Friday, March 28, 2008

To Church or Not to Church...

That is the question.  My family and I have been attending the same church for 13 years.  We rarely miss a Sunday.  We sing in the choir, my daughters are acolytes, we've been lay readers and tossed pumpkins.  Yet, I'm seriously considering walking away.  

We're Episcopalians, Catholic-Lite to some.  So much has been going on with the Church as a larger body that no one in my parish talks about.  Our Bishop denounced the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop but hasn't done anything towards pulling our Diocese from the Episcopal Church USA.  I was not happy that Bishop Payne felt he could speak for me when I so vehemently disagreed.  But living in Texas, it's hard to find much support when you believe as I do- that homosexuality is not a choice, a lifestyle or a sin.  It's biology.   Or least no support that is willing to stand up and be counted.  

Beyond the issues facing the larger Church, this church doesn't feel like the one I joined 13 years ago.  We've moved into a larger facility, started a preschool and grown tremendously.  The open friendliness that was an essential part of why we stayed is missing.  There is no one thing I can point to and say, this is it.  This is why I may leave this church.  We've gone through three rectors (one interim).  Our new priest, despite the fact that she's just recently celebrated her second anniversary with us, is someone I don't know much about.  She's made lots of changes in a slow and steady fashion that are disturbing when looked at as a whole, at least to me.  She's moving the church towards a more "High Church" feel.  What that means for those of you unfamiliar with the term is that the songs we sing, the rituals used in service and even the robes the choir wears is becoming more formal and more traditional.

Leaving is not a decision I come to easily.  I was very ill last year and the majority of people who visited me in the hospital were people I knew from church.  They came and sat with me, prayed with me or over me, fed my family and generally showed they cared.  Leaving the church means leaving the people I've met over the years.  Still, we don't socialize with these folks or see them outside church and that's as much our fault as anything.

But going to church has become a routine, a habit, that makes very little effect on the rest of my week.  I've never been the type to be overtly religious. It's not a topic I'm real keen to share with most people.  Yet it is something important to me. Finding a new church will be difficult.  Those pesky issues I talked about earlier are effecting all the mainstream churches.  My husband is reluctant to drive any distance to go to church (our current church is only about 2 miles away). So, what will most likely happen, at least in the short term, is that I will be staying home on Sunday mornings.

Should I talk to people at church and risk alienating some?  Or just keep assuming... Well, you know what they say about that.  So, to stay or to go.  That is the question.  No answer yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Change-Not Somebody Else's Problem

Change is not a dirty word.  So many times, in so many different places and circumstances, I hear the word change bandied about.  For some, it's a mantra.   We hear it in politics, corporate governance, religious conflict and more.  "We must change the way we do business" is a great one.  It can apply to so much.  To how you actually do business, to government, to your church vestry.  The possibilities are endless.

In politics, we've heard a lot about change over the past few years.  We need a change in Washington.  We need to change "business as usual".  We yearn for change but can't quite bring ourselves to really vote for true change.  It's how the same folks keep getting reelected despite polls showing people want change.  It's covered by that pesky "somebody else's problem field".  We want change and stability at the same time.  So we vote to keep our crooks because at least we know them and hope that "somebody else" will vote in new faces to breathe new life into the government.  You can't have it both ways.  Change may not be easy but I for one think it's worth it.

I'm ready for change.  Ready for someone who really wants to be his own man and ignore the special interest groups.  Ready for someone who stands for what he believes in and is willing to explain why in something longer than a 30 second sound bite.  Ready for someone who wants to fix the broken health care system by taking what's best about our current system and what's best about systems around the world.  I want to believe that the man in the White House knows his own mind and doesn't act without thinking. 

I came of age during Watergate.  I remember the trials and whispers.  That event forms the basis of all my political judgments:  I've never believed in the honor of politicians.  As far as I could see, they all -to a man- were willing to do whatever it took to win.  Those that managed to cling to some semblance of ethics and responsibility were soon worn down by the Washington machine and doomed to fade from memory.  I've had little reason to doubt this basic judgment over the years.  Look at who I've seen as President in my adult life: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush.  Ford was unprepared to be President and while he might have made a good one, he was never given the chance.  Carter was characterized by the media as a bumbling, grinning fool.  His greatest contributions would come later.  Reagan began his presidency with a lie-taking credit for Carter's negotiations to release the hostages- and ended with another-taking credit for the fall of communism. Bush, Sr and his "I had no knowledge" in regards to Iran-Contra was completely unbelievable.  Once a spook, always a spook.  Clinton.  Well, what can one say about Clinton?  Any good he did -balancing the budget, negotiating a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine- will forever be forgotten and overshadowed by one word "is" and what it just might mean in relation to a certain intern and whether or not oral sex is sex.  (Just for the record, Bill.  It is.) And that brings us to Junior.  What can I say about Junior?  G.W. has done more to drive this country into recession, destroy our international credibility and increase instability in the world than any single politician in American history.  In my opinion, he should go down as one of, if not the, worst presidents of all time.  He scares me, disgusts me and shames me on an almost daily basis.  

And now we have an historic opportunity.  Not just to prove that a woman or an African-American can be a serious contender for President of the United States, but to elect an individual who embodies all those ideals that politicians used to embrace.  Honor, hope, honesty.  We can elect someone who doesn't owe special interests any thing.  Someone who believes that a political campaign doesn't have to be played "dirty" to win.  Someone who represents change for the better in the most real sense that our nation has been witness to in decades.

Our country's best hope lies in the hands of one man- Barack Obama.  Let's all hope that he makes it to the White House in November.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Texas Two Step

Okay, we do things kinda odd here in the great state of Texas. We admit it. We're a bit off from the rest of the country. How we count the votes in a primary is apparently one of them.

As you all have no doubt heard by now, Texas has a schizophrenic primary that thinks it's a caucus. Everybody votes like the other states. Nothing too strange. We have open primaries, so I can vote Republican or Democrat. Other state do this as well. That's about where it stops being normal. Delegates are allocated in an odd fashion. Precincts are given delegates according to voter turnout in the previous 2 general elections. What this means in an otherwise red state, is that Austin gets 8 Democratic delegates and Amarillo gets 2. Austin even has more than Dallas and Houston. Austin, as you might guess from these numbers, is a very political town. Makes sense. Its the state capitol and the city motto is "Keep Austin Weird". Put the two together and you get a city that stands out from the rest of the state.

So what does this been for Barack and Hillary? It means that the final delegate count for Texas will not be determined tonight. It's entirely possible that Hillary could win the general primary votes and still lose Texas. Which, I have to say, I hope doesn't happen. (Barack needs to win outright.)

It's a refreshing change of pace to actually have a primary worth voting in. This is my first. I'm not ashamed to say it. At 44, I'm voting in a presidential primary for the first time. And this two step business was news to me. I'm a native Texan and can't remember ever hearing about "it's a primary and a caucus" until this year. The news outlets are having a field day talking about the record turn-outs and odd system. More power to 'em, I say. It's fueled this turn out and that's a damn good thing. Time for democrats in Texas to realize they can make a difference someplace else besides Austin.

So, just remember. We grow 'em weird down here in the Lone Star state. Just don't hold Junior against us. (Just for the record, I didn't vote for the ass wipe either time.)