• The Way Forward

    This post is primarily written for my queer/trans/POC community, as well as allies actively engaged in anti-oppression work. And the context of this article is the assumption that people you are talking with, or in connection to, are allies - this is not about talking to Trump supporters, or people who aren't working to be allies. Please share widely as you see fit.

    Some of us were shocked, and some of us were not shocked by this election, and the events afterwards. For some of us, there is a new load of fear over the one we've been carrying for most or all of our lives. A lot of us are really scared, not knowing whether the casual interaction at the bus station, or the street is going to be harassment or worse. We've been scared for a long time of police, but now we're scared of everyone who is white or straight, or cis, or all of those things. And we're angry - with righteous anger for all of what has happened, and is still happening, and, perhaps, also what we know will happen. And there is deep sadness, too, for all of the suffering. All of this is understandable, and OK - that is, we should not feel bad to have these feelings, or to express them to others.

    Over the past few days, there has been a raging conversation (and in some places, argument) about whether or not it's right for allies to wear safety pins. And I have noticed patterns of communication that have meant that people stay mired, instead of being able to move forward in solidarity. The sheer fact that we have been spending several days on this should suggest to us that there is a problem.

    One of the things I spend a lot …


  • The Next Four Years

    I've had some time to digest the disaster that was the election this year.  I'm not feeling quite as shocked, or in disbelief. as I was yesterday. I've finally fashioned my plan for the next four years (longer, if necessary.) This is not really in order of importance - I think the priorities may re-shift themselves over time.

    And first, a caveat - I currently live in one of the bluest counties of one of the bluest states. And even though this particular part of California is a bit less diverse than many, I feel personally pretty safe as a QPOC, so that's one thing I don't have to worry about.

    • Keep on teaching self-compassion, self-love, emotional awareness, and befriending fear.
    • Keep on teaching queer women all over the world how to have happy relationships.
    • Keep writing science fiction with my social justice warrior self.
    • Work on creating a spiritual intentional community.
    • Find one or two pivotal issues in CA to work on (single-payer health care would be one that I care about somewhat selfishly, as I am likely to lose my health insurance.)
    • Find ways to work on climate change, which is, from my perspective, the most urgent national issue. It was urgent before, but with a climate denier as president, and a GOP House and Senate, whatever small steps forward the US was taking will now become huge steps backwards.
    • Re-jigger my budget and give more \$ to orgs that help the most vulnerable, like women seeking abortions in red states, queer and trans youth, etc.
    • Re-join the ACLU.
    • Take care of myself.
    • Spend time in nature.
    • Strengthen my connections to my friends and communities.

  • Eating the Lion

    This is a post in my project series, tentatively titled "Overlapping Magisteria" - which is a project to bring together old spiritual wisdom about how to live as human beings, with current scientific understandings.

    I've been having a great time reading Cynthia Bourgeault's book "The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind". The reason is that it is the best articulation that I've come across of Jesus' teachings that really resonates with my own understanding and experience - Jesus as a teacher of transformation. Ever since I read the Beatitudes in church when I was a child, I knew this Jesus dude had something going on - something I knew I wanted a part of. But even as a Nazarene in my late teens and early twenties, I had a hard time with the "Jesus as Savior" narrative, and I spent a lot of time in seminary thinking about how I was going to theologically squirm my way around the Nicene Creed. I was introduced to the "Jesus as Political Radical Revolutionary" narrative just before and since seminary, and I certainly like it a lot better, but it didn't quite sit right with me either.

    There are some very challenging teachings of Jesus that neither of those narratives can really handle very well. One of them is the parable of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25, another is the parable of the workers in the vineyard, and another is the parable of the prodigal son. Here's what Bourgeault says about these:

    These hard teachings are admittedly disconcerting. You simply can’t translate them into a sentimental theology that says, “Jesus just wants us to be nice, to share, to trust.” They are classic esoteric teachings, echoed and confirmed throughout the universal wisdom tradition, that speak to the need for a certain spiritual substance (or quality …


  • It's Not Patriotic to Complain About Sitting for the National Anthem

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    That's the first amendment to our constitution. Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech... One of the most important founding principles of this problematic country, is that we are free to speak our minds. It is, in my opinion, the principle that defines us best, and the only one that can eventually lead us to a country that is truly just. And, the rub, of course, is when people speak in ways that we happen not to like. The statement, "I hate what you are saying, but I will defend to my death your right to say it." is a reflection of the complexity of this particular founding principle.

    The national anthem is a cultural instrument. There is no law, nor could there be, that forces anyone to do anything in particular during the anthem. You could sing "God Save the Queen" at the top of your voice if you wanted to. You could dance, you could stand on your head. And, you can sit. That's called freedom of speech.

    Thoughtless patriotism leads to tyranny. If we don't want tyranny (few people actually do) we need thoughtful patriotism. And thoughtful patriotism says that when someone sits during the national anthem, they are expressing their freedom of speech. Yay!


  • Science Fiction and Faith: An Exploration of Intersections

    One of the wonderful things that have happened in the last few years is that I have experienced a kind of synthesis of my life's professional experiences. This fall, I'm teaching a course continues this process. It's such a wonderful opportunity for me to teach what I've been exploring in my writing for so many years.

    Here's the course description:

    Science fiction has always had many authors that explore theological and biblical topics. Science fiction has imagined the end of faith, the irrelevance of faith, fictional gods, and new kinds of faiths. Science fiction has explored the limits of science, and the ramifications of faith and religious thought for the future. Science fiction also uses metaphor for the theological concepts of good and evil, heaven and hell, etc.

    This course will look at science fiction with a theological lens. We'll investigate the relationship of science to faith and religion in science fiction. We'll look at how faith is portrayed in science fiction, and the rich theological landscape that can exist in present in science fiction. We'll explore fictional religions, humans as creator, and the what faith might look like in the future.

    The course will include readings from novels and short stories, non-fiction, and include clips of science fiction films and TV.

    Here's the syllabus.

    If you're interested in taking the course, you can register here.


  • Vulnerability and Inner Strength

    This is a post in my project series, tentatively titled "Overlapping Magisteria" - which is a project to bring together old spiritual wisdom about how to live as human beings, with current scientific understandings.

    One of the things I do all the time (and often regret) is read the comments on mainstream news articles. If you've ever done that, you know, that more often than not, the conversation is comprised entirely of ad hominem attacks and fact-free condemnations. And it has become the playground of trolls that love to bully and intimidate.

    And for a while now, I've wanted a strategy that doesn't necessarily stop that, but at least can cut through it. And in talking with a good friend about this, she helped me to come across a useful strategy. A comment I might make would go something like this:

    I feel sad as I read the ways in which people talk to each other in this conversation. It's painful to me that we have such a hard time seeing each other as fellow humans. Ultimately, we share so many of the same hopes and fears, underneath the rhetoric and dogma. Can we find our shared humanity?

    I also came across this post, from twitter, where a woman responded to a hateful tweet very simply with love, and that changed the result.

    As I thought more about this, I realized that these kinds of responses embody a willingness to be vulnerable, to express our emotions and our pain. I think that's what's missing in so much of our public discourse these days. We often feel that we need to show our strength, but actually, it is when we can be vulnerable that we are more likely to reach others despite our differences.

    And, of course, one might say, that it's …


  • One Halting Step at a Time

    If you were to ask me what my optimal political alignment is, it would be that I am a libertarian socialist (or an anarcho-syndicalist.) One could argue that Jesus would have been a libertarian socialist. I am about as left wing and anti-authoritarian as you can get, although more broadly, I am a part of the libertarian left. According to the Political Compass test, I am more anti-authoritarian and more left wing than Gandhi.

    But I am also a student of history, and have read vivid accounts of life in this country from the 18th and 19th centuries. I am a child of two people who experienced racism in much more stark ways than I have in my life (police violence notwithstanding.) I actually knew someone (my great-grandmother) whose mother was born a slave. My mother experienced Jim Crow first hand before she moved to New York, and was told point blank that she shouldn't try to be an academic. My father did the best he could, knowing how many careers were simply out of his reach. There were many places they couldn't buy a house, even though they had the money. And from hearing their stories, I understand clearly how their lives have changed in deep ways from the civil rights movement and accompanying government policies. I myself have experienced how my life has changed from the feminist and gay rights movements and the accompanying government policies. I understand how my life in 2016 as a queer black non-binary person is not only possible, but actually pretty good. Could it be better, and could the lives of all queer black non-binary people be better? Of course. But our lives are so much better than they were even 20 years ago.

    I also know that most people in this country …


  • "Fear is the Mind Killer"

    *This is a post in my project series, tentatively titled "[Overlapping Magisteria](" - which is a project to bring together old spiritual wisdom about how to live as human beings, with current scientific understandings.*

    If you've read the science fiction classic "Dune" by Frank Herbert, or you saw the movie, you know this scene. A young Paul Atriedes, son of Duke Leto Atredes, is being tested by the Bene-Gesserit. There is a box, and he must put his hand in the box. And the woman testing him places a poison needle next to his neck - if he removes his hand from the box, he will die.

    The box is a box full of pain. He feels as if his hand is being flayed. And he says to himself, "Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings obliteration. I will face my fear."

    As I read over my Facebook and news feed this morning, it seems soaked in fear. On one hand, you had a speech last night by Donald Trump which was basically "be afraid and I'll save you." And on the other side, we have people who are deathly afraid of a Trump presidency.

    Fear is literally the mind killer. I've talked about the Amygdala hijack already. When we are actively feeling fear, our Amygdala, which mediates the fear response, hijacks traffic that would normally go to our neocortex - our wise, rational, creative brain. And our fear will get re-stimulated over and over again, not just by hearing new things, but by thinking old ones - continuing the process of hijack.

    Fear is the most powerful of emotions - it's evolutionarily designed that way. And if you look back at history, the worst of leaders that created the conditions for the worst …


  • Conscious vs. Unconscious

    This is a post in my project series, tentatively titled "Overlapping Magisteria" - which is a project to bring together old spiritual wisdom about how to live as human beings, with current scientific understandings.

    On July 18th, an unarmed black man who was a caretaker for an autistic patient was shot while he was lying down, with his hands up. The officer who shot him, when asked why, said "I don't know." And the truth is, likely, he actually had no idea.

    The main narrative of the simple, proven fact that being black means you are more likely to be shot by police than if you're white, is that there there is conscious bias in the police force towards people who are black. I don't doubt that this is the case - it clearly plays out in higher rates of traffic stops, for example. But what's also important is a different narrative - that biases that we cannot consciously control play a large role in these incidents, and in the ways police interact with people of color.

    I'm going to take a little detour, then circle back, I promise.

    In many spiritual traditions, there are three important ingredients to live a life that is holy. I'm using holy as a catch all. If you were a Buddhist, you'd say something like "free of suffering." If you were a Christian, you might say, "right with God." Whatever the optimal life a faith tradition imagines, fit that into the "holy" word.  Those three ingredients are: ethical behavior, spiritual practice, and a belief structure that holds it together. For some traditions (like Buddhism) that belief structure is less important than for others.

    I want to focus on the first two: ethical behavior and spiritual practice. They are very different, of course. Each tradition has an ethical …


  • This Present Moment

    I was folding laundry this morning, a task I generally don't like, but try to use as a way to stay present. But my monkey mind was doing its normal thing. I was perseverating about the election season (actually, freaking out is more accurate,) and I was trying to figure out how I was going to keep myself sane for the next 3+ months (and, potentially, the next 4-8 years.)

    I was asking myself what kind of information would I want to hear right now? What would I want to learn? What would help me stay centered? And then I remembered one of my current projects. It's a low-key project, one I've been ruminating on literally for years (since seminary 10 years ago.)  I wrote a blog post last month about it. I thought that perhaps, making it a bit more front-burner would be a good idea, both for me, and potentially others. I decided that I would dedicate the next 3 months at least to writing several posts a week (potentially one a day, but I don't want to promise too much) on aspects of this project. I have tentatively named this project "Overlapping Magisteria." I'll describe why I've used that name in a subsequent blog post.

    As I was thinking about what's happening right now, not only in US politics, but in pretty much everything that's happening in the world, I realized that it is a function of two key truths.

    • First, we human beings have the amazing capacity to live and create beyond the part of our brains designed (so incredibly well) to keep us alive, but we too often don't. And it is crucial that we learn how to do this - or else things are going to get much worse.
    • And the second truth is that …