Thursday, December 13, 2012

Enough Fat Bashing

I'm not a fan of the governor of NJ, but I do believe he loves NJ and I believe if he were to become president he would do his best to govern wisely and well. If we are talking about the Governor of NJ, let's keep the conversation about policy or qualifications or even disposition. Whether we like him or not, it is unfair and unkind and unworthy of us to have a national conversation about the man's weight! He has a scale and a mirror in his house, no doubt. He probably has a doctor as well. He doesn't need us to tell him what is weight is. Targeting people for their physical appearance (even if they are otherwise powerful and privileged) is just not OK.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Scalia Needs to Rethink “Morality”

Scalia Needs to Rethink “Morality”

Justice Anton Scalia has shockingly compared homosexuality to murder. He asked a Princeton student, “If we cannot have moral feelings about homosexuality, can we have them about murder?” Obviously, such a comparison is inflammatory and hurtful to same-gender loving people and their friends and families.

Justice Scalia justifies his hateful rhetoric by calling his opposition to homosexuality a moral argument. Never mind that Justice Scalia lacks the moral authority to make such pontifications, and that his unrestrained personal prejudices actually imply that he may be incapable of rendering impartial, fair, legally sound judgments in matters of full equality for same-gender loving people. What is most troubling is that this otherwise educated and clearly powerful person seems to be operating under the assumption that sexual orientation is a choice, and that even if it were, only one choice would be acceptable.

I’m gay, same-gender loving, Queer (yes, I muti-identify). Of course, my homosexuality is a matter of public record (I’ve been out and an activist for my entire adult life), so of course I disagree with Anton Scalia and all who try to disguise their heterosexism as moral values.

For me, my same gender love and attraction are innate. That said, if homosexuality were a choice it would be a VALID choice.

I no longer at this point in my life try to deconstruct homophobic interpretations of isolated scriptural verses (there are a total of about six in all of the bible that are used abusively against same-gender loving people), make excuses for the understandings of human sexuality in antiquity, or “prove” that same-gender love is as sacred as any other love. I don’t need to defend myself or my love against people who use religion like a weapon to exclude, abuse, control, or vilify any minority including LBGT people. I also no longer need to appeal to psychological, sociological, or biological arguments to justify same-gender love and attraction (copious though such arguments are).

I simply know myself to be a good person, my relationship to be a blessing in my life, and my love to be part of that universal energy of love that many of us call God. If same-gender love and attraction are healthy (and I insist they are), then whether such love and attraction are the result of biology, psychology, socialization, or choice doesn’t matter. Good is good no matter “why” it exists.

The reason that same-gender relationships can't be compared to heinous acts such as pedophilia, bestiality, incest, rape, and MURDER is that none of those things are about mutuality. All of those activities have a victim. People being attracted to each other, sharing time and intimacy together, and even loving each other are mutual, victimless, life-enhancing experiences. Two people choosing to share intimacy and perhaps a life together cannot by any reasonable person be compared to exploiting, assaulting or murdering someone!

"Moral" arguments against violence or abuse of power make sense. "Moral" arguments against consensual adult relationships are just bigotry posing as morality.

People are entitled to their prejudices I suppose, and I guess they are even entitled to pretend their prejudices are ordained by a supreme power (how convenient when one’s deity hates one’s enemies as well!), but let’s not confuse fear and hatred of the other, even when such fear and hatred are wrapped in religious language, as morality.

Justice Scalia’s anti-gay rhetoric (which, ironically, is anything but just) may appeal to homophobes and religious zealots, but it is increasingly out of the mainstream of 21st century thought. The day will come when even powerful people like Justice Scalia will not be able to deny or delay justice and equality for all people. As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” If we want to make moral arguments, we will talk about tolerance rather than demonizing others, inclusion rather than marginalizing others, and instead of vilifying people for their consensual adult relationships, we will demand “liberty and justice for ALL.”

Durrell Watkins holds sociology and theatre degrees from Henderson State University and Goddard College, respectively, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He is the author of Wrestling with God without Getting Pinned: Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality (Outskirts Press, available at, and is the Senior Pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Divine Spark in Us - Lectionary Reflections for the week of Oct 7

Here are my reflections on the Lectionary Readings at Sunshine Cathedral for Oct. 7. I have been posting these reflections in the weekly newsletter (The Sun Burst), but space constraints this week didn't allow for it. So, i'm posting the reflections on this blog for this week. Best wishes - Durrell

The Wisdom of Kahlil Gibran (The Prophet)
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

Psalm 8.4-6, 9 (The Inclusive Bible, PFE)
“What is humanity that you should be mindful of us? Who are we that you should care for us? You have made us barely less than God, and crowned us with glory and honor. You have made us responsible for the work of your hands, putting all things at our feet…[O God], our Sovereign, how majestic is your Name in all the earth!”

Mark 10.13-16 (NIV)
13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the [kin-dom] of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the [kin-dom] of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Both Gibran and Mark affirm children. Mark, of course, goes further to suggest that children as a symbol of powerlessness and marginalization show us that all people have sacred value and we are to acknowledge the divine spark within every human soul.

Additionally, Mark affirms the “inner child” that is always a part of us. Children play, question, are curious, love to learn, unless they are taught to mistrust or fear people will expect the best of most people, are initially free of prejudice, respond well to affirmation and praise, live in the moment rather than harboring resentments from the past or anxieties about the future…as we mature, our challenge is to hold on to these childlike qualities that are already part of the kin-dom of God that is with and within us. We come here as citizens of that divine kin-dom, but somehow travel away from it and lose our passport! The spiritual journey is largely about remembering what we innately know, that we are as Emerson said, “part and parcel of God,” that is, that we are part of the kin-dom of God; it is with and within us, at hand/in our hands. To remember what we knew in our original innocence, that “it is in God that we live and move and have our being” is goal of the spiritual quest.

Finally, the Psalm also reinforces this affirmation of our divine dignity. We are, as Nona Brooks said, “in God, of God, like God.” We are “crowned with glory and honor.” We are responsible for the work of God’s hands, that is, our hands are God’s hands. What God does for us, God does through us. This makes us responsible for our lives and for our world, but it also suggests that we have been honored by being trusted with those sacred tasks.

We are the doers of divine work

The 8th Psalm says, "You [divine Source] have made us responsible for the work of your hands." Our hands are God's hands. What God does for us, God does through us. God is not the genie in the lamp granting wishes (on occasion and to a select few), but is rather that power that resides within all of us that is activated by our thoughts, choices, attitudes, and actions. "You have made us responsible for the work of your hands." Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Understanding Unity with the Divine

I posted on Facebook this wonderful quote from Paramahansa Yogananda: "Realize that you and [God] are one."
A friend commented that while she was open to this Truth, it was sometimes difficult for her grasp.
This was my response:
Ultimate Reality (aka "god") is what is really real, the "stuff" from which life is made. My reality must be THE Reality. We are each an individuation of the Whole, an expression of the Infinite, Eternity experiencing Itself in/as time.
Our physical bodies and ego attachments seem so small compared to the vastness of the All, we sometimes can't imagine that we are part of It, but we are.
A kidney may seem small compared to the rest of the body, but it is all the same an integral part of the body, part of the unified whole. The kidney is "one with" the rest of the body, even though in function and experience it seems separate from the lungs, heart, liver, eyes, toes, tonsils, etc.
"One with" doesn't mean that there isn't more than our current experience, but it does mean that we are part of the All, and the All is expressed, at least in part, in, through, and as us.
We think of God as in 'heaven" but Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was within us. Where is God? In heaven. Where is heaven? In us. So God is in, that is, a part of, us! God is the All in all, so we are one with our Source even though there is more to the Source than we can experience in a single moment of illusory time.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Everyone Needs Help and Nobody Holds a patent on Kindness (Lectionary Reflections for Sept. 30, 2012)

Here are my reflections on the Lectionary Readings at Sunshine Cathedral for Sept. 30. I have been posting these reflections in the weekly newsletter (The Sun Burst), but space constraints this week didn't allow for it. So, i'm posting the reflections on this blog for this week. Best wishes - Durrell

Numbers 11.4-6, 11-14
1. It’s OK to want more, but we are unlikely to receive more (or appreciate it when/if we get it) if we don’t appreciate the good we have now.(4)
2. We often romanticize “the good old days” instead of remembering that we weren’t really happy then either. Wanting to go back to a glorified and largely fictional past only keeps us from enjoying the possibilities at hand and moving forward to the possibilities of the future. “The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities”
3. Are we ever tempted to blame misfortune on a divine puppet master pulling the strings rather than facing the challenges and moving through them? (11)
4. Mothering image for God. Moses is “not the mama” but God is. Still, a mother’s children are meant to grow up and deal with life as adults. God’s maternity is not the issue. Our being stuck in immaturity, however, is. (12-14)
5. We can’t do everything alone, nor should we. The “spirit” that has empowered and “called” us is bountiful enough to empower and call others to work with us. Sometimes to lead effectively means to share the burden of leadership and let others do their part (less micro-managing and more equipping of more leaders)

James 5.13-15
1. In trouble? Pray (for help). Things going well? Pray (a prayer of gratitude). Prayer isn’t about making things happen; it’s about communion with Spirit/Source/divine Substance (“God”). When things are difficult, Spirit can be a comfort, a soothing balm. When things are good, Spirit can help us appreciate the time of ease and achievement and the more we appreciate, the longer the good times may last, or at very least, the stronger the memory will be for us to conjure up during the next round of difficulties so that we can remind ourselves that things can get better. We can’t go back, but remembering the lessons of past failures and successes can help us move forward. (13)
2. Prayer, communion, union with the divine Source and the community helps us feel stronger, more hopeful, and therefore more whole. Medicine is better today than it was in James’ day, so prayer alone isn’t our only hope, but it’s a good addition to the healing course of action. And, we know the subconscious mind is very powerful. If prayer helps us believe in possibilities, the power of the subconscious will do what it can to validate that belief. And the power of the subconscious mind is considerable! But, no matter how much better physical conditions get, prayer can relieve stress and fear, and that in itself is an amazing healing. (14-15)

Mark 9.38-41
No one holds a patent on kindness. See someone healing in Jesus’ name, that is, in the caring, egalitarian way that he did? Someone is touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable, affirming the marginalized or forgotten, giving hope to those who were hopeless? Who cares if they are Catholic or Protestant, B’hai or Hindu, Atheist or a Voodoo priestess? Who cares if they are a nurse, a chiropractor, a pharmacist, a social worker, a Reiki practitioner, or a grandmother administering a home remedy? Who cares if they are a Christian Science practitioner, a Pentecostal Faith healer, a Wiccan priestess making an herbal tincture or a Buddhist acupuncturist practicing his healing art? If they are trying to help without hurting, nurturing rather than attacking, caring rather than ignoring the problem, aren’t they on the same side as all caring, compassionate, kind-hearted people? Anyone who shows kindness is doing a good thing! (We might even say, a holy thing). What would Jesus do? Try to help those in need. People doing that are certainly being Christ (or Buddha or Yogananda) to the world. If they are trying to help, and our aim is to help, we are all really on the same team.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Religious Freedom isn't a Right to Oppress

Against birth control? Don't use it. Disagree with same-gender loving people getting married? Don't marry someone of your gender. As the president has said, "Religious freedom doesn't mean you get to force others to live by your beliefs." Getting a bunch of people scared of an "other" and then holding a referendum to vote against the "other" having equality isn't democracy. It's bigotry pretending to be religion and it defiles both the name of democracy and religion.

Happy Mabon


Dear Friends -
It's a rainy day today, one of many in an especially rainy season this year in South Florida. One of the great things about a dark, rainy Saturday is that the mind seems to go naturally and easily to a place of reflection.
My thoughts today turn to recent events: The unrest that seems to keep much of the world agitated. The recent deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other diplomats in Libya. The terrible ways that religion is often misused to create division rather than to celebrate diversity. The recent increase in hateful rhetoric against same-gender loving people. The on-going war on women's independence over their own bodies. If my reflection were to stop at this point, I should be terribly depressed!
But I think of the rain and I imagine it washing away the unrest, the fear, the agitation, the hatred, and the mistrust in the world. I think of power and privilege being "watered down" so that justice and equality can flourish.
And once I imagine this spiritual cleansing, then I remember positive possibilities that fuel optimism.
Today is the First day of Autumn. In fact, Autumn began today, Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM. This day is known in some traditions as "Mabon." Mabon is a weaving festival where members of a community weave strands together to symbolize adding to life as it is whatever they wish for life to become. What a beautiful tradition!
So, on this rainy beginning of Autumn, I think of the life I am weaving with my thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and choices. I think of the blessings I would add to my life and the life of my community: I wish for good health of mind and body. And what I wish for myself, I wish for everyone. I wish for prosperity, achievement, and happiness. And what I wish for myself, I wish for everyone. I wish for peace and confidence. And what I wish for myself I wish for everyone. And I wish for the pledge I grew up reciting in this country to become a promise and an experienced reality not only for this country for but all places in the world. I particularly call to mind the words, "One [people]...with liberty and justice for ALL."
To the world as it is, may we weave strands of hope, healing, and happiness, peace, purpose, and prosperity! Let this be our prayer and our intention and our commitment.
The Psalmist wrote, "The Eternal watches over the steps of those who do justice." That seems like a good Autumnal Equinox affirmation and a call to continued positive action.
I hope you will join me for worship tomorrow, Sept. 23rd at Sunshine Cathedral and remember all the wonderful events we have coming up to celebrate the Cathedral's 40th anniversary. But for now, let the thunder be the power of hope in your hearts, let the winds be the breath of life that fills you with peace, hope, and joy, and let the falling rain be a reminder that heavenly blessings are flowing abundantly into your life now and always.
Happy Mabon!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister

Barbra Streisand Calls us to move forward, not back

from the article by Barbra Streisand (for full text clink link above)

"Obama has been more fiscally conservative than any other president in recent history, with the exception of President Bill Clinton.
"President Obama has been far better at creating jobs than President George W. Bush. During the 7 years and 8 months of George Bush's presidency, before the financial crash, only 2.6 million new private sector jobs were created. In the final month of George Bush's presidency, the country lost 800,000 jobs, and in the last six months of the Bush Administration, the country lost over 3.5 million jobs.
"However, in the last 30 months under President Obama's leadership, nearly 4.6 million new private sector jobs were created (averaging about 150,000 new jobs per month). In President Obama's last 2 ½ years in office, 40% more jobs were created than in nearly all of President Bush's eight years in office.
"The last President who was elected amidst a severe economic crisis and high unemployment was Franklin D. Roosevelt. His policies strengthened government so that it would protect the people (creating Glass-Steagall to regulate the banks, the FDIC to insure bank depositors, the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate the stock market, and Social Security to help people build a safety net for their retirement). FDR's strategy to spend money to create jobs and stimulate the economy is what ultimately helped pull the country out of a depression.
"Even though the country's most respected economists have agreed on what history has already proven -- that MORE federal spending, not austerity, is necessary to stimulate the economy and create jobs, today's Republicans categorically reject this strategy. They are running on a platform of further deregulation and cutting spending to the bone, so that those earning millions will get more tax cuts, even though it means Americans who need a safety net won't have it.
"Unlike Mitt Romney, President Obama believes we need to invest in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure and reform our tax system to create good jobs, grow our economy and pay down the debt in a reasoned way. He believes in an inclusive country where all people deserve equal protection and treatment under the law, as well as equal opportunity, whether they are gay, straight, black, brown, white, religious, atheist, old or young.
"The choice is clear. Would you vote for a person who pays his taxes or someone who wiggles his way out of them? Do you want a President who has gained the respect of the world community or someone who on a recent diplomatic trip abroad provoked the ire and ridicule of other world leaders? Do we want a country where everyone is fending for themselves or where everyone is pitching in and working together? Do we want to go backward with Mitt Romney or move forward with President Obama?"

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Than One Way to be Religious

More Than One Way to be Religious

“Prophet” Cindy Jacobs recently declared that weather hazards and ecological problems are the result of divine wrath in response to presidential decisions. And without offering specifics, she prognosticated that more calamities are on the way. Of course, it’s a safe bet that something unhappy will happen somewhere. It doesn’t take a great psychic gift to make that guess!

Before this embarrassing statement suggesting that weather is caused by the gods and “bad” weather is the result of divine displeasure I had never heard of Ms. Jacobs, but I’ve heard her kind of blame, shame, and scare theology all too often.

I spend my life building religious community. I offer a message of hope and healing to help people navigate the chances and challenges of life. I try to affirm the sacred value of all people. I work to get people to stand up and speak out for peace, diversity, equality, and justice. That is, in my view, is religion's high purpose.

Religion gives us language and space to celebrate joys, face difficulties, and form human bonds that prove to be the cure for loneliness. Religion is not meant to increase our fears, strengthen our prejudices, or give us enemies to blame for the uncertainties of life.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, heat-waves, blizzards, and even terrorist attacks have all been blamed on liberals, pro-choice politicians, same-gender loving people, and whoever else rightwing extremists might name as the reason for misfortune that they insist is Heaven sent.

I remember at the beginning of the AIDS crisis some preachers claiming that the disease was God’s punishment against people who Christian fundamentalists found to be unworthy of respect or even tolerance. Almost as reprehensibly, many other clergy remained silent as people continued to suffer and die from the then little understood but clearly devastating disease.

I don’t know why anyone would choose to embrace an understanding of spirituality that suggests a deity will send disease or any disaster. Such petty instance that everything unpleasant is proof that a supreme being hates all the people they hate makes religion seem irrelevant and oppressive; it also makes representatives of religion seem more committed to hatred and bigotry than to enlightenment and progress.

As a representative of religion (progressive religion, but religion nevertheless), I very much resent that religion is so often misused and I wish to offer a better, kinder, more reasonable, and more useful understanding of faith.

It is the worst sort of opportunism to use tragedies as a means of promoting hatred and intolerance. The appropriate response to tragedy is compassion, not blame. The best use of religion in times of trouble is to offer comfort, not condemnation. And if we listen to the “better angels of our nature” we will affirm human dignity in the face of chaos rather than using chaos as a weapon to further dehumanize those we may not understand or like.

We are each entitled to our own understanding of the Sacred, of course. But I, as a religious person, will have no deity that would not bless same-gender love, that would send storms to punish many just to torment a few, or that would send rather than heal disease.

But thankfully, there are other understandings of the ultimate reality that many of us call “God.” Some of us believe, teach, and experience the divine as a comforting presence, an urge to do good, the capacity to love, forgive, and share, and a deep desire to bring peace, hope, and healing to all people.

We are each entitled to our own understandings, but I for one will always choose those that build up rather than tear down, that heal rather than hurt, and that affirm diversity rather than demand division. I just wanted another religious voice to be heard today.

Durrell Watkins holds sociology and theatre degrees from Henderson State University and Goddard College, respectively, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He is the author of Wrestling with God without Getting Pinned: Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality (Outskirts Press, available at, and is the Senior Pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (

Thursday, September 13, 2012

prayer for the world

PRAYER FOR THE WORLD by Durrell Watkins

Universal Spirit of Life,
In the midst of conflicts, fears, troubles, and concerns, we dare to believe in the possibility of peace, in the power of hope, and in the reality of love.
May our world today embrace the amazing potential that lies within every human heart.
May our world today seek peace instead of war, healing instead of revenge, communion instead of conflict.
May our world today choose to be aware of the ubiquitous web of existence to which we all belong, and may human dignity be affirmed and the sacred value of all life be celebrated.
Let blessings now flow into every life and may peace prevail on earth. Amen.

Religion Shouldn't Be an Excuse to Hate

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How I will vote...

Who will I vote for? That's no one's business; but I don't mind confessing that I will be voting for a woman's right to choose, for labor rights, for marriage equality, for accessible health care, for social security and medicare and student loans and for a tax system that asks everyone to pay their fair share. The party and the person that will get my vote is my business, but the issues for me are clear. I will be voting my values, and human dignity and equality are chief among my values.

First Night of DNC 2012

Amazing. Sikhs, Muslims, Jewish people, African Americans, Latino/as, people of Asian descent, women and men of all ages, first, second, and third generation Americans, and a huge crowd that roars with approval every time marriage equality is affirmed...a convention that looks like America and that affirms the dignity of all people and all kinds of people. Yea, I'm a little teary...feeling patriotic even :-)

Gotta Vote! Please Vote!!!

The Tea Party is to the Republicans what the Dixiecrats were to the Democrats. They can say its about taxes (and I don't understand who doesn't want to pay their share to make sure that we all have all that we need!), but there is a lot of racism, misogyny, and homophobia in the mix as well. If we don't want heterosexist, white supremacist, fundamentalists becoming the representative face of the US, we all must vote in November!

History Made Last Night...

President Obama, the first African American POTUS, is also the first POTUS to affirm support for marriage equality. His wife, on national television, affirmed support for marriage equality at a convention of the first major party in US history to affirm support for marriage equality. I realize this gives the LDS, the Roman Catholic church, and every fundamentalist the excuse they need to declare a
ll out war on the president, but I am so proud that we have national leaders who will say and do what is right rather than what would protect their own privilege and power. I hope such courage is rewarded. That is the kind of decency, integrity, courage, and inclusivity that we need in our leaders. But come what may, I am just so proud that we have leaders who will say no to discrimination even if it means they will suffer discrimination as a result. I want to be the Obamas when I grow up...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I am

I am
“The Spirit is truthful and takes us at our word. If we say, ‘I am foolish and ignorant,’ it lets us be what we say we are.” Emma Curtis Hopkins

One of the biblical names for God is “I AM.” I wonder if that is why Jesus only followed the words “I AM” with positive statements. “I AM the true vine”, “I AM resurrection and life”, etc. Even in his most painful hour when he asks for water, he doesn’t say “I AM thirsty,” he says, “I thirst.” We can acknowledge an experience without identifying with it. What are we pulling into our I-AM-ness? When you say I AM, you are using one of God’s names; don’t use it in vain. Following Jesus’ example, always follow “I AM” with something good (and NEVER with anything negative).

Prayer Treatment
I AM a person of power. I AM wise and wonderful. I AM filled with light, love, and joy. I AM forever blessed. Amen.

Durrell Watkins
Sept. 4, 2012
Spirit & Truth Magazine

Big picture

This election isn't just about the economy. The economy was in free-fall before Nov. 2008 and yes, it is now better. GM lives. Jobs have been created. Taxes on the middle class have been lowered, and attempts to make the super-rich pay their share are underway. Decreasing taxes on the wealthy while spending huge sums for an unjust war used up a surplus and destroyed a balanced budget...but those were 2001-2009 choices, not 2009-2013. So, things are b
etter, but in addition to the economy, gay rights have been promoted, health care has been made more accessible, the person who actually did orchestrate the 9/11 attacks is history, a third of the Supreme Court members are women...more than just the economy is better. Everyone must vote his/her own conscience, but please do vote and please think about more than the economy, and remember, the economy really has improved too.

A firm stand for marriage equality

the Democratic Party approved the following language in its 2012 platform: 
"We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples..."

Regardless of party affiliation, Americans can be proud that A party has taken this step toward full inclusion and non-discrimination. I am thankful for those who affirm my full humanity and the sacredness of my loving relationship.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Divine Supply

“I bow to the One who shares everything…I bow to the ever Bountiful. I bow to the Unlimited.” From the sacred songs of the Sikhs

We live in an abundant universe. Look how extravagant, even wasteful Nature is. Consider the Field of infinite possibilities. Imagine all the talent in the world, all the ideas that have been and all that will be, and consider the uncountable number of breaths you have already taken in life. When we remember how opulent life is meant to be and how generous Life really is, we can participate in the circulation of divine supply and release all fear of lack and limitation. Our good is at hand!

Prayer Treatment
My good is at hand! This is how it must be, and this is how I now allow life to unfold. Abundance is mine. I receive it. I give thanks for it. And so it is.

Durrell Watkins ("Spirit & Truth" magazine, Sept. 1, 2012)

Friday, August 31, 2012

government for the least of these...

"King Josiah [aka the government] defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all went well." Jeremiah 22.16 That's just in case the "bible based believers" who want small government (just big enough to bully women, gays, and immigrants) and no social programs (except for THEIR social security & medicare when the time comes for it) were interested in a "biblical perspective" on government's responsibility to those without power and privilege.

What's right?

What’s right?
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

“It seemed there was always close correlation between true believers and high body counts.”
Dan Brown

Isn’t it odd that people who are the most certain that they are right (and in order to be right they feel everyone with different opinions must be wrong) often are the very ones who seem so insecure in their “rightness” that they need to silence, control, punish, or exclude those they believe to be not right. Discrimination, violence, wars, insults, abuse…so much damage has been done for the cause of “righteousness.” My beliefs sustain me. I don’t need to prove they are right and I don’t much care if anyone shares them. As long as I’m allowed to live with dignity, freedom, and peace, then let every person hold his or own cherished beliefs. But when people believe that I don’t have a right to exist, to love, or to celebrate my life, those are not empowering personal beliefs; those are oppressive attitudes that must be challenged. Otherwise, the abuse will continue without end. And that just isn’t right!

I can cherish what I believe to be right for me without denying anyone else their rights and dignity.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jesus' message

Jesus’ message
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes.” Kurt Vonnegut

Jesus said, “Blessed are the downcast, the grieving, the meek, those who long for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the oppressed” (Matthew 5.3-11). He did NOT say, “Blessed are the homophobes, the misogynists, the racists, the child abusers, the war mongers, the greedy, and those who teach that only one religion offers access to spiritual truth and human fulfillment.” Christians aren’t those who worship their own prejudices and call them “Jesus.” Christians are those who want to live with Christ-like compassion, integrity, and a desire to heal the world. May we be so blessed and may we so bless our world.

May I be blessed to be a blessing to the world, in Jesus’ name.
taken from Spirit & Truth magazine
Durrell Watkins contributor & editor

Liberated and liberating spirituality

from "Spirit & Truth" magazine
Liberated & liberating spirituality
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Hysterical fundamentalism is not the way into the future; it is the last gasp of the past.” Bishop John S. Spong

Christianity isn’t for me the passport that allows entry into an afterlife Paradise (could there be a more selfish reason for practicing any religion?!). Christianity isn’t for me the veneration of Jesus’ brutal execution (which I in no way attribute to a divine plan). Christianity isn’t for me the hope that Jesus will add magic to my life like a genie in a bottle granting wishes. Christianity isn’t for me an invitation to accept fear, shame, and prejudice and call them virtues. These tired, oppressive, and failed ideas have been replaced in the Christianity that I embrace today by a desire to work to create a world of peace, plenty, and equality, the “kin-dom of God”, which was, I believe, the hope and the mission of Jesus. For Christian spirituality to liberate us, we may have to liberate it from notions that no longer serve the greater good.
I pray for liberation in my thinking, in my emotions, in the way I live my life, and liberation
for all bound by fear, shame, or injustice. Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I’m Not Anti-Republican, but the Tea Party is Another Matter…

This is not an endorsement of a party or a candidate. As a citizen, I of course have my preferences, and my left of center leanings are no secret. But just as I value the right to my opinion and my choices, I must give others that same consideration.

However, this is an expression of concern about a group that has affiliated itself with a party. The party itself, as I will show, has a laudable  history; but embracing those who preach discrimination and intolerance  is not part of that noble history.

I’m not anti-Republican. My grandmother was a life-long Republican, as was her father before her.

My other grandparents were Democrats, but I have reason to believe they voted at least once for Reagan.

The Republican Party, at its best (if I understand correctly) has historically stood for a strong DEFENSIVE military, fiscal responsibility without cutting social programs that actually serve the common good, and they have a bias toward capitalism. I may not agree entirely with each of these points but I can respect them and I find none of them to be evil, selfish, or mean-spirited.

And, if we take an historical view, there are reasons to admire both Republican and Democratic leaders.

Of course, there was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Eisenhower oversaw the end of the Korean conflict.
Nixon began a process that led to normalized relations with China. Nixon also appointed at least one very progressive Supreme Court justice.
Ford brought a sense of calm and healing in the aftermath of Watergate.
Reagan managed somehow to renew a sense of patriotism and was able to make people feel good with his powerful oratory skills. He also appointed the first woman Supreme Court Justice.
Bush I (George Herbert Walker) signed the Americans With Disabilities Act.

And, likewise, if we look at Democratic history we will see some shining moments.

FDR oversaw the recovery of the Great Depression.
Johnson signed civil rights legislation into law and oversaw the creation of Medicare and appointed the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Carter has been called the most effective former president ever.
Clinton presided over the longest economic expansion in US history and he appointed the first woman Secretary of State.
President Obama was the first sitting president to say publicly that he favored marriage equality for same-gender loving people. Early in his administration he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On his watch terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed and GM was saved. Lives will be saved because of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Both parties have cause for embarrassment also.

Truman (D) is the only world leader in history to unleash the terror of nuclear warfare.
Johnson (D) had Vietnam.
Nixon (R) had Watergate.
Reagan (R) actively ignored the AIDS crisis in its beginning, and as a result, I believe, far too many people died.
Clinton (D), while a brilliant strategist and orator had some major ethical mishaps (for the world’s most powerful person to have an affair with an intern is an abuse of power to the extreme).
Bush II (R) squandered the global goodwill after 9/11/01, turned an historic surplus into an unprecedented deficit, was in office when the economy went into all out freefall, and invaded a country under false pretenses that had not attacked our own.

Both parties have produced leaders who have made mistakes, and both parties also have long histories of caring about their country and their world. Democrats tend to want government to provide more care and security for our citizens while, before Reagan anyway, Republicans were less likely to rush into military conflicts and more likely to negotiate an end to conflicts. And while Democrats were more likely to push for such life-saving, poverty preventing programs as AFDC, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights protections, Republican administrations usually protected and sometimes even advanced these programs once they were initiated. Republican women were at one time outspoken advocates for both the Equal Rights Amendment and a woman’s right to choose.

We might believe that the Democratic or Republican philosophy is better than the other, but we could usually trust that leaders of both parties were for the most part competent, intelligent, and motivated by goodwill.

That’s why the rise of the Tea Party is so upsetting. They are as embarrassing to the Republicans as the Dixiecrats were to the Democrats.  Like the Dixiecrats, the Tea Party is filled with racists, xenophobes, segregationists, and all of that venom is heightened by the TP’s open hostility to same-gender loving people, their opposition to women’s rights, and their anti-democratic yearnings for theocracy.

The Tea Party is an anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist, homophobic/heterosexist, misogynistic, xenophobic cult of hate, mistrust, and suspicion. They value their narrow understandings of religion more than protecting the rights of all citizens. They would rather suppress voter activity to maintain power than to get more people involved in the democratic process. And they seem more interested in codifying discrimination than promoting and protecting “liberty and justice for all.”

I’m not anti-Republican, not the historic Republican party that valued peace, would negotiate with Democratic politicians to serve the country, and honor safety nets put in place even if they didn’t initiate those safety nets. The party of Lincoln is honorable. Does it still exist? I best its spirit is still alive; will it be embraced and aloud to thrive again?

I might not identify with the Republican party, but I wouldn’t be afraid of that party during the times that it would win the White House or a chamber of Congress if it were no longer the sanctuary of the Religious Right and Tea Party fanatics.

We can disagree about gun control, whether or not taxes should be raised or lowered (across the board…not just raised on the working class and lowered for the super rich…that is fundamentally wrong and unfair, obviously!), and whether or not our military should be a global police force or a defense system for the homeland.

But we shouldn’t be using politics to argue about science (climate change is real, it’s time to grow up and face this challenge), religion (worship a rock or a rag doll if you want, but don’t use legislation to make everyone else follow the rules and embrace the prejudices of your rock or ragdoll religion), or to enforce discrimination (LBGT people are human and deserve equal rights – it really is time to deal with that simple fact). And we shouldn’t be using politics to turn the privileged into the super-privileged and the disadvantaged into the destitute.

I’m not anti-Republican, but I am anti-Tea Party and I am committed to resisting those who allow the Tea Party to appear mainstream. If the Tea Party is to become the face of the GOP, then I will be anti-Republican until that oppressive wing of their movement is denounced as being themselves, anti-Republican (Bachman/Palin/Akin/Ryan bear almost no resemblance to Lincoln/Eisenhower/Ford).

I have respect for the Republican party - the party that was pre-Religious Right influence and pre-Tea Party insanity. But if the GOP will allow themselves to be hijacked by the most oppressive voices of our society, then opposition to them will become a moral and civic imperative. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope the GOP can be Grand again so that “we the people” can choose between fairly debated ideas rather than between bigots and corporatists and the only party, for better or worse, that serves as an alternative.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A biblical reflection on procreative freedom

Exodus 21 is a harsh text if taken literally and applied uncritically. In that text we see slavery condoned (more than condoned, rules offered for how to carry it out) in verses 2-4.

In that chapter we see the horror of sexual slavery, not merely condoned but legislated! (verses 7-11).

In verses 15 and 17 we see the command for unruly children to be put to death!

Verse 20 even says a slave can be beaten almost to death! Horrifying, but there it is.

So, Exodus 21 is hardly a text that could be accused of having a liberal bias (or even an humanitarian impulse!).

So, since the author of that ancient passage believes children who threaten or swear at their parents should be executed and families ought to be allowed to sell their daughters into sexual slavery and even male members of the community should be allowed to be held as slaves for up to six years, and a slave can beaten almost to death, you'd think that causing a woman to miscarry would result in the offender being drawn and quartered or at very least "water-boarded"...but you would be mistaken.

In verse 22 we read that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is in their way and as a result of being caught in the scuffle she suffers a miscarriage but is otherwise unharmed herself, the one who caused the miscarriage must pay a fine. The husband demands an amount and the one who caused the miscarriage must pay it.

HOWEVER, in verses 23-24, if the woman herself is harmed, THEN the retribution is "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, wound for wound." If the fetus is aborted, there is a fine. If the pregnant woman is harmed beyond having a miscarriage, then whatever harm she suffered, the offender must suffer in equal measure.

Now, I'm not looking to Ex. 21 to form my opinion on matters of choice (or anything else). The writer probably forteited his moral authority at the advocacy of slavery and killing ill-behaved children. But it does show that these issues are more complex than standing on tradition or the rules of an ancient institution, or looking up a sentence or two to serve as "proof-texts" that something ought to be done or avoided.

Even in our sacred literature, even in a time when daughters could be sold into sexual slavery and children could be killed for showing disrespect, to cause a miscarriage was only punished by a fine, but harming the mother was punished "eye for eye."

I am completely pro-choice and that isn't based on an ancient text or a ruling from an ecclesiastical office. But, even if I were to look to sacred literature for guidance on the issue, what I might find would probably surprise the anti-choice activists, at least if what I found was Exodus 21!

I find it disturbing that people will fight to insist that a fertilized egg is a person but then disregard the human dignity of same-gender loving people, the elderly, the poor, the uninsured, those coming to this country to improve their lives, and others. I don't know if a fetus is a person in the same way that you and I are, but I do know that LBGT people are human and deserve equal rights. I know that women are persons. I know the elderly are persons. I know that regardless of when human life begins, our responsibility for caring about it doesn't end in the delivery room!

No one is saying, least of all me, that abortions on demand should be offered at the mall. The decision to have an abortion must be very difficult and often is made after the woman has already experienced some sort of trauma. It is an invasive procedure, and no medical procedure is 100% risk free. It isn't ideal, but it is sometimes needed, and those who need the procedure should have a safe and sterile place in which to receive the procedure. And people facing the difficult choice shouldn't be harrassed by those who will never be faced with such a choice!

I honestly believe that anti-choice rhetoric is more about controling women than protecting the unborn. Those who are most vocal about denying a woman control over her own body are often the same ones who seem to think war (killing) should never be questioned, that capitol punishment (killing) is at least morally neutral if not all out good, and that deadly weapons (instruments of killing) should have very little or no regulation. These same people who are so concerned about the unborn are often the ones who then wish to deny those children once they are born affordable health care, help with adequate nutrition, and assistance in obtaining higher education. While they are undeniably pro-birth, they can't really be considered pro-life. At least they aren't always "pro" life that needs to be sustained beyond an umbilical cord.

When rape is prevented rather than redefined, when health care is a right rather than a privilege, when nutrition, housing, and education are more valuable to us than prisons and war, then my guess is that abortions will be fairly rare. But until that day, some women will need them and desperate women will get them whether they are legal or not. We can make abortions safe for the women who choose them while working to create a society where abortions would be needed less often, or we can continue to try to colonize women's bodies. I hope as a society we choose the former and not the latter.