smoke signals.

mjkimpan  —  January 20, 2017 — Leave a comment

smoke signals

i absolutely love where i live, and truly do enjoy the work in which i engage. both happen from the LGBTQ ‘Boystown’ neighborhood in chicago, which has served as my home over the past several years as i’ve partnered with various individuals and organizations to build a better world through what i’ve dubbed our (un)common good collective.

chicago may be home for now, but as one friend told me today – ‘when home is inside of you, You can go anywhere.

as 2017 begins i’m thrilled to begin releasing a bit more information around the creation of that Organization, delving deeper into its proposed purpose, and introducing several new projects and partners as this new year takes shape after january 20th.

over the past seven years i’ve both strategically and intentionally worked within a select set of specific spaces – most notably (and publicly) at the intersection of faith/gender/sexuality and politics (and more specifically, deep within the belly of the beast – traditionally conservative and moderate christian churches and leaders engaging that discussion, and their much-needed shift toward equality and advocacy for marginalized people (along with the theological, idealogical and practical implications thereof).

the fact of the matter is that’s just a portion of my work, to which i’ve dedicated my efforts to since 2009.

it was then that a slough of terribly misguided religious leaders met in NYC and further paved the way for the absurdity in which we now find ourselves – a well-organized movement of pharisaical faith leaders actively seeking to systematically defend an institutionalized oppression of those they deem to be ‘Other.’

as i’ve said before – time and time again – that doesn’t look very much like jesus.

the religious and socio-political disconnect expressed in nearly every division in this country and around the globe is merely symptomatic of a much deeper issue – that of Groupishness. i’ve additionally acknowledged that it’s particularly difficult at times like these to not demonize and dehumanize our so-called Other.

in today’s hyper-connected and intersectional world (and even more so with the incoming administration and its partisan support in both the house and senate; empty seats on the supreme court and all the rest) the Work to which i’ve dedicated my life has required diligence, intelligence, patience and vigilance.

though i’ve been relatively silent on this blog since the final month of what has apparently passed for a presidential election, the fact of the matter is i’ve never been more focused. intensity breeds intentionality, and i’ve been building a coalition of forward-thinking leaders from both inside and outside my faith and family tradition to continue promoting and building the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible – with a renewed sense of both purpose and urgency.

the body sometimes rests, but the spirit never sleeps.

i no longer accept my inherited faith tradition the ways i did in my youth. over the years, i’ve grown. it’s been twenty since i first stepped, wide-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, onto the campus at the prestigious moody bible institute and fell in love with the windy city.

i didn’t know then what i know now, and both my theology and practice have shifted significantly enough that i don’t really claim them, and they don’t really claim me either (quite the opposite, in fact).

yet while mother moody and i may not see eye to eye, i’m appreciative of the indoctrination into (mostly white) evangelical christian fundamentalism with ‘the name you can trust.’ i know quite well how they want me to read the bible. i know their arguments for why, how they train their leaders and the misguided mental and hermeneutical gymnastics that keep fundamentalism and christian extremism in place in this country. i know a lot.

i’ve also learned some.

how i’ve previously approached and applied the scriptures i studied in schools and seminaries has been reframed; (re)focused and (re)formed to become (r)evolutionary…in the words of the brilliant Broadway musical Hamilton, ‘revolution is imminent – this isn’t a moment, it’s a Movement.’

<a brief excerpt on my namesake>

i grew up being reminded again and again that i’d been named after the archangel michael (literally in hebrew – ‘who is like God’ – [or maybe there’s a question mark after it? i do ask some pesky questions]. who knows?).

if you’ve studied anything about the archangel’s roles within the sacred texts and history within my faith tradition, it should come as no surprise i am compelled to speak up against donald trump’s discriminatory rhetoric and proposed policies for our world along with the version of ‘christianity’ that got him elected. i believe we can do better.

in roman catholic teachings, michael has four main roles ::

• leader of the army of God and leader of heaven’s forces in the triumph over hell – some call this the ‘battle internal’
• as a death angel, michael is said to carry the souls of all the deceased to heaven, giving them one final chance at redemption
• he weighs souls with perfectly balanced scales – understanding and executing the difference between what is just, and what isn’t
• finally, michael serves as the special patron of those referred to as the ‘Chosen’ – and also as the guardian of the Church

mix that with some conservative evangelical kirk-cameron-esque ‘Left Behind‘ end-times theology, a pinch of the book of enoch, a dash of church and world geo-political history and a healthy dose of a life fully (though not always appropriately) lived… and hit ‘blend.’

you expect me to be silent while drinking that smoothie?

not a chance.

i’m literally named after the guy who declares some stuff about God after the ‘trump’ sounds off.

happy inauguration day, donald. though i don’t have the platform of a lin manuel miranda (ps. who does? that dude is both smart and subversive as hell) or even that of many of my other predecessors, influencers or friends, i still intend to write my way out of this non-sensical political and religiously divided environment which brought about your election and a whole host of other issues, all the while trusting that the non-violent jesus i’ve studied in the gospels for decades might just support that whole ‘the pen is mightier than the sword‘ common sense in order to bring about social change.

simply put, a violent christianity is bullshit.

so i’ve put a pen in my hand and have been partnering with some talented, intelligent and creative music and art nerds.

i’m writing (among quite a few other things) my own musical about the christianity i grew up in and how i’ve processed my own life along the way.

think Book of Mormon (but for evangelicals) meets emenim’s 8 mile (but for a kid who grew up around money on the north side of the same town).

more on that later.

i don’t know if all of this makes me more of a demon than an angel or more angel than demon (i suspect neither – curious, that) – i’m simply attempting to be a good human, and follow jesus’ teachings while doing it. these so-called culture wars have sown a deep confusion as to what it means to actually live even a little like the christ, and i’m far from alone in thinking that.

many of us do – and a bunch of them were named after bible characters growing up reading and hearing the same kind of stuff about the guy i did.

mary. andrew. david. daniel. rebecca. abigal. john. 

so many johns.

i know loads of other folks named ‘michael’ too.

we are Legion.

the jesus we see in the gospels is declared to be the prince of peace – and rejects the notion that the power of empire is more alluring than the authority of the kingdom of God. jesus teaches counter-intuitive principles, overturning previous laws of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (essentially :: get even) for a better way – the way of Love.

jesus taught his disciples to turn the other cheek; to love their enemies; to bless those who oppress and persecute; and to live subversively by becoming servants of the Other rather than a slave to the standards of an oppressive empire based on the accepted notion that those with the most power and force ‘win’.

it’s not about ‘winning’, donnie.

in fact, my friends and i don’t simply want to win this culture war; whole masses of us are seeking to change the landscape which has brought us to ‘war’ in the first place. following the teachings of jesus messes with our minds and helps us utilize the power of Love over fear; life over death; consent over force; courage over cowardice (that’s why when the largest evangelical school in america spends a million dollars on making a gun range after its president endorses the president-elect right out of the gates, i call that bastardizing jesus).

because that’s what it is, and our newly elected president ought to find at least some respect for someone who ‘calls it like he or she sees it.’ no?

as my dear friend doug pagitt said earlier this week while being arrested on the stairs of the supreme court,

‘it’d be a very good thing if we stopped killing one another in this country.’

what do you think?