Sunday, November 21, 2010

Truth to Tell

Religions of the World over Lucinda Naylor's "Wave"
Photo from KFAI website.

Truth to Tell is the name of a radio show hosted by Andy Driscoll and Lynnell Mickelsen on KFAI FM 90.3/106.7/Online

Today I joined Fr. Michael Tegeder and Rev. Leeanne Watkins Monday morning to be part of a conversation "about the role religion plays in uniting or dividing us, with an emphasis on... Catholic and Episcopalian faiths’ responses to the reality of same-sex relationships...(and) the roles churches... play in mixing their spiritual missions with... secular politics."

The Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis was invited to participate but "(Dennis McGrath) stated that they do not participate in such discussions, unless there's a theological conference or something of similar gravity involved". Not unexpected but disappointing.

Click here to go to a linked article: audio file available for download at the bottom of that page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fear not...

A constant refrain in the Bible, from Isaiah to Luke, is "Be not afraid".

The latest kerfuffle springing from the archbishop’s DVD is the censoring of editorials in the Benilde-St. Margaret's High School newspaper the Knight Errant. I was interviewed by a student reporter for a story titled “Church releases DVD that makes waves”. Published alongside this article were two editorials: “Staff finds DVD unsubstantiated” and “Life as a gay teenager” (also reprinted as “For gay teens who have considered suicide”).

The censoring of these very worthy editorials was done by the school, as MPR reports: “Dennis McGrath, a spokesman for the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis said, 'We were not involved in this process, but we are supportive of the decision by school authorities.'"

Funny, those were almost his exact words about my suspension from the Basilica. We didn’t do it, but we support those who did.

As a friend who works for the Church said to me, “when you create a climate of fear, you don’t have to do your own dirty work”.

The Knight Errant student editors did an excellent job of scrutinizing the claims on the DVD. For example, in dealing with one of the most offensive falsehoods, the editors wrote:

The DVD also aimed to reject the notion that the issue of gay marriage is an issue of civil rights. They did this in the most subtle way imaginable: by having a black man quote Martin Luther King Jr. The quote in question was from “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and stated that for a law to be just it must be in line with natural law.

What the speaker fails to address is the very next line of the letter that states, “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statues are unjust because segregation distorts the soul.” Clearly this omitted line proves that MLK would not have supported discriminatory policies against any group, including homosexuals. The fact that the Church would go as far as to evoke MLK in an issue, which he clearly wouldn’t have supported, speaks volumes to the argument which the DVD presents.

Coretta Scott King--who should know best-- has been quoted as saying MLK would support gay rights. She stated: "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriage." I think it is safe to say these students’ claims are on very firm ground.

But dissent, even when speaking the truth, is no longer tolerated in today’s Catholic Church. The student reporter told me that while students wanted to talk about the DVDs, the school staff was very afraid and wouldn't speak openly. They rightly feared for their jobs if they dissented.

Since I was suspended, multiple people have contacted me to say they (too) lost jobs with the Church through direct interference or indirect fear of the archbishop. For a variety of reasons, these people have mostly chosen to go quietly--but with very heavy hearts.

The DVD to ART opening took place in a space surrounded by large plate glass windows. A number of people who worked for the Church risked attending. A friend, who knew some of these folks, was startled by how paranoid they were. Some of them asked him to patrol the street to make sure no one was photographing them entering or leaving the exhibit. They were afraid of being spotted and reported. But they are the brave ones... I give them credit for showing up, because their fears are legitimate.

No Church employees are present in this photograph.

At the start of the project, when I was collecting DVDs outside the Basilica, a woman I’d never met before came to drop off her DVD. Since there was press around, she shielded her face with her hands and the DVD, so she wouldn’t accidently get caught in a photo. “My husband works for the Church,” she sheepishly explained.

The Church of not that many years ago was talked about as a big umbrella, where family--who didn’t always agree--sheltered together. Now instead of hearing “all are welcome”, we instead hear talk of “a smaller and purer Church”. Our own archbishop responds to letters by suggesting dissenters might be happier in other faith traditions--as well as questioning their salvation.

Over and over lately, I find myself saying, “you know something’s wrong when the Church is ruling with fear instead of guiding with love”.

I applaud the student newspaper staff at the Knight Errant who dared to speak out. When I was their age I was proud to be Catholic because I knew my Church let me think for myself and ask big questions. I didn’t see the point of having a faith that was so limiting that it couldn’t withstand dissent. A God constrained by that kind of faith felt too small for me then, and still does.

I hope we can return to days when we were proud to say "catholic means universal"--and felt it held true not just for the "little c" catholic of the creed but for the "big C" Catholic of the Roman Catholic Church. Over-quoted, but true: "we are the Church" and "we need to be the change we want to see".

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine."

Isaiah 43:2

(Words in blue-gray are live links.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Everything about the DVD to ART project has happened fast. 24 hours after I go on Facebook, I get news coverage. 48 hours after I make that first post, I get suspended from the Basilica. Now I get a day's notice to vacate my make-shift gallery.

I should have taken it as "a clue" when my sculpture got knocked over last week. I did call to see if staying was going to be OK. I didn't hear back until this morning when I got the word that I needed to vacate ASAP. They were lovely to let me have the space as long as I did.

The Wailing Wall Quilt is already off the wall and folded up. I've started tearing down The Wave.

I'm hoping to recreate The Wave into small sculptures. I've already promised some to benefit glbtq Online High School.

It's been a wide ride! At least with all these waves, I'm not seasick!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Update CNN: Link to video and text story.

The CNN report I wrote about below is the featured post on CNN Politics this afternoon. Sounds like this link may not stay live forever, but for now you can watch the video and read an expanded written story by clicking here.

My Inspiration Interviewed on CNN

The CNN report DVD crosses the line for some Catholics starts off with the interview of a fellow parishioner named Jan. I know Jan from years of sitting in the pews with her on Sunday mornings and serving on the same eucharistic minister team.

I knew that last spring she wrote a heartfelt letter to the archbishop telling him about her lesbian daughter and asking him to open his heart to GLBT people. She told me about the letter she received in return that suggested she should refrain from taking communion and that her salvation could be in jeopardy, unless she changed to the archbishop's way of thinking.

I also knew, from having seen other friends letters, that the archbishop's condemnation came wrapped in a form letter--he didn't even care enough to address her personally, she got the same letter everyone did who wrote opposing his views.

So, when I heard about the DVD, I thought of Jan... and many other people hurt by the Church.

In the Catholic Church, we always hear "we are the Church"--meaning: the people, all of us.
There are so many wonderful Catholics who are open and embracing of all people. They don't happen to be running the show right now, but that doesn't make them any less "the Church". I wanted to give voice to those Catholics, by asking them to collaborate with me on the DVD to ART project. Thank you to the thousands of people who have come forward to help spread the word that Catholics are also inclusive and loving people.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wailing Wall Quilt Notes

Today I took a bunch of photos of the notes tucked into the Wailing Wall Quilt, which is the "bonus art" on view with The Wave. All the photos posted here are of notes that the writers left loosely tucked, so they could be read by others. I believe I am honoring the writers' intentions by giving them a larger viewing here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Wave Evolves

Being an artist, I wasn't satisfied with last night's quick fix job on the toppled Wave.

I went back today and did a little surgery. Here it is in its latest incarnation:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Industrial Accident... Or Waves Are Ever-Changing...

This is how The Wave originally looked...
this is what it looks like after a little accident today:
My "gallery space" for this project is a vacant storefront. It's a lovely space--big, with lots of windows. Occasionally work goes on here when I'm not present. I know this because lights are left on and doors are left open, or construction materials stuck in offices off the main room are moved about. All three tell-tale signs of activity were there today... but the main evidence was laying the middle of the floor. Oops! The Wave fell over.

Admittedly, I made the damage worse by not waiting until I had at least three people to right it. With only two of us lifting, it twisted and split in the middle. Out came the hot glue gun and scissors! Now The Wave is a bit shorter and longer...

Well, real waves are never the same moment to moment. Waves of change are no different: always in flux. So the fact the a sculpture that symbolizes change in the Church should shift and move is really very appropriate.

The Wave is still available for viewing on Saturdays (1-5 p.m.) but don't be surprised if it flows into even yet another form...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wailing Wall Quilt

The "bonus art" on display with The Wave is called the Wailing Wall Quilt. Because so many people sending me their DVDs were including notes, I asked myself "how can I make a piece of art that let's people speak?"
Inspired by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where people tuck their prayers on pieces of paper amid the chinks of the wall, I came up with the idea of quilting together a "wall" of the DVD sleeves.

The open pockets of the sleeves created the perfect pocket for tucking thoughts and prayers.

Remembering my grandmother's quilting bees, I
invited 22 women and girls to join me one Sunday afternoon to join me in sewing the sleeves together, using their creativity to each create their own square.

I invite you to come by and add your own thoughts and prayers.