Views from the Bridge

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

This is part of a synchroblog event coordinated by queertheologycom. For more information about what a synchroblog is, please go here. We – me and Colin – practice different religions, so we are doing our blog together but not as a conversation like we normally do. Colin is first and I am second.

Colin, Terri

The world is constantly a cycle from winter to winter, summer to summer, spring to spring, or autumn to autumn.

I generally think of it as autumn to autumn.

This is inspired by the fact that as a young Pagan, I celebrate a holiday called Samhain, often referred to as the witches new year or Halloween. It is my holiday of renewal and restart. The end and the beginning.

It’s my favourite holiday for many reasons, ranging from the silly decorations and costumes the world outside of Paganism recognizes, to the deep spiritual connection I have with the day.

It, like many Pagan celebrations, has a deep connection to creation.

I also think that something I favour of this holiday is its lack of connection to gender, which might be weird, coming from a gender creative person. As a transman, I feel like sometimes my life gets swamped with that single piece of my identity. I was out and proud in high school, speaking at events, writing as a transperson for mine and my mother’s blog, and answering all of the intrusive questions that often come along with being trans – Wait, are you gay now? Are you straight now? How do you have sex? So you want a penis?

When my spirituality and religion started to become more important to me and I started going out of my way to help the two thrive and feel content within myself, gender wasn’t a thing I wanted to connect with it. Same with sexuality and romantic attraction. Because those are all important parts of my life and big pieces of what creates me, but not how I create my spirituality.

I create my spirituality with warmth and comfort. When I’m doing a circle, a ritual, or meditating, I’ll use symbols, items, and clothes that are meaningful to me, and not what is the ‘norm’ of a Pagan ritual. Such as I have a Life Energy candle that I light, but I don’t light g’d and g’ddess candles.

Outside of the ritualistic side of my spirituality and religion, I create sacred spaces throughout my life. In particular, I have an altar of sorts set up in my bedroom. I change it as it seems right through my journey to change it, and don’t alter it to the flow of the moon or to what holiday is closest – except for Samhain, but that holiday has a lot of specific importance to me.

The items on my altar at times make it look more like an altar – such as right now, it has an incense container, symbols of the five elements, my books of knowledge, a plate with the Knight’s Code of Chivalry on it, my Book of Shadows, and my athame – but sometimes looks nothing like. Previous to the current set up it was a picture a dear friend had drawn for me, a fake flower, a tiny chair with a very old stuffed animal that my mother gave to me, a shell full of little rocks that I like, and a single candle. It depends how my spirituality feels at that moment, and how the world is impacting me.

In the end, I create a lot of my own spirituality because I don’t feel tied to gender whilst I’m floating through the cosmos, and in Paganism, as in all religions that I have observed, there is a strong tie to gender. Which isn’t a bad thing. I do at times light a g’d candle, a g’ddess candle, a spirit candle, or all three.

But the point is I found a religion that fits how I feel, and the fact that I create a fair amount of my expression of it and my words for it doesn’t make it any less important or viable. In many ways, far more, because I created it, and it’s forever a part of me.

Thanks, Colin. I love that you have found a way to express yourself that meets the spiritual needs that you have. I think you know that I disagree with you about how we embody religious experience and that our bodies are central to the story. But, I think it is okay. I totally understand the need for a gender-free-zone. I love you!! Now my turn…

The theology or scripture that I find in scripture that I would like to queer is the creation story in John 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This is a very familiar passage to Christians, especially those from an evangelical background that privileges the Gospel of John over other gospels. I confess that I used to find John “flinch” worthy, but now I am so in love with it – it is beyond ridiculous! The author of the Gospel of John (unknown) was a brilliant person (gender identification is also unknown).

Focusing on the word “Word,” we find the Greek word logos. Logos is tied to two understandings – one in Greek Platonic mythology translated “Reason” but derived from the verb lego which would be “to speak” and the other in Hebrew scriptural understanding translated “Wisdom” (sophia).

In one fell swoop, the author of John ties together:

  • Platonic reason, form and matter and how the entire cosmos is understood in the concept of the perfected form learned only by application of reason and never experienced as all matter falls short of the concept of its form (form is tree-ness, the matter may be a seed or branch or even a tree-but never the full expression of tree-ness).
  • Sophia, Hebrew scripture’s Wisdom in English from Proverbs 8:

8:1 Does not Wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Additionally, the Goddess Sophia, in pre-Biblical literature, dances the world into existence.

  • And Jesus, in the Gospel of John in verses 1:14-18, co-identified with the Word as the Word become flesh.

John brilliantly packages the Word (Logos) , the divine feminine (Sophia), and the embodiment of God (Jesus).

Male and female tied together in the person of the child of God as grounded in Platonic thought as the perfect idea or form.

At a minimum, the author of John can be seen as unconcerned with traditional gender roles. In its most expansive interpretation, the person of the Word is intersex. 

So all of this is a big “so what” unless it informs my understanding of the Divine and my understanding of the world. What does it mean if the Word, Logos, is non-gender conforming? It brings an incredible freedom to be gender creative and still fall within the concept of the perfect idea of child of God. Who I am is good enough. Who you are is good enough. 

And in all of that, our bodies, no matter how we experience them, are good enough.

And God looked at all of creation and said, “It is very good.”

Shalom and Amen.

(c) 2013, Colin and Terri Stewart

I am publishing today without Colin. This is still a conversation we had in the car! But somehow we are very bad at coordinating our blog posts together.

Well, Colin and I had an awesome conversation about gender and spirituality. I am an elder (provisional) in the United Methodist Church which means I am a pastor. He is pagan which means most of his practices are isolated since we live in the boonies.

I asked, “How has gender impacted your spirituality?”

His immediate response as a teen was, “huh?”

I explained a bit. Mark Driscoll, the pastor of a conservative mega church, has said that he needs to worship a manly Jesus. This makes my eyes roll back into my head, frankly. I asked Colin the same question again.

His response was something like…

…well, I have a ridiculous mother that lets me explore what I need to explore and I had a ridiculous confirmation teacher that let me find out who I am, and a ridiculous church that never said anything bad.

Ridiculous = Good.

I then asked him something like, “Reflecting back, you now practice an almost solitary practice of spirituality in your pagan practice. Do you think it could be because you were beginning to transform into who you are and gender boxes in church didn’t suit you any more?”

YES! Gender does not come up in my spirituality. It is unimportant and unrelated.

Colin’s spiritual transformation out of Christianity began about the same time he came out to his church. Not that they weren’t fully supportive, they were in the way they knew how which was to essentially shut-up and not say anything good or bad, but to go on as normal. But Colin is a community person, so he found his way to a Unitarian Universalist Church for a while and we will see what happens as he grows into full adulthood (geez, 17 already).

I see a link between his transformation, gender, and the church. Do you see a link between gender and your spiritual expression?

Colin, Terri (mom) 

Alright. So. Ritual. What is ritual? When you hear that word what does it make you think of?

For me, it has many meanings, definitions, and memories – good and bad – behind it. One of the better:

Peace,

Love,

Joy.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I left for anywhere, a friend’s house, school, camp, anywhere, my mom and I would do say, peace, love, joy. Hand motions and all. (Hey mom? Can we put in a picture here?)

Why yes, we can!

Joy is not as simple as peace & love because it is a motion.  You can find a video of the motion here.

It’s a goodbye ritual, wishing you a good day, or week, or time away from home.

Ritual for me specifically, apart from my family, also goes alone with my life. I’m Wiccan, and I do rituals for esbats and sabats. Also done if I have a friend in need – never cast a spell on somebody without their permission, by the way – or for a various amount of reasons. Ritual in Wicca, is a spiritual thing, and when done with another person – I have two people I do rituals with occasionally – shows great trust and/or care for them.

Mom? Any rituals specific for you not involving me/the family?

Well, Christianity is full of rituals!  Communion, baptism, even just the events of an every day Sunday.  The ritual of coming together and praying.  My favorite ritual?  The passing of the peace and the genuine loving kindness of the hugs.

Communities always have ritual.  It helps them define themselves.  If we didn’t have ritual, we’d probably be inventing every day newly.  There is some merit in approaching each day in a new way, but how many different ways can you wake up?  The best ritual is my first cup of coffee in the morning!  The loving kindness of your dad bringing me that first cup for several reasons.  He is doing it out of love, I love the smell of coffee and the feel of a warm cup in my hands, and I need to take my medicine ASAP!  So it is reaching emotional, spiritual, and physical health!

But not all experiences of ritual is good.  Do you want to share a problematic experience?

So I used to be a part of an organization called the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. If it’s not obvious by that name, I was not out as trans yet. So, I’m not exactly feminine. I don’t like dresses or skirts, or skinny jeans, or bows, or bluh, stereotypical female clothing. In Rainbow Girls (the abbreviation, because, g’d, who wants to say International Order of the Rainbow for Girls every time) when we did rituals from our book titled “Ritual” we had to wear floor length white dresses. Hm. So. We’re memorizing page long texts – if not longer – in old English, in several hour long  rituals, while I’m in a dress. There’s also people that I wasn’t entirely fond of, or weren’t fond of me, the hierarchy of Rainbow Girls, the late hours, and weird rules that have never made sense to me. Suffice to say, Rainbow Girls was not a good experience of ritual for me. I will also say, there are most definitely people who loved Rainbows Girls and it was an amazing experience for them. For me, not so much.

I think our greatest ritual right now is crossing the bridge together.  Don’t you? 

Your face is a good ritual. 😛 Yah, yah, fine, whatever. It’s a good ritual. I guess, technically this thing a thing is a good ritual too.

The weather on the bridge today was cloudy.  And some of our memories were too.

 POKE YOUR FACE!!!!!! 😀