Dispatches from the Heart of America 1

Traveling a United States of Grace

Greetings in the name of Love and Liberation y’all, 

Holy shit are you soldiers! Seriously, what a few years to follow the thinking of a writer and hack of a theologian. 

But you Beloved, you stuck it out, you are here. 

Now the rewards start coming. I have nothing but time and a predilection to write my ass off. I am working on not one, not two, but three books. 

The first of which is somehow 40% done, tentatively titled: Dear Revolutionaries. A Field Guide to the World Beyond The Church, coming out of Sparkhouse

I have a SciFi Trilogy I will be pitching around next year, I have this little thing going on: Blackberry Jams Produced by PRX and Supported by Ben and Jerry's

Did I mention I get to do my little esoteric and ontological anarchist work here starting in the fall yet? This : PLTS Adjunct Deal.

The point being is that me announcing my leaving  the pastorate or the vocation of being a cleric wasn't about me doing less writing, preaching, teaching or learning. It’s about fully exploring how the Divine might still be enticed to be active in liberation, theology, politics, and the intersections with the constructs of race or gender or heterosexuality.

This was a move to be so much more. To say so much more. 

I had a Black peer whom I really respect express so much anger with me privately that I resigned and “left my mess for others to clean up.” This broke my heart in so many ways. White supremacy within institutional church pits good Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples against each other, the Trans and Queer community, and the wounds that internalized supremacy causes us all to act out of fear. I am not exempt.

The truth is I was terrorized by the State in the summer of 2020 under direct orders from the Presidency, I went through a spiritual awakening concerning my roots and my people's history, my internal energy for my marriage was crushed under the pressure of the spotlight, finally I discovered I was not an addict but neurodiverse at 43. I left the role of institutional pastor to live. Fully. Embodied. Incarnate. Fleshy. Here. Now. Perhaps in the last generation to be able to do so fully in this country.

The fact that we are so ready to feed each other into the hungry maw of mother church in the name of Christ is so fucking scary to me. I have watched Black Leaders in the ELCA who did everything that church wanted for 40 years. Then watched them be publicly ripped to shreds. What you think they going to do to my queer poly ass? 

Yes: I’m talking about the Southwest Cali Synod election. I was on the ballot and the fuckery (intentional or not) from the churchwide rep and others was more real than the videos Eaton keeps making, but I digress. That election scared the shit out of the ELCA establishment and you should look at the top 7 to see why in my opinion.

I have clearly been in need of this shift for my health and survival for a while. But that's not what this post is about. 

I want to start the conversation with you post, United States of Grace, available everywhere (and up for a National Book Award), about what I have seen traveling America. What I have witnessed. Thats my role. Witness.

I have been fully vaccinated  since late March and before that I was going out on extreme road trips to BLM land away from everyone. The West Coast affords a certain amount of privilege when it comes to open space and population density. Don't you get any fucking ideas to keep your ass right where you are. So I have been on the road on and off for a while. I am now more or less permanently on the road. 

Divorce is expensive y'all and I just quit my day job. So I bought a lil camper and I’m renting land in PDX and near Berkley so I can teach and study for my PHD over the next few years. But to afford to do that and create art I decided to live more authentically. Allow myself to channel my true self. My Ori or destiny. My essence. If you read United States of Grace you know I describe myself as just another traveler on the road home. I was houseless for so long and with 30% of Americans facing eviction in the middle of a 5th surge this winter, and the fluid nature of the movement and my work I wanted to just live into what I know to be true. Not to mention the road is alive y’all. I have never seen so many people permanently wandering in decades.

Not post 9-11 at least.

I know that we are not meant to live the way this empire demands and will demand over the course of the next decade. I know this in my heart. I know living like the Master, with no “place” to rest my head, while studying, will be so soothing for me. Getting more in touch with the Earth as she screams, sighs, weeps, and still smiles upon us, it already has healed so many ruptures in my soul. 

Y'all I spend as little time as possible as I can in cities now. I never stay in them. I camp outside them unless I need just a taste of Babylon. I have an office in PDX but that's about as rooted as I am, and I officially have an apartment in downtown Vancouver WA. This country wants it’s residency and it’s taxes. 

My point is that all the things I proposed in United States of Grace, the counter systems of love and mutual affection. The communities that fall between the cracks of society and open to lush, hidden, vibrant valleys of adventure and hope.The old roads and old ways that travelers and incarnated souls have been wandering for lifetimes now. The secret republic of those who are ready to just do this liberation thing without the need for victory or supremacy of our ideas. A silent society of like minded and sometimes powerful souls creating a network of revolution who long to hear the songs of the collective consciousness and tell the old stories in new ways. Simply gathering because they know at the fall of empires the muses sing the loudest. A country whose only border requirement is that you are still searching for mystery, magic, and the amazing. Citizenship means you  still believe that the dawn of a new tomorrow, a new world is within reach. Even if we never touch it in this life. This time around. 

It’s still there. It’s still  waiting for us to say yes to it. 

I have gone back to the South. The Midwest. The West Coast. It's all still there. All of it. In its alluring and inviting path. With its subtle and enticing dance. With its flaws and beauty intermingled so close one becomes the other. The most amazing thing I have ever encountered in this life or any other. You beloved. 

Humanity. You are still out there: trying. Reaching. Striving. Loving. Growing. Evolving. Here in this land you still walk the roads of goodness, kindness, and community.

I am going to record as much of it as possible. I’m going to share as much of it as possible. I am going to live as much of it as possible. 

Next post is an attempt to talk about my shift to a complete focus on Ifa, Hoodoo, and the Orisha as my spiritual sustenance. It is also the  focus of study in my PHD work, why it’s interactions with the Gospel narrative, and that narrative's  interaction with the fate of the enslaved in the African  Diaspora is important to understanding Black Spirituality in America today. 

Written in Love and Liberation!

Lenny Duncan