Archive for the ‘festival of faith and writing’ Tag
Unfortunately, this class did not gather any students. But I wanted to teach a workshop anyway, and the Michigan LGBT community is facing a huge battle right now. So we’ve designed a FREE class instead, on April 6 Scenes from Stalled Marriages. Please join us to write about YOUR family under the marriage ban, or your FRIENDS’ families or individuals. We’ll see you APRIL 6 at Fountain Street Church.
Please join us in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the weekend before the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College), for Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey Workshop, APRIL 5, SATURDAY, 9am–5pm.
For the LGBT person of faith, the journey has not been easy. Many of us are refugees from mainline denominations that offer faith but only to some, or only with clauses attached. Some of us have escaped into better, more accepting faiths or denominations–but that journey may not have been easy. Charting our spiritual journey, though, can help bring focus and fulfillment to our lives as part of the LGBT community. Writing our spiritual journeys also completes the missing parts of society’s spiritual journey. In this Workshop we will read LGBT writers of faith, as well as writers of faith in general, to pick up tips and techniques that will help you write about your journey. If you like discussing spirituality in the context of the LGBT community, with others like yourself, and exploring through writing what your journey has discovered, come join us. Using writing exercises, games, techniques of professional writers, and your own lives, you will create writing that struggles, overcomes, even heals, as it maps the spiritual journey of your life. All faiths are welcome. All struggles are welcome. Even if your spirituality doesn’t fall neatly in a box, join us. Boxes aren’t the best places for spirituality anyway.
This class needs a minimum of five people to run. Some reading will be sent to you via email before the workshop begins. Cost is $80 per person. Sign up early so we can be sure that the workshop runs, and that you receive readings for the workshop. Bring a journal, a pen, and the heart of an explorer.
To sign up, follow this link. For more information, please contact Fountain Street Church.
Saturday, April 5, 9am-5pm
Fountain Street Church
Geez Magazine, editor Melanie Dennis Unrau, selected two of my short pieces to go in Geez’s fall issue. One of them, Undercover at the Festival of Faith and Writing, you can read as a web-exclusive. The other “As the Spirit Moves Me” is available in the newsstand print copy.
If you came here from Geez 27, thanks! and Welcome! You’ll find some additional pieces from my trip to the Festival of Faith and Writing. Think of them as addendums–things I couldn’t fit into such a small space.
Gay at Calvin College: more about going to the festival and wanting to do something to help those who are gay at Calvin College
The Last Supper: Johnny’s Cafe remix: mainly a photo where I asked students in the cafe to recreate Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Christians (Wanting to) Talk about Sex: where I go into depth about one of the seminars there—as no one recorded it for later discussion.
Marilynne Robinson, Hero–which talks in depth about her keynote address and the reaction of the crowd, and later comments at the college
Together, they comprise most of my Calvin College experience. I should write up more of the seminars–and I will. Certainly they will not be what others gathered there. Take into consideration who I am and what I felt being there. I am a Christian, a Writer, and a gay man.
I enjoyed Calvin College’s conference immensely and will go back in two years.
I hope these four supplemental blogposts will enrich the essay you did read in GEEZ.
It’s sometimes impossible to boil down an experience into 1000 words, or 1500, or 750.
“As the Spirit Moves Me” is a 500 word piece on going to my birthmother’s church, at Camp Chesterfield, a famous psychic institution. I need to write the full story there—it’s quite amazing.
Attending the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, I was very happy to hear that Marilynne Robinson would be giving their keynote. Each of her three novels are highly prized. Ms. Robinson received a Pulitzer Prize for her second novel, Gilead. Her first novel, Housekeeping, won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN award and was nominated for a Pulitzer. Her latest novel, Home, was a finalist in the National Book Award, and won the Orange Prize for Fiction.
No slouch, Marilynne.
She’s written, as well, a number of nonfiction books of essays on culture and thought, most often about religion and faith.
She’s a Congregationalist with a bright Calvinist core.
She’s an amazing, award-winning writer–and has been motivational in speeches in the past. Calvin College and the Festival of Faith and Writing invited her because a) she is a Calvinist, and b) she won a Pulitzer, and c) she won the Pulitzer for a book about a minister’s life. She could motivate their writers. And she had been a keynote speaker at the festival in 2006 as well as given an address then to the Calvin Seminary, which was hailed as magnificent.
But Marilynne is no trained monkey as some at Calvin College discovered the night of her keynote address. She is a mama bear.
No doubt some folks there believed she would be addressing writing, or faith, and talk about craft. The Festival is the premiere venue for writers of faith–the best writers, in the most literary style, and probably some of the more left-leaning thinkers in the Evangelical Christian writing world attend this event. Writers in general tend to be progressive. It’s hard to be a reader and be closed-minded.
Still, I think most at Calvin College didn’t know quite what to do with Marilynne’s address, “Casting out Fear.”
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At the Festival of Faith and Writing today, two intrepid authors/speakers, John Estes and Amy Frykholm, offered a seminar called The Word Needs Flesh: Sex and Faith in Contemporary Writing. As you can imagine at a Christian conference, the room was packed. People stood along the walls; they sat on the floor.
How we Talk (badly) about Sex
Amy started by saying, “There’s a misunderstanding about sexuality in the church. As Christians, we’re really bad at having this conversation. So, we’re going to step out now and try–though we’re going to make some mistakes. But if we don’t start a conversation, we leave it to the Mark Driscolls.” This received long sighs and laughs of approval, with a tinge of fear. If we were ever going to hijack the conversation, it best be right here, right now.
Many of us in the room were still giggling at double entendres before the session began, but all were rapt at listening to Amy and John have the dialogue the church should be having. I won’t spoil anything by telling you the last thing anyone said in the room. An older woman, in her “seventh decade” so she felt a freedom to speak her mind. “I learn more outside the church than I ever have in it,” referring to all that she had heard today in this seminar. We found ourselves agreeing. How do we get this conversation in the church?
“Why are we so bad at this?” Amy started. We didn’t know. “Sex is part of our core being.” Still we had problems discussing sex unless it was to talk about it as the glorious bond of marriage or the ever present temptation that could destroy that marriage. We avoided it, perhaps, because it made us more like the animals than we wanted to be. Still, it was not a topic in churches very often–and we weren’t really talking about the joy of our sexuality. We acted like it was a weapon against us till the wedding bells rang.
John’s phrasing sometimes caught me off guard as he tried to find the words for it. “Our sex is a problem without a solution. The solutions offered by the church are wanting.” Here he referred to sex only inside marriage–but also something wider–the inability, even the avoidance of talking about sexuality positively. Though I didn’t like him referring to sex as a problem, I understood which perspective he was taking. The church’s position was that sex seemed to be treated as something OUTSIDE us, a separate thing.
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I’m here at Calvin College attending the Festival of Faith and Writing, one of the most amazing, one of the best, writing conferences out there. The quality of the speakers—Gary Schmidt, Jonathan Safran Foer, Marilynne Robinson–not to mention the different seminars I’ve already taken–gives depth and urgency to writers who hope to change the world. I have never felt such deep emotional responses to these calls and challenges to be good writers and write good stories. Calvin College does a great thing for writers of faith.
And yet…. I find myself, as I knew I would, disturbed by Calvin College’s policy towards GLBT students. It’s an ethical dilemma.
Calvin’s stance on GLBT issues
To their credit, Calvin is far more liberal than most Christian colleges. They do not run them off campus, as they did in my day. So by that measure, I should be pleased. I have read their FAQs on their policy towards homosexuality and GLBT students, and you can read it here: Calvin’s FAQs about homosexuality.
You’ll notice that it’s very kind and generous. It acknowledges that gays and lesbians are attracted to same sex people.
“While the orientation seems usually to lie outside the scope of an individual’s will, by God’s power and grace, behavior lies within it.
Calvin College is also concerned that homosexual members of our community are treated with respect, justice, grace and understanding in the Spirit of Christ. We recognize the complexity of current issues around homosexuality and desire to engage this conversation with courage, humility, prayerfulness and convicted civility.” (I use the quotation marks here because my pic makes it difficult to know where the quote starts and ends.)
It’s that sexual behavior that seems so SEPARATE to Calvin; it’s almost ridiculous. However, they want to frame a “conversation” in respectful terms. Conversation, of course, means that both sides are listening. But I appreciate their dedication to civility, a civility that they have the authority to enforce.
In the classroom, Calvin College notes that multiple perspectives may be explored by students:
In exploring the full range of human experience, faculty will certainly acquaint students with many perspectives that are inconsistent with the confessions, but will do so from a perspective of adherence to the confessions.
That policy– the adherence to confessions–can be found in the the newest document on academic freedom for professors and students. Mentioned in these FAQs, it addresses how faculty should approach difficult topics. The underlying conclusion, as you read here, is that the administration is not wrong, and that they are not the ones listening, but the ones correcting:
We have learned that the best outcomes for such conversations are those in which an inquirer later reports “I’m glad I asked. I really do see this now from another, more biblical, point of view,” or where the faculty or staff member reports “I’m glad you raised this. I hadn’t been aware of all the ramifications of my view, and I’ve now refined it to take other concerns into account,” or where both later say “we disagree, but we remain open to learning from each other” or “I realize that I need to learn more and think further about any position I advance.” Not every inquiry will end in this way. But we have learned to give such questions every chance to end with a positive outcome.
I like to point out that their “positive outcome” is one where there is learning on the inquirer’s side only. However, Calvin’s new policies on homosexuality do protect gays and lesbians from negative slurs, prejudice, etc.— however, they don’t realize the institutionalized creation of prejudice they engender by their different treatment of gays and lesbians. Watch the FAQs carefully:
[SAGA–Sexuality Awareness, Gender Acceptance] is not a ‘student organization,’ but a group of students with a counselor mentor from the Broene Counseling Center, who seek to educate others at Calvin about the challenges faced by homosexual students.
Gays are given groups within the auspices of counseling. “These are not student organizations” the policy says emphatically, thereby denying them student rights. They are, instead, places of refuge for gays and lesbians and places where they can, apparently, come to terms with the fact that God wants them to remain celibate–and teach others how to treat them better because of their “challenges”. *note the student response below for a great insight into SAGA and Calvin College that I didn’t know, and am very pleased to hear. While policy may be against gays at Calvin, the people there aren’t.
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