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?!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm Still 39 Damn It (if only for a few more hours)

Sophie Tucker would sing, "Yes, life begins at forty and I've just begun to live all over again."

Sophie was born in January 1884 and died in February 1966. Nine months later (Nov. 15, 1966 @ 4:15 AM CST) I was born. Coicidence? I wonder.

You see, I ADORE Sophie Tucker. She lived 82 years and performed until just months before her death. She raised money for something she believed in...the new state of Israel. She celebrated life, embraced her sexuality without apology, and laughed in the face of fear-based, body-loathing, sex-negative mores. Even overweight, middle aged, and sporting features that were not classically beautiful, she could still boldly affirm that she was "the last of the Red Hot Mammas." And, she managed to attract three husbands along the way, so a few other people must have found her pretty appealing as well.

Why all this musing about my patron saint, St. Sophie (not to be confused with "Sophia" - the ancient feminine figure of Wisdom, though, Sophie could play that role as well)? Because in about 5 hours, I will no longer be 30-Something.

I bounce between 196 and 208 pounds (currently holding at about 203), but my inner homo is still a slender 168. I still have my hair, but its salt & pepper hues continuously mock me. I recently had to get a stronger eye glass prescription. And, I visit the chiropractor the way my grandmother used to visit her hair dresser - WEEKLY. Fat, graying, stiff and achey...Happy Birthday to me.

The truth is my life is very full. I've visited 13 countries so far (I love to travel). I've managed to earn two master's degrees and I've lived in some amazing places: the Ouachita Mountains, Dallas, New York, Ft. Lauderdale. I have some wonderful friends and I love every minute of the work that I do. I have a wonderful life partner and I lived to see the medical advances that make HIV chronic rather than terminal.

And yet, for all that is wonderful in my life and for all the ways that I seem to be living my dreams, birthdays make me question if I've done enough, and if what I have accomplished happened soon enough. I don't have children, so I wonder what my piece of immortality will be. What is my legacy? What is the something that shows the world was better for my showing up?

Of course, I'm probably wicked shallow to even care about such things. My cats just eat and sleep and play and seem to have no concern about whether there is or should be any more to life. But my brain is a bit larger than theirs', so I ponder these things.

Usually my postings have a point. I want to challenge people to think, or provide some comfort to someone, or inspire people to take some action. But not tonight. Tonight my posting is just for me. As I move into another decade, realizing that under the best of circumstances my life is almost half over (and with less wonderful circumstances, well, it goes without saying...), I just need to peck out my middle aged blues.

Oh, that brings me back to Sophie. Sophie got gray. Sophie got fat. Sophie got old. But Sophie seemed to know that she was fierce! And in my better moments, I have that. In weaker moments, I can summon her strength and it becomes my own. Maybe I'm the reincarnation of her. Maybe her energy recycled into my consciousness so she could continue to live through me. Maybe she's long gone and its just my fantasy that my life is in anyway connected to hers. But whatever the case may be, she gives me hope and I am determined to affirm in her words, "Life begins at forty and I'm living all over again."

Here's to the next 40 years. I hope they are as full and as meaningful as I imagine Sophie's were. And, as a wiser and more mature 40 year old, my next post will return to the higher purpose of sharing a message. But in my final moments of 30dom, I wanted to indulge in some whining. Sophie forgive me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

This Just In, God is Real

God is real. How do I know? I just decided. It really is that easy. Belief is a habitual thought, and I have thought about God for my entire life. So, it's easy enough to declare, "I believe in God." And if I believe in something, it is real to me.

Now, beyond "God is" I don't have much to say. I mean, it seems clear to me that Something must be ultimately real. But what do I know? If, however, Something is ultimately real, that Something can be called "god" as easily as anything else. Universe, the divine, spirit, the eternal, goddess, the gods, divine mind, the infinite, the whole, first cause, and life-force are also all good words. God/goddess/you-name-it doesn't care what we call it. We invented language, we can use it however we see fit. "God" points toward ultimate reality as well as any other word, so I'm happy enough to stick with it. You, of course, get to choose your word. I'm sure it will work just as well.

Now, is god a symbol for beauty and hope and life? Sure. Why not?
Is god the personification of moral action? Sounds good to me.
Is god the energy of life that creates and expresses itself in more ways that we can ever notice. I'll buy it.
Is god an impersonal but conscious and self-aware presence that manifests as what we know as the material world? Again, I can't say that it ain't.

Since the word "god" points beyond itself to something supreme and mysterious, and since it signifies whatever we choose to say it does, its pretty hard to say it doesn't exist. It's everything, and like everything else, it's more than the sum of its parts. It's conceptual, its emotional, its experiential. It's "isness." And isness seems self-evident.

So, by the authority vested in me by the god of my ever unfolding understanding, I pronounce god to be real. And while I'm pontificating, I also declare that god is good and kind and generous and loves everyone unconditionally. God has no hang-ups, no prejudices, and doesn't prefer one race to the others, one country to the others, or one religion to the others.

My declaration, just like the declarations of the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Church, and every other religious institution is just the articulation of human thought. But my declaration doesn't damn anyone to hell, promote oppression against anyone, or pretend that God is a person who is privileging me with insider information. So, if you're going to believe anyone other than yourself about what and if God is, then take it from me. Because my version will never start a war or marginalize someone because of race, gender, or sexual orientation. And if you're going to have a god, shouldn't it be one that doesn't create havoc and devastation?

God is real, only if God is good; and God is good only if its goodness is all-inclusive and unconditional. That's a god, whether empirical or imaginary, that I can embrace and promote. And I do.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sir Elton Says Religion is Load of Crap

"Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." - Sir Elton John

That's the word from gay songstress and composer, Sir Elton. He says that religion has proven to be useless in the promotion of peace and actually is a primary cause of anti-gay prejudice and the damage that results from it. Sadly, I can't argue with him.

But here's the thing...government also has a disappointing history, as does the family, the free market economy, and the educational system. And yet, religion, government, family, economics, and education are the 5 basic social institutions of every society.

It's too easy to say, "let's ban religion." Because it ain't gonna happen. The bigger challenge, and more important task, is to reform religion. And let's not stop with religion; let's reform society and all the institutions that make it up. If any institution is being used as an instrument of oppression or an obstacle to enlightenment, let's change the system.

I'm not saying it's easy, and in fact, it may be as impossible as eliminating the building blocks of society. But the truth is, as one who has chosen to cling to religion in spite of how many have tried to use it against me, I have seen how religion done well can be a symbol of hope, an invitation to community, a method of healing, a tool of empowerment.

Government hasn't always been my friend, but I still vote; in fact, that's a chief reason WHY I vote. My family of origin had a rocky beginning, but the people I call my family now are a source of comfort and joy to me. Religion hasn't always done me proud, but when it has been effective, it has added something wonderful to my life.

Institutions go wrong. That's why they need us to participate in them to get them back on the queer and broad (rather than straight and narrow) path.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Once Again, Gay Bashing For Jesus

You must have heard about the Houston landscapers who refused to work for a gay couple. A same-gender couple simply called up the landscapers to do some work for them. On the phone they scheduled an appointment, but the landscapers later emailed the gay would-be clients to cancel the appointments and to say they didn't do business with gay people.

Of course, the notion that they don't do business with gay people is ridiculous. The man and wife landscaping team figured out that these two men were gay because they lived together and one referred to the other as "my partner." But how many bisexuals, closeted gay people, and single gay people who simply never bring it up do they do business with?

And here's the thing. Let's say you've never read a book or taken a psychology class or had a close friendship with someone who was gay. Let's say in the area of sexual diversity you are completely clueless and you have decided that people who are attracted to others of their same gender are somehow flawed. This means you can't take their money? This means you can't help beautify their property? What stand have you really taken? What point have you really made?

Let's say you aren't just homophobic. Let's pretend that you believe in abstinence before marriage, you disagree with drinking alcohol, and you somehow beleive that Jesus is your ticket to the afterlife Country Club. Does that mean you won't work for single people who have active sex lives? Does that mean you won't work for people who have a well stocked wine rack or beer in the fridge? Does that mean you won't work for a Buddhist, an atheist, or a Muslim? Doing business only with people who share your beliefs, prejudices, and world view could make you pretty poor pretty fast.

I'm sorry that Mr. and Mrs. Self-Righteous Landscaper aren't comfortable with "out" gay people. I'm glad they are so financially secure they don't need or want gay people's money. But I hope they aren't fooling themselves into believe their actions were about morality. Their heterosexist, unenlightened, and frankly unreasonable choice to discriminate against a gay couple only served to perpetuate ill will and hurt feelings. Even if they did it for Jesus, they still only added a bit more hatred to the world. I'm sure Jesus could do without that.

Friday, November 10, 2006

1 in 10 Are Gay; 6 in 10 Are Obsessed with That Fact

So, I'm reading a magazine and find an article that says the Episcopal Church has lost a butt load of people over the last three years because a tiny, cold diocese at the top of the map elevated an already out gay priest to the position of bishop. The Anglican world hasn't recovered yet, and the American branch of that Communion has had a dip in numbers. Because an already ordained, already out gay man was made a bishop - not the first gay bishop, just the first honest gay bishop. And because Gene Robinson lives in a stable and loving relationship with another man in New Hampshire, Episcopalians in Texas and Virginia abandon ship. The logic escapes me. But then, homophobia isn't about logic; its about fear and hatred.

Bored with my magazine, I check my email. In my inbox is a commentary about Ted Haggard. The electronic article points out that disgraced evangelical gay basher (and, as it turns out, gay or at least bisexual man) Ted Haggard was caught having paid a male escort for sex, but he readily admitted to buying an illegal substance that has damaged the health of countless gay men in recent years. What brought him down? Not his use of an illegal, addictive, and deleterious substance, but his alleged same-gender sexual affair. What does that say about our society that honestly couldn't care less if the poor man was throwing away his money and his health on drugs but couldn't toss his butt out of his church fast enough for doing the naughty with another man? Two adult men had a consensual encounter (whether it was an erotic massage or more) and that destroyed a man's career. I might understand if it damaged his marriage. I have little sympathy for a gay man who projects his own self-loathing out to make life difficult for other gay people. But I do have compassion for anyone who is abused because of their sexual orientation.

I hope and honestly pray that rather than beating himself up over "falling from grace" or "committing a sin" or "being tempted by the devil" or any such theological low blows, that Mr. Haggard will say to himself, "Maybe I betrayed my wife because who I really am is a gay man. I should apologize to myself and to her for living a lie that has now hurt our entire family, but I am not sorry for being who I am. I won't try to change myself by oppressing others like me who have embraced their truth more readily any longer." I know, I'm praying for a miracle on the scale of walking on water or turning water into wine, but that's me, the eternal optimist.

And now, the Catholic bishops will vote next week on finding kinder, gentler ways of telling homosexuals that they are sub-human. Does anyone detect a running theme here?

Enough with the gay bashing. Enough with the out of control fears of anything sexual or anyone who dares talk openly about sex. The Good News of Jesus Christ isn't about policing zippers. If you honestly believe you have the gift of celibacy, then enjoy your gift (it's a gift that I would want to exchange, but that's just me). If you are in a monogamous relationship, honor your commitment and live happily ever after. If your relationship has a complex set of rules that allows for more than one sexual partner, then play by those rules. But in any case, live out your sexuality in ways that enrich your life and stop blaming phobias and guilt and shame on God. Wars and disease and executions and violent crime and environmental devastation are all surely keeping the divine Mystery busy enough. We needn't be so self-absorbed as to think with all that is going on in the world that God has the time or inclination to be a peeping Tom peering into our bedrooms. God isn't Mrs. Kravitz, obsessively staring through windows and clucking her tongue at what she sees.

I'm almost flattered that the Catholics, the Anglicans, and the Fundamentalists are all so interested in my sex life (well, not mine specifically, but you know what I mean). But their obsession with the gay "other" (which often borders on a voyeuristic fetish) is hurting their own cause, hurting families, and distracting everyone from the Gospel - the Good News of God's ALL INCLUSIVE and UNCONDITIONAL Love.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

GOP: The Gay Old Patriarchy (Catholicism that is)

We all know there are gay priests and bishops in the Catholic Church. Many of us know many of those gay clerics. Rumors and statistical probability all suggest there have even been gay popes. In fact, from the safe distance of antiquity, we can even name about half a dozen very active gay popes. And, its no surprise. If the priesthood is to be a boys only club, it is bound to attract those boys who like to be around other boys. Add to the mix institutional power and fabulous vestments and you have a homosexual's dream come to life.

That the Church is filled with so many obvious gay men is not surprising. What is surprising is that this cheap gay romance novel continues to insult and condemn gay and lesbian persons.

Not all priests are gay, of course. Just like not all male hair burners are gay. Not all Broadway male dancers are gay. Not all male florists are gay. But the priesthood, like these other professions, do seem to attract a noticeably large amount of gays. The old joke about Talullah Bankhead stopping a priest at St. Patrick's during the processional of a midnight mass when she supposedly said, "Dahling, I love your dress but your purse is on fire!" is funny because it rings true!!! Father is often a sister (sissie for short), and it just seems absurd to deny it.

Do I care? As a gay clergy person myself, I certainly do not believe being gay should disqualify one from the priesthood (or any othe profession). Its the hypocrisy that I mind.

Next week, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will vote on a document that is meant to be more welcoming of gay people. The new policy will allow gay couples to have their children baptized. It will allow gay persons to come out to a priest and to attend Mass, but the Church will continue to maintain that homosexuality is disordered and it will continue to deny openly gay people positions of leadership. Healthy homosexuals who are self-actualized with self-esteem need not apply. Now there's a message!

The ecclesiastical version of Don't Ask Don't Tell is not a new policy. Hiding, lying, living on the religious down low has always been an option. The Church is not welcoming same-gender loving people. It is patronizing (and therefore demeaning)those who refuse to leave and making its many gay priests live a lie. This can hardly be the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It certainly does not properly represent the rich spiritual traditions that exist within this flawed and oppressive political system. Rather, it seems like the worst of the Roman Empire continuing to thrive. Rome never fell; it just changed its name to Catholicism. Maybe its time for a new Reformation.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Pope Offends Me

The Pope insults me, and I have a few choice words and gestures for him as well.

In case you haven't heard, a Gay Pride Parade is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in a couple of days and the Vatican is asking the Israeli government to ban the parade because it is likely to offend religious people.

Excuse me?! This is where I usually try to be diplomatic and politically correct and mature and professional and avoid a variety of adolescent and semi-obscene retorts. But I must confess, I'm sorely tempted.

I know Jerusalem is a holy city. I know it is revered by at least three religions. I also know that its holiness is in no way endangered when people claim their human dignity and call for their equal rights in its hallowed streets.

The Vatican has used its influence and perceived authority to discourage condom use globally use in spite of almost 3 decades of AIDS.

The Vatican has imposed celibacy on its clergy that has caused not only loneliness for those who have managed to practice it but the worst of ethical break downs for those who could not. I have personally known many priests and nuns who have taken a vow of celibacy while engaging in normal, adult, sexual behavior in private. Sometimes that behavior was with a committed partner, sometimes it was with a variety of casual partners. But in any case, they were forced to hide and lie because of an unreasonable and unnecessary expectation that they claim to be non-sexual in order to perform ministry.

When the dishonest and secretive practices of forced celibacy caused such poor mental and spiritual health that priests acted out in ways that were abusive and demeaning to themselves and others, the Church responded for decades by covering up the behavior and by failing to properly discipline the offenders while also refusing to change the expectation of celibacy.

I won't even go into the misogyny promoted by an all male priesthood. But the point is, the Vatican long ago forfeited the moral authority to condemn anyone's ontology. The Church both labels homosexuality as "disordered" and says that we poor, wretched, "disordered" beings should be treated with compassion. How compassionate is it to deny freedom of expression because it might offend someone's sex-negative assumptions, prejudices, or social privilege?!

The Vatican claims that freedom of expression should be subject to "just limits." Well, guess what? For a bunch of self-loathing, closeted gay men in liturgical drag to claim to be offended by "out" lesbians and gays voicing their pride and calling for equality is not by any standard of reason "just." Be offended if you like, but also feel free to get over it!

Be offended by war. Be offended by the unfair distribution of wealth. Be offended by those who have power and privilege but who do not use their good fortune to uplift those of lower station. Be offended by bigotry. Be offended by policies that sell out peace or the environment for the sake of a few mega-rich families. Be offended by fascism that disguises itself as religion or security or values. But don't try to dehumanize same-gender loving people in the name of religion. No one gets to be offended that I exist or that I demand the right to live my life in the open with all the freedoms and dignities afforded to non-gay people. And if I do offend you, then please know that your homophobia offends me.

Meanwhile, march on my queer sisters and brothers! Bless the holy city with the passion of your cries for justice.

I Love Nancy

I love Nancy Pelosi. There, I said it. I just have always liked her. She's smart. She's strong. She's attractive. What's not to like? I think I like her for the same reason that I liked (LOVED) Ethel Merman, Tallulah Bankhead, Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Divine, Harvey Fierstein, and the fictitious Betty Butterfield. Some personalities are just so magnetic, so winsome, so worthy of notice, that you wind up feeling connected to them. I think that's my attraction to Nancy.

Now, I don't mean to belittle her political genius. She's a good leader. I agree with many of her positions. And I am THRILLED that she will be our next Speaker of the House. She is the first woman to be the minority leader. She will be the first woman Speaker, which means she is next in line to the presidency after the Vice-President, so she will be politically the highest ranking woman in U.S. political history. I think she'll be a great Speaker and I wish her all the success in the world. But more than that, isn't she just fabulous? When you see her, don't you say to yourself, "there's a fabulous person!"?

Strong women who defy the odds and do well in a system that is meant to privilege straight, white men have always been attractive to me, and to many gay men. Their lives become a witness to anyone who has felt disenfranchised. We learn from them that we have more possibilities than we might have assumed. So, here's to Speaker Pelosi. I continue to love her.

Monday, November 06, 2006


If you live in the U.S., then tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 7) is election day. It's not a presidential election, that's still two years off. But it is an important election. We'll elect the entire House of Representatives. We'll elect 1/3 of the Senate. We'll elect governors and mayors and members of city councils. We'll elect judges and school boards. We'll elect leaders who collectively can make a profound difference in our lives. We'll pass or reject initiatives of local and regional importance.

I know the common rhetoric: "My vote doesn't count." Well, not if you don't cast it! Of course, your candidate may not win. We can't know who will win until all the votes are cast and counted. But give your candidate every chance; give her or him the benefit of your vote. Even if the candidate you prefer loses, your vote could make the vote closer, which sends a message. And wise leaders pay attention to such messages.

Here's another one: "'They' will just steal the election anyway." It's true that irregularities are possible; but if we all participate in our system of government, the irregularities will be few and far between. And even if mass corruption was a reality and elections were routinely "stolen" (I don't believe this to be the case), then at least make the mysterious conspirators go to the trouble of stealing them. Don't just hand them the keys to the kingdom.

In the end, whatever our political party or socio-economic class, we won't always get who we want. I have spent my entire adult life voting for people who don't win the race. Still, I vote. Still, I write letters to my representatives. Still, I have spoken at community forums. Still, I make contributions to grass roots organizations. Still, I sign petitions. I've even joined in a protest or two. I always have the gratification of knowing I did my part even if my view doesn't carry the day. And sometimes, my candidate does win, and I have the added satisfaction of knowing I was part of the victory.

Make an informed decision, support the candidates who will best represent liberty and justice and good stewardship and take pride in being part of the process. There is no charge to vote, but the cost of not voting is too high, and its a price we all pay.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, VOTE!!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Healing for Haggard

Between the neo-fascists in our government and our ubiquitous technology, privacy is a thing of the past. People who live in the fish bowl need to learn that it is now almost impossible to hide anything.

That having been said, I do hope something good comes from this. I hope the Religious Right begins to rethink its sex negative and homophobic rhetoric. It doesn't prevent same-sex love, attraction, or activity. It only causes people to hide their activity and lie about their lives. When they get caught, they are then judged as hypocrites. When religion becomes what it can offer to enrich life rather than who or what it can oppose or condemn, life will be better for all of us and scandals will be harder to produce.

Finally, though I disagree with the homophobic rhetoric and political activity of Mr. Haggard, I take no pleasure in his fall. I'm sorry that he felt the need to say one thing and do another; that level of self-hatred is the result of homophobic religion. He is as much a victim as a perpetrator in all this. I also feel for his family who must be humiliated and hurt by these recent disclosures. I wish healing for all of them and for a more tolerant and inclusive Church and State.

Gay News This Week

"Doogie Houser" (Neil Patrick Harris) comes out as a gay man. I'm delighted whenever someone uses their celebrity status to bring tolerance and understanding to the world. The handsome and talented Harris puts a warm smile and attractive personality forward. When people like Harris come out, they show a real person who we can feel like we know and want to like rather than just letting sexuality be an "issue" for people to argue about. Harris is a real person and his real life is that of a same-gender loving person. That places it at a different level than an "issue," "opinion," or "belief." Good for him.

Other news this week - The Episcopal Church installs their new primate, the first woman ever to head a province of the Anglican Communion. The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori personally believes in gay marriage, but says she won't push her personal beliefs. That's too bad. We need allies who will actively try to educate people and use their influence for progress, rather than trying to protect "unity" or the status quo. Unity that is maintained by who it excludes or condemns is obscene.

Finally, evangelical leader Ted Haggard now admits to buying drugs and hiring a male prostitute. BUT, he claims to have not used the drugs and only received a massage from the escort. I'm sure there is more to the story than is being told and unfortunately, more will be revealed which will hurt his family, his career, and his church. But what we can all learn from this is what the 12 Steppers have always told us: We are as sick as our secrets. Closeted living is not healthy and it causes people to make regrettable choices. Perhaps these recent events will cause conservative Christians to re-think their gay-bashing, homophobic positions and entertain the possibility that human sexuality is diverse and complex and cannot be boiled down to a few simple THOU SHALT NOTS.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Let That Be a Lesson, Ted Haggard

BUFFY: I told one lie; I had one drink.
GILES: Yes, and you were very nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. The words, 'let that be a lesson' are a tad redundant at this juncture. (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Ted Haggard, powerful evangelical, anti-gay religious figure is accused of hiring a man for sex and using drugs. Initial reports suggest that there is at least some truth to the allegations.

The accusation is that he had an on-going homosexual affair that involved drug use for three years. Did he do it? I wouldn't care, except...

Pastor Haggard is part of the Right Wing that has so much influence on the politics of the day, and he has been instrumental in trying to block marriage equality for same-gender loving people. If he has been engaging in same-sex activity while trying to hurt the cause of same-gender loving people who want equal rights in society - well, one sees easily enough how such hypocrisy is problematic.

Here is my hope: First, I wish healing for his family that is undoubtedly hurt by the public accusations of impropriety. Secondly, I hope that the scandal does not sour people on religion in general (though I always hope that people discover that religion need not be homophobic!). Finally, my hope is that something good comes out of all this. Maybe someone as influential as Haggard, whether he is guilty or not, will realize how hurtful it is to be targeted, labeled, and accused because of sexuality. If he and his friends and followers learn from this to not target, label, and accuse same-gender loving people and if they will cease to marginalize gay and lesbian people, then something healthy will be the result of all this.

I'm not judging Pastor Haggard for what he does in his bedroom, but I am appalled by the ways he has tried to keep gay people disenfranchised. Now that he has experienced a small taste of being accused and condemned because of what people think he does in private, perhaps his ministry will have more room for grace and tolerance. We can all pray.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nov. 2 is All Souls Day

Below, I have named just a few souls that I lovingly remember today. Some were my heroes. Some were my family of choice. Some were my family of origin. Some were important to members of my chosen family. Some inspired me directly. Some influenced who I have become and how I live from day to day. The "Church" recognizes some people as saints, but today we honor the sacred value of all souls who have touched our lives and our world in a positive way. Today, we can affirm that All Souls have dignity and value and all souls will live forever in the heart of God. Name some of your departed loved ones or heroes and bless their memory and know that they live on somewhere, somehow with eternal possibilities of Good before them. Let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.

Stella Audrey Thomas Willard (maternal grandmother)
O.D. Marie Duckett Watkins Roberts (paternal grandmother)
Viola Jeanette Thomas Beggs (favorite great aunt)
T.L. Willard (maternal grandfather)
Mattie Griffin (life-partner's mother)
Tim Alvarado (childhood friend)
Ruby Una Miller (college friend)
Helen Matthis (college roommate's mother)
Ina Mae Cherry (great aunt)
W.C. Watkins (paternal grandfather)
Mae West (icon, cherished celebrity)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (hero)
Howard Thurman (theologian)
Sophie Tucker (icon, cherished celebrity)
Matthew Shepherd (gay martyr)
Lord Lawrence Olivier (legendary actor)
Sir Ralph Richardson (legendary actor)
Sir John Gielgud (legendary actor)
Keith Duckett (great uncle)
Ethel Merman (larger than life persona)
Charles Ludlam (off-broadway theatrical genius)
Ryan White (brave young public figure who lost battle with AIDS)
Larry Smith (friend and former lover)
Jose (life-partner's late lover)
Tuna Star (stage name of local drag celebrity in 1980s South Central Arkansas)
Sidhartha, the Buddha (enlightened sage)
Thurgood Marshall (hero, jurist)
Princess Diana (everyone loved her, the people's princess)
Princess Margaret (the party princess of the UK)
Princess Grace (the American princess of Monaco)
Bobby Kennedy (hero, role-model)
Ernesto "Che" Guevara (revolutionary, martyr)
Archbishop Oscar Romero (hero, champion of the people)
Ernest Holmes (philosopher, founder of Religious Science)
Bishop James Pike (visionary, progressive theologian)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (philosopher, essayist)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Saints Preserve Us

St. Christopher - the Christ-bearer.
St. Joan - the youthful and androgynous visionary, willing to die for her truth.
St. Anthony - the one who helps find lost things.
St. Luke - the physician.
St. Raphael - the archangel of healing.
St. Gabriel - the announcer of important news.
St. Michael (I have a special affinity for him) - the warrior.
St. Anne - the grandmother of Jesus.
St. Jude (I've called on him a time or two) - the patron saint of nearly hopeless causes.
St. George - the slayer of dragons.
St. Genesius (my patron saint) - the brave comedian who challenged imperialism from the stage.
Ss. Sergius & Bacchus (of course I like these guys) - martyred lovers.
St. Maximillian Kolbe - WW2 hero who offered his life so another concentration camp detainee could live.
St. Francis - the Dr. Doolittle of the middle ages.
Blessed John 23rd - modern day reformer
St. Lazarus - a close friend of Jesus (how close? what kind of friend? one wonders...)
St. John the Beloved - a "close friend" of Jesus (could he actually be Lazarus?)
St. Mary of Magdala - a "close friend" of Jesus (some say his favorite disciple; others even suggest she was his wife)
St. James - the brother of Jesus
St. Mary, the Blessed Lady (I was very devoted to her in younger years) - the Mother of Jesus, co-redemptrix, symbol of the divine feminine, and some believe our spiritual mother.
St. Thomas (another one of my faves) - the apostle whose faith required both reason and experience
Uriel - archangel named in apocryphal texts
Sophia - the Wisdom of God (and possible Christ figure)

Nov. 1st is All Saints Day. The saints: some of them existed, others...who knows? But those who lived and those who live only in human imagination, those who were courageous and those whose courage have been exaggerated, those who modeled the best of human potential and those who were just in the right place at the right time...they all represent something powerful to those of us who revere them. They represent that ordinary people can become holy. They represent the hope that we are never really alone. We have friends we can't even see who are cheering us on, believing in us, hoping that we do well in life. They intercede for us. They represent miraculous possibilities. They remind us that life and community and meaning are not limited to this experience of life. The saints as symbols of faith have a very important role to play. They encourage us to be our best selves and when we manage that, we accomplish great things.

Saints and sages, teachers and healers, holy souls of all times and all places, cosmic beings known and unknown, all who are committed to Goodness and Light in every realm - pray for us and grant us your ceaseless friendship and aid. Amen.