Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Clean Up

I've added two new link to my blog roll. The first isLike a Lutheran the blog of another new Lutheran pastor to New Jersey. Also, I am vaguely related to her husband. The second is Magdalene's Egg, a very witty blog by a Pastor in Romania.
Additionally, I've removed a few links that hadn't been updated for a long time.
The Management

Friday, December 23, 2011

Follow up to "Charts by LTSP’s poster boy for student debt"

I just received a very important follow-up question about my seminary debt.
The question was: “How much of that debt was incurred because of seminary? How much from college? And how much from other graduate courses of study?”
While I have 80,000 dollars worth of student debt only 66,125 was incurred by my time at LTSP earning a Master of Divinity. The remaining 13,875 was incurred at the University of Cambridge while earning a Master of Philosophy in Divinity.
My degree at the foremost English speaking university in the world (take that Oxford) cost me 13,875 dollars a year. This is all inclusive, food, lodging, etc.
In contrast, LTSP cost 22,041 all inclusively (not counting an extra 6,000 dollar non-governmental loan that got me through the last semester which I did not included in any of my calculations because I am currently not in the process of paying it back).
Note well, at Cambridge I was an out of country student, paying in dollars at a time when our currency was worth very little against the pound, and it still cost over 8,000 dollars less a year than did my seminary education.
But back to addressing the question/statement about my previous post. “How much of that debt was incurred because of seminary?" After all as the reader who asked this question pointed out, “If we're going to take a good hard look at what the church asks of us and expects of us in terms of our education, it's helpful to know how much debt comes from each part of the picture.”
So, to answer the question, what percentage of my pie chart A is from seminary debt? 41%. Likewise, in pie chart B 31.5% of what I earned this last pay period went to paying off my seminary debt.
It is worth pointing out Seminary generally doesn’t let people in without a Bachelor’s degree, so undergraduate debt could be included in the educational costs of becoming an ELCA pastor.

Debt after seminary: Charts by LTSP’s poster boy for student debt

So, as some readers may know I became the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia’s poster boy for student debt. The seminary sent out a letter to all alumni (including me) asking for money, because there are people like Chris, a recent graduate who is 80,000 dollars in the hole, who has been called to a church in New Jersey. They go on to point out that saddling seminarians like Chris with that much debt isn’t a faithful way to run the church. So send money to LTSP.
I thought it might be helpful for folk to see what 80 grand of debt does to a person’s spending habits. Therefore take a look at two charts that hopefully will graphically illustrate this. The first is the top five things I spent money on from October 15th to November 15th (Chart A). The second is a chart showing where all my pay from November 15th to December 15th went (Chart B).

The big thing to notice is that, of the top five things I spent money on in A, my debt was not only the biggest, but made up 50% of the money I spent in that chart. Of the top 5 things I spent money on student debt made up 50%. That’s a lot!
Still, chart A is a little wobbly, because it only shows the top 5 things I spent money on in that time period. Lets go to chart B.

38% of my pay went to paying off student debt. I put as much money toward my debt as I did toward food, savings, tithes, keeping my car going, and charitable donations combined!
Now, I have to admit I am intent upon paying off my student loans in 10 years or less, which is ambitious, but frankly I don’t want to be in debt forever. Yet, imagine if I had kids to feed, I would have to extend my loan… or marry a baroness… seriously if there are any baronesses out there looking for an indebted Lutheran pastor I’m so available.
Anyway… as it is, if I pay off my loan in 10 years I will be paying $30,000 of interest. If, however, I did have to extend my loan I could pay up to $86,000 worth of interest. Think about that, I could pay more than double the money I was initially loaned!
There you have it, graphic representation of what happens to Pastors when their church body insists upon extensive professional theological education, but does not financially back that requirement.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Thought of the Day: “No-man baptized Jesus.”

The author of John’s Gospel, in his description of John the Baptist, took a figurative page out of the poet Homer’s playbook.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus tells the Cyclops, who intends to eat and otherwise brutalize his crew, that his name is “No-man.” Then, when they blind the Cyclops and escape, the Cyclops cries out to his brothers, “No-man has blinded me.” For that reason they do not come to his aid, after all, no man had blinded them either.
Likewise, John the Baptist, in never explicitly baptizing Jesus in John’s Gospel, becomes a “No-man” as well. One of the sticky points of the relationship between John and Jesus is that Jesus appears to be John’s disciple, and even receives baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sin, not something Christians who are developing a higher Christology would find palatable; hence, this move in John that eliminates the act of Baptism. Further, John affirms again and again in this gospel that he is not X nor Y. He diminishes himself to the point that you could call him a No-man.
Thus, it could be said, “No-man baptized Jesus.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Proposed Four-Year Lectionary

As my last post indicated, each gospel has its own character, and the Revised Common Lectionary makes this fact less clear.
Well, I can’t just leave it like that—complain and not suggest a fix for said complaint.
So, here is my bare bones proposal for how to re-organize the lectionary:

Year 1: Matthew, The Law, Non-Pauline Letters
Matthew goes to certain lengths to connect Jesus with Moses and the Law, what better place to point this out than in the books of the Bible we read. Additionally, giving the non-Pauline letters some space to talk to the church on their own seems healthy.

Year 2: Mark, The Histories, Pauline Letters
Mark is a shorter Gospel, but that just means we can focus on smaller sections of Mark and larger sections of Paul and really get to know the history and story found in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Ester.

Year 3: Luke, The Prophets, The Book of Acts
Reconnecting Luke and Acts, since they are by the same author and two halves of his same story, makes good sense. Luke’s focus on some of the social and economic aspects of Jesus’ ministry and world he lives in echoes in the Prophetic books of Hebrew Scripture.

Year 4: John, Wisdom Literature, The Book of Revelation
Sigh with me for a second, feel the extra space? The gospel of John finally gets to breath! As I indicated in the previous post one of the ways to describe Jesus as Word of God is “Incarnate Divine Proverb.” Well, what better place to look at Wisdom Literature than side by side with a gospel that proclaims Wisdom’s incarnation. As for Revelation, both authors are known as John, and both describe Jesus in ways that differ greatly from the other Gospels. Additionally, wrestling with Revelation for a whole year might force main-line churches to admit that this strain of apocalyptic literature is our property too.


What I learned in Seminary 2: Gospels

In New Testament 1 it was hammered home that each gospel has its own character.
Specifically, Dr. Mattison sharply focuses on the variety of values expressed in each gospel. She sharpened this reality by her “Creed assignments.” We wrote a creed focusing on the particular values of each gospel. Additionally, we looked at one particular piece of scripture which occurred in multiple gospels and compared and contrasted gospel to gospel.
Mark is a gospel with a jagged edge. Its grammar is rough and Mark’s two favorite words are “and” and “Immediately.” It feels like he is breathlessly telling the Jesus story, and once finishing running to the next village or campfire to tell it again. Mark, while affirming Jesus as Son of God, has not fully worked out the meaning of the statement as clearly as the other gospels. Or, alternatively, what he worked out is simply a much “lower” understanding of Son of God than the other authors. He is very aware that the gospel story is a Jewish story about a Rabbi from Galilee.
Matthew ensures that the Jewish story he is telling meshes with the Jewish scriptures he knows. He ties Jesus to King David and the Patriarch Abraham. Jesus acts as a second Moses who is leading people to repentance. He is salt and light in a bland and dark world, and those who repentant are in turn to be savory and illuminating as well.
Luke’s gospel is an apology for Christianity to a gentile audience. Jesus’ lineage goes all the way back to Adam, thus making him the son of not only the Jewish Patriarch, but the son of all of humanity. Additionally, the gentile worldview sneaks into this gospel in several ways. The spiritual universe the story is set in is much more peopled than the other gospels; in other words, there are more angels. Also, Jesus expresses himself less with action and more with words. Additionally, Luke very clearly does not know the geography of the holy land, and assumes his readers don’t either. Luke has a tendency to emphasize the crowds around Jesus and has a greater concern for economic issues than the other writers.
And then there is John. There is a lot more philosophical proclamation about Jesus in this last gospel. Jesus has become a sort of super-man, the kind of King Mel Gibson pointed to in his film about Jesus. John proclaims Jesus to be, “Incarnate Divine Proverb” the very Word of God and because of that He is shown to be very aware of everything that is happening to him. John uses a phrase that I have found fascinating for a long time. “I am.” This is derived from the Divine Name and is used to affirm Jesus’ nature throughout the Gospel of John.
I learned that it is no enough to talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, we must speak of the Gospels—of different good news for people of different places and times. This is why gospel harmonies do a disservice to the unique content of each book.
For that same reason the three year lectionary cycle that most churches use, in which Matthew, Mark, or Luke are focused on and the gospel of John is focused on during “special” Sundays, muddles the very clear variety of Good News handed down to the Church.
Finally, Dr. Mattison, through her in-depth and unique assignments, insisted that part of being a pastor is creativity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Quote of the Day: A bad prediction

"Thus we have learned that except for a somewhat different understanding of the words “earthquake” and “rapture” or “catching up” no other past teachings of Judgment Day or the end of the world have been changed. The time line, the certainty of it, the proofs, and the signs are all precisely the same. No other past teachings have been changed or modified. Indeed, on May 21 Christ did come spiritually to put all of the unsaved throughout the world into judgment. But that universal judgment will not be physically seen until the last day of the five month judgment period, on October 21, 2011."--Harold Camping

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Or they could do a Commercial

Yesterday I mentioned a few directions that Occupy Wall Street could go in. Part of the not so subtle subtext of my post was that Adbusters was sort of hijacking a movement that had multiple voices.
Well, today OWS came out with a TV commercial expressing the viewpoints of a few protesters. I like it!
Check it out here

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I would advocate for if I was “in charge” of Occupy Wall Street

One of the main complaints about Occupy Wall Street is that, despite their initial billing, they do not have “one demand.” Adbusters, who helped started this movement does have one demand planned, they want to add a 1% tax on all financial transactions and currency trades in the world.
Thinking about how Adbusters intends to transform the wide variety of voices participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests into a singular voice on a singular issue, I thought I would offer a few other options.
1. Tough enforcement of Dodd-Frank—There is a fair bit of worry from people who think Dodd-Frank didn’t go far enough to make sure “too big to fail” doesn’t happen again. Even worse, the implementation of Dodd-Frank might be softer than intended because businesses will flex their muscle and their money in order to be regulated as little as possible. If OWS-folk started to wave signs saying, “Enforce Dodd-Frank or the people will”—or less inflammatory—“The 99% are behind tough enforcement of Dodd-Frank” this issue would come to the forefront.
2. Target Citizens United—We have seen a little of this, signs saying things like, “I won’t believe corporations are people until they execute one in Texas” but we could see a lot more of this. For more on this idea check out Dahlia Lithwick’s article on slate.
3. Advocate for a Jobs Bill—Obama is now trying to pass his Jobs Bill in pieces. NPR is in fact constantly comparing this piecemeal set of Job bills to putting less meat in a sandwich. Most people see this as a defeat for those who want to lessen unemployment… but OWS could see this as an opportunity. They could hold breakout sessions in which they write their own Job Bills, effectively adding meat to the President’s sandwich. After these bills were written they would then have to go through the hard work of rallying the troops to email and call their representatives, exerting people powered pressure in order to grease the wheels of our great representative democracy and show the world that the dream of ancient Athens, and the dream penned in that Philadelphia state house nearly two hundred and twenty five years ago—of people shaping their own destiny through compromise, persuasion, and rightly representing the voice, the vision, and the needs, of the 99%--is still alive and well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

sermon: Christians Sing Cross Shaped Songs

Christians have been singing for a long time.
During the Communist era in East Germany, Christians sang songs of resistance and peace—songs about swords turning into plowshares—as the walls of authoritarian oppression came tumbling down.
During the Civil Rights era, hymn writer Charles Tidley’s song “We Shall Overcome” became the theme song for racial equality and justice.
During the Reformation, traditional bar tunes were overlaid with words that conveyed Luther’s understanding of God’s grace.
During the early period of the church, as questions surrounding the divinity of Jesus and the meaning of the Trinity were debated, songs were written to express these complex ideas in simple, and memorable, ways.
You could even say Christian theologies, and Christian ethics, are not fully formed until they can be sung.
Often times Pastors fancy themselves the theologian of the church—but I would venture to say the church musician is in fact the theologian of the church—because church musicians choose the words that the church sings.

And today—in Paul’s letter to the Philippians—we read the earliest recorded Christian hymn—commonly called the Christ Hymn.
“Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to grasp.
Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness and being found in human form.
Christ, who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Christ, who God also highly exalted and gave the name that is above every name
Christ, at whose name every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth, and even under the earth
Christ, confessed by every tongue as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
And at the center of this hymn—smack dab in the middle—between the section that deals with emptying and the section that deals with exaltation—is the phrase, “even death on a cross.” “Even death on a cross.”
And, this section of early Christian song—this hymned phrase, “Even death on a cross.”—is a paradigm, a blueprint, a model,
for the songs that alight from the lips of the faithful of every age. It is the refrain of every Christian song.
Know today that Christians Sing Cross Shaped Songs. Christians Sing Cross Shaped Songs.
Let us pray—

Christians Sing Cross Shaped Songs.
Our songs are songs like that of the Christ Hymn found in Philippians. Our songs are songs of emptying and exaltation. Songs that affirm two things.
First that: God is in the last place we would think to look.
Second that: Nothing looks the same after God finds us.

God is in the last place we would think to look.
The reason we find this Cross Shaped Song in Paul’s letter to the Philippians is because the cross was the last place that Paul would have ever thought to look for God.
You see, the Apostle Paul, before his conversion, was a strict interpreter of scripture. He read the Bible carefully and when he came into contact with Christians, and they told him about their messiah—when they told him that Jesus had died on the cross—he said,
“Well then, I know you must be wrong. After all scripture says that all who die on a tree are cursed and God would not curse His Messiah. Therefore, Jesus is not the Messiah.”
In other words, Paul was proof texting. He was using Deuteronomy chapter 21 to prove that God could not—in any way—be doing something in the life of Jesus, or in the life of Jesus’ followers, because of the way Jesus died.
He believed God could never be there. The cross of Christ was not a place to find God.

But then, on Paul’s way to the city of Damascus, he had an experience that made him changed his tune—that made him sing a new song. He had to hum an impossible hymn.
He intoning that the immortal put on mortal flesh—the fullness of all things became empty. He sang that the One who cannot die, died. He chanted that the King of Kings was crucified, like, and with, criminals.
He had to sing that cross-shaped song that the Christians he met were singing to him—that Christians continue to sing. And part of that melody is admitting that God is in the last place we would think to look.
Some of you, who came to my ordination last week, mentioned to me that the service was wonderful—the sermon was great—the Bishop was warm and friendly—everything made sense—everything seemed right—except the neighborhood the ordination happened in.
The part of Trenton my ordination happened in was a rough neighborhood—a neighborhood you might not expect to go to for an ordination. You could even say it would be the last place you would think to look for an ordination at.
Yet there was Trinity Cathedral—there the Word of God was proclaimed—there ordination vows were taken—there communion was received. Perhaps the last place you would think to look… but there it was.
So too with God.

The Christian song, however, does not end with this first stanza—that God is in the last place we would think to look.
No. It continues on, as we sing out, “Nothing looks the same after God finds us.”
Listen to what Paul is singing about this humiliated man on the cross—this man emptied of Godhood—this Jesus.
He sings out that God exalted him—that his name is above all names—that all of creation bows before him and confesses his Lordship!
Paul himself—at Damascus—fell down and made this confession.
Paul makes this confession—he sings out this song of exultation—even as he copes with the fact that Jesus was crucified on a cursed cross
—even death on a cross.
And think of how the way Paul viewed the world changed, when he was confronted with God’s messiah on the cross!
Paul’s religiosity—his proof-texting—spoke against God—nothing looked the same.
The crucifying power of the Roman Empire became weakness—nothing looked the same.
The wisdom of this world became foolishness—nothing looked the same.
Every piece of reality, every piece of Paul’s very self, was confronted by the cross, and nothing looked the same.

I remember when I received my first pair of glasses—you see I can’t see the big E on the eye chart without glasses or contacts.
All of a sudden I could see the blackboard in the classroom,
I could see people’s faces,
I could read street signs from far away!
Through those glasses lenses nothing looked the same.
The cross of Christ is that kind of lens as well. When we look through it, nothing looks the same.

And that is the song we sing.
Christians sing cross shaped songs.
The repetitive refrain of our song is Cross—Cross—Cross.
The first verse is “God is in the last place we would think to look.”
The second verse is “Nothing looks the same after God finds us.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sermon: God’s economy of Grace

This week the US census bureau reported that the Poverty rate in the United States has reached just over 15%. That means 1 in 6 Americans live off of less than 1,000 dollars a month. This is the deepest level of poverty America has experienced since 1983.
And while the state of the American economy is bad—I want to let you know today—that the state of God’s economy continues to be strong. God’s grace rate is over 100%, God’s mercy level is astronomically high—it continues to stay at the same level as it was at in 33AD.
And today, I want to talk to you briefly about God’s economy of Grace. God’s economy of grace.
Let us pray:
Economies have differed throughout time and from place to place.
There have been economies where stone wheels served as currency and economies that use the barter system.
There are economies that are regulated and economies that are less so.
There are underground economies, green economies, local economies and global economies.
But, one overarching principle is the same throughout, they involve wealth of some kind being traded for a good, service, or idea. If you do this, then I do that.
If you pay Apple 99 cents/then you will receive a song on your I-pod.
If you give the mugger your wallet/then he won’t stab you.
If you work hard on your homework/then you will get an A.

It is not so, however, in God’s economy of grace. Instead of an If/Then economy, God’s economy is a Because/Therefore economy.
A Because/Therefore economy.
Because God is gracious/ Therefore you shall have eternal life.
Because God is merciful/therefore you shall receive mercy.
Because God is slow to anger/ therefore you shall receive continual pardon.
Because God abounds in steadfast love/ therefore you receive God’s love.
Because God is ready to relent/therefore even the most hardened sinner finds salvation.
One of the best images of this economy of Grace is one we say every time we pray the Lord’s prayer. We say, “Our Father.”
Now I know, for some people, Father isn’t an image that jives with grace—but I saw an example of a Father’s grace this last Thursday that I think makes it worth mentioning.
Some of us from St. Stephen were at the Patriot’s baseball game. It drizzled a little, and then got kinda cold. Dale, without missing a beat, took off his sweatshirt and gave it to his daughter Emma. Because he is Emma’s father/ therefore he kept her warm.
For that matter, one of the means of grace—one of the ways we as Lutherans say “you are God’s beloved child,” is in the waters of Baptism.
And I want to tell you, Mom, Dad, Kate. We here on the East Coast have known something about water recently. We know it can be unstoppable—literally a force of nature—we know it finds a way to come in. It doesn’t stop for roofs, for libraries, for trees, or for parks.
Likewise, God’s love—God’s amazing grace—is an unstoppable force. It won’t be stopped by our sins, by our upbringing, by our country of origin, by our wealth, by our poverty, by what other people say about us, by anything!
God loves us unconditionally.
God won’t quit us,
God will never leave us—God loves us even when we don’t love ourselves.
And this is wonderful—liberating—joyful news to hear!

But… what do we do when God’s grace flows toward the heart of every human being? What do we do when God loves EVERYONE as a loving parent toward a beloved child?
What do we do when we realize the Because/Therefore economy isn’t just for me. It isn’t just for you. It isn’t a local economy, it is a global, universal way that God deals with all people!
Even people we don’t think deserve it!

I think there is a tendency to respond to the universality of God’s love, as Jonah did. To say, like Jonah, “Hey, the Ninavites are Assyrians—and the Assyrians dispersed and kidnapped 10 of the 12 tribes, they broke my people. I cannot accept that You God, are going to give them a break. I know that You are merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love—but that’s toward us, Your chosen people—not toward Ninavites!”

Likewise, like the laborers who arrived on time, who served the full day, through the desperate heat of the noon-day sun, who have calloused hands and sun burnt brow,
we grumble, about those late comers—more than that we grumble about the very Landowner who has treated us fairly and generously—because He is now generous to another generation of workers,
to the last as much as to the first.

It reminds me of the book Animal Farm. In it a group of farm animals overthrow their wicked human overseer and then create a new social order at their farm. They create 7 commandments to live by—the last of them being, “All animals are equal.” Yet, as their farm is corrupted by greed and depravity, that last commandment becomes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
“All Animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
We too, when we, like Jonah and the early laborers, respond with jealousy, we are saying, “God loves us all equally, but some of us God loves more equally than others.”
We are unmasking ourselves. We are revealing that we still buy into the other economy—the If/Then economy. We are saying, “If you are God’s chosen people, if you have labored in God’s vineyards from the start, if you are a good person/then then God will love you.”
But, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit we too have fallen short of all those ifs.
We have to admit that we ourselves have nothing to offer God in an if/then economy.
We, just like those who we don’t think deserve God’s grace, have to admit that we too rely on God’s because/therefore economy. God’s gracious love for us.
We admit that we too are like the residence of Ninevah, we so often do not know our right hand from our left. In the ambiguity of life and the limited vision all mortal beings have—we screw up.
We admit that we too are like those workers—bashfully admitting to the Master, “No one has hired us.”
Oh! Think of the pain that rattles around behind those words, “No one has hired us.”
Anyone who has waited, with eager longing, for a job—for a vocation to fill their time and contribute to the world and community they live in—knows how wounded you feel while you wait for work.
We recognize that the If/Then economy doesn’t work because we humans, every last one of us, are out-of-work Ninevites in need of God’s grace, in need of love that is uncompromising and eternal. We need God’s Because/Therefore economy. We need God’s economy of Grace.

And that’s all I want you to know today—the state of God’s economy continues to be strong. Ninevah has been spared from destruction and those workers, who have waited so long for work, have heard the master’s voice saying, “You also go into the vineyard.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

tidbits from the LIFT document that might be interesting to seminarians

So, here are a few quotes from the LIFT document the ELCA will be voting on at churchwide assembly:

“Seminaries need to prepare to graduate at 4,000 candidates for ordained ministry in the next ten years.”

They should focus on teaching in a way that leads to:
“A Lutheran theological witness that is more audible in the North American marketplace of religious ideas.
A church with significantly more multicultural rostered leaders and broad cross-cultural capacity.
A church with a significantly younger average age on the ordained roster.
A church which relies less and less on seminarian student debt to support theological education.”

One of the ways to make seminary go quicker is to have colleges and seminaries work together. This "could include B.Th. and articulation agreements that shorten time to M.Div. and MA”

Another way to shorten seminary/make it cost less/ etc is to:
“Recognition of alternate credentials for ministry and Fewer moves for seminary students with longer mentoring in contexts."

In order to make sure first-call pastors aren't overburdened with debt lift recommends:
“That the ELCA as a church commit to giving 1 percent (approximately $18M) of its unrestricted congregational giving as mission support directly to theological education. That the ELCA Church Council appoint a blue-ribbon panel to propose the most strategic, connective and direct manner in which to receive and allocate these monies. Such a commitment aligns with the critical role of faithful and effective evangelical missional lay and rostered leadership in this church’s future.”

Monday, August 08, 2011

What I learned in Seminary: 1 Rotation Group

The first year of Seminary we are required to attend a wide variety of churches (both Lutheran and non-lutheran) along with a small group of other seminarians. After this is done we processed our experiences together.
We attended a suburban youth oriented Lutheran church. There I bristled at several worship songs that stole tunes from The Mamas and The Papas and another by Peter, Paul, and Mary and replaced the lyrics with songs that can be qualified as “Jesus -s-my-boyfriend” music. I was however very impressed by how many youth showed up jazzed-up and excited about church.
We attended a liberal Roman Catholic Church that had more icons and statues in it than I could sneeze at. I ended up asking myself whether “social justice and statues of saints go together?” I recognized that, “I’ve always thought of social justice as a prophetic thing, and prophets as smashers of statues and all attempts to put God in a box.” I suppose the question becomes, does creating statues and icons of prophets lead to more prophetic action, or does it freeze them in concrete and end their witness?
We went to a Unitarian Universalist church near the seminary and I experienced the only “Fundamentalist UU” sermon I’ve ever heard. The preacher essentially said the War on Terror is going to be a new 30 years war and only UUers can save the world from massive destruction. And if that doesn’t happen the only faith that will be left afterwards will be that of the UU. I am pretty sure he managed to break (or at least bend) the UU principle about “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
We also went to a bi-lingual Spanish/English Lutheran church that I felt very at home in. It took me the three weeks we worshiped there to figure out why. It was congregation size—despite ethnic/linguistic/liturgical differences the size matched the church I attended in Cheyenne. When I went to request a field-ed site I requested this church “or an African American church with a similar feel.” I ended up going to Tabernacle Lutheran, at least partially, because of my experience at this church.

What I learned in Seminary: 0.5 My first seminary paper

As I wrote earlier I am starting a new series that looks back at the various classes I took at seminary in order to look more carefully at some of the more interesting "theological nuggets" I came across in my 4 years of seminary.
In order to start this off I thought I would publish the first paper I wrote at Seminary--pretensions, non-sequitors, warts, and all.

Why Study Theology
By Chris Halverson
Professor Donald Luck believes in a fallen world. One where academic rigor and logic has been shunned, and those skills forgotten. No more heinous proof of this fact need be given than the conversion of the pastors’ studies into offices. (60) Thinkers in this world have fallen into two camps, the Absolutists and the Relativists, both of whom object to theology for their own unique reasons. Luck plants himself at a third point, which defends theology, convinced openness. (136)
The Absolutists see things as black and white, and assume their position is right and therefore all others must be wrong. They hold tight to their ideas, but don’t have a nuanced understanding of them. They do not recognize that accepting “just the Bible” encourages eisegesis. (3) They emphasize being lead by the spirit, but do not come up with a good way to test to ensure the spirit is that of God. Luck gives the example of a student who quit his medicine he was taking for his mental health and discerned that God wanted him to walk around and tell everyone the world was about to end. (10-11) In response to another objection, that “We should focus on committed discipleship” (17) instead of theology Luck argues that theological assumptions prompt actions. (18) He also challenges the idea that theology creates doubt instead of faith; this is the mentality behind the bumper sticker that says, “God said it! I believe it! That settles it!” (21) Luck’s response is that faith is not unquestioning, but instead trust. (22)
The Relativists make the opposite mistake when dealing with theology. They recognize the weakness of their own understanding and ideas, and universalize this intellectual pauperism. Thus all ideas are equal. Therefore they revolt against the idea of Ideas, specifically against abstraction, theory, and a seeming lack of clear-cut results, all of which can be intimidating. (27-43) Luck’s basic response to this impotence of thought is that ideas are real. Ideas have practical consequences(28), are no more theoretical than politics(35), and that carefully thought out theology, while intimidating, is worth it because it is furthering the goals of the church (38) though he admits it does take some practice. (40)
Luck’s third way moves a person beyond ignorant absolutism and impotent relativism. Convinced openness moves people to think critically, recognizing that some ideas and things are relatively better than others. The reader is given seven criterions by which to do this measuring; an assertion should be more informed, faithful to the church’s faith and life, more comprehensive in scope, informative and relevant, more consistent, more aware of the context from which it came, and more aware of alternatives to it. (134-136)
An attitude of convinced openness makes for a good theologian, and Luck things everyone should be one. Being a theologian allows a person to integrate the sacred and the secular in a healthy and consistent way. (47) It also helps church bodies, which are often run by the masses, not professional theologians, to make informed decisions. (55) Encompassing these and other reasons for justifying theology is its goal as defined by Luck. “Theology aims at providing perspective on the church’s faith and life, guiding its mission to the world and its own inner preaching and teaching life.” (65)
Luck’s middle path is a very mature way to look at the modern world’s competing truth claims. The world is neither black and white, nor bla unintelligible greyness; it is shades of grey, carefully examined and continually re-appraisable.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Latest sermon:Have you seen the Kingdom Tree?

Have you seen the Kingdom Tree?

Greetings on behalf of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia where I have recently graduated from.
Greetings on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Synod—my Synod of origin as well as from New Jersey Synod, the Synod I have been assigned to.
(Greetings on behalf of your Pastor Rev. Churchill Wortherly, who has graciously opened up this pulpit to a young upstart like me today. )
And most importantly Greetings and Peace in the name of Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading, from the Gospel according to Matthew, is a curious one. In it, the word of the Kingdom of Heaven is compared with a seed, which is placed in a variety of soil, grows up, and bears fruit.
This is the first time in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life that a parable is used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now a parable is a simple story told to make a complex point.

For example, in order to express that God’s command to love our neighbor transcends race, ethnicity, and religion, Jesus tells a story about a Samaritan man going out of his way to help a Jewish man—That story is often entitled the Parable of the Good Samaritan. As I said, a parable is simple story to make a complex point.
And when it comes to Parables I have certain convictions about them. I believe parables are to be read in a particular way.
I do not believe parables are to be read as proof texts—that is I think it would be absolutely silly if someone was to decide who is or is not a Christian based on whether they agree, or disagree, with the proposition that a Seed is the same as a Kingdom. I think clinging to a parable and using it to define the totality of one’s belief is to misunderstand why parables are in the Bible and Why Jesus used them.
Because you see, parables are more important than proof texts. Parables are truth texts. Parables are truth texts.
Parables express something that is abstract and out there in a concrete way right here. Parables speak truths into being.
And when a deep truth blossoms forth from our Savior’s lips the raw images he uses cling to our ears, our minds, and our hearts for a very long time. Jesus’s Parables are not to be read—instead they eventually begin to read us.
And so, today I will try to stick closely to the story, and the images, that Jesus uses about the Kingdom of Heaven—because I believe this parable all but preaches itself. Therefore, I would like to ask you an extended question in the form of a sermon—this question/sermon/subject is “Have you seen the kingdom tree?” “Have you seen the kingdom tree?”
Let us pray:
Words of my lips

Have you seen the kingdom seed?
Have you seen it? So small, so unexpected? This seed of the Kingdom.
It is a seed made from that, which is called the least.
It is a seed, like the very smallest of seeds—the Mustard Seed.
It is so small it is almost hidden—like a treasure buried deeply beneath the soil waiting to be discovered.
It is so small it is almost invisible—invisible like fish hiding in the deepest depths of the sea.

Have you seen it—so strange a seed! Have you seen the Kingdom seed?
Have you seen it hidden amongst the poor, the sad, the meek, those who hunger and those who thirst for righteousness?
Have you seen it amongst the merciful and the persecuted?
Have you heard it hidden in the quiet heart of the peacemakers?
Have you seen it? It is such an odd seed—a seed sampled and savored by tax collectors, the destitute, and the prostitute?
Have you seen it in the hands of children toddling toward our Savior?
Have you seen it sought after like a single small sheep alone separated from the other 99, found by the Good Shepherd?
Have you seen it in the words of a Cannanite woman asking Jesus to heal her child?
Have you seen it buried—like Jonah—in the belly of a big fish and like Christ’s body, in the heart of the earth—for three days.
Have you seen the kingdom seed? It is so small, so unexpected.
Have you seen the Path its on?
Have you seen the path crowded by birds—cawing and clawing and crowing—gulping and gasping—as they swallow up the seeds?
Have you seen the Kingdom of Heaven—the Kingdom of God—trampled on the path by birds who practice their piety to be seen.
Those religious for the sake of men, not God.
Have you seen them lock out the little ones from the Kingdom in the name of the kingdom?
Have you seen the first firsted and the last lasted—on the Path?
Have you seen those birds swallow seeds because they have no clue that they can grow into plants bearing life-giving fruit? Birds so captivated by the shell of a seed that they have become captive to sin.
Have you seen a gaggle of birds become like a brood of vipers—dangerous because of the poison locked within their fangs—a sort of stultifying, intoxicating, drug—making the bitten believe that they have it all right—that the Kingdom of God—the Kingdom of Heaven—is nothing more than a seed—nothing more than that which they have perceived—a white washed tomb.
Have you seen the Path?

Have you seen the Rocky Ground?
Have you seen the seeds these—in their infancy—poke out and stretch their yawning arms to the sun—proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven is near—only to be faced with hard soil and strength-sapping sun—heat withering the young branches of the Kingdom.
Have you seen the roots of the Kingdom try to push down deep—but fail? Have you seen unnourished and undernourished versions and visions of the Kingdom continue go unfed? Have you seen Godly ideas wither on the vine?
Have you seen a sapling persecuted?
Have you seen it in shock as it leaves everything for the Kingdom of God?
Have you seen it at that frightened and fragile ah-ha-moment when it realizes this-faith-thing is for-real-for-real!
Have you seen it cry out with full meaning and voice—and full need, to that great and loving Father, the words, “Thy Kingdom Come!”
Have you seen a sapling flogged, crucified, and killed?
Have you seen the Rocky Ground?

Have you seen the Choking Thorns?
Have you seen those same seeds—saplings—young trees—resting comfortably upon an unnatural throne—a throne of thorns.
Those same seeds saying—not praying—the words “Thy Kingdom Come” and not meaning it.
Have you seen the Kingdom growing complacent—its love growing cold—because it just got tired?
Have you seen it shrug its plant shoulders, hearing the words, “Neither a rich man nor a camel will make it through the eye of a needle.”
Have you seen a sapling unable to keep awake—unable to keep its lamp lit?
Have you seen a sapling swept away with the overabundance of worries of the world?
Have you seen the Sapling of the Kingdom trust its house to a foundation of sand?
Have you seen the Choking Thorns?

Have you seen the Kingdom Tree?
Have you seen it! Oh how it has grown!
Like some child—groaning through a massive growth spurt—it is small no more.
From the smallest seed the largest tree—with branches reaching far and wide so that all may rest in its shade.
Have you seen it—a single gift of loaves and fishes expanding to feed a field of famished folk.
In the Kingdom Tree the last have become first!
In the Kingdom Tree kingdom-swallowing-birds can come to be redeemed.
The Kingdom Tree clapping its hands in happiness at the goodness of God.
Have you seen the Kingdom Tree? Have you seen that what was hidden has been revealed!
Like Jonah it has been spewed out in full form to forgive the forsaken.
Like Jesus’ body it rises fully and beautifully!
Have you seen the Kingdom Tree?

Have you seen the Kingdom’s fruit?
The fruit of the Kingdom of Heaven? There is so much of it—100 fold here, 60 fold there, 30 fold everywhere.
The blind have seen it when they receive sight and the deaf can hear the wind blow against its bow when they regain their hearing.
The lame lean against its trunk as they take their first fresh steps. The lepers are touched by it when they are cleansed.
The hungry—oh how the hungry feast like the patriarchs and matriarchs of old upon this nourishing fruit!
The Kingdom fruit is there when the dead are raised and when the poor hear good news.
The Kingdom fruit is Spirit.
The Kingdom fruit is leaving with joy and coming back in peace.
It is the pathway becoming straight.
It is the hard ground becoming good soil.
It is thorns becoming cypress, and briers becoming myrtle.
Taste the Kingdom fruit—know that the kingdom is near.

Have you seen the seed and its struggles, the tree and its fruit?
Have you seen the Kingdom Tree?

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I learned in Seminary:A New Series

So, I intend to read each paper I wrote in Seminary and from them summarize each class I took in Seminary, a post a piece.
Hopefully my readers will enjoy these insights into these last 4 formative years preparing to be a pastor.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Last night I had a dream that the Federal Government was reviewing my productivity as a citizen in compliance with the “New DREAM Act.” Specifically, they were judging if I was a productive pastor—and in the review decided I needed to take an additional 20 hours of continuing education. If I did not comply with this decision they would strip me of my citizenship and throw me out of the country.
Kind of a strange dream, but it has brought up a few questions:
1. What would America look like if we judged citizenship based on economic productivity instead of place of birth?
2. What is the value of religious leaders for a country? Is there any way my being a pastor is valuable in capitalist system (other than being a purveyor of the opiate of the masses of course… that’s a joke)
3. What should make a citizen? Specifically I’m thinking of the book Starship Troopers (not the movie) which features a society in which the only people who are granted citizenship are those who have fought in their country’s military.
4. How can we become more gracious as a society toward non-citizens?

Friday, June 17, 2011

LTSP graduation speech!

Below is the graduation speech I did along with Senior class co-president Ria.
Truly Seminary has been both bizarre and faithful.

Monday, June 06, 2011

My Testimony to the Fanatics and to the New Atheists

As most of my readers know I am a man of that certain age—the age that came to adulthood in the 9/11 era. I have seen faith in God horribly abused, and I’ve tried to figure out what that means.
Ultimately that led me to do an M.Phil. over in Cambridge and study retellings of Genesis 22 from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE, which eventually became my book An Uncomfortable Bit of Rope.
Since then I’ve gone to seminary and now graduated (with Honors) from LTSP!
The following is a sermon I did for the class Next Level Preaching. I would say it is the current summation of my attempt to make meaning out of the 9/11 era. It is My Testimony to the Fanatics and to the New Atheists:

Friday, April 08, 2011

I have a solution to the budget crisis

I have a solution for the budget crisis!
Let's cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood by 10.5 million dollars and pass a budget.
Why, because the Republicans are worried about all the money we the tax payers pay to fund abortions. In fact they have said that is the one reason they are going to shut down the government.
Well, 3% of what Planned Parenthood does involves abortions (bet you thought it was a lot higher didn't you... the rest involves dealing with cancer and STDs and contraception). So, lets cut 3% of their funding and not shut down the government. Lets make sure my mom can go into work Monday morning.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A sermon for this Sunday: We Feed Off of Death, but Jesus Brings Life

Its a strange feeling. I've prepared this sermon and preached it a few weeks back for a Beatitudes Society event, and I'm in the process of memorizing it for a preaching class tomorrow, but I'll not actually preach it in a church.

We Feed Off of Death, but Jesus Brings Life
I would ask this morning that you suspend disbelief and embrace two absurd, perhaps even grotesque, images with me.
Imagine Ezekiel, carried by his britches through space and time—from Babylon to the great and horrifying depths of the valley of the shadow of death. He is surrounded by the corpses of his kin—the bodies not only of his brothers and sisters, but in a real sense the body of his nation, scattered by war, killed through exile, and buried by the destruction of the temple.
And, while God calls out to him, “Oh prophet, can these bones live?” While God speaks into his soul a new word—a new prophecy of comfort to an exiled people—Ezekiel does not listen.
Ezekiel, instead, gathers in these dried bones and melts them down, stirs them together, and feeds off of them.

Imagine too that Jesus has just affirmed to his disciples that he is returning to the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, in Judea. The disciples have decided to follow after him—after all that’s what disciples do.
Yet as they go they get to talking… and Thomas says to Peter.
“What do you suppose the odds are that Jesus can make Lazarus live again?”
“50/50,” Peter responds.
“I’ll get in on that bet,” replies James.
Simon the Zealot puts down 3 drachma’s on death winning, while the sons of Zebedee pool their money and put their shekels on life–Judas collects bets…. In short they bet on life and death.

Grotesque, right? Absurd, right? Not what the prophet and the gospel are about, right? Ultimately death affirming, whereas our scriptures today are life affirming, right?
Yet the society and world we live in, the way of life that we are all to greater and lesser extents enmeshed in, is this grotesque, absurd, anti-prophetic, anti-gospel, death affirming way of… life.

If you would think critically with me for a moment on the word fossil fuel you will see where I’m going.
Fossil fuel.
What are fossils if not dry bones. What are fossils if not decayed corpses. What are fossils if not the remains of that which came before us. What are fossils if not death.
With regard to the use of fossil fuel—which accounts for 86% of the world’s energy—we are feeding off of death. We are living off of decayed corpses.

But that’s not all—we not only live off of deaths in the past, we also live off a dangerous and deadly gamble.
I was once told that the scientists involved in the first nuclear tests came up with a worrying calculation. After having run theoretical models about what was likely to happen when they detonated the first nuclear bomb, they came up with some odds. There was a 10 percent chance that blowing up a nuclear bomb would cause earth’s atmosphere to catch on fire. In other words, there was a 1 in 10 chance that by testing this bomb the scientists would end all life on earth, creating out of it a flaming barren and dead world. There was a 1 in 10 chance that their actions would have killed everyone and everything
As evidenced by my standing here and talking to you we know that they won their gamble.
Yet I cannot shake the image of a hellish inferno—the air we breathe, the atmosphere we live under—all burning, drying up lakes and rivers, oceans and… everything and everyone, in an instant. I can’t shake the image of being surrounded by death.
With regard to the use of nuclear power we are feeding off of death. We have built our life upon a world-ending gamble.
We feed off of death.

Yet these absurd and grotesque images of an anti-Ezekiel and an anti-Gospel—though manifest in our actions, are not the content of our creed, are not the Word of the Lord for us today.
No… No today we feel the rhythmic rattle of bone returning to bone. We see new sinew stretched out upon dry bones. We feel the breath of the four winds breathing life.
And not only that. We see Jesus marching through disciples and friends who are fixated on death. We are led by him to the tomb. We are commanded by him to remove the stone and unbind the cloth that has enwrapped dear Lazarus.
We feed off death, but Jesus calls us to life and Jesus brings life.
Jesus calls us to life.
He calls us to a life of discipleship—to repentance from the absurd and grotesque realities we have wrought upon this earth. To prophetic words and actions that reconnect bone to bone and to the removing of stones and unbinding of grave-cloth.
He calls us to vocation, to voice, and to tithe.

What does vocation mean? It simply means the material things we do ought to align with the love of God through the responsible service of our neighbor.
Now, you might be expecting me to say that means we all have to quit our jobs and go out and become environmental activists—that that type of job would be the only holy vocation—but that would be as foolish as the assumption in Luther’s era that the only holy vocation was the priesthood. But truth be told we need CEOs, engineers, and all kinds of people working ethically.
When I look at some of the worst excesses and accidents of death consuming energy—I am struck that if there had just been a few more people acting like Christians while on the job—if they had considered their neighbor while they worked—they wouldn’t have happened.
If the engineers working for TEPCO, the company that runs the nuclear plants that are currently destabilized in Japan, if they had considered the potential effects their actions would have upon their neighbors, they might not have submitted 100s of false safety reports to government safety inspectors.
Likewise, if CEOs and contractors who made decisions about cost-cutting measures on the Deepwater Horizon oilrig in the gulf had considered the people and the planet—11 men and a whole eco-system would still be alive.

What do I mean by voice? I mean that Christians need to lift our voice in the public square around issues of energy. Our witness must not be that of a pie-in-the-sky-until-you-die people. No—if we are to be faithful we must be a voice that consistently says:
“we are salt and light to the world, the world needs us, and we have a word and a way for you… and not just about matters of the soul, not just matters of abstraction—but on matters of consumption, of what type and what kind of energy we use, of where we build pollution creating plants—in whose neighborhoods and in whose back yards we bury nuclear waste.”
We mustn’t be afraid to voice our vision and express our ethical tradition to our neighbors.

What does tithing have to do with the energy you may ask.
Well, since 1993 the ELCA has expanded our understanding of what it means to tithe of our time, talent, and possessions.
Not only are we called to tithe 10% of our income to the Church, but also called to tithe environmentally—to produce 10% less waste and consume 10% less non-renewable resources.
Our vocation, voice, and tithe are all ways to follow Christ’s calling to life.

But Jesus doesn’t just call us to life, he also brings life.
Our discipleship, our actions in the face of a grotesque and absurd system that feeds on death—is a meager thing. It is a small mouse standing up valiantly before a hungry lion.
Except that God is here—Jesus is here.
Ezekiel prophecies to the bones, but it is God who knits them together. Lazarus’ tomb and wrappings are removed, but it is Jesus who brings him back to life.
Surrounded by death the Resurrection and the Life is here with us.

We feed off death, but Jesus calls us to life and Jesus brings life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Philosophical language about Sameness and Otherness lacks nuance. It is like using a shovel to turn a screw.”

Socrates and Sven continued to walk.
That morning the way was packed and the air cold. There was not a cloud in the sky; the sun seemed to bounce along the cold air. Day laborers walked by, their tools clinking at their sides in an awake rhythm, and their breath came out in white puffs. Women with head coverings as colorful as the fruit they bore in baskets carried between them, passed by.
Socrates: Look at them go. What do they know of one another?
Sven: Nothing. The laborer doesn’t trade his labor for fruit, instead they all go to a middle-man.
They entered a village. Streams of people surrounded them.
Socrates: Such a rude grown-up you’ve become Sven… What I was going to say is that they know much. They all know one another as beings derived from the same stuff, the same set of urges and emotions—the same blood the same flesh. Because of the big universal “man” that is all of them they are able to relate in amazing ways, in ways that make sense… In each of them lies the capacity of all. That’s why the meat seller there…(Socrates pointed to a skinny man with oriental features.)
Socrates: Can talk with… no… can marry, that woman. (Socrates pointed to a red haired European woman with a bucket of water on her head.
Sven: That’s unimportant. That’s banal stuff. What really matters, what really could make their lives better involves distribution of their products and it involves giving them a voice in city planning. Look at this market (Sven smiled, he felt he was playing Socrates game well) It is disorganized.
And in truth the market was—fruit next to chocolate next to wagon parts next to beer.
Socrates: Ah. You are much wiser than I, with your Empiricism and critique. You do not need a mentor.
And with that Socrates stepped back from the Way. Sven stepped forward. Socrates was gone amongst the crowd of people.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Born on Nine Eleven (a late thought on Tucson and Egypt)

As has been widely noted Christina Green was born on 9/11, she was featured as a “face of hope.” That her life was bracketed by violence in such a way has some spiritual significance; it also says something to and about our present reality!
I believe it says something about a whole generation born into a world that has been set on edge by violence and threats of violence their entire life. Their lives have been enveloped in the War on Terror—worry about religious radicals and dirty bombs, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, torture at Abu Ghraib, easily accessible videos of Nick Berg’s head being hacked off, the Mumbai attacks—they have never known what it is like for America to be at peace! Having entered into young adulthood when Christina was born I can only feel an echo of what this time we live in does to the impressionable and young by these events certain cynical scaring of my own soul.
Four days before the shooting in Tuscon, Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab province in Pakistan was assassinated for standing up to extremism. I felt bad for the loss of a good man, yes, but it fit into the larger story of this last decade—the triumph of violence, so I simply shrug and thought, “Violence is essential to being human. Hobbes was wrong, it is not that the state of nature is nasty brutish and short—it is that we are.”
Yet, when I first received a text about the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords I was still shocked and sickened, and I thank God for that! My shock means my heart is not entirely recalcitrant to violence.
And now that we know more fully what happened that day in that parking lot I am impressed by the counterweight that this particular story has to the larger story of violence Christina’s generation has lived with. There were too many instances of people laying down their life for another—spouse shielding spouse—to ignore. I see soul force meeting physical force. I am reminded that self-sacrifice—sacrificial love—too is embedded in our soul.
And this helps me to look at the world around me again. It helps me to shake off the depressing narrative that has built up. It helps me raise my head up and look at those standing against violence and for mutuality and understanding. It helps me to look again at the world around us and find some hope. I draws my attention anew to another international event that happened two days before the Tuscon shooting.
On New Years Eve there was a deadly attack by Muslim extremists against a Coptic Church in Alexandria Egypt. On January 6th, Coptic Christmas Eve, Egyptians from all over the country, anticipating more attacks on Coptic Christians, attended Christmas Eve Mass. This may seem a small thing, but it conveys a collective heroism on the same level as Judge Roll pushing Mr. Barber out of the way of Jared Loughner’s bullets costing him his life. These Egyptians too offered their lives to protect others. They too, in a faithful and courageous way, met physical force with soul force.
Therefore, while I am in full agreement with the President that we should live up to the democratic idealism of Christina Green, I can’t stop there. I believe we have a deep and abiding responsibility to be an anti-violent witness to Christina’s generation. We must speak of historical counter-narratives to the violent story that has plagued her decade. We must point to, and lift up, present instances of ethical behavior and faithful reconciliation. We ourselves must speak, behave, and be, a counterbalance to the ballest and burden of violence that marked Christina’s beginning and her end.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gender equality and crying

As we all know “Boys don’t cry” yet it would seem there are exceptions… Glenn Beck and John Boehner. Now, I’m not going to suggest these right wing leaders (and make no mistake Glenn Beck is a leader of the Right) are “girlymen” or crybabies. No, I want to know why their tendency to cry in public has not been ran up a flag pole and pointed to as an example of unelectibility, brittleness, a lack of seriousness, inability to be a leader, etc?
Specifically, I wonder this because there was another politician who cried and was darn near crucified for it. Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, teared up in a coffee shop during her primary campaign. This was front page news, CNN and Fox were fixated on maybe a milliliter of liquid on Hillary’s cheek. By contrast Glenn Beck has cried a river and Rep. Boehner at least a cup. What is the difference? Perhaps it is that Hillary is a Democrat, after all Ed Muskie, another Democrat, was brought down by being caught with moisture on his cheeks while defending his wife from nasty personal attacks. If this is the case donkeys cry because they are overly sensitive and weak on defense, whereas elephants cry because they are passionate.
Yet I would like to suggest another possibility—Hillary was singled out in a way two men involved in politics were not because she is a woman. There is still a assumption that women are more emotional than men, and that emotionalism might cloud a female leader’s judgment. Thus Hillary’s tears validated this stereotype.
This is an additional burden female leaders bear, not only must they be good at what they do, but they need to go out of their way to be the opposite of gender stereotypes. At the same time male leaders can have an out and out cry-fest without fear of electorial repercussions.
Any thoughts?