Category Archives: Reflections

Orlando shooting: initial reflections

PFS5-B

Everyday Terror: Initial reflections on the Orlando shooting

Working in a hospital I’ve come to fear the everyday activities that just don’t end well: riding bikes, taking walks, driving, taking the stairs, etc. Any one of these activities can suddenly go awry and land you in the ER. These everyday activities can be punctuated by unpredictability—a car comes out of nowhere and hits a bicyclist, a pedestrian is hit by a car on a routine walk to the grocery store, sock feet on wooden stairs leads to head injuries. I admit, I have not found a good way to cope with these everyday traumas. I’ve put off making my bicycle my primary form of transportation because it just seems too dangerous, I am a more careful driver, and in general I have become more risk averse. I think of this as the effect of seeing and sitting with patients who happen to be the outlying edges of the bell curve with regard to accidental trauma.

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The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster[Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, along with serious references to the geography and religions of the Star Wars universe.  Caveat lector.]

I saw The Force Awakens opening night. I liked the movie a lot, but as the credits rolled I was pensive and troubled.

Don’t get me wrong. Unlike so many outspoken critics, I wasn’t bothered by the many parallels between the original Star Wars and this latest installment. Sagas, after all, are often iterative. That’s the nature of human storytelling. I quite enjoyed the mixing of familiar characters and tropes with new characters and twists. So what was my problem?

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Blameless Excuses and Uterus Transplants

 

I still plan to offer several more reflections on Between the World and Me, but I also feel compelled to offer some commentary and framing to two articles on transplants that appeared last week: the first uterus transplant in the USA and the news that desensitizing kidney recipients could allow for unmatched kidney donation. I’ll take them in theological order: the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Desensitizing kidney recipients in layman’s terms means to make their immune systems less hostile to the transplanted kidney prior to transplantation. The upshot is that a desensitized patient could receive a kidney from a donor who is not a very good match. (If you want to know more about matching donor and recipient, read the article linked above.) The NYT headline above shouts the good news that now there is a method of desensitizing that allows a person in need of a kidney to receive one from ANY donor. That is great scientific and medical progress! And yet, like with any progress, there is also a cost, and this time the cost is social. Continue reading

“I’m just American.”

Woman reading Between the World and Me

As an entrée to blogging here, I offer a series of reflections on reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I will not review or critique the book, but rather respond to Coates’ experiences with some of my own, in part because the mark of a great work is its ability to help the reader rethink her position in the world and how she got there. I also think this is one of the things that Coates wants his readers to do: wrestle with his words as a means of self-critique. I humbly and vulnerably take up that task.

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That same day [they] became friends with each other…

Patriarch Kirill and Pope FrancisThis week the Patriarchs of Rome and Moscow held a historic meeting in an airport in Havana, Cuba.

[Before I get to the meat of my issue, my inner pedant must clarify that the Internet is awash in incorrect headlines. I’ve added a section at the end addressing some of the issues.] Continue reading

What Is Communion (and other questions)?

Provinces of the Anglican Communion

The global presence of the Anglican Communion, with each color indicating a different province.

Those of you in the Episcoverse, who are the only people likely to care about such things, have probably already seen the Primates of the Anglican Communion’s non-announcement of the suspension of The Episcopal Church from various roles in the Communion (for the non-Anglican crowd, a primate is the head bishop of each church or province in our communion). Needless to say, I think this resolution is wrong on all points and the primates who sponsored and voted for it have made a huge mistake. Further, I am hurt and furious and struggling with all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the people who have done this. I think that this whole thing reeks of the structures of colonialism, and I suspect other motives on the part of many players. But I am struggling to love the primates and think well of them, and though I have some suspicions about their motives and various other factors in play, the only person whose sins I am intimately acquainted with is myself. I am also implicated in the colonial structures at work. So, I merely offer ten questions, more or less in reverse order of importance (yeah, I know, bad form in the age of tl;dr). Okay, fine, there’s also a concluding observation. Continue reading

Processing Palestine

A mural in Beit Sahour, the village of the shepherds in the nativity story.

A mural in Beit Sahour, the village of the shepherds in the nativity story.

I think I’ve been here long enough now to write something. Take it for what it is: the experience of a privileged outsider who does not speak for Palestinians.

I’ve spent the last month in Palestine. Specifically in Bethlehem, which is in Area A of the West Bank. Area A means that it is under Palestinian control (Area B is under Palestinian civil government but Israeli military control. Area C, which comprises about 60%–and which includes all the major roads between cities–is under Israeli military control). The occupation is brutal.

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Forgiveness and Theological Doubletalk

Biometric-EarPod-Rumor-Was-a-Fake-Author-Comes-Clean-440854-2After expressions of forgiveness from the families of “The Beautiful Nine,” a few articles have been written that counter the dominant media narratives focusing on the beauty of the unconditional forgiveness offered Dylann Roof contrasted with the hatred and terror wrought on the community.  As I mentioned earlier, I laud the family members for opening themselves to such extraordinary grace, particularly during a moment when the temptation to lash out with hatred and vengeance must have been barely resistible.

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Costly Forgiveness v. Cheap Grace

justice-scales-300x273Now that the perpetrator of the Emanuel Church massacre has been apprehended and charged, the media is ablaze with heart rending images of family members struggling through their grief to offer forgiveness to Dylann Storm Roof.  Many  colleagues in ministry, most of whom are faithful allies in mainline churches like my own, the Episcopal Church, where people of color are few and far between, are waxing poetic about the power of forgiveness.  I do not doubt the sincerity of my friends and colleagues.  But I have to admit, even as a man who works so hard to lead with thoughtful compassion and introspection–much to the consternation of my more pointed and eloquent black colleagues–the readiness to laud forgiveness too early and too often horrifies me.

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Facing the Monster

Emanuel_African_Methodist_Episcopal_(AME)_ChurchI learned of the dreadful massacre at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina while lying on a sleeping bag on the floor of my empty apartment.  This is the very church of Denmark Vesey (1767-1822), a former slave who bought his freedom.  He attempted to organize what might have become one of the largest slave revolts of the U.S. antebellum era.  Those who recruited black soldiers to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War invoked the name of Denmark Vesey.

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