Tuesday, September 10, 2019

49 years after it was made, I finally watched John Waters’ Multiple Maniacs

Tonight was my first time to see John Waters’ 1970 film “Multiple Maniacs.” What a wild ride!

There was a long, bizarre (and pretty vile) scene that involved traditional prayers, summarized bible stories, and the stations of the cross...what amazed me was the accuracy. Often when film makers reference religion, they get a lot wrong. This was hardly devotional, but neither was it ignorant. Of course all of that happened during a pretty gross misuse of a rosary, so there’s that. Oh, the Infant of Prague gets a cameo as well. Why not?

Of course there was shocking violence (so JW), and drugs and lots of sex (so 1970), and random creativity (a lobster monster that just shows up and then just leaves - after doing terrible things), as well as mediocre performances (there are times when you can see people struggling to remember lines, and other times when dialogue is recited without rhythm or feeling like a public school student being forced to recite the preamble to the constitution in front of the class), but then in the midst of all that there is real potential and raw talent being expressed by Mink Stole and Divine.

In the end, after discovering that her beloved daughter (of whom she is super proud for dropping out of school, supporting herself as a sex worker, and dating a domestic terrorist) has been killed, Divine completely loses her shit (she was pretty well on her way before then), acts blindly out of her pain and rage, and is hunted by a system that values punishment over rehabilitation, healing, and restoration.

It was haunting and beautiful and chaotic and disturbing and nauseating and creepy and profound and political and even spiritual...all at once (or at least in quick turns). It’s the kind of thing that was probably better to see alone (As I did), late at night, without so much as a glass of wine. This one requires all senses to be at the ready, including revulsion.

I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it (I’m a John Waters fan and even had the joy of meeting him a couple of years ago), but I’m glad I finally did. A young Waters certainly wasn’t afraid to explore any idea and cross any number of boundaries in doing so.

MM is not humorless, but is far less comical than most of Waters’ films. And in several Divine flix, Divine gives us a wink as the large queen camping it up for laughs...but in Multi-Maniacs, Divine is real in an implausible way...She is simply the lead character, not a comic, but a “maniac.” The character is a woman who is played by a man...not schtick as much as just one more transgressive element in the picture. That may be the most genius part of it.

MM is a thinker. I like that, even if now I have post low-budg Indy horror-slasher flick insomnia. And I may never again be able to enjoy lobster. Don’t worry...I’ll pray through that one! Prayer works...I’m already craving a wood grilled lobster tail dipped in butter. Hmmmmmmm.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Pastoral Response to Violence & Racist Rhetoric

Dear Friends:

I don't have a lot of commentary for you today, or a written homily, or a series of pithy talking points. What I do have is concern for the rise of hatred in the US and in the world, and what I can offer is prayer and an invitation.

Norms of civility and decency have been ignored for a while.
We cringe and cry as we see our siblings of transgender experience shunned, dehumanized, and even murdered. 
We worry that gains made for marriage equality are being undermined. 
We sigh in disbelief as refuge seekers are treated with cruelty. 
We gasp in horror as white supremacists gather in the daylight and spew their vile hatred. 
We are saddened by the personal attacks made by Caucasian government leaders against other leaders who are persons of color. 
And we are completely exhausted by the epidemic of mass shootings that seems to be unique to this wounded nation.

I said I could offer prayer and an invitation. Let me start with the invitation.

Of course we know that the gift of democracy is that we all get to participate in it. 
If you are concerned about the health of our country, then please participate in its governance. Write to your representatives, sign petitions, donate to candidates who articulate your values, and in every single election, please VOTE.

But in addition to taking your civic duties seriously, I invite you to pray daily and worship weekly. When we gather together, sing together, pray together, learn together, are offered both challenge and comfort together, we grow, we heal, we find empowerment, we have our hope renewed. So pray daily for your community, your church, your loved ones, your country, the world...and gather weekly for worship where our shared love and hope can heal our hearts and perhaps infuse the life-stream of the planet with some much needed healing energy. 

And now, for the offering of prayer:

Dear God,
Heal our hearts. 
Heal our nation.
Heal our world.
Heal our needless divisions.
Heal our troublesome suspicions.
Heal our hatreds, our fears, our regrets.
Of course, we know that what you do for us you must do through us, so give us the courage and the grace to respond to your promptings, that we may be your healing hands in the world.
May we use vote and voice, time and treasure, word and work to bring peace and justice to this country and beyond, all for the sake of your love.

Yours in shared service,

Durrell SIg 
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral


Monday, June 24, 2019

Are miraculous healings real?

Someone asked today about miraculous healings. She grew up in a church were prayer was used as a primary "therapy" for any and all diseases but has grown skeptical as she has seen people from her own faith tradition suffer and even die in spite of their beleif in the power of prayer. This was my response:

My concern with dramatic "faith" cures is the depression and regret that result when the magic doesn't work for someone. Still, I believe in prayer. I also believe in medicine (which doesn't always seem to work either). I believe in the body's wisdom and resiliency. I believe that complementary therapies often help. Attitude, environment, genes, diet...so much goes into our experience of health. 

I have seen people recover when no one thought they could; and I've seen people who should have had a fighting chance not make it. I've expereinced blessings of recovered health for which I was very grateful...and other times, conditions remained or returned. 

Life is complex. We do what we can to be happy and vibrant and productive...medicine, diet, prayer, lucky charms...whatever we can hold onto in a moment. Lots of things help, and nothing seems to work 100% of the time; but isn't that life? Prayer helps us feel connected to God, and when we feel connected to God we have less anxiety, more peace, more hope, and that all can contribute to an improved experience. 

I just met someone who swears that after only a couple of visits to a mystical healer he has experienced dramatic remission of disease in his own body. Who am I to doubt it? He feels better so I rejoice for and with him. But even Mary Baker Eddy (who built an entire movement around healing prayer) said, "We've all known the disappointment of unanswered prayer." 

It works when it works, and even when it doesn't, there may be other blessings or other experiences of healing that took place. I wouldn't give up on any practice that gives you hope or encouragement, but I wouldn't think of it as a zero sum game. The all or nothing, it's 100% or it's BS mindset seems to do more harm than good. 

I say try whatever seems worth the effort, rejoice if it works, look for how it helped even if it didn't work the way you wanted, and know that life is full of ambiguities and unanswered questions. We do, after all, live by "faith" (trust) and not by "sight" (proofs, guarantees, etc.).

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Jesus might have been...

Does the idea of gay Jesus, married Jesus, Black Jesus, Brown Jesus, Jewish Jesus (this one’s not really up for debate), seditious Jesus, revolutionary Jesus, bi-Jesus, gender fluid Jesus, doubting Jesus, poor Jesus, homeless Jesus, illiterate Jesus, victimized Jesus, ethno-centric Jesus who might have grown past that, feminist Jesus, taboo smashing Jesus, generous to a fault Jesus, justice seeking/justice demanding Jesus, Jesus who never even heard of the Trinity, day laborer Jesus, philosopher Jesus, run of the mill healer/exorcist Jesus, mystic Jesus, kind of funny Jesus, storyteller Jesus, Jesus so buried in myth as to be practically unknown/unknowable...bother you? 

If so, why? What about the Jesus others have encountered, considered, wrestled with, played with, prayed with, journeyed with that threatens your experience? 

Is it possible Jesus was more than or other than what you’ve heard, believed, or so far experienced? And what if the others are completely wrong and you are completely right? Does that delegitimize their journey? Does that deny their right to explore and discover for themselves? 

We can discuss why our Jesus experiences differ. But if you come at me with insults and rage, not only will I probably be done from that moment, but I will also wonder why your experience of Jesus was so fragile that you couldn’t imagine that other experiences might also be possible.

I'm Interested in Jesus' Love Life BECAUSE I Love Jesus

I love Jesus (not in the imaginary friend way of my childhood, but I love searching for him in history and I love how I come to life when I make certain discoveries...my christology is rooted in a 1st century flesh and blood revolutionary more than in a cosmic Olympian type figure). 

Because I love Jesus I am very interested in his revolutionary, anti-imperial politics, in his work as a healer/exorcist/lay philosopher, in his risk taking, in his intimate/personal connection with the God of his understanding, in his insistence on flouting cultural taboos, in his willingness to rethink and dialogue with interpretations of his inherited scriptures and traditions, in people coming to believe he might be the messiah (and his possibly coming to agree with them), with people’s continued experience of him (or his memory or his values) beyond his execution, and I am interested in his personal relationships...
his closeness to a beloved disciple, his friendship with Peter, his place in a chosen family in Bethany, his interesting relationship with a woman from Magdala, his repeated encounters with a mysterious young man in Mark’s gospel, what it meant for him to look at him “and love him”, what it might mean for him to be called “son of David” (whose love for Jonathan was notorious)...

Because I love Jesus I love exploring his life, his intimacies, his sexuality. Like his ancestor David, he might have been bisexual, or he may have been gay, or he may have been straight, or he might have flowed up and down the continuum. 

Because I love Jesus, I want to know more about him. Just as those who love me must love the Queer me (because that’s the me there is), to love Jesus is to try to know him, and the him there is to know might be gay or bi...its definitely Queer (regardless of the attractions he felt). 

My soteriology is about “wholeness”...and since Jesus is part of the way that I found my path to wholeness (which includes my sexuality), I want to know the whole Jesus (as much as is possible with the years and myths that lie between us) which includes his sexuality. I don’t care if he was celibate or not, that’s none of my business, but he had human feelings and connections and covenants, and those do matter to me a great deal.

Friday, April 19, 2019

From Trauma to Triumph (A Good Friday Reflection)

From trauma to triumph
by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
“Perhaps Jesus would have preferred less than a long night of trauma in Gethsemane or less than three days in the tomb. Yet, in the midst of the dark hours…and…the lonely days and nights…life and light were active and miracles were happening…It is in the midst of weakness that you are made strong. In fear-filled times you are given courage. In trauma you are brought into serenity. In discouragement you find faith.” Mary L. Kupferle

I do not for a single moment believe that Jesus was predestined to be tortured to death. Jesus was killed by imperial powers the same way many others were. What is worthy of celebration isn’t that Jesus was tortured to death, but that the cruelty that tried to silence him and stifle the hope he gave to so many, failed. Yes, he suffered, but he still lives…in story, in song, in scripture, in ritual, in our imaginations, in every act of kindness, empowerment, mercy, and justice that we perform in his name. God doesn’t send the horrors, but God gives us the courage to face them, and miraculously, to even rise above them. Good Friday doesn’t enshrine trauma, it points toward triumph. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Hope will prevail. Miracles are at hand. And so it is.

Tenebrae Service at Sunshine Cathedral tonight at 7 pm (4/19/19)
1480 SW Ninth Ave
Fort Lauderdale

Friday, March 22, 2019


As a Christian, my affirmation of faith is “Jesus is Lord.” That doesn’t mean he is divine (though, in my theology of omnipresence, we are all in and part of the divine Presence); it means my very faith vocabulary and experience is a challenge to empire, autocracy, and oppression. It means that in a world where Caesar was Lord of the vast empire, a group of subjects, slaves, and peasants dared to call someone else “Lord”, and the person they chose was a carpenter/fisher/possibly illiterate itinerate preacher/Palestinian Jew from an occupied territory. 

Caesar’s empire killed “Lord” Jesus and his admirers insisted that somehow, he didn’t stay dead! In story and ritual and imagination and personal experience, he was still around (and remains so). So, calling Jesus “Lord” is an affirmation that significance isn’t limited to earthly/physical years, and it is a rebuke of empire, injustice, and cruelty.

It occurs to me, then, that one cannot have Jesus as Lord and be a fan of unbridled militarism, systemic racism, legalized discrimination against Queer folk, colonization of women’s bodies, or tyrannical narcissism in seats of power. If Jesus is Lord, Caesar ain’t...whether he wears a crown or a red ball cap. 

There is, obviously, a sentimental and personal devotion involved in calling Jesus “Lord” as well. 

Jesus loved the unloved, touched the untouchable, saw and heard the marginalized, offered hope to the hopeless, and helped the broken and dis-eased to feel whole again. For Jesus to be Lord means that we value compassion, kindness, tolerance, inclusivity, and hospitable welcome. 
For Jesus to be Lord means we want bridges rather than walls. 
For Jesus to be Lord means we hurt when we see others hurting. 
For Jesus to be Lord means a healing touch (medical care) for everyone who needs it. 
For Jesus to be Lord means that we would never and could never consider crushing the spirit of someone because of their heritage, the way they pray, or who they love. 
For Jesus to be Lord means affirming the sacred value of ALL people.

It’s too easy to make Jesus the distant face of a more distant god, and it doesn’t make the world kinder, healthier, safer, or more joyful. I won’t reduce Jesus to a deity...for me, he’s Lord! 

Too many people worship their fears and hatreds and call them God, and many call that god “Jesus.” But if Jesus is Lord, then we will work ceaselessly for the oppressed, the marginalized, the forgotten, the weak, the hurting, the wounded, the hungry, the sick, the refugee, the asylum seeker, the justice seeker, the bullied, the shamed, the shunned, and all the so-called “least of these.”

The oldest creed of the Jesus Movement is “Jesus is Lord.” It remains the cry of my heart, and the motivation for how I wish and try to live in the world. And if Jesus is Lord, then we still have a lot of work to do.

—Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA