Tag Archives: spirituality

Marian wants YOU for Community of ONE

Well, constant readers, it’s been a looooong time since the last posting.  In my defense, I’ve been up to my eyeballs learning Biblical Greek, an ordination requirement of the PCUSA.[i]  You’ll be happy to know that after ten grueling weeks, I can now say, in grammatically correct Koine:

βλεπο νεκροι ανθροποι.  Αυτοι και ουκ γινουσι νεκροι.[ii]

Besides turning into a Greek geek, I’ve been helping overhaul the church universal.  Which may be a bit of an overstatement – or not, depending on how historians choose to tell the tale.  Turns out, I’m not the only person tooling around Denver wondering why hip, intelligent, inquisitive people refuse to darken the thresholds of church buildings[iii] and, more to the point, how to serve spiritually hungry people without coming across as a mealy-mouthed snake oil salesman.

Fortunately, I don’t have to come up with an answer, because my friend Tim is working on it.  Getting to help with this project has been the spiritual equivalent of being invited to eat lunch at the cool kids’ table.  I could go on and on about what we have planned, but Tim already did that, too.  So, without further ado, allow me to extend a heartfelt invitation to tomorrow night’s inaugural gathering – just in time for Advent – of Community of ONE.[iv]


Community of One

Hope to see you there![v]

[i] As is Biblical Hebrew.   This is because Presbyterians like their pastors professorial.  I hear that when you successfully complete your language training, they give you a tweed jacket with those sexy suede patches on the elbows.

[ii] I see dead people.  They don’t even know they’re dead.

[iii] You know, other than the obvious.  If you don’t know about the obvious, please sample some of Marian’s earlier postings.

[iv] Those of you who don’t live near enough to Denver to attend are invited to send good vibes.  I have it on good authority that they will return to you three-fold.  Like a brochure.

[v] Just, please, don’t bring up this blog.  I still don’t know how the PCUSA feels about liberal use of the f-bomb in pursuit of deep theological understanding, although I’m pretty sure they’re okay with “shit” because Paul used the word in Philippians 3:8.  What we piously translate as “dung,” (σκυβαλον) actually means “shit.”  File this under “Things You Can’t Say in a Sermon, No Matter How True They Are.”


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013


God’s silly side in a small, small world

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways.  Quite frankly, I find God’s ways downright frickin’ bizarro most of the time, but that does lend certain capriciousness to life that I think we could all use more of.

Case in point:  I spent half the day last Saturday in the company of 150 of my closest Presbyterian friends[1] at a class entitled “Dangerous Elders.”  Upon arriving, I was crushed to discover that kung fu fighting was not part of the day’s agenda[2], but I soldiered on until we came to lunchtime.

Suddenly struck by the necessity of socializing, I donned my faux extrovert persona and scanned the crowd for familiar faces, trying not to appear pathetic.  Thankfully, I found some friends from Leadville, CO[3] who were too buzzed on all the oxygen at 5200 feet above sea level to notice if I looked pathetic.  Then, a member of one of my favorite rural churches found me and we and some other folks spent the next ten minutes catching up on a perennially relevant and riveting topic to Coloradans:  road construction.

At one point, another solo attendee and I bumped elbows and exchanged a few funny words and then we all got in the lunch line.  I was hoping to sit with my fellow asphalt aficionados.  But when the seating hostess called for two people to fill in an incomplete table, I threw caution to the wind and volunteered.

The hostess sat me next to the other solo flyer I’d run into – literally – a few minutes earlier.  We started chatting (like you do), immediately hitting it off (which is altogether too rare), and the conversation, inevitably, turned to our occupations.

My companion – whom I’ll call Fiona, because that’s not her name – told me that she was in the marriage and family therapy business.  Since I know exactly one marriage and family therapist, I said:  “I realize there are about seven million marriage and family therapists in the world, but I don’t suppose you know Artemisia Donohue[4]?”

She-who-shall-be-known-as-Fiona’s jaw dropped.

“How do you know Artemisia?”

“Her daughter, Electra,[5] and I have been best friends since the fifth grade.”

Fiona started laughing.

“Artemisia and I went to graduate school together and have been best friends ever since!”

Yes, it’s a small world and God moves in mysterious ways.  But the biggest mystery is why Artemisia and Electra both wound up best friends with two Presbyterians.[6]

In any case, the encounter reminded me of God’s wacky, whimsical side.  When we’re tempted – which, in my case, is often – to fixate on the sternness, unfairness, remoteness, and inscrutability of God, it’s important to remember that, for some reason that doesn’t really matter, God invented duckbill platypuses.  God may also have a hand in the discovery of five-dollar bills in the pockets of thrift store purchases.[7]  I’m pretty sure God inspired whoever invented tapioca.[8]  God has got to be behind the darnedest things that kids say.[9]  And I am positive that an almighty creator God with a kick-ass sense of humor is behind wild kingdom behavior like this:

Take time to laugh this week.  Spring is coming.[10]

[1] Which is to say, I was sitting closer to these Presbyterians than to any others at that particular moment.

[2] Thankfully, I took and passed the Colorado DOC’s Pressure Point Control Tactic Training twice.  The second time, one of my sparring partners was a five-foot-tall, ninety-pounds-soakin’-wet chaplain named Gillian.  If you ever find yourself in any of the CDOC’s finer correctional establishments, please, take my advice.  Do not fuck with this chaplain.  She will take your ass down faster than you can say, “Hallelujah.”

[3] At 10,152 feet, Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city and second highest municipality in the United States.  I have no idea what the difference is between a city and a municipality.

[4] Totally also not her real name.  Duh.

[5] Seriously, people.  Not her real name.  How many times do I have to tell you?

[6] Actually, I suspect it’s because they were unconditionally predestined to be irresistibly attracted to our total depravity.

[7] Especially if you pray over them.  See Marian’s posting from March 8, 2013.

[8] For those of you not up on your highly toxic South American vegetable products, tapioca is made from manioc, which has a rather high cyanide content and is only rendered edible by boiling and draining it several times.  Who the heck stuck around to figure that recipe out?

[9] Granted, I make this last assertion as a non-parent who has derived an endless amount of entertainment from the darnedest things kids say.  Non-non-parents, which is to say, parents, may have a different opinion about things that issue from the mouths of babes.

[10] Unless you’re completely hooked on Game of Thrones, in which case, you know what’s coming.  Winter and dragons and some very ill-advised matrimonies, that’s what!


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

Ring of Power…or Ring of Perdition?!!

Last week, a concerned caller asked Pat Robertson[i] if she should rebuke the demons in her thrift store purchases.[ii]  Pat responded with a tragic tale of a Filipino girl who bought a ring that a witch had cast a spell over and “all hell broke loose.”  Fortunately, the girl recognized the locus of the evil in her life and presumably got rid of the ring.  Frankly, it sounds like a bad retelling of The Lord of the Rings.  I mean, Pat didn’t even mention the spiritual perils of smoking Old Toby or the clearly immoral practice of fondling a palantir or the significant temptation of lust when beholding Sean Bean in all his Númenórean glory:


One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them;
If demons occupy your shawl, ask Jesus Christ to bind them.

Pat’s sage advice to the caller was to not take chances:

“Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects?  The answer is yes.  But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it.  In a sense your mother is just being super cautious, so hey — it isn’t gonna hurt you any to rebuke any spirits that might attach themselves to those clothes.”

I think it bears noting that Pat didn’t just pull this stuff out of his ass.  My guess is that Pat was just referencing Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance,[iii] that now-classic American suburbanite take on the definitive medieval witch-hunter’s guide, Malleus Maleficarum.  Here’s an endorsement from a satisfied Amazon reader:

Ever wonder where some of those evil thoughts in your head come from?  They’re not always from external attacks.  Many are from the inside.  The information in this book will help anyone who has ever thought, “Well, this is just the way I am, I’ve tried to change but I just can’t.”  Be not dismayed.  By the power and authority of Jesus Christ, you can be delivered.  Are you a procrastinator?  Lazy?  Worry Wart?  Don’t put it off any more…order the book and start down the road to spiritual recovery.  Praise be to God who desires you to be free indeed.

Be not dismayed?  If the social consequences of this kind of misdirected energy weren’t so grave, I wouldn’t be.

I’m not denying that evil exists in the world.  But going after a personified evil occupying the boiled wool Pendleton jacket I just scored for ten bucks[iv] at Goodwill does not one damn thing to combat real evil in the world.  Greed.  Hypocrisy.  Idolatrous individualism.  Racism.  Sexism.  Imperialism.  Need I go on?

Granted, part of the mythology[v] surrounding the life of Christ has to do with exorcism.  The synoptic Gospels mention ten or so exorcisms between them, not including generic statements like, “He went about casting out demons,” which, for all we know, just reiterate the ten or so we already knew about.  The Gospel of John doesn’t mention any exorcisms, to my knowledge, although it does go into some detail about turning water into wine, one of Jesus’ more stylish miracles, if I do say so.  The Jesus depicted in the Gospels, therefore, did not spend the majority of his time casting out evil spirits.  Those he did cast out, he cast out of people, not their outfits, for crap’s sake.

Jesus spent a hell of a lot more of his time teaching and healing people, which meant, in many cases, interacting with lepers and beggars and women and foreigners and ceremonially unclean people – society’s rejects, in other words.  The very people who Goodwill, ARC, Savers, the Salvation Army, and Habitat comfort and clothe.

So, once again, I have to call out Pat Robertson on the implicit wealthy, white privilege that coats his comment about demon-possessed second-hand clothes.  It’s not simply bad theology and extra-biblical bullshit.  It’s patently classist and it preys upon those who already have a lot to fear in this life:  unemployment, abuse, gun violence, teen pregnancy, addiction, hunger, homelessness, predatory televangelists.  What, now we want people to fear their underwear, too?

This messaging is unworthy of the Christian witness to the world.  The demons in our sweaters are not the problem.  The demons in our hearts are.

[i] I’ve decided that I actually love Pat Robertson, because whenever I’m really stumped for a blog topic, the Spirit of the Lord  causes Pat to open his mouth and give me something to publically ridicule.

[ii] You can’t make this stuff up.

[iii] Or any of several gazillion other books on the subject of “spiritual warfare.”  Because, you know, with demons in your drawers, it’s good to go into battle armed with knowledge.

[iv] Any idiot can pay retail prices.

[v] By “mythology,” I don’t mean tall tales of gods and heroes.  I’m talking about stories that transcend time and place, which, 2000 years after his death, the stories of Christ clearly do.


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

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