Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween (from the Prince of Darkness)

Hail and greetings!

It's Halloween, so I thought this might be a good time for me to check in.
Who am I? The Source of all Evil, of course! The Devil, the Boogey-Man, Light Jazz, call me what you will. But the important thing is that I'm bad news and my job is to screw up all that is wholesome and hopeful and joyous in the world. How am I doing so far?

The truth is, I don't really exist. You've heard television preachers scream, "the devil is a liar," right? Well, that's almost the case. Really, the devil is a LIE. You made me up, but until you decide you don't need me anymore, I guess I'll keep spreading my mischief. What else is a devil to do?

Oh, sure, I mess around here and there with some e-coli contaminated spinach, traffic jams, and Mel Gibson films, but that's just my minor mischief when I get bored. I also do some major damage. Seriously, I'm up to no good.

Now, I don't cause the homo-hatred that results in gays and lesbians being harassed and killed in Jamaica. I don't cause the rampant fear that keeps people from getting tested for HIV or from using condoms so that they spread disease and havoc across entire communities. I don't cause the misogyny that insists that God is a boy's name and that women can't be priests. I don't even cause senseless wars that kill, maim, and terrorize people across the planet. I just can't take credit for all that chaos. No, all that's on the human family. Fear, hatred, bigotry, oppression - that's people stuff. You created it. You perpetuate it. You can fix it.

But I will take credit for the dishonest distractions that keep you from dealing with the real issues. I'm the lie that suggests that same-gender loving people endanger the institution of marriage, an institution that is already so out of vogue that spats and bustles are more likely to make a come-back than it is. More couples live together unmarried than married, and of those who do marry, half will divorce. But I'm the little fib that says that chronically ill institution is somehow endangered by people of the same gender who want to sail on that sinking ship. Aren't I a stinker?

I can also take credit for the whoppers that get you focused on what people do in their bedrooms with consenting partners so that you forget about things like poverty, injustice, war, disease, environmental devastation, and corporate greed. When those really important issues go unaddressed and therefore cause turmoil throughout the world, my agenda is being served. So keep up the silliness. Better (for me) that you should squabble over the 10% or less of the population who are gay than to work for peace, justice, welfare, and equal opportunity.

And here's my biggest success: the lie that your vote doesn't matter. I love it when people stay home on election day. I love it when people don't educate themselves about the issues and when they don't hold their government leaders accountable. That's when my evil genius is at its best. I'm all atwitter with delight just thinking of who all will be under served, under represented, and under appreciated just because they didn't bother to let their vote and voice be heard on election day.

I'm pretty busy for someone who doesn't exist. Of course, I don't really exist. I only represent evil, evil that the human conscience and character could eliminate overnight. But until people wake up and make what I represent disappear (and thereby get rid of me as well), I'll still spread my naughty lies, and on slow days, some more e-coli.

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Thought With An Edge

I'm a New Thought person. I mean, my idea of God is monistic (I believe there is one Substance and It is spiritual), my preferred method of prayer is to affirm something until I feel it is undeniably true and then trust that it will unfold in the best possible way, I don't believe in an eternal after life place of torment, I do believe that our thoughts and attitudes influence how we experience life, and I believe that no religion has all the answers but that there are many religions that are good and help people become their best selves. So, this non-theistic, universalist, mind over matter way of engaging life fits into the positive thinking philosophies that are often summed up by the term "New Thought." 

I should add that I'm a New Thought Christian, because I dig Jesus and I spend a lot of time and energy with the Judeo-Christian scriptures and I was born into a Christian family and culture and I have been educated in Christian seminaries and I have been baptized, confirmed, and ordained in expressions of Christianity. I do not, however, believe that Jesus was predestined to die for my sins (or anyone else's), nor do I believe that a violent act of atonement was the only way for people to be in relationship with God. I don't believe that Christians are better than non-Christians or that Christians have a better shot at "eternal security." I'm a Christian by choice and chance and not because I am hoping this 2000 year old, evolving tradition will save me from damnation.

Now, who cares? Well, I do. I have hitched my wagon to New Thought and this brings a few questions to mind. New Thought philosophy is positive and optimistic and generous and empowering...no wonder so many people turn to Unity, Divine Science, Religious Science, Universal Foundation for Better Living, the Swedenborgian Church, and A Course in Miracles as well as to Positive Thinking parishes within mainline denominations and Twelve Step groups that share many New Thought ideas. But since New Thought is so positive, why do our practitioners so seldom speak out against racism, sexism, homophobia, war, exploitation, environmental abuse, and other "negative" conditions?

I know we want to be “nice.” I know we want to have the sweet smiles and even tones and serene demeanors. But we also want to bring healing in the world, and healing discordant conditions means naming them from time to time. I don't think we are abandoning our New Thought heritage to say that unjust wars are tragic mistakes. Aren't we about correcting errors in our lives? I don't think we are being negative when we insist that all gender identities and all sexual orientations and all ethnicities and all races and all nationalities be treated with respect and offered equal opportunities.

Perhaps New Thought would be even more effective and relevant if we claimed our place as promoters of social justice and equality. We aren't dimming our light; we are sharing it with those who have been denied it for too long.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ban on Black Cats

Did you read about the temporary ban on black cats in Idaho? During the Halloween season, the Humane society in northern Idaho won't allow the adoption of black cats for fear that they will be used in "satanic" rituals.

I'm glad I didn't land on this planet as a black cat in Idaho needing a home at Halloween time! To adopt a pet one must be screened. If someone appeared to have less than noble intentions (regardless of what the calendar said), that person would probably (and definitely should) be denied the chance to adopt any animal.

I realize there are mean people in the world who do crazy things (like hurting people and animals and the environment - but enough about our government), but let's not punish cats because our unchecked superstitions say they are the boogie man's beast of choice.

Screen all applicants and help all animals in need of good homes find safe and loving places to be - 365 days a year.

These thoughts come to you from the adoptive parent of TWO black cats (myahahahaha).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Life of Reilly

I was born in 1966 (I am less than three weeks away from my 2nd annual 39th birthday) in St. Michael's Hospital in the town of Texarkana, AR, Miller County. If you hear Loretta Lynn singing in the background it is with good reason.

Texarkana in the 60s and 70s and 80s was not a fertile breeding ground of sophistication, progressive thought, tolerance or diversity. In fact, I can't tell that there is any reason for the place to exist other than to inspire Dante-like imaginings of eternal torment and despair.

Of course, my entire childhood was not spent in Texarkana, AR. No indeed! There was a brief period of my young life spent just outside of Little Rock in a tiny town called Bryant. And there was about 10 horrific years in an unincorporated community outside of Texarkana known as Liberty-Eylau, Bowie County, TX. We had a KMart, an abundance of fundamentalist churches, a Dairy Queen and a minimum security Federal Prison. But at least my neighborhood existed on a dirt road and we enjoyed such luxuries as our own ground-water well, party-line telephones, and all three major non-cable television networks. The air was filled with an unforgettable stench that can only be produced by the combination of a pickle factory, a paper mill, epidemic poverty, and a rabid fear of higher education in the liberal arts.

Now, I was not alone in this land that time forgot, and many people (my parents and two younger siblings among them) seem to be perfectly content in a place where subtitled films are as unheard of as a female bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. But I was different. Odd. Special. Queer even. Yes, I landed on this planet predisposed to loving and being almost exclusively attracted to people of my own gender. I was gifted with the love that dare not speak its name. So, now you see why my environment may not have been conducive to a childhood of fun, frivolity, self-actualization, and safety.

Adulthood took me far from my humble (and in some ways humiliating) childhood to Arkadelphia, AR (a college town), Dallas, TX (an urban area), Hagerstown, MD (a rural village only 60 miles from Washington, DC), New York City (4 and a half years of a dream come true - almost Paradise), and now Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Each of these places have been far superior to the town of my birth and upbringing.

HOWEVER - to be fair, I must confess moments of utter delight growing up. Mae West movies. Campy Batman television episodes (especially the ones with Batgirl and Catwoman). Bewitched. Hollywood Squares with Paul Lynde. The Match Game with Charles Nelson Reilly. Strong, powerful women. People who were "different" yet gifted and beautiful and powerful ("witches"), and flamboyant semi-out gay men (Lynde and Reilly). These televised friends gave me hope that someone like me had a place in the world and that I could and would find my way and even enjoy most of the journey.

So when the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival announced that it would be showing "The Life of Reilly," an autobiographical show about and performed by Charles Nelson Reilly, you bet your ass I was going to see it. And see it I did.

Charles took me back to a time when he was subliminally telling me over the airwaves that I was OK and that I would flourish once I found "my" environment. He also validated every little queer boy from Helltown as he told of his less than perfect childhood that led him right to Broadway and eventually to my childhood living room to give me hope that I didn't even realize I was experiencing at the time.

CNR performed "Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly" to packed houses across the U.S. and finally filmed a live performance for the independent film that is now called "The Life of Reilly." At 75 years old, Reilly is still a story-teller, a comedian, an actor, a survivor, a charmer, a teacher, and an old friend inviting his audience to laugh at him, themselves, and the craziness of life. And in the laughter, one is bound to find release and maybe even empowerment.

A sissy from the Bronx grew up to help a sissy from the boonies know that a full, fun, and brilliant life is possible for the different, the queer. Thank you, Charles, for your odd sense of humor and queer courage that helped me find my own. And thank you for sharing a story that still needs to be heard.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Marriage Equality

Civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut.
Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Canada.
Domestic partnernships in various counties, cities and states across the nation.
Other countries that allow same sex marriage or allow LBGT people to serve in the military or that offer widows benefits to people who have lost their same-sex partner to death.

Now New Jersey joins the growing the list of progressive and fair-minded regions that must offer all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-gender couples who wish to make a legal commitment.

The arguments are already raging. Some are saying Civil Unions are good enough. Others point out that separate but equal is never really equal. Someone else pipes up that all marriages should be civil and religous blessings should be optional additions to the state marriage contracts. Those who view equality as a threat are already predicting gloom and doom and the fall of society because a few small northern states have decided that gay citizens are citizens none-the-less and can't be legally marginalized based on their consensual relationships.

Regardless of where you fall in the discussion, allow me to suggest that it is good for us to be having the discussion. We are considering the humanity of people often demonized without proper consideration. We are daring to suggest that "liberty and justice for all" really means ALL. We are raising the question: is bigotry ever acceptable simply because we claim it is a religious value. We are talking about important issues and in some places we are daring to experiment with broader freedom and truer equality. That takes courage and such courage should be applauded.

Some gloomy Guses said all that is righteous and decent and wonderful would perish and wither if women could vote. The same predictions were made when racial segregation was challenged. Some people predicted doom and disaster if a Catholic should ever become president. Including women, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, people of color, sexual minorities, the working class, and others into the potentially equal distribution of power and privilege has been a long struggle, and every victory has been hard won. And yet, most would agree in hindsight that making society freer and more just has not damamged our culture, it has improved it. And really, if the only thing keeping our country strong was its ability to discriminate against minorities of one kind or another, then it didn't deserve to remain strong anyway, because strength that is maintained at the expense of the powerless is abusive and obscene.

One small area at a time, equality is taking hold as we continue to march forward in the potential and promise of our shared future. This is an exciting time and I have great hope for what still may come.

Let's Talk Exploitation

Parkinson's is a serious disease. There is real hope that people with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and other terrifying conditions might be effectively treated (dare we even hope, possibly cured!) if stem-cell research were allowed to move forward unhindered.

So, it is no surprise that actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, agreed to lend his celebrity status and health condition to help support a Midwestern Senatorial candidate who is in favor of stem cell research.

So far, it all seems fair enough. We all value life. Some people call themselves pro-life because they oppose the medical procedure that aborts unwanted pregnancies. But there is also a responsibility to help people who are currently alive live with dignity, hope, comfort, and care. That's why those of us who want universal health care coverage, who favor diplomacy over war, and who would like to see stem cell research go forward to cure the chronically ill are also pro-life. Some of us are pro-life in utero, others of us are pro-life (and pro-quality of life) for those who have been born. Just because one does not consider abortion to be unquestionably reprehensible does not keep one from being "pro-life."

Fox apparently made a television ad for the political candidate and the TV ad showed Fox compromised by his disease. In response, Rush Limbaugh reportedly accused Fox of dramatizing his condition, appearing sicker than he really is to exploit his condition.

Now, without getting into the many reasons why Limbaugh doesn't have the moral authority to point his finger at Fox (or anyone else really), let's just imagine this for a moment...What if Michael J. Fox did choose to skip his meds for a day or two so that we could see the effects of Parkinson's? What if he being intimately aquainted with the problems of Parkinson's dramatized the effects that are normally under control with medication? In either case, he would not be pulling the wool over our eyes. Parkinson's is a major disease and he really does have it. I think it took courage for him to show the public what it is like to be weakened by the disease that effects him personally. And to do so for a cause he obviously believes in is all the more acceptable if not noble. And, just possibly, Fox is a highly principled person who did nothing other than show his reality as it is today - no acting, no gimmicks, no tricks.

For a victim of Parkinson's to share his reality with the public in order to put a human face on a difficult condition is not exploitive. It is human and brave and compassionate. For someone to try to discredit him for political purposes is another matter. Though, this would not be the first time Mr. Limbaugh avoided the high road.

For Michael J. Fox to share his story as a means of educating people is a personal choice. It may or may not persuade voters to support his preferred candidate. But it should give viewers cause to think more deeply about the issue. For Rush Limbaugh to accuse a sick man of faking the severity of his illness in hopes that viewers will not consider both sides of the issue - that is exploitive, unethical, and unworthy of any public figure in a civil society.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Halloween is fast approaching. It's a fun holiday full of fantasy and make believe and dress up. It's a day when magic seems possible and the doors between worlds appear to be left ajar. There is an exciting energy to the holiday.

However, there are those who believe that Halloween is a day of evil, where goblins and devils really seek to harm the innocent and where nefarious forces try to lure troubled teens to the "dark side." Of course, if you believe Halloween, or Christmas, or Ground Hog Day, or Last Thursday is evil, then you will likely experience it to be so. Our minds are powerful, and if we believe something strongly enough, we will often experience that something in some fashion.

The truth is, we don't need to be suspicious of Halloween. It can be just another day for some of us. It can be a fun night of parties or "trick-or-treating" for others. It can be a silly excuse to visit a "Haunted House" and experience the thrill of a manufactured fright. Or for some, it is even a holy day where they revere the energies of life and honor their loved ones who have died. Like any day or any season, Halloween can mean many things and mostly what it means is what we decide it means.

Halloween isn't evil, unless we bring evil intentions to it. It's just a day on our calendar and we can make of it what we will. It can be a fun day, a holy day, or just another day. As with most things, the power lies in our minds.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I forget that its all energy. A desk. A diamond. Lead. Gold. Me. Everything is just a pattern of energy and information. Of course there are smarter ways of breaking that down. I should probably mention atomic and subatomic particles and the fact that really the particles are just energy too, blah blah blah. Science bores me (and my high school grades will testify to that fact). But when I remember, when I allow myself to think about it...

We are energy beings in an energy world. We occupy a Universe of energy. No wonder magic and prayer and quantum physics and various other modalities seem to work miracles. If we can let ourselves get past the illusion of material reality (by illusion I mean that it isn't ultimately real...matter doesn't last; it eventually decays and returns to, well, energy), then we sense a vast realm of infinite possibilities where thoughts and intentions are part of the energy field and can manifest as matter and experience. We really are sacred. We really are divine. We really are powerful. Jesus knew what he was saying when he declared "The Universe and I are one" (he called the big U "Abba" which we usually translate as "Father"). But its true. The Universe and I are one. The Universe and you are one. You and I are one. It's all one infinite energy-field and its forever.

So let's start using some of this awesome power for the good of our world. France, the US, China, Russia, the UK, Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel, and God knows who else have nuclear weapons. Isn't that disturbing that 9 or more countries have weapons of mass destruction (and ironic that apparently Iraq never did and yet we send people to die there every day because we were told they did - but I digress). Global warming, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS...there is so much discord and fear and vengeance and other yucky stuff. What if we believed we could make a change?

We can. Our prayers are energy. Our money is energy. Our love is energy. It's all energy. So when we vote or worship or contribute to worthy causes or share our time or say a prayer or dare to hope...we are using our energy, the energy of Life in constructive ways. When enough of us do that consistently enough for long enough, we will have created a very new and much needed world. We can do it. And we must.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Karma is simply the belief that what goes around comes around - with momentum. In terms less woogie, it is cause and effect. Choices have consequences. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Whatever one sows, that shall she also reap. The one who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Pee up a rope, make a big mess.

So, I believe in karma. I'm not saying "God will get you for that Walter" (how I loved Maude) and I'm not saying that if things go badly today it's because we did something naughty 14 lifetimes ago. I'm just saying that if you play with fire you may get burned. I'm saying if we knock over a domino, the others may come crashing down as well. I'm saying, what we do matters and sometimes what we do will have long lasting consequences. It's not even all that mystic; it's just common sense and each of us have experiences that validate the hypothesis.

So, when we think about sending young people into preventable wars, we pay a heavy price. When we justify or ignore torture, we pay a heavy price. When we allow life-saving medications to be a matter of profit rather than a matter of justice, we pay a heavy price. When we vote for people who will use their political power to support our religious views, we pay a heavy price. When we allow our government to deny due process and equal protection under the law for the sake of "security," we pay a heavy price. We reap what we sow. Our actions have equal and opposite reactions. What goes around, comes around.

While people are fighting to have prayer in school, I wish they would privately pray for peace. While people call themselves pro-life, I wish they would support policies that would make sure every person gets to have a quality of life that is protected by medical insurance. While people are calling for the Ten Commandments in public buildings, I wish they would consider the Golden Rule. When people are demanding that the phrase "under God" (which was added to our pledge of allegiance in 1954) be left in our pledge of allegiance, I wish they would also take as seriously the words that follow, "with liberty and justice for ALL."

I remember hearing a couple of elections ago a lot about "compassionate conservatism." I'm ready for some compassionate leadership whether it is conservative, liberal, or moderate. Compassion and justice and mercy and goodwill aren't qualities of the liberal or the conservative; they are the qualities of the evolved and enlightened human spirit. I worry about the karma of a nation that is increasingly committed to war, exclusion, division, and control. I would much rather our leaders plant seeds of hope, healing, prosperity, and peace. Because, whatever we plant in the soil of our national consciousness, we will surely reap in abundance.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Road to Hell

If we're going to hell in a hand basket, I hope someone remembered to pack some lemonade. A chronically ill cave dweller sent some brainwashed wackos to New York and DC 5 years ago to fly planes into buildings. This homicidal nutjob was a Saudi citizen hanging out in Afghanistan, so of course, we attacked Iraq.

Fast forward half a decade. The chronically ill cave dweller is still safe and sound in some Afghan cave. We're still ass deep in Iraq. More of the world hates us than ever before, but at least during our "war on terror" another rubber room candidate has tested a nuclear bomb. Are we feeling safe yet?

Look, I know the minority who illegally placed George W. in office 6 years ago and the slim and suspect majority that said he could stay 2 years ago were really voting for Jesus and against queers, for mom, the flag, puppies, postcard-esque sunsets and sanctified acts of torture and against the evils of religious tolerance, wimpy diplomacy, baby-killing abortionists and the pinko lefties who want to provide social programs for the babies that are born in a world where 6% of the planet's population controls almost all the world's wealth. But let's breathe for a minute and ask ourselves honestly, did our theocratic dreams create a safer, more prosperous world?

I'm not cracking on the Flat Earth Society, really. Hey, there are those who might find my world of Reiki, Science of Mind, Motorcycle Diaries, Angel Therapy, Tarot readings, and internet gay radio to be a bit strange or over the top. Live and let live, right? Well, that's just the point. Let live for Christsake! Enough with the wars. Enough with the torture. Enough with the executions. Enough with the revenge. Enough with the fascist attempts to limit civil liberties in the name of national security.

Things have gotten scarier and creepier and crazier in the Bushiverse. Can't we finally say, "Everyone who wants public displays of the 10 commandments and prayer in schools and nativity sets on courthouse lawns - we get it. You love your religious views and you take them seriously and you're entitled to them and you should be respected for living them out so passionately. But please, can we separate church and state again, and take religious fervor out of government? Voting our faith instead of our intellects or even our conscience has gotten us in a lot of trouble. We'll applaud your faith if you'll release our government and start voting for smart, competent, qualified people again"?

Pick a political party, any political party, but let it be political and not religious. The road to hell is paved with religious sentiment, and if we go too much farther down that road, there may be no turning back.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fat As I Am

Wasn't it Sophie Tucker who sang, "I don't want to get thin; you can laugh and you can grin but I'm doing very well the way I am"? Oh for such self confidence!

And didn't Mae West in mid-life and full figured just know that she was sex walking! Oh for such self assurance!

And wasn't it Bette Midler who made fun of herself by singing, "Fat as I am, who wants to see a diva fat as I am..."? How wonderful to laugh at one's foibles rather than taking them too seriously.

Well, here I am, weeks away from 40 and for the first time in life I've passed the 200# mark on the hateful, satanic scales of scorn. Every photographic image of myself, every mirror reflection, every bathroom scale, every pair of pants that fit me only two months ago that now serve only to cut me in half as I try to zip them up all remind me that I'm starting on the back 9 and I may need a cart to finish!

Oh, I swear that I will get to the gym or take a pilates class or sit on a cushion and meditate the lbs away. But mostly, I drink another soda (never diet) and prepare for the next Star Trek rerun on TV. After all, Captain Kirk is quite corpulent these days too. At least I have my hair, though the same mirror that shows my Santa belly and double chin also demonstrates that my luxurious hair is as a grey as a mule's. Can I please catch a break?! Though, at this point I couldn't even catch a frisbee (not that I would bother to try).

Maybe this is what middle age is like. I keep hearing that 60 is the new 40, so why does 40 look like the old 60?! It isn't fair.

Maybe I'll get to the gym. Maybe I'll will away the poundage and release the svelte inner 'mo that longs to re-emerge. Or, maybe I'll channel the spirit of Sophie and decide that I'm doing very well the way I am. I think that may be the answer. My new resolution is to have the attitude of Ruth Brown, who sings, "Now look at this nice bottom, ain't it easy on the eyes, guaranteed to support any weight or size!" Or in the words of a song from that fun musical, WHEN PIGS FLY, "Put on a few its not so bad, your man will learn to love it; I have all I ever had - in fact I have a lot more of it."

Yes, there are reasons to get back in the gym and work on being healthier. But I can be happy with who I am right now. At any size, at any age, I'm a damn good person. Now I feel fantastic! I think I'll celebrate with a pizza. Hey! Who are you to judge?! I'm doing very well the way I am!!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Whose Freedom is in Danger?

I was appalled (though not surprised) to read of a New England governor speaking to a church group claiming that gay-marriage threatens the American family. I'm so tired of this line, but mostly, I'm amazed and outraged that it works! Who really believes that? Half of all U.S. marriages in end in divorce, and census results now say that more people are single than married. Are the few people in a couple of New England states who have chosen to celebrate their commitments with legal civil unions or same-sex marriages really to blame for the unprecedented failure of heterosexual marriages across this country? I think not.

I continue to hope that the day will come when ALL marriages will be civil (rather than religious) and that the state will not use religion as an excuse to promote homophobia. Once a couple of any gender make-up exchange their vows in front of a county or city official, they would then be free to have their relationship blessed by a religious authority. And, the religious authority would be free to deny the blessing for any reason in the world. This, I believe, would be a step in the direction of "liberty and justice for all."

Religious people often claim that they are victimized because their anti-gay prejudice isn't universally protected. As long as they claim that their homophobia is a religious value, they believe they should be allowed to discriminate freely and aggressively against LBGT people. But they don't have the right to deny the rights of others. People used religion and scripture to argue for the second class status of women, for segregation, even for slavery. But just because you call your prejudice a religious value doesn't make it so. The Religious and Political Right are free to hate gay people and even to share their views publicly, but they should not be free to limit the freedom of their gay and lesbian targets.

Your beliefs about God and decency and even about sex are your own. You are entitled to them. But not everyone will agree with you. And those who want their rights are not threatening yours just because they claim their own agency. You don't have to welcome me in your church. You don't have to ordain me. You don't have bless my relationship. But that's where your rights end when I'm the topic of discussion.

I should have the right to marry the consenting adult of my choice. I should have the right to live out and proud as the person I am. I should even have the right to find a worshiping community that celebrates all of who I am. My rights do not deny you the right to dislike me. But your right to dislike me does not include the right to keep me in the margins of our "free" society.

Gay marriage or gay faith or gay bars or gay television themes or gay novels or gay celebrities do not hurt American marriage or children or puppies or sunsets. Yes, you have a right to your bigotry. You even have the right to try to disguise your bigotry as religion. But you don't have the right to legislate your bigotry against my community or any other. Instead of hating or fearing or preaching against gays, maybe we should be working on helping people love and communicate and peacefully coexist. That would help marriage more than equal rights could ever hurt it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thoughts on Foley

I'm not a Republican. In fact, politically, I'm to the left of most Democrats. And until recently, I had never heard of Mark Foley.

But, if Congressman Foley used his power and influence to seduce, harass, or even flirt with minors (teenage pages), then I would be the last person to defend him. Such an abuse of power is deplorable, and I said the same about the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton affair a few years ago. For the most powerful man on earth to have an affair with a young intern is at least problematic. The relationship could hardly be equal by any power analysis.

Whereas I'm not an ethicist or a moral theologian, I can say with some conviction that it is wrong to abuse power, and when powerful people use their influence for personal or sexual gain at the expense of people who do not share their level of power, that is abusive. So, now I'm on record as opposing abuse.

However, let's be clear about this. Foley's "sin" (if we want to use such a loaded and archaic word) is not that he is gay. The problem is that he used his powerful position in reprehensible ways. His inappropriate text messages weren't directed at people of his age, social status, or political influence. They were directed at young men who were not quite legal adults. The problem isn't the genders involved; the problem is the abuse of power.

Foley has blamed his indiscretion on alcoholism and being abused as a young person himself. Those factors may have contributed to his behavior. But another thing that clearly contributed to the mess is our institutionalized homophobia. If we were to get beyond our fear and hatred of same-gender loving people, then those who are oriented to love and be attracted to people of the same gender wouldn't have to lie and hide and find clandestine ways to express their sexuality. If people could live their lives in the open with dignity and pride, then we could expect everyone to behave morally and responsibly and we could even dare to be a bit judgmental and self-righteous when they broke the rules.

But, as long as we allow churches, schools, families and government to target gay and lesbian people and treat them as second class citizens, we will continue to see these victims of homophobia behaving in ways that we all find upsetting. If our power systems had not abused Mark Foley the gay man, we might not have seen Mark Foley the politician using his power in ways that could harm those less powerful.

The moral issue here isn't homosexuality. The moral issue is homophobia. Homophobia is wrong. It hurts people. And, as we see over and over - people who have been hurt are likely to hurt others. Let's not let homophobia win this discourse. Mr. Foley was wrong to harass pages. And our society was wrong to make him feel that to do so was his best hope of expressing his sexuality.

Progressive Understanding of Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-19 (in the Christian New Testament) is often called the Great Commission. It is usually quoted as "make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer." But to baptize is to ritually welcome someone into the community of faith. And the multiple images for the divine (Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer) suggest a God that is known in relationship. So, the text is really saying that agents of Christ are meant to communicate a message of inclusion and welcome to as many people as possible, inviting them into the sustaining relationship of community.

The commission we read in Matthew 28 is ancient, and it is also still timely. People still need to feel welcome. People still need to be loved. People still need the vitality of relationships. People still need to know that they are loved by God and are needed in the community of God’s people.