Vice President Kamala Harris Vogue Cover

Good morning, darlings, and yes, I am STILL HERE.

Blogging much less during the pandemic (doing pastoral check-ins weekly on Facebook Live), continuing to function in the Speilbergian mode of ministry (how are you all doing preparing worship and producing it? I am spending probably 6-10 additional hours per week doing the tech aspects, how about you all?), taking care of my terminally ill beagle love, fighting the winter doldrums and total social isolation, and last week hitting a brick wall of rage and emotional exhaustion as I watched white American terrorists attempt a coup.

I am off this week, heading to an Airbnb in Maine with my woofer and taking an online course with the New York Center for Jungian Studies. The speakers promise to help us make sense of the madness in America from the perspective of Jungian archetypal psychology, which I am looking forward to. I have been studying the matter from the perspective of crticial race theory, totalitarianism, toxic Christianity, economics, propaganda, the power of social media and sociology. It will be interesting to look at the collective psyche and archetypes.

For right now, however, I want to look at the disgraceful and inexcusable job VOGUE magazine did with its cover of Vice President Kamala Harris. This is making headlines, and yes, it is important. If you have been reading this blog over the years, you know that images are powerful and that they make a visceral impression. Images can make and break reputations.

Let’s look first at images of the Veep that capture her as the dynamic, strong, powerful, beautiful woman she is. Pay attention to lighting, framing, the architecture of her suits and the simplicity of her accessories that add a bit of curve and traditional femininity to her outfits.

Now look at this disastrous VOGUE cover:

This is Anna Wintour’s fault, and I hope she feels the heat all the way up under her helmet hair.

There is a rumor that Vice President Harris’ team approved a different image than this one, and that this is the one that went to press. Accident? NO WAY. Anna Wintour has been running Vogue for six hundred years. She knows exactly how important this image is. Decisions were made.

Whether that rumor is true or not, this cover is insulting. Those colors are the Alpha Kappa Alpha colors, which is appropriate and a nice shout-out, but everything here is a rumpled mess. The set is INCREDIBLY SHODDY!!!! Who slapped those swaths of fabric up there like that and thought that was okay!?

Why does the Vice President look squinty and uncertain?? There are literally HUNDREDS of images of this remarkable, history-making woman looking at the camera with fierce confidence, charisma, blazing intelligence, COME ON!!! WHAT THE HELL! NOW I’M JUST YELLING!

There wasn’t a more empowering pose and angle? They had to slap her on that wrinkly satin and shoot her so that the eye falls first on her legs and not her face? AND WHO THE HELL DID THIS LIGHTING? DID ANYONE? I REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT. NO ONE COULD HAVE POSSIBLY LIT THIS SHOT.

This looks like a photo taken on someone’s phone the moment the VP walked in with her team. It was the moment the shoot director asked Madame Vice President “could you just stand on the set for a moment, we want to take some height measurements” and then sent her in for a cup of coffee and consultation with the photographer. This set was NOT FINISHED.

I am angry, and you should be too.
This should have been a glorious cover befitting its subject. Instead, it is slipshod, amateurish, not even remotely comparable to other Vogue covers of important women. As such, it makes a statement.

I have no doubt that Anna Wintour’s crack damage control team will concoct some sort of excuse for this debacle and that the Vice President will be far too busy to further engage with the story. She has much more important things to do. But you and I will keep paying attention to how media powers use their billion-dollar machine to influence the public image of leaders. Will they mythologize, will they flatter, will they diminish?

Pay attention. None of it is unintentional.


How are you all doing? Coping?

I am doing a lot better than I was last week, which was horrible. I was so angry and hurt and worried about everyone who was being enraged and re-traumatized by the despicable spectacle of Ultimate Frathole Brett Kavenaugh and his disgusting enablers, I had to fight to maintain my focus and some measure of equilibrium.
These are furious times.

I attended a clergy gathering last week and was greeted by someone I know professionally, who drew me against my will into a hug. She is much taller than I am and I wound up kind of stuffed into her armpit for a moment. It was not a terrible ordeal, just an awkward situation made awful by the fact that I was in NO MOOD to be touched by anyone without my explicit consent.

Which is why I say particularly now: let us try not to touch people with the presumption that they want to be touched. Consider whether even holding hands or touching on the arm or shoulder is really welcome. If you’re not absolutely certain, ask. I often kiss parishioners during pastoral calls — we’re kissing and hugging people but even if I’ve kissed someone many times, I’m going to check to see that we’re still good smooching. Also, I need to check in with myself to make sure I don’t exchange hugs and kisses when I’m not feeling like being so intimate. In the past, I have only given careful thought to touch when I’m sick or visiting somone else who is germy. Now, I am refreshing my awareness that we have to keep getting consent to touch in relationships; we can not presume that someone who welcomed hugs last year wants to keep giving and receiving them this year.

DO NOT HUG PEOPLE AUTOMATICALLY. It is not your privilege, it is not your right, and it’s NOT FRIENDLY. It can feel like dominance, it can feel creepy, and it can feel like a violation. DO NOT come up behind people and hug them. Do NOT wrap anyone in your arms unless they hold out their arms to you. Even what you think of as a friendly one-armed embrace is still not okay. As we saw at Queen Aretha’s homegoing service, pulling someone into you throws them off kilter and creates a literal power imbalance.

Make sure your embraces are enthusiastically welcome. If not, mitts off.

Clergy Protests In Sackcloth And Ashes

Hi dolls,
We have arrived at Advent, thank God. Advent is about every BODY, and we can dig deep into the damaging separation of the spiritual and the incarnate and dismantle that nonsense. Do it, Church!!
Jesus had a post-menopausal pregnant auntie. His mom wasn’t sexually active. That’s plain language I used in the pulpit yesterday.

Side note: I also used the word “messy” to describe humanity, breaking my own rule not to employ irritating trendy terms. God, I am so tired of that word. Also: “broken.” “Broken” is so trendy it should be a drinking game. Take a shot every time the minister says “broken!” There are different Types of DUI Charges in Florida that one can look into in case there is a problem.

Today I want to take a look at effective sackcloth-wearing among protesting clergy, but before we do that, let’s talk about some images we’ve seen in the news lately of clergy who did not use sackcloth effectively and looked silly while trying to do important work.

For a symbol to be effective, it has to be employed artistically, with aesthetic consideration.
Slapping a wrinkly length of canvass around one’s neck, on top of a wrinkly chaplain’s stole over a dingy outfit just looks like maybe there’s something wrong with that person — like maybe they were burlap-wrapping a small azalea in their garden for the winter and wandered into a protest by accident.

I can’t find the image that prompted this reaction and it’s probably a good thing that I can’t, as I hate insulting well-meaning religious leaders. But really — it does not help anyone’s cause for justice and equity when advocaates appear on their behalf looking confused and possibly deranged.

The fact that the Trump Regime is making all of us feel deranged is not a persuasive argument for ambling around in public looking silly while trying to save lives. YOUR APPEARANCE AT A PROTEST IS A PHOTO OP, AND EVERY PHOTO OP IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN OR LOSE AN ARGUMENT IN SECONDS WITH EVERY PERSON WHO SEES THAT PHOTO.

I’ll stop yelling now, but remember that the general public was not at the protest to hear the stirring pronouncements that the clergy spokespersons carefully prepared. They JUST SAW THE IMAGE.
They saw the image before they read the article with the stirring quotes, and in a split second they unconsciously decided whether or not the people in that photo had any real authority or moral credibility. That is how images work: bam, right to the viscera.

The clergy who appeared recently in Washington with big sheets of burlap around their shoulders did not put enough thought or effort into how to convey the sackcloth symbol. They should have partnered with artists to strategize how to make the burlap fall the right way, and how to move and coordinate their affect to make a powerful impact. What I saw instead was a few calm, resolved faces and a lot of sheepish self-consciousness.

Clergy are people of the Word. We need help in designing effective non-verbal communications.

Click on the images to enlarge and let’s have a look at some sackcloth protest moments that did work:

Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner speaks during a demonstration by Christian leaders opposing President Trump’s proposed budget at the U.S. Capitol on March 29, 2017.  RNS photo by Lauren Markoe
Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner speaks during a demonstration by Christian leaders opposing President Trump’s proposed budget at the U.S. Capitol on March 29, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe
Photo by Lauren Markoe

Here is the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner at the Capitol on March 29, 2017 with other religious leaders protesting Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

We all know what is happening right now with the tax bill, which I have described as a legislative pogrom. It is definitely a time for sackcloth, and these clergy are employing the symbol in a way that highlights, rather than undermines, their leadership charism. They made an artistic decision to cut the sackcloth in proportion to their attire, which makes clear that they are using the sackcloth AS a symbol, not pretending to actually don sackcloth in the ancient lamentation ritual. They are not confused about what they are doing and saying, and so it is much easier to trust them.

This next image, taken at the same event, conveys authority within a context of anger, moral disgust, and lamentation. These religious leaders have not traded away their own dignity in order to make a point and to create a visual and moral resonance between the time of the prophets and our own time. Well done.

Christian leaders protest the federal budget cuts President Trump has proposed during a demonstration outside the U.S. Capitol on March 29, 2017.  Photo courtesy of Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World
Christian leaders protest the federal budget cuts President Trump has proposed during a demonstration outside the U.S. Capitol on March 29, 2017. Photo courtesy of Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Photo by Joseph Molieri

If anyone has a photo of the use of sackcloth in public protests, I’d love to see them. Bang me back through the Contact form.

Hair Is Culture: The Shea Moisture Controversy

Hair is important.
Fashion is important.
Style is important.
They are all about culture and identity. I study them for that reason.
So if you’re going to be rolling your eyes and saying in all your holier-than-me-ness, “AW MAH GAD this petty woman thinks this issue MATTERS,” you should go do something you consider meaningful right now because I’m going to be amplifying the voices of black women talking about a hair product line right now (here’s an overview of the issue from Newsweek).

Sherronda J. Brown of Roaring Gold has a lot to say about the Shea Moisture brouhaha that got them a good internet dragging this week.

Feminista Jones talks for a good long time here on Periscope about the issue. Miss Jones is fierce. She uses the swear words. Get over it. Listen to her. It doesn’t matter if you agree with everything she says (I don’t, but who cares?). No one cares if we “agree” or not. It’s time to listen, learn and respect.

Let’s not over-analyze the white woman in the commercial saying that she feels like she could “conquer the world” because she’s having a good hair day, because we all have things to do. Let’s take seriously the anger and pushback from Black women about this, read, listen and learn.

This is not time for #AllHairMatters. This is not (another) time for white people to feel like we’re entitled to raise arguments that negate or erase Black women’s experience. Just imagine Angelica Schuyler singing to Alexander, “I’m not hee-eere for you” and you see where I’m coming from.

Man, I have been singing that phrase constantly for weeks as I watch white people take up so much damn space. More on that over at, ’cause my denomination is in a meltdown! A good one, in my opinion.

But for now, hair.
It is a serious subject. If you don’t think so, let me guess, you’re white. You have never had to question for a moment where to find the shampoos and styling products in the store, because you’re “the norm.” You have never had your hair politicized. Your hair worries were always about personal insecurity and not about being regarded as a lesser human being in society that originally put people who looked like you on a goddamned auction block and sold you to the highest bidder.


Ministry In The Rise Of Tr—

Good morning and happy Monday, pigeons!

I did see “Hamilton” the night before Mike Pence saw it (we may have even been sitting in the same seat, from the looks of the video). I do have some thoughts about the fracas of the subsequent night, the role of the artist in society, and the changing clergy archetype in our times that I have been tracking for the past decade. Hence the video below.

Those of us who have been engaged in steady and boring spiritual practice for many years are in a very good position to manage our fears and devastation over what is coming. Those of us who have been engaged in steady, boring networking with social justice and advocacy organizations for many years are in a very good position to be clear right now on what we need to keep doing, and do more of, and prepare for.
Those of us who have been keeping vigil through the night where racists and white nationalists and fascists converge and have not looked away or slept through it are in a very good position to know what to expect more of, and are well equipped to guide communities of people who perhaps have told themselves that things weren’t “that bad” because things weren’t bad for them.

I’m not going to say “we got this.” This is not a football game or a minor challenge at school or work. This is the fall of empire, and we will be among its victims. But we know we have another power.

Stay strong in prayer and keep your shoes shined. We will be marching.
But I am not going to stop talking about blush and hemlines, so don’t fret. I intend to have as much fun as possible for as long as possible while still working like hell.