Friday, July 18, 2014

What is the good news? Conversations in Community, thoughts on the gospel and Isaiah 61:1-3

Awakened and enlightened, I no longer live in the narrative construct of deception for the sake of profit among a people asleep to the good news of the gospel embodied in the deep love of God expressed in the life, ministry and witness of Jesus Christ.  I move as a “disruption” (Isaiah 63:1-3 NRSV) to this narrative and to those who embrace a necessary denial, even ignorance of that good news as a way of life in American Society.  They seek to define me within their limitations, seemingly denying any notion of identities beyond the norms established in support colonizationTheir language, reflecting what they have been indoctrinated in and now believe supports the constructs of limitation and scarcity on which capitalism rests.

Reflecting for a moment on the word disruption, defined here in terms of the Cross, I find that a certain politics of liberation emerges grounded in needs of the soul.  Disruption is a sacred response to the staid narrative embraced as a cradle of empire.  Disruption, as the initial call towards transformation, is received as a violation of empirical notions of socio-cultural, religious, political and theological responsibilities.  It is a violation of the relevant and the practical necessarily encountering the wrath of a people informed only by structures of colonization and profit formerly engaged as a form of the gospel, i.e. the good news, even the truth.  Living openly as an African American Transgender Woman I encounter people who profess Jesus Christ and the good news yet look the other way when I pass or threaten me with violence.  I ask the reader, “What is the good news?” Is the good news about liberation from empire and notions of colonization or is colonization and empire in the name of the Christ the good news?   Does the empire and those who support the empire as a matter of survival somehow see the empire as the embodiment of Jesus Christ and in this sense has the empire become the salvation for the colonized?  Shall the U.S. empire in particular be acknowledged as the "righteous" empire.  I suggest that some may embrace such.

So then, I encounter two narratives in my community regarding the good news.  I encounter those who embrace what I will characterize as a cave mentality, a restricted mental structure defined as normal or traditional in religious, culture and social existence.  The one indoctrinated in this way of being, encountering the “other” or those of critical difference, i.e. ideas, identities and concepts not reflecting the norm,  experience a time of fear, sin and evil inviting notions of the apocalypse.  They shun the “other” or critical difference as a threat to their world view.    They seek to embrace the simple denying the complexity of life.  Their faith, reflecting the exclusive and the normative soon mirrors the hatred they so often reject in the name of Jesus Christ.  On the other hand for the one who lives and embraces a community of liberation for all the good news is about embracing all people where there is no stranger only hospitality, their faith is inclusive, embracing all..  I often ponder how I could possibly translate each narrative so that it might be understood.  What words would I use, what actions?

Thinking further upon the act of translation, I am cognizant that the secular, referring here to the West, emerging out of sacred space beginning in the 16th century[1], now has the primary practicum of existence.  The sacred space, now considered marginal by some, even irrelevant, has become somewhat of a footnote, out of touch with daily human affairs, even considered primitive by some.  What I mean here is that there are multiple conversations regarding the good news which call for translation which must be engaged if a better world is to emerge.  That said, I suggest that the good news of the gospel, even the sure hope of Jesus Christ is more than the secular can hold or even comprehend.  The vast oppressions and hopelessness, a type of disenchantment which tends to define the secular space inhibits the secular making it unable to adequately visualize the good news or its own capability of the good news.  The secular reflects itself and without the sacred there is no hope for the secular.  The good news must not only be a theological discourse only in the sacred space but it must have standing in the secular space?  If we are to build a better world we must somehow embrace structures that embody the good news found in Isaiah 63:1-3 and in the life, ministry and witness of Jesus Christ.

[1] Talal Asad.  Trying to Understand French Secularism in Political Theologies, Pubic Religion in a Post Secular World, eds. Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan (New York, NY:  Fordham Press, 2006) p 497.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Transgender and race, an intimate conversation on socioeconomic's

Reflecting on life as a Black Transgender Woman I experience what it means to be black, transgender and seldom understood.  The people I encounter seemingly don’t have a clue about transgender.  They seemingly barely understand race.  So I find myself in somewhat of a pickle as I have learned that to live in the midst of limited understandings and imaginations of another is definitely a mental and spiritual health concern.  Shall I live for good mental and spiritual health yet be at risk of not attaining employment and a good living because of who I am?  I ponder what this means, to make a living while compromising who I am?  I am mindful that there are a significant number of trans folks who are highly educated yet chronically unemployed.    I don’t want or need to be in that statistic yet I am beginning to ponder this Trans reality.

I walk into a store or walk down the street and encounter various looks, stares  and emotions not knowing whether it is because I am Black or Transgender, or both.   There is this irrational need to put me in a category of male or female without the slightest possibility of something different.  I wonder if this is taught, learned or just a matter of indoctrination.   That said, I have become much more intentional in my cultural engagement, to somehow introduce a new consciousness through a different vocabulary.  I find it curious that people only encounter what affirms the limitations of their mindset not wanting anything or anyone to challenge that mindset.  What I mean is that the people I come in contact with encounter difference, not out of their desire for that difference but as a means of life challenging their mindset through people like myself who live life differently necessarily challenging the limitations of their mindset.  I remember meeting a person who told me, "they do that over there. I responded they do it over here also its just in the shadows."  His look was confusing, he didn't get it.  So, I wonder, is there a mode of translation, where who we are would be interpreted and understood even if we weren't embraced.  I ponder indeed!

I also attend various conferences and experience the division between the academy, i.e. school and the social justice, theological communities.  I am with black and people of color at “activist” conference and European American at the academic conferences.   In fact I am one of the few black transgender women in the academy.   As a minister I often wonder if the black transgender woman still feel somewhat unworthy due to theological concerns and what Franz Fanon termed white skin black masks.  Is it about self acceptance? 

I find that the European American transgender women I encounter have been fortunate to attain somewhat of a corporate professional identity while her black counterpart is still in the streets, on drugs and unemployed.  She works at IBM, Apple, Google and other corporate entities.  She is making her way. I recognize that this is a reality of the European American transwoman yet not the whole narrative.  In contrast the Black transwoman, even if she is highly educated and decorated, does have those experiences; in fact she has very little resources.  You might find her in the local church, the Tenderloin or strung out on drugs but not in the corporate professional context.  Now of course this is not the whole narrative, it is but a part yet it exists.  It is a reality in the transgender community.

So, as I look for work, with two master’s degrees, a certificate in Black Church Studies, a retired veteran and ordained clergy I ponder what the future might hold for me.  Sometimes I ponder what would my life look like if I were a European transgender woman.  That said, I find that I am somewhat frustrated by the blindness of people who only see the conversation of race.  Any other identity complex is seemingly a fad, a joke, and evil, something undeserving of respect.  Conversations beyond race are a matter of European American discourse.  I ask the reader, particularly if you are black or a person of color, “Is life here in the U.S. only about race.  Is race the only sacred conversation, I call you to ponder this question. 
As I ponder my transgender life and the lifes of my sisters I am clear that identity is a conversation on socio-economic realities and in this sense all facets of identity, i.e. gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity and the people we love are a conversation on socioeconomic realities. 

The Transgender Scholar: Awaken to your true and authentic nature or The Gr...

The Transgender Scholar: Awaken to your true and authentic nature or The Gr...: Systems and processes, and the people, who advocate and support such, no matter their sociocultural political outlook, become a mean...

Awaken to your true and authentic nature or The Great Commonwealth of Love, the ultimate desire of the Cosmic Divine Presence

Systems and processes, and the people, who advocate and support such, no matter their sociocultural political outlook, become a means to maintain peculiar separations for the sake of survival.   Survival, defined here as a construction of scarcity for the sake of the few has been a root cause of many oppressions heaped upon a humanity which daily struggles for liberation. Tribalism, division, and segregation interpreted here as deceptions have been a requiem for disaster causing much suffering and pain and grief.   In the midst of this most intimate of tragedies one must somehow find a hope within themselves, to awaken from this tragedy towards a renewed mind, heart and soul, they must desire to be awakened.   
Awakened, they become enlightened to their oneness with all creation which is the true and authentic nature of existence, this nature resting on a sure foundation of cosmic divine desire.  Cosmic divine desire is the source of all being.    This cosmic divine desire is enfleshed in what is called "A Commonwealth of Love."  It is a vehicle of that desire and the call of the human soul.  Having apprehended the oneness with all creation, the one who is awakened and enlightened embraces this Commonwealth of Love as a constant companion.  
For them love is the commonwealth of all creation and becomes the ground of their interaction with that creation.  Engaging difference and diversity becomes a means to experience the intimacy of this great commonwealth of love and in this there really isn’t any difference and as such no deception.  They live out of divine abundance understanding that all creation is but a reflection and embodiment of the divine presence and this as a matter of desire. 
Beloved, desire is the great host of imagination.  The divine presence desires companionship and mother earth, her children and the cosmos represent that desire.   Life then, defined in the context of relationship, is the ultimate desire of the divine presence.  As long as the divine presence longs for relationship, creation will continue to exist.   That said, whatever your heart desires is what you will receive and this of a mystical understanding since rarely does anyone ever fully know their heart beyond notions of the finite.  Beloved, desire is a constant universal which must be engaged, critiqued and interrogated if we are to take hold of this “Commonwealth of Love.”  The question for the reader is, "what is your desire and what is your desire grounded in?”  Is it grounded in worldly desires and the various constructions of scarcity or is it grounded in the divine presence which knows no lack?”  This is a question of the heart that must be pondered.
We now turn our attention to what I will call “mystical solidarity.”  Mystical solidarity, as a practical intimate concern, is the dynamic space within the Commonwealth of Love.    If the Commonwealth of Love is the framework or architecture, mystical solidarity represents the oneness of the divine-cosmic and the divine-human presence within that architecture, they move in solidarity or togetherness in the affairs of all creation.  Struggles for liberation, hope, freedom and justice, even life herself all contain mystical interaction.  Ok, let’s unpack this term.  The term mystical regards the transcendent; a negative space of mystery which resists definitions.  The mystical directly engages cosmic desire.  In a world which privileges the practical, and the easily understood as a matter of profit the mystical becomes a mental and even emotional stretch. As such, there is a particular uneasiness regarding the mystical and even the mystic as the sacred and the holy represent more and more the interaction of the cosmic-divine.  
That said, you and I, regardless of human constructions represent a mystical solidarity and in this sense we are the desire of the divine cosmic presence.  We are more than a tool of economic import for the sake of capital, culture and politics, we are the voice of divine cosmic desire, and we are its interaction.  You and I are the embodiment of mystical solidarity and in this sense we are the salvation, the transformation and the change we so long for.   This is the ultimate desire of the cosmic divine, that you and I would recognize our divine-human nature. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Creating a politics of Joy, thoughts and reflections on the problem of Immigration

I remember coming out as transgender and somehow choosing the name the most felt like me.  As I think back I remember giving it some thought, some reflection but clear that this was a religious/spiritual experience.  Since then, now over 15 years ago, I have come to appreciate the naming process as spirit filled and spirit led.  Each day, I am reminded that joy doesn’t emerge out of temporal concerns, situations, or challenges but in my relationship with the divine.  These are some tough days, looking for work, little money, a challenging transition and various other issues and concerns.  So now, thinking upon my name, Monica Joy Cross, particularly my middle name “Joy” provides a strange hope that compels me to hold my head high this day.

Joy is about endurance grounded in a peculiar faith rooted in the cross.   It could be said that Joy is a response to the deep intimate and cosmic love of God.  Joy is life, including the scars, bruises and upheavals, the challenges and concerns.  Joy, yes unspeakable joy is not juvenile or dismissive but, like God’s love, it is powerful, unflinching, and full of grace.  Joy does not bow to the circumstances or situations of life but overcomes the same through what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. termed divine intimacy.  According to King Divine intimacy[1] presents life as oneness with God.  Beyond yet inclusive of the philosophical it is a felt connection, it is emotional and real, a Pentecost reality in the life of the sojourner. 
That said, Joy recognizes that the divine material life is evermore transitory, fleeting, and must be approached with this knowledge.  And, because it is transitory and fleeting the sojourner is compelled by faith to affirm the complexity of divined material life.  In this context Joy becomes is an intersection of the everlasting and the temporal and in this sense sacred and holy.   Joy does not divorce me from  temporal life but compels me to engage the complex intersections of life.  Reflecting upon James 1:1-9 (NRSV); I am mindful that trials, tribulations and temptations present divine material life as a plane of the complex for the maturing of the soul with the end goal of a joy that is complete.  

I am mindful that I live in a world of systems and processes developed to protect me from the elements, and as a society we spend a significant amount of blood and treasure pursuing this end.   The consequences of this narrative are, I suggest, ongoing human conditions that, at times create more problems than it actually solves.  The current humanitarian crisis on the U.S. Mexican border would be an example.  Immigration, at one time a source of pride and hospitality, even a joyous occasion is now a tool of rejection and sorrow meant to keep America “safe” from people seeking to liberate themselves from a drug war engineered and designed by a republican political regime seeking to support the Iran-Contra Affair i.e. the Reagan Doctrine. 
That said, joy is fully experienced as we engage in real authentic hospitality.  It seeks the fullness of divine interaction within the complexity of the temporal and in this sense joy is a most inclusive endeavor.   In other words joy embraces the oneness embodied in the interaction of the divine and the temporal.  In light of James 1:1-9 how do we engage immigration?  What does it mean, particularly if you embrace the teaching of Jesus Christ?  A further question that is raised is, “Shall the politics be the enemy of hospitality?”   More to the point, “how do we create a politics that is welcoming to the immigrant, to those who still see the United States as the last great hope for the world?”  Finally, shall grace be shed on a people who deny the hope of so many longing for their day of jubilee?  I submit to the reader that only Joy can answer this question.

Monica at Albany, California July 4, 2014

[1] Steward Burns.  To the Mountaintop, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Sacred Mission to Save America 1955-1968 (San Francisco, CA, 2004) 48