There you sit

There You sit,

poised and praising
my vulnerability, as if
it were something
other than what
it is: my being
drawn to
You, who
lets me poke
You in the side. I
am no longer divided
by doubt but at peace with
it as You open Your self to me
and allow entrance into Your Holy
Body: bloody in a way, but more so
beautiful, as bodies are meant
to be – ruddy and ready for
this sacred pleasure.

This Nose Hunts

Not quite awake, my
body drags behind
my foggy mind.
I am dull,
here in the
dungeon of
night: my sight
is off, and a muffled
ring shrouds my hearing.
The silence of the house is
deafening – even the clock
is at sea.

But the grape on my
tongue tastes like the
troth of life and my
noses scouts about:

here, morning’s toast
there, yesterday’s curry

racing round the house, like
a cat on the loose, not to
be caught. But this nose hunts,
and now, now, I smell God:

first like baby’s skin
then like the air of a storm

taut, and sharp, like cheese blue.

Adieu Iceland

This land is continually being born:
it ever brings forth new marvels, new
vistas, new possibilities. It sings of
change, and the power of play. I feel
this playful change seeping into me,
calling for

a molten mind,
a soul on fire, and
volcanic vision – even

while ice expands the fissures of my being open
and glaciers forge fjords of futures unbidden.

This land is etching itself onto
the geography of my body:
my skin now taut with
wonder, my lips now
quivering in hope,
and my heart
erupting now as
deep calls to depth,
and I feel myself shifting
while taking leave of this
tectonically trembling Ísland.

These Arms

My arms grow longer the
older I get. My
hands droop closer to
the dirt that will
one day vest
me.

So, too, these longing
arms reach higher
to the sky,
grasping
after the sun:
the heart at the hearth
of humanity.

When these arms are long enough
they will wrap me round thrice:
for the self I was

now coming to be

and then at rest, disarmingly.

Glaciers of Joy

My body summons me,
serving notice of the
need to return to
ancient ways still at play
in little ones – before
we take them
out of themselves
and clothe them
in agendas. It is no
wonder that we ache for wonder,
that our calloused hands
reach for heavenly cheeks.
Our flesh seeks flesh
that still knows and so we
touch, yearning for Mother’s milk,
for water crisp off glaciers of joy.

Oslo Insights and Haitian Slights

I am just now back from a very quick trip to Oslo. I was there for a small writing workshop, mostly composed of members of the Faculty of Theology from the University of Oslo, as well as a couple of North Americans. This working group is preparing a volume on the theme of “Protestantization,”a word used to describe how certain tenets of Protestant thought (freedom of the conscience, the importance of non-clerical vocations, the separation without division of church and state, etc) have become a lens by which certain nations view themselves, for both good and ill. Protestantization speaks, for instance, to the manner in which a state allows for people to refuse religious life and so creates a condition for the possibility of a secular public square where no one religion holds pride of place. Of course, it is not always so very successful in this regard.

It was also noted that under this paradigm, religion is construed primarily as adherence to a confession of faith. This is not always helpful. And so, to give an example, there were a couple of papers on the topic of the public discussion concerning the regulation of circumcision in some nations in Europe. Some voices propose that circumcision could be allowed if families have faith in a belief system that demands it. These same voices would not consider as a valid religious reason one in which adherents point to their cultural identity with a religion despite lack of belief in the metaphysical tenants of a religion. So, to give an example, an agnostic or even atheistic Jewish family may well seek circumcision for their son despite personal beliefs, or disbelief. Their Jewish identity is not about what they believe, but about who they are and so they are accepted as Jews in the Jewish community despite their beliefs or lack thereof. I have had Jewish students who do not believe in God yet practice many of the rituals of Judaism without any sense of hypocrisy. Judaism, for these folks, is about their community not their individual convictions. The Nazis, as we know from history, did not distinguish between those Jews who believed and those who did not, and so we might begin to understand something of a Jewish solidarity that is more interested in communal identity than individual confession.

Of course, some papers addressed the positive contribution of Protestantism to political life, a point of no small significance in Norway, a nation that regularly rates high in terms of happiness, health-care, safety from gun incidences, etc.

Shortly after I returned from Norway, the President of the USA made a horrendous comment about America’s need for more immigrants from places like Norway than “shithole” nations like Haiti and countries in Africa and Latin America. The blatant racism of this comment is reprehensible. It stimulates hate crimes. It misrepresents immigrants and advances white supremacy. Moreover, it has no grasp of history. Many articles have since been published noting that the bulk of immigrants to North America a century or so ago were rather like immigrants from places like Haiti today: economically distraught, willing to do any work that would keep food on the table, and very glad to become contributing citizens in their adopted home. Norwegians, as one may well imagine, have not been pleased with the kind of comparison employed by the President, pitting Norway against Haiti, for instance. Protestanization, in varying degrees, has contributed to a history of Nordic countries welcoming the other.

My contribution to the volume is tentatively called “Embodying Protestantism.” In it I critique modern Protestantism’s too often animus against the body and frequent disinterest in the body politic. I look to Luther and the Danish theologian/philosopher Knut Løgstrup for resources to envision again the body and the body politic as gifts from God. As I work on this chapter for publication, I most certainly will ponder President’s racism and the need for people of all faiths, and none, to “protest” both this white supremacy and any religion that neglects social justice in its concern for the soul alone. People suffer and die because of the peculiarities of their body, and any Protestantism or Protestanization that will not call racism sin deserves disinterest and demise.