Haven is a group that meets at my undergraduate institution, Seattle Pacific University (SPU), originally formed to discuss GLBT issues and human sexuality--a much needed group on campus. It's a long story, but the group has been fighting with the administration at SPU to gain official club status for years (I believe since about 2006 or 07). You can read about their most current struggle here. Needless to say, I'm so disappointed in SPU. Really disappointed. THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT OF THE CHURCH. What if we decided to join together to LOVE everyone and fight for those that society doesn't treat with dignity and respect--it seems to me God would get more behind THAT idea then anything else. Call me crazy. What makes me really upset is that the club is not about being pro-this issue or anti-that issue...it's about DISCUSSION...and I feel like Haven has done such an excellent job of living that value out, and it gets continually misconstrued. The really cool thing though is seeing the scores of people that are showing their support towards the cause (yeah social change!). Petitions are forming, and letters being sent (Sign the petition here). GLBT issues are so close to my heart for so many reasons--the greatest people I know have dealt with too much unnecessary pain and heartache, particularly within a religious context, which is so far from who I believe Christ was, and is frankly embarrassing for me to be associated with as a person of faith. I have so much respect for the students who are fighting the good fight--they are the agents of change and I'm honored to be affiliated with them and their cause, even in such a small way as signing a petition and sending a letter. I was just thinking the other day how I wish that more Americans would get angry at injustice, that they would get more political (much like the protesters in Egypt--while I don't love the violence, at least they're fighting for something...). But apathy is not the name of the game anymore--a ruckus is being stirred! Anyways, here is my letter to the administration: feel free to send one their way.
Dear President Eaton, Dr. Steele and Dean Jordan,
I am writing to express my disappointment that the SPU administration has decided to not award Haven official club status, and is refusing to let them meet on campus. I was a Peer Advisor the year that the Equality Ride attended SPU. I am forever grateful that SPU was committed to listening to the group that came, and it was the first time that I was exposed to different ways of thinking about homosexuality in particular. I know that not all Christian universities allowed the Equality Ride to come to their campus, but SPU was different. I really valued that SPU was not afraid of dissimilarity in ideas, and were willing to engage in the conversation. I learned about many different theological perspectives during that time, as well as heard many stories of pain from those that spoke. I had never been exposed to the GLBT community prior to this, and it was a pivotal moment in my faith. I was allowed the opportunity to critically think about my faith from an academic perspective, proving to me that God was not afraid of my questions, and that Christianity was a faith that could be thought about on an intellectual level. It was through my education that my faith was saved—through professors who taught me that faith and intellect could go together. It was through my classes at SPU that taught me to value equality for all people, regardless of their difference in gender, race, social class or sexual orientation, and to put my faith in to action and to fight for change alongside them. THIS was why I came to college--to learn about the world around me, to engage with those were were different. Everyone's experience is not like mine. I chose SPU specifically because one did not have to be a confessing Christian to attend like many other Christian universities—which seemed to demonstrate a belief that SPU was confident enough in their doctrine and values that those who were different could attend and still be apart of a community. SPU constantly talked about engaging the culture—and I thought they were trying to practice it as well. That is why I am so disappointed that SPU will not allow Haven club status. This is not the SPU that I know, love, and support in so many ways. I believed that SPU was not afraid of conversation, which Haven has repeatedly expressed is their sole purpose in forming this club. They are not about pushing a perspective, but rather about having open discussion—I have personally witnessed this in the multiple meetings I attended. As a former member of Haven and Sophia, I experienced personally Haven’s efforts to respect SPU’s statement on sexuality, and honor the wishes of the administration, but I have to ask, what is the administration afraid of? Through conversation, I believe that God will lead us to truth—if we cannot trust in that, then where is our faith?
Additionally, this group is vital for those that identify as part of the GLBT community. I personally have had many friends who identify as GLBT, and I have heard their stories of struggle, their feeling that they did not belong, especially and oftentimes specifically within a religious community. Unfortunately, this decision by the administration only seems to confirm this fear. This is absolutely devastating to me as a follower of Christ because I believe that was the antithesis of who He was. Many of my friends thought they were the only one who struggled with these issues, oftentimes giving up faith or their church community altogether because they thought they had to choose, and I can’t imagine how different their stories might have been had they had a group like Haven on campus to support them. As an ally, I needed this group to learn more about my peers and to make sure I was making an effort to create a community they could feel like they were apart of. As a follower of Jesus, I believe this is my call. Jesus was about engaging in conversation. He was about including others. I urge you to please grant Haven club status, as it will create a more loving and inclusive community that I know SPU strives for. It is time to put faith into action.
"It's Only Natural" is the name of the new restaurant I visited with Tai, my coworker Tracy, and her husband Josh. It's a vegan/vegetarian place in Middletown, CT that Whole Foods Guy recommended to me. He made sure to point out that it was super quirky (very Portland, Oregon-esque I would say), and that Middletown was very hipster/hippie if I was into that sort of thing. I told him that I was, and I had been wondering where Connecticut had been hiding the hippies since I'd moved here--turns out it was Middletown. Well, Yum-E! On the menu: fried tofu bites for appetizers, followed by spinach/potato perogies with whole grain rice and steamed kale, and washed down with a slice of delicious vegan velvet cake (Tai had strawberry champagne sorbet--MMMM!!!!). I also really appreciated the feminist bathroom and the chalkboard table tops--fun for drawing whilst waiting for the food!!!
Perogies--I got too excited and was almost done eating by the time I realized I hadn't taken a picture
Last night I headed out with some friends to one of my favorite bars here in Hartford, Tisane's. Tisane's has this really neat atmosphere, but let me be honest: my real reasons for suggesting this particular location was so that I could tame the beast known as Karaoke as it has been on my list of things to do for awhile. Every time I've been in a karaoke bar I've always wished I had the guts to get up and belt it out. I don't know why I've been intimidated--there are plenty of people that have such awful voices that all the dogs in the neighborhood probably vacate the area when they sing, but that sure doesn't stop them. The last time I was at Tisane's for karaoke someone sang that song from "The Little Mermaid" (you know that one that's like "look at this stuffff, isn't it neeeeaaattt, wouldn't you think my collection's coooommmppplleeeettteee) that was so out of tune that Prince Eric would have wished she would have remained mute. I sat there contemplating if tonight would be the night. Come on Jess! I thought over a Sex on the Beach. Get over yourself! These people will never see you again! While the 60 year old singing "Ice Ice Baby" from memory seemed like a tough act to follow, I decided to seize the day. This would be my something new and there would be no turning back. After all, I felt moderately qualified as I've had a lot of practice singing in the shower, and the acoustics make me sound really delightful if I do say so myself. I'd also sang for years alone in the car, so maybe it was time to take my talents public--I thought I sounded pretty damn good when loudly singing along to Lady Gaga. Maybe there was a music critic in the crowd who would discover me and I would be on my way to Broadway! We pulled out the list of songs, and with Tai by my side I settled on "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as guilty pleasure songs seem to really get the crowd going, and I love the passion Bonnie Tyler sings with (turn around brrriggghhttt eyes--every now and then I fall appparrrrrrtttt was going to be Tai's part as my back-up singer). As I got up to belt it out, the DJ disclosed that there would be no "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as the CD wasn't working--it was time to pull out the big guns here and return to my roots. Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" it was--it was a sign. While I had tried to go with something unexpected by picking "T.E.O.T.H." it now seemed necessary to return to a staple. As the red light started moving through the lyrics and with Tai by my side, my courage began to mount. We hit the chorus and the whole crowd was singing along! I pumped my fist in the air! I pretended my hair was giant, crimped and aerosoled! I got my rock on! I let it loose, belted that sucker out! TOMMY USED TO WORK ON THE DOCKS!!!!!!! UNIONS BEEN ON STRIKE!!!!! HE'S DOWN ON HIS LUCK IT'S TOOOOUUUUGGGHHHH!!!! SOOOOO TOOOOUUUGGGGHHH!!!! As we rounded the last chorus, I realized how terrible I was (the key wasn't really working in my favor), and frankly my performance had really taken a lot out of me. I had given myself emotionally to this crowd, and I hoped they were grateful and realized that they had gotten to be apart of a very magical moment, regardless of what it sounded like. I wondered how Jon did this night after night and thanked the Good Lord that I had not decided to try out for American Idol this year. It turns out that I sound a LOT better in the car ALONE, but nonetheless I hope that crowd appreciated my spirited performance. It may have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for them...we'll see.
I really want to go to Italy, so I've been reading up on the subject to see how I can get the most bang for my buck. Did you know that in Italy the government mandates that you cannot use your air conditioning until a certain month so that they can save energy? I love the Italians already...