POEM: Liminal Space

I lost more than a year and a half

When my wife dropped me off on the curb

In front of the neighborhood bar

With nothing but a carry-on-sized suitcase

And a fleeting hope that she didn’t mean the words

“You just lost your marriage.”

_______

I lost more than a year on the banks of the Chesapeake

When I drove downtown to the King County courthouse

And delivered a petition for divorce

That felt like death to sign

A fall into an abyss deeper than I could see

_______

The fall — not the impact — cracked me open

Blood flowed at last from festering wounds

That I had bandaged again and again

In tumbleweed towns and the land of cookie cutter privilege

In Bible-thumping bubbles and ivory halls of suit-and-ties

Here the brick towers of the Baptist church crumbled

Under the weight of concrete and cedar born amid loss

The welcoming abode on Margalo Avenue

Where the walkway bears my handprint

And my high school diploma sits in a filing cabinet

Has evaporated like the river in the summer heat

The heaven-like facade has burned down

Into purgatorial ashes

I enter the ashes and weep

I ride the metro into Capitol Hill

And emerge in a world turned gray and cold

My heart recoils as I look back at the open gorge

Listening to the echo of the collapsing bridge

That held a score and six years of my life

_______

I say to my soul:

Breathe; feel your feet

Retire to your bed — and fear no darkness!

Take your lunch on cinder blocks

And let your stomach be full for an afternoon

How else will you be able to stand up

With such a heavy heart?

_______

Alas! My kingdom has fallen

With its garden of delights —

Flowers in the full bloom of youth

The fellowship to defy death has failed

And the ruins lie about everywhere

To my right and to my left

Haunted by the ghost

Of a woman who is not dead

I touch her only in dreams and in memory

As I wander emerald hills

Limping from dagger wounds

Pricked by the sight of every silver SUV

_______

The road ahead appears — I have only to desire

To desire — but not the one whom my heart still desires

Where then shall I go, O soul?

Where then shall I go!

_______

I cannot make out the contours of home

Among so many modern lines

And my old inner voices crying “danger!”

To choose before I’ve chosen is bad faith

To not choose is violence at best, they say

Or damnation at worst, say the others

There is no balance, no compromise

Only tension

Magnets suspend me in the in-between

There is only the weary journey

Of walking in one man’s shoes

And then another’s — over and over again

Until my teary eyes are spent

And I fall back on those wooden beams

Singing the lament of the lyre and harp: How long?

How long, O lord?

_______

Sing to me of flames ravaging the forest

Of salt spray in the barrel of a wave

Of desert saints tending a parched and holy land

I will wander in search of my inheritance

A kingdom that was, and is, and will be

_______

I say to my body:

Sharpen your sword and feel your wounds

Sink your hands in the earth

Trace the wisdom of the trees in the grains of spruce and fir

Lace up your boots and stand in the rain

Hold your brothers close while you can

Feel their hearts beat, their lungs heave

Set your eyes on what you love

Let your gaze be strong and steady as folded steel

And your heart be soft and tender like a child’s

_______

I will seek first the kingdom, and trust uncharted paths

Through barren deserts and mossy groves

Rocky coasts and fields of quiet streams

I will welcome the warmth of a companion around the fire

Or the solitude of a cold night beneath the stars

When my heart stalls

And the way feels shut and dead

Still I will lift up my song and cry —

From the depth of my being, or with no depth at all

How long, O Lord, how long?

How long?

From One Side to the Other

I guess this is old news, but I came across this story about ex-gay rights leader Michael Glatze in the New York Times yesterday, and it pointed me back Glatze’s article in WorldNetDaily back in 2007, as well as an open letter to Rick Martin in WND. I’d never heard of this guy. His story is fascinating.

Glatze was a gay’s gay. He started and spearheaded the rise of Young Gay America’s magazine, produced the first documentary film on gay teen suicide, and appeared with media outlets like PBS, MSNBC and TIME magazine as an advocate for gay rights and the homosexual lifestyle. As Denizet-Lewis says in his article in the Times, many young gay men looked up to him. He quotes Glatze as saying things like “Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell,” and “People have been raised incorrectly to believe that the prejudices they’ve been taught by their pastors are God’s word. . . The only Truth is Love.”

Then, in about 2004, health issues prompted Glatze to start asking some deep questions about himself and the state of his soul. Long story short, it started what he calls a “spiritual awakening” that led to him rejecting his homosexuality and becoming a Christian.

I’ve always hesitated to say much about homosexuality for two simple reasons. One, I’m not gay and have no homosexual desires; I don’t “get” it. Two, growing up in a fairly narrow Christian environment, I haven’t had much personal interaction with homosexuals. They’re a tough group for conservative Christians to reach. Most Christians don’t set out to “hate” gays or demonize them, but there are two different philosophical assumptions at play here that makes some animosity inevitable. One side says that a certain “lifestyle”–or, as some Christians might say, certain “acted out desires”–are sinful, and therefore the most loving thing to do is to warn people that this lifestyle is contrary to God’s design for the world, inherently enslaving, and destructive to human civilization. The other side says that this lifestyle is completely normal, enjoyable, and conducive to human happiness. It ought therefore to be embraced and celebrated. Continue reading →

Book Review: The Question of God

I just finished reading The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. As the title suggests, the book represents Dr. Armand Nicholi Jr.’s attempt to set up a “debate” between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis on the most important issues humanity faces. He asks questions like “Does God exist?” “What is the nature of love?” “What is the meaning of life?” and “What should we think of sex?” Then, Dr. Nicholi lets the thinkers speak for themselves–Freud then Lewis, in turn–offering his own occasional insights along the way.

If anyone is qualified for a project like this, Dr. Nicholi would seem to be the guy. He is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and he has taught courses on Lewis and Freud for decades.

If you are unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis, Sigmund Freud, or both, I commend this book to you. Dr. Nicholi brings together years of study into both of these great minds, delving into everything we know about both their beliefs and their personal lives.

I read Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” last summer and just finished “Surprised by Joy” a few weeks ago, so I can at least confirm that Dr. Nicholi does a fine job of representing Lewis’ beliefs about each of the subjects in his book.

I can only trust that he does the same for Freud. He certainly gives readers no glaring reason to doubt his portrayal of Freud’s beliefs. He draws from Freud’s books, personal letters, and even interactions with his children and grandchildren to paint a picture of both the brilliance and tragedy of Freud’s life. Furthermore, he realizes that Freud’s beliefs were often in flux throughout his life, so we often get a brief chronological progression of Freud’s beliefs on a topic. Readers therefore come to know Freud personally, as a human with desires, hopes, fears, flaws and struggles. Continue reading →

A Gender “Storm”

I remember hearing on Wednesday about the Canadian couple who have decided to keep the gender of their newborn child a secret. Only the midwives and immediate family members know the sex of baby Storm. Since then, I’ve read Al Mohler’s take on it, an article in the Globe and Mail, an article at God Discussion, and Storm’s mother Kathy Witterick’s  extensive response to the whole business in the Vancouver Sun. Here’s the original story at ParentCentral.ca.

My reaction to the whole thing was at first detached and curious, even though everyone in the newsroom who heard about it at the time reacted with an understandable disgust and disdain. I figured that I was operating as a journalist at the time, which means trying to look at stories even as crazy as that with a cool, careful, objectivity.

I’ve wondered over the past several days, though, why I was able to do this so easily. My beliefs scream that everything about it is wrong, and I do believe that Storm’s parents deserve most of the harsh criticism they’ve taken.

The main thing that gave me pause at first, I think, was this: I couldn’t–off the top of my head–come up with a good reason within the system of secular thought that they shouldn’t do it. My knee-jerk reaction was based almost entirely on my understanding of gender as part of God’s creation and in relation to imaging God’s character as originally reflected in creation. All I had was “God doesn’t like that, it goes against his will.” Without that Christian view (or some sort of theism that sees social institutions as instigated by God), well, I don’t see what’s to keep any sort of family unit, including gender roles, from disintegrating.

Now that I’ve thought on it a little more, though, I think there are three general problems with the line of thinking in the parents’ decision to keep Storm’s gender private.

ONE, they assume that we have the freedom to choose who we are and become. Witterick asks: “When will we live in a world where people can make choices to be whoever they are?”

The answer, I’m afraid, is “never.”

Continue reading →