Lori’s Light

{TWD Spoiler Alert}

A confession: I think about who should be shipping who on TWD because, y’all — for real, there is *not* enough sex in the zombie apocalypse. But, because I am the PopCulturePreacher, I also spend plenty of time wondering, “What was Maggie saying during the prayer in Alexandria’s garage chapel?” and “Why is Father Gabriel such a crappy priest?” and so on.  That’s why I’m launching this mini-series, “Faith Journeys: TWD Characters” here on the blog.

It’s fan-fiction for churchnerds.

Each installment will explore what I imagine to be the religious history of a TWD character based on my professional experience as a clergyperson and personal experience as a progressive Christian. You may have another take.  Do comment!  Let’s talk.  (Don’t be a troll. Jesus loves you, but if you are a jackass, I’ll ban you.)

Lori Grimes…complicated, conflicted Lori Grimes. Sarah Wayne Callies plays her with such conviction. Just watch her eyes when Rick confesses to killing Shane (S 2, Ep 16). Masterful.

Lots of clues pop up in Lori’s story line about her religious history. Here’s what we know: Rick, Lori, and Shane grew up together in 1970s/80s small town Georgia. According to Gallup, only 7% of Americans claimed no religious preference in 1978 (Gallup Poll: Religion). Odds are, Lori grew up in a religious household. Currently, residents of the Peach Tree State claim some brand of Baptist (hello, Jimmy Carter), followed by Methodists, followed by the ambiguous category of “other Christian,” followed by Roman Catholics.  So which might she be? Lori never struck me as Catholic. I grew up Protestant in a Catholic town. Catholicism is as much about religion as it is about culture. When the zombie apocalypse hits, even if you haven’t been a practicing Catholic for most of adulthood, the rote nature of the liturgy still lives in your bones; it would rise to the surface. We see none of that in Lori, nor do we see any Baptist leanings.

Odds are Lori grew up in a big Methodist church where, I imagine, her daddy was a deacon and her momma headed up mission projects for United Methodist Women because Lori comes across as the kind of person who grew up in a house where “being someone” in the community mattered. Participation mattered and so did appearance. Think about what she’s wearing to pick Carl up from school (S 2, Ep 2). Fancy! I just want to pull her aside and say, “Really, it’s ok to just wear yoga pants, Lori. Be lazy like the rest of us. Dial it down…” But I digress.

In this vein of keeping up appearances, I imagine she and Rick had a big church wedding and her daddy walked her down the aisle. Perhaps her colors, like another Georgia girl we know, were also “blush and bashful.” Lori would have been content to continue to go to church, following in her momma’s footsteps: to see and be seen on Sunday morning, and to serve, too. But, at Rick’s prompting, I do believe, they stopped going – we’ll explore that in the next post.  And so, they became “the kind of family that had pancakes on Sunday morning.”

Lori ceased participating in organized religion, but continued her private practice of faith. At the CDC, she sends Carl off to bed and tells him to say his prayers.  She sits with Carol as Carol prays for her lost little girl. I suspect Lori is praying, too. The world fell apart long before the dead started roaming the streets: her marriage was a mess, then her husband was shot in the line of duty. Rick’s dead, then he’s not dead. She’s with Shane, then she’s not with Shane.  Rick’s back, then he’s gone. They’re together, but they’re not really together.  Geez, I hope she’s praying.  Because even without the zombies, Lori’s life is one whiplash inducing disaster after another.

Remarkably, though, she leaves this world filled with light. Lori had every reason to rain verbal garbage down on Carl in her last soliloquy, but she imbues him with love. Perhaps that’s the greatest clue to the faith journey of Lori Grimes. We can see that her life has been built on hope, because in in end, that’s what she passes on.  She says, “…You are smart, and you are strong, and you are brave. And I love you.  You gotta do what’s right….It’s so easy to do the wrong thing…don’t let the world spoil you…” I love it — it’s like the line from the Gospel of John, “…you do not belong to the world…” and the line from Romans 12, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” all rolled into one. Lori knows that life is beautiful and ugly, filled with moments that make your heart sing and moments that wreck your soul – she’s lived both. And yet, in the end, she lays her life down with conviction and courage, love and light, help and hope.

Obsessed: The Walking Dead

{Spoiler Alert — there are spoilers here — consider yourself warned.}

Mr. RM is a good sport. We didn’t spend our anniversary together, nor will we share a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. Why? The Walking Dead Season 6 premiered on our anniversary, the mid-season premiere is on Valentine’s Day, I’m obsessed, and TWD gives Mr. RM nightmares. Sorry, Love-of-my-life, we’ll be romantic, sans zombies, another day.

I am o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d.

I’m so obsessed with TWD that it served as the main metaphor in my 2015 Pentecost sermon at Community UCC, Champaign, IL. (You can watch that here: A Pentecost Moment Among The Walking Dead ). As a result, some of my congregants started watching the show. For the next few months, I got TWD-related emergency texts from the church Moderator, a 60-something Grandmother. When you’re a pastor, emergency texts are never good news. Either the church has burned to the ground or someone’s dropped dead…or both. But for a few blissful months, her messages read, “OMG! They shot Carl! Call me,” and “The Governor is nuts.” It was a nice change of pace.

I am so obsessed with TWD that during a funeral luncheon, one my church members approached me, smiling, and said, “Happy Walking Dead Premier day! I know you’re watching when you get home. Here….” She handed me a package containing an itty bitty Rick Grimes who now lives in the Pastor’s Study at the church along with my Michonne and Daryl bobble heads. These bad asses typically stand guard around the Holy Family. (Jesus is a Buddy Christ bobble head, because, why would he be anything else?)

I am so obsessed with TWD that the church secretary gave me an all-things-zombie Christmas gift this year, including a Zombie Doodle book, a Reedus Nation t-shirt which I sport proudly, and a Saint Daryl Dixon candle she decoupaged herself. I light it when I’m writing sermons. 12338703_933579796725713_874268080_n

I am so obsessed with TWD that when Josh McDermitt (aka Eugene) liked one of my tweets, I jumped up and down for ten minutes and texted one of my bff’s, the one who introduced me to TWD, who was equally excited. We’re going to a Walker Stalker convention to celebrate my big 4-0 later this year.  Happy birthday to me.

I am so obsessed with TWD that I’ve started a regular Instagram series: #liturgiDaryl (Liturgical + Daryl Dixon = LiturgiDaryl, a Daryl Dixon bobble head clad in the liturgical color du jour). I’ve made tiny vestments for Daryl to wear as he poses around the sanctuary or in the altarscape in my Study.  You can enjoy this internet oddity on Instagram by following @revlkrm.

If a Pastor who’s obsessed with The Walking Dead seems odd to you, maybe you don’t know that one of Jesus’ best friends was a walker: Lazarus – Jesus raised him from the dead after he had been dead long enough to stink. Now that’s friendship. To read this story, which is pretty great, actually, see the Gospel according to John, chapter 11, verses 1-44 (which you can read here: John 11:1-44).

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about TWD and its characters. Being the PopCulturePreacher, though, these daydreams happen under the banner of my own personal genre of weirdness and churchnerd-dom. I see the theological themes in the show (and have the extensive notes to prove it). Most interesting, to me, is what I imagine to be the faith journeys of each character.  Why does Carol spout a litany of “I don’t know whether I believe” statements about heaven, hell, good, and evil at Daryl in the parking garage?  Why does Lori tell Carl to go say his prayers, yet Rick says that Lori wanted them to be “the kind of family that has pancakes on Sunday mornings”?  Why has Glenn, the moral compass of the show, struggle through a silent prayer on the Green’s porch, yet Merle, one of the most morally conflicted characters of the show, readily prays while hand-cuffed to the roof?

I love thinking about these questions and mapping out the journey that may have gotten our favorite characters where they are today. Think about it with me, would you?

For your theologitainment, beginning tomorrow, look for PopCulturePreacher to feature an on-going series, “Faith Journeys:  TWD Characters.”

Blessings, y’all…


Oo-da-lally: Remembering Brian Bedford

Cancer — 4; British actors/musicians/creative geniuses — 0.

In a little over two and a half weeks, cancer stole Lemmy Kilmister (Yes, this pastor not only knows who Lemmy was, but also liked Motörhead. My husband, also a Rev., saw them in concert once…adjust assumptions accordingly.), along with David Bowie, Alan Rickman, AND Brian Bedford, the Tony-award winning, Shakespearean actor who will forever be the voice of Disney’s Robin Hood.

So, first, cancer can suck it.

Now, about Mr. Bedford…

Is it wrong to have a crush on a cartoon character?

He’s a total fox. Oo-da-lally.

Seriously, though, what’s NOT to love? Robin Hood is a social justice bad boy who overturns the greedy, corrupt system that perpetually robs from the impoverished people of Nottingham, and gives back to the very people it belonged to in the first place. How very Jesus-like of him! It reminds me of that story is in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 21, verses 12-17, where Jesus overturns the tables in the temple and thus, overturns the greedy temple system that took advantage of the poor. Here, read it. It’s quick, I promise. http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+21:12-17

Rob is constantly looking out for old ladies and little kids. He’s not at all pretentious. Once he got in with Maid Marion, he didn’t leave his old buds, the local clergy and the not-so-little Little John, behind. This is also very Jesus-like: JC hung out with all the “wrong” people. For added coolness points, Robin Hood is an archer, ranking him with Chewbacca, Katniss Everdeen, and Daryl Dixon. Oo-da-lally.

Disney’s Robin Hood does it all with an ever-so-charming British accent, voiced by the late Brian Bedford, drawing you in with every lilting utterance of generosity and hope. “Keep your chin up,” he says, after handing a destitute mom a small bag of gold, “Soon there’ll be happiness in Nottingham again, you’ll see.”

In December, my seven year old and I watched It’s a Wonderful Life together. It’s a tradition. She’s on her third viewing. She’s seen it enough to anticipate the swimming pool scene and sing along with “Buffalo girls won’t you come out tonight?” This year, while Mr. Potter crabbed on about the “lazy” poor of his town while undoubtedly upping interest rates on their home loans, lying, and stealing, the seven year old said, “Momma, Mr. Potter is the Prince John of It’s a Wonderful Life! He’s so greedy. We like Robin Hood.”

Yes, child, we do like Robin Hood.

We live in a time of immense poverty and increasing economic inequality. I see it every week as the low-to-no income, often homeless, people who come to my office asking for assistance are now joined by middle class folk who can’t make ends meet. Our system is broken and needs fixing. When Alan-a-Dale sings, “Every town has its ups and downs. Sometimes ups outnumber the downs, but not in Nottingham,” he’s singing about all the Nottinghams of the world. And there are plenty. Maybe you’re living in one right now. Look around your town. Who could be cast as one of the poor of Nottingham?

So, I say, to honor the life of Brian Bedford, when it comes to Disney flicks, forget the Princesses. (Well, I would’ve said that anyway…) Why dream of growing up to be someone who needs rescuing when you can be someone who helps rescue the world from itself, from indifference, our penchant for greed and our lust of inequality?

If we all did that, then “Keep your chin up. Happiness will return one day,” will transform from a longed for hope to reality.

Blessings y’all…PopCulturePreacher

A quick Introduction

Pop Culture factoids fill half my brain, Theology the other….oh, and my kid’s gymnastics schedule is in there some where.  I love Jesus, my family, my work, movies, tv, theater, and art. And I cuss a lot — try not to be offended.

I’ve been working on this blog idea for a while and have some TWD related posts ready to go, but when I woke up this morning, the need to acknowledge the life of Alan Rickman was just too strong. It couldn’t wait.  So….here we go…..

By the by, you can find me on Twitter and instagram under the name @revlkrm

If you’re ever in town and looking for a progressive, inclusive Christian church  — we’re it.  I’m the pastor of Community United Church of Christ, located in the heart of the campus of the University of Illinois. Check us out at http://www.community-ucc.org.  You can also get a sense of the denomination in which I serve, the United Church of Christ, at http://www.ucc.org.

Rest in Peace, Voice of God: Remembering Alan Rickman

Well, this was not the first installment I planned to post to Pop Culture Preacher. Not at all.  But that’s what happens when you wake up to sad news from across the pond.  Alan Rickman has died.  Rest in true peace, sir.

For many of you, Mr. Rickman will forever be Snape from Harry Potter, always, ALWAYS reminding us of the complicated nature of relationships and the complexity of good and evil – how there’s a vast variety of points in between.  Likewise, every December, many of you will delight in Mr. Rickman’s charm while cursing the infidelity of his character Harry from Love Actually.  I mean, really, how dare you cheat on our beloved Emma Thompson!

As for me, I’ll be keeping vigil with the movie Dogma.  Alan Rickman played Metatron, The Voice of God, in that fourth film of writer/director Kevin Smith.  That scene where Bethany runs full on into a muddy pond, flailing her arms, and shrieking, “What do you want from me?”– that’s me.  I’m the girl called by God who, quite often, wonders what the fuck my Creator wants me to do and be in this world. While in Seminary earning my Masters of Divinity degree (as if we really ever master Divinity…) and working my way toward ordination in the United Church of Christ, I watched that Kevin Smith film a lot.  A whole lot.  Sometimes weekly.  When I didn’t think I could do it and think theologically enough to make it, or when the depression I was battling threatened to pull me under, or when I just wanted to go do something else with my talents, I would pray about it, and then watch Dogma.  When I watched the planes hit the Twin Towers at the start of my second year of seminary, thinking, first, “Why? God…GOD?!? WHY!?!” and then, “Oh, shit.  Any time this kind of thing happens, I am going to be one of those people who must give voice to meaning, to Hope beyond shattered hope….I don’t know if I can do that.” Then, as the freak out ceased, I prayed about it and watched Dogma.

When I saw myself, reflected in the character of Bethany as played by Linda Fiorentino, pissed off at God for something that probably wasn’t God’s fault to begin with, and holding a grudge accordingly, the Voice of God, cleverly and gently embodied by Alan Rickman would ring in my ears. “Don’t allow eons of history and life to be blinked out of being just because you have a grudge with your Creator!”

When I recognized myself in Bethany, doubting my call and wanting, desperately, to just be a “normal” person instead of a “clergy” person, someone set apart for ministry, wanting to run my hopeless self far away from it all, I would often mumble, “I don’t want this… it’s too big…” right along with her. And Rickman’s Voice of God, like the call and response in prayer, would sound again, “This… is who you are….knowing who you are now, doesn’t mean you aren’t who you were. You are Bethany Sloan!” In other words, you’re still you, Leah…and you can still be you and be a pastor, too. “No one can take that away from you, not even God! … All this means is a redefinition of that identity- the incorporation of this new data into who you are. Be who you’ve always been. Just… be this as well…”

So, here I am – still who I am and a clergy person, too.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that these words, written by Kevin Smith, and spoken by the Alan Rickman, saved me.  That would not be an exaggeration at all.

As a pastor, each time I look into a person’s eyes and remind them that they are worth a life — they are loved and beloved, and each time I speak words of hope over and against hatred, violence, indifference, and the greed found in this world, and each time I shepherd grief-stricken people through the valley of the shadow of a death of a loved one, and each time I say to someone who’s wandered into my church’s building because of the rainbow flags we fly and tell them that God DOES NOT hate them because they’re gay – in fact God dearly loves them, each time I do anything transformative, by the grace of God as a clergy person, and I hear some reassurance from on high that I’m being who I’m called to be, supposed to be, and was made to be in this world, that reassurance sounds an awful lot like the voice of Alan Rickman. Thanks for playing Metatron, sir. I’m so very grateful that you did.

Blessings, y’all…PopCulturePreacher