I do not consider myself a "religious" person but I am interested in religion and it's impact on people and societies. Like many people reading this, I think of myself as more "spiritual" than anything else these days. As a kid, I sang in a church choir in Spokane briefly. As a teenager, threatened with Viet Nam, I explored my spiritual beliefs and came to the conclusion at that time that most religions taught peace rather than war. As an adult, I met Milton at Metropolitan Community Church in 1982, which I was attending for the purpose of singing and meeting new people rather than out of any strong convictions. Later, in about 2000, Milton and I attended a welcoming and affirming First Christian Church in Vallejo and really did feel welcomed and affirmed.
My mom was always anti-fundamentalist. She believed in science and taught her children the importance of critical thinking. I don't remember her ever attending any church. My dad was raised a Southern Baptist but I don't remember him ever attending a church service either.
Here, I want to talk about Christianity, seekers, and progressive vs traditionalist Christians in this country. My feeling is that There is a culture war going on in this country and progressive Christians need to be on the front lines, not on the sidelines. Many people are not even aware there are "progressive Christians." I want to help answer the question "Who are progressive Christians and what do they believe?" All Christians are not fundamentalists.
I believe that the religious right is more visible than the religious left. I believe that a large part of this visibility has to do with the religious right being more willing to use modern seeker /alternative/ contemporary/ multicultural/ multi-generational styles of worship services. I want to answer the question "Why should progressive Christians care about seeker worship and other new modern styles of worship that effectively reach the masses?"
In his book about "framing" discourse, "Don't Think of an Elephant," author George Lakoff says there are eight kinds of progressives and we all share many mutual interests and goals.
2. Identity politics progressives..
4. Civil liberties progressives.
6. Spiritual progressives have a nurturant form of religion or spirituality, their spiritual experience has to do with their connection to other people and the world, and their spiritual practice has to do with service to other people and to their community. Spiritual progressives span the full range from Catholics and Protestants to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Goddess worshippers, and pagan members of Wicca.
Mr. Lakoff discusses how the various types of conservatives have put their differences aside and says that the eight different types of progressives must also put their differences aside. The political right works in concert with the religious right. The political left must do the same. The political right has learned to frame the discussion in metaphors and terms that are user friendly.
The religious right has learned to present their theology in user friendly terms and popular rhythms and this is often referred to as "seeker" worship. The religious right has been able to connect with "unchurched Harry's" and have grown exponentially while the religious left gets smaller and smaller. When the subject of "values" are brought up during elections, the religious right dominates and controls the conversation because they use media and services that speak to the masses. Sadly, the religious left only preaches to the choir. Unchurched Harry can't relate to the intellectualism or traditionalism of most liberal left churches. Unchurched Harry needs to "feel" something in church before he will be open to theological ideas and progressive concepts.
Progressives lose if we allow conservatives to control the conversation either politically or spiritually. There are many websites about progressive Christians and there are many websites about new forms of worship.
Broad Generalizations Regarding the Culture War
|Conservative/ Right wing/ Republican/ Fundamentalist||Liberal/ Left wing/ Democrat/ Progressive|
|Anti-science/ pro-creationism- "intelligent design"/ anti-intellectual||Pro-science/ evolution/ intellectual/ pro-education|
|God defined with human attributes: male/ white/ angry/ jealous/ petty/ etc.||God is a concept that is not defined by human attributes|
|Males dominate and define what women can do with their bodies||Pro-Choice- women decide what can be done with their own bodies|
|More concerned about pre-viable fetal tissue than about real children||Pro-children- for funding programs that benefit children- real "culture of life"|
|Anti-social programs/ pro-corporate welfare||Pro safety-net social programs/ anti-corporate welfare|
|Big profits for pharmaceutical companies and hospital industry||Pro one-payer national health care and fair access to medicine|
|Anti Social Security||Pro Social Security|
|Wants Christian religion in schools and government||Believes in separation of church and state|
|Anti-public education/ pro-government money for private Christian schools||Pro public ed; Anti government $ for religion- pro separation church & state|
|Intolerant of those of different race, religion, class, sexual orientation||Tolerant of others; embraces diversity|
|Intolerant of different religions- non-Christians will burn in hell||Tolerant & respectful of all faiths. No condemnation of non-believers|
|Big emphasis on personal "sin" - judgemental||Less emphasis on judging personal behaviors of others and personal "sin"|
|Divides black against white; men against women; straights against gays etc||Unites people together|
|strict father model/ punishment/ obedience/ children born evil||nurturant gender neutral parent model; children born good|
|self interest/ "me against them" attitude||group interest/ "us"/ what can we do together to make things better for all?|
|Superficial understanding of Biblical text- literalism; Uneducated clergy||Studies Biblical text in context of history, language, culture, etc.; Educated clergy|
|Pro capital punishment/ revenge mentality - culture of death||Anti-capital punishment/ pro-rehabilitation- real "culture of life"|
|Teaches Old Testament "an eye for an eye"; Moses values||Teaches New Testament golden rule; Christ values|
|Militaristic; pro-war||Diplomatic; pro-peace|
|Rush Limbaugh||Al Franken|
|Exploits and depletes environment; protects big oil- drill anywhere||Protects environment|
|Doesn't "believe in" global warming- disparages "tree huggers"||Comprehends the intelligence, logic and science of global warming-|
|Chooses big money interests over interests of endangered species||For protecting endangered species|
Isn't concerned about gas mileage when buying new vehicle- considers Hummer
|Takes into consideration gas mileage when buying new vehicle- considers hybrid|
|Pro censorship- they know best what others should hear or watch||Anti-censorship- pro-individual rights- right to privacy- parental rights|
|Talk about "values" but at same time are primary audience of Fox network trashy television shows||Don't talk as much about their values or try to impose their values on others. Are the primary audience for intelligent programming on PBS.|
|Believe in the myth of a "liberal bias" in corporate media||Understands that corporate media primary interest is profits and the "liberal bias" myth is nonsense & most corporate media is conservative.|
|Think that Fox news really is "Fair and Balanced"||Get their news from various sources that really are more fair and balanced.|
|Anti-family planning & sex education which is proven to result in ignorance and more unwanted pregnancies and increased abortion rates||Pro-family planning & sex education which is proven to result in fewer unwanted pregnancies and decreased abortion rates|
|Anti- hiv education and dessimination of info about condom use which results in keeping hiv and std rates higher than they need to be||Pro- hiv education and dessimation of condoms and info about proper use which results in lower hiv rates|
|Wants U.S. out of the United Nations-||Pro- United Nations and International Law and Diplomacy|
|Simplistic infantile black & white- good & bad- right & wrong perspective||Understands complexities of the world, nuanced positions, critical thinking|
|Uses Orwellian language that means the opposite of what it says-i.e. "blue skies initiative" that is actually anti-environment||Says what they mean in straight forward language that doesn't try to disguise hidden agenda|
|Actually buys into idea that the economy is better under Bush than it was under Clinton- think they get to keep more of their money because they are bribed with small tax refunds, ignoring the record deficits that result||Can comprehend the fall of the American dollar and understand how Bush economy has resulted in record deficits and that their grandchildren will be paying for those tax cuts that went mainly to the ultra-rich.|
I don't remember much about the circumstances, but in the Spring of 1995, Milton and I drove up to Washington State. Over the years we have been together, we have gone up to Washington together several times. We drove a couple of times and took the train once. Otherwise, I fly up by myself now and then to visit.
I usually do not enjoy long car trips but we took our time driving up and back and it really was enjoyable. When I was growing up, Roger and George and others always seemed to want to drive straight through from Southern California to Washington State, which was pretty miserable. Milton and I took two days up to Yakima and two days back to Vallejo.
We had a nice drive to Palouse after we left Spokane. It had sure changed in the short time since Nola and I had gone out there a few years ago. I was saddened to see that the train station where Bert had worked was no longer there. Several new houses had been built on what used to be Bert's property. But it was all still wonderful to be there and reflect on some of the happiest days of my childhood again and to share it with Milton.
Billie told Milton and I about an article in the Spokane paper about Palouse Falls and we tried to find it on our way to Yakima. We got off the main road and drove quite a ways but I thought we were getting pretty close to Idaho and we saw some "skinheads" and it made me a little nervous as I had a "rainbow flag" bumper sticker on my car and Milton being African-American in this back country of red necks and crazy Republicans. There was very little traffic and I was not sure if it was safe for us to be out there. We finally came to a rock covered road- the pavement ended. It was a pretty rough road and out in the middle of nowhere and these rocks were hitting the bottom of my car and I was not sure if my car was built for that kind of terrain so finally we turned around and got back to the main road and went on to Yakima.
A couple months after we got back, Donna Jean called to tell me that my Dads mother wanted to see us kids. She is 92 years old and I had not heard from her for years. Two of my aunts, Faye and Jesse, flew up to Seattle with her and they all drove over to Darlenes. Roger came over to Darlenes and I flew up for a few days. David, Hebert and Donna Jean were there too. It was fun to get a little acquainted with my grandmother and aunts from that side of the family. I have a separate story about that trip.
At this point, I had been having problems at my job as a Registered Nurse at Saint Francis Hospital. Healthcare in California, like the rest of the country had become a mess. "Managed Healthcare" was the term of the time which essentially meant increased healthcare profits for greedy C.E.O.'s and decreased patient care.
At Saint Francis and many other hospitals, they had laid off many of the people with experience and skills and replaced them with young, inexpensive, inexperienced kids. Some of them appear to have the same expertise as those that are flipping burgers at McDonalds. The hospitals are making record profits but the quality of care declines and there are fewer people that can afford to get any care at all. Although I have an exemplary record and have made many contributions to the Saint Francis, the new corporate administration has made it clear that my days are numbered. I am sending out my resume.
I am still doing a little computer consulting on the side at the Spinal Cord Injury unit at the Veteran's Administration hospital in Palo Alto but it has never been a big money maker for me. Besides Saint Francis' psychiatric unit, my computer program, MacNursing, continues to run down at the Veterans hospital in Palo Alto.
I could be wrong, but I believe that it was on this trip that I visited with Ole and Billie for the last time.
Patient Care Coordinator
John George Psychiatric Pavilion
First, I just want to thank you for your flexibility these last few months regarding my scheduling.It has been very helpful with my transition to Kaiser but it has made this letter very difficult. When people have been good to you, it is hard to say good-bye.
I have been working at Kaiser or John George every weekend for most weekends of the last few months. I have neglected my painting, friends and other interests in my life. The forty mile commute each way is feeling longer and longer. Although I will miss adult psychiatry and many of the staff at John George, I must hereby, reluctantly, submit my resignation. I had already requested the week-end 2/5/2000 and the week-end of 2/10/2000 so my resignation can go into effect at that point.
Sylvan Rogers, R.N.
Milton and I had talked about getting a dog at various times in our relationship. Milton was not particularly enthusiastic when I told him in 1995 that I was finally going to get one. Even though Milton was not enthusiastic, he didn't object either.
I had done a lot of research. I knew the size of the dog I wanted. I had gone to dog shows. All of this led me to Brittany Spaniels. I love the orange and white coat that a Brittany can have. Full grown, they are a medium size dog. The are known for their intelligence. They are a hunting dog.
Initially, I had been thinking about a rescue. I looked into the Brittany rescue website and we went and looked at several in foster care. They all looked old or unhealthy. I didn't want to start out with a lot of veterinary bills with my first dog in so many years. I finally looked into breeders and found a Brittany breeder in Napa and corresponded with her. There was going to be some pups right around Christmas.
When we brought Amber home, at first she was a little shy and reserved. Once she got to know us and knew she was safe, she could get pretty rambunctious. She was a terrible chewer when her teeth were coming in. She chewed up everything! She chewed the inside of my car. She chewed all our wooden deck furniture.
She got me out of the house on walks more often. At that time, there were more open fields around where we were in Vallejo and I would walk her and occasionally take her off leash. There were rabbits in the area and despite my objections, she couldn't help herself but follow instincts and follow a running rabbit.
I believe people should train both children and dogs. I guess I'm in the minority because I see so many children that are out of control out in public and so many dogs that are out of control. I trained Amber not to bark when i left the house. It wasn't really that difficult and very effective but for some reason, people don't bother and you often hear dogs barking incessantly in suburbia.
Amber was an inside dog most of her life. We have a patio and a hillside in the backyard and I trained her to do her business up on the hillside, away from the patio and house. She was very considerate.
We took her camping with us once and she could not understand that she was expected to sleep on the ground. We had an queen size air mattress to sleep on and Amber kept trying to get on it with us. I think the ground might have been a little cold or something. She just didn't get why she wasn't her nice warm home. Every time someone walked by in the campground, she would get nervous and start to growl. None of us enjoyed that night of camping.
Two other things made Amber very nervous- fireworks and balloons.
We have a Six Flags park in Vallejo and they have a fireworks display every night for several nights leading up to the 4th of July and New Years Eve. Those were Amber's least favorite holidays.
It was hilarious on the one hand to see Amber react to something as innocuous as a balloon but ultimately, you couldn't help but feel her fear. It was just one of those irrational things that any of us can have. For her, it was balloons. It didn't make sense but they totally freaked her out.
She was an incredible, wonderful dog. Although Milton had been a little reluctant at first, he totally fell in love with her too.
One night, Amber urinated on the floor. This was very unlike her. She kept urinating small amounts, apparently uncontrollably. At first, before i realized what was happening, I tried being stern with her. Then she started vomiting. I knew something was very wrong. I scooped her up and put her in the car and drove to Fairfield, where i knew there was a 24 hour vet. They stabilized her that night and I was to bring her to her own vet in Vallejo the next day.
I can't remember if it was the emergency vet in Fairfield or her own vet in Vallejo that recommended out bringing Amber to U.C. Davis. They have a veterinary school there. They had better resources. I think it was there that they gave her an M.R.I. and did some other tests. The diagnosis was grim and tragic.
It had taken Amber four years to become the amazing dog I always knew she could be. She had been a horrible puppy and a wonderful dog. She had urinary tract cancer.
The doctors told me they could do some things but that she would have to live with a urinary catheter. There were no guarantees even if they did everything they could. The decision had to be made.
Milton and I took Amber for one more walk in Sacramento. Even though she wasn't feeling her best that day, she still enjoyed seeing the multitude of squirrels that inhabit that part. She pulled on her leash, but not with her usual enthusiasm. Milton and I knew these were our last hours together. Our hearts were breaking. As I write this, even thinking back to that day, the feelings come rushing back.
When I spoke to others about what had happened, some would ask if I was going to get another dog. I know that they had good intentions but I just couldn't fathom it. Milton and I were both devastated. Amber could not just be "replaced" by another dog! It took Amber four years to become Amber. How could we even consider starting all over again?
I love these pictures of her. She was so gorgeous, besides being so smart and so loving. Her hair got everywhere, though. It was impossible to get it completely out of my Nissan. Sometimes, in the summer, I would give her a buzz cut so her hair was just a half inch or so long. She still looked beautiful. And she liked being cooler.
I think Milton was turning 40 in 1995 or maybe I just wanted to do something different, but for his birthday that year, I planned a surprise trip to Vegas. I made reservations for the hotel, where we would stay, and bought the plane tickets. The hardest part was figuring out how to get him to go to work without his car. The reason I didn't want him to drive to work that day was because I wanted to pick him up after work and head straight for the airport. I came up with some ruse as to why I should drive him to work that morning. He left his car at home. Then I came home and packed for both of us.
That afternoon, I went to pick Milton up at the Holiday Inn, on Van Ness, in San Francisco, where he as working. He didn't seem suspicious at all. He started talking about his day as usual as if nothing was out of the ordinary. We got onto the freeway at Van Ness and Dubuce and usually I would get into the the left lanes to go toward the Bay Bridge, but I stayed to the right onto 101. Milton seemed to think I was confused or something and was a little irritated, "Where are you going?" he asked.
"I'm taking you out to dinner for your birthday."
We drove toward the airport.
Milton kept wanting to know where we were going to dinner. I finally told him that I was taking him to dinner in Las Vegas. He seemed totally shocked and in disbelief. It was so much fun. In another hour, we would be in Vegas.
I saw Darlene, Roger, Nola, Donna Jean and nieces/nephews in Seattle back a few weeks ago when I flew up to Seattle for a week-end. I had not been anywhere for so long that finally I just had to get away even for a such a brief period. I have been working two jobs and so
almost every wk-end. Trying to coordinate with my jobs and Milton and Darlene and Roger, etc, was a real trick. I was disappointed that the one wk- end I could come up that Roger was not playing. We still had a good time going from one meal to another. We just ate and talked and ate some more.
(my Seattle trip was only $100.00 round trip).
Roger and Darlene still seem to be battling depression. It is too bad that they have to endure it. I feel pretty lucky that I rarely have problems with it- usually around February if at all. I think that for me it is related to the lack of sunshine. Of course my birthday is in Feb as well but I donÆt think that really affects me since I have quit aging a few yrs ago and am now eternally 39 like Jack Benny.
It is hard staying 39 though. I joined a gym about eight months ago and have lost a few pounds. I am doing about thirty minutes a day on a stairmaster machine and also playing with weights a little. Progress with weights seems very slow to me. My muscles just seem to get sore but never seem to get much bigger. Oh well.
Milton is still working his two jobs- both full time. He is working night shift at the US Post Office as a mail handler and when he gets off there in the morning he goes to his old job at the Holiday Inn as a housekeeper. He gets home about 6:30 and sleeps for a couple hrs and then starts all over again. I donÆt know how he does it on so little sleep but he likes the money and has paid off his debts.
I am working for Kaiser Permanente for my main job. I work four six hour shifts a week. I am an ôadvise nurseö which is totally different from anything I have ever done in the past. I give advise to people regarding medical, pediatric and ob-gyn. No psych! It has been a good learning experience. I sit at a computer and take calls and do a lot of typing. It is interesting just because it is so different and I am learning new stuff all the time but the best thing about it is that it is in Vallejo.
I am still picking up every other wk-end at my old job at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro. I enjoy the change and like to keep some direct contact with psych pts since that is what I have done all of my adult life. Sometimes I have hated it but when I donÆt do it at all, I kind of miss it. I think I am pretty good at it since I have so much experience and so I feel a little more competent than I sometimes feel at Kaiser.
Milton and I went on our first little camping trip in 1998. I had built a bed in the back of our Ranger and bought a tent, an air mattress and some other stuff. Milton had said that he had done all the camping that he could stand when he was in the army in Germany camping out in the snow. I kind of dragged him into this so I had to make it as comfortable as possible to differentiate the kind of camping we were going to do from the kind of camping that they did in the army. Essentially I insisted that we could be comfortable without spending a lot of money on hotel/motels and then be able to take more trips.
Our first little experimental trip was to Russian River which is about two hours from here. We went over a couple of weeks ago and looked at a couple of private camp grounds over there that were right on the river. We decided on one called Casini Family Camp Grounds because you could have electricity and cable t.v. right at many of the camp sites. I knew that the army probably did not provide those things so thought it would be a good place to start, easing into "camping."
One of the first things that I notice though was how close many of the camp sites were to one another. At first, I thought that several tents and trailers in a row were a family reunion or something like that but then realized that these were all separate campsites in a row. These were strangers all packed in right next to each other. We were lucky to find a site that was in some trees and by parking the truck in the front of the site and pitching the tent behind, we could have a little privacy. There were trees all around us and over us. It seemed very serene but...
The site was close to the bathrooms so late into the night we could hear the crunch of pebbles under feet as people came and went. Each time someone crunched up the road, Amber started growling. Also, although there were signs everywhere that people were supposed to be quiet after ten at night, there were some party animals that were pretty loud that I believe went later than ten. I wasn't sure because I didn't have a watch but again, when they got too loud, Amber would react. Sound really seemed to carry. I don't know if the water somehow increases the sound or what, but we could also hear traffic from a little bit of a distance on the country road until fairly late.
Bright and early in the morning the birds nesting in the trees above and around us started screeching. Pebbles started crunching again as people began their migration to the bathrooms. Children started playing and making noise.
All in all, I think someone from the City would have probably thought that this site was pretty quiet, but for us, our home is much quieter. We realized the trade-off of trying to have electricity and cable is that you have to be close to others. Still we enjoyed ourselves. Amber was exhausted by the time we got home.
This has not been much of a summer because of El Nino. It rained through most of the Spring and has been overcast many days. I have a couple of Art, Wine and Jazz festivals I am going to do soon. One is in Mountain View, one in Vallejo and one in Los Altos. I have a little booth and sell art, prints, cards, t-shirts, and refrigerater magnets. I don't make a lot of money at it but it is fun.
I am still supporting the V.A. in Palo Alto that continues to use my computer program. I have also received calls from some of the nurses at Saint Francis, where I used to work, asking how much it would cost for me to come back there and get their system up and running again. I have pretty much lost interest in my database stuff but have recently been thinking that it might be interesting to put it on the net. I already have several web pages but they are not interactive. I am thinking that I could put an interactive database on the net which nurses/hospitals could use in much the same way they did at Saint Francis or at the VA but which would require less support since it would originate at a webserver rather than locally at their hospital. People are much more computer savvy now than when I started doing this stuff.
For years, I would hear from nurses, "I went into nursing because I want to work with people, not computers." This was before most hospitals had changed over to the computer systems that became more prevelent years later. My program was on the cutting edge of nurses interacting with computers. Computers were not ubiquitus like they are today and there really was no such thing as "the internet" as we think of it today. Most nurses didn't type and all of their notes were hand written. My program changed that at Saint Francis, The Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Palo Alto Veteran's Aministration Hospital.
Friday night you want to go downtown, Spend my money at all the clubs around. Saturday night you want to do the same, but uh-uh baby, your driving me insane. I can't eat, I can't sleep at night Your the crack of my life. You what puts me right. I beg you just to spend the night, If you let me come, you know I'll feel alright. You my drug of choice, You know I need a hit- your worse than crack and all that shit. I can't eat, I can't sleep at night Your the crack of my life. You what puts me right. I don't pop no pills- I don't drink no wine, your my drug of choice- what makes me feel so fine. I don't smoke no weed- inject no speed, you the hypodermic needle that makes me bleed. You just laugh and tease- please, please baby put my soul at ease. I can't eat, I can't sleep at night- Your the crack of my life. You what puts me right.
My father's mother was in her nineties at the time she came to Washington State from Arkansas with two of my father's sisters. I flew up for a few days and we all met at Darlene's in Yakima. I had not really known my father's family much at all in my life. I don't remember Darlene, Roger or I ever receiving visits, phone calls, birthday cards or Christmas cards. Maybe it was because my mom had divorced our dad.
I remember talking to my mom about this when I was about 13, living in Escondido. I wondered why Darlene, Roger and I didn't have more of a relationship with my father's family and even wondered if it was our fault. At the time, I think I felt guilty for not reaching out to them more. She reminded me that we were the children and it was really up to these adults to take the initiative to make a relationship with us. I AM glad that my dad's family did have relationships with Donna, David and Hebert. I think Donna took the initiative to stay in touch with our grandparents and my dad's family and made several trips to Arkansas through her life.
This was a great "reunion" in 1995 and much fun, although I was banned from saying anything to my fundamentalist Baptist grandmother about being gay or having a black partner, lol. I understood, as she was in her 90's. My grandmother and aunts were very sweet and I loved visiting with them. Of course, my aunts and everybody else knew that I was gay and had a relationship with an African-American. Nobody else had any problem with that as far as I knew at the time.
As an adult, my uncle Pete and his wife, Hazel, visited me in San Francisco and years later, after Hazel had passed away, Pete and his son, Edward, joined Donna and her family and David and his family and Milton and I on a Mexican Riviera cruise. It was so delightful to spend the week with Pete. He reminded me so much of my dad and I could see where all of us get much of our humor. I am only sorry that I didn't know my dad's family better through the years. Other than Pete, I don't even know the names of many of my dad's siblings. I couldn't even tell you how many siblings he had. I have very few photos and have only had contact with Pete and Edward through the years.