Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We Can End Oppression

It looks like there are only 5 states left with unchallenged marriage bans, and about 70% of states now have marriage equality. This is so much closer than I thought we'd be in my lifetime, and it is totally possible that we will have freedom to marry in all 50 states by the end of next year. If we can do this, we can also stop the war on women/choice, heal the deep wounds of racism in our country, establish economic justice and prosperity for all, and even end war for profit. Seriously, if we can win the race toward marriage equality, we can overcome all oppressions, and we must never stop trying to do just that.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How do we know that Jesus was real?

A congregant of mine emailed me an article written by an Australian scholar (an atheist religion scholar) printed in a US newspaper. The article argued that there was no convincing evidence that Jesus ever existed. He asked for my response, and here it is:

I seem to remember there being Roman documents belittling the Christ cult, but in their disdain for the Christ cult, they admit part of the ridiculousness is their devotion to an executed peasant, a real person.

Also, when people make up stories, it is to bring glory or honor. A fatherless peasant who is crucified like a runaway slave is not the sort of story one makes up about one's own group. They did, obviously, try to clean it up by saying he didn’t stay dead, but the part leading up to that is not the story one makes up. One never (except in contemporary comedy) makes up tales that would be humiliating to the teller of the tale.

There is no doubt that we know very little about Jesus and that what the church has taught for millennia is largely embellished and mythologized, but underneath the layers of myth, hyperbole, and spin, there must have been a very charismatic figure that inspired the tall tales.

Some have even suggested that Jesus is a composite character…the blending of two or more revolutionaries, but even at that there is a real person (or two) behind the myths.

Jesus as a symbol has become so big that the real Jesus will never be discovered (and if we did find him, we might think “really? What was all the fuss about?”), but it seems to me an unnecessary and unhelpful stretch to deny that someone real inspired a movement and later myths. Even if someone made up Jesus (like Rowling made up Harry Potter), the inventor would be real and Jesus would be a real part of that real person’s imagination. So, to my mind,  is obvious that in some way there was a Jesus.

Was he on a suicide mission from heaven, part of an incomprehensible trinity, and decided to play hide and seek in communion bread? I’m going with “No.” But was there someone at sometime that inspired a lot of imaginative work down the line? I have to believe the answer is “Yes.”

Progressive, Positive, Practical Religious Webcasts

Affirmative Prayer

Ancient Wisdom-New Thought

Can We Follow Jesus Without Worshiping Him?

Celebrating Same Gender Love

Do Progressive Christians Believe in Jesus?

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

God In and Beyond Religions

God Within-What Do We Mean?

Healing From Fundamentalism

Is Christianity the One True Religion?

Is Christmas Relevant in the 21st Century?

Is Jesus Relevant for LBTG People?

Is There a Science to Prayer

Prayer & Healing

Prayer & Prosperity

Spirituality of Free Thinking

Where Do We Go When We Die?

Face Everything And Rise (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

God Bless the Child (Rev Cindy Lippert)

Hoping, Waiting, Working (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

Messages from the Pool Man (Rev Cindy Lippert)

Moabite Pride: Rethinking Homophobia’s Favorite Biblical Story (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

Our Reason for Hope (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

Rethinking Fire Insurance Religion (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

We Are Captains of our Souls (Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)

21st Century Xmas

6 years ago when I was 40# heavier...Look at all that hair (and only slightly gray!).
LU is now The Samaritan Institute, but the message still rings true.
Is Christmas Relevant in the 21st Century? (Spoiler alert: the answer is YES)


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prayer & Prosperity

Revs Durrell Watkins, Cathy Alexander, & Cindy Lippert speak about prosperity from a spiritual perspective.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

We Need a Little Christmas NOW

For some reason, I see more fear, more angst, more divisiveness in the world lately; and let me be clear, I mean our own little part of the world. In a country that affirms commitment to "liberty and justice for all" and that has spent decades trying to atone for and heal the wounds of sexism, classism, segregation, xenophobia, genocide of native inhabitants, poverty, and brutal homophobia, it is heartbreaking to look around and see immigrants being demonized, businesses trying to control their female employees' healthcare options, businesses trying to deny service to same-gender loving couples (even as marriage equality is becoming increasingly the law of the land), and police brutality against communities of color. In this season of "peace on earth, goodwill toward all," the fear induced rage that appears to be overshadowing the "better angels of our nature" has reached almost epidemic proportions. 

I'm tempted to dust off my sociology degree and rail against systems of oppression, but instead I find my pastor's heart and theological training kicking in, simply wishing for healing...healing for those who are being hurt by the verbal and physical violence that is tearing our country apart, and healing for those who are so afraid of change and uncertainty that they are participating in oppressive and unjust rhetoric and behaviors. 

I support the passing of laws and court decisions that are meant to offer equal protection and opportunity to all people, but laws and court rulings do not change attitudes. For that, we in the spiritual community must speak out and offer loving, challenging, prophetic, and pastoral guidance to help people overcome their fears, embrace hope, and see the sacred value of all people.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of a baby who was born to a peasant class, whose mother was an unmarried and temporarily homeless young woman, who grew up to suffer abuse at the hands of religious and government institutions, and who, finally, was tortured to death by state controlled systems of oppression, let us honor that baby by seeing divine light, opportunity, and grace where before we saw fear, conflict, and scarcity. We can embrace hope. We can affirm the dignity of all of God's children. We can work for peace and healing in our world. We can insist on "liberty and justice for ALL."

The challenges are numerous and the solutions may not come quickly, but they begin with our prayers, with our love, with our optimism, with our commitment, and with our choosing to see God in the midst of those sometimes called "the Other." This time of year calls us to reclaim and live out the message of "peace on earth; goodwill toward all." We don't need Congress or Courts for that. We hope they'll do their part, but we can begin to do ours right now.

Join us at Sunshine Cathedral for our Holiday Concert on Saturday night (Dec 6th) at 7 pm and worship with us every Sunday in Advent (and throughout 2015); and worship with us on Christmas Eve at 8 pm or 10:30 pm as well. Help us be the embodied presence of divine Love and indomitable Hope this season and at all times. The world needs light right now; let us be the light. As the song (from the Broadway musical "Mame") says, We need a little Christmas NOW!

Holiday Blessings,

Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral
1480 SW Ninth Ave, Ft Lauderdale, FL

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner...A Sad Time in the US

Do you hear that? It's the sound of Dr King, Rosa Parks, Bobby Kennedy, Mother Jones, James Baldwin, Bishop Pike, Howard Thurman, Bayard Rustin, Thurgood Marshall, and Medgar Evers all weeping as news reaches their spirit-dwelling that after all that they risked, suffered, and lost for the cause of equality and justice, there remains income inequality not seen since the Great Depression and those who feel their power and privilege being threatened have declared war on immigrants, people of color, and African American youth in particular (though the middle aged are not exempt). The Right Wing take over of the culture that began in force in the 80s has managed to reverse much of the gains that people in the 50s, 60s, and 70s lived and lost their lives to secure. The level of injustice this country is seeing cannot be sustained. Our country will, to use an old and often abused religious word, "repent" (have a deep change of heart) or it will join the long sad list of fallen empires. Hopefully China or India or whoever emerges as the next world leader will leave a nobler legacy. The American dream was a beautiful one, if only we had allowed it to become a full and lasting reality.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Stranger in My Own Land

I am perplexed (as, apparently, many progressives are):
Social Security is the most effective and popuplar social program in US history; State after state has done what the Federal government won't~increase minimum wage; Marijuana is now legal in a handful of states; Marriage equality is now a reality in 3/5 of the country (often thanks to GOP appointed judges!); AND the people who have demanded, accepted, and celebrated Social Security, Minimum Wage hikes, legalized pot, and Marriage equality voted for Reps, Senators, and Governors who oppose ALL OF THAT. Some sociologist can become famous if s/he will figure out why centrist people either vote for (or don't vote at all) right wing ideologues who oppose what they actually value. Of course gerrymandering, the assault on the Voting Rights Acts, and Citizens United have made it difficult for marginalized people to have a voice in government, but even with those obstacles, I still can't make sense of a nation that twice consecutively votes for a progressive president also voting consistently (or not at all) for legislators who work tirelessly to oppose that president's vision. I am a stranger in my own land.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Coming Out Day 2014

It's National Coming Out Day! There are those who still want to demonize and dehumanize same-gender loving and gender non-conforming people. But every time someone says "I'm Queer" or "I'm gay" or "I'm lesbian" or "I'm bisexual" or "I reject labels but am open to love and attraction however they manifest" or "I do not fit neatly into false gender binaries" AND "I love myself as I am", the power of heterosexism and homophobia and transphobia is diminished and the world becomes a better place. Be happy and be proud on this Coming Out Day!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Homophobia Isn't Over...SERIOUSLY

"You Queers have got it good enough. Stop whining about churches telling you that you are going to hell, parents beating and abandoning their Queer kids, bullies tormenting Queer youth, Queer kids winding up homeless, addicted, and attempting suicide, governors putting your rights to a vote and then complaining when majority homophobia isn't upheld by the courts, and homophobic preachers exporting their hate to nations where Queers can be imprisoned and killed just for being who they are...There are REAL issues to deal with."
That is a message that never ceases to amaze and infuriate me.

Caring about LBGTQQIA rights/equality does not mean that we should not and do not also care about economic justice, racism, misogyny, peace, the environment, immigration, gun control, universal health care and OTHER (not more, just other) important issues. Quality of life issues shouldn't be judged to be more important other others...we each do what we can for what we have the most passion about because its all important...but if you tell me my Queer life is not as important as other lives because in your estimation my life is good enough, you will have lost me as a conversation partner.

I am a white gay man who benefits from white male privilege...the privilege does not make it okay to target my gayness.
And, one's gayness does not give one permission to be unconcerned about attempts to keep people of color from the voting booth or to give governance over to corporations or to colonize women's bodies. There are many injustices left to tackle, and we won't do a good job with any of them if we start telling one another that our various experiences of injustice don't matter. That kind of divide and conquer technique is exactly what the keepers of all power want. Let's do deny them that satisfaction.

PS - It also amazes me when people think that only white men are same-gender loving (or for that matter that biology determines gender)...Does a Caribbean Lesbian of African descent not deal with racism, sexism, AND homophobia? Should we tell her that only 2/3 of her personal pain matters?
And what of Black Gay men who know racism within one community and homophobia within another. Should we tell them that only half of their experience of injustice is important? Of course not!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Human Rights, Not States' Rights

    The governor of OK not surprisingly is furious that the SCOTUS wouldn't hear marriage discrimination cases. She believes that the majority should have the right to discriminate if they collectively say they want to do so. For her, a state has rights to oppress its non-majority residents, but individuals don't have the right to demand equality. Of course, "states rights" arguments go back to the civil war, and the same mentality prevails...if enough of us in the majority want ...to keep a minority marginalized, then the majority should rule. They don't realize that democracy isn't just the rule of popular opinion, but is also a protection of those who will never be in the majority. When White, Evangelical Christians no longer make up the majority in some of these "states rights" states, they will undoubtedly value the protection that democratic principles offer those who lack the privilege and power of the majority.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Why I Wrote Saved From Salvation

"2014 was dedicated as a 'Year of Transformation' for Sunshine Cathedral, and so it seemed appropriate that for the Year of Transformation I would chronicle my life-long journey of growth and on-going transformation. SAVED FROM SALVATION is my story of exploring the Mystery of life, of embracing the Possibilities in life, and of daring to ask the questions that are real whether voiced or not, but that can release a healing and empowering energy when asked (even though answers to the questions may not exist). The book isn't meant to influence so much as to model the power of making peace with the questions and trusting the process of exploration wherever it might lead. The book is my testimony, my witness, my experience, but my hope underneath the sharing of the stories is that the book's message is universal, giving people encouragement to ask their own questions and trust the winding paths of their own lives. Such an open, honest, and unapologetically human journey has been tranformative for me, and it would be a great joy if my journey could provide some comfort or companionship for others as they courageously continue their own." Durrell Watkins, author of SAVED FROM SALVATION

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Please, Leave Behind "Left Behind"

Don't know how the Left Behind business got the funding for a major picture release with a real and for true film star, but I so hope that everyone knows that however much this may be improved from a cinematic standpoint over the original dreck, the fact remains that its bad science fiction based on superstitious understandings of ancient apocalyptic literature. The resistance literature meant to provide hope and catharsis to those oppressed by imperialism in antiquity was never meant as an oracle for 19th/20th/21st century Americans. The hope that the world of empire would be destroyed and replaced by a better and more equitable world was not meant as Halloween horror tales about futuristic (but still somehow immanent even though it never comes to pass) planetary destruction. I will not be paying a single cent to see the new release and I really hope parents don't torment their children by taking them to see the damaging threats of doom and destruction. Here endeth the rant.

Sunshine Cathedral Recommended Reading

            In August Sunshine Cathedral started offering a list of three books each month for SC members to consider reading. One book is to help to with biblical studies, the second is for theological enrichment, and the third is for self-help/empowerment.  The recommendations for August – October (as well as a sneak peak of November and December recommendations) follow:

August: (Bible) Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, & Religious Liberals by John A. Buehrens (2003). Understanding the Bible is written by a Unitarian Universalist minister. “In making accessible some of the best contemporary historical, literary, political, and feminist readings of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, UTB encourages all who would find in the biblical heritage an ally and not an enemy in the quest for a more just and humane world.”
(Theology) The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God by Bishop Carlton Pearson (2006). The Gospel of Inclusion…written by a Pentecostal bishop who stopped believing in Hell. He now calls himself a “metacostal” (combination of metaphysical and Pentecostal theologies); he is an ally of the LBGT community, a universalist (believing that God’s love embraces everyone regardless of their religious affiliation and that no one is ultimately excluded from the divine Presence), and his personal journey has led him to believe that the true good news (gospel) is a message of inclusion, not fear and punishment. His atonement theology might not match up exactly with what is taught at Sunshine Cathedral, but he nevertheless believes that all people are “saved” (“Muslims, Jews, atheists, everyone”).
 (Self-Help) I Can Do It: How to Use Affirmations To Change Your Life by Louise Hay (2004). Louise Hay needs no introduction to the New Thought and New Age crowds. She is a woman who has for decades embraced more and more of life and taught others to do the same. In the worst days of the AIDS crisis she helped people living with AIDS do so with less fear while learning to love themselves. She models forgiveness, optimism, and the courage to embrace the power that is within us all. A trained Religious Science minister, Louise Hay’s ministry has been writing, public speaking, and publishing. Her books tend to be small, easy to read, easy to apply, and simply powerful. Her small book, I Can Do It offers short lessons followed by sample affirmations to use in daily spiritual practice to improve health,
finances, creativity, relationships, self-esteem, and more.

            September: (Bible) The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love by Bishop John S. Spong (2005). Retired Episcopal bishop John Spong addresses how the bible as been misused against the environment, women, gays, children, and how it has wrongly been used to promote anti-Semitism and present God as a blood-thirsty ogre. He concludes his study by offering the possibility of a progressive reclaiming of both the bible and Jesus.
(Theology) Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian by Paul F. Knitter, PhD (2009). Theologian (professor at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York) Paul Knitter looked to Buddhism to help him navigate a crisis of faith. As a result, he became a more committed, if pluralistic, Christian. Rethinking notions of prayer, the afterlife, and even “God”, Knitter concludes that Buddhist philosophy can actually enrich the Christian experience.
            (Self-Help) Change Almost Anything in 21 Days: Recharge Your Life with the Power of over 500 Affirmations by Ruth Fishel (2003). Author and meditation teacher Ruth Fishel experienced healing and recovery in her life and seeks to help others do the same by showing how we can retrain our minds with consistent positive thoughts. From bad habits like procrastination to severe problems like addiction,
one can find ways of moving through life’s challenges and experience improvement. We each must do our own work, but Ms. Fishel helps the reader understand just how to do so.

October: (Bible) What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel A Helminiak (1994, 2000). Catholic theologian Daniel Helminiak warns against viewing biblical teaching as having the last word on sexual ethics. He also concludes that the bible "supplies no real basis for the condemnation of homosexuality."
(Theology) Saved From Salvation by Durrell Watkins, DMin (2014). Saved From Salvation chronicles a journey from fundamentalism to a ministry of spiritual humanism. The book tackles homophobia and heterosexism, looks at the bible and human sexuality and the spirituality of celebrating one's innate nature. The book also looks at non-theistic religion, progressive Christianity, liberating language, prayer, and ministry that affirms the sacred value of all people and that seeks to build community rather than enforce stale, antiquated dogmas. The final pages offer a real hope, a genuine faith, a practical spirituality that can be shared by believers and skeptics, Christians and non-Christians, seekers of truth and makers of meaning of every type. 
(Self-Help) Transform Your Life by Barbara King (1995). Founder of Atlanta's Hillside Chapel, Dr King applies metaphysical principles to the bible to help the reader overcome fear and transform her or his life through the power of prayer.

November: (Bible) The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus by John Dominic  Crossan (2012). Bible scholar Amy-Jill Levine says of this book, “Crossan recovers the profundity, and the provocation, of the biblical tradition.” Crossan is one of the foremost Jesus scholars alive today as well as being a theologian, bible scholar, and historian. Crossan examines both the tales that Jesus imagined to make moral and spiritual points, as well as what was later imagined about Jesus pretty early in the development of the Christian tradition. Crossan argues that much of what we read about Jesus was always intended to be read as parable rather than history.
(Theology) Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity by David M.  Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy (2012). Using the wisdom of top Christian scholars and progressive leaders, this book is an excellent introduction a progressive view of the Christian message and life.
(Self-Help) The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy (1963) is a classic but its message is timeless and universal. Learn how to tap into the power of your subconscious mind to improve health, develop peace of mind, solve problems, and experience more happiness in your life.

December: (Bible) Meditations on the Good News: Reading the Bible for Today by Debra Haffner (2013). This Unitarian Universalist minister offers readings of scripture that are life-giving and liberating rather than cumbersome and fearful. She says, “As I begun studying Scripture, I felt joy to learn that the bible has hundreds of passages in which God is delighted with us. It is replete with messages that life is to be enjoyed here and now…”
(Theology) Science and the Search for God by Gary Kowalski (2003). Praised by scientists and theologians, this easy to read book by a Harvard educated minister suggests that science and religion are natural allies and both can help us move beyond materialism to a worldview that embraces “consciousness and spirit.”
(Self-Help) Help-Thanks-Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (2012). A writer and deeply spiritual person, Lamott believes that prayer ought to be kept simple. Her simple and sweet book of about 100 pages makes that case quite well.

Buy these books from Amazon by using the Amazon icon on the Buy & Donate page at www.sunshinecathedral.org.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Saved From Salvation

Saved From Salvation: A Journey from Fundamentalism to a Ministry of Spiritual Humanism
latest book by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

Saved From Salvation by Durrell Watkins, DMin (2014). Saved From Salvation chronicles a journey from fundamentalism to a ministry of spiritual humanism. The book is divided into three sections: (1) "The Winding Road Between Absurd Certainty & Infinite Possibilities" (2) "Sexuality & Spirituality" and (3) "So What, Now What? A Humanistic Spirituality".
The first section shares an interreligious journey from fundamentalist Christianity through Catholicism, the arts, Pentecostalism, Buddhism, Goddess/Nature spirituality, Anglicanism, Energy Healing, and "New Thought" all leading to blended and inclusive ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches. The second section tackles homophobia and heterosexism, looks at the bible and human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, and the spirituality of celebrating one's innate nature. The final section looks at non-theistic religion, progressive Christianity, liberating language, prayer, and the ministry that affirms the sacred value of all people and that seeks to build community rather than enforce stale, antiquated dogmas. The final pages offer a real hope, a genuine faith, a practical spirituality that can be shared by believers and skeptics, Christians and non-Christians, seekers of truth and makers of meaning of every type. 
The author affirms on the penultimate page of the final chapter, "I am so committed to the church of honest inquiry, the cathedral of fearless searching, the chapel of mind expanding ideas, the temple of indomitable hope, that I have spent my life so far believing in and building up worship communities, churches of the free spirit, churches of the open mind, churches that affirm and depend on human potential..."
Saved From Salvation is for anyone who has been through the religious wringer and still hopes to be part of a thriving, thoughtful, inclusive, spiritual community,and for all who have found such a community and wish for it to be a shining model of what shared spirituality can achieve.

Saved From Salvation 
Lulu Press 2014
Available at Amazon.com

Friday, September 19, 2014

Can We Have Different Opinions Without Being Nasty?

So when did this happen? Last year, I quoted someone in a sermon (maybe Henry Ford?), not because I thought he was Buddha or Jesus or Yogananda, but because the thing he said was wise (even if it was the only wise thing he ever said). I was verbally assaulted by someone who really didn't like the person I quoted. That was the first time I noticed it. Another time I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt (whom I very much admire), and a right leaning person got very snarky...not about the quote, but about its source. Now, I often find that if I share (on FB or anywhere really) a quote by someone I may have disagreed with a lot, but who happened to say something at least once that I liked, people who share my dislike of the figure will use the quote as an opportunity to go on a rant about how evil the human is rather than simply agreeing or disagreeing with the thing said. 

I am a democratic socialist, a spiritual humanist, a pro-choice, pro-peace, pro-marriage equality liberal. I'm a lefty, honest to Engels! And, I think Nixon and Reagan made many mistakes and that Bush II was utterly incompetant. HOWEVER, I can acknowledge that they were well educated public servants each of whom must have gotten something right a time or two. Is it possible that we can disagree with people's ideologies without assuming that they are evil to the core with no redemptive qualities whatsoever? Can a person be wrong (in our opinion) 95% of the time and still get credit for the 5% they get right????

I Strongly Oppose Corporal Punishment

"When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.” Haim G. Ginott

A Queer kid in a hostile environment (homophobic bible belt), life was lonely and frightening for me (my grandmothers and a great-aunt provided much needed refuge). It got better once I knew what the rest of the world suspected (that my loafers were permanently light), because then I could embrace, own, and celebrate my truth. Self-discovery brings great courage and even joy. 

But as a child, with no one to understand my "difference", life was not easy. And, being reared in an environment where "switches" (nature's riding crops) and belts (and the not infrequent slap and occasional choke hold) were considered acceptable forms of punishment (though, the intensity of the punishment had more to do with the punisher's anger than with the so-called punishable offense), not even home ever felt safe.

Years of therapy, spiritual work, and direct dealing led to healing and to more reconciliation than I ever thought possible, but I have been a life-long opponent of hitting children. I believe that parents who hit believe they are doing what is right, that they were similarly punished as children (its the never ending cycle of violence), and that in spite of the harm they inflict on their children, they really do love them. But I know (not just from social science but from lived experience) that terrorizing children with the threat of physical abuse does a lot of harm. As a gay child where there was no safe place in the world to be, not feeling safe at home only led to intense feelings of isolation, loneliness, and despair. I would spare all children that pain if I could.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Young Vic's Streetcar...A Real Gem

Young Vic's Streetcar Named Desire...TRIUMPH. Smart, edgy, some new and bold choices. The standard lines that are normally delivered as oration rather than as contribution to real dialogue were almost underplayed, still important, but unlike many productions this show wasn't just an excuse to deliver the few famous one liners ("I shall die of eating an unwashed grape", "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers", "Poor thing, the quinine did her no good", "I don't want realism; I want magic!", "Stella! Stella for star!", "The Tarantula Arms is where I took my victims", "Hydrotherapy they call it", "STELLAAAAAAAA!!!!!!", etc.).

The minimalist, modern staging (without changing dated lines referring to Western Union or a phone number that begins with "Magnolia") was interesting and not usually distracting, and the loud, disturbing scene change music enhanced the experience of Blanche's fragile mental state.

Gillian Anderson (Blanche) and Vanessa Kirby (Stella) gave the traditional, over the top Southern Belle accents, but as old southern aristrocrats from Mississippi, it kind of works. Ben Foster (Stanley) gave no contrived accent and Corey Johnson (a native of New Orleans) didn't over do the all too often cartoonish portrayal of a Southern dialect (without respect for specific regional particularities).

Ben Foster sometimes seemed not menacing enough (almost soft a time or two, despite his threatening rhetoric and physical bulk), but I appreciated that he relied on something other than raw and unrelenting rage to communicate his fearsomeness. His was a much more nuanced Stanley than is often presented.

But the most amazing performance was given by Gillian Anderson. No hint of Scully, no wink to the X-Files, and no repeat of other Blanches. Her Blanche was a real person who had experienced real pain and disappointment and who carried real regret and faint hope. Her descent into madness wasn't cartoonish, her alcoholism was believable, and her particular affectations and mannerisms were unique to this actor's performance of this character for this production. She was, in short, the best Blanche I've ever seen!

Blanche falls desperately in love with and marries a man who she learns is gay (and involved with an older lover), and that pain is exponentially increased when he discovers that she knows his secret and his response is to commit suicide (not an uncommon response to the life ruining experience of being outed in a time when same-sex love and attraction were not only taboo, but criminal). Beyond that, Blanche is the caregiver for a series of relatives who die leaving her no money, and she has to mortgage the family estate to care for her ill relations (and then bury them). When on a teacher's salary she can't pay her debts, she loses her family home and lives in a seedy hotel where she medicates her loneliness and supplements her income as an evening companion for men. Eventually, she seduces a high school student (a cry for help? a self-destructive symptom of depression? desperate loneliness? an attempt to recapture lost youth?) the consequence of which is the end of her teaching career. She then spends the summer with her sister who has married a brute. She stays with her only living realtive (1) to have a play to live and (2) to create a new narrative for her life in an attempt to sanitize her past. Still, her secrets are exposed and while she is crumbling under the weight of shame and fear, her plight is worsened when she is raped by her brother-in-law. Her sister can't let herself believe that her husband is a rapist, so she has her Blanche committed. And the show ends with Blanche, who for all her difficulties is "never deliberately cruel", finally receiving care and kindness, but not from a friend, lover, neighbor, or relative but from a psychiatrist (presumably from a state hospital).

Gillian Anderson played this complex character powerfully. Anderson's Blanche had a soul, an inner light, painful memories beautiful fantasies, a glimmer of hope, and fading resilience. She was, simply, marvelous!

Tennessee Williams' shows tend to deal with homosexuality by means of a tragic heroine (or anti-heroine), Southern families, mental illness, and nobility that has been tarnished or hidden by disappointment and heartbreak. His spirit was very much alive and powerfully present in this production.

When Broadway and London share their gems nationally/internationally on cinema screens, it is a great gift, and tonight's showing of Streetcar was particularly amazing. 

Books by Durrell Watkins

Books by Dr Durrell Watkins
Available from online retailers, such as Lulu.com/shop, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com (& Nook)…

A Journey from Fundamentalism to a Ministry of Spiritual Humanism
Spirituality is both a personal and a shared experience; it is private and communal. The old religious dogmas, hierarchies, creeds, and antiquated vocabularies are increasingly irrelevant to 21st century seekers of truth; but the shared spiritual journey still has value. Can we move beyond the irrelevance of outmoded religion and still form spiritual communities, embrace life enhancing rituals, enjoy sacred stories, and ask honest questions that may not have preapproved answers? One liberal minister thinks that such spiritual communities are possible and needed and he has devoted his life to creating such communities. A humanistic spirituality can still embrace mystery and wonder, hope and peace, possibilities and wisdom, and as we offer such spirituality, a new generation may discover that houses of worship can still have meaning.

Celebrating the Queer community, affirming the sacred value of all people, blessing this world rather than making promises about the next, acknowledging the sacred in the secular, blending and transcending traditions to create a new and relevant church experience for the 21st century, Sunshine Cathedral is a "different kind of church..."

Financial gifts are needed to support good causes and churches are especially dependent on faithful, goodwill offerings. But giving is more than funding projects; it is a spiritual discipline that helps the giver grow. Generous people tend to be happier and they feel personally invested in the good work their gifts make possible. As much as churches and charities need our gifts, we need to be givers. This short book will encourage you to grow in the grace of giving and to experience the blessing that it is to be a consistent, generous giver.

Knowing that prayer is a power within you rather than a way of begging an external Power for help is a wonderful discovery. Using the power of positive prayer, we can reclaim our lives and our joy.

Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality
Can a Skeptic Enjoy the Bible? Wrestling With God Without Getting Pinned is an honest struggle to apply critical thinking and practical reason to the myths and metaphors of ancient scriptures. The author believes that creative writing can be true (and in fact can offer new truths as each reader approaches a text) without being factual. Wrestling With God....is an affirmation of truth that does not demand the literary symbols of scripture be taken literally. Rather than asking religion to redeem people, the writer is asking thinking people to redeem religion so that it can be relevant in the
21st century.

Prayers for Every Day of the Year
Using simple and inclusive language, this small book offers inspirational quotes as well as a prayer for every day of the year. Drawing on the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian scriptures as well as on other spiritual traditions of the world, and holding always a sense of optimism and gratitude, these short prayers will remind you of your unity with the one Presence and one Power that is expressing through and as your life and with which all things are possible. As we practice the affirmative way of praying offered in Optimism & Gratitude: Prayers for Every Day of the Year, we will feel empowered and we will learn to expect the best from ourselves and from Life.

Consistently throughout this small book, you will be affirmed as a person of sacred value, and you will be encouraged to affirm yourself as a gifted member of the human family, possessed of great potential. You will also be encouraged to see the Light of divinity within you AND within all people.

This is a book that will encourage leaders of progressive, inclusive spiritual communities. As the title says, the teachings are progressive, positive, and practical. This is a book meant to help liberal, open, and affirming worshipping communities thrive by encouraging their leaders.

A positive thinking, optimistic, and empowering book that teaches us to use our words intentionally to direct our thinking in ways that will create the feelings that will bring joy and wonder to our lives.

A liberal minister offers thoughts about prayer and models of prayer for people who practice spirituality on the margins, and for those who have not identified with a particular spiritual path. This isn't a typical prayer book, but it may become one of the most important ones on your shelf.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Remember


I, like everyone else, remember September 11th, 2001 when New York City and Washington, DC were attacked by hijacked aircraft. I remember the fear, the loss, the pain. I remember other things as well.

I remember the world extending concern, good wishes, and compassion in that moment of despair.
I remember communities coming together to raise money, clean up rubble, help wounded people, and comfort one another in a time of grief. I remember that a decade later, the master mind behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was killed. I don't rejoice at any killing. I might have preferred he be captured, tried, and incarcerated. But in any case, there was a sense of closure.

A lot was lost on 9/11, but so much more was spared, and good things were stirred within us. Heroism, compassion, resilience...the best of our humanity overpowered a moment of tragedy.

I have other remembrances, today. I remember that 9/11 wasn't the first, last, or largest tragedy to impact the human family.

I remember that the US government went 7 years without officially responding to the AIDS crisis. I remember that lives were lost because we failed to summon the better angels of our nature in time to contain a pandemic. I also remember when effective medications were finally released and people started living well with HIV, having real hope for long lives.

I remember growing up in a very homophobic environment, too scared to even admit to myself that I was gay, living in shame, fear, and confusion. I remember all those feelings rushing back to mind when Matthew Shephard was brutally killed for being gay. I also remember when Vermont started offering legal civil unions to same-gender loving couples and when Massachusetts first allowed same-gender loving people to marry, and that since those initial breakthroughs marriage equality has gained a lot of momentum. 

 I remember when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was overturn and LBGT people could serve openly and proudly in the US military. I remember that we have made a lot of progress.

I remember that our nation's history includes slavery, Jim Crow, and bloody battles for civil rights. I also remember that on November 4th, 2008, the 44th president of the United States was elected and he is a person of African descent.

I remember that on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor. I remember that following that, Japanese Americans were unfairly imprisoned in their own nation just because of their ethnic heritage, and I remember that on August 6th, 1945 the first time any nation used a nuclear weapon in war was when the United Stated dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later Nagasaki also experienced nuclear devastation. Today, Japan is a democracy, a major economy, and an ally of the nation that they once attacked, a nation that retaliated with world changing force.

I remember that a prayer that we use weekly at Sunshine Cathedral is actually the gift of a witness of the atomic bombings of Japan, Masahisa Goi, who prayed (as we do each week), "May peace prevail on earth."

And today, I remember two journalists who were brutally killed in Syria and I wish their families comfort in the days and months to come.

There are many sad events in history to remember, and we should remember. But let us also remember the healing that followed, the opportunities that sadness could not take away, and the hope that remained for better days.

Today, I remember 9/11/01, but I also remember that pain was not invented that day, nor did pain win that day. Hope is always the indestructible force, and so while I remember events from the painful past, I also remember that we always have the power to hope and work for a better tomorrow. Let's do remember that we have the power of hope.


Durrell SIg
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

RIP Joan Rivers...You Always Meant A Lot to Me!

I know that I am "expected" to have an almost romantic view about death and a neurotic, unjustifiable certainty about what happens beyond death (I reject these expectations BTW). But as powerful and beautiful as a dignified end of a life well lived can be, there are times that I just need to embrace the sadness that comes from separation and finality. Two people from my past died this week and today, one of my favorite entertainers in the world died. Joan Rivers was brassy and bold and courageous and resilient and smart and super funny. We live in a very lucky time when we expect people to live a decade or almost two beyond the age of 81, so even though Joan had a full and rewarding life (by all accounts), it still seems she left us prematurely. I got to see her in concert once, I've watched her documentary several times, I've read her book, and I've seen her on TV a grillion times (LOVED Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best). I never buy anything from the home shopping channels, but would sometimes watch for 10 minutes just to see her. It's funny how some public personalities really do touch us and become part of our lives in ways they may never know. Anyway, I'm sad that Joan didn't survive her recent ordeal, I was hoping that she would. I may now immerse myself in You Tube clips of her for the entire weekend. I don't know what's beyond this life, but I know that my life had a bit more joy in it because Joan Rivers dared to live out loud. May her memory bless all who hold it!

PS - I wish her daughter and grandson comfort and strength during this time of loss.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferguson Shows Us We Have Not Dealt Sufficiently With White Privilege

This country has a long history of shameful treatment of non-majority groups. And whenever an unarmed person of color is killed, memories of a painful past resurface and healing is delayed, as images of economic oppression, segregation, mobs protesting the arrival of African American children to previously non-integrated schools, demoralizing Jim Crow laws, dehumanizing caricatures in art and ads, and heartless, souless practice of lynching are brought to mind. Some of us have the privilege of not having to relive those painful memories, but our humanity demands that we remember and care and vow to be part of a future where racism as well as misogyny and homophobia no longer divide communities and ruin lives. We all have both privilege and peril, and of course race or gender or sexual orientation are not the only determining factors of one's life experience, AND it also true that in our country there are advantages upon which one can depend simply for being white and there are hazzards one must fear simply for being non-white and until we as a soceity own this unpleasant truth and work collectively to change it (without denying why there is a need for such change), the problems and injustices will only continue, and at times escalate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pastoral Prayer for Ferguson, MO

Haven’t we had enough of war: not only the wars we export, but the wars on our streets, the wars that wage in our own hearts?
Aren’t we yet willing to recognize the devastating legacy of racism?
Can’t we seek to heal the wounds caused by injustice, domination, and exploitation?
Will we ever cease our worship of violence and our distrust of the Other?

The Earth and Her inhabitants are weary from conflict. We are despondent to see once again communities torn apart by injustice and disregard for the dignity of every person.

The riots, the pain, the losses in Ferguson, Missouri that have followed the brutal slaying of Michael Brown bring all these questions to mind, questions that we grow so tired of asking, questions that still have not found satisfying answers.

And so we turn once again to prayer. There will be letters written and protests and debates, but in the meantime, in this moment, in this time of sadness and frustration, we choose to quiet ourselves, to know that there is a Universal Power that flows through every life, that is part of every life, that excludes no one for any reason, and in the name of this one Power we affirm hope and the possibility of healing in our world. In the name of the Omnipresence we affirm blessings for the residents of Ferguson. In the name of Justice Herself, we affirm wisdom for those who must lead us through the difficulties at hand.

God of many names, mystery beyond our naming, give us the courage and the resilience to not allow our weariness to prevail, but rather let us continue to hope for, work for, and settle for nothing less than “liberty and justice for ALL.”


Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jesus Heals & is Healed

Reflection by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

Matthew 15.21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.Just then a Canaanite woman
from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly. 

Matthew may be confronting his community’s prejudices by imagining Jesus overcoming a prejudice within himself. Deuteronomy 20.17 says, “Completely destroy…the Canaanites…as God has commanded you.” A literal reading of the ancient text could have given Matthew’s community tacit permission to hate or exclude or vilify Canaanites, but when a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help, he first sees her as “the Other”, one he had been taught to look down on (like a “dog”), but as she stands up for herself, Jesus finally sees her humanity, and realizes that she is fully a child of God.
Then he blesses her by healing her daughter, but he is healed of his own bigotry as well. And hopefully, those who read the text will find healing from some of their own prejudices as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Resources for Progressive Churches

Resources for Progressive Churches (and for those not yet part of a progressive spiritual community)


Monday, August 11, 2014

Depression is No Joke

I didn't know that Robin Williams struggled with depression, but I'm not surprised. That much creativity and genius often has a deep, internal struggle behind it. And for him to be so up, the downward swings must have been very difficult. Anyway, I'm not qualified to analyze the late Robin Williams, but his sad departure from this life brings to mind loved ones who have battled depression. I struggled with depression as a child and four years ago I found myself in the midst of deep despair, and I am so thankful for friends who loved me through it as well as medication and therapy. I got through it and have gotten good at self-care, but I am ever mindful of those who are still trying to find their place of peace and wholeness. May all who are hurting today find the strength and comfort they need.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Sacrament of Sharing

New Resource on the spirituality of generosity

Financial gifts are needed to support good causes and churches are especially dependent on faithful, goodwill offerings. But giving is more than funding projects; it is a spiritual discipline that helps the giver grow. Generous people tend to be happier and they feel personally invested in the good work their gifts make possible. As much as churches and charities need our gifts, we need to be givers. This short book will encourage you to grow in the grace of giving and to experience the blessing that it is to be a consistent, generous giver.

The Sacrament of Sharing 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Parable of the Scattered Seeds & Story of Jacob & Esau

Gen. 25.20-34 & Matthew 13.1-9, 19-23...a Reflection
Durrell Watkins, DMin

The parable in the gospel reading comes with its own explanation.  Some of us hear a word of hope and healing, and it sounds good and we are thrilled to hear it, but we can’t really commit to it yet. It got us excited in the moment, but we haven’t had a shift in consciousness, so no real change takes place.

Some of us hear a word of hope and healing, and it is very encouraging, but we can’t really pursue it because we allow ourselves to be immediately distracted by the obstacles and challenges. We keep our focus on what is wrong rather than allowing ourselves to pursue a path of liberation.

But some of us hear a word of hope and healing and we embrace it, internalize it, own it, try to live it, begin to grow into it, and that word that sinks into our subconscious mind becomes part of us and transformation takes place.

This isn’t really three kinds of people, but most people at different stages in their lives. But we can always work toward becoming the people who are rich soil receiving the seeds of empowerment and liberation and allowing those seeds to take root.

Without going into ancient inheritance practices and the reasoning behind them, and beyond the acknowledgement that the Genesis story is a myth of origin creatively weaving a story around geo-political tensions, I think we can look at the story as symbolic for realities in our own lives.

Esau isn’t aware of what he is really worth. Sacred value is the birthright we each have inherited, but we have traded it for dogmas and creeds, biblolatry and traditions, giving away healthy self-esteem for the temporary satisfaction of being told we are morally superior to an imagined “other” or that we have reservations at the heavenly banquet hall. By not believing in our innate goodness, we settle for comforts which cannot endure and then often become angry when others have dared to search for meaning beyond our inherited paradigm.

Jacob also doesn’t realize his inherent dignity and sacred value. He believes he has to scheme, cheat, lie, or steal from someone else in order for him to have what he needs to feel good about himself. Just as Esau gives his self-esteem away too easily and then is furious that others find meaning in ways other than he has thought to pursue, Jacob believes the only way he can matter is to take away someone else’s dignity, hope, or opportunity. They both make painful mistakes because they don’t realize that just as they are they have potential and merit and their lives are full of opportunities for discovery and expression.

Later Jacob will claim the gift he conned Esau out of by disguising himself as Esau. He has to lie and hide and pretend to be something he isn’t. This closeted experience is not fulfilling. He doesn’t really get a blessing because he spends the next several years hiding and running and suffering the pain of regret. One can never be truly blessed by living a lie.

While Esau is willing to sell his value, and Jacob is so unaware of his that he is willing to steal someone else’s in order to feel valued himself, the fact remains they are twins. They share origins. They share history. They are connected. They part of a larger whole. They are equal, even while each is unique. Neither trading nor conniving is necessary … they are both threads in the sacred tapestry of life.

Isaac also suffers from “not-enough-ness.” He suffers from the delusion that he has only one blessing to give. His scarcity mentality has convinced him that he is limited in what he can share. He is rich enough to have an heir, but even at that he doesn’t realize how blessed he really is. He has two children to love, two with whom to share his best gifts. He has more to give than he knows and more people to share his gifts with than he is willing to acknowledge. Like his sons, he doesn’t get how blessed he really is, and not realizing how blessed he is, he also can’t realize how many blessings he has to share.

Rebekah, too, isn’t aware that she has more love to give than to just one son. She clearly loves Jacob. Her blessing is denied to Esau, and Isaac’s is denied to Jacob and dysfunction follows.

Maybe Rebekah preferred Jacob because Isaac preferred Esau, and she couldn’t stand for Jacob to not have a parent’s full adoration.

Of course, Isaac isn’t entirely to blame for this mess. How does he know how to be a good father? His was willing to carve him up like a Thanksgiving Turkey because he believed a blood-thirsty deity required it, and he was more devoted to his delusions about the deity than to his own child. How many parents have sacrificed their children in the name of bad religion?

This dysfunctional family, full of deceit and madness and rage and trickery and triangulation suffers a lot of pain and the cycles of dysfunction are passed down from one generation to the next. But that isn’t how it has to be.

Eventually, Jacob will not be his mother’s favorite, his father’s spare son, his brother’s enemy, or a lonely, scared little person who believes he can only be someone if he takes away someone else’s good fortune. Jacob finally wrestles with God/the better angels of his nature/his conscience/his consciousness/his ideals and he will not let the divine presence go until he gets his own blessing. And his blessing is to know who is he really is, to come to accept his sacred value.

Now, Jacob isn’t always the best husband or father, wrestling with the angel is the beginning of overcoming his demons, but there will be more work to do…healing is a process and a messy one sometimes, but the healing begins as soon as he is willing to embrace a “new thought” about himself. Maybe that’s the blessing we are all seeking and that blessing may begin to change our lives for the better.