Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Merced

Throughout high school I always thought that Merced (my current location, well at least for two more weeks) was a rather progressive and liberal place, but I suppose I just had lots of liberal and open-minded friends. So often I forget about the oppression and discrimination that exists in my own community.

Recently there was an incident at the University of California-Merced campus where the administration had to respond to hateful messages written by students: over 70 white boards displayed offensive drawings and racist and anti-gay epithets. Although this happened in the beginning of the month, I am still in astonishment. A small group of students were found as the culprits. The Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost sent an email out to the entire student body:
"This act of vandalism not only demonstrated a lack of respect for the campus' physical space, but more importantly, a lack of respect for principles that are core to our university," the e-mail stated.

"The writing on the walls included degrading racial slurs and offensive statements about sexuality specifically targeted at our gay and lesbian students. This behavior violates the university's Principles of Community; principles to which we all ascribed when we chose to attend or work at UC Merced. Our principles talk of integrity, fairness and intellectual excellence. They were ignored in this cowardly act," the e-mail continued.

Merced Sun-Star

I live rather close to the UC Merced campus, so it totally shocked me when I heard of this incident. I can imagine the fear and frustration the LGBTQ community of UC Merced must be feeling. I get that same feeling when I go for my evening walks and fall victim to drive-by "fag-ings." It's not a safe feeling. UC Merced does need to work towards education for their students on the issues like homosexualiy, racism, etc. I want Merced to be a safe place for the gay community that exists here. I am saddened by how underground the LGBTQ community of Merced is though.

I'm willing to offer myself as peformance activist and a Merced native to speak to UC Merced and in the community. I am here to be a resource. It makes me sad that I am leaving in two weeks, knowing that our community isn't as progressive as I would like it be.

Justice! - The Book of Amos

Today I randomly stumbled upon the book of Amos. I think as Christians we often only think of the Old Testament in terms of the Bible stories we learned in Sunday school and what we know about the book of Leviticus. But today, I was flipping towards Joshua--perhaps my most favorite book in the Old Testament, Joshua is one of my Biblical heroes--but I ended up in Amos. Since I've only read through Amos once, I figured why not read through it again. I am impressed with what God had me stumble on.

Amos really concentrates on injustice, more than any other book in the Bible. Now there were many things that were wrong with Israel right now (ie. its two calf-idols), but Amos focused on what he saw for himself: the oppression of people! The people Amos addressed had plenty of "religion." They worshiped regularly and looked forward to "the day of the Lord" and they thought they were on track, but Amos had different news from God: "I hate, I despise your religious feasts" (Amos 5.21). God didn't want their sacrifices, their songs, etc. God was demanding justice! "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (5.24) God would destroy them for their crimes against humanity (of course this is Old Testament God).

I think the Book of Amos can serve as an example for all Christians. You would expect me to say it should be oriented towards "anti-gay Christians." But no. I think it's a message for all Christians. Even as gay Christians, I think we often forget about the oppression of other people. God doesn't really care if I read my Bible, sing worship songs, go to church, etc. Because it's nothing if I'm still be a hypocrite. Amos was just a simple farmer. Simple enough to notice a big problem. Many of us are often too caught up in the Evangelical scene to see the big problems.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Choir Boy

I know it's very cliché and fits the stereotype, but I was a choir boy--and plan to still be one, once I'm back in school again. I've been in choral groups for the longest time, I did gospel choir in high school and of course my church's choir. During my preview weekend at Azusa Pacific University I fell in love with the Men's Chorale. A choir composed of over 70 amazingly talented men (let's do our best here to put aside stereotypes and preconceived thoughts, after all, it is a Christian university). A lot of these guys were like brothers to me. They were awesome, I just can't explain it. For those of you who are or have been in music groups understand what I mean when I say it was like family.

Our repertoire was rather classical, but sounded amazing. Our 70+ voices performed choral literature, Gospel songs, modern arrangements of traditional spirituals, contemporary Christian music, and newly commissioned pieces by contemporary composers.

A lot of our songs really touched me: "Jesus Paid It All;" "If Any Man Be In Christ;" "Grace" (Amazing Grace arrangment)....

Well the song that I absolutely loved and that EVERYONE loved was "Revelation 19." To read the scripture just visit here. But please listen to the song here:

Azusa Pacific University - Men's Chorale

I admit that for a while the song was beautiful to me just for the mere fact that it was music and was beautifully arranged. The words were just words. Today I listen to the song and I am brought to tears for many reasons. One being that I really miss singing with these guys. But moreso, I finally understand the song. As a Christian I often say, "God is amazing!" But now looking back at my life and what I've been through and how I have found comfort in God, I really know why He is amazing now. I can't explain it. But I feel like there is nothing I can do or say that will give justice to how amazing I feel God is right now.