Archive for Malmö

Falling upwards

311017_10150345372419514_349434286_nI don’t know how it happened, but it did. Suddenly I was forty and the numbers on the cake do not lie. It is strange to wake up and realise that my body is forty even though on the inside I still feel like seventeen.

I have had a great week, last tuesday (my birthday) I was surprised by some of the people that are closest to me that had flown in just to be part of my celebration. I was surrounded by love, gentleness and warm embraces all week. I have spent the time in deep conversation, felt deep connection and have been overwhelmed by the love present in my life.

Now I feel the aching afterglow of true friends absent and I am slowly realising that of all the adventures, all the crazy things I have done in my life the one adventure worthwhile is the adventure of loving someone deeply, of daring to be vulnerable and allowing someone to see the real me and to allow myself to be embraced and loved for whom I really am. I sit and read the kind and gentle words written by my friends in the book that describe the loving friendships we have forged. I am awed by the love penned there.

As I turn this corner and walk into what is the next leg on the greatest adventure of my life, I feel truly grateful and humbled by all of you who make my life special, meaningful and adventurous. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for showing me the face of god. Thank you for allowing me to be the best me that I can possibly be. Thank you!

Love is where the rubber meets the road …

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I recently received the following IM from one of my soldiers in the corps.

I can’t or don’t want to continue as a Soldier … I feel that I want to fall in love, love and feel loved back. Therefore I wan’t to become an adherent.

Personally this is one of the most heartbreaking messages I have ever received. What is wrong with our organisation, our membership form if one of our members feel they must step down and turn in the uniform so that they may be free to fall in love?

This person is gay, and loves the Salvation Army and respects the organisations rules and regulations. Choosing celibacy no longer feels like a viable option. Adherency, the other membership of the Salvation Army does not have rules and regulations attached to it and therefore functions as a compromise. And so I received this message.

This Soldier is on of the most devout, gentle, spirit filled, loving Christians we have in our corps. I am humbled and overjoyed to have such a beautiful role model of what it means to walk with god and seek god for ones life as a Soldier in my corps.

What would you do, if you where the corps leader? How would you reply?

This makes me feel stronger than ever that we must be able to council LGBTQ persons the same way we do any other member of our church. If another member of my corps would come and say that they longed to fall in love, I would simply say: Good for you, lets pray that you meet the right person. I can’t wait to bless the two of you together. No need to step down or resign. No need to feel bad about it, it is part of ordinary (albeit extraordinary, as it is fantastic to fall in love) life!

So, right or wrong that is what I said.

 

 

How I became a queer theologian a desert journey

Last week my friend Samuel decided to reblog one of my posts on LGBTQ and the church. Promptly someone questioned if I really had written the piece as I had taught a very different gospel at said persons confirmation camp. I had to reply that I have been (am still) on a long theological pilgrimage.

Looking back I realise that it has been a long journey, not in a straight line but rather a rambling exodus in the christian desert of sexual mis/information.

When I was younger I had no opinions about sexuality. Sex was the mystical promised land of unending climactic pleasure. There was some testing the waters outside the boundaries of heteronorm conduct though I never wavered in my appreciation and attraction to the mythical female forms. I encountered gay men and lesbian women early as I lived at times in LGBTQ collectives with pink triangles painted on the walls and worn by the kind gentlemen who shared rooms in the oversized apartment. As I was not sexually active I did not understand what that meant or that it could be wrong.

It was not until I became a Christian in my late teens that I was told that certain sexualities where accepted by god (a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony) and all other sexualities (mine included) where tickets straight to a fiery lake with eternal torment on the side. I was taught to read the bible literally and would never have considered Christianity a real option had I not experienced pure authentic joy (in the small baptist church in Malmö) and the unconditional love of an older man (the token black man in the otherwise all white congregation i attended in the Ozarkian backwaters of the US bible belt) showcasing what a fathers love should really be like.

I was crushed to my knees by the awesome presence of the divine and repented my old ways. That is when I had to start reconciling my postmodern upbringing with the modern vestments of American churchianity. First I had to shed my love and fascination for science and replace it with a growing passion for the metaphysical secondly I had to reconcile the unconditional love I felt from god with the judgement of everyone not part of the church (the church being a very narrow description of people who believed exactly what I had been taught that the bible teaches).

This was hard work, it is not easy reconciling a loving god with eternal conscious torment. It lead to a lot of ‘closeting’ that is I had to hide the parts of me that where not compatible with this black and white world of conditional love and unconditional justice. I burnt and renounced my tarot cards, my roleplaying games and my Metallica albums. I listened only to approved Christian music and broke of with my girlfriend who was trying to lead me into sexual temptation by her very existence.

One day I was sitting at our local hangout when a punk girl my age came up to me and asked me if I thought she was going to hell if she died today. I asked her dutifully if she ‘believed in her heart’ and if she could ‘confess with her mouth’ that Jesus was lord. She said that she didn’t know what she believed and that she would confess no such thing. That settled it in my mind and I told her as much, she was going to hell unless she reconsidered. I remember walking out of there with confidence and feeling quite proud of myself the ‘little servant of the lord’ and an evangelist to boot. Hadn’t I in no uncertain terms explained that god was handing out a free bag of candy if she would just bow to his might, never mind the punch in the face that was the price of refusal. The next day I learned that she had killed herself that night. I think this was the first day of my real journey.

Surely Jesus would ave seen the need to be loved in this girls eyes and restored her self worth… Surely Jesus would have known what to say, how to love her. How to enter into her world, to penetrate her bubble and show how passionately relentlessly god loved her.

I still had many years of soul searching and theological wrestling with the doctrinal dragons of organised religion ahead of me before I could answer these questions in a way that would be actual good news. In the meantime I compartmentalised the problem with the ever so handy phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. I represented a unholy, unholistic hermeneutic of separation between person and action as if we can be separated from what we do so easily.

I did peer training with “a world of difference institute” and CEJI two wonderful organisations working against antisemitism, bigotry and racism. I did so still asserting that god loves gay people, he just hate what they do. I honestly did not realise that what my friend Paul heard from me, the loving Christian, was god loves you but hates what you are. From my other fiends on the peer training course who where not Christians he got only love because he was just a lovely loving guy. To this day I wish I could find Paul and tell him how sorry I am.

Stumbling through life trying to find a way to be an honest Christian who will preach a message that rings true and can be considered good news to the poor and the not so poor, the normal and the weird, the straight and the queer.

So I came to college a raving fundamentalist who really wanted to believe the pre-formated cookie cutter christian platitudes I was spewing out.

Don’t get me wrong; I was an excellent speacher, I could motivate and capture young peoples hearts with a cunning accuracy. I could convert and convict, I got inspire and release. My prophetic gift kicked in just enough to scare the youth I spoke to enough to hang onto every word I spoke. If only I could have believed them as fully as they did. If only the beast in the closet could die and not cry out for release.

At college was where my ‘queering’ begun. As my understanding for bible history, hermeneutics and biblical exegesis grew I quickly lost grip of my fundamentalist ‘reality’. I honestly thought at times as I was loosing my faith.

“What do you mean Moses did not cross the red sea?”

It was well into the last quarter of the first year before I gave up pressing my old formulaic beliefs into academic language and capitulated to what my soul cried out for ‘a faith seeking understanding’ but doing so in the only way I known how to do anything ‘no holds barred’.

My first queer teacher (I am unsure how he would feel about the title but it is just as true) made this groundbreaking statement: Just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it’s not true. That statement alone was worth the price of admission. It ‘queered’ my faith forever, in the same way that Jesus’ “You have heard it said …. But I say unto you ….” must have done for his followers. This together with the guidance of Brian McLaren (A new kind of Christian, the secret message of Jesus) and John Eldredge (Epic, Desire, Sacred Romance, Wild at heart) who taught me a narrative reading of scripture. A narrative framework to replace my rigid fundamentalism.

Still the question of sexuality was still in the closet. I tried to open the can at college but was not really encouraged to go there. So I did when I hit the ground at my first appointment. The first week on the appointment I was asked, hypothetically, if I would officiate a gay marriage. I had no answer, but at least this time I was mature, courageous enough to admit that I did not.

Many books, sermons and meetings with representatives of the LGBTQ community later, I am standing on a square literally around the corner from the restaurant where I met the punk girl all those years ago. I am watching a heated argument between a young american missionary standing with a six foot cross over his shoulder and a young punk rocker girl with pink hair and a nose ring. She is spewing sarcastic question at him like a spitfire and he is squirming under the pressure. He tries to be graceful. He says to her that god loves her and that she will get to heaven IF she will repent her actions. I feel a strange yet familiar tug in my heart and I intervene, literally, I step in between the two combatant and I try to intercede. God loves you I say to her. She blinks twice and says, sarcasm thick in her voice, “but …” But nothing, I say, “god loves you, no matter who you are, what you do and whom you love”. At first she gets angry accusing me of trying to steal the other guys convert, then she mellows and asks quietly, “do you really mean it?” Then hesitantly, “Would god love me even if I was born a man, I mean even if I am a man down here and woman up here” she gestures at her body parts. I re-emphasise, “god loves you just as you are right now, he loves every part of you both down there and up here” I say. She goes quiet for a while and I realise she is crying. “Thank you”, she says, “I did not know there where Christians like you. I don’t believe in god but maybe I could love a god like the one you know”.

It struck me then that this is why I am. My whole existence can be described with a purpose to this moment, to tell this girl that god loves her, her mess, her penis and breasts and all. and that is good news.

 

Crazy Monkeys in Malmö

It has been to long since I posted on this blog and I feel that the time has come to do so. My good friend Mackan asked me if I would get him ready for a MMA (mixed Martial Arts) competition in Belgium in October and I could not resist the opportunity to do some ground fighting and to work on my standing game.  

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And while my Fiore Abracare skills are up to specs, I am unsure how well they would fare in a MMA competition where the fighting is fierce but you are not allowed to break your opponent or drop them on their heads. So I went looking for an alternative, and decided to use Crazy Monkey Defence, a school I have had my eye on for a long time and really wanted to see if they are as good as their hype.

So last night I signed up to the Crazy Monkey Defence school (CMD) online and have been sampling the boxing teaching on there. I must say that I am impressed so far. I have never been a boxer and although we experimented with some unarmed sparring in our Latvian WSD group it was just a few times other than that, I have no fighting experience from standing up using my hands. Today I met with Mackan and we had our first session. Although I have next to no experience in boxing I could, with the help of the CM1 skills stand my ground and play a good defensive game. Although my punches are ridiculously weak and slow.

cmjits01.gifI was delighted to see that CMD also had a special Brazilian Jiu jitsu section with some really good videos strengthening my ground game. It was really good to get rolling on the ground and train some BJJ again, I have really missed it (the only caveat with medieval combat training is that there is no ground wrestling. We worked on the four base positions and started on passing the guard. It was a really good workout and I look forward to spending a month coaching a fighter to competition readiness again. It has been way to long!

It is good to do some up close and personal fighting again (not that longswords can´t get up close and personal but, well, there is not much wrestling with longswords, as you do not want to cut your bits off)

Pictures from today will be available on my facebook page.

Breaking the silence

Wow, it has been a long time since I had time to sit down and write a blog post. Do I have time right now? Not really.

Be that as it may, here I am writing. Since wrote last I have been to Boston where we had a fabulous SSG gathering and where I graded to Scholaro Maggiore within the SSG Spada di Duo Mani. I have also been to Sweden, twice!! The first time to find an apartment and to sort out some practicalities for our coming move to Malmö. I didn’t find an apartment but did some good networking and groundwork for the move. The second trip was a delightful break for the whole family as we spent midsummer in Alingsås and the Sunday doing our home corps specialling at Hisingskåren in Gothenburg.

After this commissioning preparations began in earnest. On the fourth of July Hanna and I became “Mr Lieutenant Hanna Olterman” as it was clear to all that Hanna was the brightest shining star on the day and the day after when she gave her testimony at our farewell meeting at William Booth College. We had the house full of guests and just before the farewell, Hanna’s and my parents where awarded the Silver Star in a short outdoor ceremony that was somewhat cut short by the incoming rain.

It is surreal to suddenly be Salvation Army Officers after these two years as Cadets. Yet we are and we are “God Willing” moving into a flat in central Malmö to take on the task of planting a new kind of Salvation Army corps in the best city in the world … Watch this space ….

Prayers needed

We are moving to Malmö (as most of you know) and as it is we still have no place to live. We are looking for a place close to the corps as we are hoping to plant a new corps parallel with the old one in that building.

It is not easy to find a place to live and even harder to find day care for the children (especially when you do not know where you will live) and so we need massive prayers mobilised now!

We are supposed to take up our post in Malmö in less than two months from now and by human standards this is quite impossible but as the good book tells us, nothing is impossible with God!

We are also seeking God for vision and guidance in our upcoming endeavour in Malmö, please pray for us and if God gives you anything for us please pass it on.

For our time in Sweden and for the start of our officership we need a stable prayer and accountability network if you want to be a part of this please send me an email or leave a comment here!

A rambling saturday post

I really don’t have anything to write today, so I’ll settle for a status report. I have an old friend from Malmö visiting this weekend, Björn Flintberg one of the old garde Tomtar och Troll people from the olden days. We are sharing a lot about how our life turns out and how he made the journey fromhard core Wiccan to a disciple of Christ, it is amazing to see how God works in peoples lives.

Last night we had a great youth meeting in Riga 1 talking about the prophetic life, women in ministry and manure. If you can’t figure out the connection then I guess you should have been there *evilgrin*

This morning we got a letter from William Booth College asking for pictures and a small paragraph about how we feel about going to college forpublication in the salvationist. It hits me again …. weare going to college in september, we are becoming officers!!

A matter of uniform

The Salvation army uniform is obviously an issue that has been debated to the bitter end and back again and previously on this blog I have posted one or two articles about uniform issues as well. Either way I have some new experiences that I would like to share.

As I was in Malmö last weekend I walked the entire city in full uniform (including the hat) and got various different reactions. The most notable reaction was from any and all people older than 60 that smiled and seemed comforted by the presence of a “young” salvationist. Once I reached “Möllan” I met a few immigrants of various nationalities that seemed to be irritaded or disturbed by the uniform (I do not know whether this was due to their muslim faith or the fact that they come from countries where war is a very real thing, and the military is cruel and ruthless, I suspect the latter). At the funeral the uniform simply fit in as formal wear and a fitting tribute to my grandmother. It also seemed that it had a comforting and reassuring effect on the rest of the family. The oddest reaction however was that of my brother. He said:

{{“WOW, what a cool hat, clearly the coolest hat I have ever seen, can I have one to?”}}

After this he wanted me to wear the uniform as we visited with his various friends who also seemed to think that the salvation army uniform was not only ok but “cool” and deserving of respect. This coming from the hipp and in crowd in Malmö, the ones that hold the V.I.P. passes to all the nightclubs and are considered the people to be with if you are anywhere between 16 and 26 years old.

Isn’t it odd that the same group of young people IN the Salvation army are the ones aeguing that the salvation army uniform is outdated and a reason for ridicule. But as you look at other similar uniformed professions they don’t look ridiculous, pilots, air stewardesses etc.

I also found myself wishing we had been in the salvation army uniform as we stopped the assault in kingston as that had been a great witness to all the people who where standing around not daring to interfere with these heinous acts of violence. Having said that, I do get Hannas point, How would I ever have been able to do anything with high heels and a skirt?

While I percieve that the uniform still is a great witnessing tool and the trademark of the Salvation Army, there is a lot to be said about its practicality. And a pair of navy BDU’s with a navy pullover and a beret would promote the military metaphor but offer the practicality needed out inb the streets actually reaching out to the the poorest of the poor. What we would loose was the image of the SA soldier that has been worked in as our trademark for so many generations.

One night in Malmö

It has been a hysterical weekend as it always is when I am with my brother Hampi. We where supposed to take it easy and have a relaxing saturday evening, watching the Swedish eurovision contest and eat some snacks.

The night started well as we crammed into the sofa in front of the schlager fest on TV. As we started nibbling our schlager chips and schlager drinks (Sprite for me, beer for the rest) it suddenly became interactive TV as the The ARK placed a video conference call to my brother to show of their glamourous looks before strutting their stuff on National TV. Are you nervous? Yes I am very nervous my brother replied as he nervously stuffed more chips into his mouth.

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The Ark obviously won the contest as they where supposed to and we did our bit as loyal friends (well most of us friends and some of us brothers to friends, me, if you have to ask) we voted for The Ark and trashed everyone else.

After the crushing victory it was time to tour the town, or rather the towns clubs and pubs. starting out at Zaratustra and then ending up at KB via Inkonst I was paraded through the nightlife of what used to be my town.

It is no longer my town, I used to not be able to walk one block in Malmö without meeting friends, now I made it a whole night out and about without encountering anyone I knew (or anyone my own age, gasp!) I had fun though, I made new friends and danced like it was 2007.

It struck me how empty the whole clubbing concept is, while some people are actually enjoyng the moment most of them seem to be lost in the mists of varying degrees of drunkedness, swaying uncontrollably to thye beat of the non descript pounding techno music. The sadder group however are the once who are not even enjoying the now but chasing after some future moment that might or might not come to pass. Looking for that right girl or right guy, willing to do anything just to be near someone who will acknowledge their existance. Ande when these people are then ignored by the object of their search they plummet into an alcohol induced depression that knows no limits.

It is so sad to see how people get robbed of the joy they are looking for by the very tools they think they need to find it. I wish that we could reclaim the clubs and make them houses where Joy abounds and people truly come to relax laugh and to dance like david danced on the mountain!

Places where life is celebrated and joy will rule.

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