Friday, August 29, 2008

A Day At The Beach

"We have to go to the ocean," said DK. "We HAVE to." The implicit message was that I was somehow against the ocean and all things oceanic.

He'd been saying this for several days, and now here it was, 1 O'Clock on Friday afternoon before the last long weekend of the summer. The afternoon rush hour commute was probably already blending in with the long-weekend exodus-to-fun, and, north and south, what lies between us and the beach is Boston and its car-clogged environs. I shuddered inwardly.

But since I was already in the early stages of going-back-to-work dread, I figured what the hell.

Plus the world of politics had just taken a plunge from the sublime to the ridiculous. McCain had chosen as his Vice presidential nomination a moose-and-wolf shooting, fur wearing, Bible-toting, blastocyst-loving, gay-scorning, Creationism-spouting Alaskan woman, a self-described "hockey Mom" with five children, including one that had signed up with the army on "9-11," former small-town-mayor and now newbie Governor -- ex-beauty queen, of course -- already embroiled in a tacky scandal involving abuse of power.

I was appalled and depressed. Had I somehow awakened in a surrealist sitcom ? A comic strip ? You couldn't make this stuff up. The radio pundits kept saying "Maverick." I was tired of that word. I was tired of the world.

"OK," I said. "Let's go." I grabbed my D70.

We zipped north through the "Big Dig." I had to admit, the rearranged roadways and tunnels had made certain commutes much easier. I muttered something about 14 billion dollars well spent.

I passive aggressively left the choice of beach to DK. There was not much choice, actually. Heading south with the commuting-home and Cape Cod weekend traffic would have been folly. So north it was. I was in a post-apocalyptic mood. We turned on the news.

Maverick Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, in a move that can only be described as Mavericky, chose Alaskan Governor, young Maverick Sarah Palin, as his running mate today....

I groaned. A maverick was, technically, an unbranded calf, after some Texan dude circa 1840, Samuel Maverick, who was famous for not branding his cattle. There is nothing unbranded about these Republicans. They are as carefully branded and marketed as Nike or Coca Cola. As a verb "to maverick" means to "take possession without legal claim." Now that was pure Republican. I thought back to Al Gore's magnificent, stirring, speech of the night before. I thought of what could have and should have been. I thought about what could but might not be. I was depressed. Hungover from over-indulging in the rhetoric of hope. Detoxing. Retoxing. What better place for it than the blighted byways of Lynn (as in Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin) and Revere, aka Ruh-vee-yah.

I'd heard Ms. Palin's speech. After overplaying the home-town, hockey Mom, God, guns and moose-stew family values card, she alluded to the 18,000,000 cracks in Senator Clinton's ceiling. I had a bout of temporary insanity thinking of Clinton's titanic and back-breaking campaign and how Ms Palin had just had, against all commonsense and logic, the VP position handed to her.

She was not allowed to reference those cracks. Honey, I snarled inwardly, you may have cracked some Alaskan ice ceiling, but leave Hilary's ceiling alone !

I turned to DK. "Does Joe Schlub REALLY want someone just like Joe Schlub to be president, and not someone with, oh, education, wisdom and relevant experience ?"


"No, I don't think so." I wouldn't want ME as president. Ms. Palin has a bachelor's degree in Communications and Journalism, for goodness sake. But she does have 5 kids, a beauty contest crown and a bunch of guns. And, as mayor, she did officiate at the grand opening of a WalMart superstore. So there. There.

The landscape darkened. I closed my eyes. I saw Governor Palin's eyes glowing like coals behind her byzantine designer eyeglasses. I saw her stiff, puffy, feathered bangs. I saw the five children of the apocalypse standing at her side.

Sorry, Lady Julian. All shall NOT be well.

I opened my eyes. Roadside, urban-fringe America was whizzing past. Weedlots, sex clubs, oil tanks, fast food, package stores, billboards -- so I got behind my camera. I thought of the George Romero movie we'd been watching -- Diary of the Dead -- in a bunch of young film students ride around in a Winnebago documenting the fall of America to flesh eating zombies as their drunken professor spouts gnomic existentialist crap in an English accent. There was much pretentious dialogue about the detached and alienated nature of the documentary film-maker. Boy, did I ever want to cash in on that. The image of John McCain gnawing on Sarah Palin's left arm flew through my head. Then of her gnawing on mine. I shuddered.

We were going to the ocean, I reminded myself. The ocean was good. It had nothing to do with the Esquire Club, Sonny's Carwash, Lynnway Liquors

or the Throne Depot.

It had nothing to do with the gleaming Hood's milk tanks, nor the suffering of the cows who'd produced the milk inside them. It was simply good, part of original creation, and it would, despite our abuse and neglect, outlast us all.

And, finally, there it was. We parked the car and got out. It was low tide, a bright cool afternoon. The air smelled salty. And fishy. The beach was strangely deserted.

One woman crossed it slowly, carrying a large trash bag. What was she doing ? What strange pilgrimage was she on ?

One couple sat together, surrounded by bright beach goodies, survivalists on the strand. Did they have guns to protect their provisions ?

After a while we set off to find a better beach. We got hopelessly lost. We crept along winding roads, past the high walls of peri-oceanic mansions, desperate for a sliver of blue.

Finally, discouraged, we headed home. Yes, we'd seen the ocean, a fleeting glimpse of it. That would have to do for now. Most of all, we needed coffee. So we pulled into a Dunkin Donuts. There was no paucity of Dunkin Donuts. It was something, at least. There would probably even be Dunkin Donuts in hell. At least I hoped so.

Out front I noted someone sitting on the curb of the highway, staring across the four lanes of traffic at a field of phragmites and some ugly condos. I'd taken it, at first glance, to be a young woman, maybe waiting for some friends to pick her up, and was shocked when I looked out of the glass vestibule and saw a naked, leathery, emaciated back: I stared at the ridge of the spine and the jutting scapulae, two triangles within a larger, bisected triangle.

Damn. I thought. I left my camera in the car.

Maybe I could discretely slip out and get it. No, no, that would be wrong. Exploitative. My inner debate went on for long minutes as DK scanned the overhead menu. Photographing weeds was easier. There were few moral dilemmas involved. I let the idea of the photograph go and turned to our server. He was eager and ingratiating, almost overly so. It was disconcerting. After we placed our order he stared at the cash register for long minutes. He pushed one key, then resumed his study of the register. The shop was nearly empty. Behind us a solitary diner, a grizzled man, was hunched at a table gnawing on a cruller reading the Herald. Finally, a smile illuminated our server's intent face and he jabbed a second button. DK had wandered off. The price seemed high for two coffees, one iced and one hot, but I didn't want to topple our pleasant server's house of check-out cards so I paid up.

"That's 48 cents change !" He announced cheerfully, applied himself to an intensive study of the cash drawer. After several minutes, he finally plopped a handful of coins into my palm. I stared at two quarters, a few pennies and pile of nickels. DK wandered back.

"I think he overcharged you for your coffee," he whispered, headed toward the men's room.

The math was addling me. I returned to our server.

"Uh, I think you gave me too much change. 48 cents ?" I showed him the pile of coins in my palm. We both stared at my palm, in mutual math hell.

"Oh !" he said. "I gave you an extra quarter !"

That would have to do. I picked out a quarter and handed it back to him.

"Thank you," he said.

"You're welcome," I said. "And thank you."

DK returned from the men's room and we headed toward exit. The man was standing, and his bony back was now covered by a shirt; from his head a shock of thick, gray and black hair rose wildly upright. It looked harrowed. He turned and headed slowly up the highway.

I thought with some shame about my photographic dilemma. What a waste of mental energy. I now knew what I should have done. It had not occurred to me until this moment when the thin man was disappearing down the highway.

I could have said, "Are you OK ? Do you need some money ?"

And I could have given him some money. I could have, and I could have, but I didn't and I didn't even think of it until it was, or was it, too late.

"Let's get out of here," I muttered.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


When, after we'd negotiated the endless, snaking airport line at Logan, the United Airlines clerk looked sadly at us and told us that the flight we were booked on did not exist, we knew we were in for an adventure in aeronautic snafu. The Rockies are great, even transcendently so, but we were not about to get there on a Zen flight. Suffice it to say that eight hours and no apologies later we landed in Denver and, in a Hertzmobile acquired sans snafu, headed toward the YMCA camp in Estes Park.

YMCA you ask ? One might think that, as the family's official Christian-in-Residence, I was somehow responsible for this destination. Mais non. During many summers of yore, DK's (Jewish) parents packed the 3 boys into the family car and drove west from Topeka to this most bucolic destination. We were going to relive the experience. And reminisce at length about later DK trips, taken with his pals this time, involving camping, music, and various mind-altering substances.

The Y camp is, indeed, lovely. Surrounded by mountains, it covers acres of rolling fields and trees; one can stay in various "lodges" or in individual well-situated cabins, all rustic, some fancier than others. We stayed in "Commanche," sometimes known as "Comanche," nice enough except for the crippling mattress on the bed.

Our first act, even before settling into "Commanche," was to get dinner. Exhausted, and enervated by the too-thin air, we tucked into a small buffet, including -- deo veganibus gratias -- brown rice, bok choy and couscous. As I sat there shoveling soggy carbs into my carb hole, 5 tall, handsome Young Men with shaved heads and long brown robes glided in.

"Franciscans," I thought. But after one gasshoed to the steam table, I realized they were Buddhists. "Delightfully ecumenical," I thought, trying to work a strand of bok choy out of a broken molar.

(My dentist does not read my blog, or at least I hope she doesn't, and does not know that, a few months ago, a massive "temporary" filling popped out of the tooth I'd broken a few years ago eating a bagel at DK's Mother's funeral. Yes, yes, I admit it, I was chewing peppermint Lifesavers. So shoot me. Mea culpa. But Dentist had proposed such extensively byzantine renovations of said mangled tooth that I have been avoiding her and everything dental since. Especially since her periodontal colleague, a severe Russian woman, had peered into my mouth, looked disgusted, muttered darkly about plaque, and reassured me that even though osteonecrosis of the jaw can be brought on by crown lengthening surgery in women taking Fosamax (the bone-strengthening pill I have been prescribed, but, ummm, errr, really don't take, you're not reading this, are you Dr. B. ?) , it was rare and merely disfiguring, but not painful, so I shouldn't fret.)

I will pause here for a Medical Public Service Announcemet: Do as I say, not as I do.

Well, leave it to me to put the dental back in transcendental. We left the Buddhists to their cheesecake and proceeded to our cabin. DK pointed to a jagged mountaintop behind "Commanche." "Look," he said,"That might be the mountain they call Teddy's Teeth. " I stared at the uneven zigzag of rock and ran my tongue over the decimated right upper quadrant of my mouth. It was depressing up there -- there was the slimy gap into which I had refused to have an implant, a stalwart survivor-tooth, then my craggy Teddy's Tooth equivalent. Squalid. "I bet the Buddhist Young Men have great teeth," I thought. "I bet they use electric toothbrushes. And floss. Religiously." I was getting depressed.

None of the amusing and frivolous novels I'd ordered from Amazon Used had arrived in time for our trip, so I'd brought along a current, massive book-in-progress, JHR Moorman's A History of the Church In England. The cabin had no WiFi, and, although there was a small TV, the only thing it offered was snow and white noise. So it was you and me and the printed page. Delightfully primitive.

"Why didn't you give me that book last night when I couldn't sleep," DK muttered, looking over my shoulder as I read the next morning. "That would have knocked me out instantly." We were nursing various mattress-related orthopedic traumata. Lumbago. Bedsores. We needed some Young Men Chiropractors. Stat.

I put JRH Moorman down and perused the schedule of weekly YMCA Camp events. There were the obligatory hikes and crafts related festivities, there was minature golf, there were nature lectures and horseback riding, and there was also a catergory of "Religious" offerings. One caught my eye: The Theology Of The Andy Griffiths Show.

DK limped off to obtain some newspapers. I was exhausted. Lightheaded, maybe even a little short of breath. It was mountain sickness, I was sure of it. I tried to remember when the pulmonary edema would set in. I needed bottled oxygen ! Calm down, I admonished myself, inspecting my fingernails for cyanosis. Calm down. I would do the morning office. But I hadn't brought the BCP. It and I had had a falling out since the lectionary hit the Book of Judges. So I'd brought an abridged Roman Catholic Breviary, Christian Prayer, As I fumbled between the ordinary and the psalter, I remembered how the psalm translation -- the Grail translation -- was bleakly, unreadably pedestrian compared to the beautiful cadences of the BCP's psalms. My mind wandered to the Young Men Buddhists. They've probably been deep in Zazen for 5 or six hours by now, they're probably frolicking in the clear mountain pools of Enlightenment, and here I am drinking bad instant coffee and quibbling about translations. Great.

My mind wandered back to JRH Moorman. DK was wrong. It was a compelling and depressing tale. The cavalcade of English Church History -- invasions, regicides, burnings-at-the-stake, dangerous bigotries and all manner of intrigue -- was far from boring. It was, in fact, quite harrowing. It helped me put the Current Unpleasantness into a long perspective -- and not a very pretty perspective. Outraged mobs had once burned and vandalized churches that used candles, and mixed water and wine in the Eucharist ! Altar Guild must have been more exciting back in those days.

And now I was in the Land of Andy Griffiths Theology, with a pack of Young Men Buddhist monks as some sort of personal metaphysical cautionary tale. Had DK -- in whose eyes I am "The Churchlady" -- planned it this way ?

Later, I ventured over to the chapel -- a rustic, wooden building with a square tower. The door was open. Strains of Muzak drifted out into the clear, mountain air, a cheerful, pious tune with guitars and drums. Pat Boone I thought. I ventured in.

There was a huge poster of an American flag, folded into a commemorative triangle. The Country part of God-and-Country. Between a wall covered with cute, tchotchke crosses and another with cute, tchotchke angels was a wide, bright altar area with several massive open Bibles. The rows of padded chairs were nearly empty. I wandered toward the back of the church where, on a long shelf, were piles of devotional literature. Most from Dobson's Focus on the Family.

So, in the spirit of the History of the Church in England, I burned them.

Well, no, actually, I didn't.

But, for some reason, from that moment on, the image of the Simpsons' famous Gay Steel Mill kept occurring to me, like a sinister leitmotif. Da-da-DA DAAAHH-- da da da da DUM ! Especially after, in Commanche's glossy, dog-eared copy of "The History of the YMCA Camp," I'd found the chapter on "Muscular Christianity" with its black and white, turn of the century photo of a pack of buff Young Man Christians in white sleeveless undershirts and white knickers.

"My mind's," as Robert Lowell wrote, "not right."

It was, ecclesiology notwithstanding, a lovely trip. I did manage, by fits and starts, to transcend the dental. After spending the second night on the equally debilitating Ozzie-and-Harrietesque twin beds in Commanche's second bedroom, we persuaded the Young Christian men to give us a new double mattress which was marginally better. Despite my hypochondriacal fears, I did not, after all, go into High Altitude pulmonary edema and need to be air lifted out of the Y camp.

We spent the last night in Boulder at a Quality Inn, leaving the handsome Gassho-ing Buddhists, the physiculturating Young Christian Men and the Boone-and-Dobson spewing flag chapel behind. Lambeth was receding into the past and the Democratic Convention was looming.Surely by the time we got home the lectionary would have segued from Judges into Job. I was ready for some Jobian gloom and anguish. I tucked Moorman into the depths of my suitcase beside the Breviary. Finally, I'd gotten rid of the Greek chorus of religious commentary that had been dogging me the whole trip.

Until I looked at the Boulder map and saw what was two doors down from our Motel --

Sunday, August 17, 2008


The narrator in The Passion of Simone, brilliantly sung by Dawn Upshaw, is not a disengaged voice. She narrates the 15 stations of Weil's tormented life, addressing Weil as "you," "little sister" and "big sister," but also incarnates Weil in her bodily and vocal gestures, and even in her costume, a drab dress and shapeless sweater. At the end of the performance I turned to DK and whispered, not without snark, "It must have been difficult for Dawn Upshaw to maintain that agonized facial expression for the whole performance." This deliberate ambiguity of voice was distracting. My own poem and DKs jazz oratorio, The Death of Simone Weil begins with a meditation on the perils of identification with Weil, but I don't think The Passion is positing a mere psychological identification. It is, after all, a Passion -- a Via Dolorosa in 15 stations -- so the Christ analogy is not covert. But to speculate that the narrator has achieved a kenosis, a self-emptying and a putting-on of the mind of Weil, seems like a stretch, as does, I think, the idea that Weil's "self sacrifice" was Christ-like. Weil herself says

One might choose no matter what degree of heroism or asceticism, but not the cross, that is to say penal suffering...To wish for martyrdom is far too little. The cross is infinitely more than martyrdom. It is the most purely bitter suffering -- penal suffering.

Before the performance, the woman seated behind me began to complain in a loud, offended voice about the explicitly Christian Stations-of-the-Cross framework of the oratorio. "Weil was a Jew -- how could they ?" she groused to the woman beside her. Weil was never an observant Jew. As Peter Sellars pointed out in the post-concert discussion (prompted by a question from the offended woman), Weil felt the idea of a "chosen people" had provided theological justification for carnage. He rightly pointed out that Weil's later journals are replete with investigations into Buddhism and Hinduism. I don't think she was as ecumenical -- as "spiritual but not religious" as Sellars posited. The trajectory of her life was toward Christ -- right up to the threshold of the Catholic Church and her famous refusal of baptism because of the Church's pronouncement of anathema sit -- its ecclesiastic exclusion of heretics, and, by extension, all the others that it has (against the example of Christ) historically excluded.

In her refusal of Baptism and her consequent exclusion from the long-for Eucharist -- she believed in the true presence of Christ in the elements -- she lived out her famous distinction between looking and eating.

Weil's death -- brought on by her refusal to eat more than war rations while ill with tuberculosis -- was no more a Christ-like penal suffering than (as posited in the oratorio's unfortunately banal, after-thought-like conclusion) her survival through her collected works was a resurrection.. One would think this would not matter much -- except for the fact that Weil herself has drawn the distinction between masochistic or even altruistic "self-sacrifice" and purely penal suffering. It is here that the Via Dolorosa analogy breaks down, and maybe here, too, in this break-down, is the tragedy of Weil's own project: try as one might, one cannot nail oneself to the cross.

I wonder why the librettist, since he obviously wished to dramatize Weil's suffering, did not choose to write the piece in her own voice. Why did he choose to channel the affliction through a narrator ? It was distracting to wonder "Why is this narrator so completely identified with Weil -- viz. Upshaw's perpetual expression of agony -- that she seems to be experiencing Weil's pain as her own ?" It kept striking me as unhealthy. The oratorio is also danced; there are two props, a writing desk and a door. Upshaw writes, crouches, writhes, curls up on the floor, falls into cruciform positions, hesitates in the doorway -- shadowed by a male dancer who alternately interacts with her and hovers behind her.

I was impatient with the text at other junctures as well: one whole station deals with Weil's distracted inconsideration of her family's feelings. "So Weil had no family values, eh ?" I caught myself thinking. At another point the text reassures us that no one is ever alone because of all the people we have met who think about us. That seemed as simplistic as saying "She lives on in her works." At the core of Weil's philosophy was the notion of abandonment. She was a great solitary who, paradoxically, resonated with the pain of the world and the world's afflicted. One might argue that her neuroses and general interpersonal prickliness led to this solitude -- but I think the accidents of her personality equipped her to explore and write about this one core existential aspect of our lives, inner landscapes that the more gregarious cannot bear to enter, and to send dispatches from these polar regions, from these desert places. Consequently, to hear Sellars go on (eloquently enough) about "human connection" annoyed me, as did his appreciation of the audience for coming out to hear this dark, difficult work while the rest of the world was out pursuing cheap "entertainments."

At which point the audience applauded itself and I felt queasy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

If steak were a religion, this would be its cathedral

New YorkCity, apparantly concerned that taxi passengers should be without entertainment for their moments of hackney transit, has installed TVs in the back seats of cabs. Stiff and addled by an overlong trip from Boston on the "Bolt Bus," including a mysterious stop in the bowels of Connecticut wherein the driver (muttering something about emissions and coolant) emptied two big yellow buckets of water into some rear Bolt Bus orifice, I stared at the little screen and learned about an eatery whose slogan posits a religion of steak. I reached for the D70 in my messenger bag. I wanted to document this moment of absurdist idolatry, but I was too late: the steak cathedral was replaced by a pair of young and chipper talking newsheads. But within seconds the street was offering up its own serving of theological meat --- the flying hamburger monster -- which shall henceforth be my iconic reply to the "flying spaghetti monster" critique of religion.

Behold your God.

We were in New York to meet our old pal Ed at the Guggenheim, and, later, to hear Finnish Composer Kaija Saariaho's oratorio, The Passion of Simoneproduced in collaboration with Peter Sellars and performed at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. As you may recall, DK wrote a jazz oratorio The Death of Simone Weil using a long poem of mine. So we were most interested to hear another extended work inspired by the same figure.

But first came Ed, the Guggenheim, and an exhibit of the works of artist/sculptor Louise Bourgeois. None of us knew her work, even though, as it turns out, I'd photographed a sculpture of hers two years ago. She's 97, and still working.

As I made my way up the museum's spiral ramp into the generous retrospective of her work I grew more and more disconcerted. The first images were early drawings: chimeric, witty fusions of women and buildings. Then came the sculptures. Clusters of spindly, humanoids gave way to other more dramatic and aggressive biomorphic forms -- hermaphroditic, headless chimeras, womblike/phallic objects, globular, sprouting, growing, mammary, organic, glandular, excremental, biologic, twisted -- some tender, many agonized. There were altars, sickbeds, stretchers, banquet and operating tables. There was angst, mutilation, cannibalism, abuse, all rendered in marble, stone and metal.

The cumulative effect of these forms was viscerally disturbing. I found myself standing in great relief before several less bodily pieces -- a stack of interlocking wood blocks painted black and red; beside it, a tall dresser-like structure painted a tender, baby blue; then, a blue cabinet full of clear glassware: glasses, carafes, mason jars, bell jars, cheese domes, illuminated from within in a delicate and beautiful manner; finally, a monlithic, irregular black wood block inset on top with multiple, inverted glass domes. A medical procedure. Cupping, DK whispered. He was right. I'd been contemplating the abstract juxtaposition of the heavy, black base with the delicate, transparent glass; it became a massive afflicted body undergoing a painful medical treatment.

And after these came what I most admired: Ms. Bourgeois' Cells -- installation/collage-like spaces delimited by spiraling walls constructed out of old doors, into which one peers like a voyeur at intimate collections of significant objects: pairs of sculpted hands almost impossibly (I tried) interlaced, sickbeds, medical devices, spiders, threaded needles, nightgowns, stairways to nowhere, massive spheres, a toy caboose on a bed, a large candelabra-like display of industrial-sized spools of red thread, staircases, spheres -- expressing deep female angsts and oppressions and secrets, the natural outgrowth of of her early drawings of chimeric woman/buildings. And it was a visual vocabulary I instinctively understood -- in the way that music is understood.

Bourgeois' art disturbed and unsettled me, catapulted me beyond the ordinary, and set up painful resonances . I went out into the late afternoon exhausted by it, grateful for it, and also grateful for the distraction of gathering stormclouds, fitful rain and thunder rolling between the highrises of the city -- a storm, we would learn later, that had Manhatten briefly under a tornado warning. We waved good-bye to Ed and set out toward dinner -- a vegan dinner, thanks to my thoughtful, provident husband.

Bourgeois' visual meditations on affliction and incarnation seemed an appropriate prelude to what we were about to hear: an oratorio on the life of that tormented paragon of cerebral disembodiment, Simone Weil.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


This past, odd, month's background music has been rain and news from the Lambeth Conference, and, quite frankly, I prefer the sound of the rain. Hanging out with my convalescing Dad has dislocated me from my usual daily groove; my reserve of patience for nonsense is nearly depleted. I've had an earworm of Schubert's Ave Maria for the past 10 days, ornamented with a strange quodlibet of Losing My Religion.

The nagging question keeps coming back: how can I remain affiliated with a Church that's part of a communion that places preservation of a misconstrued institutional integrity over the needs of certain classes of its parishioners ? This is the narrative: the wicked GLBT-and-woman-honoring Episcopalians have wounded the sensibilities of certain Anglicans; these wounded sensibilities trump any cries of marginalization, persecution, and injury that might be raised by and for these classes of Christian. The wounded sensibilities come fully vested in scripture, and represent an attempt to cling to old, mouldering structures of tradition and power, as if faith were a static object "once delivered to saints" and not a living, breathing, growing organism infused with the breath of the Holy Spirit.

What was that category-abolishing thing St Paul said about "In Christ there is no...." ?

I am sick to death of this discussion. It reminds me of the circular, reiterated conversations that mark the last, painful days of a doomed marriage. I am tired of seasons of fasting and restraint that will never, EVER satisfy the, yes I'll say it, homophobes. Nothing will satisfy them but damning GLBTs to hell -- some as they sweetly, smugly smile their pious "blessings" and "love the sinner hate the sin" platitudes, others, more honest, as they cry abomination !

It hasn't helped that daily office lectionary this past week brings us to the Book of Judges. I am 2 months or so away from completing the 2 year cycle of daily office readings, and I have met my scriptural Waterloo. I grit my teeth and pushed through Joshua, thinking "Great, genocidal imperialism in the name of God !" I was relieved when I had to get a LEM and lector substitute 2 Sundays ago -- the OT reading was about Jacob's marriages -- how he served Laban for seven year to obtain the hand of Rachel, but -- surprise, surprise ! -- he woke the morning after the wedding night and found he'd been given her sister Leah ! He had to "complete the week of this one" (plus seven more years of service) before he could have Rachel, too !

The temptation to preface "The Word Of The Lord" with "And here endeth another tale of manly, heterosexual, Biblically inerrant Christian marriage !" would have been overwhelming.

Slavery is "Biblical" -- must the church accommodate the wounded sensibilities of those who propound it by declaring seasons of fasting and restraint in order that the Communion adhere ? Unity in the Body of Christ is pretty myth. There are thousands upon thousands of denominations, each with its own claim of Truth. To try to preserve the thing called the "Anglican Communion" by rejecting the full Christian personhood of 10% of the members of its churches -- 50% if you include the widely-held notion that women should STFU in church -- is an unChrist-like travesty. Jesus was not a church planter.

And in the spirit of ecumenism Rome weighed in on the topic,

Quoting from a key document on Anglican and Catholic relations (Cardinal Kasper) said: "Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour. The activity must be condemned; the traditional approach to homosexuality is comprehensive ... A clear declaration about this theme must come from the Anglican Communion."

Such a statement would "greatly strengthen the possibility" of the two churches giving common witness regarding human sexuality, something that was "sorely needed in the world of today".

I must say, the man has balls. Huge balls. Ironically huge balls. Why would any one want to give common witness regarding human sexuality with an institution that oppresses women and GLBTs, denounces condoms in the midst of a lethal AIDs epidemic, and that covered up a pedophilia scandal amidst its clergy and rewarded a Cardinal who facilitated the cover-up with a plum job in the Vatican ?

One would think he would not want to mention "Catholic" and "sex" in the same breath. Lest someone be reminded of the track record.

All this rancor. Forgive me, miserable offender that I am. But, honest to God, I am no wild eyed radical proponent of guitars and drumsets in church or liturgical dance. I am a closet high-church Anglo-Catholic -- a Roman Catholic wannabe from way back. I prefer wafers to freshly baked communion bread, and feel squeamish when the priest says we will communicate one another. If the priest wants to face Ad Orientem, I can get behind that. I offer as further evidence my orthodoxish bona fides my brand new copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

I joined the Church because of a life filled with existential anxiety. All religions are highly complex meta-languages with which to discuss the Unknowable: the Sacred Ground of our Being. The Christian language, I decided, suffices. Faith is the conviction that this Ground is, as Genesis says, Good, even Very Good. Christ, the Incarnation, brings the Sacred Ground into our human lives and bodies and interactions; the Holy Spirit (or, in the spirit of 1662, Ghost) disperses it through the broken world.

This probably makes me some sort of heretic. I can hear the cries -- Pagan ! Pantheist ! Universalist ! Colonialist ! American ! Baby Boomer ! -- the voice is familiar -- whose could it be ? Bp. NT Wright ? Abp. Akinola ? Reverend Phelps ?