Tell ’em why u thankful!

Not a traditional thanksgiving…

I’ve spent the day in Brooklyn, on call as a hospital chaplain. I’ve responded to 1 page from an emotionally disturbed patient who needed some spiritual reassurance. It’s weird to say but this is a relief. In this field you get to the point where you are actually happy (thankful) when people are still alive and “just” having an emotional emergency. “This (I say in my superman voice) I can handle”… I don’t know how I feel about this.

But with a now quiet pager I sit back on my wonderful hand-me-down couch, and reflect on my life and what I am thankful for.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done”

Oh that’s the Baptist jam right there! Let’s see if it’s true:

5. Love Songs I’m a hopeless romantic. I had to fast from these demonic things because they were depressing me. But now I’m back:

The earth that is the space between,
I’d banish it from under me to get to you.
Your unexpected love provides my solitary’s suicide…oh I wish I knew
-Sara Bareilles

4. Mommy/Mama/Ma My mother and my “mothers” (female elders and ancestors) are the consistency in my life. My mother is the one who didn’t leave physically. “Momma”, my maternal great grandmother is the one who didn’t leave spiritually. Mama Edith, my paternal grandmother has been with me in both worlds, saving us with her small but significant monetary blessings during the holidays; and blessing me with peace-filled spiritual foresight as I face the last few conversations with my father. And “Grandma”, my maternal grandmother, who has blessed me with her fighting spirit.

3. Friends I love my friends, from those I’ve know from middle school to those I met in the trenches of CPE. I love the weird diverse mixture of backgrounds and culture. I love that maybe 75%-80% of them are total psychic/clarvoyant/”witchy spiritual diva(o)s. I love that I can think to myself “my I’m feeling a little sad” and like 10 people will call,tm,im, carrier pigeon… “I was just thinking about you. Is everything ok?”

2. Purple “You really like purple!” (Said in my Goofy voice) Yes, I know! I don’t know why. But my eyes are attracted to that glorious mixture of blue and red.

1. Jesus From Matthew 7:3-4

3″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Sorry Whitey Martin Luther King Jr. DOES (did) like “Ethnic Music” (and so do I)

I’ve had two conversations with two very different white members of the UCC that disturbed me greatly. The first one happened at a planning meeting for my association’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. And the other was just in a one-on-one conversation. Both individuals expressed to me (and the group in the case of the meeting) that they were very distressed by our church gatherings because of the “ethnic people” and “their” music. The individual at the MLK planning meeting came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t hold the event at “one of the ethnic churches” because the ethnic music that these ethnic people liked so much would make the event go on for way too long. I’m not saying anything but I’m saying… wouldn’t you rather listen to some “ethnic music” than sit around talking in some boring committee meeting… Anyway the other person expressed similar feelings. The first time I heard this I was highly offended and I made my disgust known. The second time I remained quiet. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’m tired…

Tired of what Dominique… tell ’em why you mad!

Ok I will! I’m tired of Barack Obama button wielding white liberals mindlessly spewing words like “diversity”, “multiculturalism”, “openness” and “welcome” while not having any desire to actually interact with real, live um…(clears her throat) “ethnic” people. In response to this I’m going to venture to say something radical: It’s ok if you don’t want us around. I don’t particularly enjoy everything about white church culture. But that’s not why I’m saying this. I’m saying this because I want to usher in an era of honesty. In honor of our first non-white president, I’m calling for a “word fast”. If you still see “the ethnics” as a “they” who makes “our” events take too long with “their music” then I am asking to not use the word “diverse” (multicultural or open) to describe your organization, event or so on.

And while we’re at it PLEASE take off that Obama button! Actually I lied, keep it on. You have a right to celebrate. What I want you to do is stop talking about wanting him to join your UCC church. I don’t say this because I don’t love the UCC. I just know how huge and difficult it would be for many of our churches if a black family of 4 joined our church. There may not be a cross burning (we need to get rid of the cross burning unit of measurement when it comes to racism by the way but we’ll get to that in another post). But their presence wouldn’t be free of the sort of fear that led to the comments about “ethnic music”.

Anyway back to the “ethnics: I need to say, in the name of Truth, don’t be on a planning committee for an event for Martin Luther King if you don’t like “ethnic music”! As we approach MLK day I’d like to put up a huge stop sign for all of the liberal/progressive whites who need to talk about King’s anti-war and anti- poverty work. These things are important to highlight. But I think it’s a way to avoid his desegregation work. And until this country has actually finished this work I will not trust the need to move past that part of King’s mission.

Yes I do turn into the “Mad Preacher” when we sit by and say: “In honor of King’s life and violent death, the Metro New York Association of the United Church of Christ (God is Still Speaking) will hold an event at an all white church void of “ethics” and “their music”.” Lord have mercy! This is not what is actually going to happen. But I wonder what led to those comments. Why can’t we be honest about the race? Why do we use progressive politics as pass or exemption for the white supremacy that dominates us, yes, even as a black man becomes president?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I’m pretty sure that Martin enjoyed the ethnic music… more specifically a “big boned” black woman singing Precious Lawd for like 7 hours… Don’t be skerrrd you might like it…

Tell ’em why u mad (part deux): Livin’ the single (single single)…life

I’ve been thinking a lot about love… I know… what’s new Dominique? If you know me at all that’s what you’re probably thinking. But seriously, I’ve been thinking about it in broader terms. It’s more than simply what I obsess about not having. And as a woman who, thus far, seems to be eternally single… I feel very marginalized in the Christian faith.

To my knowledge here are no references to singlehood in the Bible that aren’t problematic. There’s lots of talk about caring for widows. And that even seems a little “special” to me. The Bible links widows with the poor all the time. These were the two groups of people that God had the most pity for and got really mad when people didn’t care for them. This is good but it makes me think that in ancient times being single was the probably the least desirable thing a woman could be. 

So fast forward a few millennia and here we are. We live in a society that claims to have let go of notions of women as the property of either their father or their husband. We claim that marriage is about love and mutuality and not about the passing on of childbearing property or continuing the male line. So it’s possible that we might need to re-think our notions of singlehood. If the church is saying that everyone needs to get married, we need to think about the why of it all. Because when the Bible talks about marriage, it’s completely different from what we refer to as marriage. I’m not sure where God fits in to all of this. Did God’s notion of marriage change since women were seen as property. Does God even care about marriage?

I have a friend who is a priest and another friend who tries to convince the priest friend to leave the ministry and find a “nice woman” to settle down with. I guess that could be ok. I understand the argument that all people need companionship. But as a woman who is called by God to ministry yet has never been in a relationship, I wonder are there some of us in the world we are “called” to be single. Or maybe all of us are called to be single until we figure out spiritual or religious ground rules might be for these new notions of love, marriage, “partnership” and so-on…

“NO! If you don’t want to be single, you won’t be. God wouldn’t deny you.” 

That’s what my mother says at least. I hope that’s true because I really don’t want to be single anymore. But how do you know? The Crazy Christians say, anything you need to know about life can be found in the Bible. It’s the only book you need, right? So why can’t I find anything about how to survive without romance and love? Why have I gone through high school, college, seminary and beyond… preached and minister to God’s people… I’ve faced all kinds of very “real” situations… yet I’ve been on THREE (yeah three…) dates EVER! What does the Bible tell me about that?

The Apostle Paul does talk a lot about remaining single and not getting married because Jesus was coming back and we needed to stay focused. But… I’m sayin’… it was 100 years after Jesus was crucified when Paul wrote these things and it’s now 2000 years after that! So when exactly is Jesus coming? And why can’t we have a good date during my 2 millennia Jesus watch?

Ok… I sorry Jesus. I’m getting very snarky… but that’s what happens when you are so single for so long. So there’s no advice here… just a lament. Maybe you have some advice for me. Maybe you can pray for me.

Christians are Crazy: Mad Preacher’s Defense of Joel Osteen

You know Joel Osteen gets so much flack from so many people… liberal to conservative… ministers to lay people… the religious and the nonreligious… They all find in common that they can’t stand Joel Osteen. “He doesn’t preach he gives self help.” “He’s more of a good motivational speaker than a minister.” 

That he is… but does that make him less of a minister? Does that make his ministry worthless. Maybe… but considering the fact that most Christians I know are a bunch of lunatics, why is Joel Osteen such a bad idea? What is so distressing about a little church-based self-help. Christians need all the help we can get. Let’s not get so arrogant to think that everything is about “fixing” the “other”… “taming” the “heathen”… “liberalizing” the “conservative”…blah blah blah… while in the mean time we’re over eating… drinking… abusing all kinds of substances including money and sex… being mean and nasty to those in the church “in the name of Jesus”. But nooooooo…. we don’t need self help. Joel Osteen is just a fool!

I know my angry liberal Christian card will be revoked but I have to say it…. I LIKE JOEL OSTEEN… I know come and get me. The Mad Preacher and Joel Osteen are oxymorons… But they aren’t! I think we could help each other. When I get finished ranting and raving. I need some smiley white guy to tell me that I have “favor in the Lord”. All the crap and resistance I face in my ministry… I need Joel to tell me “Don’t go getting discouraged.” I need that. I am not saying that he doesn’t need a little prophetic rage. When I become a televangelist he can watch me. We’ll learn from each other. 😉

Tell ’em Why U Mad (Entry 1): Lament of a “Black Lady Preacher”

A few years ago, while riding down Billy Graham Highway in North Carolina, my recently deceased father informed me he didn’t “like black lady preachers.” Thanks Daddy… There have been a few times that I’ve had to identify myself to my father: “I’m your daughter”, “I’m a woman”. But I chose at that moment not to inform (or remind) him that I was indeed a “black lady preacher”. (I don’t know how much of a lady I am but ya know…)

 

A few years later I am yet again in a car with a friend, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and his friend, a Seventh Day Adventist woman. Unlike my father I’d never met this woman before. So I had no reason to expect her to know I was a minister. But my friend the pastor just had to start up a debate.

“So what do you think about women being ordained?” He asks her in a very nonchalant way, knowing full-well all the crap I’d been going through trying to get ordained. I think he was trying to get us to fighting. Or maybe he was trying to show me how liberal he was compared to his people. I don’t know. I didn’t care. I just wanted to jump and roll out of the car to avoid once again getting my feelings hurt and my call belittled by some traditionalist crazy-Jesus-wielding woman. 

In response to his question she begins to make noises in protest “Uh-uh, oh no!” She goes on for about 45 seconds making incoherant noises. “No! You know how I feel! I don’t believe in that!” And then my friend the pastor asks me (again very nonchalant-funny trickster), “what do you think?”

“Me??? Have you met me? Were you not there when I told my stories about trying to get ordained??? I’m getting ordained.”

“Oh you are?” says the quintessential church lady.

“Yes” says the dumpy Jesus girl.

“Oh…”

Well, it only took her about 5-6 seconds to remove her foot from her mouth and effectively climb out of that moment of humility. Instead of engaging me, the one now trying to find a way to jump out of the car and off the Brooklyn Bridge, she turned back to my friend. If she couldn’t save the heathen in the back seat at least she could save her pastor. “The Bible is very clear… women have their place and it’s not in ordained ministry. Jesus only had twelve disciples and none of them were women.”

Yes, sister, women have lots of “places” in the bible and I guess technically none of the women were ordained to parish ministry. Many of the “places” led to death, rape, mutilation, being married off to men who didn’t want them and least of all namelessness (remember “the woman” in every other Biblical story).

But don’t want to deal with that right now. What I want to do is go back to Jesus. You know him right? That dude our faith is based on, and who we ignore for the sake of our tradition.  Jesus loved and trusted women. The Gospels give an account of women doing all sorts of things. What was consistent though was they always loved Jesus with unmatchable intensity. And more than any of the men in the Gospels they were open to the reality of Christ’s ministry. They experienced what the men couldn’t get to. They believed what the male disciples simply could not rap their brain around. It was one of the 8million Marys who first saw Jesus when he rose from the dead. If this is how we are defining womanhood, I kinda like it. I kinda like getting that front row ticket to the “Jesus experience”. And my only desire in ordained ministry is to move other people into that same level of witness and experience of the mercy and grace that comes from a personal relationship with God through Christ. 

So my sister, if this is something you don’t “believe in”, I can’t help you. I honestly don’t need your belief in me. If you need maleness to access God, so be it. And God bless you. But as for me I’m going to keep on moving forward and be a spiritual companion for those who seek something different. 

The Mad Preacher