Previous month:
November 2006
Next month:
January 2007

December 2006

Three Recent Films


I must say that I'm surprised by how high this film in ranking on numerous end of year film lists. Though I enjoyed seeing it and laughed and was made uncomfortable, I don't think it is a great film qua film. Nor is it the best social commentary on America since de Tocqueville (Time magazine). It is interesting seeing real Americans say some ridiculous and scary things, but the whole contrivance of the fake plot just didn't interest me at all.

2 film reels
3 popcorn kernels


Sure, it's a little overhyped, but I really enjoyed it. Pretty much every review I've read has nailed it on the head about some of the film's drawbacks. Though those descriptions are accurate, they just aren't relevant. It is a good, fun film. I found myself caught up in it and marvelling, especially, at the beauty of the costumes, make-up, set design, and cinematography. Jennifer has great star power. Eddie was great. Beyonce was gorgeous.

3 film reels
5 popcorn kernels

The Good Shepherd

Stunning! The best film I've seen yet this year. It is VERY slow going, but the reason why becomes apparent by the end. This is a film about evil. Not the active, showy kind of evil, but the banal, bureaucratic sort of evil, like in Hannah Arendt's take on Adolf Eichmann. I'm going to write more about this film, but in a way that will reveal plot details, because it is a film that merits discussion. But I'll do that in another place.

4 film reels
4 popcorn kernels

The Role of Religion in Politics

In the most recent issue of Christian Ethics Today there is an excerpt from a June 28 speech by Senator Barak Obama on the relationship between religion and politics that I thought was very well done. Here is the full speech.

Here's a bit of his own testimony:

And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well -- that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.
And if it weren't for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn - not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope. And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship -- the grounding of faith in struggle -- that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today. Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

Favourite Eccentricity: Annual Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas!

I’ve already received two e-mails asking where the Christmas letter is. Today I noticed a number of new white hairs. Kara first noticed them a couple of years ago when she was cutting my hair. Michael Bolin pointed out some new ones today when he was cutting mine. When I looked later I realized that, yes, it is more noticeable. I guess it’s started. Oh well.

This summer I was in the best shape I’ve probably ever been in, after months of adding yoga to my workout routine, a week at the beach, from which I returned more tanned than since I was a kid, and a new haircut (we are using relaxer on the curls!).

The new look seems to have worked too. After a year of enjoy dating life as a single man, I started a new relationship this fall with Michael Cich. How we met will take us back to the spring of this year. . . .
In March the Soulforce Equality Ride stopped in Oklahoma. The Equality Ride was a group of young people traveling the country and protesting anti-gay discrimination at religious and military colleges. They based their effort on the Freedom Rides of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The Ride stopped at two places in Oklahoma – ORU and my alma mater, OBU. At ORU some of the students and a few local folk were arrested.

Things went differently at OBU. I participated in the direct action there and was amazed at the hospitality. OBU had definitely relaxed from the days of its anti-gay witch hunts when I was in Shawnee. After the Ride’s visit, an OBU student came out publicly (in Newsweek!) and was allowed to stay in school because the policy had changed. I led a group for gay students the rest of the semester and had a blast with that. And lots of other progress was made. I count it among the high points of my life in ministry. However, the feared backlash occurred this summer and now OBU’s gone back to a more discriminatory position; so I’ll be back there with the Equality Ride again this spring.

Michael participated in the direct action at ORU and was one of the folk arrested. He and I met that week when the Riders were here. I thought he was cute, but would never be interested in me. Come to find out later, he thought I was cute too. So, months went by and we’d see each other now and then.

Among the major new developments in my life this year is joining the “Alliance” or “Circle” (it goes both names). A really tight, close group of friends formed this year, and we have a blast hanging out multiple times a week.Casey_jon_nate_michael_good_picture

By this summer I was exhausted from work, so it was great to spend a week of vacation in Sarasota, Florida with my friends Bill and Don who graciously offered me the spare bedroom in their time share. I’d get up in the mornings and go down to the beach, then lie there all day reading, walking, napping, sunning, playing in the surf until evening time when I’d clean up and we’d do dinner. That’s life!
I got about five books read that week. My favourite books this year were 1776 by David McCullough, Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk, Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival, Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club, and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. The most interesting book I read this year was Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.

This summer and fall I became even more involved in the community, serving on some committees, working on some projects, etc. One of those is serving on the Board of Directors of OKC Pride, Inc. I attended my first Board meeting in August and who should walk in but Michael Cich. As he tells it, when he walked in, I yelled out “Michael!” completely betraying myself. Well, just that week the fourth friend in a month told me that I needed to be bolder when I liked someone, so Michael and I began some e-mailing and then I asked him out a couple of weeks later and then he asked me out twice the next week and . . . Well, you get the idea. So far friends and family really like him, and my church members might like him more than they do me.

One of our early dates was a Flaming Lips concert that is the only concert I made it to this year. I didn’t attend the ACL Festival, and it seems like I missed the best one yet.

Last week the snow put me in the Christmas mood, plus it was an eventful weekend. We celebrated three months together, and my congregation elected its first congregational officers. This year we’ve been in transition to becoming our own, independent church. That has included joining the United Church of Christ. Last Sunday’s congregational meeting was full of enthusiasm as we participated in this wonderful new moment.

At Thanksgiving I reflected on being a part of the denomination that celebrated that first Thanksgiving. I hosted again and had a house full of family and friends. Mom missed because only that day did she come home from the hospital after having a hip replacement. Kelli is pregnant and was beginning to show, so it was a lot of fun thinking about the changes ahead next year.

Last year I wrote about how crazy life had been all year as I waited for my house to sell. I ended up in a great place, that is my favourite place I’ve lived in. It’s allowed me to begin entertaining a lot again (something you know I love). One party had seventy people in attendance! Dba_cocktail_2

Today I’m being filmed for a documentary entitled The Buckle: Being Gay in the Bible Belt. They are here now working on setting up the camera and other equipment. My favourite films so far this year include Thank You For Smoking, The Devil Wears Prada, Stranger Than Fiction, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen.

Well, they seem close to being ready for me, so I’m going to wrap this up. It’s been an incredibly stressful year (the third in a row! though each different), but as I come to the end of the year I’ve got a lot of joy. I think there are exciting adventures in store for 2007. In the mean time, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.Scott_orrin_in_2006_pride_parade


Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia

Devastating flooding in Somalia is make life even worse in a country that was already one of the worst places to be in the world. Read this well written article in the NYTimes. An excerpt:

The floods here are yet another installment of a nation in crisis. At a time when Somalia seems inexorably close to an all-out war with Ethiopia, with a destructive potential that could dwarf the countless deaths from the last 15 years of anarchy, a deluge has arrived, plunging Somalia’s breadbasket underwater, creating the conditions for an extended famine and taking the area’s woes to a whole new level.

Hypocrisy Thy Name is "Romney"

In 1994 Mitt Romney took a moderate stance on the human rights denied GLBT people. That was before he began pandering to the Far Right in his campaign for the presidency. Read the article about a 1994 interview here.

And then a letter surfaced that he wrote in 1994 to the Log Cabin Republicans of Massachusetts. It includes the line, "If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern." Read the article here.

The Dawn of Promise

The Dawn of Promise
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
3 December 2006

First, imagine the prophet Jeremiah.

O land, land, land,
Hear the word of the Lord!

My people had grown complacent. They assumed that everything was okay and that everything would continue to be okay. But they were wrong. In truth our society was corrupt and on the verge of collapse, yet everyone kept deluding themselves.

Instead of relying on the promises of God in times like this, people had spurned God. It was like a marriage on the verge of erupting in a messy divorce, the relationship between God and God’s people was in ruins. Yet, people went about the motions, ignoring the truth.

And God grieved. My how God grieved. God’s sorrow was revealed to me:

Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
And let them not cease,
For My dearly beloved people is smitten with a great wound,
With a very grievous blow.

God was filled with sorrow because God knew that this corrupt nation wouldn’t survive, that it would be destroyed by the avenging armies of its enemies. And God could do nothing to prevent it.

So in this time of woe, God poured out God’s spirit upon me. It was an overwhelming presence that I did not seek.

On the one hand I experienced the overwhelming sorrow and grief of God who wanted me to cry out to the people. On the other hand I was filled with empathy for the people and cried out to God on their behalf. My life was filled with loneliness and despair. No one wanted to be around me. I was mocked and derided. But God’s word had control of me. If I tried not to pronounce it, it’s power overwhelmed me. It was intoxicating and anguishing at the same time.

Because of God’s presence within me, I became more attuned to the suffering of this world. The sorrow of my people overwhelmed me:

For I heard a cry as of a woman in travail,
Anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
The cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath,
Stretching out her hands,
Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.

Though God could not avert the suffering that my people were walking into as a result of their complacent disregard, God’s promises offered hope:

See a time is coming when I will form a new relationship with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the relationship which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my relationship of steadfast love which they broke. But this is the new relationship which I will make with them after those days. I will put my teaching within them and I will write it upon their hearts. Then I will be their God and they will be my people. And no longer will they need to teach one another to know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Yahweh promised a recreation of “that which is orderly, secure, abundant, good, and even green.” The “future is grounded in the activity of God.” God would restore the fortunes of the people, calling them again to this land and filling it with life. What is a desolation will become a place of abundance. The city that is now filled with despair will be a place of joy that all nations will be drawn to. God will bring healing to God’s people.

Eventually the foreign armies came and the people, too late, realized the danger they were in. It was in these dark days that hope was possible. Only those who grieved and sorrowed could embrace the hopeful promise of the new day. “Weeping permits newness.”

So as the armies encircled the city, I went out and purchased land, because I was confident that God would provide and bring us home again. The days are surely coming.

Imagine now Servant of God Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who confronted poverty, racism, and war in America with the gospel message:

Some FBI man by the name of Daly came down to query me about one of our friends who is a conscientious objector. He asked the usual questions as to how long I had known him, how he stated his position as pacifist, whether or not he believed in defending himself. Evidently one of my answers offended him because he pulled back his jacket and displayed the holster of a gun under his arm pit which he patted bravely as he said, "I believe in defending myself!" I could not but think, "how brave a man defending himself with his gun against us unarmed women and children hereabouts." The FBI should train their men to be a little more impersonal.

People probably do not realize with what fear and trembling I speak or write about the Catholic Worker, our ideas and our point of view. It is an extreme point of view, and yet it is tested and proved over and over again; it is almost as if God says to us "Do you really mean what you say?" and then gives us a chance to prove it.

I know what human fear is and how often it keeps us from following our conscience. We find so many ways of rationalizing our positions. There are all kinds of fear: fear of losing our bodily goods, fear of poverty, fear of losing our job, our reputation, and not least of all there is the strange business of bodily fear.

One of the situations when I was most afraid was in my visit some years ago to Koinonia, an interracial community in Americus, Georgia. A very wonderful Baptist minister named Clarence Jordan and a few of his companions decided to tackle the problems of poverty, interracial conflict and agriculture by taking over two thousand acres of land and starting a community based on diversified farming. This truly interracial community thrived and prospered until they came to public attention. This precipitated a real reign of terror.

Their roadside stand was dynamited and completely destroyed in the middle of the night. Community members were shot at, some of the houses were burnt down, marauders cut the wire that fenced in the cattle and threw torches into the hay barn, setting fire to the hay. They were boycotted, couldn't buy oil for their tractors or cars, couldn't buy seed or fertilizer, couldn't get insurance on their cars or houses.

We did learn something of what mob hatred is like. And I must say that it makes your blood run cold. Not many of us ever experienced this kind of venomous hatred.

The women volunteered to watch at night. We signed up for two or three hours of watching at a public road that ran between two pieces of Koinonia property. About two o'clock in the morning, while I was engaged in conversation about voluntary communities with the woman who was sharing the watch with me, a car with no lights on came down the road and suddenly the car we were in was peppered with shots. The car was there and gone before we could realize what had happened. It is strange how the fear always comes afterward, your bones turn to water and your whole body seems to melt away with fear.

We call ourselves Christian, we citizens of the United States, the majority of us, but no one would ever know us as Christians. Reflect on the life of Jesus who came to call sinners, who was born in poverty, who lived as a worker for thirty years. He was an itinerant teacher, walking the roads of Palestine, who hungered and thirsted and was fatigued to the point of exhaustion, who was tempted in all things like us but He did not sin, because He was also God. As the apostles said, we are called to be other-Christs, we are called to put off the old man and put on Christ, we are told to see Christ in our brother. Hard sayings and who can understand it. Only the Spirit can teach us. It is some comfort to remember those further words, when Christ himself died because His whole way of life was revolutionary—He spoke them from the torture in which He hung, nailed as He was to a cross—"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." And He also said to the thief dying by His side, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

I am afraid of what is before us, because what we sow we will reap. It is an exercise in courage to write these words, to speak in this way when it is revolting to consider how much we profess and how little we perform. God help us.

When it is said that we disturb people too much, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb.

This is the greatest of problems today, this problem of war and peace, and involves every man, woman and child in the country. We are one world and all men are brothers. We must pray to learn to love, to have faith in love. Can we go from that fount of Love to a factory where nerve gas and incendiary bombs are manufactured?

Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief; in thee have I hoped, let me never be confounded.

About all of our failures, in the Catholic Worker Movement, I must say that I am not much concerned. I think that such failures are inseparable to a work of this kind, and necessary for our growth in holiness. Such failure, for those of us who have dedicated our lives to this work, is our cross. As a matter of fact, our failure is so continuous that we never think of it, we just go on working, without judging ourselves, as St. Paul tells us to. We can list our accomplishments as glorious examples of God’s providence, and of our faith in it. We grow in faith in it and in our very persistence, we are growing in hope and charity. God grant that we persevere.

The vision is this. We are working for "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein justice dwelleth." We are trying to say with action, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We are working for a Christian social order.

And finally, hear these words:

The day is surely coming when the heavens will be torn open and God’s spirit will be poured out upon this land, when justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

But that day is not today. We weep that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children are harassed and bullied in the public schools. We are angry that we are treated as a social ill. We grieve that we cannot enter into the legal state of marriage with our loved one. We are disturbed that racial discrimination still plagues our sisters and brothers. We are horrified by the rhetoric used against immigrants. We hurt for our troops sent to war. We are angry at our political leaders.

And we feel so helpless. Just trying to nurture our families and friendships is difficult. Trying to keep up with our duties at work is tiring. Faithfully sustaining this congregation at times seems an impossible task.

But the days are surely coming. For we know that God is good and God is able. We know that God will bring healing to our land, that God will renew our spirits with a new song, that we will not be abandoned in our hour of need.

With hope and perseverance our vision will be fulfilled in this time and this place. God will use us as instruments of peace. Our ministry will, one small step at a time, be used of God to bring about a new dawn. I can see the light, join me in the journey.