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Matthew Davis Fox
 
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    Sunday, May 31st, 2009
    4:27 pm
    We call this "pro-life"???
    This morning, our country witnessed a lynching. A political execution. The murder of a man for his political beliefs, and the actions he took to help others in line with those beliefs.

    Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions, who would find ways to perform them free of charge for those most in need who might otherwise not have access to needed and at times life saving procedures, was murdered this morning. He was murdered while in church, a church he was a long time member of.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/us/01tiller.html?_r=2&hp

    I understand there is great division on the subject of abortion in this country, and for many people those passions run deep. But I long ago decided I will not use the word "pro-life" to describe those who work to limit access to abortion, or allow others to use that term unchallenged, for many reasons. I've spoken in these pages about how I see the work of the pro-choice movement as being fundamentally pro-life, and I refuse to let that term be taken from us, but today this is not about that.

    Today I am mourning the loss of a hero, a man who was fundamentally pro-life. Dr. Tiller saved the lives of women again and again by performing needed procedures. He was one of the last doctors in America willing and able to perform terminations in situations where a pregnancy had developed fatal anomalies that not only meant the in-viability of the fetus, but would endanger the life of the mother if not terminated. Today more women will die because they can not get access to that procedure.

    Today I'm mourning the loss of a hero, and I'm angry. I'm angry at the hypocrisy of someone who can claim to commit murder in the name of life. Who can strike down a doctor who dedicated his life to helping others, a doctor who was sitting in church, and call it a holy or sacred act.

    I know most of the 'pro-life movement' deplores this action, and condemns it, and I can not blame the whole movement for the actions of one madman. But I do wonder about the link between the rhetoric of the more extreme elements of that movement, and this murderous act. Particularly as this is not the first time someone has been killed for performing these procedures. Nor, I fear, will it be the last.

    Today is a day to mourn a tragic loss of an American hero. For everyone, on both sides of this issue to step back and say, a life was lost and that is tragic. And perhaps we should recognize that we are ALL pro-life. That we may differ on the definition of life, or on what it means to respect and honor life and all that it entails. But that we all honor life. And deplore this terrible act, and condemn it for what it was. Pure, ugly, cold-blooded murder.

    America lost a hero today. Please light a candle, or say a prayer, or remember him in your own way. A doctor who celebrated life in the best way he knew how. By helping others.
    Friday, February 20th, 2009
    10:38 am
    Ministry. Intensity. One hell of a night
    Something happened to me Wednesday night/Thursday morning; the kind of experience that both leaves me shaken and wondering what the hell I’m doing, yet also reminds me why I am so glad I went into ministry.

    This is a pretty intense story. It’s about pregnancy termination and fetal anomalies and people dealing with intense emotional pain, and turning to religion, among other things, for a bit of comfort amidst all that. If any of that might be a trigger, or upsetting, or just sounds nothing like what you want to be reading right about now, please feel free to skip the rest of this post. For those who are interested- read on.Collapse )
    Monday, November 17th, 2008
    8:17 am
    Airport Evangelism
    Travel has been the word of the day for the last few weeks. November has taken me to Boise, Cleveland, Atlanta, Baltimore, Salt Lake City and Washington DC, not to mention day trips to the seminaries of Union and Princeton, in New York, and New Jersey respectively. There have been a lot of stories from the road that I hope to tell in these pages soon, one of which I already mentioned here- http://anothervoicemdf.livejournal.com/56526.html#cutid1 But one of the defining realities of these last two weeks, amidst all the activism and inspiration and amazing people I have met and gotten to work with, has been the airports.

    By this point, I know the security procedures that my prosthetic leg requires so well I could teach TSA newbies (and did walk one or two through it when they weren’t sure of what came next.) I can tell you the relative merits of each of the New York City airports, and where to get an amazing burrito in Terminal B of Salt Lake International. But the moments that have really stuck with me, where when I found myself talking about God.

    The first was humorous, the second, poignant

    I had gone to Boise to meet with local clergy and give a presentation on the role people of faith can play in the effort to make comprehensive sex education available to students throughout the country. Afterward, I went straight from the event to the airport to try and catch one of the last flights out of town, (Boise to New York, by way of Salt Lake is not the most popular route, oddly enough) and so I was still wearing my clerical collar and suit when I got to security.

    That’s when the fun started.

    It would appear that a man dressed as a minister, but also having long hair and an eyebrow ring is enough to raise a few eyebrows amongst the good people of the Boise TSA. So after going through the normal security screening they pulled me aside, and while one person methodically went through my bags, the other made a point of sitting off to the side and keeping up a constant stream of questions about my ministry.

    Now on the one hand, I think this must be standard procedure. The person asking me questions made a point to sit opposite her colleague so that her questions made me focus on her and I couldn’t pay attention to the woman searching my bags. But the woman quizzing me focused all her questions on why I was wearing a collar- am I really a minister, what did I believe, what kind of church did I come from? My personal favorite- how could I be a man of God if I had an eyebrow ring, since, didn’t the Bible forbid “desecrating the temple of the flesh?” Those were exact words.

    It became clear as we spoke that she didn’t believe I was a real minister, and so she thought must be wearing the collar to try and hide something, to try and get past security. She quizzed me, asking me my favorite book of the bible, or how I felt about a particular parable, and was visibly surprised when I not only knew what she was referring to, but could talk knowledgably on the subject.

    There was a point in the conversation when it seemed she moved from suspicion to curiosity. When she was no longer making me prove that I was a real minister, a real Christian, but was instead learning about how someone could love the same Bible she did, love the same God she did, but come to such different conclusions then she did on the nature of justice and God’s love, and what we are called to do in this world.

    Maybe by the end she believed I was a minister and was just being polite. Or maybe the whole thing was just because my razor or something else in my bag set something off, and she never cared one way or the other about why I was wearing a collar. But I have to say I honestly believed she was suspicious because when she saw me, I simply did not fit her idea of what a minister could be, what a Christian could be. I believe that, and that by the end of our time talking, (and by the time her colleague was satisfied I had no contraband in my bag) her idea of what it meant to be a Christian might just have expanded a little bit. If that’s not evangelism, I don’t know what is.

    The other event happened a few days later. I was coming home from Cleveland, Ohio where I had done a training with an interfaith group of clergy, and I was bone tired after so much travel. I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize, and as I had a few outstanding contacts I was waiting to hear back from for work things, I decided to answer it.

    But it wasn’t anyone I knew. A few weeks ago, I had done a training for counselors at a hospital that deals with second trimester abortions, a two day procedure that can be rather intense. Most of the training was on helping the counselors to handle spiritual issues that the patients might raise, but I also let them know that they could give patients my number if they needed more in depth spiritual care. The call was from a woman who had set up an appointment to have her procedure later in the week, and wanted to talk to a clergy person about some concerns she had about what she was preparing to do. Sitting there in the crowded terminal, waiting to board my plane, I knew this was a terrible place to have that conversation, but she said she just wanted to talk sometime in the next few days so we set a time for me to call her when I would be back at home and she would be able to talk.

    So I was surprised when a few minutes later she called again. She sounded near tears, told me she was worried that if she went through with this God would not love her, and asked me if we could pray together. My first thought, I admit, was along the lines of, oh boy what do I do now, how in the world can I pray like this? But that moment, she needed someone to pray with her. So I found a corner that was a little quieter, tried not to notice if anyone overheard and gave us funny looks, and together we prayed to a God of mercy and compassion who loves all of Her children and talked of how God would walk with us during times of difficult decisions, and would know and understand why we make the choices we do.

    It was one of the stranger moments of my ministry to be sure. Not the kind of thing I had in mind when I went to seminary. But in some ways- exactly what I had in mind. How often have I heard that ministry is about being present with people where they are, when they are in need? That night- it was on a cell phone in an airport terminal.
    Thursday, November 13th, 2008
    8:18 am
    This Saturday, 11/15, there will nationwide protests of California's Proposition 8, as well as all of the recent attacks on same-sex marriage and the civil rights of all people.

    Here in New York City, the protest will be taking place at City Hall at 1:30 pm. Meg and I will be attending. Let me know if you are thinking of going, maybe we can try and meet up.

    For more information about the protest in NYC, or similar protests anywhere else in the country- http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon or on Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=545914124#/event.php?eid=33598248873&ref=mf

    Please come and add your voice.
    Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
    7:42 am
    Joy, sadness, and a bit of hope
    There's a lot of joy in my world this morning; joy over Obama's victory, over the victories in the House and Senate where Sen. Elizabeth Dole, of the, my opponent is an atheist, smear campaign, was soundly defeated, and joy over the general sense that this may be a turning point in our national debate.

    But that joy is tempered with a good deal of sadness. Not every vote has been counted, but it looks more and more likely that California will in fact enshrine hate and ignorance and homophobia into its constitution. There are still votes to be counted, but it seems likely that Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, will pass.

    In my life there have been two states I've been able to call home. California is one of them- my adopted home for the years I was in grad school, and a place I'll always feel affection for. But New York is where I grew up, New York is where I returned to- at heart I'll always be a New Yorker.

    Last night, for the first time in my life time, Democrats won a majority in the New York State Senate, giving Democrats control over both houses of the state legislature, as well as the governorship. For years, the barrier to any attempt to move LGBT rights forward in NY state was the hammerlock Republicans held over the state senate.

    The majority is a small one, and some of them may well caucus with the Republicans on social issues. But there are also as I understand it some republicans in the state senate who are liberal on social issues, but never got a chance to vote because with the senate in GOP hands, LGBT bills almost never made it to the floor for debate.

    It's been years since I focused on NY state politics, so there is a lot I'm still getting up to speed on. But that's going to change. All this sadness, all this disappointment over California- I know what to do with it. From what I understand, a number of groups are gearing up for a big push to get this new NY state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Sign me up.
    7:20 am
    A tiny bit of snark
    I try hard to avoid "I told you so" moments. It's a pretty petty urge, and when I feel it I try to squash it, hard.

    And as I said in last night's post, this isn't a time to be rubbing victory in the face of McCain supporters. I do truly hope this election leads us at least a little further out of the division.

    But that being said- the snarky part of me would love to find every person who claimed that Democrats had to vote for Senator Clinton, because Obama could never, ever win. Not those who genuinely preferred Clinton as the better candidate. But for every person who claimed we were stupid to nominate Obama, because he couldn't win- this morning I'm smiling a bit to myself remembering those words.
    12:41 am
    Watching History in Boise, Idaho
    Tonight I’m sitting in a hotel room in Boise, Idaho, experiencing a moment I’ll likely be telling people about decades from now. Friends of mine are texting and IMing me to tell me about the bars and parties they are at, jumping up and down and hugging each other and tearing up and celebrating this with friends. Part of me is sad to be far from all of that, to be experiencing this alone. But really- this is the best place I could be for this moment. Because I’m spending tonight in what I think of as the deepest of red states – and I’m hoping tonight is when we stop thinking in those terms.

    For me at least- that’s why tonight is so meaningful. Ending the red state-blue state politics. Collapse )
    Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
    9:06 pm
    President Obama.
    Yes we can. Yes we did.

    Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed about Proposition 8 in California.
    Monday, November 3rd, 2008
    9:38 am
    An Open Letter on Same-Sex Marriage
    As anyone who has read these pages for a while knows well, marriage equality is an issue of deep importance to me. With all the other potential good news about the upcoming election, I’ve been saddened to read that Proposition 8, in California, which would amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, seems likely to pass. I wanted to fly out to California and be part of the campaign to oppose the amendment, but I just couldn’t make it work. So I’ve been doing what I can from a distance. Part of which, has involved making a personal appeal to my family and family friends in that state.

    For the most part, I try to keep politics out of my relationships with friends and family. I know there are people I love who I disagree with, and while debating is fun, I mostly try and not make political appeals to family or close friends. But this upcoming vote on Proposition 8 in California- it just feels like something I have to reach out on. Partially as someone who just got married myself, partially because I know so many dear friends who are personally effected by this- and just because it just seems so wrong to set barriers on who can love each other based on gender, and whose love the state will recognize as valid.

    Last night, I sent an open letter by email to a number of my California resident family and friends, people who I wasn’t already sure how they would vote, people who had been invited to my wedding and either attended or sent their blessings and best wishes. I asked them, in that spirit of support for my own marriage, to support access to marriage for all.

    It’s not my best piece of advocacy. Far from it- somehow the personal nature of writing this made it all the harder to find the right words, and I’m still far from satisfied. But I wanted to send it, and to post it here.

    My open letter to my California family and friends Collapse )
    Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
    6:03 am
    Invite a minister to your party...
    ...and you're likely to have a debate about religion taking place in at least one corner of the room.

    I was at a friend's birthday party last night for someone I'd been friends with in High School, and was steeling myself for a night of catching up with people I'd not seen in years, and likely wouldn't see again for years more.

    So when I overheard a discussion of Bill Maher and how right he is about the evils of religion, and someone else chiming in that of course anyone who is Christian must believe the literal truth of the bible, and thus be laughably stupid, it didn't take me long to find a way to work myself into the discussion.

    It wound up being a pretty pleasant conversation, that carried me most of the evening in various iterations with various people. Even the- no, not all religious people are the right wing fundamentalists you want to believe they are, please don't paint us all with that brush- section of the evening was relatively painless as the guy quoting Bill Maher had some legitimate comments about how he'd give credit to the idea that the religious right didn't speak for all religious people, if the rest of them made more noise.

    A few times I ducked out of the discussion to try and find someone I knew back in the day and ask what was new in their life since I'd last seen them, and would invariably get pulled back into the religion discussions. But the truth- I didn't try that hard to avoid it.

    See, that's the dirty secret. As much as we ministers protest and whine about how we hate going to social events and all anyone wants to talk to us about is religion- for me at least, I know I'll take it any day of the week over making small talk.
    Friday, October 31st, 2008
    11:44 am
    My mother in law wins
    For anyone who has wondered about the cool sides of librarians- I present, Pimp My Bookcart.

    http://www.unshelved.com/PimpMyBookcart/cart.aspx?cart=378

    The woman in the yellow hat and blue jeans in the first picture, and best seen at the bottom left of the second picture, is Meg's mother, my mother in law.
    Monday, September 29th, 2008
    10:56 am
    Wedding/Honeymoon Post #7: New Hampshire, for the win
    We had a pretty ambitious plan, and in the end we wound up hitting New Hampshire and just staying there, because we loved it so much.

    New Hampshire proved to be the centerpiece of this tripCollapse )
    7:57 am
    Wedding/Honeymoon Post #6: Home again, home again, hippity hop.
    Meg and I got back home early yesterday afternoon. Twas a wonderful week, and we could have easily stretched it out further, but the combination of the oncoming storms in New England, a desire to have some time to rest and unpack before going back to work and just feeling like after our trip up Mount Washington (to be written about below) was a pretty wonderful conclusion to our travels, we decided to head back a bit early. We took a long leisurely route back, staying off highways and stopping frequently, enjoying the scenery and the time together.

    Wonderful trip, lots more to say about it, but it’s good to be home.
    Saturday, September 27th, 2008
    12:09 pm
    Wedding/Honeymoon Post # 6: A meal fit for a honeymoon
    Friday, Swiss Chalets Village Inn, North Conway, New Hampshire

    Thursday night we spent the night at Camp Pasaconaway, in the White Mountain National Forrest, in New Hampshire. We discovered the following:

    Ingredients for a successful honeymoon dinner

    A beautiful campsite deep in the woods.
    A well build fire, with a grill atop it.
    Butcher cut sirloin steaks
    A jar of herb and spice dry rub.
    A loaf of garlic bread, wrapped in aluminum foil
    A bottle of Korbel Champagne.
    All the fixens for s’mores.

    T’was a good good night.

    Lots more to say about New Hampshire and all the fun we've been having here, but I thought that meal deserved its own post.
    12:08 pm
    Wedding/Honeymoon Post #5: Teddy Bears and Ticonderoga
    Friday, Swiss Chalets Village Inn, North Conway, New Hampshire

    Teddy Bear's and TicondeogaCollapse )
    12:06 pm
    Friday, September 26th, 2008
    6:52 pm
    Wedding/Honeymoon #3- Brunch and Driving Adventures
    Wednesday September 24th, Franconia, NH

    On Sunday, we got up, loaded the car with all our stuff for the honeymoon, and then set off to our last official wedding event- a brunch hosted by my mother. With the help of a dear family friend, and a few family members who came by early, they had converted the activities room in my mother’s basement so it looked totally different. We had coffee, mimosas, bagels and croissaints and sandwhiches, and admist the feast those family members who hadn’t yet left town got a chance to chat about their favorite moments from the day before.

    A few hours later, our stomachs as full as our car, we hit the road. We had a loose plan of where we wanted to go, but the basic idea was to be as flexible as possible. Meg and I have had wonderful times in the past on trips like this, where we have a vague idea of where we want to wind up, and a vaguer idea of the route we want to take, but plenty of possible detours, and plenty of time to explore whatever caught our eye along the way, and we have also found we love camping together, so the plan was to combine the two. We had a car full of campign gear, and information on both camp sites and hotels, as well as hiking and sightseeing spots throughout New England, and we were ready to go.
    c
    The rough idea was to head up to Western Mass and enjoy the wonders of “The Big E” a New England wide state fair. From there we would continue north and cut back into New York to Fort Ticonderoga, a place I had visited a few times as a kid and had wonderful memories of. From there we would take a boat across Lake Champlain and take a long scenic drive through Vermont, with a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s factory, among others. From there we would head into New Hampshire and the White Mountain Natitonal Forest, particularly the Franconia Notch area which was supposed to have wonderful waterfalls and hiking. Once we had our fill of New Hampshire the plan was to head east to Bar Harbor, Maine, where Meg went to college. After a day or two of camping or hiking or boating or whatever else caught our fancy in Maine we would start to slowly wind our way down the coast back home.

    Most of it was wide open. But the one thing we knew was that we wanted to start with a nice night at a bed and breakfast –someplace wonderfully decadent and relaxing where we could spend a beautiful relaxing night and let all the stress of the wedding and all the planning slip away. The perfect way, we thought to end the whole wedding process and kick off our honeymoon.

    What’s that line about best laid plans…?

    So, we had a reservation at a place called The Ivory Creek Inn, in Hadley Mass. From the website and all we read, it sounded perfect for what we wanted, and close to the fair that we wanted to get to the next day. We arrived about 6, and it was everything we’d hoped. The husband of the couple that owned the place, Todd, greeted us, at the door and showed us to our room, while telling us about how he and his wife, who had 11 children, had build the large house so they could have a place for the whole family to come home to at holiday time. They rented out the rooms when family wasn’t around to pay for it all, and cooked the meals out of their own kitchen. The result was very cozy feeling, and we looked forward to a lovely night.

    After relaxing for a while we decided to head into the nearby town for dinner. We had a nice meal and a pleasant drive home, but as we neared the last turn we saw flashing lights.

    This was when the fun really began.

    It turned out there was a bad accident up ahead, and the road was blocked off. We then set off on a quest to try and find some other route to our B&B, but between the cop giving us bad directions, being far back in the woods with very few roads that went where we needed to, and our GPS not understanding that we needed to find some other way, we kept winding up back at the same spot. After more then 90 minutes of this we finally got directions to another route, all the way on the other side of the river that the B&B was next to. So we went through three different towns, looped around a few hills, found our way to the right road--- and came to a sign that said the road was blocked, as the bridge had been washed out.

    As this point we were both at that point of either laughing or crying, and I started looking around for the camera, convinced we were on some reality show for newlyweds that someone had signed us up for without telling us. We debated our options, but since we were at least 30 minutes from the original spot where we’d been cut off, and the cop had said the road might be blocked till dawn anyway, going all the back seemed pointless. Instead we just decided to surrender to the absurdity of it all, and find a room at the nearest, cheapest motel. Having been earlier thwarted, here our trust GPS could shine, and it quickly led us to the local econolodge. The flashing sign advertised a honeymoon room with Jacuzzi, and I figured the honeymoon suite at an econolodge had to worth checking out, but sadly it was unavaible, so we checked in to a basic room, got ourselves into bed and collapsed. We spent a few moments wondering if we’d get our money back from the B&B, not to mention what they would think if they found our room in the morning, bed unslept in with all our bags scattered about, and with that, we went to sleep.

    Now I imagine you all are getting sick of hearing, “it could have been a disaster, but Meg and I found a way to laugh about it, and that’s how I know we’ll be a good married couple” stories, and hopefully this will be the last, but it’s the only way I can describe that night. Especially because, it all wound up working wonderfully. In the morning we drove back to the B&B, explained what happened, and they immediately told us that of course they wouldn’t charge us for the night, but they still insisted we stay for breakfast. And the breakfast was amazing! Home cooked, just as we’d hoped when we first had the B&B idea, French toast and country ham and fresh fruit, and all of it wonderful. We chatted with the couple who own the place throughout breakfast; she’s still a practicing bio-chemist and he’s a retired rocket scientist, and we talked about that, about my and Meg’s work, about how the B&B gets lots of people on parent’s weekend at the nearby schools, about how Judy, Todd’s wife, developed a love of elephants when she was a kid from reading Babar, and that’s why there are elephants scattered everywhere throughout the place. It was a lovely morning, and we told them we would definitely be back sometime soon. We packed up our bags, left some money in the room to say thank you, and hit the road for the fair.
    Thursday, September 25th, 2008
    12:28 am
    Wedding/Honeymoon post #2 The Wedding Itself- Joy and Chaos and Covenant
    Tuesday, September 23rd, Franconia, NH

    There’s been lots of wonderful adventures on the honeymoon so far, but I should probably say something about the wedding itself. Eat your meal before the dessert and all that.

    The Wedding, and the night before.Collapse )
    Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008
    11:29 pm
    Wedding/Honeymoon post #1- Intro
    Monday, September 22nd, Adirondack State Park, New York*

    For the next week or so, I’ll be blogging about my wedding and all the events that surrounded it last weekend, and the honeymoon that followed. In today’s world, it seems something didn’t happen unless you blog about it

    Now of course, that’s ridiculous. The events of last weekend will be remembered by everyone who attended for some time I hope, and certainly need not be written down for Meg or I to remember that magical day for a long long time. Nor is a blog the only means I have to document what took place, we had not one but two professional quality photographers snapping away, not to mention a host of friends and family who have already started sending me their snapshots from the wedding. Emails have been zipping back and forth amongst family, sharing favorite stories and gossiping about who wore what, and I’m sure just as many phone calls have been made.

    So there’s no real need to blog about the wedding, or the honeymoon that is now following it. But it seems to have become a bit of a tradition now, that when Meg and I take a journey together, as we did when we drove cross country, or when we traveled to Israel, that I recount our journey in this forum. Friends and family have told me they enjoy following along with our journey, and I find it an interesting way for me to gather my own thoughts on important events. It gives me a moment of forced reflection, a time to step back and consider what has been going on.

    And if anyone is wondering why the style of this initial post seems so ponderous, I blame it on how much NPR we’ve been listening to. I’m writing to you now on day 2 of our honeymoon, Monday night, from the Cold Brook Campgrounds, enjoying the quiet and stillness of our campsite, and taking a few moments to type away as Meg sets up camp. (Our deal was, if I do the driving, she sets up camp, and its working out to be a nice division of labor, as it lets her nap when there aren’t pretty things to look at.)

    Here are some of the pictures we’ve gotten back already, from Tom, the senior pastor of my church, and photographer extraordinaire.
    More pictures, and blogging, to come soon.

    Stay tuned.

    *Note- Some of these posts will be dated a day or two, (or more) earlier then when they actually get posted, as my internet access is spotty. I’m writing posts when I have the chance and then posting them when I can get online, so the dates may not match up. The date and location listed are the date that the post was written, not necessarily when it was posted or when the events in question took place.
    Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
    1:17 pm
    The Faithful Steward- A Sermon on Stewardship and Comprehensive Sex Ed.
    Last week I preached a sermon on the stewardship, the sacredness of sexuality, and the importance of comprehensive sex education. The two readings that were part of the service are first, and then the sermon itself.

    The Faithful Steward: A sermon preached by Rev. Matthew Davis Fox at All Souls Bethlehem Church, Brooklyn, NY. 7/21/08Collapse )
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