him the opportunity to set the tone of the discussion. Then when he didn’t respond at all, I wrote him. I came out to him, and tried to show him what this meant to me, having a friend at this un-Christian, un-loving, school.

Is that arrogance? Integrity? Principles? Not wanting your friend to hang on his wall a diploma that might as well say “Gays are serving Satan”?

Or is it arrogance to think that the world will be a better place without my needing to do anything? Oh right, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” It might be arrogance to think that I fall into the category of “good men”, but it certainly *is* arrogance to think that I don’t need to do things if we’re all going to fix this planet, to expect everyone else to work, talk, change, grow, etc., but not me. Arrogant to think that “God will take care of everything”, while ignoring God’s call to action in relationship.

He hasn't written me back.

The quiet kid speaks… but is he just an arrogant dick, or a good man trying to make a difference?

You tell me.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Closet or Old Habits Die Hard

As you may know, I am "officially" all the way out of the closet, to both my family and my church.
You may not know, however, that this is rather more complicated than it sounds.

Anyone can tell you that after keeping something secret from people, or even just certain people, beginning to reveal that secret hardly "rolls off the tongue" no matter how much you would prefer otherwise. The well-ingrained instinct to smile and nod, make non-committal noises, or even outright lies leaps first to both our thoughts and actions. Before the conscious mind ever gets to interject, the habitual behaviors have already occurred, the old lie continued, the truth concealed once more, the friend deceived unnecessarily.

It's easier when you know it's coming, and it's easier one-on-one, but today was neither. While the choir was waiting to process into church, we often whisper to each other about our past week's activities while the children get their time with the priest before the service starts and they head off to Sunday school. After I mentioned being the only male in a certain group of friends in a different circle of my life, an older soprano (and a wonderful person I'm proud to call "friend") said "Ah! Well, that's not so bad, right?" conspiratorially laughing at the otherwise normal suggestion of my good fortune to be surrounded by women.

Full Stop.

So why's this so important? So she thinks I'm straight, and has every reason to think so: big deal. My sexuality doesn't effect her, right? Even if it did matter, I can always bring it up some other time, right?

Well, yes... and yet... still no. The problem isn't so much the information, it's the omission of it. She's a great person, and I'm sure would have no problem with my orientation in any way. By not having told her, and the others in my church, I have lied to them. True, it may be in a small way in the grand scheme of things, but it's still there. I have lied through omission, not correcting people when they assume my straightness, permitting them to misunderstand me when one word would have brought them into closer relationship with me. I really do not care one rat's ass whisker if some random schmo on the street knows that I like guys, but these are my friends. These are people with whom I sing and worship at least twice a week. These are people that I care about, and they care about me, people I've been trying very hard to build community with. And in that kind of community, there aren't secrets. Ok there are secrets, and plenty of them, and plenty more things that just don't matter... but this does matter. It matters to me to be understood correctly, to feel that the person I am being in this community is the real me. It matters to them, as sexual orientation is a major issue in the greater church today. And that moves it out from the category with "how often my sister and I fought as kids" or "my favorite color" or "how messy my apartment is" and into the category of "things you ought to know about me, because they effect large portions of my life, and my life and yours are connected in this community".

And so, when I don't say something, when I don't correct someone when the opportunity presents itself, I am putting up a barrier between us: I am saying "I am ashamed of this", I am saying "I don't want to be known by you", I am saying "we are not in full community". And that is sin, against myself, and against them, and against God who said we should be in community with one another in love.

And so coming out to my fellow Christians has been with the intent of finally bringing down that wall between us. A wall that only the most perceptive of them might ever even know is there, but is there nonetheless. A wall that I build higher and stronger every time I let it remain, brick by brick, increasing the likelihood of injury when it does come down.

When I responded to that soprano, that's exactly what I did. I smiled and nodded, laughing accordingly, letting her believe her sentiment had meaning for me. And I couldn't take it back. By the time I realized that there had been my chance to grow in relationship with her and the few others within earshot, it was gone and I had lied again, when I had promised myself not to do that anymore. *thwip, splat* the bricklayer places another brick... *thwip, splat*... *thwip, splat*
I couln't then pipe up, the moment was gone and speaking up then would have made it so awkward and have accomplished less than it ought to. *thwip, splat*

But it's ok, I suppose, because I will be given another chance, soon I hope.

*thwip, splat*

In Christ,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A post in a Christian chat

I will resist bashing the heretical Catholic doctrine of "Original Sin" (the leading Biblical understanding of which is that we inherit a sinful tendency or temptation, and Christ did as well, which we could, but fail to resist where Christ's successful resistance made his willing sacrifice able to atone for our sin).

However, this thread has just crossed into a very important apologetic and theological pitfall. Merely because Christ has atoned for our sins, does not give us freedom to sin. Merely because Christ allows us to be free of hellfire and punishment for our sins, does not mean that sin is allowed.

Our God is not a god of fear, ruling creation from a high throne and doling out punishments upon wrongdoers. That was never God's plan, though such things were used by God when we were "children". Christ's death and resurrection changed things for us, as a father changes things for his maturing children. The father has not changed, nor have the real rules, only our understanding of them and the maturity we are expected to have gained.

No, our God is a god of Love. And it is love that is supposed to drive our actions: our love for our God, and our love for our neighbor. The fear of hellfire has been removed, and out of sheer love from gratitude we should then swear our undying loyalty and obedience. Moreso, out of sheer love, we should love that which our God loves, that is, our fellow humans. This is the True Law, the heart of God.

It is the heart God most desperately desires for us, the children and heirs of God.

LoveIn Christ,