Do what thou Love shall be the Will of the Law

me running
Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2010
I just came back from my third run in three days. This is unusual for me of late, and comes from my new found energy since I upped my protein intake. Today’s run was a little more, though, since the news of the Boston Marathon bombing hit my consciousness, and the sun shine beckoned me outdoors.

A wonderful thing happened on my run which hasn’t happened since I was training for a half marathon in 2010: I lost myself in the run. I reached that moment where I stopped paying attention to how far or how fast I was going, I was just running, and my brain was busy working things out. Things like “Do what thou Love shall be the Will of the Law.” Granted, there are some of you who know what this refers to, but for the rest of you, you can look up “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

I’m not sure exactly what my bastardization means to anyone but myself, but it came from the other day when I watched Kumare, a documentary about a false prophet, and Jeff Who Lives at Home, a film that, oddly enough, seems to be an “answer movie” to M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Kumare is a man’s quest to understand faith, studied the phenomena, and asked if just anyone could be a prophet, including himself. He creates an alter-ego prophet, sets up an ashram and religious practice, finds devotees and then unveils himself. Though Vikram (aka Kumare) maintains that he was not *actually* a religious leader, I found myself wanting to argue with him that he was, and also, a legitimate spiritual teacher. Jeff Who Lives at Home, features the tension between the two brothers, one who is terribly unlikable with a crumbling life, and another, stoner “loser” brother (Jeff) who sees the world through the lens of fate. Jeff wants to believe, and through the movie, made me believe (though frankly, only within the confines of the film.)[1]

The easiest explanation I have for what I believe in is that I am an atheist. Like Vikram Ghandi, the director and creator of Kumare, I was drawn to religious study hoping that it would help me understand and perhaps solidify my religious leanings. By age thirteen, I had a spiritual calling for ministry, one that despite my religious non-affiliation, I still have and see my vocational choices as being complimentary. My study of religion (both academically and through social circles) led me to abandon orthodoxy in favor of what I have always essentially believed: there is no magic. The caveat being that each person is a creator and divine, and creates the god of their belief and the magic according to their system. There are no gods, and there are all the gods. I see it as strange and powerful stuff, but only real to those who see and believe.

That being said, I think that religion and religious practice are necessary and part of the intrinsic fabric of many humans. I’m not about to take that away, especially if they respect my unwillingness to share in their devotion. During times of tragedy, people often feel helpless, especially when far away, and offer thoughts, prayers, lit candles and other rituals, most of which are materially useless, but enriching (I’m told) for believers.

My magic was that I went on a run, and fell into that brief euphoria that running can give a person. I engaged with an ecstatic moment, noted each runner as I passed them by, wondering if they were in a similar devotion today, thinking on the people of Boston, the runners, the observers, the city. Running, like many other body-punishing activities, lends to an ecstatic experience that is otherworldly. The Boston Marathon is a gathering of ecstatics some “True” others “False,”[2] but all sharing in a grueling experience that many will never take part in.

Though it did nothing, I ran. I thought of Boston. And perhaps like I accuse Kumare of being more of a prophet than he realizes, I show how much like Jeff I want to believe that putting myself out there with ecstatic intention means something more than sore quads in the morning.

[1]This “renewal of faith” within the confines of the film was done far better in Jeff Who Lives at Home than in Life of Pi. Life of Pi had beautiful special effects, but was in the end a spiritually hungry white person’s quest for meaning with the help of magical brown-person.

[2]All practices have their True Believers, those who will claim for whatever reason that no TRUE runner would do x, y, z. And those True Believers will disagree with what’s True. At 200 lbs, jogging a slow 2.5 mile, am I a true runner? At 155 lbs, and running 13.1 in 2:15:21, was I a true runner?

Shocked: Jesus is Coming


“I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. … When I said, ‘Twitter that Michelle Shocked says, “God hates faggots,” ‘ I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. … And to those fans who are disappointed … I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. … And my statement equating repeal of Prop. 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: It was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage.”
– Michelle Shocked

I am not a fan of Michelle Shocked, but my husband has been for many years. I saw her perform a few years ago in Seattle to a small crowd at The Crocodile. It was an intimate show, and rather awkward for me, as a non-fan, as that I felt that I didn’t “get” her act. Another distracting factor was that she was prominently lit the whole time with a blue light, making her skin look blue-black, while the rest of those on stage were not similarly lit. I found this choice too obvious to be accidental, and wondered if it had any connection to her born-again association with a mostly black congregation.

That being said, when I saw that Michelle Shocked had launched into an anti-gay rant at her recent San Francisco gig, I thought to myself, “I never her liked her much anyway.” Long time fans, however, were deflated. The venues for her future tour dates started cancelling, fans were in an uproar calling for her head. I initially agreed with the reaction, believing anyone saying “God hates fags” is someone to be dismissed. Slowly, news came that she believed her remarks were misinterpreted.

I figured that it would be only a short time before audio/video of the event was put online, and I’m happy to see that it has. At around the 4:30 mark is where the offending statements begin, and I think that anyone who has been paying attention to this story should listen. Additionally, I believe that context is everything, and while I’m not a fan, am an atheist, and anti-evangelical, I think that she deserves to be listened in what I believe to be the most generous of contexts.

What her statements say to me is much of what her fans should know. She is a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. Her congregation (and, with that, she says, she also) believes that the second coming of Jesus is nigh. This is an important place to pause, to consider that as a part of her Christianity, she believes that we are in a sinful world (very, very sinful, especially given the proximity to the End) and that homosexuality is a sin (which she is quoted as saying, “homosexuality is no more or less a sin than fornication.” This is where when she starts talking about Prop 8 passing, and priests having guns to their heads to marry gay people, etc. can sound, as she claims, as a statement meant “ironically.” I think she was speaking less ironically and more hyperbolically, but the underlying truth being that (in my words) the normalization of sinful behavior will beckon Jesus to come back, as they believe is promised. When Michelle Shocked says to tweet that she said, “God hates faggots,” the tone in her voice seems to be one of a person who has suddenly dissociated from herself, is hearing what she just said, and interpreting it for the audience. It is self-conscious, hyperbolic, and haha-only-serious.

There is so much gravity in each of the words she spoke, and the words themselves are tied to so many individuals pain. I think it was nearly impossible for anyone to hear what she said in any way other than how they heard it. The pain was too loaded in her fan base, and frankly, I think she didn’t understand how alienating it can be when you’re a fan of someone (for 20+ years), and despite their proclamations of fundamentalist Christianity, you felt that the artist you were seeing was still “one of us,” where “one of us” is a queer-loving liberal. The words “fundamentalist Christian” seem to immediately negate the words “queer-loving liberal,” and it’s hard for many people, myself included, to hold those two ideas in the same headspace.

Perhaps this is the same problem I’m having with her recent tweet of Truth vs. Reality:

Truth=patient kind loving faithful trusting
Reality=ugly spiteful hateful petty self-serving
Talk to me Twitter

The idea that Truth is opposite, or can be compared to Reality seems nonsensical. There have been many accusations since her performance at Yoshi’s that she is “off her meds” or should get back on them. I haven’t listened to the entirety of her second set, but I think that it’s important that people consider her as a human being who is obviously working through some shit. Even if she believes that fornicators and homosexuals are the same kind of sinners, and deserving of judgment, that means that she likely sees herself (and pretty much everyone anyone knows) as deserving of that judgment. Maybe that judgment comes with nothing but wrath. Maybe it comes with forgiveness and love.

At any rate, I think that there is much more to this than is being reported, or reacted to, and if you have any interest in the human condition, worth considering. I am still uncomfortable with her statements, due to the fact that they can be taken in such a painful way. I believe that the gravity of what she said should not be ignored, and that she should be considerate of how her words are interpreted (and the outcome of that interpretation.) As I stated, I’m an atheist, and no fan of fundamentalist Christianity, but we share this rock with all types, and it’s important to figure out how to communicate and work together, especially if those we disagree with don’t want to.

Coffee Shop Anarchists vs. Police

Dan Savage posted to The Stranger’s Slog a snippet that led me to their sister-paper’s blo (Portland Mercury) about the Red and Black (Anarchist) coffee shop asking a uniformed officer to leave after he purchased his coffee, due to the fact he was uniformed. My personal feelings on the matter is that I don’t believe asking a uniformed cop to leave further’s their “cause” – why is the cop coming into that shop? Could he be a closet anarchist? Could he be a cop AGAINST police brutality? Could he be wanting to bridge the divide? Does kicking him out serve to continue the divide? Would letting him sit there, join in a dialog, perhaps make things better for all parties? I don’t have the answers, but I admit to wanting to be generous here. I know that this asks courage for people who are afraid (some reasonably so) to confront their enemy, which perhaps no one wants to do over a latte. Perhaps people shouldn’t have to confront discomfort/fears/assumptions/traumas. Then again, maybe that’s what it means to be out in the world, and a coffee shop is the best place to do it.

One of the commenters, Snagglepuss, had a few comments on the subject worth noting, here’s an excerpt of one:

Then, a startling thing happened, right around my 20th birthday. Instead of just blindly believing everything I read in the liner notes of Ebullition and Profane Existence releases, the sloganeering lyrics of my favorite bands, and the regurgitated and half-formed quasi-political gibberish my friends spouted, I picked up some books with different viewpoints, and (gasp!) read them…

You’ll never guess what happened. It dawned on me that my friends, and virtually everyone else I’d met in the crust-punk scene, were flat-out wrong about some very basic notions regarding political philosophy, humanity, and governance.

Not only were they wrong, they were utterly unable to consider a viewpoint that was different than their own (unless it was endorsed by one of their cool punk-rock heroes), and immediately hostile to ideas that contradicted their beliefs.

One of my peeves lately is that every corner of the Internet seems to have a willingness to step onto a soap box and proclaim right vs. wrong, often without the courage to sit, contemplate and consider the opposing viewpoint they’re rallying against on the oppositions terms: in their shoes, and within their world-view. The world is not sinister in the way that I think we may be inclined to believe it to be, but is rather a cluster of people operating on different classes of assumptions, with only a few with truly malevolent designs. It’s not to say there aren’t disastrous consequences of decisions made without malice, but until we can be generous and sit in the other person’s/group’s experience, we can’t bridge the divide to communicate in terms of peace.

Some may say that the opposition isn’t deserving of such generosity. Who says that we are deserving of theirs?