All posts by Connie Tuttle

Advent Revolution: Be Like Mary


Godde is shocking and if you aren’t shocked by  Godde then you haven’t been paying attention.
Since forever the clash of the religious has been between piety and justice. Righteousness and goodness.  Godde always strains towards the people we reject, devalue, or dehumanize. Or should I say ‘demonize’ ?  And then she goes and does something radical by inviting the people one least expects (or likes) to be Godde-with-us.
Like women. Like foreigners. Like children. Like the outsider and the oppressed.
Can you see Mary, mother of Godde-with-us, in the picture above? If not, then maybe you have been looking in the wrong places. Morality doesn’t lie in transcendence (the way Mary is usually depicted), it lies in the gritty choices of everyday life. Is what I’m doing benefitting only me or is it in service to the greater good? Do I choose to make money over clean water and air? Fair wages? Accessible healthcare? Does my vote reflect not only my interest but also those of  the  most vulnerable among us? Do I place more value in the humanity of a person than their adherence to my sexual, gender, or cultural norms?
These are the questions we need to be asking. These are the concerns to which Mary calls us to when she is overcome with thankfulness and sings an ancient song of liberation and freedom:
‘My soul magnifies our Godde,
47     and my spirit rejoices in Godde my Saviour,
48 for She has looked with favour on the lowliness of her servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is her name.
50 Her mercy is for those who hold her in awe
    from generation to generation.
51 She has shown strength with her arm;
    and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 and has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

This is what counts as shocking to those who believe that their religion saves them from eternal damnation or that the amount of money they have amassed shows that they are favored by Godde. Which, in a way, is seductive because it gives the impression that we are in control. If I remain a virgin till marriage, don’t come out, don’t transition, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t wear make-up… then I can control my fate. But piety never protects us. Instead, it  sets up the juicy conundrum that men can both objectify and abuse women with impunity. In the name of God.
 Godde calls us  to revolutionary actions not pious acts.  Mary is overcome by Godde and her response is to give voice to Godde’s call for liberation and freedom.
In these days when we look for Godde-with-us, check out the places you don’t usually look and the people with whom you don’t feel comfortable. Women who are pushy. Immigrants. #Me, too. #Black lives matter. They are doing the holy, revolutionary work of Godde.

 

Radically Unafraid: the call of Advent


An angel called Thelma, Jan L Richardson

The angel came to Mary and said what angels say: “Do not be afraid.”

Is it a command? A suggestion? An offer of comfort? All of the above?
All of the above, I think.
When we are too afraid to imagine not being afraid: it is a command.
When we aren’t sure if fear is a viable response: it is a suggestion that encourages other possibilities.
When we are too frozen by fear to move or act: it is a word of comfort that fear is not necessary.

Right now, We really need to hear what the angels have to say.
We need to not be afraid.
It is the radical call of the Holy to live differently.

Right now, I have a good and solid foundation of anger. It helps me not to be afraid. I am angry at the injustices that have multiplied and expanded under Trump. I am angry about the systemic depth of cultural sexism, racism, and homophobia.  I am angry that the ‘light (we) hold beside the golden door’ is dimmed.
But for all that anger, I am also afraid.
I am afraid that we may not be able to recover our democracy.
I’m afraid that people will be imprisoned, lynched, put to death.
I am afraid Donald Trump will start a nuclear war to deter the investigation into his treasonous administration.

We need this season of angels telling us not to be afraid. For one thing fear paralyzes. Like Mary, We need to be able to be a part of all of us who are trying to bring about extraordinary change. We need to not be afraid to travel to places we haven’t been and do things haven’t done with people we do not know while living under an oppressive regime.
We need to nurture justice, peace, and hope in our very beings and  birth the reality of those things into the world.
And we can only do it if we are foolishly unafraid.

Being unafraid. There’s the rub. It is not easy. It is clearly, only, and absolutely a choice. We must choose to NOT be afraid over and over again. Sometimes moment to moment.
Let this be our spiritual practice in this sacred season and beyond: to choose to be unafraid. 

When fear does not constrict us we are empowered to act. So choose power over fear. Love over fear. Justice over fear. Peace over fear. The world needs us to be not afraid.

 

Advent Call to Resistance

Comes now the time we wait in darkness and breathless anticipation for hope to be born. Hope against hope.

This is the darkest Advent season of my lifetime. We yearn for the words of Isaiah to come to pass:
The spirit of the Our Godde is upon me,
because Godde has anointed me;
and has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
 to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

The prophet’s words call for our compassion to deepen – especially those of us who have never been hungry, or frightened, or powerless, or foreigners. This year we hear them differently. Suddenly we face the reality of being on the down side of the widening schism between rich and poor. The middle class shrinks and we can no longer count on our water being clean, our air being breathable, our livelihood being enough to support us. Our children are vulnerable to sexual predators. Our black men, imprisoned and exploited in unconsionable numbers, need to be released.  Women and people of color, the poor, the LGBT+ community, and  immigrants  desperately need to hear good news for the oppressed as our rights are being marched back by jack-booted thugs.

The image of an anticipated babe in utero, of a fallow garden with seeds beneath the frozen earth,  conjure the thought that something powerful happens in the dark. Growth, possibility, time, and space to gestate miracles. This Advent demands of us that we birth Christ into the world so that when we claim that followers in the Way of Christ are, indeed, the body of Christ, then this dark season impels us to remember what that means and to grow our understanding.

         We are the ones who must risk feeling the Spirit of Godde upon us, calling us to do impossible things on behalf of all humanity.
          We are the ones who must bring good news to the oppressed, even those of us who are oppressed, by speaking against the power that suppresses and finding our power to act and speak as we are empowered to act as the Holy Spirit descends this Holy Season.
          We are the ones who must gather to ourselves those who mourn, whose families have been torn apart by a racist immigration policies, and Dreamer’s who are our children, being forced to leave the only homes they have ever known.
          We are the ones who must stand for those imprisoned and demand justice.
          We are the ones because we claim to be the Body of Christ,  the living aspect of the one who came to liberate, heal, and lift up the least of these.

This Advent, we retreat into the dark, not a darkness that blinds, not a darkness that constricts our souls, but into the rich dark that nurtures our spirits and grows our imaginations so that we might bring to life great hope and find our power to stand and speak and live the promises of Godde embodied in our world.

 

 

Believe Us: #metoo

Something has changed. Women are unleashing tsunamis of memories and experiences in unprecedented ways and it as wonderful as it is pain-filled.

Ask any woman. Any. Woman. You will hear the stories of physical or verbal sexual assault and abuse. You will hear stories of how we are silenced because we need the job or the apartment or the healthcare or the church. You will hear stories that have lain dormant or relegated to the sanctity of the therapist’s couch for too long. We have been silent and silenced too long. Now that we are speaking out, there is no turning back.

Many of us who are not black are aware that black parents must, at some point, have ‘the talk’ with their children about racism and the inherent personal danger, ugliness, and hatred associated with it.

There is a similar talk that women have with girls. If not mother or grandmother, then teacher or mentor, neighbor or aunt, co-worker or congregant. It goes something like this:

Here is a dime (or quarter, or always have your cell phone with you) keep it with you and call if he gives you any trouble. Be careful how you dress because men can’t help themselves. Don’t be alone with that guy. A man will always try to take what he wants. Don’t walk alone at night. Always check the back seat before you get in your car. Have a whistle on your keychain. Use your keys as a weapon. Carry mace in your purse. Don’t set your drink down if you are in a club. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go out alone.

And then there are the messages we get that are often unspoken but assumed:

Say something and you’ll lose your job.
No one is going to believe you.
You asked for it.

Well, guys, I think you’ve just lost control because women are speaking up and speaking out. You don’t believe us? Do you really not believe us? You’ve never heard how men talk about women when left to themselves? You’ve never said those things yourself? You’ve never used your physical, political, or social power to coerce a woman? Or never seen another man do it? Really?

You don’t believe us? Well, too bad because we believe one another. We have centuries of experience with systemic sexism. We had it happen to us, to our daughters, to our friends – whether in something as tragic as rape or sexual abuse, or as rampant and dehumanizing as cat calling or unwelcome touch.

We aren’t going to make excuses for your behavior anymore. We are not going to undermine women who have the courage to speak out. The curtain was pulled back when thousands, millions of us say #metoo. We are not going to accept that this is ‘just how men are’. We want to believe you are better than this. Stand with us and make it unacceptable to use, coerce, or abuse women sexually or any other way.

And here is how you can begin: BELIEVE US.

Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Somehow it is never enough.

Killed:
Columbine 15
Sandy Hook 20 children 8 adults
Charleston   9
The Harvest Music Festival 58
Pulse night club 49
Virginia Tech 32
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs: 26
San Bernardino: 14
Edmond, Oklahoma: 14

This is a short, non-comprehensive list. But somehow it is not enough.
Not enough to strengthen gun laws.
Not enough to wrestle political power from the NRA.
Not enough to stop making a false distinction between terrorists (brown) and mentally ill (white) shooters.

Can we not agree that mass murder is a terrorist act and that anyone capable of committing those atrocities has significant mental health challenges – no matter their brand of political or religious fanaticism,  no matter the color of their skin?
Can we agree that there is ABSOLUTELY no need for any civilian to own an automatic weapon?
Can we agree that a bunch of armed white supremacists are not ‘a well-regulated militia’?Can we agree that arguments made by the gun lobby are specious and self-serving?
Can we agree that gun culture also leads to increased violence against women and children?
Can we agree that we are afraid?
Can we agree that enough is enough?

Stopping gun violence is a feminist issue.
Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns — more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.   https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america

Can we agree that enough is enough?

In the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science is not “legitimate.” To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous year.

Can we agree that enough is enough?
And if you believe enough is enough then make your ‘thoughts and prayers’ have hands and feet. 
-Write, email, and call your senators and representatives. They hear from the gun lobby enough. They need to hear our voting voices loud and clear. http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page

-Give as you are able to anti- gun violence organizations. The NRA is a powerful lobbying group that represents gun manufactures more than its membership and can pay politicians for votes.  https://giffords.org/   

We must change the conversation so that it is completely and utterly ‘populist’ to support gun control.  Because enough is enough.

 

 

Camping as Spiritual Practice

I camped with my daughter and twenty of her friends this weekend.
It rained.
A lot.
It was wet.
It was cold.
It was glorious.

It was a smorgasbord of Holy Senses.
Stars crisp in the night air.
Clouds fanning like bird plumes.
Some trees bare, reaching heavenward,
some quietly disrobing, leaves spattering colors on the forest floor .
And the quiet of rain splashing on tent top
or the rough and tumble of an engorged stream.
The scent of coffee wafting from a camp stove,
Chicken soup simmering in an iron pot,
Blending with the stench of wet dog.
Warm smiles curled on cold lips
Frosty bottoms perched on wet logs
Godde shared our laughter as we laughed at ourselves.

It was wet.
It was cold.
It was glorious.
It was my prayer of thanksgiving

And I would do it again
in a heartbeat.

 

 

 

Ecstasy

Changing it up with poetry                                                         

                                                        Ecstasy

Part 1

 My first lessons were of joy –
soaring church music
voices blended
organs boasting and groaning
pianos splashing fountains of notes
onto my untutored ears.

And gladiolas
smelling of earth and sunshine,
rolled into wet newspapers
their green tang permeating the air
as we drove to church late Saturday afternoon.

And the sanctuary
empty and grand
echoed our footsteps and whispers
while light cascaded in dusty shafts
through stained glass
and statues in their niches
gazed benignly at my grandmother
as she placed the glads,
tall and vibrant
in crystal vases
upon the altar.

On Sunday
common flowers
transform into icons
burning with holy light.

My mother taught me about Jesus,
singing in her sweet, slightly off-key voice:
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world,”

I joined in
sometimes imitating her soft tones,
sometimes bellowing the words
“Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight,’

The story told
the truth distilled
the gospel internalized,
love without boundaries
grabbed me up
and never let go.
“Jesus loves the little children of the world!”

And my heart broke open.
“Please, please, God,
let me be here when Jesus comes back!”

And I was filled with wanting
like waiting for Christmas morning to come
the anticipation lovely and powerful.
When Jesus came back there would be joy
like singing ‘alleluias’ real loud
like smelling fresh pine needles
or swinging so high your toes could touch a cloud.

And love as good
as snuggling on my mother’s lap
breathing in and out just the same.
As good as when my heart
hugs the hums of bumblebees.

Part 2

Now joy flings me
into the mystery
of my pulsing body and blood,
breath and bones.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
The throb of the song and
the thump of my heart
beat together.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
I stomp in time,
hands stinging
as they clap, clap, clap,
releasing the rhythm
into my bloodstream.
I cannot stop this clapping,
this stomping,
this singing.
at the top of my lungs,
air purged,
reaching some notes,
missing others
carried away in the chorus swelling around me.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
I sing louder,
full-throated
not caring if I am off-key,
sharp or flat.
Lost in the tumultuous sound
I rise,
my feet no longer hit the floor to stomp.
I am Buddhist priest
floating inches above the ground.
I am flying witch.
I am whirling dervish.

Flinging my hands in the air,
bright red from clapping,
they burn,
eased only by the wind I create.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
Caught in the music,
woven into the chords,
tossed to the rafters
notes thrumming
in my breath and heartbeat.

The ‘I’ of me
Becomes the ‘we’
of a hundred lifted voices.
The song urges us to completion.
I heave a breath
And bellow the next line.
And another.
And another.

“The angels in heaven done signed my name.”
Slowing
almost imperceptibly
And I sway back into my body
arms heavy
hands tingling
sweat dripping between my breasts
feet wanting
to keep moving, moving, moving.
I fight against what I know is the last refrain:
“The angels in heaven done signed my name.”

I lift my face
and exhale.

 

Bernie and the Women’s March Conference

Progressives and people of conscience need to be a united front against the insanity that took over the White House in 2016 and has been pervasive in the Republican Party since the advent of Gingrich.

That being said… we all know that is not how progressives/liberals work. We have to engage in endless arguments about the minutia of policy. Which makes our policies better. We don’t work in sound bites or tweets. It takes more than 140 characters just to name an issue much less define it. We have “marshals” at every turn reminding us who is included and who needs to be included. Hundreds of voices from thousands of experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, ability, age… all seek and demand input. I’m proud of that. I am proud that is who we are and how we work. It is also the reason we are vulnerable to simplistic ideas expressed in short phrases. That, and the fact that the Right uses our diversity to divide us. Hell, we do that all by ourselves.

Which is why I hesitate to say anything at all about my argument with Bernie and the Women’s March. We desperately need to be a united front against the travesty of the Trump regime. We desperately need to unite to vote Tea Party Republicans out of office (the no compromise party that puts its extremist values above the well-being of the nation). We desperately need to humanize political discourse.

With apologies to those whom this does not apply, I find Bernie followers to be the worst. I don’t disagree with or deplore their ideas but I know in a democracy ideas are compromised both as part of our tradition of governing and of our legislative process. We cannot afford to mirror the Republican Party in some inauthentic search for purity. None of us is so elevated that we do not need to listen to one another.

Bernie supporters were hacked and played by Russia and many still believe the lies  circulated about Hillary. During the election, many of his supporters behaved like (and were) privileged, cis-gendered, white men. They demanded immediate change, not understanding that change is an ongoing process filtering through laws, family life, work relationships, religious life, community, and political life. Those without privilege could have informed the conversation were not that so many Bernie supporters absolutists. He dismissed women’s issues (e.g. Planned Parenthood) as unimportant and failed to understand the centrality of our issues to his economic and social agendas.

Right now I am angry because Bernie is the opening speaker at the Women’s Conference in Detroit. I’m sorry if you don’t understand. As a feminist of 40+ years I have seen this before. It is not about inclusiveness, it is about privilege. Invite all the men you want, I would welcome them, but let them come to  listen. Imagine a white person being the opening speaker at a Black Lives Matter conference. Could she or he speak as well to the issues as a person of color who has lived them? The choice is tone deaf. I will leave it there.

So now what? I don’t know the answer but let’s start the conversation. It is one thing to disagree, even vehemently, and quite another to dismiss and demean one another. We are ALL needed to turn this horror around. If you are angry that I am speaking my truth, be angrier still at those who are subverting democracy. If you are angry that I don’t trust Bernie, show me that you are trustworthy and don’t dismiss me because you don’t think my ideals are pure enough. If you get that women’s issues are human issues and that no political theory is valid without a substantial critique of issues that effect women then I will work with you. If you begin to listen to those of us outside your wheelhouse, I will work with you. Me and my feminist hoards will work with you.

 

‘Representing’ at the Shower of Stoles Project

 

I have the honor of speaking  at the Shower of Stoles project as part of All Saints Episcopal Church’s celebration of Pride Week. October 11, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

I first sent my stole to the Shower of Stoles in the 90’s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the project, it is a collection of stoles (you know, those things preachers wear over their robes that often follow the liturgical season) donated by lesbians and gay men who sought ordination or were already ordained but remained closeted. Each stole comes with a brief story of the one who donated. Many are anonymous. Viewing the kaleidoscope of colors and the uniqueness of each story is sometimes sad, sometimes triumphant, always moving.

The struggle for LGBT folks to serve in the church is long, arduous… and,frankly, not over yet.  We’ve made a lot of progress and these stoles represent the lives and work, the persistence and the resistance of many faithful folks who experienced a call to ministry contrary to their church’s teaching.

I am one of those people. I lived through a time when I had to find a way to make sense of this blasted  called and what it meant for me to be faithful. This week I get to tell the story of my stole, my call, my struggle to be faithful, and the grace I splash around in.

I’m focusing on resistance in my talk because the times we live in require much of us. These stoles remind us of  the power of resistance. Sharing the stories inspires us for the work of justice. And, perhaps most of all, these stoles and their stories give us hope for the future.

Come let these stoles bear witness and listen to the story I have to tell. Hope to see you there!

Whose Rights?

                    Some days I’m not sure how much more sorrow we can navigate as a nation. After the brutal terrorist attack in Las Vegas, after Sandy Hook, after Pulse, after daily multiple murders that have become seemingly routine, have we been dulled to our outrage?

           And then there is the knee-jerk response from the right and the NRA: now is not the time to debate gun laws. Well if not now, when? When we have time compartmentalize our anger and grief? When we can make the people whose lives were taken and the ones who suffered loss unimportant? During election years when the NRA can buy the votes it needs? When?

What’s wrong with now?

If I hear one more 2nd amendment advocate tout that ‘this is the cost of freedom’ I believe I will hurl. We need to amend or void the second amendment. Amend it to include the six words when serving in the militia. Read Justice John Paul Steven’s well reasoned 2014 argument here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-five-extra-words-that-can-fix-the-second-amendment/2014/04/11/f8a19578-b8fa-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html?utm_term=.aabb5e76d28d

My question today is: whose rights?

Rights enshrined in the very body of the Constitution are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The 2nd Amendment, as currently interpreted, infringes on those rights. The lack of sane gun control costs thousands of people their lives each year. Not only in mass shootings but in domestic violence incidents, and because of negligence that gives access to weapons by toddlers and adolescents.

NOW we need to focus on our citizens’ right to life. Maybe even come to understand that the ‘right to life’ includes enough to eat, a place to live, and healthcare. And the right to liberty. Because people are afraid to go to concerts, shopping malls, and sporting events. Women are afraid of their partners. And those fears imprison us. Finally, though happiness may be difficult to qualify, it has been snatched from thousands of our citizens by gun violence.

Why are some rights privileged over others? Why does your right to own a weapon trump my right to live? Our priorities are skewed, friends, in so many ways. But let’s begin here. Let’s begin by advocating for our right to stay alive.

Let’s give new and urgent meaning to the phrase ‘right to life’.