Archive for October, 2018

Resistance Lectionary Part 18: Rest in Power

Today’s citation: Wisdom 3:1-8

Over the last few years as the police executions of black people have gained more media attention, the phrase “Rest in power” has risen in prominence as well.

Exploring the genesis of this phrase is tricky, but most sources I found claimed that it was becoming widely used in the hip hop scene of the ‘80s. It is most obviously a challenge to the phrase “Rest in peace,” which implies that the souls of the departed attain peace in the afterlife, resting from their labours on earth. This notion is supported by the passage we read today, as Christians prepare for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

“Rest in power” can most often be found in the unjust and untimely deaths of marginalized groups and/or activists who perish due to violence directed at them for their status or positions. It has been used in reference to Trayvon Martin, Malcolm X, Leelah Alcorn, and Heather Heyer. Several of the sources I explored suggested that it was an “ultra-left” phrase that implied that such deaths were “in power” because they continued to exert influence through the social movements surrounding them.

Naming this phrase as “ultra-left” seems short-sighted. The idea that the dead can still influence the living is an ancient belief that cannot be labeled politically as such. Our earliest forebears practiced ancestor worship, and many cultures continue to do so. One could even make an argument that veneration of the saints is a form of ancestor worship, and the parallels are made pretty clear in syncretistic faiths like Santería. Looking at this phrase through the lens of the saints proves to us that whether we believe in the worship of ancestors or not, it is foolish to suggest that a dead person has no ability to influence the living. To say “Rest in power” is one way to pray for this influence to continue.

“Rest in power” is also a way to name the circumstances in which the person died. It can imply that there will be no peace for the dead until the injustice which led to the death is rectified. This, too, is a powerful type of prayer, a prayer that in a way reflects the image of souls “running like sparks through the stubble” of our world.

This All Saints’ Day, we pray for both peace and power, for love and justice, for the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant, knowing that each one of us will one day enter into the loving arms of God.

“Crying for Justice,” (Sermon, October 28th 2018)

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:46-52


Something folks might not know about me is that I’m a true crime nut. I freely admit that my perfect day is not hiking a mountain or cycling the Sea Wall or scintillating conversations with friends. Unfortunately for my own health, my perfect day is sitting on my couch alone with some sort of craft project listening to investigative true crime podcasts. The flesh is definitely weak.

A podcast I’ve grown to enjoy quite a lot is CBC’s “Someone Knows Something,” which explores long unsolved cases where despite oft sensational cases there is at best little evidence, or, at worst, the community surrounding the crime is close-lipped and suspicious.

Season Three of SKS is perhaps the most infuriating for these reasons. In May of 1964, in the heat of the American Civil Rights Movement, two young black men, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Dee, were abducted and tortured by the Ku Klux Klan and tossed bound and alive into the Mississippi River. Their bodies were only discovered in July of that year when the FBI were searching for three civil rights workers who disappeared the month before. David Ridgen explains that he decided to explore the case after watching a 1964 segment of a CBC film Summer in Mississippi which showed the police discovering the bodies of Moore and Dee. The director of the film, Beryl Fox, intones, “It was the wrong body. The finding of a negro male was noted and forgotten. The search was not for him. The search was for two white youths and their negro friend.”

After the discovery, the FBI interrogated two suspects, who were arrested in November of 1964, but the prosecutor discovered insufficient evidence and so the case was dropped by local authorities, some of whom were complicit in the crime, and forgotten.

After resurrecting the case, the two suspects were re-examined, and one of them, James Ford Seale, who was still alive and living un-harassed in the community, was convicted. The families of Moore and Dee also sued Franklin County and received a settlement. The case was a victory, especially for Charles Eddie Moore’s brother, Thomas James Moore, who features prominently in the podcast.

Not everyone in town felt this way, of course.

One person interviewed a couple of times is Marylou Webb, owner and editor of the Franklin Advocate newspaper. In a voice like a sweet Southern grandmother’s, she rails against the re-opening of the case in an editorial, calling it “beating a dead dog.” For what it’s worth her husband David Webb was listed as publicity director for Americans for the Preservation for The White Race in 1964, which supported the KKK and segregation.

What’s most germane to today’s passage is what happens when Thomas Moore, who has come with Ridgen to return a photograph to Marylou, asks her about a false story she referenced in the editorial on his brother’s death, as well as the lack of general coverage on the case in her paper.

Marylou bristles. “I am a champion of the people, not just for one guy who’s still got something going. You need to take that chip off your shoulder.”

“I ain’t got no chip on my shoulder,” Thomas insists, but she snaps back, “Yes, you do.”

Later, she says to David that Thomas needs to “shut up and go on and let’s all try to live together.”

I would love to ask Ms. Webb if she would be willing to shut up and go on if it were her brother or sister who was tortured and dumped alive and screaming into a river to be ignored for forty years.

Blind Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is coming and wants to be healed – not an unreasonable demand, it’s kind of Jesus’ thing – and is told (sternly, the text says!) to hush. God bless him, he refuses to be silenced. He cries out all the louder to be seen, to receive justice, to be welcomed into the community.

It seems oppressed people have to do very little, sometimes nothing at all, to draw condemnation from others. Black boys are shot for being in the wrong neighbourhood. Black girls and women are policed at work and school for their hairstyles. Gay couples are harassed for holding hands. Trans people are attacked using the bathroom. Women are told to accept street harassment as “a compliment.” Indigenous peoples are told to shut up about their own history of past oppressions like biological warfare, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop, and current oppressions like mass incarceration, missing and murdered women, and battles over land and environmental policies.

Lest we wonder if God is much for respectability politics, we are given very big indicators of whose side we should take.

First of all, Bartimaeus is noted as “son of Timaeus.” Why does Mark include this detail, when none of the other Gospels even mention Bartimaeus at all? The name “Timaeus” means “honour.” So Bartimaeus is “son of the honoured one.” Maybe Bartimaeus is already a child of God.

Bartimaeus also does not simply use Jesus’ name, but adds “Son of David.” This shows us clearly that Bartimaeus, despite being blind, understands who Jesus really is, while the disciples in the Gospel of Mark still have trouble figuring this out.

Source: Wikipedia

And again, while the disciples are caught up in the fight over who should sit at Jesus’ right hand, and the rich young man is caught up in his own attachment to his many possessions, Bartimaeus immediately follows Jesus on The Way to Jerusalem. In fact, they reach the city in the very next passage.

Strangely, we don’t hear about Bartimaeus afterward. Did he also forsake and flee? Or did he like Jesus make a nuisance of himself with the authorities and end up punished? We don’t know. For Mark, the mechanics don’t really matter. It is enough to say “he followed on the way.”

Maybe he is not included among the list of disciples later because, in a sense, he is already an Apostle. Having experienced great hardship as a blind man, and having been liberated through the healing touch of God’s Anointed One – a healing touch which is offered only at his explicit request rather than paternalistically imposed by Jesus – he got it.

The others don’t.

What does that mean for the rest of us?

We should note that Bartimaeus had little to lose and everything to gain. Some of us have much to lose, and therefore it may feel like we have less to gain. When you advocate for a group that is not your own, the group you’re in may mark you as a traitor.

It’s a bigger risk.

I think we can take inspiration from Bartimaeus’s courage, but we can also take some inspiration from the humility of Job.

Job was a rich man who had everything. After some prodding of God by The Adversary, the translation of the Hebrew word “Satan,” God decides to test Job’s faith. It’s problematic, even unfair, but it pushes us to grapple with big questions and difficult truths, and for that reason I think the Book of Job is an invaluable text.

After chapters and chapters of complaining and defensiveness, Job finally admits his own dependence on God. Let’s not see this as a kid admitting wrong after a spanking, but an admission that one’s relationship of trust with the Creator of the universe should not be contingent on one’s station in life.

So let us all turn to the Creator and admit that all of us need healing. Healing from societally imposed ills and oppressions, and from the everyday lack of vision that prevents us from living wholly with gratitude, humility, and patience.

It’s not about pointing fingers. Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he should do, implying that there are many things from which he could be liberated, and he will free him from any or all of them.

So it is with us.

Let our prayer be this:

That when we are Bartimaeus, we may have the courage to speak our truth with strength.

And when we are the crowd surrounding Bartimaeus, may we be given the insight to just crowd-surf him right into the arms of the Beloved, who breaks all chains and heals all wounds.

140 Characters for Salvation (Letters from the Coast)

I refused, refused, refused for so long.

What’s the point? I wondered. I still have email. I still have a phone. I don’t know if I have the energy to learn how to navigate this weird new universe.

But eventually, I bit the bullet.

I signed up for Facebook.


I can remember those earlier days when everything would just come tumbling out. Your thoughts, your fears, your private musings, a thousand photographs which you wouldn’t want an employer to see but that was okay, because back then it wasn’t as common to search for someone’s profile if you were an employer – and most of us were stuck in dead-end jobs anyway so who cared what you did with your weekends? This was 2007 and Facebook was a paradise for the young and the loud.

It didn’t take long before I started using it to share the Gospel, although a lot of people might not have seen it that way. I wasn’t so much into sharing Bible quotes or passive-aggressive “Click this if you love Jesus” memes. Mostly, I shared articles. Articles about God, Jesus, Scripture, and eventually different social issues. A lot of them I got from a Facebook group called “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented.” I figured it would be a whiny defensive liberal haven, where the primary argument was “I’m not mean and nasty like those evangelicals!” But it wasn’t. It was surprisingly measured and educated. It was thoughtful and reverent. I liked what they had to say.

Over time, I had more folks reaching out to tell me they liked what I shared, and they liked my commentary on it. It felt strange to get these messages, especially because many of them came from folks I didn’t really connect with, people I had friended after meeting once or twice to be polite. This contributed to a sense of odd pride. I was part of a new breed: the Millennial social-media Christian, the one who used all the tools at their disposal to share God.

Elders in the church found me fascinating.

But soon, I ran into difficulty. I started my discernment process to become a priest and a few of my older friends, who had begun to come onto Facebook, called me crude and coarse. They said I shared too much, and needed to build what they called “gravitas.”

They couldn’t really explain to me what they meant by that, at least not in a way that I remember absorbing fully.

I bristled at the time, felt like most young people who are certain they are being told “You would be so great if you weren’t so…young.” Nowadays, however, I can see what they meant. There are things I shared publicly that back then I thought I would be happy to share with the world, but now make me cringe.

This, plus an awareness that the platform was becoming addictive to me, made me take a step back. I still posted frequently, but tried to limit the amount of time I would sit back hitting refresh over and over. I tried to curate myself more. It felt terribly awkward at first, like being the parent of a toddler trying to substitute for dirty words. What was actually okay to share? Was it really that bad that I swore a lot? This article is about sexuality – is that okay to share? What about this one about consent? What about this one about the pink tax on menstrual products?

Most of this really had to do with growing up, and since my twenties I’ve become at least slightly more self-contained.

Not everyone needs to know everything. And I didn’t need to know everything about everyone else.


Once again, I held out for as long as possible, and then finally gave in.

My first tweet was in November of 2012.

It was “Twitter is still stupid.”

I did it for a seminary project with a friend. During Lent of 2013 we did an art installation and preaching series in my field education parish, where we would sit at the back and tweet quotes and reflections from the sermon. It really boiled my blood back then – I had been vehemently anti-phone during worship before. But it was kind of fun, inviting an invisible hoarde into our service to hear the words we were hearing.

Like with Facebook, I soon began to enjoy it, and eventually I began to like Twitter even more than Facebook. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping one’s thoughts succinct. I liked that news stories would break there first. I started to officiate Compline and then Morning Prayer on the platform, with friends following along.

I could share short pieces, and eventually threads.


Everything changed with the 2016 election.


Suddenly, engagement felt imperative. I lived in a bubble, but my meatspace bubble was just as constrictive as my online one, maybe even more.

I got into arguments on Facebook, but they were mostly silly, fragile people taking issue with the most benign pronouncements and suggestions.

I began to switch to Twitter. It was so easy to find activists there, so easy to find voices unlike my own. They all had an opinion and I gobbled them up. Then I spat out my own.

I was given a few tools at seminary for expanding my politics. Twitter exploded my head open. So many new terms, so many new concepts. It was all fascinating, and eventually, exhausting.

Everything was an opportunity for anger and disillusionment. That rush of self-righteous rage, which started out being rather healthy for a person who rarely allowed themselves to experience anger at all, again became addictive. I felt constantly on edge, constantly searching for someone to criticize either aloud or in my head.

One day, I decided, I had had enough.

I had already realized that I was not to allow myself to go on Twitter after about 9pm, or I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. Facebook was likewise becoming a haven for older folks and other people who were carefully curating their lives online in a way that constantly made me feel like a schlub even as I obviously did it myself.

I was done.

I posted a farewell to social media, which can also be viewed on this blog.

I didn’t deactivate either Facebook or Twitter. Facebook was needed for work, and Twitter shared my blog posts. I reasoned that my followers, who had become a source of support and dialogue since I finally opened up my profile, might want to hear from me, although I didn’t make assumptions.

But like so long ago I received several messages, some from friends and some from relative strangers, expressing sorrow that I was leaving, because of how much they enjoyed my posts and the shared articles.

I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.

Social media always felt a little like yelling into a void, even when I felt at my most connected.

But it isn’t.

It isn’t.


I’ll still be here, on the periphery.

I can only imagine how our world will continue to evolve.

Resistance Lectionary Part 17: Citizens of God

Today’s citation: Ephesians 2:19-22, 3:7-13

If I ever have cause to explain how it was that I became radicalized, I’ll say, “Blame seminary and Twitter. Oh, and my mother.”

My mother’s work among the marginalized, particularly when she was employed at the Dr. Peter Centre, primed the pump for my discovery that society was far less than perfect.

Seminary started the pump in earnest when I took a course on Canadian history and my class read the Bryce Report, which laid out in horrific detail the abuses of the residential school system. Although I had considered myself slightly more educated about the residential schools than the average population at the time, there was still so much I didn’t know.

Forced starvation experiments. Dental surgery without anesthetic on cafeteria tables. The unmarked graves of the children who never came home, many of whom are still lost to their families.

I stopped singing the National Anthem for about a year. I couldn’t do it. Everything I had thought my country stood for was a lie.

Other folks criticized my position for a number of reasons. None of their criticisms rang true for me. For me it was simple: I would no longer take part in what I now saw as an idolatrous practice.

Eventually I got into an argument with someone over whether there was a difference between “nationalism” and “patriotism.” To me, there was no longer.  The whole idea of nationhood is a joke when it comes about through one group arriving uninvited and simply staking a claim to land on the bones of millions of dead indigenous peoples and broken promises.

Christianity was given an amazing opportunity when it gained entrance to the halls of the Empire. That opportunity was squandered once we got that taste of power. Like any human, we grasped and held and conquered, seeking our own glory before God’s.

If Christians talked about personal power the way we talked about sex, we’d be in a very different place in history right now.

Maybe the first step is recognizing our status as citizens of God’s kingdom before any other kingdom.

What matters isn’t the label on our passport. What matters is the sign on our hearts.

Reclaiming Church Militant (Letters from the Coast)

Every summer at a parish where I once worked, the organist would arrange for a series of Sundays where the hymns were all “by request.” Parishioners could fill out a form with their favourite hymns and be relatively sure to hear them throughout the summer Sundays.

Every year, without fail, one parishioner requested “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” and every year I would stumble through it with clenched teeth.

Despite the fact that I’m a Millennial who grew up in a mainline church, I do remember singing this hymn as a kid. It always seemed bizarre, a relic from a time utterly foreign to me. Now, to a proudly post-Christendom whippersnapper who is pretty vehemently anti-military industrial complex, it grinds my gears even harder.

North America already did the “recruit people from the pulpit” thing in the early twentieth century, and it gave us a huge drop in congregational numbers in those thousand-yard-stare Sundays immediately after the armistice of World War I. Those who managed to clamber out of the disease-riddled trenches resented the preachers who had encouraged them and their friends to spill their blood (and split their lungs with mustard gas) for their country in muddy fields far from home, and turned their backs on it for a long time.

It was much later, after World War II, that North American veterans and their families sought peace in churches again. The church, having learned its lesson, attempted to defang itself and become more of a sanctuary for the soul than a foundry for refining disciples.

“Church Militant” had become “Church Comfortable,” probably even “Church Complacent.”

This is not to say that the church of the ‘50s did not have strong disciples within; far from it. But over the years there was a slow uncoupling of one’s faith from one’s political stance and everyday public life. Churches were full, but of whom? Good people who helped their communities – never to be scorned, but primarily representing the baseline requirement for responsible citizenship.

Nowadays, those very people lament the lack of children and youth among them, and ask, “What went wrong?” At the parish I mentioned above, the constant refrain was, “Did you know we used to have the largest Sunday School in Canada?”

That’s nice, I would think. What happened to all those children?

Where are they now?


Later, of course, Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches began to thrive in the ‘70s. The quiet and polite theo-psychology of the mainline churches was not proving enough to fill souls hungry for transcendence. Folks wanted not only a sense of an unseen world but a politically relevant faith with clear answers as the world shifted on its axis into a time of questioning and deconstruction after the roiling ‘60s. Rules were strict, much was demanded, comfort was sacrificed, and magical metaphysics like faith healing and speaking in tongues were welcomed.

Fighting and challenging sin was trendy, but over time became a tremendous source of abuse and alienation. The church demanded people make choices they couldn’t make. While it encouraged people to once again wed their faith to their politics, it also began a very dangerous dance with power.

We all know where it ended.


“Church Militant” is not just a phrase I invented to make a point in the cheeky statement above. It is actually part of a concept called “the three states of the church” prevalent in Roman Catholic theology. The three states are: Church Militant, Church Penitent, and Church Triumphant.

Church Militant refers to the earthly church, the one which struggles against the “principalities and powers” of this world. Many Christians interpret this adversary in metaphysical terms, as Satan or sin or the works of darkness.

Although my beliefs on evil have evolved significantly in the last few years, I don’t think this metaphysical interpretation is sufficient on its own to describe the struggles of Church Militant. Principalities and powers are not merely metaphysical, but also decidedly physical. All around us exist poverty, violence, greed, material as well as spiritual warfare. All around us exist narratives which compete with and even seek to destroy God’s narrative of a world made holy in the shadow of the Cross. It is against these powers that we are called to struggle and strive. God gives us a choice when we are confronted with The Adversary (the actual meaning of the word Satan), and it is this choice in which we can claim righteousness.

And perhaps, also, we are called to struggle internally as an institution, to constantly be battling our own inclination to be power-hungry and exclusive.

As an Anglican, and especially as an Anglican of Celtic, Gaelic, and Anglo-Saxon ethnicity, I carry within me a reverence for our ancestors, especially the saints. These are the members of the Church Triumphant, the ones whose struggles have ended and now take their place at God’s side. These are wedded to the earthly church, through the work of Christ. They give me strength as I strive. They polish my armour and wipe my tears. They raise their voices with me through the fray.

But I hear a different hymn than “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

Advancing through the lines, bearing not a battle standard but only my own wounded flesh, I murmur to myself words from John Bell of the Iona Community:

“The narrowness of vision and of mind, the need for other folk to serve my will

And every word and silence meant to hurt: these I lay down.

Of those around in whom I meet my Lord, I ask their pardon and I grant them mine,

that every contradiction to Christ’s peace might be laid down.”

Resistance Lectionary Part 16: Take up your cross

Today’s citation: Matthew 16:24-28

I get my hair cut at a trendy Kitsilano salon by a glorious ex-punk who is always full of questions about my work as a priest. She was raised Roman Catholic and is more than a little critical of the faith nowadays.

One day we started talking about the cringeworthy phrase “God helps those who help themselves.”

I laughed and said, “So many people in the world think that phrase is in the Bible.”

I looked up at her in the mirror and saw her eyes were big as dinner plates.

“It’s not?!”

For posterity, dear reader, no. It’s not. Anywhere.

Now the notion pops up in one or two narratives. There are quite a few trickster figures and resourceful folks who are blessed for their ingenuity. But it is far more common to find God blessing those who are cursed by their families or community. Think of Sarah, Hagar, or Hannah. Think of Mary Magdalene, beset by seven demons, or Zacchaeus, loathed for his profession. God’s blessing and comfort to the reviled and persecuted is one of the truly common threads running through Scripture. It’s important to note that not all of these figures are rewarded for their strong faith. It is enough that they are in distress, and uniquely marginalized.

We should not take this as license to live lives in squalor and agony. If we accept that for ourselves it is too easy to expect it of others, and to romanticize rather than stand in solidarity with the marginalized. But we should be compelled by the life of Christ and his disciples – sent out with nearly nothing, dependent on the communities to which they traveled – to spurn the toxic idea that success in life is measured in wealth or independence from others, that it is only earned through aggressiveness and political maneuvers, that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.

This is more than the tired trope that “money doesn’t buy happiness.” This is a call to be willing to ruin the dinner parties of the rich, a call to hold unpopular opinions, a call to associate with the embarrassing and the awkward.

What’s on the line is so much more important than a spot in heaven.

We are not called to perform good works for a future reward.

We are called to be good, because it is God’s desire for us.

Dusk Child, Part 4 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the final part in a four-part series on my journey through gender identity and the claiming of my pronouns.



Now, several years after that tearful admission in the chapel, pronoun checks have become common in certain spaces. My friends are the most beautiful patchwork quilt of identities: gay, lesbian, two-spirit, trans, nonbinary, ace, demi, genderfluid. More and more of them have begun to use “they/them.”

But it still doesn’t feel right to me, and neither does that long-ago “ze.”

I start to wonder if I’ll ever find the right one.

Until I do.

My name.

It is the sum total of who I am. It is wholly mine, somehow both expansive and particular, boundless but succinct. It is nothing more than me, but so much more than the carefully cropped pastures of “he” or “she.”

I think this is the end of it, and yet I still hesitate.

It took me more than thirty years to claim this, more than thirty years to surface from the depths of my inner sea with this hard-won pearl.

It feels impossible and tiresome to explain, and so I rarely bother. I keep it to myself in many public settings. I stumble over my own pronouns at home, so long have I been conditioned to fold myself into the appropriate envelope. Straight and cis friends ask with such gentle hospitality if I want them to use my name as the pronoun and the openness of their love feels utterly unearned. Trans and genderfluid friends use my name effortlessly and I feel so seen.

One day we have a Clergy Day on trans identity, and my colleagues are introduced to the term nonbinary. I feel prompted to stand and explain that they know a nonbinary person: me. I am terrified but it feels right.

When I sit down, my phone is lit up with supportive texts from other people in the room.


I still stumble over my own self-image. The paradigm of my youth feels so very hard to shed. While I am often read as queer, being married to a man and visibly feminine means I am often invisible. I constantly question my own sense of self. Am I really bi? Am I really NB? Or am I just trying to be “special?”


The world is changing around me, and yet I am not quite ready to share my pearl with just anyone. The church, where I give (and receive) so much of myself, is still trying to make sense of these new cultural movements. It’s not always safe for me.

So like my sexuality, my gender remains in my pocket most of the time.


But perhaps one day, I will feel brave and certain enough to hang it on a pendant.

Resistance Lectionary Part 15: Question Everything

Today’s citation: 1 Samuel 8:4-22

One of the most notorious new movements in Christianity to rise within the last century is “prosperity theology,” the notion that personal wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, and that it can be gained by faith in God and financial support of the right churches. It first came to prominence in the 1950s in the US and can be most clearly seen in the televangelism movement of 1980s. It has since spread throughout the world, and is particularly popular, troublingly, in nations where poverty is widespread.

This guy…
Source: Wikipedia

While it is not fair to say the notions behind the movement are totally unscriptural, many mainstream denominations, with very good reason, proclaim it as exploitative and even heretical. And indeed, many arguments can be made that the lifestyles promoted by leaders like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and Paula White are surely not what Jesus had in mind for Christian leaders who are commissioned to ‘take up their crosses.’ Particular Bible verses favoured by prosperity theologians, especially Matthew’s parable of the talents, are heavily cited while others criticizing the rich or urging moderation are routinely ignored. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, writing in the July 2018 Jesuit journal La Civilità Cattolica, compared prosperity theology to a reductive version of the American Dream.

Prosperity theology is only one movement among many that have sought to wed faith to glorification of the status quo. The Bible actually holds a multitude of opinions about monarchy, economics, and social justice, and its positions on which one is “the best” or “God’s will” is not at all clear. One thing is certain: the writer of this portion of the saga of Samuel, Saul, and David is not what you could call wholly supportive of the idea of kingship for the People of God. They want a king to be “like other nations,” but this was never God’s intent for them. They were supposed to buck the trends, be set apart. Samuel’s prophecy contains criticism of the entire notion of a king. Monarchy leads to inequality between people, and this was not God’s desire.

As people of faith we too are called to buck the trend. We’re called to be critical of the narratives that drive our society. There is nothing particularly prophetic about the idea that the wealthy are blessed. “Just world theory” is an ancient belief parroted by spiritual infants, and every day we are given evidence that it is not a sufficient conveyor of ultimate truth, and indeed isn’t particularly healthy either. We are called by the Creator of all things – from slugs to stars – to question the assumptions of society, to seek growth, to embrace mystery. We are called to place radical self-giving, to place Love, made manifest in a convicted criminal desolate on a cross, on the throne of our hearts.

Dusk Child, Part 3 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the third entry in a series of four on gender identity and my journey toward claiming my pronouns.

Click here for Part 1 or here for Part 2.



Later, I begin to feel more comfortable in my body. I hit grade 12 and buy new clothes. I cut my hair again – not too short, not too long. I wear a black spaghetti strap tank top on class picture day.

It feels like a coup.

Over time, I begin to discover my own style. I don’t feel so awkward in dresses and skirts, although I still prefer pants.

In university I go through a punk phase. A few years after graduation I go through a Goth phase. I purge clothes and gather more.

At a certain point I have to buy “work clothes.” Sometimes I am classically feminine, in flowery dresses and elaborate handmade jewelry. Sometimes I’m butch and wear vests and black lace-up boots. Sometimes I wear makeup. Mostly I don’t. My hair changes year to year as I go through a variety of punk and post-punk styles. For two years I have a buzz cut and I love it.

I marry a beautiful man who loves me and my curves and my music and all of my brokenness and all of my wobbly scraped-together strength, who loves me in dresses and jeans.

Eventually I gain weight from stress, hormones, sedentary jobs and my own tendency to get lost in thought while doing nothing in particular. It makes me even curvier.

It’s so difficult to find clothes that fit. Designers assume that a person of my chest and hip size must be big all over, built like a linebacker or one of those exercise balls people sit on. My breasts grow until I have to buy specialty bras, but my shoulders and back stay small. My hips are wide but my waist is still narrow. I am still an hourglass. Plus-size clothes often hang in odd places or are obnoxiously bright and colourful, as though fat women have somehow waived any right to subtlety and minimalism.

Sometimes I have periods of intensely masculine feelings. I tinker with a fantasy story I’m writing and realize that I don’t know if I’m attracted to my male antagonist or if I want to be him. Sometimes I discover I’ve pitched my voice low and adopted a self-consciously courtly tone with young women. In my head, I sound like my father. The ‘g’s come off the end of my gerunds. I chuckle and make dirty jokes. I want to protect these women, want them to feel safe around me, as though they would have any reason to feel otherwise.


Waves of emotion crash over me as I stare at the “ze”. I feel confused by the intensity, but can’t resist it. I run into the chapel and cry silently, still holding onto the paper.

I never even knew I held this kind of power over myself until it was unceremoniously handed to me.


I go to seminary. I encounter so many new concepts. I discover the term “genderqueer.” In my dark honeycomb of caves, someone takes my lighter and switches it for a flashlight.

I start to use the term. Most of the people around me have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m asked to explain it before I even fully know what it means myself.

A few years later, I discover the term “nonbinary.”

Now I don’t just have a flashlight in the dark.

Now I have a map.

Resistance Lectionary Part 14: Forgiven

Today’s citation: Jonah 4:2-11

I cannot read any part of the narrative of Jonah without laughing. He is one of my favourite characters in the Hebrew Bible specifically because he is the most human. He wants nothing to do with God’s mission for him and flees in the opposite direction from where he is meant to go – as though there is a place to flee from God! This is only capped off by his hilariously childish (and completely familiar!) response to the withering of his bush buddy at God’s hand. I feel like both Jonah and God are worthy of sympathy in this story!

We shouldn’t take Jonah’s reluctance too lightly, however. The people of Nineveh were feared by the Jewish people for their brutal violence. Jonah would have been more than happy to watch them perish in a hail of fire like Sodom, and yet he is forced to deal with God’s unending mercy.

I think the funniest moment in the whole story is when Jonah shouts, “That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” Imagine being angry at the God who chooses to forgive rather than punish! But indeed, even our laughter here should be a bit nervous.

The hardest part of the Christian faith is the call to forgive. There are those who misuse the concept, using the word as a battering ram against victims of violence and a balm for their abusers. But forgiving someone does not necessitate that you allow them to walk all over you again. Truly transformative, holy forgiveness cannot be coerced. It is much more difficult than that. It is a re-claiming of the power that was stolen, and while it can be achieved without meeting the abuser face-to-face, it is far more effective if the abuser participates by owning their violence. True forgiveness should inspire shame and redemption on the part of the abuser, and a sense of liberation and freedom on the part of the abused. It must be freely chosen, or it is not forgiveness at all.

And from God, it is accessible to everyone, even those who are least deserving.

It is nearly impossible for humanity – and yet nothing is impossible with God.