Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Love Musicals

Broadway. Off-Broadway. Regional. University. Summer Stock. Touring. Film. However I can get them, I just love musicals. So, when the great ones are released as movie version, I am compelled to see them. Sometimes I'm disappointed (as was the case with "Rent" where a gratuitous lesbian marriage scene was dropped in and other important segments were omitted), but usually it's good enough and I'm pleased to have had the experience.

So Streisand was too young to be Dolly Levi. So Lucille Ball didn't bring the same chemistry to Mame that Angela Lansbury did. So Rosalind Russell was no Ethel Merman in Gypsy. So I hated Michael Douglas in "A Chorus Line" (and in every single other thing I have ever seen him in). Whenever these flicks come on cable TV, I'm there with a bowl of popcorn paying homage all the same.

I actually liked Madonna in "Evita" (I realize it is generally frowned upon to admit that). Antonio Banderas was an odd "Che," but pleasant enough to gaze upon, so who cares? And I was very pleased with "Chicago." They took out a great song (Mama's other song), but that happens in the movie versions. We just have to live with it. And I loved, loved, triple loved "Dream Girls."

The wonderful thing about DG is that I expected to hate it. I'm not a Beyonce fan nor do I normally enjoy reality shows (Effie's role is played by an American Idol contestant). But Jennifer Hudson has a new fan in me. Eddie Murphy is usually a bit over rated in my opinion and I've never loved Jamie Foxx. I actually saw Anika Noni Rose on Broadway in "Caroline, or Change" and was surprised to see her in the film. I adore original Dream Girl Loretta Devine (who was given a cameo role in the film...that happens nowadays). And Danny Glover always delivers a good performance.

But whatever I expected from the cast, they delivered more. Foxx was truly nefarious (though uncomfortable singing) and this was probably Murphy's most dramatic role yet. Of course the Dreams parallel in many ways the Supremes. The Foxx character parallels Barry Gordy and Rainbow records is a mirror image of MoTown. There is even gratuitious Jackson 5 group in the film and Murphy's character is a sort of composite of James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and other soulful greats. All such parallels are supposedly denied however painfully obvious they might be.

The brassy woman (Effie), the dramatic intrigue and betrayal, the struggle, the rise to stardom, the fall and redemption of some, the fall and that's the end for others, the raw emotion, the sexuality, the finding of one's voice and personal power...Dream Girls offers all of the things that make musicals personally sacred for me. They tell a story and invite me into the imaginary world where my story is also acted out, and I emerge from the cinema (or theatre) thinking, feeling, wondering, remembering, and overall hopeful for the future.

I love musicals. I know that some of the harsher critics will say (and have said) unkind things about Dream Girls, but I expect it to gather several major award nominations, and I hope it wins a few.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Big Eden

Recently a friend and co-worker invited a few of us to his house for a movie night. The feature film was "Big Eden."

The DVD was released 4 years ago but had somehow escaped my notice. I'm so glad that someone finally brought this gem to my attention.

Big Eden is a utopian fiction about a successful New York artist who returns to his tiny Montana hometown to care for his ailing grandfather. The artist is gay, but having grown up in a small, rural community, he never felt the need to "come out" to his family or friends. But he learns that the 12 step proverb is true: we are as sick as our secrets.

Being "home" again reminds him how genuinely fond he is of the friends, neighbors, and relatives of his formative years. Soon, the entire community figures out his "secret" and immediately begins a conspiracy to couple him up with the owner of the general store ("Pike") who is both painfully shy and desperately in love with our artist hero.

There are twists and turns along the way, of course. Once a boy has seen Paris (or the Big Apple in this case), how can you keep him down on the farm? We expect that the artist will return to his fabulous cosmopolitan life in New York. We also suffer through the tension of him being reunited with his recently divorced childhood heterosexual best friend for whom he has longed for 20 years.

By the end, the straight friend has coupled up with the young and pretty fiddle playing mayor of the small town and our artist has decided to stay in Big Eden, MT with his new and true love, the general store owner.

So far, a romantic comedy with a gay twist isn't that unique. But that this takes place in a small, rural, presumably conservative area where love is real enough that social taboos and prejudices never materialize in a significant way is what makes this film a true work of fiction. Everyone wants everyone else to be happy. Everyone wants to be truly who he or she is. Everyone wants to form a community where everyone is safe and valued. The final scene in the movie shows the artist and his new partner dancing together and kissing at a community picnic. Not only is no one offended, many are noticeably pleased that two more people in the world have found love and happiness.

Big Eden isn't how life is for many gay people, especially in the hinter lands. But is how life ought to be. And as long as we continue to work and pray for the day to come, it just may be how life will be. That will truly be a day for celebration.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A President Dies: RIP

It caught me off guard, and left me surprisingly stunned and sad. Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States has died at age 93.

Now, 93 is a good long run. He was the oldest surviving president (living slightly longer than Ronald Reagan did). Though he has had health problems for the last few years, he always seemed poised, dignified, and alert. There was something about him that I always admired.

I was in the 4th grade when President Ford lost the White House to James Earl Carter; therefore, I don't have a first hand, mature, accurate memory of his presidential skills. But history has shown him to be a moderate, a decent person, a man of integrity, a person who wanted to offer healing to his country in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

He survived two assassination attempts and his wife was a very modern First Lady (and former First Lady), speaking openly about her own psychiatric care (and thus reducing the stigma of psychotherapy), her own addiction issues, her battle with cancer, and her support of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Roe vs. Wade decision. In 1999, Gerald Ford told Larry King in a television interview that he and the former first lady remained pro-choice. He further said that abortion was a personal matter and should not be part of a party's political platform.

President Ford was the last moderate Republican president before the "new" conservative movement took over the leadership of his party. And though satirical comedy portrayed him as clumsy, the truth was that he had been an All-American college football star who had the opportunity to play professional football. He went to law school instead. He also enjoyed golf and skiing.

Ford's presidency was brief. After a lengthy career in the House of Representatives (including service as the Minority Leader), he was appointed Vice-President after Spiro Agnew resigned. Not long after, President Nixon resigned and so without ever standing for national election, Gerald Ford had the distinction of being both Vice-President and President of the United States. He did run for "re"-election in 1976 but lost to a southern governor (to whom he later became a very good friend). I seem to remember his being very gracious about his defeat and he would later be seen at important events and supporting special causes. He continued to have presidential dignity as well as a perceived accessibility, a touch of the "common" person.

Ford represents for me a more liberal time in our country's history, when people of goodwill and integrity could disagree about how to promote the "general welfare," while still sharing a progressive vision of liberty and equality for all people. He opposed the impeachment of President Clinton and was very proud of the times in the 20th century when, with bi-partisan cooperation, the U.S. made a stand for fairness, justice, and liberty. Examples he would mention of America's finer moments included repealing the Jim Crow laws, surviving the Great Depression, and defeating powers of aggression in World War 2.

I am not a member of President Ford's party, but I am glad that he was president. I am a fan of his successor as well, and that too is a tribute to Gerald Ford. He didn't inspire polarization. I can respect and admire both the Republican Gerald Ford and the Democrat Jimmy Carter. That is due largely to the civility and dignity of an era that now seems long past. Perhaps the days of respect and progressive thought across party lines will return. Gerald Ford is a reminder for me that such a hope can be realized.

Rest in peace President Ford.
"Let light perpetual shine upon him."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Remembering St. Nicholas & Wishing Everyone a Happy Holiday

A few days ago I blogged about the evils of Santa Claus. In my essay, he was basically Satan Claus, a combination of Adolph Hitler, Cruella DeVil, and the Gremlins. But the evolution of Santa Claus is actually pretty fascinating and offers some food for reflection. If I remember the unfolding of events correctly, it goes something like the following.

The inspiration of Claus comes from a 4th century Turkish Bishop, St. Nicholas. Nicholas was known for his generosity and as a saint came to be known as the protector of sea travelers. Legends developed in Europe about St. Nicholas bringing toys to children on his feast day, Dec. 6.

In time St. Nicholas was more popular with children than Jesus and there were more European churches named for Nicholas than were named for all the apostles combined. After the Protestant reformation, this "problem" was addressed in Germany by changing Santa to Kris Kringle who would bring toys on Jesus' feast day, Christmas. In England he came to be known as Father Christmas. In the Netherlands, he was Santa Claus.

In each manifestation the legend would expand. And so over time, Santa became a rewarder of the good, a watcher of children, a sort of magical elf, a driver of flying reindeer, etc. The Dutch brought Claus to America and in the 1800s and early 1900s poets and advertising agencies continued to expand the legend and make Santa a very American sort of character. Much of Santa's characteristics were outlined (and almost canonized) in the poem "The Night Before Christmas" and Rudolph was added to the story in 30's in an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward.

The way Santa is used to promote commercialism and even deception continues to disturb me. But the history of a bishop who was so kind and generous that his spirit lives on in an ever evolving legend does offer a bit of inspiration. So, even if 21st century Santa gets on my nerves, 4th century Nicholas does remind me that humans are capable of great kindness and warmth and that does stir a bit of hope in me on Christmas Day.

Here's wishing every reader a Happy Holiday followed by a prosperous, healthy, and happy New Year.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

God’s Sign of Good News

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you who is Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all creation.’

That’s how an evangelist named Luke tells the story anyway. Now I am a recent transplant to Ft. Lauderdale from New York City, but I started life in the hills of Arkansas. I could tie my shoes years before I ever saw any need to wear them. And even now at the age of 40 after much travel, urban living and higher education, the truth remains that to the core of my soul I’m as country as a collard green and I no longer waste any energy denying that fact. I was a child of the rural mid-south and so stories of livestock and those who watch after them tend to get my attention.

Luke commits his version of this story to paper during a turbulent time in history. He was writing to people who felt disenfranchised and who desperately needed hope. And so he says, There were shepherds living out in the fields.

Shepherds were not highly regarded by society’s upper crust. They worked outside. Luke basically foreshadows a scene from Brokeback Mountain, showing us shepherds living outside. They worked hard and they worked with sheep. Sheep ain’t roses, let me tell you. People living and working outside, among livestock, they could be dirty and…well, no one has ever thought of marketing their fragrance. Glade doesn’t make a sheep scented candle, you know what I mean?

When these hard working, unkempt people would come to town, people would just not acknowledge them sometimes. You can imagine people clutching their purses and covering their noses and looking the other way. That’s who our story is about tonight. People not warmly embraced by society. They were maligned and vilified and harshly judged and viewed with suspicion, and while THESE people, living outside were watching their flocks an angel showed up to THEM. The ones that larger society had forgotten or condemned were the very ones to whom God first announces Good News, according to Luke.

Of course, at first this disturbed our shepherd friends. Maybe they had spent too much time in isolation and had finally had some kind of breakdown. I mean, please, if you ever think you’re being visited by angels you might wonder if it isn’t time for a vacation, and maybe some medication. But in response to their fears, the angel says, “Don’t be afraid.” We hear that throughout the gospel: Don’t be afraid.

The angel isn’t there to make their lives worse; the angel has come to bring GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY for ALL people. The good news isn’t just for some people. No one gets left out of this party. Whoever you are, you are God’s and nothing can separate you from God’s love. This is good news of great joy for all people, even people that other people haven’t treated with proper respect, my shepherd friends.

If we stopped right there, the story would be empowering enough. But there is more. The angel not only affirms the shepherds by coming to them and empowers them by telling them to not be afraid, the angel then continues with one more gift.

Nearby, a child has been born and this child has somehow been anointed by God already. Christ or messiah – these words both mean Anointed. A baby has just been born who is anointed by God. OK? That’s nice. But wait – here’s the sign, the twist, the way God seems to work: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough.

This child, anointed by God is a lot like our shepherd friends. This baby is born to an unwed mother, temporarily homeless, in a barn. You’ll find him, not dressed in beautiful baby clothes but wrapped up in cloths, rags, lying in a trough, on top of hay that cows bury their faces in and eat.

And once this good news is delivered, the angel is joined by other angels singing and praising God and announcing God’s favor for ALL people – God’s desire for peace in all the world.

The good news to these shepherds is that a baby is born. This baby is anointed with God’s grace and the power of God’s spirit. But this baby isn’t lying in a fancy crib in a palace. This baby isn’t even lying on a soft blanket in a cozy cottage. This baby is wrapped in cloths, lying in a barn, born to parents who are facing difficulties in life. God has anointed, called, favored, blessed the most unlikely of candidates. Isn’t that just God’s way?!

The Good News is that God doesn’t have one soul to waste. God’s love isn’t just for the few, the elect, the pretty, the privileged. God’s love is for ALL people. God’s Peace is for ALL people. God’s empowerment is for ALL people. You can even find God, and maybe especially so, among the least and the lowly. God’s anointed one, God’s angels, God’s message, God’s miracles are found with the shepherds, with the young pregnant girl who gives birth in a barn, with a baby who is wrapped in rags lying in a manger.

Race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation…none of these things earn God’s love nor do any of these things push God’s love away. God’s love in unconditional, all inclusive, and to the people who have never heard that or who have been told the exact opposite this message of divine love is truly Good News.

If you have ever felt like a poor shepherd, living outside of power in the margins, terrified when messages about God appear in front of you, hear this story again tonight. It is OUR story, your story, all people’s story: Do Not Be Afraid. I Bring You Good News of Great Joy that will be for ALL People…

That’s the eternal Christmas message. And every time someone really hears and embraces it, angels rejoice and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all creation.” Amen

This homily was delivered by Rev. Canon Durrell Watkins at the 8 PM and 10 PM Christmas Eve services at the Amaturo Theatre in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 2006.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas for the Progressive Christian

Depending on which study one reads, anywhere from 1/3 to almost 1/2 of Americans are conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians. Add to the mix the more conservative elements of the Jewish and Muslim communities and that comes to a lot of illiberal occupants of this country.

I'm concerned about fundamentalism. I cringe to hear people rejoice at the thought that God condemns people of religions not their own. I shudder when I hear and see people dehumanize their gay and lesbian neighbors because they think that is what God would have them do. I tighten up when I hear apocalyptic doom and gloom preachers, and then I feel even worse when I see that they are speaking to packed houses who seem to enjoy what they are saying.

Of my friends from college and graduate school (before seminary), and among the acquaintances I made during my days in theatre communities, I am almost alone as a religious person. Even among my seminary pals, I am pretty unique in that I am not part of a denomination that is almost exclusively "liberal." Almost every Unitarian Universalist friend from seminary beckoned me to come over to their side. I would be lying if I denied having seriously considered it.

I think of myself as a public intellectual, an artist-theologian, a free-thinker. Words like "pluralist," "Humanist," "progressive," "liberal," and "post-Christian" feel comfortable to me. And yet, I remain active in a Christian denomination, a clergy person in a thriving parish, celebrating the liturgical feasts (including Christmas which is upon us). Why do I do what I do?

I believe fundamentalism is a danger to world peace.
I believe anti-intellectualism and dogmatic prejudices keep our country divided and hinder justice and equality for all people.
I believe that religion has damaged families, individuals, politics, and even society at large.
And though the US doesn't have a state religion, we seem for less progressive, enlightened, and reasonable than developed countries that are historically Anglican, Lutheran, or in some cases, even Catholic. This is a problematic situation with which we must deal if liberty, justice, peace, and forward movement are to be realized in our world.

Many of my friends respond to the crisis by retreating behind the walls of the Academy, or simply dismissing religion as laughable and trying to form secular pockets of safety within our "Christian" nation. Others find a liberal tradition (Reform Judaism, Zen Buddhism, Religious Science, Unitarian Universalism, etc.) or a liberal parish within their moderate to conservative denominations, again trying to find safe and like-minded people with whom they can build community. All of these responses are legitimate and attractive, and I sometimes wonder why my path didn't follow theirs' more closely.

But the people who need to hear truly "Good News," a gospel witness that challenges fears and prejudices and dogmatic beliefs are in churches. And so, the parish remains my mission field. It is to the pew that I continue to direct my alternative message of life's possibilities and human potential and the innate dignity of all people. It is from altar and pulpit that I continue to cry out that mind and heart, thinking and feeling, religion and science, reason and tradition can dance together and be holistically applied to life.

So, this Christmas Eve I will be singing carols and worshipping with my fellow Christians, many of whom are more traditional that I. I will remember stories filled with myth and magic and miracle and hope and imagination and courage and beauty. I will recall angels and shepherds and the notion that a baby born in a barn somehow symbolizes Good News for all kinds of people. I will enjoy the experience, and feel renewed commitment to my spiritual path. The mythic Christ will once again be born in my imagination this Christmas.

The best hope for the world isn't that all people become Christian, but that more Christians become tolerant, reasonable, inclusive citizens of our ever shrinking but always diverse global village. If I am to play a part in that mission, I must meet my fellow Christians where they are. And so, its off to church I go.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Benedict, Your Reign of Terror Will Soon Be Over

Same-sex marriage is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Canada and the US state of Massachusetts. Civil unions are legal in most European Union countries and in the states of Vermont, Connecticut and as of February New Jersey in the U.S. Many other places have domestic partnernship laws of one kind or another.

Progress has been slow, painful, and at great cost. But progress has been made. More and more people are willing to consider the humanity of gay and lesbian persons. More and more people are attempting to catch up with the science that says same-gender attraction is a healthy and normal part of the diversity of human sexuality. More and more people are seeing the futility of criminalizing consensual adult behavior. One person at a time, one place at a time, the world is inching toward enlightenment.

I celebrate the progress. I pray that it continues. I applaud those who have worked so tirelessly to make progress possible. But not everyone shares my view of progressive, forward movement that fully includes same-gender loving people in the human family.

Pope Benedict has once again expressed concern for gay friendly legislation. He seems to be terrified that Italy, his own front yard, will join the growing list of countries that are making the moral decision to provide legal protections to same-gender couples.

The pontiff says that supporters of gay rights are embracing "dismal theories" and are disregarding gender roles (excuse me, didn't someone write in the first century that in Christ there is neither male nor female???). And he urged his clergy to vehemently oppose civil union and gay marriage legislation.

Now, I've known many Catholic priests in my life. A few of them have been straight. Fewer of them have been celibate (regardless of their orientation). So, are people who are sworn to celibacy, many of whom break that vow with regularity, really the ones to make statements about the complex and diverse issues of human sexuality? Are people who wear dresses (OK, we call them vestments) for a living really the experts on gender roles? Has the church leadership become so insulated and self-absorbed that they can't see how ridiculous their protestations are and how little credibility they possess on this issue?

I have news for the pope and all other guardians of homophobia: The days of disguising bigotry as religous values are numbered. The days of controlling people by controlling their sexuality are numbered. The days of potentates in drag making sweeping declarations that then limit the freedoms of others are numbered. The genie is out of the bottle (or the closet, as the case may be) and there is no putting her back in, thank God!

The Anglicans can split. The Virginia Episcopalians can align with the most violently homophobic Bishop in Christendom. The fundies can out, purge, demote, fire, counsel, and hide the gay pastors of their megachurches. States can even temporarily ban gay marriage (until the glorious day when all such bans are ruled contrary to the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. constitution). But these desperate attempts to control, shame, limit, and dehumanize others will not prevail. The Reign of Terror against same-gender loving people will one day end, and that end may already be in sight. We can at least see the beginning of the end, and when the homophobic world comes to an end it will be replaced with a "new heaven and a new earth," that is, a new reality where equality and justice and liberty truly are for all, without exception. Lord haste the day!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Christmas Myth As Subversive Good News

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." That familiar line from the gospel of Luke the evangelist begins a story about the uncommon birth of a child who would one day be called "savior" by much of the world.

The story is so familiar we overlook much of what it says. One thing from the beginning is that the Emperor, the most powerful person in the known universe at the time, a person who was considered to be a divine son (he was the adopted son of a leader who had been divinized), a person who had the exclusive right to be called "Lord" and who was honored as a peace-bringer...this "Caesar Augustus" issued a decree that led the so-called Holy Family to the place where Jesus was reportedly born.

Of course, Jesus would later be called "Lord" and "Prince of Peace" and "son of God" - the very titles that identified and honored Caesar (the Emperor or king of all kings). This gospel was written 10-15 years after a conflict which left Jerusalem devastated and the Jewish Temple in ruins (and some 50 years after the death of Jesus). In these circumstances people used the art of literature to fight back, seditiously applying the imperial titles to one the empire had executed! Jesus became the rural hero who was miraculously born and who wouldn't stay dead. It was a story of hope that proclaimed without apology that God had a preferential option for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. And the religion that grew out of that movement outlived the Empire and thrives even today.

If the Christmas story is about a virgin defying the laws of nature only to bring a demi-god into the world that must be worshipped in order to avoid eternal damnation, then I couldn't be more bored with it. I find no Good News in such a story and I find no reason to share it with others. If, by contrast, the story is a creative attempt to empower the powerless and to affirm that God dwells among the least and the lowly and cares for those society has forgotten, then the parable becomes Good News indeed and more than Good News, spiritual Truth! And that is a gospel I can try to live and that I can endeavor to share. That is a gospel that may offer some experience of salvation (that is, life-giving hope and liberation) afterall.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time For Santa to Retire

I'm over it.
I know we're supposed to think our mythical Santa Claus is the very symbol of all that is decent and benevolent and kind and wonderful, but I just can't. The Santa myth teaches some disturbing lessons - some of them lasting a lifetime for far too many of us.

The jolly gift-giver voyeuristically watches over unsuspecting children, rewarding the "good" and ignoring those he judges to be "bad" (and by what criteria and by whose authority???). And then, after 5, 6, 7 years of believing in this fantasy, each child comes to learn that it was all a lie, or at least its truth was representational and not literal. Trust issues reasonably follow.

The Santa myth teaches us that:
- Materialism is good ("good kids get more stuff")
- Voyeurism is OK (he "knows" if you've been bad or good - sainted toy maker or nosy needs to get a life neighbor???)
- Rich kids deserve more (surely all kids notice that the richer kids get more stuff, and if the poor families manage to keep up with the Jones' its by depriving the family of other necessities, damaging pride and self-esteem by accessing charities, or working multiple jobs rather than spending quality time at any case, the rich kids get good stuff without inconveniencing the parents...Shouldn't Santa be more generous with the needier kids?)
- Lying is OK as long as its an adult doing it to a child
- The kindest soul on the planet will only love you if you behave in ways that he finds acceptable (love must be earned and can be snatched away in a moment)

Of course the moment comes when we outgrow Santa, but sadly the unfortunate lessons our Santa experience drilled into our souls are then transferred to our theologies:
- Far too many people spend their entire lives believing that its OK to say the world was created in a literal week (lying is OK).
- People spend their lives believing God will love them only if they follow some arbitrary rules, and even if God loves them now God might stop loving them later.
- People even spend their lives believing that both rich somehow deserve their good fortune while the poor, well, screw'em.
- Even voyeurism continues to be promoted - what else is the conservative obsession with sex other than a desire to be tittilated by scandal and the desperate fear that someone somewhere is having a good time. And so laws are created that peer into bedrooms and witch hunts are sanctioned to drive people who live as if they are healthy mammals with sex drives out of churches. We still want someone to watch and judge whose been naughty and nice.

The Santa myth doesn't just confuse children and later disappoint them once they figure it out. The Santa myth contributes to how we practice human relationships, politics, and religion. And it doesn't take a Sociologist to see how those have suffered. Enough with peeping tom, dishonest, elitist, dysfunctional Santa. He's done enough damage. He should retire. And even though he's been mischievous, let's still give him his gold watch. Hey, the vicious cycle has to stop somewhere.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jesus is the Reason; and Why Do We Care?

Advent is drawing to a close.
On Sunday morning we'll celebrate the fourth and final Sunday of Advent and then that evening we'll celebrate Christmas Eve! There will be candle lighting and singing and bell ringing and festive vestments and all the things that point to something grand, significant, and holy.

Advent is a time of waiting and it gives way to the season of Christmastide when what we've been waiting for arrives in ritual and in narrative. What exactly is it for which we wait?

Of course the simple answer is "Jesus." But why do we get so excited about him? He was a prophet, but neither the world's first nor last. He was a healer, but neither the world's first nor last. He was a Wisdom teacher, but neither the world's first nor last. Some called him a divine child, but that claim wasn't unique in his world. Some called him a messiah, but that too was not a unique claim. And, to complexify the issue, most of us know embarrassingly little about the person who inspires such devotion and adoration within us. So, if Jesus is "the reason for the season," the question remains, "why?" What is it about the story of Jesus that causes us to wait with eager anticipation for the retelling of his story and then to celebrate with wild abandon when we get to hear the story again. What is so special about this Jesus of Nazareth?

The truth is that Jesus is for Christians a symbol and symbols point beyond themselves to multiple layers of truth and meaning. Because Jesus is our symbol he represents more than any one person can articulate, and he represents different things to different people. He points to ultimate meaning and that is obviously something worthy of excitement.

Did he intend to become a symbol? Did he know he would become a symbol? Did he want to be a symbol? Would he have been comfortable as a symbol? Frankly, I have my doubts. But history and myth have made him a symbol in any case, and all that he symbolizes fills us with renewed hope and a zest for living.

Jesus symbolizes divinity being housed in human experience. He symbolizes "God with us" which is cause for both hope and celebration. If God dwells among us and within us, if God is housed in human experience, if God (or whatever word you care to use to indicate the best of life) is as accessible as a person walking among us (or looking back at us from the mirror), then we can probably handle the challenges and changes in life. We can live with quality. We can live with peace. We can live with joy. We can share and care and co-create an ever improving world. Jesus as "messiah" or "son of God" is not, I believe, an historical reality to be worshiped but rather a metaphysical symbol reminding us of the divine presence always within and among us, always available to us, acting through and as us to heal, comfort, strengthen and renew.

We're waiting for a reminder that the power of God is available to us, as available as if that power had a name and a body. That reminder is coming as the stories of Christmas, and those stories continue to offer Truth and hope that we need as much today as ever before. We wait just a bit longer, and then very soon we celebrate the Truth of our being: God is with us.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hate Strikes a Blow in Anglican Tradition

It's happened. Two major Episcopal Churches in the US (and 6 smaller ones) have voted to disaffiliate from the US denomination and create a rival Anglican branch under the leadership of the Archbishop of Nigeria ( That primate is well known for his archconservative views which include not only opposing gay rights but also demonizing gay people. The use of the word "demonize" is far from hyperbole - he actually called acceptance of same-gender loving relationships a "satanic attack on the church."

Of course, whether its Nigeria, Jamaica, or Virginia, the easiest way to condemn same-gender love and attraction is to dehumanize those who experience that love and attraction. Homophobic leaders have said in effect that they would rather split churches and preach hatred than to allow one out gay bishop in a small rural New England diocese. Apparently, the excuse for all this ecclesiastical gay bashing is that the diocese of New Hampshire consecrated an out gay man three years ago. There have been other gay bishops, some have actually "come out" after retirement, but the Right Reverend Gene Robinson was unique in that he lived his life openly and honestly and as an "out" gay man in a committed, long-term same-gender loving relationship when he was elected and consecrated as the bishop of New Hampshire. Such bold honesty has been more than the worldwide Anglican Communion is willing to tolerate.

The loudest argument against gay marriage, gay ordinations, and/or gay bishops is that acceptance of same-gender loving relationships goes against the teaching of scripture. A more dishonest argument could hardly be waged.

The handful of isolated verses used to promote homohatred to the status of religious virtue come from ancient cultures and seem, in their proper context, to be condemning religious prostitution, rape, and other exploitive behaviors. Genuine love and mutual attraction are not condemned by the bible. One need not be a bible scholar to discover this simple truth.

A second truth about the bible is that if we take it at face value, what it says is often wrong and even immoral. "Slaves obey your masters" is a teaching of the bible. It is an immoral teaching that caused such suffering in our culture that the ramifications are still felt. Even if the bible appeared homophobic, thinking people certainly are free to say, "oppressive passages or passages that lend themselves to oppressive interpretations are NOT for us the word of God."

A scientific, post-modern understanding of same-sex attraction is not found (much less condemned) in the bible, and secondly, the bible is sometimes wrong (as when it advocates for slavery). "The bible says" can no longer be justification for hatred. The bible says Joshua made the sun stand still - a neat trick if the sun actually moves across the sky, but I doubt if any of us really take that cosmology at face value. The biblical literature can be rich when read intelligently, but that seems to be the missing piece in this war on gays and lesbians of faith.

So, a few churches have left the Episcopal Church USA and have decided to affiliate with the most notoriously homophobic bishop in the Anglican world. I don't believe in Satan, but if I did I might be persuaded to see his handiwork in all of this, but it wouldn't be in the acceptance of gay relationships or clergy; it would be in the prejudice that is sold as religion.

The writer is a confirmed Episcopalian who was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Churches and later "incardinated" as an independent priest by an Old Catholic bishop. The writer is also pursuing a doctorate degree from an Episcopal seminary. The comments above are made with sadness and disappointment; they are not anti-Anglican but rather, the remorseful reflections of a disenfranchised Anglican.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Second Coming: A Diversion That Keeps Us Infantalized

Global Warming. AIDS. Child abuse. War. The working poor. Homelessness.
With so many issues at hand that need our attention, why are so many Christians focusing on, worrying about, and predicting Jesus' "triumphant" return?

After the execution of Jesus in the first century, his followers claimed that he somehow didn't stay dead. The very concept was pure genius - The worst anyone can do to anybody is to kill them, and once you've done your worst, how seditious is it to suggest that your worst didn't ultimately matter?! And so stories of resurrection became the corner stone of Christian myth and faith (and in the beginning they were probably very effective in inspiring hope and courage among the marginalized of society).

I'm not saying that the stories were false. No, I believe that people continued to experience the power of Jesus' presence in their own lives long after he had been killed. And I believe they were honestly communicating their experienced reality when they created stories of "seeing" this ever-living Christ. As they told the stories, this Christ did live again and continued to live - in the hearts, stories, and rituals of a people. Let's be clear: I firmly believe in the resurrection of Christ. That doesn't necessarily mean that I believe in the physical resuscitation of Jesus' corpse, but I absolutely believe in the resurrection of Christ.

Now, the miracle of "he didn't stay dead" wasn't limited to "we have seen the Lord." Since in their experience and imagination he had not stayed dead, they also believed (or at least hoped) that he would return and a returned Messianic Jesus, victorious over Death itself would have little trouble toppling the Roman Empire and bringing peace and hope and justice to the marginalized people of the world. Yes, Jesus would be right back and then he would start taking names and kicking butt and making all things right in the world. Some bible writers even boldly said that he would return in THEIR lifetimes.

Clearly, that didn't happen (unless, like the resurrection, the parousia, aka return of Jesus, was somewhat symbolic, psychic, experienced, or otherwise other than physical/literal...some people suggest that Pentecost was the 2nd coming as it was the return of Jesus' spirit coming to empower the Church). The "orthodox" view is that it did not happen, and yet it was also clearly part of the Christian hope that it would happen. So, the dream of immediate return was massaged a bit to become the hope of an eventual return. As long as it would happen in the future, then people felt obliged to wait for it and to maybe even look for it. So, every generation of Christians winds up asking, "Are we the generation to see it?"

After two millennia, I've given up. I don't think it will literally happen or that it needs to happen. Jesus lives in our hearts so he is present enough as is. Now, because he dwells in our hearts, let's follow his example and get to healing the world around us! When we get around to doing that, perhaps that will be the return of Christ! - when the spirit of Christ is so strong among us that we create peace and justice in our world and refuse to settle for less.

Of course, owning our own responsibility for improving the world is a bit daunting. It is MUCH easier to pretend that Jesus will finally come back and do our work for us. But that mind-game didn't prevent WW1, WW2, Vietnam, the current quagmire in Iraq, global warming, AIDS, homophobia, famine, slavery, Jim Crow laws or other ghastly human experiences.

Maybe its time to give up on the idea that Superman will finally fly in to save the day; perhaps its time that we realize that the hero is within us. We need to unleash the power of Christ within (we could as easily call it the Buddha nature or the mythic hero or our Higher Power or our best Self or the goddess...what's in a name?!). When we become Christ in the world we won't need a 2nd coming; we'll have the kind of world Jesus lived and died to bring into manifestation.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is It Wrong to Pray for Personal Gain?

A question I have recently received asks if it is wrong to pray for personal gain? The theologian part of me make wants to give a lengthy, wordy, and complex answer that raises as many questions as it addresses. But the short answer to the simple question is, "no."

Some will be shocked to learn that a minister would endorse praying for personal gain, but the truth is that one can't help but praying for personal gain. If I want to improve my health, and I drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, watch my diet, consult my physician and so on, aren't I asking Life to be more fully present in my living? Aren't I hoping and wishing and affirming (and therefore praying) that it is possible to feel better? Aren't I saying that I want to feel better? So whether I say, "Dear God..." or not, I am praying for improved health, aka personal gain.

If I apply for a job, aren't I hoping to get it? If I get it, won't I benefit from it? Isn't the very act of applying saying with my embodied self that I want something? Isn't that a prayer?

So, I don't think its wrong to pray for personal gain because I believe it is inevitable that we each in some way express hope, desire, longing and to express these things is to pray. It is no more wrong to pray for personal gain that it is to sleep when we are tired or eat when we are hungry. It is natural, normal, and we're bound to do it.

As long as we want everyone to have their needs met and their good desires fulfilled and as long as we don't think that our Good can only come by someone else being denied theirs, then praying for fulfillment and well-being is as spiritual and high minded as any other prayer. And, if our prayers prove effective, then our lives become a witness to the power of prayer, which can then encourage and help others.

It isn't selfish to want life to be joyous and worthwhile. In fact, the more blessed we are the more we are able to bless others. And when we not only seek blessings but also seek to share them, we are actively contributing to a better world.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Free Harry Potter

I was amazed. I mean, I love Harry Potter. I love the books. I love the films. Any literature that can spark the imagination of adults and children alike must be pretty brilliant.

So, imagine my shock to read of a mother in Georgia who sued to have Harry Potter books removed from her child's school library. She said the books promote "religious" witchcraft.

Now, she wasn't upset that the books promote religion. She was upset that the books (supposedly) promoted a religion other than hers. Of course, the Harry Potter tales don't deal with organized religion. They deal with fantasy and morals and the battle between Good and Evil. They show children being empowered, problem-solving, thinking, questioning people with moral agency. They don't criticize Methodists or invite children to survey the nearest Voodoo shop. They just promote reading, thinking, and imagining. If we have come to a place in American society where those values are not welcomed as healthy parts of an educational experience, then as a culture we are doomed.

Luckily, the witch-hunting suburban southern mom lost her court battle. But, as if her misguided crusade wasn't disturbing enough, it seems that in the six short years of this new century, the Harry Potter series has been challenged 115 times! That makes it the most challenged book so far in the 21st century. I'm aghast.

Look - I remember Pinocchio. I never thought that a fairy would ever REALLY turn a puppet into a human boy. I remember Cinderella. I never thought that a fairy would ever REALLY give an abused step-daughter a pair of time-released glass shoes. I remember Sleeping Beauty. I never thought that three good fairies would ever REALLY be a medieval version of Charlie's Angels, protecting the princess Aurora and battling the mean fairy, Maleficent.

For that matter, I remember the sacred stories I was encouraged to read in Sunday School - where snakes and donkeys magically spoke and virgins and 90 year old women strangely had babies and a prophet plays magical bartender at a wedding, turning water into wine. These stories did teach something, but not that I should give up reality and invest in a flying carpet or genie's lamp.

In school, we read Shakespeare with his fairies, witches, and ghosts. We read ancient myths about gods and goddesses and their strange exploits. We read fiction and learned to appreciate it without ever thinking we were being led to join the cult or Apollo or seek in the forest for the mischievous Puck. I even remember Bugs Bunny cartoons. I never once believed that I could survive a grand piano or an anvil falling on my head. Come to think of it, I never even believed a rabbit (or bird or cat or rooster or pig) could talk. Somehow, all Bugs Bunny promoted was joy.

Have we really become so shallow that creativity frightens us and that complexity threatens us? Are we so ill equipped to deal with fantasy and fiction that our only response to magical tales is to try to ban them? Then we better close up our bibles too. Because if we aren't careful we'll read about people walking on water, talking to angels, battling demons, living inside a giant fish, making the sun (assumed to be traveling through the sky) stand still, and other acts that if taken literally would seem to be encouraging unlikely and bizarre behavior.

Maybe Harry riding on a broom doesn't pose any real threat to our children. Stifling their imaginations and teaching them to fear diversity, creativity, and artistic expression will, by contrast, have depressing effects on our world. We need more thinking, more creativity, more fun...not less. I say throw out the standardized tests and bring in more Harry Potter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Have We Got a Prayer?

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another. May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness--the children, the aged, the unprotected--be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain [enlightenment]. - A Buddhist Prayer for Peace

Prayer can be so simple, but if we all were praying in the same direction - not using the same language or metaphors or images or symbols, but just praying for the same common good, what do you suppose would happen?

May suffering people find comfort.
May frightened people be encouraged.
May the disenfranchised find liberty and equality.
May people be friendly toward one another.
May the vulnerable be somehow protected.

Surely those are goals on which we can all agree. I don't care if you believe in a deity or not. I don't care what temple or shrine you call your house of worship. But if we each just intentionally wished for peace, for justice, for goodwill, for universal well-being, then surely we would move in those directions. We wouldn't bomb countries. We wouldn't execute prisoners. We wouldn't speak as if same-gender loving people were inhuman. We wouldn't destroy our environment. We wouldn't abuse children, ignore the elderly, or exploit the poor. If we all prayed, however we understand prayer, for peace and justice and health and prosperity, our collective consciousness would be raised and together we would find answers to life's challenges and we would stop being the source of pain and destruction for one another.

Invoke the god(s) of your understanding, or if you do not name your ultimate Good, then simply speak aloud your best wishes and highest hopes, but let's pray not for our enemy's destruction or for our prejudices to win, but rather for peace and healing to be made universally manifest and for the weak to be cared for and every person to be happy, whole, and free. Whether there are gods or angels or saints to hear our prayers or not, if we unify our thinking to promote only the Good, then our actions will doubtlessly produce a much better reality for the whole world.

So, please, pray. Pray that suffering people find comfort, that frightened people be encouraged, that the disenfranchised find liberty and equality, that people will be friendly toward one another, and that the vulnerable will be safe. I believe that when enough of us pray for such things, the world will be transformed.

Let us pray...

God is Peace

"Gideon built an altar to God and called it ‘God is Peace’". [Judges 6.24]

It might take a shift in thinking, but what if our conception of God became that God is All Good; not that God is good, but that God is Good. Rather than thinking of God as being able to grant abundance, we might think of God as infinite Abundance. Rather than a loving God, God is Love. Rather than a God of peace, God IS Peace.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Be careful what you worship, for what you worship you will become. What you praise, you will grow into.” If we worship the God who is Peace, then we who are made in God’s image will be the manifestation of peace. And won’t that be good for our world?!

Today's blog was first published in the Sunshine Cathedral's devotional magazine "Spirit & Truth" (December 2006).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Osama Bin Forgotten

Years later...

Lives lost.
Billions (Trillions?) spent on killing.
Gas prices higher than I ever thought we would see in this country.
War that lags on and on.
Soldiers maimed and killed.
Civilians living in a war zone.
A few profiting from the making of the instruments of war.
Civil liberties watered down in the name of "security."
After all of this, I have just this one question: Whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Isn't the mastermind who had suicide hijackers fly into two U.S. buildings the excuse that was used to enter into all this madness? Isn't the Saudi hiding in Afghanistan the reason we attacked Iraq (don't try to make sense of it now; we didn't bother insisting it made sense at the time)? If the person responsible for a day of terror in the U.S. is the reason for more than half a decade of psychological, economic, and conventional warfare is still at large, then what was it all for? The question that nags at me is, does anyone remember Osama Bin Laden? The question isn't a political one. It isn't partisan. It isn't unpatriotic. It is insulting to the troops. It's just a common sense question and one that justice demands be asked...Whatever happened to Osama, and why isn't anyone talking about him anymore?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Fundie Falls From "Grace"

Paul Barnes, founding pastor of Colorado mega-church Grace Chapel, has resigned after being outed. He informed his congregation via video that he has had a life-long struggle with homosexuality and that he has "cried himself to sleep" begging God to remove his same-sex desires from him.

Hello? A person of faith who has begged God to "heal" him of his sexuality??? What kind of God condemns homosexuality and refuses to answer the sincere prayer of one who asks for that sexuality to be "cured"? Forget contemporary biblical scholarship, science, psychology, and PFLAG, how about some common sense here?! You've had these feelings for a lifetime, you've asked God to remove them, and God hasn't. Maybe that's because the feelings are natural, normal, healthy...put in the language of evangelical Christianity, "God given."

Barnes preached the same anti-gay party line gospel as the rest of them. How it must have hurt for him to condemn what he knew himself to be. How many hearts and families have to be broken by homophobic prejudice before all Christians concede that sexuality is a given.

Some of us like men. Some of us like women. Some of us like both. And as long as our relationships are consensual, respectful, and non-abusive, then all's fair. What is with this anti-gay obsession that makes people hate gays and that even makes gay people hate themselves? Gay's not to hate! The hatred of Gays is what causes all the pain and heartache. Maybe the God who is Love is glorified whenever joy and fun and love and tenderness are ever expressed, no matter what genders are involved. Any God that I would worship or preach would have to be.

How many conservative, self-loathing, closeted gay megachurch preachers must fall from grace before we stop bashing gays and start confronting our fear of the natural diversity of human sexuality?

Grace is the kindness that God gives freely - one can't earn it nor can one lose it. How odd that the person who founded "Grace Church" didn't really know that. And the Gospel is supposed to "Good News." The Good News is that gays are people, and as people they deserve dignity, respect, and the right to love and live freely, openly, an un-attacked by church and state. I for one am ready for some real Grace and some truly Good News. Maybe 2007 will be the year...

Magic of the Season for Skeptics

A question I sometimes get is, "is it possible that Mary told Luke and/or Matthew about the Annunciation and Nativity?" I get the sense that the question is a way of trying to verify the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

Sadly, I can never confirm the historical accuracy of the birth narratives. Luke and Matthew wrote their stories over 50 years after the execution of Jesus. Luke was a disciple of the Apostle Paul; I have no reason to believe that he ever met Mary. His account differs significantly from Matthew's, and no one else in our canon mention's Jesus' birth at all. Jesus is never quoted as having mentioned it. And as far the unique circumstance of Jesus being conceived by a virgin, well, the story isn't terribly unique (not to mention biologically impossible).

Our modern, scientific understanding of procreation is only about 300 years old, so a writer in the first century of the common era wouldn't necessarily have found the idea of virginal conception as ridiculous as we might today. Also, many ancient stories, some older than the ones in our bible, refer to heroes being born to virgins. So, the story is neither plausible nor unique.

If the importance of the story rests on its believability, we're in trouble (though, to be sure, we are free to believe the story if we can, but modern readers will often find the story problematic as literal history). For me the importance of the story isn't its historical accuracy, but its sacred truth.

The truth, as I see it, is that Jesus lived a life that empowered, healed, and enriched other lives. To bear witness to the power of Jesus' life, writers created amazing stories casting Jesus in the role of God's chosen and anointed prophet. The truth in the stories is that they point to Jesus' significance. The truth is that Jesus touched lives in an important way, and continues to do so. The stories are creative, artistic attempts to communicate that truth. So, for me, the stories are true if not factual.

I know this is a season of magic and miracle and warm feelings and deep sentiments. I know for many of us, the magic of Christmas that we experienced as children is something we want to recapture. But if the only way to hold that magic is to not allow ourselves to think critically, then the magic may allude us anyway. For me, the magic doesn't depend on the details, but on the inspiration for the imaginative accounts. The inspiration is a man called Jesus, who showed us that we can each experience the divine personally and powerfully in ways that will transform our lives. That is true even if Jesus was born like you and I were, loved as you and I do, and died as all living creatures must.

Still, Jesus did impact people's lives so powerfully that they needed to tell his story as creatively and imaginatively as possible, and because of those stories he lives on in our hearts two millennia later. That is magic enough for me. And it doesn't deny that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Today's blog was first sent out to my subscription list and posted on my website:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bloody Theology

"My entire ministry I have engaged in liturgical acrobatics. When I give someone the chalice of wine and say the words 'The blood of Christ shed for you', I don't mean what I'm literally saying. The wine is not blood. It is not Christ's blood either. And when his actual blood was dripping from the cross he was not thinking of you or me." - Glynn Cardy

In his essay, Glynn Cardy goes on to say that the "blood of Jesus" is a metaphor for life, power, and love. In the Eucharistic liturgy at the Sunshine Cathedral, we make the metaphor more explicit by quoting Jesus' words of institution of the Lord's Supper as "this is my life poured out for you..." But, on the average traditional Christian, I'm afraid the metaphor is lost. Either they disregard it entirely, consider the words hollow and meaningless, or they overly literalize the words, perpetuating a sort of ancient blood magic whereby sacrifical blood is meant to appease an angry deity and thereby insure favor for the practitioners of the ritual. In either case, a call to engage and celebrate life is lost, and more's the pity.

Womanist theologian Delores S. Williams says there was nothing of God in the blood of the cross, and I quite agree. Jesus did not die for me. He did not shuttle down from a cosmic paradise for the purpose of being brutally tortured and killed. God was in no way honored or glorified by the evil practice of crucifixion. Jesus was neither the first nor the last person to die the horrible death of crucifixion and in none of the cases was the human family edified.

The miracle of the cross isn't that Jesus died. The miracle is that in people's hearts and experience, Jesus didn't stay dead (that's the power of resurrection).

Jesus spent his life giving people their dignity back. He touched the untouchables, loved those society labeled unlovable, befriended disenfranchised people, and proved that liberty could be experienced even in the face of oppression. He helped people feel whole, and when he was brutalized and killed, people felt the need to affirm the dignity that imperial forces had tried to take from him. The people who had been given their dignity by Jesus returned his dignity to him by affirming that death didn't erase his importance. They kept him alive in ritual, story, and memory, and in time he became the very face of divinity for many. The miracle of the cross isn't that Jesus died, but that he so touched people's lives in life that they wouldn't allow his dignity to die. They labeled him their Christ, and then resurrected his body by claiming to be his body. We are the body of Christ, the living memory of Jesus.

If we worship Jesus' unfortunate and unjust execution, we deny the power of his life. It isn't the blood of Jesus that saves us, its the kind of life that he lived that we too can live.

Rather than worshiping Jesus' death, let's live in the power of his life, which is simply the power of hope, love, and justice. In this way we become Christ in the world, and when enough of us live out the Christ Principle, we will not only refuse to worship violence, we will no longer perpetuate it. During this season of "peace on Earth, goodwill toward all," isn't that the goal to which we should aspire?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gay Progress - the Angels Rejoice!

I was delighted to read today that the Italian Senate called on the Prime Minister's government to present legislation legalizing same-sex unions. Regardless of what happens in response to the Senate's demand, it is significant and encouraging that the upper legislative house of a major country's government made a statement (in defiance of the Vatican it should be noted) in favor of same-sex unions.

I was also delighted to learn that the Canadian House of Commons (the lower legislative house of that country) defeated a move to revisit same-sex marriage in that country. Our neighbor to the north offers legal same-sex marriages but some conservative politicans wanted revisit the issue and repeal the same-sex marriage option. By 50 or so votes, fairness and justice won the day and same-sex marriage remains legal in Canada.

But wait, there is more good news! Today, the largest Christian denomination in Sweden, the Lutheran Church of Sweden, gave its churches permission to bless same-sex unions! Civil unions have been legal in Sweden for more than a decade, but now Sweden's former state-church (and still largest denomination) has given the green light for the church to bless those unions.

And finally, Conservative Judaism moved today toward a more inclusive position toward Jewish gays. The Conservative movement is actually the moderate brand of Judaism, sandwiched between Orthodox Judaism on the Right and Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism on the Left.

Nevertheless, Conservative Judaism has traditionally banned the ordination of openly gay rabbinical students. As of today, that ban has been eased. Conservatives are not yet as welcoming and affirming as the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, but individual seminaries will now be free to admit and even ordain gay students (or to refuse to do so). This appears to be a step toward inclusion, or at least an attempt to open the door to the possibility of future inclusion.

The Italian Senate, the Canadian House of Commons, the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and Conservative Judaism in the U.S. all made progress today and collectively made the world a bit friendlier for gays and lesbians.

There is more work to be done, but today is a good day that offers hope that the work will be done. The march toward justice continues. What's that I hear? Waves crashing? Thunder rolling? No, I believe it is the sound of angels applauding as they always do when justice, fairness, and goodwill are given their rightful place in the world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Must We Believe

A fire and brimstone preacher, I ain't. I tend to be a religious humanist. I have a high view of human potential and capability (however seldom we may seem to fulfill our potential). I don't believe in eternal damnation or that anyone has to hold any certain opinion to win divine favor. So, a credal Christian, I ain't.

Why bother with religion (some ask)?
I like it. When it is done well, when it lifts the human spirit and heals the psychic wounds and brings people together in life-giving community...what's not to love? When the ritual and celebration fills your heart with energy and hope and joy...who wouldn't dig some of that?

But invariably, when I'm going on about the all-inclusive love of "god" (whatever "god" is - I doubt if any two of us REALLY have the same concept, but the word "god" seems to work for whatever we find to be of ultimate significance), someone will defiantly remind me of some harsh, horrible, grossly immoral act recorded in the bible, attributed to "god." This is usually their way of disagreeing with my assessment that all people have sacred value and that god isn't out to get any of us.

I wonder why its important for some people to believe that god is nasty, petty, vile, tribal, petty, prejudiced, harsh, angry, vindictive, punishing, and otherwise icky? It mostly concerns me because I agree with Emerson who said that we are becoming what we worship. To worship meanness...well, let's just say that nothing good can come from it.

I guess that brings me to the point of tonight's rant. What must one believe? My guess? Nothing! Oh, we will believe something, but there is nothing we must believe. We are free to believe one thing or another, and to change our minds. What we believe isn't very important (though it can be interesting and fun). What we become...that's a very different matter, isn't it?

What to believe isn't the purpose of religion. What to be, is. And that takes us back to our image of "god." We are free to choose absolutely any image, but if we are made in the image of our god, and if we are becoming more and more like the god we worship, surely we'll want to choose a god that is decent, kind, generous, loving, helpful. We'll want a god that calls us into joy and abundance and peace. If the god we got ain't doing that, I say get a new one, a better one. That is, get a new and better image of god, the kind of god who empowers us to be the kind of person we want and deserve to be.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How Can the Bible Do So Much Damage?

Its a tiny library, really. Just a short collection of essays, poems, sermons, hymns, Greek-style tragedies, a few romance novellas, biased histories (is there another kind?), legal codes, short-stories, and fantasies. It covers at least three languages, three continents, and a millenium and some change. Institutional powers decided which of these literary bits got in and before you know it, we have a bible.

So far, it all seems harmless enough and even a bit fascinating. Of course, some of the writers that got published in this anthology we call the bible imagined god to be violent, mean, short-tempered, territorial, tribal, and more than a little willing to kick some butt. Other writers thought of god as a kind, wise old watcher of events. Still others thought of god as a loving, omnipresent, eternal parent.

Some of the writers thought their community was special and chosen by god. Some of the writers thought that god would somehow break into human history and establish a utopian realm of peace and love and brotherhood/sisterhood. Of course, it didn't happen. Some still say that they are waiting for it, but the ones who are waiting seem to think that the utopia can only happen after god slaughters and tortures most of the planet. I find their eschatology less than compelling.

Of course, the stories in the bible are filled with miracles that seem ridiculous by today's knowledge. But if taken as myth and metaphor, those miracle stories say alot about the human psyche and human potential. They do communicate powerful truths once they are liberated from the realm of facts.

As literature, I find the bible a delight. I read it. I preach from it. Its images have a home in my thoughts. As reliable history, an argument against science, or a secret code promising eternal rewards to those who can break the code and horrific punishments to those who can't or who can't be bothered to try, I find the bible lacking.

I agree with parts of it; other parts I find reprehensible. Wrestling with it, testing it, reading it, reading against it, applying it, responding to it, living with it as a dialogue partner rather than as a dictator are all useful to my life and faith. When its literary, it speaks to my heart and imagination. When presented as literal, it offends, insults, and disgusts me.

The bible - its a book. Its a human endeavor. Its the record of people who were trying to form community, make sense of life, understand god, survive hardships, and find hope for the future. In that context, it appeals to me very much. On whole, I give it a high recommendation and am glad that I have been influenced by it. So how did it ever become an idol? How did it ever become a entity that dictates fear and prejudice? How did "the bible says" ever become an excuse to do anything, or to exclude anyone? How did a small collection of ancient thoughts become an excuse for modern humans to promote fear, bigotry, and idiocy?

I don't have an answer to my questions. I don't know how the bible became the switch that turns off the human brain. But I can't put it down. I don't think the problem lies in the book, but in the readers.

I continue to read, analyze, criticize, and apply the bible. But I do wish that others would see it for what it clearly is...a collection of thoughts and agendas from ancient people. Its a window to the psyche of our religious ancestors, not a blue print for how we must live today. If we would read it for the collection of ancient stories that it is rather than pretending its the treasure map from god that we can follow to a hidden batch of goodies, then maybe it couldn't be used as a weapon. Fewer people would try to use it that way, and the ones who did would find smaller and fewer audiences.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Swear on the Magic Book of Your Choice

Keith Ellison, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives wants to take his oath of office with his hand on the Qu'ran rather than on the Christian bible. This, apparently, disturbs some people. The whole thing amuses me because the bible people swear on teaches against the swearing of oaths to begin with. But, its easier to worship a book than to read it, and easier to read parts of it than to wrestle with its many possible meanings. But that's another tirade.

Mr. Ellison is a former Roman Catholic who has converted to Islam. He is the first Muslim to serve in Congress and when he takes his oath he wants to do so with his holy book in hand rather than a book that does not represent his faith.

Either people have integrity or they don't. Either they are honest or they aren't. Swearing on the bible, the Qu'ran, the Betty Crocker Cookbook or or the National Enquirer won't make a person be more honest or sincere than he or she would otherwise be. I'm all for having people promise to do their best and to uphold the principles of democracy, but such principles include religious freedom. Religious freedom means that you don't have to swear on anyone's bible, and similarly, that you if you choose to swear on a sacred text that it can be the text that is truly sacred to you.

I know there is some apprehension about Islamic fundamentalists in this country. But thr problem with Muslim fundamentalism isn't the Muslim part - its the fundamentalism part!

Islamic fundamentalism scares me, as does Christian fundamentalism, Hindu fundamentalism, or any other religious view that says there is only one way and the people in power get to choose what that way is and they get to enforce that way through legistlative and/or militaristic means.

Theocracy is a bad idea and it doesn't lend itself to democracy. If freedom is what we really stand for, let the Muslim swear on his book, the Jew on hers, the Christian on his, the Sikh on hers, and let the Humanist stand on his own integrity. This is supposed to be the land of the free, not the land of the Right Wing Religious fanatic. Of course, by keeping religion out of government, this whole controversy could be avoided, but I guess we aren't ready to go there yet. So, until we are, just swear on the magic book of your choice.

World AIDS Day

Another reminder. As if the photo albums weren't enough. As if the quarterly blood draws weren't enough. As if the nightly pills weren't enough. As if the side effects from the drugs weren't enough. On top if it all, we have another reminder: World AIDS Day. A reminder that AIDS isn't over.

Sadly, we do need another reminder. Not only do people act as if AIDS is over, but some will dare to say as much. So here we are, December 1, World AIDS Day.

Sadly, people still become infected.
Sadly, people still miss the ones who died too soon from a disease that has taken too many.
Sadly, some people don't have access to the meds.
Sadly, some people don't respond to the meds.
Sadly, some people have and spread the disease without even knowing it.
Sadly, there is still no cure.

Things are better. Thank God, things are better. We do have medication. The medications work wonders for many. Funerals are no longer a weekly activity in our lives. In three short decades we identified the disease, learned how it is spread, how to prevent it from spreading, how to treat the illnesses it causes, and even how to supress the virus in many cases. Pretty miraculous when you think about it. There is hope, and it is better, but its not over.

My prayer today is that people who are HIV negative will remain so.
My prayer is that people who are HIV positive will have access to life saving treatments.
My prayer today is that a cure will be found. And until it is, we must remember. Amen.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Obama at Saddleback

Why must everything be a controversy? When did we decide that every choice made by every other person is a reason for us to be up in arms? Maybe the drama and confusion keeps us from dealing with the mundane, day to day issues of our own lives.

I was actually surprised and pleased that Rick Warren, "Purpose Driven..." pastor of Saddleback Church is talking about and responding to the Global AIDS crisis and I was extremely impressed that the 60 speakers for the conference will include Sen. Barak Obama.

Now, predictably, some from the far Right are protesting that Obama has even been invited. Why? Because he is pro-choice. But the conference is about AIDS, not procreative freedom. Why shun a public figure from the discussion on AIDS because you disagree with him on a totally separate issue?

To be sure, the Saddleback extravaganza will include more conservative voices, but a willingness to be in dialogue and to be civil toward at least one person with a differing view shouldn't be seen as a threat. This is a good sign. This is a much needed step toward social maturity.

We don't have to think alike to care about the same issues. We don't have to agree to have a conversation. We don't have to be the same in order to work together on issues that impact us all. Why is that so hard for some of us to understand? Kudos to Rev. Rick Warren who seems to be light years ahead of some in his community.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Unhappy Patient

I'm under the weather. What I thought was hayfever evolved into laryngitis which was soon compounded by razor sharp throat discomfort. I've been most pitiful.

I hate being sick, even when its such a little thing as the flu or a sinus infection. You see, I'm HIV+ and I take great pride and comfort in being both alive and in relatively good health. So, whenever I have anything that doesn't fade into nothingness within 24 hours I get very frustrated. I'm the one who believes in mind over matter. I'm the one who believes in positive thinking. I'm the one who whose good health defies reason. So a three day bug threatens my super-survivor self-image.

I know its silly. I mean, feeling good isn't really such an accomplishment. It's not like getting accepted into medical school or being Secretary of State. But somehow, I seem to be very invested in it. So, the three times a year or so that I come down with some cold virus or allergy, I become irritable and more than a little self pitying.

Usually, a bout of throat or respiratory ickiness winds up being a reminder that I'm tired and need rest or that I'm overly stressed and need to put things in perspective. These minor illnesses help me rest my mind and body. You'd think I'd learn to take care of bidness without having to lose my voice or be rendered unconscious from antihistimines.

So here I am, an unhappy patient recovering from laryngitis and fatigue. Things will get back to normal soon. They always do. But this recent bout of the blahs is a good reminder to me, and maybe to you. The reminder is how good things usually are and how much we should appreciate the good. The secondary reminder is that even when things aren't going our way, there is still something good that came from it or at least something valuable to learn from it. I guess a third thing to remember is that if we don't intentionally get enough rest along the way, our bodies will go to dramatic lengths to see that we take care of ourselves, at least sometimes.

In the end, its all good. Hey, now I'm not so unhappy anymore.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Open At the Top

Ernest Holmes called his Religious Science philosophy "open at the top," meaning that all religions had insights worth exploring, that new learning was always possible, that spiritual truths could be discovered from many sources and from one's own experience.

In fact, Holmes never claimed that his Religious Science or "Science of Mind" was divinely revealed. It wasn't dictated by the Archangel Gabriel. It wasn't delivered by the Angel Moroni. It wasn't written down as an oracle or a prophecy. It wasn't canonized by an ecclesiastical council. It wasn't written in a trance. It wasn't the work of an ascended master being channeled through Holmes. It was simply what he discovered from his own research and what he could personally verify by way of practice. Holmes was able to blend the discoveries of science, the opinions of philosophy, and the revelation of religions to form what he believed was a spiritual or religious "science," that is, a systematic approach to spirituality that could be tested and its results repeated.

I'm not pushing the Science of Mind, aka Religious Science, though I have been profoundly influenced by it. What I am pushing is the idea that religion should be "open." Non-doctrinal, open, flexible, inclusive, experiential spirituality that sees the wisdom of science, the brilliance of philosophy, and the beauty of Judaism, Buddhism, the teachings of Jesus, the writings of Emerson and Swedenborg and more is something that can not only help us live happier and maybe even healthier and more prosperous lives but also help prevent needless religious wars and the spiritual violence caused by religious bigotry.

I'm not pushing Science of Mind, per se, but I am pushing for religion that is "open at the top." I hope to see an open Christianity, an open Islam, an open Judaism, an open Wicca, an open Buddhism, an open Hinduism, an open Unitarian Universalism, an open Humanism, an open Agnosticism, an open approach to A Course in openness in Religion that allows for peace and mutual forbearance. I'm ready for religion that builds up the individual seeker without tearing down the lesbian or the gay man or the transexual or the atheist or persons of other religious paths. I don't think a single religion is the answer, nor do I think that the absence of religion is the answer. I believe the answer is whatever religion that helps you without hurting others. I believe the answer is religion that is open at the top.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Give Peace A Chance

There's no denying it. The peaceniks were right. The war in Iraq was a bad idea. We've killed "their" soldiers. "Our" soldiers have died as well. And then there are the poor civilians. I know Saddam Hussein was a big mean doo-doo head, but we didn't invade Iraq b/c of Hussein's doo-doo headedness. We invaded Iraq b/c of inaccurate information that he was an international threat. We shabbily tried to connect the whole ordeal to the U.S. being attacked on 9-11. And now YEARS later (longer than our involvement in WW2), Iran and North Korea ARE international threats, the master-mind behind the 9-11 attacks remains free, OUR civil liberties have been watered down in the name of "national security" and Iraq is in total chaos. Our presence there hasn't stabilized them, it has weakened them and allowed civil war. So, our imperial march on Iraq is in every measurable sense a failure. It's time to admit it.

I'm not saying we need to hold Bush/Cheney, et al. accountable (why start now?). But I don't think its in any way an insult to our troops or our national pride to say that the war was wrong from the beginning and has failed in any case.

Maybe those who say you can't punish a crime with a crime are right. Maybe those who say violence NEVER leads to peace are right. Maybe its time to reestablish some global goodwill toward the U.S. We had the world's sympathy after 9-11. We managed to waste it and replace it with international scorn. And even that might be OK if anything good had come from it, but apparently nothing good has resulted from our cowboy, hot-headed, rush in with guns a-blazin' attitudes and policies.

As we near the season when Christians celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, maybe we will finally and seriously consider the wisdom of working for peace, health, justice, and prosperity in all the world.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Planet Got Demoted

I was born November 15, 1966. This means that I am Scorpio, and though I'm no astrologist, I do check my horoscope now and again. Society, genes, karma/habit energy, chance, maybe even the stars all influence our feelings and choices. And yet, I also believe that we can choose our thoughts and thoughts feed our feelings and how we feel is how we tend to experience life. So, forces beyond me may deal the hand I play, but I still have the power to play the hand strategically and enjoy the game and maybe even win.

Still, for all my self-reliance and positive thinking I find the zodiac as personal myth, psuedo-science, spiritual psychology, or collection of cultural archetypes to be interesting. And that brings me to my question of today.

As a Scorpio, my ruling planet (or influencing planet) is Pluto, that distant, cold world named for the Lord of the Underworld. Pluto represents what is buried, or the subconscious or deep emotions. Of course the underworld could be dull, tortoreous, or blissful, depending on one's character in life. So the image isn't one that strikes fear in a Scorpio's heart. It just symbolizes depth and hidden possibilities.

But now Pluto has been downgraded. It's a sub-planet or mini-planet or planet-wannabe. I believe the official verbiage is "dwarf planet." If its not really a planet, does it still influence me? Can it still represent all the dark, mysterious, and mostly groovy things I have always attributed to it?

Of course, some signs have the sun or the moon as their ruling planet, so a planet need not be a planet in the zodiac bidness. But still, it is a bit of a let down when one's influential planet gets demoted. That's something that may be hard for proud Scorpio to accept, unless the sign of transformation figures out a way to see it all as a deep mystery that only the brilliant Scorpio mind can fathom and enjoy. Yeah, that's it. And the power of positive thinking saves the day again!

The stars guide me while leaving me the power to navigate my own journey and create my own destiny. I love having my cake and eating it too. How Scorpio of me (with my cute, magical, special, unique dwarf planet).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Borat is Genius

Saw the controversial film "Borat."
The film's in your face anti-semitism, homophobia, sexism, classism, and willingness to make fun of fundamentalist religion, anti-intellectualism, and the shallow worship of a Hollywood icon all show these things as they exist in America.

The character Borat is making a film for his developing country and goes to New York to learn how his country can improve. While in the Big Apple he falls in love with Pamela Anderson from Baywatch and makes a trek across country to find her in California. Along the way he films his adventures and though "Borat" is a fictional character most of the people he encounters are unsuspecting real people who believe he is a legitmate foreign film maker. Trusting the character, these people show who they are and what they believe. The end result is something that gives the USA more of a black eye than it does Sacha Noam Baron Cohen (the creator of Borat who plays the role).

Cohen in his role of Borat has shown how much the US is still gripped by bigotry, suspicion of the "other" and fear of new information and change. Cohen has shown that the US is still a relatively young country with some growing up yet to do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Morning

2:30 AM EST.
Cold for Florida. In the 50s. High tomorrow back to 70+.
Its quiet at this time. Dark. Serene.
My eyelids feel heavy. Sleep will come easily. Still, I resist.
Its a special time, the "wee" hours of the morning.
My time. Not to do, just to be.
Sleep will be restful and recuperative.
Daytime will be full of chores and duties and responsibilities.
But this time is just to let thoughts wander, to feel the silence, to breathe and remember the unity of all life.
Some people think they are not spiritual. They think they don't believe anything. They think they don't or can't pray.
But I wonder: do they ever allow themselves to be up, alone, and still at 2:30 in the morning? Do they ever just experience the chill? Do they notice the depth and richness of the silence? Do they feel the air molding to their form? Do they look out the window and see more than objects and shadows?
If so, my guess is that they are in sublime communion with the infinitely Sacred. They may or may not name it; but is the experience any less profound?
2:30 Thanksgiving morning. I wish the magic of the moment for all people.

Shopping for Equality

The holiday shopping season is moments away and people who want to use their money to promote fairness and equality should be informed.

The Human Rights Campaign has a buyers' guide that grades retailers based on how supportive they are of gay and lesbian equality.

Surprisingly, Ambercrombie & Fitch scores an embarrassingly low 50%. And though the Religious Right has recently behaved as if Wal-Mart was changing its name to Queer Mart, WM actually only received a solid "D" (65%).

Stores and companies that do make the grade (between 80 and 100 percent) include Best Buy, Sears, KMart, Walgreens, Borders, Waldenbooks, Whole Foods Market, Costco, Staples, Home Depot, Save-A-Lot, Shaw's, Target, the Gap, Levi Straus, Nordstrom, Liz Claiborne, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, After Hours, On the Border, Chili's, Romano's Macaroni Grill, TGI Friday's, Boston Market, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Coca-Cola products, General Mills foods, Kraft, Clorox, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Walt Disney, BET, CBS, Logo, MTV, Starbucks, the New York Times, USA Today, Comcast, Verizon, American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, Southwest Airlines, Chevron, BP, Shell, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagon, Toyota, Subaru, UPS, Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Citibank, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, Visa, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Master Card, Discover, and more. In fact, there are about 138 companies that make the HRC's A/B Honor Roll. There is also a list of companies that are not yet as friendly to LBGT buyers.

There are billions of dollars in the LBGT community and even more money when you consider our friends and allies. This season, enjoy shopping and reward those companies that stand for fairness and inclusion. Let them know doing the right thing can actually be profitable.

For the HRC buyersguide, visit

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Present Moment

When I left my condo this morning at 9 AM it was 52 degrees. Now at 2 PM it is up to 63. I have every window open, an oscillating fan blowing on "low," and enjoying the sunny, breezy, cool afternoon here in South Florida in late November.

I've taken most of the day off from work to take care of errands here at home in preparation for Thanksgiving. But even as I work to get our guest room actually guest-ready, I need to stop and notice the beautiful autumn (though still very green and sunny) day and just feel gratitude for my life.

I'm alive.
I'm alive here.
I'm alive now.
Right here. Right now. This moment. That's all that really is and if I'm not careful I'll miss it. So, I pause to be mindful of the moment I have, and when I do that I am naturally filled with wonder and gratitude and joy.

The holidays can be stressful and we all live increasingly busy lives. But there is always a moment just to be. Give yourself that moment; what else is there?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Prayer for Transgender Day of Remembrance

Dear God, why are people so threatened by transgender folk? How could we ever so dehumanize or demonize the "other" that we would feel compelled and justified to harm them? Transgender people are ridiculed, harassed, beaten, and even killed just for being "different." Have we not evolved beyond such violent intolerance? Is this who we really are as a species? How can there be so much hate, ignorance, fear, and rage just because someone's reality doensn't match our expectations of them? Why should expect anything?

So, God, I spend this moment to honor those brave transgender people who lost their lives simply because they found the courage to live their truth. I spend this moment hoping that those who mourn the loss of their transgendered loved ones will find comfort. I spend this moment praying for healing for our violent and all too often hate-filled world. I spend this moment asking for forgiveness for the times that I have done something that made things worse or failed to do something that might have made things better for transgender people. I spend this moment wishing for a world where every person can live safely with dignity and pride in harmony with all others.

When apathy, ignorance, privilege, or prejudice hurts others, may we stand up and speak out and be agents for positive change in our world. And on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I affirm that all victims of hate and violence live on in your heart where there is only goodness, love, and light. Amen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wal Mart Becomes Gay Friendly; Next, Hell Freezes Over

I don't know what to think or how to feel. Wal Mart, often called "Sprawl Mart" because of its ginormous stores that seem to be ubiquitous has been an easy enough target of liberal ridicule. By offering non-union, non-benefit jobs to the working poor and savagely destroying the independent small business owner, WM was easy enough to view as a kind of retail monster - part of all that is wrong and ugly and in need of repair in our capitalistic society.

But now WM has decided to do a decent and courageous thing and is even taking some abuse for it. What's a left-leaning, self-respecting homo to do?

Wal Mart has intentionally increased its diversity program to include LBGT sensitivity. The company's definition of "immediate family" now includes same-sex partners. And earlier this year WM became involved with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. This clearly calls for a re-think of WM on my part.

A few warm gestures to their underpaid LBGT employees is not enough to make me fall completely in love with WM. But here's something that adds to the complexity of the issue: the Right Wing Religious Homophobes are now attacking Wal Mart for treating their gay employees a bit more fairly (or at least no more unfairly than their other employees).

Now, let's be clear. WM has not organized a march in favor of gay marriage. WM has not endorsed Barney Frank for president. Wal Mart just make a couple of nice gestures to their hard-working same-gender loving employees. That's all. In response, the Alabama Baptist State Convention, the Missouri Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, and Operation Rescue have all threatened Wal Mart with some form of boycott.

Admittedly, I'm a leftie, pinko, throwback to an age that still had utopian hopes. But I am continually stunned at the level of meanness that these "Christians" are capable of demonstrating. I guess they never considered that "love thy neighbor" might also include their gay neighbor. Hell, I don't even want their love. I'd settle for them just to keep their rabid hatred to themselves.

So, because WM has finally decided that its queer employees are actually human and deserve what little regard they offer their other employees, they now face the wrath of people who claim to love God and follow Jesus (much to the embarrassment of Jesus, I'm sure). This makes WM the victim of homophobia, and that makes me inclined to support them.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gay Penguins Are Harmless; Homophobic Humans Are Not

You know what? Knowing that penguins might be gay won't make your children gay.

An Illinois school has recently encountered controversy because in its library there is a picture book based on a true story about two male penguins that "adopt" a fertilized egg and raise the chick as their own.

Why is this controversial?
One, gay people exist.
Two, apparently gay penguins exist.
Three, loving couples often want to share their love with children (or chicks as the case may be). It happens. Children won't be damaged by knowing that it happens.

Every love song on the radio is about heteronormative love and desire. Being inundated with this music has not made me straight, not even a little.

For most of my life, every happy couple on television was always made up of a man and a woman. Seeing all this straight love didn't make me straight, not even a little.

My parents are married to each other, and they are one man and one woman. Their life-long union didn't make me straight, not even a little.

If swimming in a sea of heterosexual images doesn't make gay people straight, why would any rational person think that a few gay islands in that see would make straight people gay? It seems that we simply are what we are, and a zillion heterosexual penguins won't change the gay kids, and I promise a single gay penguin couple won't change the straight kids, not even a little.

There's nothing wrong with being straight, or gay. And, there is nothing wrong with change. But who we are sexually seems pretty fixed, so maybe we can all relax. Being told I "should" be straight didn't change who I am. Being told it's "OK" to not be straight won't change who anyone else is. Though, messages of acceptance might help the gay kids not grow up to be self-loathing hypocrites and the straight kids not grow up to be gay-bashing bigots, and that might prove to be a very good thing for our world.

Gay penguins are harmless. Homophobic humans are not.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Remain Closeted and Celibate? No Thanks.

"The nation's Roman Catholic bishops, meeting in Baltimore, declared Tuesday that Catholics who minister to gays must firmly adhere to the church's teaching that same-sex attractions are 'disordered.' Catholics with 'a homosexual inclination' should be encouraged to live in chastity and discouraged from making 'general public announcements' about their sexual orientation, the bishops said." - Washington Post, November 15, 2006

The U.S. Catholic Bishops are trying to be welcoming of gay and lesbian persons even as they judge them to be disordered. But I don't think anyone will truly feel welcomed if they are told that who they are is innately flawed.

Whereas I am glad to see an attempt to soften rhetoric against same-gender loving Catholics and I realize that the institutional Church is a powerful and ancient entity that makes change difficult, I all the same regret that the Church remains unable to affirm the sacred value of its lesbian and gay members.

It is not pastoral to ask people to live closeted lives of loneliness and dishonesty. I continue to be grateful for all worshiping communities that affirm same-gender love as being part of the beautiful diversity of creation.

Religious homophobia is toxic to both our society and to the same-gender loving individuals it targets. I continue to believe and affirm that same-gender attraction is healthy, holy, and perfectly ordered as part of a vast and glorious universe full of amazing possibilities.

The bishops may claim to have the “true teachings,” but any truth that is a tool of oppression is not true enough.

It's Official: Marriage is Over

Done. Dead. Run its course.

I woke up this morning 40 years old and starting my new decade of life I find I am possessed of great wisdom all at once, and from the depth of my profound understanding I declare that marriage is passe, dead, yesterday's news, ancient history.

Not love. Love is still in good shape.
Not commitment. There will always be people who say to one another, "I like you and I'm happy being with you and I think we should be nice to each other and take care of each other from here on out."
But the heterosexist institution whereby a father "gives" his daughter to a man and the couple promises to cherish each other within the bonds of marriage until death or divorce on the grounds of infidelity or mental and/or physical cruelty separates them is through. Finished. "Wave your little hand and whisper so long dearie..."

I take no delight in this. I'm just noticing what is and naming it. I couldn't have predicted it. I didn't especially want it. I'm no better or worse off knowing that its true. But it is true. And this is how I know: Because we're going to the trouble of banning it for same-gender loving couples.

The institution of marriage apparently is so fragile, weak, sickly, terminal, that just knowing that gay people are engaging in it threatens the whole darn thing. The pope is begging countries to forbid it. People in congress want to pass laws against it. Many of our states have changed their constitutions so that it can't happen. If marriage is so weak that my having access to it would destroy it worldwide, then guess what, it's already over. I'm an ordained clergy person and available to conduct the funeral. Call me when you're ready.

I'm surprised, but there you are. Marriage is so unsteady that it can only survive if it belongs exclusively to straight people. It's a shame. I would have guessed it was healthier and more resilient than that, but apparently not.

Rest in peace, marriage. You had a good long run, but your day is done. We'll miss you. I'm sorry you went to your final reward before same-sex couples were able to taste and see what you had to offer. But if you were so sick that you couldn't withstand even the idea of two women or two men being admitted to your country club like status (restricted and exclusive), then you must have been in a lot of misery anyway. So, hopefully you are now out of pain and are enjoying beautiful harp music being played by angels.

I'm 40.
Marriage is dead.
And the world still keeps on turning.
Ain't that a kick in the butt?!