Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amy Grant and Audience and Why/If it Matters

Since I have no "cool factor" to protect, I don't mind admitting that I've long had a soft spot for Amy Grant. Discovering her music (and "contemporary Christian music" in general) as a pious college kid was actually a big part of my development and in some ways, the thoughts, hopes, prayers set to music saved me, maybe more literally than figuratively.

Today, I saw on my Facebook newsfeed a link to an interview with Amy, conducted with a Michigan based LGBT magazine. You can read the interview here.

There has already been much made of her careful responses, her skirting any kind of clear affirmation of LGBT folk. She has LGBT friends, she's aware of them in her fan base, and she gives one of the best answers of all time with this observation: "When you don't understand something, you can either default to judgment or you can default to compassion. Those take you down completely different roads."

Yet, LGBT are treated as a political hot potato that is obliquely compared to telling who she voted for in the last presidential election. It's information that is divisive and she says she's more interested in bringing people together. All well and good, I suppose. I can understand it, even. She has pressures from her local church and record label and larger fan base that I'll never have or feel the need to navigate.

But towards the end of the interview she also says, "This is interesting because I have never done an interview where it feels every question is saying, 'Tell me I'm OK.'"

Yes, Amy, that's there. I admit it. I hate that I sometimes look to celebrities I've admired to affirm me, but it's there, it's real and let me see if I can explain why this is a thing.

In so many of the church discussions about LGBT folk, so much emphasis is put on "unity." Let's not let this issue divide us. What so many of us LGBT folk hear is, "We think you're okay-ish, but it's not worth the hassle to say so outright. It's not worth the loss in revenue to say we've reconciled our faith with the fact that there are gay people and they might have some rights to happiness and fulfilling relationship out in the open just like straight people. We welcome you to our worship and/or concerts, but please don't ask us to outright affirm you. It does no one but you any good."

See what we hear? The only people who will benefit by being affirmed by church hierarchy or pop stars are the LGBT folk---and it feels like we're not worth the trouble it'll bring to the hierarchy or career.

There are any number of ways that I've long respected Amy Grant and her attempts to live honestly, the way she conducted herself during her divorce and remarriage seemed like models of restraint and what a gift it must have been to her children that she kept them out of the press as much as possible during those times. And the album, Lead Me On remains a high water mark, in my estimation, of religious music recording.

But yes, sad and unfortunate as it is, I'd still like a more solid word of welcome, affirmation, acceptance.

It shouldn't matter, but yes I'd like to know that Amy Grant thinks I'm okay.

And I'll take her word of wisdom and do my best to meet what I don't understand in her non-answers with compassion more than judgment.

But compassion doesn't preclude pushing back. I hope I push back with love. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mortality IV---Home

It's an amazing ride to go into the hospital, let them knock you out and cut into you (it's for your own good!) and start the recovery process.

It's befuddling and beyond ponderable that all this goes well, perhaps best case scenario for the situation at hand. My pain was beautifully managed. A woman next door, not so much. The unequal distribution of that particular blessing sits in my soul and I wonder at my escape from the worst.

I keep saying I have no way to complain. I was in a topnotch hospital in a city known for topnotch hospitals. I have insurance. And if I find the initial business of waking up disorienting and if I don't like the feeling of narcotics in my body (another blessing?) and if the energy put into just sitting up or shifting in my bed feels like some kind of misery---I have nothing to complain about.

Blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace. Friends and doctors and nurses . . . with Mary, I hold these days and ponder them in my heart.

The grisly bits of it are that I had a 10-15 pound mass in my abdomen. On my pancreas, no less. They went in and took it out. It was a little bigger than a baseball. The pathology report on it is all clear. I just have to be careful lifting things for the next month or two, as my abdominal wall heals back up. And figure out how to sleep without a cat kneading my belly for at least a few days.

I'm about to spend my first night back in my own bed, full of gratitude and wonder. But for fun, here's some photographic evidence from the last week. Me on a "breathing treatment" (I referred to it as my hookah) something like the third day after the surgery.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mortality III: Humor For the Sick

Some less than serious thoughts as I prepare for surgery to have that cyst removed from my pancreas . . . 

Today's gospel reading is the story of Thomas and his questions about the resurrection. On the cover of our bulletin was a painting of modern day disciples looking at Jesus' wounded side with one (presumably a modern day Thomas) touching the scar. It reminded me that a few days ago, my Facebook status was something like: In most pictures of the crucified Christ, the spear wound is pictured on the right side. I will have a scar on my left side. The theological implications trouble me.

I found this much funnier than most of my Facebook friends, as I thought I was making a subtle joke about possibly being the antichrist, but I was merely being obscure. It happens to me a lot.

Still, this is how I generally get through life. I make a joke. Some are better than others. Most are worse than I like to admit. They all make me laugh, because I'm eternally amused by my own self.

Similarly, this afternoon, I posted to Facebook: In today's reading, Jesus invited Thomas to poke his fingers into Jesus' wounded side. I regret to report that I am no the Risen Lord and I shan't be inviting any of you to do likewise later this week. Let the disappointment (and, I presume, un-friending) begin.

I got a "Yuck!" in response to that one.  

Then there was that week or so where all I knew about my condition was that I had a mass on my pancreas and that this was bad news. I hadn't yet had the word that it looks benign, and so I had a few days when I stopped planning too far into the future. Like, my 50th birthday is this year in October. I kind of stopped thinking about that. One day, walking home from my bus stop, I found myself thinking about what might have been my "last" holidays, as in "Maybe last Christmas was my last Christmas."

Now, one of my very least favorite Christmas songs is Wham!'s "Last Christmas." I hate it while admitting that it's catchy. As soon as I thought to myself, "last Christmas," the tune was in my head and for about a block, I was humming a loop of "last Christmas was my last Christmas was my last Christmas was my last Christmas." And then I laughed, knowing that this was much too dark to tell anyone about. (So I post it to the WWW.)

Then there's my friend who wants to do a weeping flash mob, where a large group of people gather together in a public place and just quietly weep together. We think this is hysterically funny. (It's no just me---it's also the people I hang out with.) One night, in Facebook chat, she said she thought the hospital would be a great place for the weeping flash mob."

I immediately lit up and typed back to her, "That would be AWESOME to wake up to!!!"

Because, really, it would. Except I'd laugh and bust a stitch or something. But what they hey, right? I'd already be in the hospital an I'm sure they'd be happy to stitch me right back up.

And now, just a couple of days before the surgery, I'm having an allergy attack (I swear I never had these until a couple of years ago) and they always want to settle into my chest. This morning I woke up sounding like Harvey Fierstein. On Friday, I called my surgeon's nurse and told here that I was having some chest congestion thanks to some angry pollen in the air---would this postpone my surgery or, better yet, did she have any suggestions as to what to take to make it better? She checked with the surgeon and he said that as long as I didn't have a fever or chills, I would be okay for surgery.

Just to be clear, I asked, graphically, "So if I have a coughing fit after surgery, I'm not going to split open and spill my guts all over the place?"

Because I also delight in using hyperbole with medical people. I think they're not quite used to their patients talking like that and it usually takes them aback a second and then they laugh. I like making my medical people laugh, and I don't hold back because I know people in life-or-death situations also tend to have a fairly dark sense of humor. I learned this as a chaplain in seminary.

I share all this to  . . . I don't know, I guess to share how I cope with what I earlier called the strong, brave, weak, scared balancing act. Humor, I believe, is a gift from God, and if no one but me and God are laughing, well that's enough.

I once heard my father say, "You need a little foolishness to get through the day." I don't know that I ever thought of Daddy as having a particularly philosophical bent, but if I ever embraced anything he said, this is it. I do take things seriously---I've also been accused of taking some things too seriously---but, well, to quote the prophet Joni Mitchell, ". . . laughing and crying, you know it's the same release."

I really rather prefer laughing.