Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Need For Queer Activism Remains: We Have More Work to Do!

There is a myth floating around that LBGT people are mostly accepted, have been fully integrated into larger society, and the need for special efforts to affirm Queer folk is at an end.

Things are better, and they are better because our activism, outreach and education have been unrelenting. But there is so much more to do.

About half of all same-gender loving people live in the US live in states that offer marriage equality now. That progress has been faster than most of us ever imagined. But let us not forget that half of all same-gender loving Americans do NOT live in places where they can be married and that means there is more work to do.

Even though the best science and social science has told us that homosexuality is not in and of itself disordered (sex, regardless of the genders involved, can be healthy and joyous or abusive and harmful, but love and attraction are themselves good, or at very least morally neutral), many continue to teach that homosexuality is a sin or a sickness. Yes, these homophobes have chosen their ignorance; they have said that the best science and scholarship cannot persuade them that it is their bigotry that is a problem and not the genders that make up a relationship, but these homophobes are legion still. Many of them have pulpits and positions of political influence. Many of them have children whom they are teaching to hate gays, and who are teaching their gay children to hate themselves. That means we have more work to do.

Even today, well into the 21st century, not only do an alarming number of people believe in an after-life hell (a notion that is ridiculous but no less terrifying for those who have been threatened with it) but they believe that same-sex love and attraction could be what would cause souls to suffer never ending torment. They honestly believe, as foolish as it sounds, that Divine Love would reject human souls because of human bodies sharing affection if those bodies also shared a gender! That oppressive theology would be comical if it hadn't destroyed so many lives and families. We have more work to do.

Younger people are generally more tolerant and accepting than previous generations, and that is a good thing; but gay bashing has not completely disappeared and gay teens are still more likely than others to suffer abuse, rejection, and bullying. We have more work to do.

If today, this very day, 90% of all homophobia were to be stricken from the laws and the attitudes of the American population, the homophobia the West has exported to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean would still be killing people and ruining lives. In our global community, we must care about our neighbors and we must realize that the whole world is our neighbor. We must also realize that a lot of the homohatred in the world came from American politicians and preachers. So, we must help our global neighbors who will continue to suffer from the hatred we exported. We have more work to do.

And FINALLY, Transgender/Gender Non-conforming people are getting more positive recognition and advocacy; but there remains a lot of ignorance around the reality of gender fluidity. We have more work to do.

I am so glad that in many ways things are better; but let us never be tempted to believe that they are good enough. Lives still hang in the balance and as long as that is true, we have more work to do!

Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Loving And Letting Go

There is family, and there are relatives. Sometimes they are the same people, but not always and not necessarily. When people cut you out of their lives, sometimes without caring enough to even tell you, that's them struggling with their insecurities, fears, self-loathing, or regrets. Don't take it on. If they love their politics, their money, their religion, or their bigotries more than you, that is their deficit, not yours.

And, if people are happy to keep you in their lives but mostly as an emotional punching bag, then don't take on guilt if you need to walk away. You can do it without bitterness and with an openness to future reconciliation, but love doesn't mean being anyone's doormat.

Love yourself and be thankful for those who love you (as you are, not as they insist you should be), but don't let yourself be too miserable if the ones who do love you aren't the ones you once thought were "supposed to."

In the end, the silly games, dramas, and petty conflicts won't matter to any of us, except for the time they caused us to waste.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bible, As It Turns Out, Isn't Really Hostile to Gays

Some Bible Bits (by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)
for Sunshine Cathedral's The Bible & Homosexuality Discussion on June 25th, 2014

Scriptures to discuss/ponder:

Genesis 2-3 - a myth of origins, no wedding, no instruction of what romance must look like
Adam and Eve actually mean “soil and life”
They are metaphors, not historic persons, and certainly not an argument against same-gender love and attraction!

Genesis 19 – a myth of origins for the Moabites and Ammonites (an ethnic slur…the story is racist, not homophobic!). Love or attraction is never even mentioned in the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Judges 19 – almost identical to Gen 19 with its violence and disregard for women

Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13 discourage male to male copulation, but it is in the context of prohibitions to keep the Jewish community from mimicking or being assimilated by Egyptian and Canaanite cultures. Are the two and only two (and only related to men) prohibitions against same-sex activity actually calling on people to not rape those they defeat in battle, or not use slaves as sex objects, or not have any kind of sex that couldn’t help in nation building (that is, producing future farmers, caregivers, parents, and warriors)?

There are many possibilities but what is clear is that they aren’t being told to not be gay, they are being told to not engage in practices common to larger geographic neighbors. The prohibitions fall among many other prohibitions that people who invoke Leviticus to justify homophobia routinely ignore, e.g.:

18.19 – Don’t sleep with a menstruating woman
19.19 – Don’t cross breed animals (which would make mules sinful!)
19.20 – Don’t have sex with another man’s slave (not a rejection of slavery, but don’t “trespass” on another man’s “property”…this fits nowhere in our 21st century western ethics!)
19.26 – Do not eat rare meat (sorry red, cool center steak lovers)
19.27 – Do not trim your beard (and presumably, that certainly includes don’t shave it completely off…sorry smooth skinned fellows)
19.28 – Do not get tattoos (body art enthusiasts that’s bad news for you)
19.31 – Do not consult fortune tellers (Long Island Medium? Newspaper Horoscope? Prophets of Doom predicting the end of the world?)
19.33 – Do not be unkind or unwelcoming to foreigners (Almost no one quotes Leviticus to combat xenophobia)
20.9 – Do not curse your parents (under penalty of DEATH!)

Before these prohibitions there are others (often ignored by those quoting Leviticus to feel good about their homophobia):
You may eat beef (11.3), but you may not eat
Camel (11.4), Badger (11.5), Rabbit (11.6), PORK (11.6)…not only are you forbidden from having rabbit stew or a ham sandwich, but you can’t even touch these animals once they are dead.

Also, you may eat fish with scales and fins (11.9), but you may not eat
Seafood that lacks scales or fin (no crab, no lobster, no shrimp, etc., 11.12).
Long John Silvers may be okay, but Red  Lobster poses a real problem!

And, just in case you are wondering, crows, sea gulls, vultures, eagles, falcons, ostriches, hawks, owls, storks, and bats are also on the forbidden menu (small sacrifice for most of us).

BUT…what you may eat if you are hankering for a snack includes locusts and grasshoppers (yum, 11.22).

Beyond diet and grooming and body art and animal breeding, there is also behavioral rules about women who have recently had children. If a woman gives birth to a boy, she can’t show up for worship for 33 days, and if she gives birth to a girl she can’t show up for worship for 66 days. Anyone coming to church less than two months after having a baby girl is not Leviticus compliant! (12.2-5).

And, amid the prohibitions, there are also commands, like the one outlining the Scape Goat ritual that the community is meant to observe! (Seen a goat in church lately?)

With so much of Leviticus being ignored, it is disingenuous to pretend that Lev. 18.22 and 20.13 are authoritative for 21st century dwellers!

1 & 2 Samuel show a warrior love story between Jonathan and David
Isaiah 56 advocates for people who are sexually different
Jeremiah 38 has a sexually ambiguous person as an unlikely hero

Jesus never condemns same-gender love or attraction

Romans 1 – has God making people gay for committing idolatry (what?!)…what a strange understanding of how sexuality works (Paul had issues).  But love and caring relationships are not condemned (in fact, Paul in the same passage argues against judging people). And Paul talks about the sex acts as going against their natures…with that logic, it is unhealthy for gay people to go against their natures to try to be heterosexual!

I Corinthians 6.9 and 1 Timothy 1.10 (Paul didn’t actually write the letters to Timothy) forbid exploitation, not love or mutual attraction.

Luke 7 and Matthew 8 show Jesus affirming a same-sex couple (without condemning slavery, that’s one that Jesus and Paul both dropped the ball on!).
Matthew 19 has Jesus saying that some people are born different and that’s OK.

Mark 14 shows Jesus alone with a naked man after dark (and earlier in Mark, Jesus looks on a young man and “loves” him)

Paul prays for a “thorn” to be removed from his “flesh” but it never is (some believe he is referring to same-sex attraction)

Acts 8 shows a sexually different person asking what should keep him from being baptized, and the answer is NOTHING.

Jesus’ overwhelming love for Lazarus suggests a special, possibly romantic bond.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus could well have been a “family of choice” or “alternative family”…a gay man and a lesbian couple choosing to live together as a family for safety.

Paul visited Lesbos! (Acts 20) and was friends with a woman who led a women’s community (Acts 16)

So, not only can the few verses that have been used to terrorize LesBiGay people be deconstructed and  understood in positive ways, but there are more than a few hints that same-gender love was known and in some instances even embraced in biblical communities of faith.

And we know what no one in the bible did anyway…Since the 40s we’ve known scientists have been saying that same-gender love and attraction are normative for a significant minority of people in every culture and society. Since the 70s homosexuality has been removed from mental illness diagnoses. The word “homosexual” was coined in Europe in the 19th century (it was never used in bible days). And, as the bible does say very clearly, “God is love and WHOEVER lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.” Love, not body parts, is what makes life holy. This is the good news!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

one less idol

one less idol 
“It is time we stopped making an idol out of the bible.” Rev Dr Mona West
Too many people have allowed the bible to be a sort of deity in and of itself. When we use the “hard” and social sciences, philosophy, reason, and experience as tools to help us understand the bible, we see that we will not be able to agree with every word. We can value, love, and use the bible, but let’s never be oppressed by it. It belongs to us; we don’t belong to it. We can question it, try on new understandings of it, and remember that it is not the final word on any subject. The bible should not be used to condemn, exclude, vilify, or torment anyone.
I can question any text that has been used to frighten, control, or dismiss me. I affirm my sacred value as I read my sacred texts.
by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Gay Pride Sermon

Moabite Pride: Rethinking Homophobia's Favorite Biblical Story

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Invocation I wrote for Gay Pride Sunday

All-inclusive and Unconditional divine Love,

On this Pride weekend we give thanks for who we are, each contributing to the diversity of life.

We give thanks for pioneers who led the way, coming out when to do so meant taking great risks, risks they took so that the world would be a more welcoming and kinder place.

We give thanks for Metropolitan Community Churches that have declared since 1968 that same-gender loving people are the children of God.

We give thanks for states and countries that now have marriage equality, and we pray that such equality will become a universal reality.

We give thanks for the Unitarian Universalists, the Quakers, the Swedenborgians, and the United Church of Christ which have all stood with us as allies and advocates for decades.

We give thanks for Anglican Bishops John Spong, Desmond Tutu and Barbara Harris who have long stood as courageous allies for LBGT people and those who love them.

We give thanks for denominations that now bless same-gender unions.

We give thanks for behavioral and social scientists who have continuously affirmed our place in the human family.

We give thanks for the Stonewall rebels who said enough is enough.

We give thanks for gay bars, drag queens and drag kings, bear men and leather communities, Dykes on Bikes, Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and all communities that have given us safe places to explore and affirm the life that is ours to live.

We give thanks for those who have patiently educated us about the gender continuum and we bless the courageous gender non-conforming people who show us all how to live with dignity and self-respect.

We give thanks for those who have chosen to be friends of the Queer community, worshiping, working, and playing with us, praying for us, speaking out for justice, having nothing to gain but nevertheless being committed to the power of love.

We give thanks for parents whose love proved to be unconditional, and we lament over those who could not allow love to win out over the fear of difference.

We give thanks for every genuine and mutual expression of love and for all the joy that it offers.

And we give thanks for the faithful witness and ministry of the Sunshine Cathedral.

Bless us abundantly on this Pride Sunday and may we continue to be your voice calling for healing and your hands working for justice in our world. Amen.

Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Pride Sunday 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sun stand still

Saturday, June 21 (Summer Solstice)
Today in 1953 Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto is born
sun stand still! 
“Joshua said…’O sun, stand still!’” Joshua 10.12.
In the bible, Joshua seems to make time stand still (to aid him in battle). When the sun was thought to travel through the sky, stopping its travel would have been considered a great miracle. Our understanding of the cosmos is very different today. The Joshua tale reminds me of the meaning of the word solstice. “Solstice” comes from the Latin sol sistere, “sun stand still.” The longest day of the year reminds us that we have all the time we need. In God there is no time, space or limitation, so whatever we need is available to us and we can achieve the noble desires of our hearts. As the sun lingers today, let us remember we have all the time we need to do all that is ours to do.
Today, “the sun…will rise with healing in its rays” (Malachi 4.2). I have the time I need to accomplish great things. Amen.
by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Spirit Reflections (Pentecost)

I shared these thoughts last Tuesday on our weekly Lectionary Webinar. 
These are the readings that Sunshine Cathedral used today for Pentecost and these are my reflections on the texts:

Numbers 11.29 
Moses said, “…I wish that all of God’s people were prophets and that God’s spirit would be upon them!”

For “spirit” or the energy of life to be omnipresent, then it must be part of every life. The spirit that “Moses” (it is unlikely that Moses wrote Numbers, or any text, and some scholars doubt if Moses is even an historical person) wishes would be on people is the spirit (the activity, the motivation, the power) of prophecy (action, seeking change, challenging oppression, offering hope all in the name of God). It isn’t an invocation to coax the spirit of life to be present (it is, after all, omnipresent), but an affirmation that we are meant to make a positive difference in our world.

The Wisdom of Kahlil Gibran
“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are children of one religion, and it is the spirit.”

Gibran’s universal religion (culturally he was Maronite Catholic but his spirituality was that of a mystic and a poet and mysticism and art are not the sole property of any one tradition) suggests that spirit is one and we are each part of that universal wholeness. It is monistic, panentheistic, and universalist in tone. Spirit is the substance of every life, the one true reality. Traditions are meant to give us vocabularies to explore the depths of spirit, but the one life that individuates as every life is in no way limited by any tradition or vocabulary.

The Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hahn
“The holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, penetrated him deeply, and he revealed the manifestation of the holy Spirit. Jesus healed whatever he touched. With the holy Spirit in him, his power as a healer transformed many people…I [feel] that all of us also have the seed of the holy Spirit in us, the capacity of healing, transforming, and loving. When we touch that seed, we are able to touch God…”

Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn echoes Gibran’s universalism as well as his idealistic monism. “All of us also have the seed of the holy Spirit in us…” The one life expressing through and as our lives.

Acts 2.1-4 (NIV)
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in [new ways] as the Spirit enabled them.

The Pentecost narrative uses fire imagery (reminiscent of the Zoroastrian fire cult) as well as the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) in imagining the early church being energized (spirit-filled) to be the resurrected and returned body of Christ (the parousia occurs as the church is raised up to be Christ in the world, though it is unlikely that it happened in a single instant as the story suggests…the church, like all movements, evolved over time). Wind, life-force, breath, energy, power…this is the imagery for the spirit and represents action, movement. The Pentecost narrative is a call to get busy, to be justice seekers, healers, and agents of positive change. Such change is also represented by learning to speak in new ways. The message of progressive spirituality is a new tongue for some. The message of Queer liberation and empowerment is a new tongue for some people. The message of feminist theology is a new tongue for some people. Inclusive language is a new tongue for some people. The blending of science, philosophy and religious pluralism into a unified spiritual system that welcomes truth wherever it may be found is a new approach, a shift in consciousness, a different way of exploring meaning.  Pentecost isn’t a magic moment in ancient history; it is the power to keep moving, keep exploring, keep finding new ways to embody the Sacred in the world. And we can…the wind filled the entire room, flames rested above every person. We all have the power to make a difference.

John 7.37-39 (NIV)
37On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive…

Just as fire and wind represented the power of divine life in Acts, so does water in the Johannine text. The power of life, rivers of living water, flow from within us when we believe in the Christ, the divine Ideal, the Inward Light, the Highest Self, the Sacred Nature that is at the core of every life. That divine Ideal or Christ principle is represented in John’s gospel by Jesus but, as indicated in the previous readings, it is a universal reality and is in no way limited to any religious tradition, vocabulary, text, or figure. 

--Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral

Texas Republican anti-gay platform is just insane

The Texas Republican platform apparently has called same-gender love and attraction a "chosen lifestyle" and has endorsed reparative therapy. Among their offensive arguments is that the bible is homophobic so everyone should be. Really? 

1. "Chosen" wouldn't be reason for discrimation...people choose to join the navy, choose to go to college, choose to join churchs (or not), choose to join gymns, choose to watch television, choose to marry (or not)...adults making life choices is not problematic. Now, of course human sexuality is discovered and not chosen, but never mind reason and science, even if we chose our sexuality, it would be a valid choice and discrimination based on the choice would be unjust. 

2. It is offensive to invoke the bible (or Qur'an or Gita or Heart Sutra or Harry Potter) as a political argument for oppressing a minority. If your reasons for an action are so weak, so invalid, so ridiculous that you must suggest that the primary reason for your actions is a magical text (never mind that scholarly understandings of the text would NOT support your views), then you've already lost the argument. Texas (and AR and OK and MS and TN and SC and MO and KS, etc.) doesn't have a strong record on being on the sane side of history on many issues, but even with that unfortunate history, nothing as stupid as this document will be able to endure. It may take a bit more time and even some federal intervention, but in the fullness of time, stupidity just can't survive.