Yale


I am sitting at Yale Divinity at the moment…about ready to leave. For the day, for the semester, for the year, for good.

It is high time that I do so. I no longer believe in this school, even enough to love it into change. I spent many words here in criticism, but I’m leaving them behind now. I have a generic hope that others will stay invested in this place, but it’s crystal clear to me that it is not my role to do so. There is little virtue in defending this choice, but I will say just this…

I tried.

The anger you have seen on these pages reflected my willingness to invest myself into the conflict, an urge to be opaque, disruptive, and transformative in the community. But when a community is so riven by parochial concerns, pecking orders, micro-competitive urges and most of all, a leadership dedicated to stasis…

They aren’t all bad. And I’m not entirely innocent. But somewhere along the line, I lost the urge to make this place better. So it’s time for me to leave. Unless I can be invested, there’s no point in presence.

I do not leave angry. Anger would imply a frustrated ambition. I do not leave broken. Brokenness would imply that this place has definitional power.

I leave with wonderful friends, invaluable connections, and a shiny piece of paper.

I shall endeavor to do my best with them.

Elsewhere, in other times, on my own terms.

-sly

The tale of one my classes, taken primarily to satisfy distribution requirements. I was at least somewhat interested in the subject matter, and learned some cool stuff. But let’s not get it twisted. I wouldn’t have spent a class on this unless otherwise motivated…my time is a commodity, and i try to be careful with it.

Anyhow. Midterm grade, after trying to take the midterm while having a panic attack:

Failing.

Final grade, after given the chance along with the rest of the class to double the final exam:

Honors.

Wtf? It makes sense. I wrote a pretty decent paper, and I was much better prepped for the final. And i think the prof might have learned the hard way about what kind of material students could be reasonably expected to retain. Chapter numbers…not one of them, for instance.

Seriously. If you are a professor or teacher…it is a trick question to ask what the theme of chapter nine was in an anthology. I didn’t read them in order…and was reduced to deductive guessing. Oddly, I did fairly well on the multiple choice section of the midterm (I have seriously uncanny, possibly unholy abilities to read multiple choice exams for clues) but bombed out the identifications because I had no idea how long to write them. I could have asked…but…

Panic attacks have a funny way of having deleterious effects on academic performance.

Regard me as being glad that things worked out.

-sly

The following should be considered a composite conversation, undertaken with many at Yale Divinity School. The quotes that follow are not verbatim, nor to be understood as to be the product of any one individual.

“The funny thing about Yale is that it gives you just enough to make a show of it, and then asks you to be grateful for the crumbs.”

A few friends gathered around a dinner table…beers, wine, and coke all went up to lips and back as the conversation grew more animated. The cork was out, and the sentiments flowed freely.

“It happens with everything. Representation of people of color in faculty and students…feminist voices,

“Did you know we have faculty committed to opposing women’s ordination?”

Who, we wondered…and a few names bubbled up. No wonder this was so fucked up…

“hey…weren’t you chairing the sub committee on…”

I hung my head slightly…i know…i really meant to get that together, but you’d never know how crazy things get. And after an intitial bout of emails, interest seemed to taper off. I left the work undone…and the institution did it’s magic once more. By delegating what should be institutional tasks to the student body, YDS effectively mires reform efforts in an uphill battle. We turn over every 2-3 years, we’re over worked, and with scarce time to meet. Even booking a room is often a challenge.

And it came together for me. There was that which I was personally responsible for doing, and not doing. And there was that which I had been teased into thinking was possible, or already done. What caught my gall was the way in which the very real problems of this place were continually made invisible by such posturing, and dismissed as the oversensitivity of a few discontents.

And in that moment, I felt slightly bitter.

“Guess that means that you could really screw with them if you took them at face value.”

A friend broke my reverie. She was charting out a new course…one of a jaded sincerity. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. It’s not that I hate the place…indeed, i have many dear friends, whose love is like a drawing band. Why not be faithful to that, and mock the artifice that has come between that which we love and that which we must hold to be true?

You may be tempted to read this as a rant against my school. And there is some truth in that. I finish my second year feeling betrayed by an institution that claims a place of progress and transcendence, but still struggles with so much. But it is also a love letter to my fellow rebels and discontents…students, staff, faculty, who see the place not as it is, but as it might be in Christ’s love.

caritas,

-sly

Dear Fellow Yalies Who Are Coming to My Humble Blog After Searching for Marquand Chapel:

Please consider dropping a comment, or even saying hi in person. I’m flattered by the interest, really, but it’s vaguely unnerving to know my classmates are reading this silently. I know, I’m paranoid, but I’ve also been really happy to hear from some of the folks who’d been reading.

As stated in the contact page, free drinks available to loyal readers who contact me in a bar.

-sly

This morning, Marquand Chapel was led in a service of memory, grief, and healing for the divisions caused by bans on the ordination of queers and of women.

I am by any measure too overwhelmed to deliver more commentary that that, but the following is the script for my homily. I am tempted to wait until I can see the video and make a transcript, but I feel that it was pretty close.

I can accept the idea that I may lose this fight. But I can’t stomach the idea that they could make me afraid enough to not even try.”

I said that on my way out to YDS almost two years ago. Writing to a friend after a particularly shocking encounter with homophobia, I was filled with resolve to press for ordination in a tradition that is still struggling to come to terms with the calls to ministry of queer Christians.

And now, those words are not true. I have gotten too embroiled in the conflict to see a way out, or even a way to begin. I still have a letter to my regional committee still unsent. Despite a deep feeling of call, the unswerving support of my home church, and the care of many witnesses, I am no longer seeking a recognized ordination.

I realized that I became afraid that if I heard “no” from them for their reasons…that I wouldn’t have a church anymore, that it would be too painful, that I could lose everything.

Yet, even before any verdict, I stopped going to church at all, so I wouldn’t be reminded. I told myself I’d get a PhD instead. I told myself that it wasn’t a consolation prize.

I keep circling this altar. I know that grace calls me to respond to grace by showing grace….to answer God’s love by witnessing to God’s love for the world. And I believe that there is nowhere that is more powerfully known than in the mystical gift of the Body and the Blood.

I keep circling this altar. And I know I have choices. There are denominations that will receive me. But I cannot bring myself to leave home. Not in that way, not like that. I claim a heritage of soul freedom, the disestablished church, of country gospel, of the believer’s baptism, and the priesthood of all Christians. I’m Baptist. Perhaps an odd one. Perhaps even a queer one. But I am a Baptist. And, for me, it would be a dishonesty to simply pack up for greener ecclesiastical pastures. It would be against what I feel about my denomination, and perhaps most of all, it would ignore the grief I feel for the whole church in these days.

So I shall journey. And I shall seek. I am looking for companions, to share bread and wine. I am going north, back to Galilee, where the risen Christ promises to be. I leave in that expectation of Easter, seeking my calling anew. My heart is still heavy, and I mourn. But I leave in hope.

-sly

And it’s almost here.

For over a month, a service focused on barriers to ordination and the restrictions on who may preside in Marquand Chapel is going to go live in just a few days.

I’m still writing my bit…and oddly, waiting to hear who is going to preside. It’s a long story, really…but we just have to see what happens.

One of the tougher bits has been working out my dissapointment with what we’re going to do…not because it’s a bunch of crap, but because it’s really good, almost perfect in a lot of ways. And it’s that near brush with my vision, as mediated by a bunch of other people who care about this and their concerns. Committee work always has this side to it, and i can shrug off most of it. But part of me is really thinking about going militant during my homily.

Because the church is in a bad way right now…and i get a vibe too often from folks that they think about queer ordination as kind of a inevitable march of progress. They think their mainline denomination “will come around” and some of the more conservative ones will remain so. It’s not. And if something is really unjust…it’s not some sign of tolerance to leave it unopposed in another segment of society.

-sc

If you don’t already know from the lack of posting, the boy is in town for the weekend.

I’ve been rather busy in anticipation of that, and I’ve been savoring the election win. Now, i know that my elation may soon fade as I realize that many of these folks we elected aren’t half as liberal as they ought to be…but c’mon. We have a little while before the 110th Congress is sworn in. Enjoy it.

On Thursday, we attended a discussion of the movie “Crash” hosted by CORE, an anti-racist group at YDS. And because we take intellectual reflection (and copyright law) seriously…Profs. Tricia Rose and Andre Willis led the conversation afterwards. Briefly, I have to say this. I was at long last relieved to be in a discussion of this movie where I was not the only person who thought it was terrible. As Prof. Rose put it, it was a movie that tries to play on and manipulate people with genuine interest and good will. But with flat stereotypes, nameless characters (think back, and try to figure out if you know them at all, except by the actor’s name), and a theory of race that comes down to “individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.”

The gender implications are gawd-awful as well. Thandi Newton’s character describes the sexual assault which is perpetrated against her as an insult to her husband, and questions why he didn’t stop it. And the movie none too subtly implies that even the most sophisticated black woman, given the chance and some booze, will run her mouth to the point of provoking a racialized sexual assault. And if that’s not bad enough, in each of the “redemption” scenes…both of them depend on the racist assholes who did this in the first place. “Saved” by white men who don’t apologize or acknowledge their wrong doing, the choice between life and destruction is put on them…as if they have to chose to not be bigoted in order to live. Oh, noes.

And so Prof. Rose broke it down, and we got to talking about what it would mean to have a movie, or a narrative that actually was serious about systemic racism. There was a real challenge in naming a positive agenda, at least one that could fit into two hours and a Hollywood set. Most interestingly for me, we talked about truth-telling, and the limits thereof. Even while many narratives of race in America are anything but truthful, and disguise, downplay, and dissemble about the magnitude of racism… Rose challenged us to understand the ways in which America was also addicted to the truth-telling as a never ending process, a stuck point of rehearsal and repetition of the pain. With no forward momentum, starting the process becomes a delay tactic when the “process” gets started a new with frightening regularity.

Prof. Leslie added that in models of forgiveness and healing in pastoral care, that the intermediate step between truth-telling and happily-ever-after is change. With the new knowledge one has, something has to change. And right now, one of the things I’m working on changing…is the conversation.

Overall, I was happy for the turnout, that we’d headlined an event with decent turnout and good discussion. One of the things I’ve worried about is making sure we’re not a “do-nothing” org, but rather having the feeling of momentum. But as it’s been raised, it’s extremely important to have extended conversation, one in which the next steps are chosen by consent.

-sly

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