The blogger Jeremy Hooper has posted one of the most fascinating documents I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, through all my reading related to the collision of gay rights activism and conservative Christian activism. A man changed his mind. Wow. It does happen, people. The man is named Louis Marinelli, and for a while he had a very close relationship with the organization NOM, which (in spite of its acronym) is not about the ravenous consumption of yummy food but instead is attempting to agitate and lobby against the institutionalization of same-sex marriage. Marinelli went from being an enthusiastic supporter to a repentant sinner asking for grace. Not to misrepresent things: the man is not a Christian. (More fascinating still, he is not exactly a supporter of the set of sexual choices often called “homosexuality.”) This is not a man who has switched camps. He just recognizes that there is a truth external to our biases and leanings and sometimes a day of reckoning comes when you have to adjust your point of view in accordance with that truth. We who profess faith should all have such a spiritual experience!

Hooper emailed him, asking: “On record, I’d ask you to go through the list of comments you have written/ Tweeted/ blogged/ Facebooked and repudiate any/all that you now see were objectionable.” Marinelli’s response is below. Read the rest of this entry »


the Tug of War Tour

February 19, 2010

When I was teaching high school, there were one or two times when I said to myself, “OK, this gig is rough, but I do get to rub shoulders with young genius. Take this kid here – I should keep an eye on this kid, because someday her name will be in lights and for once I’ll be ahead of the zeitgeist.” Well, it wasn’t so much a matter of discovery, of painstakingly searching out the diamond in the rough, but of paying some very basic attention. When the kid came along, it really did not require subtle perceptions on my part to know she was going to make a splash. Her name was Tahani Salah, and she was a politically-vibrant, down-to-earth Palestinian-American Muslim slam poet. She had the way with words, but she also had the winsome combination of a profound vulnerability with an urban toughness, and for a WASPy Masshole from Naw-wood like myself, the combination of the hijab and the Brooklyn accent was irresistibly exotic.

Anyway, keeping her on my radar really paid off the other night, when I visited the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the first time, trudging through LES snow, to catch Tahani in the Tug of War Tour. Read the rest of this entry »

The reverberation of hip-hop rhythms through pop culture has lent a fresh relevance to various “spoken word” genres of writing and performing. Poetry slams have become a fixture of the cultural scene in cities like Flagstaff and Corpus Christi as well as New York and San Francisco.

Meanwhile, even in the face of a national love affair with standardized testing, creative writing still has its defenders. Believing that young people will learn literate practices when those practices are in the service of their own purposes, these educators favor workshops over worksheets.

A handful of organizations squat at the intersection of these two cultural streams: they aim to cultivate youth literacy by initiating teenagers into the craft of slamming. Some of them simply run slams and invite young people to participate. Others want to midwife new poets into being, so their goal is to bring “free, safe and uncensored” writing workshops to young people.

“Free, safe and uncensored” turns out to be quite a trick. Read the rest of this entry »

stephenson on wink

March 15, 2009

I’m grateful to Wikipedia for directing me to this fascinating mention of the theologian Walter Wink by the novelist Neal Stephenson (who, as the author of Anathem, is an imposing figure in my mind right now); it’s an example of cross-fertilization between my two geekdoms, so I’m pleased. Read the rest of this entry »

a prayer for your enemy

February 17, 2009

“You can’t work together with people totally opposed to what you are.”

The President-elect received many comments along these lines from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists repulsed by his selection of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. In response, Obama reminded everyone of his campaign promises to foster dialogue across party and ideological lines.

For the Episcopalian bishop whose ordination as an openly gay man precipitated a rupture in the Anglican communion, this was not satisfactory. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” said Bishop Gene Robinson, “but we’re not talking about a discussion; we’re talking about putting someone front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God I know.”*

Ouch. Read the rest of this entry »

here if you need me

January 12, 2009

This is a memoir by Kate Braestrup, currently chaplain to game wardens working for the state of Maine.  It’s a rare book that pursues eloquence without once relinquishing clarity.  It made me imagine rather wistfully an alternate life as a Unitarian Universalist, which is something utterly unprecedented, and far more radical than my other daydream of being an atheist.

After two hundred pages, in which you get a vivid sense of Braestrup’s distinctive personality and an equally strong experience of sharing with her a common life, she gives an anecdote and a brief, devastating and utterly necessary comment:

Once, in conversation with a very nice Baptist classmate at the seminary, I admitted that if Drew hadn’t died I probably would never have become a minister.

“You see!” she responded brightly.  “God knew what he was doing!”

This is the sort of remark that, however common, makes me despair of Christianity’s ability to respond in any helpful or sensible way to the reality of death.

It’s not so much that anyone would be convicted by this excerpt alone, but that the entire memoir provides a context such that even the most serene true believer would feel the force of Braestrup’s objection.  At the same time, Braestrup’s account would support that same believer in the conviction that God is at work in human beings, irrespective of their personal creeds, caring for creation and creatures (human or inhuman) with a grace that is indeed supernatural.

I should also mention that it’s very funny.  A great book all around.

Read the rest of this entry »