Recreation of The Last Supper: Johnny’s Cafe remix

20120420-193015.jpg

Here’s a recreation of The Last Supper at Johnny’s Cafe on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan. April 20 2012.

From Left to Right: Daniel VandeBunte, Kit Graham, Hannah Chee, Annie Bultheis, Seth Wilson, Emily Diener, Joe Gibson, Walter T. Runn, Kaile VanOene, Linda Anderson, Cotter Koopman, and Peter Rockhold. With great thanks to all participants! ūüôā

Writing Faith Workshop begins, Feb 10, 5-8pm, Whitehorse United Church

¬† How do you write about your “faith”?¬† How do you describe the indescribable, the ineffable, the otherworldly? the grief or joy or miracle or peace or disappointment that you have because of your faith?¬† Everyone can argue about the value or lack of value in “religion”–and it’s an easy connect-the-dots to create your own pictures of what organized religion has done in the world.¬† It’s harder to write about personal faith or your personal interactions with religion–what keeps you going, what happened to you that you know no one would believe, about the anguish of trying to live in a real, faulty, fragile world, when others ask you to strive for peace, patience, happiness, even joy.

This writing workshop will explore how people write about these very personal experiences, or their thoughts about faith and religion and its very real presence in their lives, or the lives of those around them.¬† We’ve had students write about their relationships with their parents, their children, their grandchildren, experiences in nature, in confronting others who aren’t on the same page.¬† We have had students who are believers, non-believers, unsure, people of various faiths.¬† All faiths are welcome–come with what’s important to you, open to what is important to others. This isn’t a dogma class.¬† It’s not a class to teach you from the top down.¬† It’s for you to teach us from the ground up through your experiences, your writing.

Continue reading

My short piece in Geez Magazine #24, “Privilege” issue, on coming out

Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine.¬† I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them.¬† But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”.¬† I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church.¬† I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.

The church has to change.  It has to.  It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further.  It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.

Not all churches–no.¬† (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards inclusion, social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights.¬† You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the monolithic Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut.¬† One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.¬† You will convince other churches that focusing on discrimination is not the answer.)

Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24.¬† If this brings you to Talking Dog, welcome.¬† There’s lots there, I hope, that will spark conversation.¬† If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez.¬† There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well.¬† It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen.¬† It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.

I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.

*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.

“…his cultivation of genuine menace…”: a review of “One Nation Under Gods” at Portal

Val Grimm, over at the Portal, gave me a good review for my short story, “One Nation Under Gods”!¬† Thanks, Val.¬† I’m always thrilled that there are people who will review short fiction, and anthologies.¬† Thank you, Val!¬† Val reviews the whole anthology, Tesseracts 14, story by story.¬† Here is his review of mine:

The author of ‚ÄúOne Nation Under Gods‚ÄĚ, Jerome Stueart, emigrated to Yukon from the States in 2007, and his former citizenship is evident in the themes and content of his story. I‚Äôm not biased in its favor because of my nationality, nor simply because its dark vision seems in concord with my fears. This story succeeds, in my eyes, because of his detailed worldbuilding, the realistic relationship between the narrator and his sister, and his cultivation of genuine menace, an evocation of the way people can be treated as things. In the world of this story (which in outlook and some tropes puts me a bit in mind of Steve Darnall and Alex Ross‚Äô 1997 comic Uncle Sam) concepts like Freedom and Patriot are incarnate as deities, administered by priests and priestesses, and the Statue of Liberty herself is known to walk abroad. The history of the gods is the history of the country, and its people are required to memorize that catechism or pay with their lives in particularly grotesque ways; if a child fails the standardized test which is a mandated rite of passage, he or she is transformed into a public object, anything from a soda shop to a garbage can. Stueart skillfully incorporates the conflict between individuality and vested religious and political powers; the way those powers can intertwine and what that merging means; the clash between idealism or perception cultivated through propaganda and reality, between history as the study of people in power versus the study of the people‚Äôs past; and the transformation of people into instruments, people into numbers.—Val Grimm at the Portal.

Hamlet: The Precipice of Belief and the Validity of Witness

I’m going to see Raoul Bhaneja’s one-man performance of Hamlet on Friday at the Yukon Arts Centre.¬† I’ve heard good things about it, and saw a good article in the Yukon News, and I love Shakespeare, but I’m going to see it because of the way Hamlet speaks about “belief.”¬† One of the main questions, arguably, is whether or not Hamlet should believe the ghost of his father.¬† He tells Hamlet that he was murdered by the King’s brother, Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle.¬† It is also this ghost that asks, begs, persuades Hamlet to avenge his murder.¬† Without the ghost, no play.¬† With the ghost, several dilemmas at once, not the least of which is whether you believe a spirit that you’ve seen.

I’m teaching a class this semester at the Whitehorse United Church in Writing about Faith, a nebulous topic, a difficult endeavor.¬† You neither want to sound as if you were deluded or over-zealous, but neither do you want to play down your experiences until they mean nothing.¬† The spiritual things that happen to us are a keen part of our lives–sometimes they are the anchor that holds us rooted when the world tosses us around, and other times, they are an anchor dragging behind us, stopping us from moving forward.¬† Either way, what value we give them determines how we proceed with our life: either our spiritual side is a nice addendum to everything else we have in our lives, or it is something profoundly different that affects our course of action. (Or we just ignore it altogether)

Hamlet is caught in a crisis of belief.¬† If he believes a ghost—just stop there to see how preposterous that sounds—then he has to believe that his father was murdered, and that his uncle is the villain, and that his mother could have been an accomplice.¬† Further, if that’s true, then the ghost must also be believed that he, Hamlet, can set it right.¬† That everything that Hamlet does hinges on the¬† believability of the words of a ghost means that the play is really about our belief, and how much it informs our real decisions.

Continue reading

Writing Your Faith: Workshop offered in January at the United Church

Olya telling me the Russian Faith and Light Movement StoryWhat is Faith to you?¬† How do you think about it?¬† How do you put it into words–to tell someone else what it means to you?¬† Does it only appear when you are going through struggles?¬† Is it constant like gravity?¬† I like this photograph by Grigory Kravchenko.¬† The woman looks up, but it looks as if she’s giving God a good talking to.¬† Faith seems to take place over coffee, and in a gritty real-world setting.

Starting January 21st (it was the 14th, but we canceled the first class due to extreme temps, -38C), the Whitehorse United Church and I have teamed up to offer a class in Writing Your Faith.  How do we put into words what is ineffable?

We’ll be looking at a lot of writers who have done just that.¬†¬† Some you will find more effective for your style of writing than others.

While the majority of works that we look at will be of the Christian variety, they will not be texts that marginalize you. ¬† They will be authors who struggle with the same kinds of questions that most people do when they are talking about a greater being in the world and how they interact with that being.¬† We’re not reading the selections to pick up content—it’s not an evangelical endeavor.¬† What we’re doing is looking at how people talk about their Faith, whatever their Faith might be.¬† So we’re picking up tips.¬† And those tips are good to use whether you are writing about yourself as a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or Agnostic.

Continue reading

Talking Dog gives Gay Christian Resources: my other project

via Flickr and the Creative Commons licenseTalking Dog is one of my other blogs, hopefully a good resource for gay Christians. ¬†There are a lot of good gay christian websites out there, and so I decided merely to become a portal so that you could find resources.¬† Mostly I wanted to provide all the information that anyone might need to investigate the whole issue for themselves.¬† Debates swirl about and people need to know the truth.¬† It was websites like the one I created that helped me when I needed information. ¬†I needed resources. ¬†I couldn’t ask anyone out loud about them, and I didn’t know a gay Christian.

Many of you might recognize the Talking Dog in my title–it comes from “Believing in the Dog” which was the short story that I entered into PSAC’s Anti-Homophobia Week’s contest over two years ago.¬† In the story, I had a man go out into the woods in January at night to kill himself–just sit out under a tree and freeze. ¬†There was a talking dog in there–and as the author, I knew I couldn’t save the man’s life without making the black lab into a talking dog. ¬†That I had to bend reality into fantasy to save the character. ¬†I had wished that there were more talking dogs in the world–or that we would become the talking dogs in someone’s life. ¬†The story won the contest, and Darrell Hookey, always encouraging me forward, helped me (i.e. pulled me off the floor crying) when it came time to print my name beside it in What’s Up Yukon.

It’s my way of giving back to the community what it gave me. ¬†Maybe there’s someone else out there who’s questioning their faith and their sexuality. ¬†Who knows? ¬† They might just need a Talking Dog.

______________

For more on the blog, I have this page.

When the Pilgrims Met the Borg: Faith, Perfection and the Assimilated Pilgrim

As written by William Bradford, 1620, original pilgrim on the Mayflower, original settler of Plymouth Plantation, after the strange ordeals on the Atlantic Ocean on the way to the New World.  This account is accurate to the best of the ability of the author, William Bradford, and notes the first instance of the Borg in Sector 001.  Though William Bradford is aboard the ship, the reader should note that his record is of the Pilgrims, and notes their struggles, their accomplishments, in a third person, collective account.  

There be no assurances in the ways and means of the Almighty God.  That He is there to keep and to guide, we may be comforted, but that His methods and ways be strange, there be only the righteous account and evidence of the men and the women of the Mayflower on her journey to the New World.

When they left yon Dutch colonies, they were bound in one ship, leaving the leaky Speedwell back in port, combining the crews of the Separatists, God’s chosen, and the non-separatists, also God’s chosen, to help in the design and building and maintaining of the new colony. ¬†There be fifty men and women of God, and fifty merchant adventurers. ¬†It was crowded on the ship, and the seas rose and fell with the mercy of God. ¬†But to the blessings of God they account that none of the hundred pilgrims, for that is what they called themselves, were in pain, or in hunger, or in distress. ¬†All worshipped the Almighty, even as they tumbled and plunged on yon sea.

On the 43rd day of their voyage, the scout above in the mast spotted a floating island, shining in the sun, and this island he claimed was land, and their ship sailed towards it.  The closer they came, the more curious the island became.  It was not land as they knew it, but shined in the sun like gold, and the merchant adventurers were vastly curious of what created composition the Lord had made it.  Others believed, however, that it was a bad sign, a false hope, a distraction from the simple quest of the new colonists, a task given to them in purity and hope and vision.

They did not know that the island was actually another ship, one perhaps capsized by the sea, whose inhabitants the good Lord had proclaimed should drown, for He saves whom He desires to save, and does not save those that are unworthy.  And yet, they sailed closer.  The ship, for now they knew it must be a ship, was twice as large as the Mayflower, capsized in the sea.  Some of the adventurers said it had been forged of strange metal, for the base of the ship, that above the water, was curved like a perfect sphere, and the rods and cross-hatches of the metal formed a metal bowl, with the doors and the windows, and other shadowy recesses.

Continue reading

“One Nation Under Gods” finds home in Tesseracts 14

My story, “One Nation Under Gods,” was selected to be part of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology, Tesseracts 14, edited by Brett Savory and John Robert Colombo, due out in September 2010. ¬†The Tesseracts series is devoted to Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy and Horror, and has had, as you might have guessed, 14 other volumes (a Tesseracts Q was for Quebec, and the requisite 1-13 which came before).¬†

You might have caught me reading a portion of this at the Yukon Writers Festival a couple of years back. ¬†It involves two kids and a history test, and a complete restructuring of the United States based on values Americans, like me, hold sacred: patriotism, freedom, the just war, independence, religion. ¬†I just personified them a bit. ¬†I’m very pleased it found a home. ¬†I’m now going to start work on the novel version of this story. ¬†

The picture on the left is the construction of the Statue of Liberty, a figure which looms large on the landscape at the beginning of my story. ¬†And as I was now an immigrant to Canada, the Statue of Liberty loomed large on my new immigrant’s mind…what a dramatic beginning to a new life for those coming to America. ¬†For me, I saw her on my way out. ¬†On my drive from Texas to the Yukon, I parked my red truck in Calgary for one month, flew to Vermont to be part of a writer’s colony, and in that time, snuck down to see her. ¬†Like some mistress I was breaking up with. ¬†

How do you explain to her that you are leaving?   

I put her in my story, though, and so in this way, she haunts me.

Erasing The Fiction: Telling the Good News about the Prop 8 Trial

Occasionally, I stray from talking about science fiction and fantasy because something is important to say, or some event is happening that means a lot.  

The Prop 8 trial is happening in California right now, under the expert guidance of trial lawyers Olsen and Boies, best known for being on opposite sides during the Gore v. Bush Supreme Court moment in 2000.  Now they are together, and they are laying out the case for overturning Proposition 8, the nefarious way conservative folks ended marriage for the GLBT community in California.  

Thousands and thousands of people are watching this trial on liveblogging.  The Supreme Court has denied cameras and videotaping of the proceedings, with a ruling that happened only hours before the actual trial began last week.  Instead, we have had to follow some fantastic transcription of the trial.  

What we are learning is that we have been fed FICTION for a long long time. ¬†And while it has been successful fiction, it’s not very good, and can’t really hold up to textual analysis, or any kind of scrutiny. ¬†When you shine a light on it, it just because hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and very, very unchristian.¬†

The joy of reading the transcription—and please think of selling this as a book to people (I’d love a book of this trial for a donation to Courage Campaign Institute)–the joy of reading that transcription is the slow erasure of the lies that we’ve been told all our lives: that we will harm children, that we are living in direct violation to God and the scriptures, that we will hurt straight marriages, that we will bring destruction on America if allowed to marry (that last one has a Pat Robertson spin). ¬†

Denying American citizens the right to marry each other is denying them the protections and promises of the Constitution. ¬†First, we live as Americans and that document is our bible–it is what we rule by, live by, act by. ¬†Second, there are countless, wonderful books—by theologians–that map out how the Bible is being used to discriminate, and that God loves everyone–including gay and lesbian people–and wants them, if they so choose, to find someone and love them as Christ loves people. ¬†Christians who believe that gay people are not acceptable to God are treading a path away from God, away from Christ, and, unfortunately, away from the rest of us. ¬†Just as they were some of the last holdouts on repealing slavery, and on granting the rights of women, so they are the last holdouts on accepting gay and lesbian people. ¬†

It is so bad for the Church because many are walking away from God and Christ when they turn their backs on the church. ¬†This goes against all that Christians stand for–they want no one to walk away from them empty-handed. ¬†And yet…. ¬†I know they will be really upset when they figure this out. ¬†It makes me sad. ¬†What a horrible representation of God’s love. ¬†

The trial is exposing those lies.  Though we have been blocked from seeing the trial ourselves, the truth is getting out there.  I am so proud of the people who are liveblogging this.  I am so proud to be a gay man right now, to see the truth unveiled, to see everyone slowly realize that we are not the scourge you made us believe we were.  

I encourage everyone to read the transcripts of each of the daily summaries.  You will be amazed.  And then, for folks who are still struggling with religion or faith and sexuality, this uncommonly simple, but thorough book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers.  

To my fellow GLBT, God is not “theirs”—he is Ours. ¬†They do not own Jesus, or the words of Jesus, and they cannot block you from his love. ¬†There are plenty of churches now who accept us, and know that accepting us is perfectly good in the eyes of God. ¬†You can go through those doors and receive love from everyone. ¬†

Thank you, Olsen, Boies, and the rest of you for erasing the fiction that has been fooling us.  May everyone get the truth.