Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Madness Continues

So I'm at a protest rally today. Why? Because the mayor made ridiculous, insensitive, and inflammatory comments about the gay citizens that make up part of his constituency.

Of course, there were a handful of misguided people shouting that God was proud of the mayor's homophobia and that God actually shared the mayor's disdain for queer people. I was one of several speakers challenging the mayor's homophobia and the crowd gathered was large, orderly, energetic, and receptive to the rallying cries. But looking back over the day's events, I am once again disturbed that in the 21st century anyone not otherwise medicated and under constant surveillance would publicly utter the words, "God calls homosexuality an abomination."

Of course, the people saying this are quoting a verse from the biblical book of Leviticus. Many of them don't know where it comes from nor are they aware the same book condemns the clothes they wear and the food they eat. Their ignorance of what the text says beyond the little catch phrase that they use like a poisonous dart is disturbing enough, but I'm more stunned to realize that anyone pretends to believe that the bible is somehow God's memoir.

Now, let's be clear...I love the bible. In fact, I love the bible for a living, and I have spent my entire life exploring the depths of the mystery of life that many call "God." And yet, for all my devotion, I have not imagined in adulthood, or at least not since VERY early adulthood that God in any way authored any part of the bible. Inconsistencies, contradictions, and scientific inaccuracies notwithstanding, it just doesn't seem sane to imagine that God is in the publishing business. Of course, as blasphemous as it may sound, I also don't believe the earth is flat or that leeches are state-of-the-art medicine.

I don't care that people who aren't terribly in touch with their own sexuality are frightened by mine (as they perceive it). I do care that they have deluded themselves into believing that their sexual hangups amount to divine revelation. That is a level of crazy that keeps me up at night...at least long enough to write about it in my blog. Sadly, the homophobic madness continues.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Positive Attitude Makes a Difference

“…I’m not seeing things as they are; I’m seeing things as I am.” – Laurel Lee

I wonder if some people are just hard-wired for optimism. I wonder if it’s easier for some people to summon hope than it is for others. Regardless of how easy it comes to any of us, surely most of us would agree that a positive outlook is more fun than a dreary one. Expecting the worst makes us miserable even before the worst happens! Bad news or ill fortune is unpleasant in any case, but to worry about it before it strikes just prolongs the agony. And, if all the positive thinkers of the world are right, then holding on to hope and looking for powerful possibilities will actually attract our Good to us, at least sometimes. And, when the bad stuff happens, a positive outlook will help us cope with the difficulties better, and may even shorten the time of suffering.

I’ve known people who battled illness for 40 years or more. They found things to laugh at, things to enjoy in their daily life, things to be grateful for along the way. Rather than feeling sad that they were often ill, they rejoiced that they continued to live and that frequent illness hadn’t robbed their joy. I’ve also known people who seemed to think missing an elevator or getting caught by a traffic light amounted to a tragedy.

I’ve known people who never made much money, but who loved their work and their friends and who discovered wealth beyond what money can buy. I’ve also known people who made small fortunes who acted as if they expected the world to end tomorrow.

I’ve known people who have lost careers, homes, and even loved ones. And yet, they celebrate their friendships, they depend on new beginnings, and they expect that happiness will return. And, as you might guess by now, I’ve known people who had very different attitudes in life.

The people with the positive outlook just seem happier. Maybe the “mess” hits the fan less often for them because they attract good fortune with their sunny dispositions; or maybe the mess happens as often to them as to anyone else but they just don’t wallow in it. Either way, they seem to model the better path.

Of course, I don’t really have to look at the positive thinkers and the negative thinkers to make my comparisons. All I really have to do is look at the times that my outlook was positive and times that it wasn’t. Which worked out better for me? Which felt better? Which seemed more like my true self, or at least more like who I truly wanted to be? The positive thinkers can teach us something, but maybe the best lessons are taught by our own experiences of when we were truly optimistic, positive, and constructive. We already know what’s best for us…the trick is returning “home” to our truth. The good news is it’s never too late.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Think for Yourself

Socrates said, "To find yourself, think for yourself." The wisdom of the statement seems obvious enough, but it can also be quite threatening.

I have always had trouble accepting that something is 100% true on its face. For instance, most churches would have us believe that God is a humanoid super-being, like us (though more like those of us who are male) with the addition of unlimited magical powers. Already, one must ask, "really?"

Most churches would have us believe, then, that this God ordained the establishment of our institutional church, and that God prefers the Church to other religious organizations. Again, we might ask, "for real?"

Then, many churches would have us believe that this God created a place called Hell and rejects all people who don't believe what God's institutional church says about "Him," damning them to an eternity in this Hell of God's making. Of course, this God also seems to rig elections, play favorites with political parties, and even wants us to kill each other off in a series of bloody wars.

If we ever ask, "does any of this make sense?" We are usually given a scriptural "proof-text" to accept as if it were a reprimand from God saying, "Believe this and shut up." Of course, we then might ask who wrote the scripture, and when, and why, and to whom, and in what language, and how old is the oldest and most reliable copy, and who translated it and what his or her linguistic credentials were, and all of that before we started exploring the many interpretations that could be explored.

Before long, the "believe this, do what I say, or burn in hell" approach to religion just doesn't seem very compelling anymore. Not only does it not make sense, but the threat is kind of hallow too...I mean, what's the alternative to winding up in Hell? Winding up in Heaven with the God who created the whole crazy system to begin with? Yikes!

What if religion wasn't about mind control (and by extension, behavior control)? What if religion empowered us to ask questions and to think freely and explore boldly? What if religion gave us a compassionate community in which to ask our questions and think our thoughts and search for meaning, all the while providing the comfort and joy of companionship and ritual celebration? What if religion was meant to help us find ourselves rather than lose ourselves in abusive dogma?

I'm still not giving up on religion, but I do hope to be part of reforming it. Let's take Heaven and Hell off the table and explore the possibility that if there is another life, the best prepartion for it is to make the most of this one. Let's at least give ourselves the freedom to ask the obvious questions. We may not come up with the same answers, but the religion I am hoping becomes popular wouldn't insist that cookie cutter answers were necessary.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Statement Regarding the Death of Tammy Faye

Statement Regarding the Death of Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner
by The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins of Sunshine Cathedral
Saturday, July 21st, 2007

As a religious leader, I am personally very sad to learn of Tammy Faye Messner’s recent death.

It was at one time very fashionable to ridicule Tammy Faye because of her glamorous appearance, sweet voice, and marriage to a televangelist who was convicted of fraud. But her dignity and strength of character saw her through those difficult days and saw her rise as an icon of popular culture and a friend of those who felt marginalized.

What I will always love, appreciate, and remember most about Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Tammy Faye Bakker) is how she was able to live a life of faith without resorting to the pugnacity or mean-spirited attacks that other religious leaders have too often displayed.

Tammy made history when on her program, “Tammy’s House Party,” she interviewed the Reverend Stephen Pieters, an “out” gay man living with HIV/AIDS at a time when there were no effective treatments for AIDS and when churches were either silent about the AIDS crisis or condemning of those who suffered from the disease. Tammy Faye, by contrast, interviewed Rev. Pieters and showed him respect and compassion.

Tammy’s public appearances were often characterized by her telling people she loved them. I can’t recall a single time that she responded to anyone with judgment or condemnation. While doing the reality TV show “The Surreal Life,” Tammy befriended porn star Ron Jeremy. I remember watching an episode where Sally Jesse Raphael asked Tammy Faye why she didn’t “stand against” Jeremy whose lifestyle represented so much that differed from her own. Tammy just sweetly and apparently genuinely responded that she didn’t need to oppose someone just because she didn’t understand his choices. She added that Ron Jeremy was one of the nicest people she had ever met.

Not surprisingly, Tammy Faye developed a large gay and lesbian fan base. Maybe it was because she worked with Jim J. Bullock on a short-lived talk show, or because RuPaul narrated her autobiographical documentary, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” or maybe it was just because she never once publicly said an unkind word about gay people, but her brand of all-inclusive, non-judgmental, truly loving spirituality certainly warmed the heart of at least this gay man.

Larger-than-life. Beautiful. Fun. Sweet. Kind. These are the words that come to mind when I remember Tammy Faye. I prayed for her in life, and I continue to wish her family well as they grieve this loss. Tammy Faye and I probably did not share a lot of theological opinions, but she definitely demonstrated for me how a person of faith ought to live…with tolerance, compassion, and kindness. I hope more of us will follow her example.


Durrell Watkins is the Canon Precentor and Canon Pastor-elect of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL (www.sunshinecathedral.org). He can be reached at Durrell@sunshinecathedral.org. Sunshine Cathedral is a Metropolitan Community Church affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity.

Angelic Thinking

"The first step is to ask. Make a command to the Universe. Let the Universe know what you want. The Universe responds to your thoughts." - Lisa Nichols

Somehow, the idea that the Universe responds to clear and sustained intention seems obvious to me. Of course, we are inundated with fear thoughts and worst case scenarios, so its hard to keep an optimistic outlook, or it is?

A belief is an idea that has been rehearsed until it was accepted as true. Why do we believe there is a god (or, if we don't, why do we believe there isn't one)? Why do we believe that in the end Good will prevail (or, if we don't, why do we believe that Good is fighting a losing battle)? Why do we believe that we may have a soul-mate somewhere, or that medical science will eventually find the cures for most diseases? Why do we believe anything? Because we took an idea, held it and repeated it until it became part of us, and then we started to see evidence that our belief had merit. We may or may not have made the connection that the belief itself produced the apparent evidence.

If we practice optimism consistently enough, our outlook will more often than not be optimistic, and if that is our outlook most of the time, our experience (or at least our interpretation of our experiences) will be positive. It's as if we gave the Universe a clear request, and expected it to be fulfilled, and in time, of course, it was!

There is a Christian myth of a heavenly battle (there are similar myths in other traditions as well). The battle takes place between angels of goodness, and selfish, power-hungry former angels that have become diabolical beings. It takes a long time, but since the demons are outnumbered 2 to 1 and since the angelic beings don't give up, ultimately Good prevails and evil is defeated forever.

The myth seems to speak to the very "battle" between "good" thoughts (thoughts that empower, give hope, bring peace, etc.) and the negative thoughts (those thoughts that bring fear and despair and regret and shame). We must work to make sure that our "good" thoughts out-number the "demonic" ones, and even then, we must not give up too soon. Finally, Good must prevail and our lives manifest hope and peace and joy and abundance and vitality ("heaven").

So, we keep praying. We keep working. We keep hoping. We keep asking for what is just and good, and if our good is delayed, we keep praying and we keep working and we keep hoping. That's how we build up the angelic forces of consciousness that will eventually out-number all negativity and finally bring about the Good we all deserve.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tammy Faye

Of course I saw Tammy Faye (Baker) Messner on Larry King tonight. How sweet and beautiful she remains even at 65 pounds and in such pain. She is a living witness of courage and grace. She remains one of my heroes and I wish her peace till the end and eternal joy thereafter. I send her love and in my heart of hearts I even hope for some kind of miracle. If more Christians were like Tammy Faye, I'm convinced there'd be more Christians. God bless her.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Keep the Faith

"Jesus said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'" - Mark 5.34

Lately it seems that a lot of sad things have happened to people I care about. One person is struggling financially, another is grieving a significant loss, another is having a lot of health challenges, another is experiencing strife in a relationship, and another is caring for an elderly loved one.

These are just a few of the people facing difficulties right now. Many of them don't know one another, and none of their issues are unique. A lot of people care for an elderly parent or struggle to regain their health or find that the pennies just aren't stretching quite far enough. What strikes me, in addition to the shear numbers of people with significant challenges, is that each of the people I have in mind are people of faith.

The people I'm thinking about are decent, kind, hard working people who are committed to their values and who are generous and who believe in Something. These are all people who are part of worshiping communities and who include study, meditation or prayer in their daily living.

Another thing that strikes me about these wonderful people is that most of them don't seem to be defeated by their sorrow. They seem to know that the sun will shine again. Difficulty now doesn't mean doom and defeat forever. They are somehow able to find hope or joy in spite of their difficulties and they seem to know that somehow, someday thing will improve. Isn't that amazing?

Faith doesn't keep life from happening with all of its ups and downs. But faith does seem to keep the down times from keeping us down. Faith may not make life easy, but it does seem to be able to make life worthwhile even when it isn't easy. Faith may not be a good luck charm, but it does seem to be the way people can feel blessed even in the face of misfortune. Faith may not be the quick fix, but it does seem to be the long term solution.

In the gospel story about a woman who was chronically hemorrhaging, we see that after a dozen years of visiting doctors she reached out to Jesus in desperation. The story tells us that she was finally cured and that Jesus said her faith was the agent of her healing. Of course, she didn't just summon faith that day. She had held on to faith for 12 years. Every time she visited a doctor, she had faith that her disease could be cured. Faith is why she didn't give up. And finally, after holding onto her faith for so long, things improved.

Faith saw the hemorrhaging woman through until her situation improved. That's the power of faith I think...not just the faith that seems to make things better in an instant, but also the faith that won't let us give up until that magic moment of resolution. The hemorrhaging woman had an instant healing that took twelve years to happen. Faith isn't the magic, its the determination to not give up until the magic finally happens.

(C)Durrell Watkins, 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Latest Potter Flick

saw the latest Harry Potter film last night...kind of odd to see 17 playing 14, but happy that there may be two more to come...i guess by the last one we'll see 20 playing 17, which will be less odd. this one is slower than the others, darker and sadder. but the headmaster mixes it up with the dark lord, so its nice to see him in some hand to hand (or wand to wand) action.

i continue to be sad that Ron appears to be totally useless (wizard-wise). oh sure, he saves the day in the first one with his chess skills, and he's a good bud to harry, and rescues harry in a flying car once...even in this latest one he outsmarts (we're told, we don't actually get to see it) the slitherin boys, but still...he's just a good kid. when does he get to walk on water or turn someone into a rabbit or astral-project somewhere? his whole family (including now his little sister and his way cute older twin brothers) are magical whizes while he hasn't done anything that my cat couldn't manage (well, my cats can't drive a car or play chess, but you know what i mean).

We get to be voyeurs for Harry's first kiss, but soon after his girlfriend is manipulated with a potion into betraying the adolescent underground resistance. everyone's pretty through with her until they realize it wasn't her fault, but still we don't get back to her in this one.

oh, the undersecretary of magic or whatever is a real wicked witch...basically george bush in drag. but, karma kicks in and she gets some comeupance. love it when the bad guys get a kick in the ass. of course, the biggest meannie continues to be on the loose...thus two more movies.

there's more death in this one...so, it's a bit of a downer, but by now we care about these kids and its become like a soap opera/cliff hanger. so, stay tuned for #6 next year and the final one 2010. Oh, and as always, the philosophical/spiritual/ethical questions are raised and dealt with intelligently. Good bidness.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What’s Appropriate for a Library?

Commentary in Response to Opposition to Stonewall Library’s Gay & Lesbian Collection & Archives Relocation to “ArtSpace” Library in Fort Lauderdale

What would you think of literature that described a man and a woman unashamedly walking around outdoors in the nude? What would you think of a short story about a man who claims that his wife is really his sister and then “gives” her to a king to marry in exchange for a major dowry? How about a tale of two sisters who seduce their own father? Or a horrible account of a young woman who was stalked and attacked by someone who claimed to love her? What of a story about a young widow who disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law?

You may find these stories offensive and you might take exception to them being available in a library that benefits from public funds, but that means that you will not want the Holy Bible to be housed in the hypothetical library in question.

You see, the stories mentioned above all come from the biblical book of Genesis. They are the stories of the primordial couple in Eden (Genesis 2.25), Abraham and Sarah traveling through Egypt (12.10-20), Lot and his daughters after the destruction of Sodom (19.30-36), the attack of Dinah (34.1-8), and Tamar setting a trap for Judah (38.13-18). There are other stories in the bible that could cause eyebrows to rise, including an eight chapter erotic love poem (the Song of Songs), and a story we celebrate every Christmas about a virgin who somehow conceived a child!

When religious people call for censorship of materials that are “sexually explicit,” one must wonder what bible they are reading. People are free to support censorship if they so choose, but I do wish they wouldn’t blame their views on that earthy, saucy book we call the bible.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Prayer for Personal Achievement

If you have a concern in your life for which you would like to pray, I invite you to use the following prayer:

God within, Infinite Good, Source and Substance of Life -
I pause in this moment to acknowledge your presence expressing in, through, and as me.
I remind myself in this moment that my thoughts and attitude shape much of my experience of life, and when I choose positive thoughts and feelings, I am releasing your power into my life and into my world.
The divine, creative power that flows through my thoughts, words, feelings, and mental images is able to heal, prosper, enlighten, harmonize, and assure success.
And so it is that I am grateful for your power within me to create the abundant life I deserve and desire.
I now claim my good. I visualize it. I feel it. I consider it already accomplished. I call it forth. I expect it. And I allow it to be. I boldly declare that all is well. Thank you, inner-most and everlasting God. Amen.

(c) Durrell Watkins 2007

Faithful Doubt

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands…I will not believe.” – The Apostle Thomas (according to the Gospel of John 20.25)

James R. Adams, in his book So You Can’t Stand Evangelism?: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Church Growth, writes, “The gospels never characterize those who oppose Jesus as doubters; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Roman officials are sure of themselves and of their beliefs…the only people in the gospel stories who doubt are the disciples…to be a follower of Jesus is to be capable of doubt.”

Isn’t it exciting to recall that the people who first followed Jesus and who led the Jesus Movements within Judaism (and beyond) were capable of doubt?! In fact, I “doubt” if real faith is possible without honest doubt. To believe something without examining it, questioning it, or considering alternatives isn’t faith. Faith (another word for “trust”) is saying, “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t need to have all the answers. I’ll ask my questions and explore the possibilities and trust the process to lead me where I need to be.” That’s what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5.7) – to live boldly with the questions rather than clinging to preconceived answers.

If we have all the answers (as dictated by an ancient creed, papal decree, doctrinal statement, or uncritical use of a biblical proof-text), then what need is there for faith? Trusting the process of life…that’s faith. Trusting that our questions have merit…that’s faith. Trusting that we need not “get it right” in order to be acceptable to God…that’s faith. Trusting the ambiguities, uncertainties, and multitudinous possibilities in life…that’s faith.

We are people of faith, but that doesn’t mean we are people who hold all the same opinions or who agree on any particular dogmatic assertion. We are people who trust that we have sacred value and that our search for meaning and fulfillment is a holy journey that must ultimately lead to peace and joy. That level of faith is what was modeled by the first followers of Jesus, and it can be modeled by followers of Jesus (and our various allies) still. We’re here not to hand out easy answers, but rather to equip people for an honest and on-going adventure. Such radical trust, or “faith,” is bound to facilitate a positive spiritual experience.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007


“I am the sum total of what I have been confessing through the years.” – Joel Osteen

Self-talk is very important and it’s also inevitable. We all think. We all imagine things. We all have expectations. And the kinds of things we say over and over to ourselves become like seeds we plant in the fertile ground of consciousness. That’s why optimism is so important. For every problem we encounter, we must affirm that a solution is possible. For every challenge, we must decide to learn a valuable lesson and move forward. For every fearful encounter, we must summon the power of hope. Since we’ll tell ourselves something anyway, let’s choose to say things that feel good and that conjure a picture of success. The more seeds we plant, the more abundant our harvest is likely to be. Once we firmly establish the habit of declaring and expecting our Good, we will find that it becomes manifest in our experience.