Review: “The Passion of the Christ: A Gay Vision” by Kittredge Cherry & Douglas Blanchard

The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision
Text by: Kittredge Cherry 
Art by: Douglas Blanchard
Paperback: 154 pages
Publisher: Apocryphile Press (July 15, 2014)

 

It’s a bit shocking at first – at least to an evangelical believer, even a gay one.

The title itself almost slaps you in the face, first luring you with familiar religious tones, then almost sneaking in the punch: “The Passion of Christ: a Gay Vision.”  Half of you wants to be outraged; the other half is intrigued.  Your first instinct is to flip through the pages, looking at the artwork, with that same reaction: offense and curiosity. “You can’t do this to Jesus. That’s not how it was.”

But as you look more closely, you see Immanuel – God with us – portrayed in very human, very modern, terms. And that’s as true to the Gospel story as any classic Renaissance painting of Christ’s passion.

And if you’ll take a few extra moments and actually read a few pages, you’ll quickly fall into a devotional mood. Kittredge Cherry first explains each panel of art, pointing out the symbolism you might otherwise miss, tying the image more closely in with the biblical account it portrays, and then leads us in a moment of quiet reflection and prayer. Far from being outraged, you end up being grateful for this new spiritual experience, this new opportunity to appreciate the work of Christ, and to spend a few moments in awe-inspired prayer. “Help me to make this part of my life.” This might be one of the most interesting devotionals you’ll have on your shelf.

Cherry first began writing commentaries on Blanchard’s images during Holy Week in 2011, and they remain a great way to meditate on the final events of Jesus’ life – at any time of year – just to gain a fresh take on the well-worn story. This collection brings the story to life in a new way with vivid artwork and inspirational writing.

Dallas-born artist, Douglas Blanchard, began working on the 24 panels of his version of the Passion shortly before the attacks of 9/11. Sickened by the results of mindless religion, the terrorist attacks drove him more deeply into the project, motivating him to look beyond the surface of the faith-stories into the real meaning underneath them.

And while the images convey meaning many LGBTQ people can relate to, contrary to the impression the title might lend, Jesus is not portrayed as an obviously gay man. This is no radical repainting of the Christ-story in a politically-hostile, socially-oppressed gay context. Aside from one of the closing shots of Jesus ascending to the Father, there is no real hint of Jesus’ sexual orientation at all. He is simply a young, white male, beardless, athletic and urban – the deliberate attempt by the artist to link Jesus with contemporary life.

The whole point of the series, Blanchard says, is to reflect the message of God in solidarity with us. So instead of depicting Jesus with traditional solemnness and glassy-eyed passivity, holy and unapproachable, the Christ in these paintings is fully human, accessible, someone who draws people to himself instinctively. And in fact, just to prevent the pictures from being taken out of context, Blanchard painted a faux frame around each, complete with title and sequence number.

Take a look

But a few examples will work better to describe this book than any short review could do justice to it.

Blanchard1 The first panel presents Jesus as “The Son of Man,” the human one, identifying with us as one in our sufferings. He’s painted with Job and Isaiah, biblical figures associated with profound suffering. And Cherry’s devotional meditation is powerful:

“And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Jesus was one of us, a real human being. He loved everybody, including his enemies. And yet some say that LGBT people don’t belong in the story of Jesus Christ. … The Holy Spirit inspires each person to envision God in his or her own way. This is the story of a Jesus who emphasized his humanity by calling himself the Human One or Son of Man. He doesn’t look very gay. Young and attractive, he can pass for straight. He is fully in the present, yet feels kinship with the ancient prophets, Job and Isaiah, who understood suffering. He wanted to serve God by healing people and setting them free. Here we remember his last days, his death and resurrection. Jesus was a child of God who embodied love so completely that he transcended history and even death itself. But while it was happening, people didn’t understand. Like many LGBT people, he was rejected by society. They locked the liberator in prison.

Jesus, show me how you lived and loved.

 

Blanchard2Or panel #2, “Jesus Enters the City.” Cherry writes,

“Look, the world has gone after him.” – John 12:19

Everyone cheered when Jesus called for justice and freedom. Crowds followed him into the city, shouting and waving. Their chants were not so different from ours: “Yes we can! Out of the closet and into the streets! We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” Jesus was a superstar making a grand entrance. But he did it in his own modest, gentle style. He surprised people by riding on a donkey. Some of his supporters, those who had mainstream success, urged him to quiet the others – assimilate, don’t alienate. Tone it down. Act respectable, don’t demand respect. Stop flaunting it. His answer: I’m here to liberate people! If the crowds were silent, the stones would cry out! It was that kind of day, a Palm Sunday sort of day, when everyone shouted for equality and freedom. But was anybody still listening?

Hey, Jesus, here I am!

 

Panel 3 depicts Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple, and Cherry leads us to ponder:

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” – Matthew 21:13

Jesus acted up when he saw something wrong. Nothing made him angrier than religious hypocrisy blocking the way to God. He got mad when religious leaders made people pay to attend worship. … Everyone gets God for free. …

Jesus, thank you for your anger.
Give me the courage to act up against injustice.

 

When Jesus preaches in the temple, and we are led to pray, “Jesus, teach me, touch me!”

At the last supper, the modern Jesus is seen in a sport coat, surrounded by a multi-racial group, from a wide range of ages. An elderly black woman dressed in church clothes and a hat sits next to a young white man in a t-shirt; a young black man with a cigarette stands behind an older white man in a business suit. A young woman in a cocktail dress and heels holds hands with a guy in jeans and a leather jacket. And Jesus stands there, embracing them, hands on their shoulders, with the wine and matzah sitting on the table before him.  “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” … And we respond, “Jesus, thank you for feeding me!”

Jesus prays alone in a back alley somewhere, the modern Gethsemane. “Guide me, God! I put my life in your hands.” And when he is arrested, we are led to pray, “Jesus, how should I respond to hate?”

Images designed to provoke and evoke

There are some provocative images in the book. When Jesus is before the soldiers, we see him sitting naked, handcuffed, with his back to us, as modern soldiers hold a knife to his throat and dogs snarl at him from the side. We see him hanging naked from a pipe as he’s beaten, and blood drips down his back, buttocks and legs. Is this any more graphic or irreverent than what actually happened? “Jesus, be with all who suffer … and with all who cause suffering.”  And when he is crucified, we are prompted to pray, “God, help me find meaning in the brutal death of Jesus.”  Then follow images of his resurrection, his appearance to Mary, his eating with friends at Emmaus (“Come and travel with me, Jesus. Or are you already here?”)

At Pentecost, “The Holy Spirit Arrives,” painted as a woman in flowing golden gown and wings, descending among a group of black and white men and women, a person in a wheelchair with raised hands in the foreground. “Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle a flame of love in my heart.”

Blanchard3Perhaps the most controversial painting in the series would be #22, “Jesus Returns to God.” Blanchard deliberately avoids traditional religious language, and translates “the Ascension” into its plain meaning. Here, the shirtless Jesus, wearing blue jeans, is lifted into the sky in the arms of a handsome angel who appears to be kissing him, holding him tightly with one hand on his butt.  It is definitely a homoerotic image — but it suggests the intimacy that exists as “mortal human flesh was made radiant by becoming part of God.”  If one were to squawk at this book, this would be the gasoline used to light the fire.  But within context, and with an anticipated LGBTQ readership, even this image conjures the complex feelings we have integrating our sexuality and our faith. It is true to who we are. And if Jesus took on flesh to walk among us, and identifies with us in our complex humanity, what could be a more potent and suggestive image of the intermingling of his human and divine nature than this?

And that provocative painting might be a good summary of my reaction to this startling work by Cherry and Blanchard. I was reluctant at first, wary to have my faith sensitivities assaulted. But I ended up feeling richer for the experience. As much as my conservative evangelical upbringing might have wanted to cringe at the beginning, I found a deeper truth in the art and commentary that forced those overly-sensitive scruples to shut up and just appreciate the mystery of it all.


This review originally appeared in IMPACT Magazine in March 2015, and was reissued in Italian in Progetto Gionatta.

 

“Trumpless Tuesdays.” Or how Donald Trump ruined Facebook for me.

As an introvert, I didn’t have a lot of friends or too much social interaction. I mean, I had my few close friends (for me, being a “friend” actually meant “close friend”, not just an acquaintance), and I enjoyed going out for coffee, lunch, the occasional dinner — and even the rare party.

Without really being conscious of it, my world was pretty small.

Friends (usually younger) tried to get me on social media, but I resisted. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter were toys for kids, I insisted. (Yeah, this was a lot of years ago.)

Until one of those close friends, my own age, said something innocuous during one of our lengthy conversations that stuck with me — and sunk in deep. She said simply, “you gotta keep up or you’ll get left behind.” Those few words changed my world.

Within a week, I’d signed up for Facebook. This was back in 2007. Instagram hadn’t even been thought of yet. The first iPhone would be introduced that year, and Android smartphones wouldn’t become popular for another year or so. So getting on Facebook was still an achievement for an older guy past his 30s.

That seemingly insignificant step changed my world.  (Thanks, Jill!)

I’d been on discussion boards and list-serves (anyone remember those?) before then. But on Facebook, I became connected with so many people with diverse backgrounds and interests. Many shared my values and outlook on life, many did not. I was exposed to a much broader circle of ideas and topics of discussion, and my life suddenly got a lot more interesting.

It went beyond just debating ideas, of course. There were the silly and mundane things, like cat videos and photos of plates of food. But I became connected with people who publicly shared their lives with the world. (Hey, I grew up on Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm,” so I was still reluctant to open my life up to Big Brother’s inspection.) It took time, but eventually I began (selectively) sharing aspects of my own life and interests. But that was less important, less impactful, than getting to expand my world through the lives of others. Social media was quite literally revolutionary, world-changing, and I was finally a part of it.

I started planting vegetables in my back yard because friends were talking about it. “Hey, what a great idea. I can do that, too.” I read more poetry, because friends were writing it and posting about it. My diet improved (in variety if not always in quality) because it turns out so many people love posting recipes of their favorite foods online. (Who knew?) I still vividly remember the first time I made a green-food smoothie, because some health-oriented friends shared that that’s how they started their days. I started working out at home (it would be a few more years before I actually joined a gym), because friends posted videos of their workout routines and had the visible results to boast about. Others shared photos of their travels and reignited my interest in visiting places outside the borders of my own country. And my theology sharpened, and then radically evolved, because I had friends online who loved to delve into spiritual matters and openly discuss their ideas and experiences.  “Discourse is the essence of intellectual existence,” I heard once, and it proved to be true.

My world exploded from the somewhat narrow confines of a few close friends and my own handful of interests quite literally to the entire cosmos, as online acquaintances across different continents shared their thoughts and activities with me.

Life suddenly became full of wonderful, interesting, and beautiful people. And I felt connected to the world.

And then it began to die.

Partisan politics killed my world

Facebook became more and more polarized by politics. Maybe it was all a plot of Russian schemers planting bots and stirring the pots of fake news. Maybe we got tired of cat videos and wanted to vent the darker sides of our souls, debating and eviscerating people who disagreed with us. Maybe it was always there, the sleazy underbelly of human aggression on social media, but it feels like it exploded during presidential elections. Yeah, things grew apppreciably more ugly during the Obama era when people would post any rumor or unfounded gossip, anything to smear their political opponent.

Then Trump decided to run. And things grew nasty to degrees we’ve seldom seen in public discussion.

And then he won.

And things didn’t quiet back down.

You cannot turn on the TV or open up any social media platform without getting smeared with the slime of political vitriol.

A few of online buddies began to drop out of sight. Some key contributors to my “wide world of friends” began to disappear. They couldn’t stand it. Life was becoming too stressful, being exposed to the hate and negativity nearly every minute online. And they just stopped logging on.  “Taking a break from social media” became a necessary technique for preserving their sanity.

I’m not ready to go cold-turkey from my social media fix, so instead I’ve been slowing culling Facebook friends — as most of us probably do — unfollowing, blocking, unfriending people who constantly barrage us with ugliness. I had to do something to decrease the constant nerve-wracking noise.

But today it struck me. I miss all the beautiful people.

I miss being stimulated and encouraged by the good things going on in other people’s lives. I miss seeing the workout routines, reading about the diets, the poetry, the travels, the spiritual explorations. I miss conversations and snapshots of life.  And I want that world back.

I need at least one day a week when I’m not slimed — and when I’m not contributing to that slime. When my voice isn’t adding to the cacophony.

Trump-less Tuesdays

Today I decided to embrace the idea of “Trump-less Tuesdays.”  Like “Meatless Mondays” where people conscientiously do not eat meat one day a week in order to save the planet and reclaim our humanity, I’m declaring — at least for myself — a politics-free day. Tuesday. I will not read, nor will I post or comment on, anything related to politics, particularly Trump or The White House or Congress, on Tuesdays from here on out.

I’m not giving up on politics altogether. I wish I could, but I think it’s inherently part of the human condition. Besides, as concerned citizens, sometimes it is our responsibility to be active participants (or resisters) in the processes that govern our society.

This is just my small attempt to bring some sanity back into my life, to reclaim some of the beauty.  And I encourage you — challenge you — to do the same. Make a commitment to not engage the garbage — at least one day a week.  Maybe Tuesdays.

Rather than disappearing abruptly from social media. Your friends will miss you. They — I — already miss all the wonderful things that make you laugh, that express your creativity, that are a beautiful contribution to the world. That add spark and flavor to our shared experience on this planet.

And it’s not just about “turning it off.”  It’s about deliberately, conscientiously, intentionally sowing positive back into the muck, sending a spark into the darkness. Contributing something good from your life into ours.

Maybe it won’t change the world. Maybe it won’t even be noticed by many on your friend list.  But maybe it will help you — help us — reconnect with the beauty of our humanity.

Even if just once a week.

 


photo credit: ThatMakesThree, cc.

 

The Boston Declaration: Theologians Protest a Corrupted U.S. Christianity

This week, Christian theologians meeting in Boston donned sackcloth and ashes in a dramatic display of grief over the corruption of U.S. Christianity, and to call the country into a time of reflection and action to end oppression.  It was an unusual way to end the annual joint conference of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL), which draws thousands of religious faculty and students every year.

Over 300 theologians, bishops, and leaders from Christian seminaries and denominations signed what they are calling the “Boston Declaration,” to protest the demise of core values in the Christian faith as prominent politicians are exposed as racists and sexual predators.

But it is not just another protest echoing the outcry against sexual abuse dominating the news in recent weeks.

It is a plea for faith leaders and believers to take a stand against the trend in contemporary American Christianity to embrace sexism, racism, white supremacy, nationalism, cutting social safety-nets, and forcing the poorest and most powerless among us into desperation. It is a protest of the Church willingly becoming accomplices to political corruption and the oppression of the weak and vulnerable in this country — in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus and the Bible.

It is the natural, even prophetic, response of spiritual and religious leaders to the rise of darker, ungodly influences in our culture. And at its core, it is a call for social justice. It is political. And it is a response to the popular wave which elevated Donald Trump and a culture of fear and anti-intellectualism to power.  (See the list of specific “condemnations” below, each introduced by the words in bold, “We reject….”)

The statement takes its inspiration from the Barmen Declaration of 1934, when prominent Christian theologians like Karl Barth, Martin Niemöller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against the subjugation and complicity of German churches under Adolf Hitler.

“Far too many Evangelical Christians have embraced the politics of exclusion, exploitation, and hatred, such that the Good News of Jesus has become a cover for a social and economic order that can only be understood as bad news for far too many,” their press release states.

But like so many “declarations” made in recent months, one can only wonder if these are just the words of angry preachers and professors, or whether they will actually wake Amercian Christians up from their apathetic slumber.

You decide.

The declaration is posted below, and you may add your name at The Boston Declaration.


A PROPHETIC APPEAL TO CHRISTIANS OF THE UNITED STATES

Occasion

As followers of Jesus, the Jewish prophet for justice whose life reminds us to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) we hear the cries of women and men speaking out about sexual abuse at the hands of leaders in power and we are outraged. We are outraged by the current trends in Evangelicalism and other expressions of Christianity driven by white supremacy, often enacted through white privilege and the normalizing of oppression. Confessing racism as the United States’ original and ongoing sin, we commit ourselves to following Jesus on the road of costly discipleship to seek shalom justice for the least, the lost, and the left out. We declare that following Jesus today means fighting poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression from the deepest wells of our faith.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
— MARK 12:31

Choose Life

This is a time of heightened racist and patriarchal empire where wealth is concentrated at the top. The Living God asks us to make a decision: “Today I offer you the choice of life and good, or death and evil. …Choose life.” (Deuteronomy 31). Following Jesus today means choosing life, joining the Spirit-led struggle to fight the death-dealing powers of sin wherever they erupt. Whenever one of God’s children is being oppressed, we will fight with them for liberation with the power of the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit. And yet, we live in a moment when death and evil seem to reign supreme in the United States, when those with the power of a uniform or the president’s pen or a position of authority or fame or economic tricks of capitalization and interest or sheer brute force… again and again choose death rather than life. In a moment when too many who confess Christ advocate evil, we believe followers of the Jesus Way are called to renounce, denounce, and resist these death-dealing powers which organize and oppress our world, not to embrace or promulgate them.

We acknowledge the manifold and complicated ways we participate in these systems, even as we are often complicit in them. We confess that the Church, in a variety of forms, has too often failed to follow the way of Jesus and perform the good news. We are people who are still discovering the ways we participate with death and evil, even while we continue to seek the good, to choose life again and again. This declaration is such a choice, hoping and clinging to the God of life and seeking to bear witness to that life in our present moment. Acknowledging our own failures and embracing an appropriate sense of humility should not, however, silence us. While we do not have ready-made answers for all the problems we face, we know something about the pathway we must follow if we are to find those answers, and this is the pathway of Jesus.

Who is our God and What is the Jesus Way?

We believe in a God who holds all difference within God’s own life and in whom there is no one or no people who are distant from God’s justice, merciful love, and presence (Micah 6:8; Acts 10:34-35). We affirm the beauty and humanity of all people in their manifold difference–race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion–as reflecting God’s image through lives of love and hope.

We believe the Jesus Way calls us to the possibility of living in a world where all can love and be loved, and live into joy.

The Jesus Way continues through our best, prayerful, honest, and empirical attempts to understand why and how the world has come to be in the shape it is today. This pathway calls us to act in ways that are Spirit-led and strategic in confronting evil wherever evil exists, to combat ignorance wherever ignorance has led people astray and to place our lives and our bodies on the line with whoever is being threatened, beat down, or oppressed in any way, anywhere.

Lamentation

As followers of Jesus who is our Sabbath, who preached and lived Shalom, and who offers the gift of jubilee to the world, we mourn the coarseness of our politics, the loss of compassion for those in need, the disrespect we routinely show each other, and the thoughtlessness with which we use and abuse our planet. We especially mourn the way in which the name of Jesus has been used to support and encourage actions and attitudes that demean others and threaten the community of creation.

We acknowledge and lament the realities we see around us: broken lives, broken homes, a broken social system that incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth. We lament a broken and corrupt police system, a broken economic system that prioritizes profits over people, a broken sense of national identity. We lament national boundaries that make our worries about security a pretext for destroying the lives of others, and a broken church that disrespects and marginalizes many people rather than honoring and embracing them. We rebuke the ideologies and idolatries that lie beneath the death we see in our midst and collectively hope to point to ways we might all choose life.

As followers of Jesus, it is vital that we take action when our government seeks to continuously harm life made in God’s image by cutting social safety-nets and forcing the poorest and most powerless among us to spiral into an abyss of desperation. Action on the part of the church is warranted at a time when women, people of color, and various ethnicities, individual religions, immigrants and distinct sexualities are targeted for slander and violence from the highest offices of government. We cannot sit idly by and allow the people and the earth to be accosted with series after series of unjust policies that allow the interest of corporate profits to expunge the future for coming generations of humans and other living species.

Condemnations

We reject the false ideology of empire building and the myth of racial laziness and substance abuse that harms the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the US territories.

We reject the false ideology that peace is achieved through military strength and that violence is the necessary foundation for freedom, safety, or security. We stand against the manufacturing and proliferation of weapons which continue to drown the planet in the blood of millions through global war and the terrorism of domestic mass shootings.

We reject the false ideology of the corporate ruling class that services and supports the US military, dispossess and represses poor communities of color, and which erodes and blocks real empowerment of the most vulnerable of peoples and of any real people’s democracy.

We reject the false ideology of American exceptionalism and the evil of political corruption, calling for integrity in our elected officials and multilateral governance. It is this myth by which moral responsibility is suspended in the pursuit of its interests.

We reject the false ideology of white normalcy and bigotry. We reject the false identification that exclusively binds whiteness with Christianity, true humanity, and United States citizenship. We reject antisemitism, which is driving much of white Christian nationalism.

We reject the patriarchal and misogynistic legacies that subject women to continual violence, violation, and exclusion. We stand strongly against sexual abuse and harassment in the highest offices of power.

We reject violations against the Earth, especially the stripping of her resources and polluting that harms her and the creatures that inhabit her soil and seas.

We reject economic policies that are grounded in an illusion of extreme individualism and favor the accumulation of wealth for a few to the detriment of the many.

We reject Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.

We reject homophobia and transphobia and all violence against the LGBTQ community.

We reject all anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that fail to recognize the contributions of immigrants who have come from every corner of the world to strengthen the fabric of this nation—culturally, economically and spiritually.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve!”
— JOSHUA 24:15

Call to Action

Today, we as Christian followers of the Jesus Way, call on the people of the United States who call themselves by the name of Jesus, to reject all political and social movements that do not lead to life.

May we live in this world continually welcoming the stranger and “treating the foreigner with love, for we were once foreigners in Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). Likewise, we resist the continued subjugation of the Indigenous people of our land and call for new relationships to be formed, and better policies to be forged, as we learn to become good guests to honored hosts.

May we bear witness to the hues of difference in God’s life – a God who is neither male nor female and who embraces all people regardless of their identity.

May we not fear the loss of power or certainty when confronted by our very real weakness. May we discover the gift of being creatures not as something to be overcome, but embraced, discovering the fullness of our humanity in the flourishing of all women.

May we embrace a future where the legacies of white supremacy are dismantled. We refuse to dehumanize any individual, reducing their identity to singular markers and possibilities. May we work toward a radical openness for every individual as we fight together for a better today and tomorrow.

May we build not to kill but to enliven. Let us garner all of our economic power to fight desperately for one another’s health, for full stomachs, for equal access to buildings and teachers where we might discover the fullness of our gifts and skills. May our power not be oriented toward empire but towards mutual community.

May we witness to a beloved community where we seek to be with one another as Jesus is with us. May love and mutuality be the marks of our lives together, our community building, our budgets, and our public policies.

May we work together to care for the community of creation, fighting against the influence of the pursuit of petrochemicals and all other earth diminishing, non-renewable and polluting practices that exploit Indigenous and poor peoples, poison our waters and contribute to the extinction of species. We speak for the earth herself and all her creatures, human and non-human, for the preservation of life over monetary gain.

May we stand in solidarity against anti-semitism and the use of any language and actions that threaten the lives of our Jewish sisters and brothers while standing with the plight for human rights with our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

May we stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers and all immigrants, fighting against Islamophobia and xenophobia. We denounce any legislation that discriminates against people on the basis of their religion, race or ethnic identity.

We welcome and seek the wisdom of all people of all faiths and those who confess no faith, believing that God’s faithfulness breaks into the world in many ways and through many people.

May we continue to stand with anyone who calls for justice, mercy, and love in this world.


Original Signatories

  • Amey Victoria Adkins, Boston College
  • Efrain Agosto, New York Theological Seminary
  • Macky Alston, Auburn Seminary
  • Gelky Alrvelo, New York Theological Seminary
  • Cheryl B. Anderson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Cara Anthony, University of St. Thomas
  • Ellen T. Armour, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Sarah Azaransky, Union Theological Seminary
  • Brian Bantum, Seattle Pacific University
  • William Barber II, Repairers of the Breach
  • Eric D. Barreto, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Angela Bauer-Levesque, Episcopal Divinity School
  • Nancy Elizabeth Bedford, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Moses Biney, New York Theological Seminary
  • Traci Blackmon, United Church of Christ
  • Mary C. Boys, Union Theological Seminary
  • Valerie Bridgeman, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Gennifer Brooks, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Stina Busman Jost, Bethel University
  • Lee H. Butler, Jr., Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Gil Caldwell, United Methodist Clergy
  • Leslie Callahan, St. Paul’s Baptist Church
  • Jamall Andrew Calloway, Brown University
  • Rosemary P. Carbine, Whittier College
  • J. Kameron Carter, Duke Divinity School
  • Cláudio Carvalhaes, Union Theological Seminary
  • Noel Castallanos, Christian Community Development Association
  • Choi Hee An, Boston University School of Theology
  • Shane Claiborne, The Simple Way
  • Jawanza Eric Clark, Manhattan College
  • Christian T. Collins Winn, Bethel University
  • Monica A. Coleman, Claremont School of Theology
  • James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary
  • David W. Congdon, University Press of Kansas
  • M. Shawn Copeland, Boston College
  • Kendall Cox, University of Virginia
  • Shannon Craigo-Snell, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary
  • Brandy Daniels, University of Virginia
  • Keri Day, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Megan K. DeFranza, Boston University School of Theology
  • Gary Dorrien, Union Theological Seminary
  • Kelly Brown Douglas, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary
  • Kait Dugan, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Victor Ezigbo, Bethel University
  • Nancy Fields, New York Theological Seminary
  • Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Fordham University
  • John Flett, Pilgrim Theological College (Australia)
  • Walter Fluker, Boston University School of Theology
  • Yvette Flunder, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
  • Robert Franklin, Emory University
  • Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke Divinity School
  • Wil Gafney, Brite Divinity School
  • Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Colby College
  • Gene Green, Wheaton College
  • Sharon Groves, Auburn Seminary
  • Katelin Hansen, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Lisa Sharon Harper, Greenville University and  Freedom Road, LLC
  • Jennifer Harvey, Drake University
  • Susan Hassinger, Boston University School of Theology
  • Katharine Henderson, Auburn Seminary
  • Johnny Hill, Shaw University Divinity School
  • Peter Goodwin Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary
  • Michael S. Hogue, Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Alice W. Hunt, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Douglas “Jake” Jacobsen, Messiah College
  • Jeffrey Jaynes, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Willie James Jennings, Yale University
  • Wonhee Anne Joh, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Alfred Johnson, New York Theological Seminary
  • Paul Dafydd Jones, University of Virginia
  • Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary
  • Sherry Jordan, University of St. Thomas
  • Namsoon Kang, Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University
  • Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, Claremont School of Theology
  • Grace Yia-Hei Kao, Claremont School of Theology
  • Catherine Keller, Drew University School of Theology
  • Jeff Keuss, Seattle Pacific University
  • Grace Ji Sun Kim, Earlham School of Religion
  • Nicole Kirk, Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Shaw University Divinity School
  • Jennifer Wright Knust, Boston University School of Theology
  • Deborah Krause, Eden Theological Seminary
  • Kwok Pui Lan, Emory University
  • Sarah Heaner Lancaster, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Erik Leafblad, Bethel University
  • Terri LeBlanc, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological  Studies
  • Bernon Lee, Bethel University
  • Jacqueline J. Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church
  • Pamela Lightsey, Boston University School of Theology
  • Diane H. Lobody, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Tamura Lomax, The Feminist Wire
  • Vanessa Lovelace, Interdenominational Theological Center
  • Joretta Marshall, Brite Divinity School
  • Eboni Marshall Turman, Yale University
  • Jenny McBride, McCormick Theological Seminary
  • Clint McCann, Eden Theological School
  • Carolyn McCrary, Interdenominational Theological Seminary
  • Brian D. McLaren, Convergence Leadership Project
  • W. Travis McMaken, Lindenwood University
  • Linda Mercadante, Methodist Theological School of Ohio
  • Rosemary Bray McNatt, Starr King School for the Ministry
  • Stephanie Mitchem, University of South Carolina
  • Martha Moore-Keish, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Otis Moss III, Trinity United Church of Christ Chicago
  • Deborah Flemister Mullen, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Susan Myers, University of St. Thomas
  • Francesca Nuzzolese, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • M. Fulgence Nyengele, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Kate Ott, Drew University
  • Aristotle Papanikolaou, Fordham University
  • Joon-Sik Park, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Angela N. Parker, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology
  • Peter Phan, Georgetown University
  • David Penchansky, University of St. Thomas
  • Jim Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary
  • Larry Perry, Georgetown University
  • Adam Ployd, Eden Theological Seminary
  • Alton B Pollard, III, Howard University School of Divinity
  • Thomas Porter, Jr., Boston University School of Theology
  • Andrew Prevot, Boston College
  • Bradford H. Price, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Jeffrey C. Pugh, Elon University
  • Marc A. Pugliese, St. Leo University
  • Luis N. Rivera Pagan, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Shelly Rambo, Boston University School of Theology
  • Erica Ramiriz, George Fox University
  • Paul Brandeis Raushenbusch, Auburn Seminary
  • Darby K. Ray, Bates College
  • Stephen Ray, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Lallene Rector, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Joshua Reno, University of Minnesota
  • Patrick Reyes, The Forum for Theological Exploration
  • Kenneth A. Reynhout, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
  • Kurt Anders Richardson, Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics
  • Joerg Rieger, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Kyle Roberts, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
  • Gene Robinson, Episcopal Church
  • Luis R. Rivera Rodriguez, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Timothy J. Scherer, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Laurel C. Schneider, Vanderbilt University
  • Donna Schaper, Judson Memorial Church
  • Christian Scharen, Auburn Seminary
  • David Schnasa Jacobsen, Boston University School of Theology
  • Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Ry O. Siggelkow, University of St. Thomas
  • Angela Sims, Saint Paul School of Theology
  • Andrea Smith, University of California, Riverside
  • Kay Higuera Smith, Azusa Pacific University
  • Melanie Smith, Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University
  • Patrick T. Smith, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • Shannon Nicole Smythe, Seattle Pacific University
  • Bryan Stone, Boston University School of Theology
  • Diana M. Swancutt, Boston University School of Theology
  • Kathryn Tanner, Yale University
  • Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Seminary
  • JoAnne Marie Terrell, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • John Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary
  • John E. Thiel, Fairfield University
  • Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Linda Thomas, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
  • Julie Todd, Iliff School of Theology
  • Joseph Tolton, The Fellowship Global
  • Miguel A. De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology
  • Cameron Trimble, Center for Progressive Renewal
  • Emilie M. Townes, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Kirk VanGilder, Gallaudet University
  • Timothy L Van Meter, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Eldin Villafañe, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • Kimberly Vrudny, University of St. Thomas
  • Mark Wallace, Swarthmore College
  • Janet Walton, Union Theological Seminary
  • Nimi Wariboko, Boston University School of Theology
  • Michele E. Watkins, Iliff School of Theology
  • Eric Weed, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Sharon Welch, Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Jim Wellman, University of Washington
  • Cornel West, Harvard Divinity School
  • Traci C. West, Drew University Theological School
  • Vitor Westhelle, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
  • Andrea C. White, Union Theological Seminary
  • Tamara Francis Wilden, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
  • Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University School of Theology
  • David E. Wilhite, Baylor University
  • Matthew Williams, Forum for Theological Exploration
  • Reggie L. Williams, McCormick Theological Seminary
  • Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Rutba House
  • Janet Wolf, United Methodist Clergy
  • Derek Alan Woodard-Lehman, University of Otago (New Zealand)
  • Randy Woodley, Portland Seminary/George Fox University
  • Jessica Wong, Azusa Pacific University
  • Gale A. Yee, Episcopal Divinity School
  • Amos Yong, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Yvonne C. Zimmerman, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

You may read and sign the declaration at The Boston Declaration.


photo credit: Twitter/@kkatyrose via Church Leaders

Bachelor Food: Creamy Vermouth Pasta with Italian Sausage

I was trying to avoid the inevitable question: “What do you want for dinner tonight?”

Usually, we bounce one or two ideas back and forth, and end up settling on the one that hasn’t been vetoed by either of us.

I was kinda in the mood for pasta (what else is new?), but really didn’t want traditional spaghetti or one of our variations, like (my fav) Puttanesca. I make a pretty decent rotini — you know, those cork screw macaronis — with mixed vegetables and olive oil and parmesan cheese for our “Meatless Mondays” dish. But tomato sauce or olive oil-based dishes just didn’t hit my appetite g-spot.

Flipping through some pasta ideas I had stored in the “Food” directory on my laptop (yeah, I actually save recipes I want to try), I ran across a traditional shrimp-pasta dish. It looked simple enough, and I think I might have even started to drool a little. “Yeah, this is it. Imma do this one.” So just as I was about to run up to the supermarket to pick up some shrimp, Jake calls on his way home from work with the usual question. I hit him with my idea, and he drops a bombshell. “I’m not crazy about shrimp…” What? I mean, I knew he didn’t like shrimp cocktail, but didn’t realize his distaste extended to all shrimp in general.

That was kinda a bummer; I was all pumped for some pasta, but Jake’s dislike of shrimp took all the wind out of my sails. So back to the drawing board. And it struck me: I could just modify the recipe, and substitute something else for the shrimp. Sweet Italian sausage came to mind. It’s a rich meat, like shrimp, although with its own distinct flavors.

And because the recipe was cream-based, it fit my earlier desire to avoid tomato sauce or olive oil. It would work for both of us. So after making a few quick changes, this is what I came up with.

It turned out pretty well — not overly savory, not too rich, and not too tomatoey. And, to top it off, Jake loved it. “Umm, yes, we need to make this one more often.”

So here it is. Try it when you want something just a little different.

One caveat: the recipe calls for heavy cream, which I didn’t have in my refrigerator. And my interest in running to the store had been quashed, so I substituted Half and Half, which I keep on hand for my morning coffee. I think the result was probably a little thinner than intended, but still pretty darn good. Oh, and it also calls for Sweet Vermouth, which depending on how well-stocked your liquor cabinet is, you may or may not have on hand. Vermouth is just a fortified wine — a wine flavored with botanicals or spices, and used mostly as an aperitif or to dilute the strength of higher proof liquors in classic cocktails like a martini or a manhattan. If you don’t have any available, you could just as easily swap it out for Sherry, Port or Marsala wine. They have a similar oaky sweet taste.

What you need

1/2 pound angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti)
3 or 4 links of sweet Italian sausage (or hey, use 1 lb of shrimp as in the original version)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of dried sweet basil (or use oregano for a more earthy flavor)
1/2 cup sweet vermouth (or similar sweet wine)
1 can of diced tomatoes (14-15 oz)
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used Half and Half, but I wouldn’t try substituting milk)

Here’s what you do

First, cook up your whole Italian sausages. I precooked them in the microwave for about 8 minutes (they were frozen). Maybe I’m overcautious, but I like my pork cooked. Just saying.
While they’re cooking, bring about 6 quarts of water to boil for your pasta, and add 2-3 tablespoons of salt. (Pasta should always be cooked in salted water for flavor.)
Chop up your garlic and onions. You can use a garlic press if you have one.
When the sausage is done, using tongs and a sharp knife, slice the links into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces.
Grab a skillet, and heat up about 3 or 4 tablesppons of olive oil. Sprinkle in the basil, and add the chopped garlic and onion. Then slide in your precooked, sliced Italian sausage pieces. Cook until the garlic and onions turn golden, and sausages get a nice brown on the sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the vermouth, scraping up all the tasty brown stuff on the bottom of the pan, and add your diced tomatos. Then pour in your heavy cream, stir all together, and bring to a simmer. The sauce should thicken slighty after a minute or two, but don’t worry if it’s still a bit runny.
Your pasta should be done about now. You can test it by sampling a few strands to see if they’re the firmness you like. I prefer mine a bit over-done, softer than the traditional al dente. Using tongs, pull the pasta out of the water and mix directly into your skillet with the sauce. (The starch in the little bit of pasta water will help thicken your sauce.)
Turn off the heat to your skillet, and stir all the ingredients together until the pasta is well coated. Let sit a minute or two for all the flavors to blend.
Serve, and top with grated parmesan cheese if you like.

And that’s it. It’s just a spin on the classic spaghetti with Italian sausage, but the cream-vermouth sauce is a refreshing change from traditional spaghetti sauce or olive oil.

This one’s going into my regular Friday night dinner rotation.

End of an Era: GCN and Justin Lee part ways

It is never a good feeling when you get an email blast from a beloved organization you have supported for many years that begins “Due to irreconcilable differences …”

That’s what shook Facebook and social media July 19th. And the posts and comments exploded. What happened? Why? Who’s to blame? What happens next, what about …?

A pillar of the LGBTQ Christian community is crumbling. GCN — the Gay Christian Network — and its founder and executive director, Justin Lee, released joint statements that they were parting ways, and that the organization plans to change its name. The effective date of Lee’s departure looked backwards two months to  May 4, 2017, with the new name to be announced in the near future.  Both Lee and the board of directors at GCN have agreed not to publicly discuss the details. And that’s fueling rampant speculation, as members try to fill in the missing pieces.

GCN was started in 2001 by Lee as a way for gay Christians to connect online and provide mutual support as they navigated the precarious process of reconciling faith and sexuality in a religious world hostile to homosexuality. The website offered discussion boards where members could post notes and others could respond. What seems almost primitive now in retrospect, at the time was revolutionary. Up until that time, most LGBT Christians wrestled with coming to terms with their identity alone, often afraid to tell family or even their closest friends that they were gay. Stumbling across a website where dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, of like-minded people could leave messages of encouragement for each other was without exaggeration, a lifeline. There were few other options. It would be another three years before Facebook was even created.

It is largely due to the popularity and success of GCN that the words “Gay Christian” are such a common topic of discussion in church life these days. In the last few years, as American culture became more receptive to the idea, Lee began shifting focus from simply creating a “safe place” for LGBT people of faith to a more active role in “building bridges” inside the Christian community, promoting dialogue between affirming and nonaffirming groups.

But as society rapidly evolved, so did the LGBTQ+ community, and the terminology it used to describe itself became more sophisticated. “Gay” could once serve as an umbrella term for most of the sexual diversity within the community, but soon became inadequate as a label for those who were not cis male homosexuals. This has become even more acutely the case as awareness of the wide variety of human sexual and gender expressions has exploded in the past few years. Trans* people, though part of the LGBT/GLBT acronym, are not necessarily “gay”. Neither are bisexuals, asexuals, intersexuals, gender-nonconforming people, or a host of other sexual and gender minorities. And this has been hinted at in the public statement as one of the reasons for renaming the organization “to one that better refects the diversity of the ministry and the community we serve.”

Lee will continue his mission independently, writing, speaking publicly and being an advocate for full LGBTQ acceptance in the Christian church, operating under his new website, JustinSpeaks.com. And GCN, under a yet-to-be-revealed new name, will continue its work in the LGBTQ Christian movement.

For many LGBTQ people of faith, it is the end of an era. Doubtless, further details will trickle out over the coming weeks.  But whatever prompted this abrupt change, Justin Lee and GCN will be recorded in church history books as being major influences in 21st century Christianity.

Their public statements are reproduced below.


Joint Announcement from the Board of GCN and Justin Lee:

Due to irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization, Justin Lee and the GCN Board of Directors have agreed to his amicable separation from the organization. Justin Lee will no longer serve as the executive director of GCN, effective May 4, 2017. Neither Justin nor the Board will publicly discuss the reasons behind Justin’s departure other than to affirm that it was a practical business decision intended to allow for the growth of this important work.

Both Justin and the GCN Board of Directors remain committed to pursuing the mission of creating “…a world in which the next generation of LGBTQ youth will grow up fully loved and embraced by their families, churches, and neighbors; and where Christians worldwide will live up to their calling as instruments of grace and defenders of the outcast.” We remain allies in continuing our work for the LGBTQ Christian movement.

As announced at the 2017 Pittsburgh Conference, the Board reaffirms its previous commitment to changing the name of the organization to one that better reflects the diversity of the ministry and the community we serve. Recognizing the long history of Justin’s connection with the GCN name, the Board has chosen to accelerate the timing of the name change and will announce it at the 2018 Denver Conference.

 

From the Board of GCN:

Dear Friends of GCN,

For 16 years the Gay Christian Network has been meeting the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ community throughout our nation. Justin Lee, our founder, has helped GCN become a vibrant and healthy community making a difference for those who have been treated unfairly by the church.

Through GCN and his excellent book, Torn, Justin has been a pioneer helping LGBTQ individuals accept the truth that God loves them, just as they are. Through GCN, he helped those people find a spiritual home. Because of Justin’s dedicated work, countless lives have been changed.

The Board of Directors of GCN is grateful for Justin’s years of service. Moving forward, however, Justin and the Board have come to realize they have differing perspectives on the operational needs of the ministry. After much prayer and discussion, the Board of Directors and Justin have agreed to separate.

The GCN Board is pleased Justin will continue to speak, write, and produce content serving the LGBTQ community he so dearly loves. There have been no issues that would cause us to be anything but fully supportive of his continuing work in ministry. Those wishing to follow his work are encouraged to do so at JustinSpeaks.com.

Please join us in thanking Justin for his many years of service.

In Christ,

The Board of Directors
The Gay Christian Network, Inc.

 

From Justin Lee:

Dear friends,

I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am for all of your incredible support of me and of this work; the time, energy, and money you’ve committed to our shared mission has enabled us to accomplish things I never dreamed we could. Running this organization for the last 16 years has been absolutely the most incredible experience of my life, and I will always treasure the memories and the knowledge of how we’ve changed the world together.

As sad as I am to say goodbye, my hope and prayer for this organization is that it will always stay grounded in a passion for Jesus Christ and uphold an ongoing commitment to living out His light and love in all things. In Christ, anything is possible, and yet there are still so many people who have experienced the gospel as a hindrance rather than a hope, who’ve been led to believe that God doesn’t love them—or at least that the church doesn’t—and who feel all alone. They need to know they’re never alone.

As for me, I continue to feel a calling to change hearts and minds in the church for the sake of those who still don’t have that support. Even though I am no longer involved at GCN, I will still be speaking out on the issues that matter to our community and doing all I can to support those in need. I’m as passionate about this work today as I was back in 2001, when GCN was just a website I was running out of my apartment! In the days ahead, I will share more at JustinSpeaks.com about my future plans, and I would love to hear from you there.

Thank you again for your love and support. To those I’ve had the privilege of interacting with over the years, I sincerely hope our paths will cross again in the future. If not, you will certainly be on my heart and in my prayers. Love to you all, and may God bless you.

In Christ,
Justin

 

In Closing:

The Board has hired an Interim Executive Director who will be introduced to the community soon. The Interim Executive Director will be in place while the Board commences a national search for a new CEO who can lead us into the future.

Constantino Khalaf, our Director of Operations, will continue to direct the GCN staff in preparation for the 2018 Conference in Denver, the October 2017 Youth Retreat in Wilkes-Barre, PA in October, and the other ongoing offerings of GCN.

We ask for your prayers for Justin, and for GCN, as we all work to create vibrant spiritual opportunities for LGBTQ people of faith.


Public Statements: GeekyJustin.com, GayChristian.net

 

 

Bachelor Food: Saturday Morning Coconut Pancakes

coconut pancakes syrupIt’s hard to write when you’re full. And that’s one thing these coconut pancakes do: fill you up. It’s all the fiber in them, I think. But they’re tasty, easy to make — and grain-free.

So here’s how this little adventure started out.

I love my carbs. Pastas, pancakes, pastries, crusty French bread… They’re the stuff of life. They’re also not great for someone keeping an eye on their blood sugars and lipids.

So I’ve been deliberately cutting out foods with added sugars, and consciously adding more fiber to my diet. (I quietly mutter “Sugar equals death” under my breath when I’m tempted by my favorite pastries, but you know, it kinda spooks the other customers in line, so I just wander away sad and unsatisfied, but feeling just a little bit superior.)

Anyway. I’ve made the switch to whole-grain everything as part of a lifestyle change. Breads with multi-whole grains, whole wheat flour for cooking, whole wheat spaghetti and pastas, and swapping out quinoa and farro (it’s kinda like corn) instead of rice as a side dish staple. All in all, a healthier exchange, since it upped my protein and fiber intake and reduced my net carbs.

But sometimes you just want a stack of pancakes for breakfast Saturday morning.

There are some cool recipes out there using buckwheat and barley, some using almond flour, stuff with a lower glycemic index and higher fiber to make you feel full and keep you from that post-sugar-high crash. Some of them seem a bit exotic (and pricey!), with ingredients I’m not likely to use for much else, so they didn’t seem worth the purchase. But, we’re easily influenced by media (at least I am), and I’ve seen a couple of really enticing photos of “paleo-pancakes” on Facebook recently, so I caved. (Not that I can even imagine a caveman whipping up a batch of pancakes, but hey …)

coconut flourHere’s the killer ingredient: coconut flour. Those crazy Americans. My bud, who lives in Malaysia where coconut is an everyday part of life, never heard of such a thing. Somebody over here, probably with too much time on their hands, thought it might be interesting to grind up coconut flesh and see if bread could be made from it, I guess. And, voila. A flour substance that’s high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, and lower in carbs than regular wheat flour.

Well, sign me up. So I ran out to my grocery store and picked a 2 pound container. Yes, you can even find it at WallyWorld. I figured if I liked it, I’d try it in other things (imagine making chocolate chip cookies!), so it wouldn’t just sit in my cupboard waiting for the occasional Saturday morning breakfast. And my conscience would be lulled back to sleep when indulging: “don’t worry about it; it’s healthy.”

I did do a bit of background reading, first, before I plunged into experimenting. Turns out, coconut flour is much more absorbant than traditional wheat flour, so it sucks up your recipe liquids (milk, water) leaving your batter a bit thicker. That’s okay. Don’t try to compensate by adding more liquid; your batter will just end up runny. And because it’s gluten-free, you gotta use more eggs as a binder. (Gluten, although it’s gotten a bad rap lately, is the go-to ingredient in wheat that holds all the stuff together when cooking.)* So, you can’t just substitute coconut flour for wheat four 1 for 1. Turns out, it’s more like 1/4 to 1. So, where I used to just whip up pancakes with 1 cup of flour and 1 egg, this time I had to use 1/4 cup coconut flour and 3 eggs.

They taste a bit like coconut, as you might expect, so they have a naturally sweet flavor. Several recipes I compared online added 1-2 tablespoons of sugar (or honey, to stay paleo), but I didn’t think they needed it. Especially if you’re about to pour 1/2 cup of maple syrup over them. One friend recommended adding ground crickets, which would double the protein (he was serious), but I’m not that extreme. Thanks, maybe next time, Shane.

This recipe makes a deceptively small amount of batter. But remember, it’s heavier, so a little bit goes a long way. It’ll make the same number of pancakes as a proportional wheat flour recipe will; the pancakes will just be a bit smaller. But, believe me, they will fill you up.

coconut pancake ingrs

Here’s what you need

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 – 1/3 cup milk. (Use coconut milk if you want to stay purely “paleo” and avoid dairy; but I just used my regular 1% cow’s milk)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Or use coconut oil if you’ve got it)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (This is the stuff that makes the cakes rise — and no, it’s not the same thing as baking soda)
dash of salt (Adds to the chemical reaction to help them rise, plus balances out the flavor a little)

And that’s it. See how easy that is? You’ve probably got all that stuff already in your cupboards — except for the coconut flour, which I’m sure you ran out and picked up, like I did, just to try this out.

Here’s what you do

Basically, you want to mix your wet ingredients first, then add in your dry ones.

So, crack your 3 eggs into a bowl, add the milk, oil, and vanilla extract, and beat with a fork or wisk to combine.
Next, dump in your coconut flour, and add the baking powder and salt.
. It doesn’t have to be perfect; some small lumps are fine.
Heat up a little vegetable or coconut oil, about a tablespoon, in your frying pan or griddle.  I’d avoid the “HI” setting if you don’t want to smoke up the whole kitchen. Just sayin’.
Pour about a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake (I used the same measuring cup as a ladle). This batter is heavier than normal pancake batter, so it won’t bubble when it’s ready to be flipped like you’re probably used to. You’ll just have to peek at the underside using a spatula/turner and flip when the pancake is a golden brown. I had to flip mine twice to make sure they were cooked through, but you don’t want to overcook them. Nobody likes maple syrup covered hockey pucks.
coconut pancakes teaThis batch makes about 6 pancakes, 3-4 inches wide — enough for two people if you’ve got other side dishes, and definitely enough for one, with or without extras.

Depending on how much syrup you pour on, these puppies have a much lower carb/sugar count than traditional pancakes. And with just 1/4 cup of coconut flour and the 3 eggs, I estimated about 24g of protein and about 10g fiber.

Not a bad way to start an indulgent weekend. Enjoy!


P.S.  About using more eggs as a binder, if you have an egg-sensitivity, my friend Rita offered a solution.  You can substitute milled flax seed as the binder. For 1 egg substitute 1 T of milled flax seed and put it into 1 T warm water. Let it sit several minutes until it becomes stretchy. Then add that to the recipe.  I’ll try that out next time I make these …

photo credit: Stephen Schmidt

Bachelor Food: Spaghetti Puttanesca

pasta_puttanesca_ala_stefanoIt’s been a while since we’ve run a foodie post, but the other day when I posted a photo of my dinner on Facebook (yeah, I’m one of those people), a bachelor friend commented that he doesn’t know how to cook and wished I’d posted the recipe along with the photo. So, for you, Jay, here it is.

I’ve been a spaghetti fan since I was a kid. And it’s one of the handful of foods that almost every guy knows how to cook. No big recipe needed, no elaborate culinary planning or advanced shopping needed. Most of us have boxes of spaghetti and jars of sauce in our cupboards, and it’s not much more complicated than boiling water and dumping the pasta in. But after a while, that can get pretty monotonous. I’d begun mixing it up, swapping out tomato sauce for olive oil, using stir-fried vegetables instead of hamburger, and the evolution began. Lots of combinations. I eventually got it down to a savory concoction that I really liked, and made it almost every week for myself.

I didn’t realize it was ridiculously close to a traditional favorite until one evening when I was watching an episode of “Queer as Folk” on Netflix, and Michael’s mom, Debbie Novotny, invited Michael’s chiropractor boyfriend to join them for dinner. “Sit down. I made Puttanesca.” Recognizing it as another spin on my favorite pasta, I decided to look it up on the interwebs. Basically, it’s spaghetti with kalamata olives and capers, mixed in a base of olive oil flavored with hot red peppers, garlic, and anchovies. It’s spicy and fragrant, and if you do it right, it should smell up your whole apartment.

In fact, that’s kinda how the pasta got it’s name. It literally means “pasta of the prostitutes” (we all know the word, puta, right? Well, the Italian version is puttana.) Urban legend has it that ladies of the evening in Naples would lure clients to their doors by sauteing the ingredients in olive oil. The pungent aroma would attract hungry men … and paying customers could satisfy their hunger in multiple ways.

The basic recipe calls for kalamata olives, capers, red pepper flakes, anchovies (or anchovy paste), a few chopped tomatoes, and served with Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese. I’m not a fan (at all) of anchovies, and most of us probably don’t keep capers in our fridge, so I made a few substitutions. Here’s my bachelor version …

puttanesca_ingredients

What you need

  • dried spaghetti (I use the whole-wheat variety cuz it’s got more fiber and protein, and makes me feel like I’m eating healthy)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic (you can use garlic powder if you like, but the taste will be slightly different)
  • red pepper flakes
  • dried oregano or Italian herb mix
  • 1/2 medium onion (any kind)
  • sliced red and green peppers (optional)
  • black olives (instead of kalamata olives; I just used the canned variety)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes — or some sliced cherry tomatoes if you’ve got ’em
  • grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)
  • sliced mushrooms (Portobellos have a rich, earthy flavor)
  • sliced pepperoni

Okay, these last two items are what I substitute for the anchovies and capers to give the pasta it’s “earthy” and salty kick.

Here’s what you do

1. Boil about 2 quarts of water in a saucepan. Add a little salt (which apparently is always the thing to do when cooking pasta) — say, about half a teaspoon. Throw in your dried spaghetti. The traditional standard for one serving of spaghetti is about the diameter of a U.S. quarter — just under an inch. So grab a bunch, and give it your best guess.

2. While your pasta is cooking, finely chop up your garlic, and slice your onions (and peppers).

3. Heat 4 or so tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. You don’t want the heat too high or you’ll smoke up the place.

4. Add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes to the olive oil (depending on how hot you like it), along with your dried oregano or herbs. Toss in your chopped garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes or until it’s slightly golden. The idea is to infuse the oil with the spicy heat from the pepper flakes, garlic and herbs.

5. Next, throw in your sliced onion, peppers, olives, mushrooms and pepperoni. (If you’ve got capers, you could add a teaspoon of them here.) They’ll saute in the flavored oil, about 5 minutes.

6. Once the vegs have cooked in the skillet, stir in the canned tomatoes, and bring to a low simmer.

7. By now, your spaghetti should be about cooked. You can test it by pulling out a few strands and chewing on them to see if they’re the firmness you prefer. Most recipes say till al dente — slightly firm — but I prefer it a bit softer. Umm, do I need to say NOT to use your fingers when fishing the pasta out of the boiling water?

QAF-213x3008. Using tongs or a pasta ladle, transfer the spaghetti from the water into the skillet. This will allow just a bit of the starchy cooking water to mix in with your sauce. Mix it all together until the pasta is well coated and your vegetables are evenly distributed. (I always end up adding more olive oil at this stage, but you may not like it as oily.)

9. Pile a generous amount on your plate, and top it off with some grated cheese.

Feel free to tweak the recipe to suit you. If you really like a salty tang, try adding a few finely chopped anchovy fillets (or 1-2 teaspoons of anchovy paste) as the original recipe calls for. Some of my friends swear by it — “It’s not puttanesca without the anchovies!” Me? I prefer the mushrooms. You be the judge.

Now, go dig up “Queer as Folk” on Netflix (the American version, not the British), and have yourself a relaxing evening. See you in Pittsburgh.


photo credit: Stephen Schmidt

Stop Looking for Mr Right

Mr Right 

Today a friend took the gutsy step of publicly posting that he was back in the dating game, and thought that with his large pool of friends on Facebook, he might have better luck making connections by announcing to a wider audience. Sure, why not? What are friends for if not setting you up on your next blind date?

But here’s the kicker, the thing that got me to write this. He added, “for those seriously interested only.” And there it is. I see it a lot in my Christian guy friends. The desire to skip right over the dating process, and go straight into betrothal and marriage. Some of my friends have even taken to the old term “courting”. As in, “I don’t want to date. I want to court someone and then marry.” But it’s the same idea: that dating, spending some time with someone new, drinking coffee, going to movies, having dinner … getting to know someone … is a waste of their time and energy unless there is a specific guarantee that it will result in rings being exchanged.

Put more bluntly (though I’m sure most of my friends would never consciously think this), “people are not worth my time unless I get exactly what I want from them.”

Don’t be so picky…

As the older guy friend, I want to smack them up side their heads (kindly of course), and tell them, “you’re missing the whole point!” I know because I’ve been there. It’s like walking into an upscale restaurant and refusing to look at the menu because you already know you want meatloaf.

Meatloaf is great. But have you tried the lobster? Or maybe the shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta? Or that wonderful Teriyaki steak, marinated in a ginger, soy and pineapple sauce?

That’s what dating is. It’s sampling the menu. Trying out new flavors, discovering things you never knew existed — things you might absolutely love. And yeah, along the way you’ll sample a few things you don’t like. But it opens you up to a world of new possibilities — ones that may never have even occurred to you. How will you know you’re not a fan of oysters if you’ve never tried them? Or think of all the wonderful evening meals you would have missed out on because you didn’t know you absolutely loved pasta puttanesca. So many guys have such a restrictive list of what they’re looking for in a mate, that they refuse to date anyone who doesn’t match perfectly. “Why should I? I know I won’t marry him.”

Meatloaf is great. But have you tried the lobster? … That’s what dating is. It’s sampling the menu. Trying out new flavors, discovering things you never knew existed — things you might absolutely love.

Because dating isn’t just about finding Mr Right. It’s about discovering more about yourself. It’s about broadening your view of the world around you. It’s about meeting different kinds of people, trying new experiences with them, exchanging ideas, learning something new about the world, about life. It’s exposure to the wide variety of humanity out there — the richness of God’s creation. Kinda like that prayer the Apostle Paul wrote for the Ephesians, “so that you might know the glorious richness of his inheritance in the saints” — so that you can experience the beautiful richness of variety in the types of people God created. People even of different faiths. See? If you know in advance that you probably won’t end up marrying this particular guy, you’re free to spend time with him even if he’s not a Christian. You might gain a whole new appreciation for faith and God because he’s Buddhist and explained how he meditates. Or he’s Muslim, or Jewish, or even an atheist.

Let me say it again. There is so much freedom in dating when you know that you’re not gonna marry this guy anyway, so you’re free to enjoy him for who he is rather than what you want him to be.

The encounter is meant to enrich you. You expand your mind, your heart, your portfolio of experience because he introduces you to things not a regular part of your world. He might take you to a late night jazz session, or to an art exhibit. He may play selections from his vintage rock collection, and open new musical doors for you. He might take you to his church or mosque, to some place you’d never have gone to by yourself. New food, new wines or beers, new music, new parts of town you’ve never seen. New perspectives on God. If you’re lucky, he’ll share a part of his soul with you. You become a better person by dating.

Unless, of course, you’re completely self-absorbed, and not really interested in the men you date at all except to see if their initials will look good on your monogrammed towels.

That sounds a bit harsh, but honestly, that’s how some of you sound. “I only want to date someone whom I could settle down with” comes across very much like “you’re not good enough for me, and I shouldn’t waste my time on you.” Of course you don’t mean it. But you’re robbing yourself. Hell, you’re robbing them, all those guys you refuse to date, of seeing the kind of person you are, of the chance to learn something from you, to realize that there are people of your caliber out there in the sea for them to find, that maybe they don’t need to settle for the first “suitable” guy who comes their way. And you too. You’ll meet a variety of guys who might fit your definition of “marriable”, but you’ll discover that you don’t need to commit to him just because he fits what you thought you wanted. By dating a variety of men, your checklist may expand. You’ll add new desirable traits to your dream — and likely add to your list of characteristics to avoid. All because you learned something new by meeting a variety of people.

Open yourself up to guys outside your normal “marriage criteria,” just for the sake of greater exposure and personal experience. You’ll grow in ways you never imagined.

Let your heart get broken once or twice

“But I don’t want my heart to get broken,” you may be saying.

And yes, that is a very real possibility. But here’s the thing. You should get your heart broken. Because that means you had a genuine connection with a real human being. It is part of the authentic human experience, and you cannot isolate yourself from that and expect to be a healthy person. Real people have hearts. Their hearts become engaged with people they spend time with, who they grow to care about. You will not go untouched. But you will be a better person because you were touched. Dating changes you. Dating deepens you.

Dating has gotten such a bad rap in some Christian circles, especially among faithful guys who are “waiting for marriage.” But cutting yourself off from the people around you, just because they don’t match your checklist, actually cheats you.

So stop looking for Mr Right. Stop being so picky, so restrictive. Be open to dating a variety of guys. You’ll have a lot of first (and only) dates. That’s fine. That’s part of the discovery process too. And when you do encounter that guy who really makes your head and heart sing, you’ll have a much broader basis of comparison to judge your suitability by. They say “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” But it’s because you kissed those frogs that you recognize who your prince is. And, realistically, you’ll get to kiss a lot of princes in the process too. You’ll just be better prepared to pick which one you finally settle down with.


photo credit: Fantasyland Station, cc.

Not So Blessed: When disaster hits your enemy

 

TonyPerkinsHome-1024x768

I had to resist rubbing my hands together in a weak moment of delighted schadenfreude when I read that Tony Perkins — rabid right-wing, anti-gay leader of the Family Research Council — lost his house this past week in the floods of Louisiana. The same guy who preached that natural disasters were God’s vengeance on America for tolerating gays, abortion … and whatever in-vogue sin of the day is tolerated in our society. Maybe you’re not so blessed, so privileged as you think.

“Karma,” some of my friends were saying. “With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you,” someone quoted Jesus. “You reap what you sow.”  All just different ways of saying the same thing: that there is some kind of cosmic reward and retribution system built into the fabric of our existence.

Okay, Tony Perkins is just one of the thousands effected by the floods. A dozen people died and 40,000 homes were destroyed in southern Louisiana this week. It would be tragic to overlook the devastating effects of nature on so many people, just so we can grab a few seconds of delight in the misfortune of one of our enemies. Surely karma is also concerned with the plight of the innocent. God takes no pleasure in the suffering of others. So maybe let’s not be so quick to get happy over the news.

Otherwise, we’re just as guilty — and mistaken — as those same people who’ve blamed other tragedies on us, on our “sins” and grievances against a holy God.

Jesus never gloated when his opponents were humbled. He never threw a stone, even at those who seemingly deserved it. And when people came to him wanting to point out the sinfulness of those who died when a tower in Siloam fell on them, or when a Roman governor slaughtered a group of people in the temple, Jesus rebuked them harshly. “They were no greater sinners than you — so if that’s the case, you’d better watch out for what’s coming your way” (Luke 13).  That’s a paraphrase, but that’s the gist of it. God doesn’t dole out to us what we “deserve.”  In fact, speaking of himself, giving himself a name, God declares, “this is who I am: the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness …” (Exodus 34).

But enough sermonizing. My fleeting moment of hubris over wanting to rub Tony Perkins’ face in it, in reality, was quickly shouted down by my own conscience. This is not who we are — or how God works. We’re better than this. We’re called to be better than this. To look upon even our enemies with compassion. And not be so quick to point the finger of judgment. Especially in moments of tragedy.

Bad stuff happens to good (and bad) people. That’s not an “act of God.” God’s hand actually moves through us when we do something to help each other.

My hope (and prayer) is that Tony Perkins, and those who follow him, will take this moment and rethink their theology. I hope real life will temper their theories, give them a reason to weigh the ugliness, the coldness and inhumaneness of this aspect of their beliefs. Good theology is born out of life experience. It can’t be just academic or based on a simple, literalistic reading of a holy text. That way leads to legalism, to hard-heartedness, to death. It dishonors “the compassionate and gracious God” it claims to reflect.  Bad stuff happens to good (and bad) people. That’s not an “act of God.” God’s hand actually moves through us when we do something to help each other.

This wasn’t a shining moment for me either. This harsh moment of history when people are suffering is making me pause and rethink my own “gut reactions.” It’s a cold look in the mirror of my soul.  I’m in need of some personal transformation as much as the Family Research Council is in need of some theological transformation.

May the tender, correcting voice of God’s Spirit work in us all.  And then may we move past our moments of introspection and theologizing to actually step up and help take care of those impacted by these so-called “acts of God.”

 

Ways to help & donate:

Salvation Army’s Gulf Coast fund – volunteer or donate to help
Operation Blessing relief fund – providing hot meals and helping in recovery
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana – distributing food, water, and supplies to flood victims

 


photo credit: Tony Perkins’ home after the flooding. Taken from Tony Perkins’ Facebook page.

Breaking Up Was One of the Best Things to Ever Happen to Me

BreakingUp

A couple of friends on social media have posted recently about the difficulties they’re having after breaking up with their boyfriends. I can empathize. That emotional vortex can tear you apart for a few weeks and make you feel like your whole life is destroyed. But, for me, it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Relationships are wonderful things. We humans seem to crave them. We can feel isolated, lonely, and incomplete without them, as if our lives have little or no meaning unless someone else is there sharing it with us.  And there’s good reason for that. We are by nature social beings. (Most of us, that is. There are always those rare birds who thrive on being unattached.) I think it’s built into our DNA — the only thing recorded in the Genesis creation story that God said was not good was that man should be alone.

But what happens when those relationships end? For whatever reason — irreconcilable differences, death, infidelity, or simply growing in different directions — the sudden absence of someone who up till that moment played a significant role in your life, in your identity, can leave you reeling. You have to begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild yourself, rebuild your life.  And that can be a wonderful thing. A gift. An awe-inspiring blessing. It was for me.

We’d been together for 15 years. It was a rocky relationship, full of its ups and downs. Emotional highs, heights of passion, random warm moments, holidays, birthdays. Arguments, shouting matches, feeling completely misunderstood or neglected, … holidays, birthdays. Yeah, all of it. But in the final analysis, we weren’t happy. Not that we expected each other to make us happy — we both knew happiness was our own responsibility. But when the chemistry of two radically different personalities creates more negative reaction than positive, it’s time to reconsider the relationship. And we did. And we mutually agreed to end it.

The separation didn’t happen overnight. We discussed who’d get what, who’d move out, who’d stay, which dogs would go with whom. And we allowed time for that to happen. I kept the house (since I was the main bread-winner and he couldn’t have afforded to keep it), and he made plans to move across state to be closer to his family. And I itched almost every day, waiting for everything to fall into place so he could be gone.

When the day finally came, we packed up a U-Haul truck and moved him out. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Literally. It felt like I could breathe again.

BreakingUp2The first thing I did was rearrange the furniture. I was going to make the house “mine.” Then came all the other little changes. The decisions. I decided to eat better, to cook more, with more organics and meat that was humanely raised — and even for my dogs to eat better.  I decided to drink better quality coffee. To live more earth-friendly. To improve my social life. Dating — sure. (The whole world had evolved since the last time I’d dated. AOL was the thing back then. My friends had to clue me in about Adam4Adam, OkCupid, Match, and the host of phone apps available to help meet new people.) But also simply spending more time with my friends, going out to dinner, theater, movies … just rebuilding my life without him in it.  (I wrote about some of this back in the early days of my new-found singleness in “BYOB – Gay and Single (Again) After 40.”)

And this one word kept going through my head. “Rediscovery.” I wasn’t just “re-inventing” my life. I was rediscovering myself, who I was, digging back up those aspects and activities I used to love that had somehow become buried over the years together. Things he didn’t like to do. Parts of my personality that got overshadowed by the “us” of being with him. I rediscovered what it was like to be “Steve.”

I even stuck an index card on my refrigerator to remind me every morning —

“Create a life for yourself
that reflects your values,
builds on your gifts,
fulfills your purpose,
and satisfies your soul.”

The power of those words burrowed deep into my soul. “Create a life for yourself…”  It was an active process, not something I just sat back and let unfold. I spent time re-evaluating just what were my values, my gifts, my purpose? What satisfies my soul? I had the chance to re-create my life. I had that power. It was like a rebirth.

Oh, and yes, I did jump into the dating game. I was online every day, checking my apps multiple times during the day. Going on coffee dates (the safest thing for first dates, I discovered), getting to know different guys. There were months of feeling almost desperate: “I gotta find somebody. I wanna be married again.” I got emotionally attached to a couple of guys, even knowing there was no real long-term possibilities there. Got my heart broken once or twice. But gradually, as the clouds of desperation slowly faded from my mind, I woke up one morning realizing that I actually liked being single. I enjoyed my freedom. I loved the fact that I could meet someone, spend time with them, but go home afterwards to my own place, my home, my refuge, my dogs. And be okay unwinding on the couch, grabbing some movie off Netflix. By myself. Without having to worry about what someone else wanted to do.

I began to love myself again — and to like myself.  Whoever the guy was who’d eventually play a significant role in my life again, he’d have a pretty tough act to follow. He’d have to treat me and love me better than I loved myself. I wasn’t gonna lower my standards.

It’s been 4 years now. I’ve found someone who doesn’t trigger my red flags, who doesn’t irritate me (most of the time), who treats me with great respect, who has a depth of character and integrity that is a “must have” for me, and who has a life already established for himself. He’s good for my soul.

But more important than that. I’m happy. I wake up in the morning, grab my first cup of coffee of the day, and gather my thoughts. I pray. And I thank God for this good life. I think about the things I’m grateful for, the things I’m relieved about, excited and expectant about. The future. The present. The simplicity of things. A deeper spirituality. And the second chance at building my life.

The breakup gave me that chance. I got to re-think, re-define, re-discover who I was, and re-introduce elements of life that bring me joy and peace. Even my friends have commented on the change. I’m a better person now than I was before, and my life is richer. That break up with my ex was one of the best things that ever happened to me.


A version of Stephen’s post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.
Photo credits: Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello, cc; “Bachelor Pad,” crystalsquare apts, cc.