Monday, January 16, 2006

What’s a seminarian?

Just in case someone stumbles on my blog and wonders what a seminarian is, let me explain. The American Heritage dictionary defines seminarian as a student in seminary. This is a very simple definition and may help to demythologize some of the connotations around the word seminarian. Sometimes I hear that word spoken in the hushed tones of churchy reverence. Well, in my home state of Idaho, LDS high school age students attend their church's seminaries, which are often right across from the town’s high school. So for a lot of folks in Idaho going to seminary is no big deal.

However, if you're not LDS going to seminary is a big deal. It can cost a lot of money. Seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools expect you to do graduate level work. In my seminary, not all seminarians are studying for the priesthood. Some are working on masters in theology. Some are working on a certificate in Anglican studies. Some are working on doctorates. I think this helps keep people from getting all wrapped up in the ordination process. For me it is wonderful to see people studying theology for reasons other than ordained ministry. The people I study with here at CDSP are at all kinds as different places in their spiritual journeys. We have one thing in common or so it seems to me. We have an affinity for God and things religious. This group of folks takes this seriously, but thankfully not too seriously.

Angels in America

Teresa and I finished watching Angels in America last night. I highly recommend this to anyone with interest in the gay community. To me, the most surprising part was the Mormon characters. I had heard about the closeted gay Republican character but didn’t recall that he was Mormon. I found him to be a quite likable character, in that he was struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and as honest as he could be about why the struggle was so hard. His Mormon mom comes off as one of the most compassionate of the characters. I had to wonder what is like for a gay man in New York City to view this amazing movie verse me, a lesbian raised in very Mormon Southwest Idaho.

I have a lot of respect for the main hero in this story, Prior. Even though angels tell him how sucky life is and that it will get worse, Prior wants to live. Even though they offer him a way out of the suffering, death, Prior, with eyes wide open and in defiance, chooses life and demands a blessing. He will live life on his terms and live it fabulously. Isn’t that the drag queen battle cry?

There is a lot of religion in this show – Judaism, Christianity, Mormonism. Even the Hare Krishnas have a cameo! It’s kind of like This American Life, a very good secular radio show and it has a lot of stories with reference to or about religion. We really are a very religious country.

There is a lot in this movie, beside that fact that it is six hours long – don’t try it in one sitting! I think it ought to be standard fare in any queer theory course. I think it would be good for high school age youth groups. It would be great for Adult Christian Ed. If you haven’t seen it, get the DVD, a big bag of popcorn and enjoy!


Elizabeth Wakeman said...

Hi Debbie, Teresa and others...

You say that the Mormon mother comes off as very compassionate, and I agree. It is interesting though that (as far as we see in the movie) she is not compassionate towards her own son.

For those of you who don't know me, I am a PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Mom. I thought that the mother was a wonderful honest portrayal of the journey that so many parents go through. The first time she meets a gay man who is not her son she takes care of him. She becomes involved in his life.

When she first finds out that her own son is gay she cannot accept it. She knows who he is: her nice, good Mormon son who has a wife and a promising career. He is the boy that she raised and when he tells her he is someone else it just "doesn't compute."

We don't really know at the end of the movie what her relationship with her son will turn out to be. She develops a very close mothering relationship with other gay men, but even as she accept her own son's sexuality I think it is clear that their relationship will always be more complicated than the one she is able to have with the other men.

Of course that is true for all parents and adult children. They are relationships with history and our parents rarely see us the way others in our lives do. Our parents look at us, see us, the children we were and the adults they dreamed we would become.

Debbie of Boise said...

Thank you Elizabeth for your insightful and wise response. This is the type of conversation I’m hoping this blog will invoke. I think you are spot on in observing the Mormon mother’s response to her son vs. the first gay man who is not her son. You know, it’s always more complicated with family. My own family’s response has been ambivalent, but mercifully, there is an abiding, underlying love that holds our relationships together. In the messy humanist of our lives, that is a real gift. Yes, I would like 100% acceptance, but some acceptance is O.K. and that “some” in some cases is really significant. The important thing is to be honest and respect each other.

Kirstin said...

Welcome to Blogland!

"Odd duckedness"--I love that.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Sis:

Here are some questions for you.
1) what is "duckedness"?
2) in describing Angels in America you mention that the protagonist states defiantly the "drag queen's battle cry" of how he "will live life on his terms and live it fabulously." HIS TERMS!?!? What about living life on GOD'S TERMS? I've found terms from on High to be "fabulously" better than are mine! To me, that is one of the saddest aspects of the homosexual agenda: this battle cry of "we will live life as WE want it and to hell with everybody else (until y'all become queer like us, that is), and particularly to hell with any God and what HE says is the created norm!" I'm trying to state this position as it comes across to me; it may not be what militant homosexuals want to say (altho' groups like Queer Nation sure do come across as that is exactly what they DO mean), and it may be offensive, but I'm not trying to offend. I'm trying to reflect back how these folks come across, and it's sad. If I've learned no other lesson in my near-52 years, I've learned that "my way or the highway" is THE WORST and most unproductive, unrewarding way to conduct one's life.
3) just exactly what are YOUR goals in going to seminary? An M.Div.? A pastoral ministry afterward? A counseling ministry? What?

Your brother, in blood & in Christ,
Glen Alan

Anonymous said...

Dear Debbie,

Good to hear from you again. Hang in there with your honesty and your continuing search for God. As someone who has known you for years and years, I can only ask God to continue his blessings. Bill Taylor