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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

“Terrorist” by John Updike

John Updike’s newest novel, Terrorist, is the story of a high school student, a convert to Islam who gets caught up in a suicidal terrorist plot to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel during morning rush hour. Like all novels by Updike, this one is well-written, engaging, and theologically astute. It’s also frightening. What is so chilling about the novel is how very ordinary it is. It’s not a “thriller” but an engaging story of an 18 year old named Ahmad and the people in his life: his clueless mother, his world-weary guidance counselor, the girl who flirts with him at school, the manipulative imam at his storefront mosque.

The idea of a religiously-zealous teenager getting involved in such a violent plot is, in Updike’s telling, entirely believable. Especially for those of us who were religiously-zealous teenagers. My youthful zealotry was Christian (Pentecostal), not Islamic, but I saw a lot of my teenage self in Ahmad. His obsession with “purity” and a strict adherence to his religion start out as youthful idealism, but they easily pave the way to religiously-motivated violence.

And for those who think Christian zealots are unlikely to engage in such violence, I refer you to my previous post (June 23), “Christian” Groups Defend Bush’s Use of Torture. Christians have condoned torture and slaughtered their enemies since the days of the Crusades and the Inquisition, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The institutionalized Christianity that Kierkegaard called “Christendom” is frequently very different from what Jesus himself taught.

~ Darrell

From the novel:

“When I turn to Allah and try to think of Him, it is borne in upon me how alone He is, in all the starry space He has willed into existence. In the Qur’an, He is called the Loving, the Self-Subsistent. I used to think of the love; now I’m struck by the self-subsistence, in all that emptiness. People are always thinking of themselves,” he [Ahmad] tells Joryleen. “Nobody thinks of God – if He suffers or not, if He likes being what He is. What does He see in the world, to take any pleasure in it?”

Friday, June 23, 2006

“Christian” Groups Defend Bush’s Use of Torture

From Jesus is Not a Republican, by Randall Balmer, in the June 23, 2006, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The torture of human beings, God’s creatures – some guilty of crimes, others not – has been justified by the Bush administration, which also believes that it is perfectly acceptable to conduct surveillance on American citizens without putting itself to the trouble of obtaining a court order. Indeed, the chicanery, the bullying, and the flouting of the rule of law that emanates from the nation’s capital these days make Richard Nixon look like a fraternity prankster.

Where does the religious right stand in all this? Following the revelations that the U.S. government exported prisoners to nations that have no scruples about the use of torture, I wrote to several prominent religious-right organizations. Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization’s position on the administration’s use of torture. Surely, I thought, this is one issue that would allow the religious right to demonstrate its independence from the administration, for surely no one who calls himself a child of God or who professes to hear “fetal screams” could possibly countenance the use of torture. Although I didn’t really expect that the religious right would climb out of the Republican Party’s cozy bed over the torture of human beings, I thought perhaps they might poke out a foot and maybe wiggle a toe or two.

I was wrong. Of the eight religious-right organizations I contacted, only two, the Family Research Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, answered my query. Both were eager to defend administration policies. “It is our understanding, from statements released by the Bush administration,” the reply from the Family Research Council read, “that torture is already prohibited as a means of collecting intelligence data.” The Institute on Religion and Democracy stated that “torture is a violation of human dignity, contrary to biblical teachings,” but conceded that it had “not yet produced a more comprehensive statement on the subject,” even months after the revelations. Its president worried that the “anti-torture campaign seems to be aimed exclusively at the Bush administration,” thereby creating a public-relations challenge.

I'm sorry, but the use of torture under any circumstances is a moral issue, not a public-relations dilemma.

Randall Balmer’s new book, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, will be released July 1st.

You can listen to NPR’s Morning Edition interview with Randall Balmer here: “Evangelical: Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

“Can we dream of a world where all creatures, human and not, can meet each other in a stance that is not tinged with fear?”

From the homily preached by the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church USA, at the Closing Eucharist June 21st at General Convention in Columbus, Ohio:

“Can we dream of a world where all creatures, human and not, can meet each other in a stance that is not tinged with fear?”

“When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that his rule is not based on the ability to generate fear in his subjects. A willingness to go to the cross implies a vulnerability so radical, so fundamental, that fear has no impact or import. The love he invites us to imitate removes any possibility of reactive or violent response. King Jesus’ followers don’t fight back when the world threatens. Jesus calls us friends, not agents of fear.”

“. . . [The book of] Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation – and you and I are His children. If we’re going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we’re going to have to give up fear.”

“. . . Our invitation, both in the last work of this Convention, and as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God’s beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God’s beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded.”

Monday, June 19, 2006

Good News in the Episcopal Church

My church, the Episcopal Church USA, has elected a woman to be our Presiding Bishop.

Not just any woman – the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is a bishop who has a record of being supportive of gay and lesbian rights. She is a scientist (an oceanographer) as well as a theologian. Conservative Anglicans are already issuing angry press releases.

The New York Times story:
Woman is Named Episcopal Leader

From the Episcopal News Service (ENS):

Jefferts Schori’s ‘Reign of God’
By Pat McCaughan
Sunday, June 18, 2006

[ENS] Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori’s vision to lead the Episcopal Church comes straight out of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the reign of God and includes such United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as eradicating poverty and hunger.

“The poor are fed, the good news is preached, those who are ostracized and in prison are set free, the blind receive sight,” Jefferts Schori said June 18 during her first news conference after her election.

The Presiding Bishop-elect fielded questions on topics as wide-ranging as creationism, human sexuality, her call to the priesthood and why she became an airplane pilot.

Elected to the 2.4 million member church’s top post on Father’s Day, Jefferts Schori said she became a pilot after her father promised her flying lessons if she completed college. “I flew as recently as last Saturday ... a Cessna 172,” she said.

She drew upon her experiences as an oceanographer when asked how she’d reconcile with those who oppose her ordination and episcopate. While researching the living habits of worms, squid, octopus and shrimp 30 years ago, “a cruise captain wouldn’t talk to me because I was a woman,” she recalled. “That lasted about 15 minutes. We got over it.”

“My training as a scientist has given me the gift of looking at the world carefully, and investigating. I take delight in the incredible diversity of creation, delighting in the view from several thousand feet above the earth.”

When a reporter asked how the “average Anglican who is a black woman under 30, earns two dollars a day and is evangelical,” might react to news of her consecration and to her consent to Gene Robinson's consecration, she responded: “If the average Anglican is as you describe, she is dealing with hunger, inadequate housing, unclean water and unavailability of education. Those are the places I would start. The issue of sexuality comes along much higher on the hierarchy of needs.”

About creationism and evolution, she said: “Evolution most definitely should be taught in school. It’s a well-tested premise and the best model that fits the data available. Creationism can’t make that claim. I believe in the creeds. They say God created the world, but they don’t say how.”

About homosexuality, she said: “I believe that God welcomes all to his table, those who agree and those who disagree. The Episcopal Church always has been a strong voice for including a variety of opinions; the marginalized are welcomed at the table.”

She was invited to consider ordination by other members of her parish, Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon. A few years later, a priest invited her to preach and shortly afterwards, she began discernment for the priesthood, she said. She was ordained to the priesthood in 1994 and consecrated bishop of Nevada in 2001.

Jefferts Schori also thanked the leadership of current Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, along with the six other nominees for presiding bishop, the House of Bishops, the people of Nevada and her family, particularly her daughter and son-in-law, Kate and Aaron Harris, and her husband, Richard Schori, whom she introduced at the news conference.

“I want to express thanks for the love and support of my husband, Dick Schori, he’s already had to move once to follow in the surprising ministry to which his wife has been called. He may very well have to do it again.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Another Blogging Friend

My dear friend Celeste has joined the blogosphere! Her initial post is about her training to become a YogaFit instructor. Check it out: Celeste's Blog.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

O Hidden Life . . .

O Hidden Life, vibrant in every atom,
O Hidden Light, shining in every creature,
O Hidden Love, embracing all in Oneness,
May all who feel themselves as one with Thee
Know they are therefore one with every other.

~ The “Universal Invocation” by Annie Besant (1847-1933),
second President of the
Theosophical Society

Sunday, June 04, 2006


A graphic from the article “What is a Gnostic?” by Stephan A. Hoeller