Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Screenings and Speaking

On Sunday there was a screening of The Constant Process at All Saints Church in Pasadena. It was a wonderful event with a great turn out of people who really appreciate Susan and who gave the film such a warm reception. As a filmmaker it was the kind of event you really hope for, in that it was a wonderful moment when a film found a community, this is something that is essential to making films.

Another aspect of the even was the discussion afterwards which I really value because the discussion around this film is about so much more than the film. The discussion is about theology, ethics, current events, faith, sexuality, interfaith dialogue, the way we strive for understanding etc. Again the audience at the event showed they have thought more deeply and know more about these things than I have. So it was a humbling experience.

The few days after speaking publicly I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what resonated with the audience and also was not said, or what I wish I had said, and ways I can improve my message. Some thoughts.

1)We all speak of God
I need to find a more expansive way to express wonder at the common feeling of connection to God and the workings of the divine in our lives. This is something that transcends ideology and politics, cultural context, economics, and education; its a fundamental component faith. I find it thrilling that going to different churches one can be moved by the testimony of very conservative Mormons and also be moved by the gratitude and faith very liberal members of the UCC. We are all telling the stories of a powerful and caring God at work in our lives. I so want to see us uniting around these shared experiences, uniting around our shared joy over and gratitude for our encounters with the divine.

2) Dialogue is not a strategy
The question of how we engage the other is a central question of being Christian. Do we see the other as a threat? What are we willing or able to do for and for the sake of the other? Are we willing to allow the other to make demands of us? Do we allow our lives to be intertwined with the lives of others? These are only a few important questions, but one of the things that I think is problematic in the public sphere today is that we give in to the temptation to see dialogue as pragmatic, or as a strategy. As if the point of having a dialogue is to present an argument or to convince the other, to win them over, or to show them the error of their ways. I would love to see a different kind of dialogue. Dialogue as practice, dialogue for the sake of something else, a dialogue that is invested in the process and most importantly dialogue because it is essential to being Christian. How can we really engage the other if we are not willing to listen to them, to hear and learn from their stories, to be challenged by them, to hear their needs, and to hear their relation to God? This is dialogue without agenda without calculation or attempting to hold onto a specific (defensive) position in relation to the voice of the other. It is dialogue with no trace of force.

3) Ideology and theology are not the same
One of the negative effects of the rise of the Christian right is that they have been very successful at selling the idea that theology and ideology are one and the same. They successfully sold this idea to both their followers and to the rest of us as well. It is a very attractive idea, but it is terribly misguided and it creates a situation in which we are willing to allow our faith to be shaped by our politics; but one of the great challenges and pleasures of being a person of faith is undergoing continuous self examination to find better ways for faith to blossom beyond the confines of ideology. Further we have the opportunity to be self critical to ask how and why we speak, act and believe as we do. To examine our actions in the public sphere asking what motivates them and how well they reflect our faith as faith rather than as a program.

4) Work from a place of vulnerability
This is something I did say: that we should not fear speaking and even acting from our own most vulnerable place, and even from uncertainty. This is something that I have only learned in the past few months, it is striking and new to me, also unexpected. I never really understood how much more honest it is and meaningful it is to speak from the place of one's own weakness. I am sick of making arguments and of making great efforts to be effective or convincing. I have a new commitment to weakness and to being willing to admit vulnerability to the community.

5) I am not brave
Over the past few months I have heard many times that I am "courageous", "brave", and "bold". I reject this outright. The past six months have been deeply marked by fear, and uncertainty. Not one time have I felt brave or in control or had a strong sense that I know what I am doing. I have just decided to try to craft a certain type of public ethical / religious discourse and see what happens. But the bigger point is that its not about me. The need for healing, understanding, compassion, and empathy and listening is limitless. We all need to do what we can to address various aspects of these needs in what ever ways we are able to. One of the things that impressed both Michele and I on Sunday at All Saints is that we just caught a glimpse of how much pain, alienation, and anger there is around issues of religion and sexuality. That is one place where The Constant Process may be able to do some good. I hope to find others.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's My Birthday - I Can Blog About What I Want

I don't know if you have ever played the game - if I were to start a charitable foundation . . .   Okay, maybe not.  But Douglas and I have played this game.  You should give it a try - it's great for a party.

For me, when it comes to the world's problems I am drawn to organizations that are concerned with hunger and that advocate for children.  It is absolutely unconscionable to me that in our modern world people go to bed hungry.   Of course, my parents, on their latest health kick, might argue a little hunger never hurt anyone.  I guess I am not taking about a little hunger, I am speaking of malnutrition and the economic inability to make basic food purchases.   Organizations like Heifer International, The World Food Bank, and the amazing resources of the Bishop's Storehouse of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are where I like to donate money when I can.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Constant Process Screens This Sunday

This coming Sunday The Constant Process is screening at All Saints Church in Pasadena as part of the rector's forum. The screening will take place at 10:15 am. Both Susan and I will be present. Ed Bacon of All Saints (who was on Oprah two times last month) will introduce us. Then we will screen the film and there will be a discussion after. So PLEASE come and see the film and participate in the discussion. I am looking forward to a wonderful event.

Driving and parking directions are on the website at:


The Forum is located on the lower level of Regas House (the building
along the east side of the quad lawn just north of the church itself)
Enter through the double glass doors and go down the stairs to the right there is also an elevator.

Other screening are in the works, with a Utah screening being worked on for March. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The LA Times Article

So here is the link to the story that ran in the LA Times on Saturday. It was a bit surprising to see a photo on the front page of the paper. So far the response has been very positive. I am really thankful to all the folks who took the time to call or send an email to express their thanks and support to me, Susan, and Duke. Its great to see how many people are really interested in building bridges and seeking greater understanding.

Click here to see the article.