Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gay Men Need Not Apply

The Church Times in England has picked up on a portion of the story from The Guardian and the leaked memo of the late Very Rev. Colin Slee.  Seems the House of Bishops in the Church of England examined the Archbishop of Canterbury's request for a legal opinion as to "How can we keep Jeffrey John from ever becoming a bishop?" The HoB came up with a checklist of extraordinary conditions for a celibate gay man like the popular Rev. John to answer when being discerned for the episcopate:

• whether the candidate had always complied with the Church’s teachings on same-sex sexual activity;


• whether he was in a civil partnership;

• whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex relationship;

• whether he had expressed repent­ance for any previous same-sex sexual activity; and

• whether (and to what extent) the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question, the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.”

In other words, the candidate must be a virgin, not unlike our Blessed Mother Mary, and be found to be without original sin.  And, for now, we're only concerned with gay men.   Lesbians--HA!   They have already committed the abomination of being women.  Sorry to all of you bisexuals and transgender types.  You are such a mind-blower that they haven't quite reached the concept that you exist.

We really should pray for the Church of England because this batch of purple-shirted blokes led by the bearded bully are leading their flock to the edges of irrelevance and obscurity for these modern times.   The hierarchy of the CoE absolutely refuses to join us in the 21st Century.  Or the 20th Century.  My goodness, do they still have their feet in ancient times?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Uncorking Anger

God is a woman.

At least, God's wisdom as described in Scripture is a woman.  My own personal feeling about God is that God is beyond our very two-dimensional views of gender.  In that way, I believe God is not only transgender but transcends gender.

The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,

and concern for instruction is love of her,
and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
and immortality brings one near to God;
so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
--Wisdom 6: 17-20

I read this as part of Morning Prayer last week.  I then read the news out of England, the equivalent of wikileaks for the Anglican Communion.  The late Very Rev. Colin Slee's notes on the shenanigans behind the deep-sixing (AGAIN!) of Rev. Jeffrey John to become Bishop of Southwark left a pit in my stomach.  It's apparent that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York intended to thwart the desires of the people in Southwark and that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a screamer.  

"The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction..."

Allow me.  Screaming at people is not a way to treat a fellow member of the body of Christ, or in this case the crown nominating committee.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has shown his rear more than once to those of us on this side of the pond, apparently has a bit of temper when it comes to gay men.   He pointedly disinvited the Bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson, at the last Lambeth Conference.  His idea of a "listening process" to LGBT people is 30 minutes in a room with a select group of LGBT deputies to the General Convention.  Meanwhile, he has not condemned the Church of Uganda or any of the other African Churches for standing by or actively aiding in the death and discrimination against the LGBT community on that continent.   According to what The Guardian published last Wednesday, Rev. Slee suggests that the otherwise highly-private deliberations of the committee were intentionally being leaked by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  And while setting up his supposed "friend" Jeffery John for another disappointment (and trashing another priest for being married to a divorced woman), he sought a legal opinion as to how far the Church of England could extend its discriminatory practices.

Slee's evidence to the leak enquiry claimed that it was the archbishop of Canterbury himself who was responsible for the leak by asking church lawyers outside the committee for legal advice on whether John could be stopped. Lambeth Palace denies that it was the source of the leak and says there are errors in Slee's account. The archbishop of York's office refused to comment, saying the whole process was entirely confidential.

The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.

See?  "... there are Christians who cannot accept gay people."   Chief among them: the upper echelon of the Church of England.  

It has long been a source of anger for me that the only acceptable gay person in the clergy is the one who takes the extraordinary step of being celibate.   Celibacy is a special calling in and of itself and to demand it of gay people is cruel.  Jeffrey John is celibate even though he's in a relationship with another man. But Jeffrey John's celibacy wasn't the real issue: the issue was Jeffrey John's sexual orientation.  Period.  ++Rowan forced him to step down from a nomination to be a suffragan bishop of Reading because he is gay and he wasn't going to allow him the Southwark post, either.  Because he is gay.  

And why must we have an Anglican Covenant?  Because we have gay people in the Communion who are making themselves known and are known to God.  Is this presence of gay Christians a new phenomenon?  Hell, no!  Did I not talk about St. Aelred?  There are doubtless many closet cases in the church, forced to live that way because otherwise they may be the subject of a screaming bearded bully.  A bully who is likely looking at the changing landscape and is circling the wagons so he can retain his--haha--power as the titular head of the Anglican Communion.  In this way, he is no different than the evangelical fundementalist bullies in this country who put their anti-gay agenda in state constitutions out of fear that one day, people will view LGBT people as full members of the human race deserving of equal rights under the law. 

Wisdom rescued from troubles those who served her.--Wisdom 10:9

I can only hope that the future of the Episcopal Church will not be too greatly influenced by the actions and desires of Lambeth Palace.  I used to be a lover of the Anglican Communion.  But if the Communion wants to treat gays in such a disrespectful and disgusting way, then again I ask, "Why do we want to be in Communion with a bully?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rowan Behaves Like A British Bully

We can make jokes about his runaway facial hair, and grit our teeth every time we hear the phrase "Anglican Covenant", but this latest reporting in The Guardian about shouting matches and crying during the selection process for the Bishop of Southwark is so outrageous that all I can do is pray that God will help this pathetic creature of the cloth because I have no ability to do so.  No human can touch him.  Because he is a bully.
Why do we want to be in Communion with a bully?

What the paper's reporter reveals is that for all that ++Rowan claims to be about a "listening process" and tries to be so genteel in his objections to elevating a gay person to bishop, truth is he is very passionately opposed to the presence of gay clergy or bishops.  

The account, which the Guardian published, is from the notes written by the late Very Rev. Colin Slee the dean of the Southwark Cathedral.   Rev. Slee highlights the screaming, the arm-twisting and the total hypocrisy of the higher-ups in the Church of England.

Read the article. Note that he screamed to the point of committee members starting to cry. He is out-of-line, and he should be out of a job.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Way, The Truth and The Life

Spoiler alert: This past Sunday's gospel passage from John 14 is the designated gospel reading for my funeral.   Be prepared... and don't let that trouble you.

I decided on that gospel lesson many years ago as a death-obsessed teenager sitting behind the pulpit in Christ Church as an acolyte.  Unbeknownst to the congregation, I was studying up on the Burial Rites in the BCP because I knew I would be dead soon.  I figured out which passages I wanted, had a few hymns in mind... and I had picked the John 14 gospel reading because I liked the line, "In my father's house there are many mansions..."

Fortunately, God had the means to foil my plans to make an early exit from the planet.   There was much more that I needed to learn, and be shown, before I am allowed access to the promised place prepared for me.

In massage school, I learned a whole new appreciation for the concept of what Jesus might have meant when saying, "In my Father's house there are many mansions" (which the NRSV translates 'mansions' as 'dwelling places').   One afternoon as I stared out the window of my apartment at the goat pen, I meditated on what I'd been learning that day about the heart and how it functions to move oxygenated blood out, and receive blood back in to give it the air to pass back through and feed the body.  I thought of the heart as a symbol of love.  And as a symbol of love, then maybe this is the physical manifestation of God in our own bodies with the four chambers (mansions) beating, and giving us life, bringing in the spent blood and renewing it over and over to love and feed the body.  My meditation felt like a glimpse behind the words of Christ, something more than just a pretty metaphor but a directive to seek the existence of God's love as being a part of me and fueling my being.

In more recent years, I have felt God taking the padlocks off the phrase, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  This particular statement, followed by the words of Christ saying that, "no one comes to the Father except through me" has led to many terrible transgressions on the part of Christians who have taken these words as literally meaning, "If you don't love GEE-zus and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior, then I have the right to killya!"  For the record, I have never thought, and still don't believe that Jesus meant this proclamation to be all about him, the man.   And while the evangelist John may have had a personal political agenda he was pushing at the time that he was articulating his Gospel, God moves and makes things happen in a way that surpasses any human's ability to control or limit that movement.   What I have seen in this passage is Jesus speaking with a voice that is not his alone.  If he wasn't seen before, he is trying to unveil for us that he is one with the Father, the "I am".   And in doing this, he is letting us know that we have the ability to do the same if we follow the teaching to love ourselves and one another.  This is a teaching that is not unique to "Christians".  This is a teaching that comes from God, whether you acknowledge God as Christ, or as Great Spirit, or whatever human descriptor we have for a Love that cleans us up, gives us breath in our blood, and keeps us going.   In God's house, there is plenty of room for everybody, and always another seat at the banquet table.

As I've been kicking this phrase around in my head since Sunday, I have thought about my belief in the Trinitarian God.  The way, the truth, the life.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Seems those concepts pair up nicely with each other.  The way is the Father (or Creator).   The truth is the Son (or Redeemer) and the life is the Holy Spirit (or the Sustainer).   In action, it is the "was, is, and always will be" that orders the chaos of the world for me.  Again, those who have not experienced liberation through Christ might balk at this idea of truth=Son.   That word "truth" is a stumbling block, especially when linked to Christ.  I'm reminded of the exchange between Jesus and Pilate (also in John's Gospel) where Pilate asks him, "What is truth?"   It is an intriguing question... and Jesus never answers it.  Instead, he leaves it there and we, like Pilate, are left with it.  How do we know "the truth"?  What do we know as "the truth"?

I can only answer for me.  Truth, for me, is knowing that against all odds and being fed a steady diet of lies that I don't meet the qualifications to be loved by God, I need only to stand in the center of God's light shining on me, and listen to what is there: "Beloved".  God provides the buffer to the meanness of the world that wants to label and tear us down and remains as the constant in me.  If I forget it, and need the physical manifestation, I can place my hand on my heart and feel the word being repeated: Beloved. Beloved. Beloved.        

The way.  The truth.  The life.  Beloved, it beats beneath your breast bone.  With Love, it will be strong.

***
An H/T to Mtr. Lee Shafer for a sermon that helped inspire this entry. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Greet Our New Rector

If this is the day after the Rapture, and the congregation of St. John's Episcopal Church is still here, then that must mean God intends for us to enjoy a new heaven and a new earth with our new rector, Rev. David Killeen.

It is a new day for St. John's, and a happy one.

I met with Fr. Dave a few weeks after he arrived as our Priest-in-charge along with another member of the congregation who identifies as a gay man.  Our intent was to welcome this new guy, and to let him know that there are many LGBT people that sit in the pews, sing in the choir, serve at the altar both as altar guild and in Eucharistic Ministry.  Much to my surprise and delight, Dave was not only OK with gay people, he had noted with interest that our church serves as a home to the local PFLAG chapter.  He knew what PFLAG was, had attended some PFLAG meetings while working at St. Bart's in New York City, and was completely at ease talking to us.   This was a huge shift.  There was no defensiveness or a need to explain why outreach to the gay community was unnecessary in our "welcoming" congregation.  Dave has been willing to be present at interfaith AIDS gatherings, and to have our church listed as an active participant in the LGBT Pride service.   He understands that in order for the gay community to know they are welcome inside the doors of St. John's, St. John's needs to practice that welcome outside in the community. 

As we met with him, Dave inquired about the past sins committed under the roof of St. John's against the LGBT community.  I was not present for that period because I had walked away from the church. I read about it in the form of newspaper reports and that was enough to convince me to stay away.  Stephen, my compatriot on this mission, was a member and described the pain suffered by LGBT people who kept their heads down so as to not get them chopped off as the then-rector preached poison from the pulpit.  Dave listened intently to this discussion and acknowledged what that must have been like.  He didn't try to patch things up.  There's no way he could.  But what he could and did offer was an openness to all people, and a desire to see folks who identify as LGBT become active members of St. John's along side their straight brothers and sisters.

Today's celebration is the beginning of the ministry that emerges with his leadership and our gifts coming to fruition.  It's the ministry that we display and put into practice in every day living in Tallahassee.  My hope is that it will be a dynamic outreach to a world that deserves to hear about the liberation offered through Christ.


Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, send down upon Dave and the congregation committed to his charge, the healthful Spirit of your grace.  Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

++Rowan Rescues Us From Rapture

H/T to Mad Priest of "Of Course, I Could Be Wrong"

In an amazing turn of events not predicted by Harold Camping, the Archbishop of Canterbury's insistence that all members of the Anglican Communion be of one mind on the issue of the Rapture seems to have put the eschatological event on hold, requiring years of a listening process and many more drafts of the Rapture Covenant. 

Oh, no! We've been taken!
The biggest hang up seems to be the debate in the communion over exactly which 144,000 Anglicans are going to be whisked away.  Section Four of the final draft allows the Instruments of Communion to extend the invitation to the Rapture to other churches in communion with Canterbury; however this may cause an issue with the number of Anglicans allowed to ascend.   Some bishops have voiced concerns that Lutherans might crowd out deserving Anglicans.  Another issue arises in Section 4.2 of the Rapture Covenant.  The Standing Committee has been given blanket authority to settle disputes amongst Anglicans in the worldwide Communion over which members are worthy of joining Jesus and which will be left behind.   Rapturous members are allowed to challenge the inclusion of any other rapturous person who they feel isn't rapturous enough.   Already, many dioceses in the United States have said they think this whole idea is a ridiculous fiction being pushed by a radical fundamentalist with a microphone in California.   And the GAFCONistas have refused to accept the Rapture Covenant, preferring their Hell's Bells Declaration signed and sealed in a Dallas megachurch. They're hoping to be delivered from having to spend one minute in eternity with women and gays.

Failing to have full agreement, the Archbishop has insisted on postponing the Rapture until he can strong arm everyone into a "bond of ascension."



Friday, May 20, 2011

In Case of Rapture...

If I had my own radio show and access to a bunch of stations, I could do amazing things to spread my philosophy and influence the masses.   Just like Harold Camping has managed to do with this hysteria around May 21st.   

That's right: Judgment Day is this Saturday.   Have you got your affairs in order?  Oh, that's right: you can't take your baggage with you on the trip to heaven.  Probably better if you don't.  I imagine if we try to pack the stuff of life in each of our carry-on suitcases it would result in some pretty hefty fees.

Seriously, I am amused and befuddled that one guy with a radio "network" of 66 stations has created this much hype about a date on the Gregorian calendar.  So much so that you have tons of Facebook groups announcing the post-Rapture looting party, the Non-Judgment Day and on and on.  Pagans and atheists are rejoicing at a world free of Christians, a dig that I am sorry to read because, once again, I feel painted with a broad brush that really needs to be applied with finer strokes.   The vast majority of us who profess belief in Christ do not believe there will be a huge earthquake tomorrow that will throw open the graves and all the souls of the "chosen" will get whisked away.  

Of course, I could be wrong.

And if I am, I'll take your Prius and your bank account!

I imagine that I will be among the left behind.  Certainly, Harold Camping and his whackadoodle crew believe I will be because, according to their website and materials, I am part of the reason for the Rapture.  Apparently, the "Gay Pride Movement" is causing God to hit the delete button on all creation.

Really?!  Oh, yes!  That and the re-establishment of Israel in 1948, the "moral breakdown of society" (not to mention the Christian church!) and the disregard for the Bible are all "signs" of Christ's return to judge the world.  I guess that means the folks with the National Day of Prayer failed in their mission on May 5th.   

Mr. Camping has figured all of this out by spending 50+ years studying the Bible.  Thus, it seems Mr. Camping and the Board of Directors of his "network" have made all these determinations about the hour of Christ's return, even though Christ clearly states:  ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.'  (Matt 24:36)  That entire chapter of Matthew is Jesus speaking to the disciples as his own crucifixion is approaching.  This is the passage that talks about how two women will be grinding grain, one will be taken and the other left, etc.   The message of Matthew 24 isn't so much about worrying about when the end is coming; we all know the end IS coming... for each of us.   What are we doing with our time on earth when we are among our fellow human beings?  To carry this forward to the next chapter of Matthew, we get into the famous exhortation to the followers of Christ about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger and visiting the prisoner.  "Whatever you do to the least of these who are members of my family, you do it to me."   Overarching lesson here: quit wondering about the end of the world, and do the living and the caring that you are commanded to do.  If you actually knew the date and hour of the world's end, you would pre-occupy yourself with your own affairs, and not pay attention to the person in need right in front of you.

Perhaps that's a bit too complex for Mr. Camping.  Much easier to just predict the end of time and get people all in a tizzy over it.  I believe that would be the work of a "false prophet".


   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our Twenty Years... Against The Amerikan Backdrop

Strike up the band and let the confetti rain down from the ceiling:  my partner and I are celebrating 20 years together in relationship.  It has been quite the ride thus far, and we've managed to navigate the twists and turns without a major wreck.  Yay to us!

Interesting that our anniversary comes as the news networks are dissecting the crumbling "one man and one woman" marriage of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzwenegger and Maria Shriver.  Schwarzenegger, who we have now learned has fathered a child with a member of the household staff ten years ago, used his time in state office to thwart California's attempts to give LGBT people the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of marital happiness.   And to that I say, "Damn you, Ahnold!"

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker, who also enjoys the benefits of being one man wedded to one woman, has decided he will not defend that state's domestic partner benefits law in a challenge by Wisconsin Family Action, one of those misnamed groups that actually work to break up families because they don't like the familial relationship.   Walker doesn't think it's a good idea to allow the partner of a terminally ill or injured LGBT person to have visitation rights or the opportunity to have the power to make health care decisions.  Much better to leave that to the "real" family members... even if they have disowned their loved one or are otherwise not around to make a life or death decision.  And to that I say, "Damn you, Scott Walker!"   One of my Facebook friends in posting the story noted that Walker, who made headlines for his anti-Labor stands, is REALLY anti-union!

And did you hear about IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who tried to rape a 32-year-old hotel worker in New York City?  The French are shocked and appalled... not so much about his behavior, but by the fact that NYPD handcuffed him and took him to Rikers Island.  He's on suicide watch. I don't know if the 62 year-old French man is married, but apparently he has a reputation for not being able to control himself in the presence of women.  When asked if he thought "women, sex and money" would factor into his presidential bid in France, he tossed it off by saying, "I like women--so what?"   I like women, too.  But I don't attack them.  Sacre bleu, Dominque!

These are the stories I hear a lot.   Politicians, who have no problem relegating me and others to second-class citizenship, are making a mockery of the very institutions and values they hold as so precious.  These are the policy decisions that affect me and others who want the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... just like our straight brothers and sisters.

I remember back in 2008 when Florida was preparing to pass the anti-LGBT Amendment Two, my Baptist neighbor noted that in her immediate surroundings, she had a lesbian couple that had been together for almost two decades on one side... and the straight couple who were divorcing on the other.   "What is it we need to defend marriage from again?" she asked, rhetorically.

I would say we need to defend it from our narrow-mindedness about what defines marriage.  Is it the gender of the individuals or is it their capacity to love one another? 

I intentionally choose to spell Amerika with a "K" to make the point that this backdrop is not one of freedom. 

Loosen the fetters, and let us have the rights that allow us to live as a couple. 

Joni Mitchell once sang in "My Old Man":  We don't need a piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true.  Yes, ultimately, that is true when we are speaking strictly of the love that binds people.  But that piece of paper goes a long way toward making a lot of unforeseen issues a lot cleaner and simpler to deal with!

Happy 20th Anniversary to us in spite of what our government thinks.  L'chaim and love to us!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

St. Smartphone and All Apps

During Advent, I was curious to see the man on the back row of the chapel staring at his smartphone throughout the service.  He was reciting the prayers along with the rest of us, but no book.  I learned he was using the Book of Common Prayer app on his mobile device.  Seems the 1979 prayer book not only needs a revision; it's becoming a relic.

The crazy fast advances of technology have been a lot for the analog generation to absorb not to mention those of us who have straddled the switch over from analog to digital.   I've been aware that many of those who fall into that category that the church drools over, the "Young Families" or "Young Adults with the Potential to Become a Young Family", are attached to their iPhones, iPads, Droids, etc.   They check Facebook and they use Twitter as a way of conversing with friends in the same room as well as across the world.  As such, I have thought that those who are in the church and want to attract this group to visit and possibly join a parish need to learn how to use those tools to reach this audience.

Note: I said, "Use the tools to reach the audience."  

On one of my listserves, there's been much dust kicked up over an article on the CNN religion blog, "My Take: How Technology Could Bring Down the Church" by Lisa Miller.   Many have argued that nothing can replace the community that church provides, especially when gathered around the altar rail for the Eucharist.  Some have fired back that the ones who prefer to read their Bibles on Kindles and Smartphones are not necessarily drawn to the Eucharist.   Again, I think the argument shouldn't be framed around an "either/or" but more of a "both/and".   

Take my man who appeared in our chapel on a regular basis during Advent to recite Morning Prayer.  He still came into the building because there is something different when two or three are gathered together participating in a ritual as opposed to doing it at home alone with a phone.   

I think where the church falls down is when it takes the attitude that what they have inside their building is so precious it can't be shared via technology.  It absolutely can, and should.  Can a person receive the host in their hand through technology?  Of course not.  But if that's important to the person, then it will entice them to come into the church... if they have learned about that church through technology.

The part that worried me in the CNN article was the idea that people want to read their Bible sans any "interference" from stuffy ol' Church.   If you've ever tried to read the Bible straight up, you're liable to throw the thing across the room as you encounter multiple inconsistencies, back-tracking, not to mention the tongue-twisting names of the Hebrew Scriptures.  And that's not even touching the acid-trip that is Revelation.   In that sense, there is a place for "stuffy ol' Church", especially if it can be presented in a way that isn't so stuffy.   And that's where it takes people, not merely machines, to make the difference. Whatever the church is doing inside has to have enough life to attract those on the outside.  In the case of many parishes, that falls on the person preaching because the only thing made available via the web is the sermon.  But what if churches were to do more?   What if they were develop apps that allow people to hear the music as well as the sermon?   Or put it on people within the congregation to create a buzz through Twitter or on a Facebook page?  

St. Smartphone and All Apps could be the tool of every church's future.

  



  

Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!


I suppose it's worth asking: does the image of two guys in ice hockey gear about to kiss make you do a double-take?

It did me.  Hockey, like American football, is a sport that is the essence of machismo and violence.  Guys slap a piece of rubber up and down a skating rink while shoving and pushing and even punching their opponents in pursuit of getting the puck into the goal.  It's not one of my favorite sports.  In fact, I barely pay attention to hockey and usually dismiss it as "Canadian ice boxing".   So two hockey players showing such tenderness as a kiss with one another:  yes, it caught my attention.
So did the question: Shocking?  Was I shocked?  Yes, in a way I was.  But I wasn't repulsed.  And the more I look at the picture, the more I like what I'm seeing.
Two men in love is as sweet an image as looking at the Royal Couple in my book.
And that's part of the point in celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, a holiday born in Montreal in 2003 by Foundation Emergence.   There is nothing to fear in love.  In fact, one might say that a perfect love casts out fear.

So, why then do people continue to cling to their fears of LGBT people?   Are the ones who fear gay and trans people without God?  How can that be when so many who profess to have a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ are the very ones who then quote one of their favorite seven memorized verses from the Bible to condemn us?
I have a couple of theories on this.  One can be found buried in a story from CNN's religion blog about how the smartphone and other such devices are going to drive down church attendance.

According to a 2010 survey, more than a third of born-again Christians “rarely or never” read the Bible. Among “unaffiliated” people - that is, Americans who don’t belong to a religious congregation - more than two thirds say they don’t read the Bible.

The people don't read the Bible... and what they do read... they quote ad nauseum out-of-context and not understanding it.  If they go to church, they've very likely had the experience of being fed poison from the pulpit designed to bolster their ignorance.  And not just at the Roman Catholic and Baptist Churches.  At my own St. John's Episcopal within the past decade, there was apparently sermon upon sermon used to stir the pot of fear and loathing of LGBT people.  Today, those hate-filled words pour forth from the pulpit of St. Peter's Anglican Church... which incidentally links itself to the Anglican Church of Uganda.  And if you think homophobia is bad here...

My other theory is more tied to the culture we live in.  People are just generally very wiggy about sex and bodies.  And the LGBT community poses a serious challenge to the straight world's comfort level.  Those who are not comfortable in their own skins as heterosexual can't seem to help but get all fixated on what "those people" are doing (or not!) in their bedrooms.  The church is no helper in this area because the church has taken a "body=bad" approach to spiritual teaching.  But if you think about it: if the body is so bad, then why would God have appeared to us in the male person of Jesus Christ?   And don't we start bordering on some bizarre form of Gnosticism in the Church when we refuse to see the body and spirit as both gifts from God?

Are homophobes without God?  Yes, they are.  God isn't a homophobe and does not support the fear and rejection of those who live in love.   After all, don't we Episcopalians love the refrain of that hymn: God is love and where true love is God himself is there?

Let that be the message of the day and make that the ethic we export to the rest of the world!

(Aside: I will have a blog much later today on the Smartphone as Church).

  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Worldly Wisdom?

I was struck this morning as I was doing the Daily Office with the juxtaposition of the Collect of the Day with the the reading assigned from Wisdom.   The collect says,

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people;
Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who
calls us each by name, and follow where he leads...

With this was paired the reading from Wisdom in which we learn about those who don't know a force greater than themselves and have written off God and now we can do with it whatever pleases us...

For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,

‘Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades....

‘Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,

and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.

To put this in more modern terms, "Eat, Drink and Be Merry, because tomorrow we're gonna be dead!"   It's also the philosophy of the corporate moguls who wish to consume everything in their path and leave nothing for the next generation. It's greed at its worst.

It's also a very fatalistic view of the world.  If I can't take the finer things in life with me to the grave then I might as well make the most of it while I'm here.  At one time, I had a similar thought.  But over time, my focus has shifted.   Things that I thought were important aren't so much any more.  Certainly that's true of my consumption of goods.  I don't have a compulsion to have "lotsa" stuff.  In fact, I am more compelled to find a way to get some of my stuff out of the house. 

I also don't live as though this is my last day on earth or in anticipation of my last days on earth.  Instead, I try to take each moment as its own.   And, if I'm in a space to do it, simply acknowledge what it is to be alive whether I'm in my office observing a client's change in the connective tissue at the touch of a hand, or watching the sun setting over the horizon as I'm driving to the grocery store.  I think of these moments as being ones in which "the good shepherd" is calling, and reminding me that I'm part of a larger plan and to enjoy it without feeling the need to devour it.  And while I don't know where we go when we die, my own instincts tell me it will be something where the desire to eat and drink my fill will be null and void.  To have done it to excess on earth just seems pointless.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.  And remember to thank your host for such a good time!

  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Freaky Friday

I don't normally get all wigged out by Friday the 13th.   But maybe I ought to start.

Since Fr. Lee Graham retired from actively serving as a celebrant at noon day services, Fridays have become a new adventure every week.  Two weeks ago, I was standing in the clergy vesting room doing a one-minute speed read of the gospel of John to the priest who was filling in at the last minute and had no idea what the lessons were.  Last week, our priest arrived from his day job of monitoring the closing hours of the legislative session and preached a decent homily... although it was on a reading and saint assigned for another day.  That brings us to today.

Paschal candle lit.  Check.   Altar candles lit.  Check.   Lessons in Bible marked.  Check.

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock. 

(Where's the priest?)

I went into the vesting room.  No priest.  I went to the main office to inquire if anyone had seen the priest. 

"No. Is he supposed to here?"

The rector-to-be was coming from his office, and I explained the situation.  He looked extremely pained, especially when I asked if he was prepared to step in again.  Clearly, he had somewhere else to be. 

"Well, I am prepared to do Morning Prayer," I said.  I'd actually done it that morning, but was willing to share it with the congregation at St. John's. 

"No, just do the noon day service," says the rector-in-waiting.  

OK.  Back to the chapel where a half dozen people were waiting for the beginning of an Eucharistic service.  So sorry to disappoint, but while I am licensed to be a chalice bearer, my duties are not that of a Eucharistic Visitor.  And they are not allowed to consecrate the wafers and wine, either. 

I quickly glanced at the order of service for Noon day.  Much to my surprise, there were no instructions for any Scripture lessons anywhere.  Too bad.  I was personally attracted to the Ephesians reading that had been assigned for the Eucharist.  After offering apologies to the gathered assembly for their lack of person in plastic collar due to some "missteps", I instructed everyone to turn to page 103 in the Book of Common Prayer.  And off we went. 

When we reached the point of intercessions, I did my standard MP invitation for people to offer prayers for themselves or others either out loud or silently.  After a few beats, I bid that they remember the people who are unemployed and underemployed.  This is a growing concern in our community thanks to the hatchet job done by the state legislature and Governor.  I had come to church from having coffee with a friend who shared the woe of having been promoted, but with no pay raise and actually a pay cut because of the rise in health care costs and the requirement that state workers contribute to their own retirement fund.  More work for less money.  Great!

My prayer was answered with a few more people volunteering their own prayers out loud.  Glancing at the service rubrics, I felt it was going to end much too abruptly under the circumstances.  And so, thinking on my feet, I offered that people turn to page 101 and join in reciting the General Thanksgiving.  We did.  We blessed the Lord.  And I gave a dismissal.  Lights out. 

It wasn't what folks had come for, and yet everyone seemed to be OK, and at least nobody walked out.  God was praised, and that's what was important.

Certainly, I felt God was with me.  I didn't fall apart, or get too flummoxed even though I hadn't marked certain spots in my prayer book.  And I don't think anyone would have known that I had never ever read the noon day office before!  Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer: yes. 

Still, I hope my services as the Friday noon day celebrant at St. John's will not be required again for awhile.  Let's just leave that to a Friday the 13th phenomenon.

We're All Back Now

Some of you may have noticed that your favorite bloggers were a bit quiet the past 48 hours.  It was not by our own choosing.  Blogger, the Google-based program, was down for maintenance... and then some!  All is back to rights again, and you'll be able to do your morning/afternoon/evening reading again.   A new post will be coming from me again soon.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Praise for the Presbyterians!

The votes are not all in, but enough have pushed the measure, known as Amendment 10-A, over the top to allow for the ordination of openly-gay and partnered ministers in the Presbyterian Church, USA.  The tally currently stands at 87-62.  Twenty-four Presbyteries still have yet to weigh in, but that's not enough to reverse the decision.

The Presbyterians, like the Episcopalians and the Lutherans, have been wrestling, praying and voting on the future inclusion of LGBT people in the pulpits of their church for three decades or more.   But tonight, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities in Minnesota gave the necessary approval to the change in the church's constitution to open the door to ordination of LGBT people.

The new language in the constitution says:

“Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all the requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

Gone is the requirement for "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."  They've also ended the requirement of "chastity" for a single person.  

Also interesting in this vote are the Presbyteries that changed their original opposition to this amendment.  Among those coming to see the light: Florida, South and North Alabama, Middle Tennessee and South Louisiana.   The switch in position could be a reflection of a change in the hearts and minds of those voting members as they come to know more LGBT people.  It could also be that most of the opponents have already left the Presbyterian Church USA.  

Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator of the LGBT rights group More Light Presbyterians, calls the adoption of Amendment 10-A noted how long the struggle has been for the Church.

"I am so grateful for the sacrificial effort of so many people over these years to bring this deeply Reformed correction to an error made by the Church. Both during these months as the presbyteries have voted and for the last 37 years, you have courageously and steadfastly given of yourselves in a host of ways to bring our Church to this moment. Every bit of your energy, intelligence, imagination and love was needed to come to this new day. I am grateful to God for the privilege of being part of this witnessing community."

Congratulations!  And may God's love expand and touch even those who tonight are disappointed with the outcome.

Canterbury Condemns Ugandan Ugliness

It really is so rare that I offer praise of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.  But the ABC has offered a strong statement in condemning the mad rush in Uganda to pass the hateful Anti-Homosexuality bill before the end of this parliamentary session.
"Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers."

The statement, pulled from the Archbishop's website, notes that this is a reiteration of his position that he took in December, 2009.   I can only hope  that he recognizes the deeply troubling atmosphere present in the situation on the ground in Uganda and that the Anglican Church of Uganda has been a partner in building the homophobia in that country.  He really has nothing to lose in stating that he can't understand, "any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades" being a party to this desire to imprison LGBT people.  Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda doesn't care about the Anglican Communion; he only cares about playing the role of interloper in the United States and being Bishop to those malcontents who hate gays and women more than they love God.

But beyond the obvious that this bill is atrocious and awful and will gain the attention of the likes of me and others in the international 'hood of LGBT bloggers, I found this post at GayUganda the most telling and revealing about why this damn bad penny just won't go away.   It's a diversion away from the other real problems plaguing the country.  News about riots and the arrest of government opposition leaders are out there in the U.S., but buried deep into the newspaper.   And, as is the case usually, it takes a blogger such as GayUganda to make the link.  As he notes, "Gay rights are human rights!" 

Progressive Christians Who Won't Believe Out Loud



When I first saw this ad last week, I thought it was sweet, although a bit too sugary for my taste.  But I got the idea.  A new family arrives and endures the looks from the congregants that leave you thinking they are not particularly friendly.  Note to Christians: a lot of you look this way to the strangers coming into your churches. It struck me as a sad commentary that the young Asian woman places an Episcopal hymnal next to her in that, "Sorry, no room for you in the pew" way.  Such a contrast to the official advertised slogan, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You."  Thankfully, at the end of the ad, she redeems herself.  If you look closely, she's the one who moves over to make way for the new family.

A family that is a young son, and his two moms. 

The commercial is from Believe Out Loud, a project of Intersections International which is trying to push the heretofore silent majority in Christianity to stop being afraid and finally go public with their welcome of LGBT people into places of worship.

In the circles of progressive Christians, this ad should have been a big hit.   Should have been.

But at one progressive website, the executives decided this ad was not the kind of "Mom and Apple Pie"  advertising they were comfortable with for Mother's Day.  Sojourners website, one of the largest in progressive Christendom, refused to run the ad.   This has prompted an outcry from not only Believe Out Loud, and its parent organization, but from many bloggers who note that Sojourners advocates for the poor and the needy and thus gets lumped under the category of "progressive", but has failed to engage on other social justice matters, especially for LGBT people.  Or worse--have the founder go on record in other publications in opposition to such things as equal marriage rights.

Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, issued a statement to clarify their position, which has morphed from a concern that to show the ad would appear to be "taking sides" to saying that they would prefer to discuss "the issue of the LGBTQ community" on their editorial pages and not in their ad space.

I believe the appropriate metaphor would be that Mr. Wallis has just put his foot in his mouth.

What is meant by"taking sides" or  "the issue of the LGBTQ community"?   There is no issue; there is reality.  In your face, and in your pews, reality that--oh, my--gay people exist and they show up in church on Sunday.  That's what the ad is talking about.   There is the growing reality that gay people not only exist and go to church, they are also raising families; hence an even bigger incentive to find a church, so that a child gets a grounding in God that one can hope will not disappear.  Gay parents do this... just like straight parents do it.   The difference is the straight parents and their children receive spoken and unspoken affirmation from the church for their family life.  Churches are great at celebrating through the prayers the umpteenth anniversary of a straight couple.   Do they give the same recognition to gay couples?  Possibly... but only if you live in one of the countries, or five of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that allow for legalized marriage for LGBT citizens. 

In some ways, what Sojourners has done is illustrate the disconnect that so many of us of the gay persuasion find disturbing about those Christians who call themselves, "Progressive."  Like others who gather under that label, how progressive they are seems to have limits and often the line seems to be drawn at us.  They can fight for the poor.  They will sing "We Shall Overcome" on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  But put out church literature at gay pride, or participate in a Pride Week Interfaith service?

In my own experience, I have been flummoxed when talking to clergy that the minute I say something about making overtures toward the LGBT faithful and welcoming them into our church community,  I am on the receiving end of a quote from Paul's letter to the Galatians that "In Christ, there is neither Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female."  Admittedly, this is a big step up from having the horrible passages from 1 Corinthians or Romans tossed at me in an effort to deny my membership in the Body of Christ at all.   But still, it is a cop out.   It is a way of saying, "We don't need to talk about that here."

But that's the problem.  We do need to talk about that here because the Church has been the single biggest sinner when it comes to the gay community.   Religious leaders have preached hate-filled sermons against us, endorsed bigoted legislation, and have stood on street corners with bullhorns during our pride parades.  They have whipped people into a frenzy of fear that LGBT people were going to molest children, destroy marriages, and paint church altars pink and purple.  Get into a conversation with someone who opposes equality for LGBT people, and it won't take 15-seconds before the phrase, "The Bible says..." comes trippingly off the tongue. 

Meanwhile, the straight Christians who identify as "progressive" or "liberal" are comfortable telling their favorite gay Christian how much they support us in (fill-in-the-current-"issue"-facing-gays).  But will they take the same righteous stand to a straight friend, unprompted and unprovoked?  More likely, there will be a reason given for why they kept quiet.   Strange that they won't maintain that same silent witness if the issue is homelessness, welfare, or the rights of women.  

Another pet peeve I have is when I hear the excuse that they can't bear witness on behalf of gay people because, "Well, I'm not gay."  Well, I'm not a migrant farm worker, and yet, I will testify to the evils of trying to enact Arizona-style immigration laws in Florida.  And imagine what would have happened if every white person in America had said, "Well, I'm not black" during the civil rights movement?

I've read on many a blog written by a priest the bemoaning of the "numbers game" that gets played in churches these days.  Everybody's concerned that we need "lotsa" people, and here we get back to those parents with children.   They're called "Young Families".   Well, what if that "Young Family" has two dads or two moms?  They are still a family, right?  Yes, but their parents relationship may or may not be validated by the church.  What if there are childless couples who arrive at church?   Do we count our LGBT people in the numbers, or are they counted in the same way some states seem to want them counted as 3/5ths a person?   Of course, I know the answer that we are fully counted in "the book".  But what happens when presence in the pew leads to calling to the pulpit?  In some places, that's another line drawn in the aisle of acceptability.
   
I'm fed up with the excuses of supposed "Christian progressives" with their wishy-washy stands on equal rights for LGBT people and trying to find the "other side" in the discussion.  If God is the God we know and love and serve, then there is no "other side" in the question of whether or not I should be welcomed into the Body of Christ.  I am there already. 

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.--1 John 4: 20-21

A full welcome in the Church is part of that love.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I remember in college when I was taking an English course which doubled as a Women's Studies class and I had to write an essay on an influential woman.  I had certainly read about lots and lots of high-powered, feisty feminists who were chiseling away at the glass ceiling in (fill-in any number of professions).   I had enjoyed reading the poetry of Adrienne Rich, getting familiar with Janet Lewis and had slogged through enough Virginia Woolf.  Amelia Earhart was spectacular,  Cheryl Miller was a superstar. And I had already been exposed to a number of women in elected office in my home state of New Hampshire.
But when I thought about who had really influenced my life, it was definitely my mom.  And that was the essay I wrote.

My mother was an only child who gained siblings when her parents divorced and her dad remarried.  Her mom worked to support herself and my mom.  Her dad, while brilliant, was an alcoholic.  She would tell me and my brothers the stories of traveling by train from New York to Michigan for the summer to visit her father, and how she would make up scenarios, telling the porter that she was a runaway princess and such. 
She and my dad married in 1954, and it didn't take long for them to start a family.  My oldest brother was born on this date in 1955.  I came along in 1968, eight years after my brother, Tom.   During that time, my mom was a homemaker who would continue to volunteer to work on political campaigns.  About the time that I was in elementary school, she decided to complete her college education.  So she went back to school at the University of New Hampshire, designed her degree program and worked on developing a statewide group home system for juvenile delinquents, a means of diverting children from hard-core prison time to a way that would give them structure and discipline without cells and bars.  Her determination and dedication to getting her degree was admirable, and made quite the impression on me. 

Throughout my life, both  my parents had a way of opening our home and our dinner table to many odd characters.  I never understood why this young person, or this older gentleman, was spending so much time with us, but I also never questioned it and thought, "Well, it's a round table and we've got room."  My mom and dad lived and practiced the Christian understanding of hospitality and looking out for those fellow human beings in need.  Another indelible mark on me.  And if my parents weren't opening the house to people, my mom and dad both had a soft spot for animals.  No dog was ever a stranger in the Gage household!

And so I say again, "Thank you!" to the Anonymous Peggins, my most faithful blog follower and mom for the ways in which you have demonstrated love and been such a huge presence in my life.



Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Truth Will Set You Free


The Truth Will Set You Free_Trailer from Reveal Productions on Vimeo.


This documentary is due to be released in January 2012.   The opening scenes in the trailer are from a parish in North Conway headed by Rev. Susan Buchanan.  The scenes from the disruption during Gene's sermon in London recalled the trembling I felt as I watched it three years ago.  There is something terrible about a man swinging his motorcycle helmet and screaming heresy in a church.  +Gene has endured a lot during his tenure as bishop of New Hampshire.  So has the Church.  My hope is that as we keep moving forward in time, the truth of LGBT Christians will become apparent... and that truth will set lots of people free.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

National Day of... Oh. My. God.

I pray, both out loud and silently.  I pray in a church, sometimes in my office, sometimes as I'm walking somewhere and take in what is around me.  In other words, I don't have a problem with prayer or people who choose to pray.

But I am not a Prayer Warrior, and I am not a member of any task force for prayer.  I have always felt uncomfortable about the National Day of Prayer because it has always felt like its aim was for a certain type of prayer for a certain type of person... and I did not fit that mold. 

Clearly, I am one who must be prayed for!

Just look at the images in the promo video.  I mean, if we don't pray, then we won't be able to ward off the darkness that is hovering over... let's see, the White House and, oh, yes: San Francisco!  Not to mention the Midwestern farmland of the U.S.   I'm thinking that's Fulton, Missouri.



I have to say that after watching this video I am more convinced than ever that these folks are just wacko.  Thankfully, there is a parody of the "Task Force Trailer" that helps to mitigate for its misery.



I pray God will accept my prayers and supplications... and a pastrami on rye! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Misplaced Joy

Perhaps I'm missing something here.

Sunday night's prime time drama turned from the hunting and killing of "the bad guys" on CSI: Miami to the real-life drama of the military operation that led to Osama bin Laden's death.   Within the hour of learning the news, people began flooding the streets in New York and Washington, DC, to celebrate.  And even college students at Penn State went out to wave flags, and sing Lee Greenwood's ┼▒berpatriotic anthem "God Bless the USA". 


I watched this watched this scene this morning and talked it over with my partner.   She said it reminds her of the story from Exodus when the Israelites escape through the Sea of Reeds, and the waters come crashing back down on the Egyptians, the chariots and the chariot drivers.   The tale ends with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and all the women taking up tamborines and singing and dancing at the calamity that had befallen their oppressor.   This is a common motif in the Hebrew Scriptures.  I have often noted that in Judges, Jael takes a tent peg to the head of the Canaanite commander Sisera as he slept.  This is followed by a little folk song  by Deborah and Barak to celebrate the event.  It seems Biblical for there to be much dancing and joy at the death of an enemy. 

But is that God's or human kind's rejoicing?  

Again, I have no love for Osama bin Laden or anyone who puts his life to work for the purpose of death and destruction of others.  But I can not understand the flag-waving and the shouts of "U-S-A!!" as if we'd just won the Olympic Gold or something.  That's just weird. 

And there's something of a let down in this.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  There will be no trial.  No chance for his victims to see justice served.  The U.S. took possession of his body and dumped it into the ocean.  Thus far, we haven't even been shown the photographs of his corpse which supposedly show that he was killed by a single shot above the left eye.   Ten years of searching.  Ten years of wondering where he is.  Ten years of his mere existence making our intelligence community sweat.  One bullet above the eye--boom--done.  Kind of like a tent peg to the head.

Perhaps for some this is cause to celebrate.   But I really think I must be missing something here.  Death, even of our enemy, is not a reason for me to stand up and cheer.   Thankful for the end of a threatening presence, but flag-waving?  No.

Some friends have noted on Facebook that Osama died on May 1st... the same day that Hitler was found dead in the bunker.  It's an eerie coincidence, and leaves me with much the same feeling.  Without a chance to bring the accused before the victims, it feels as though, in death, the Osamas and the Hitlers are able to retain some psychological power.  One 9/11 family member remarked, "His death doesn't bring back my loved one."  That's your reality.

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I don't think this death has made the world a better place.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"On Nights Like This One..."

The networks have never had such a big story to interrupt all the ridiculous CSI shows on a Sunday night. 

Osama bin Laden, the notorious and nefarious leader of Al-Qaeda, has been killed by U.S. Military forces who launched an offensive on a hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  President Barack Obama, in making the announcement on national television, told us that no Americans were killed in the firefight, and that there was an effort to minimize civilian deaths in the attack.   bin Laden's body is in U.S. custody.  No word on what has become of the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda.  President Obama put it this way, "On nights like this one we can say that justice has been done."

There are those who ran out into the streets outside the White House and Ground Zero in New York to chant "U-S-A" and wave American flags.  But I was particularly moved by a quick interview with a family member of one of the thousands killed on September 11th in the World Trade Center.  You could hear in the woman's voice that she was shocked.  And I think that's a place many of us went to upon hearing the news of bin Laden's murder.  Here is the man who has kept this country on pins and needles for more than ten years, taking responsibility for bloody and deadly attacks in Somalia as well as the U.S. on September 11th.  We've been promised that "We're gonna git 'im!"  and yet nothing.   Now, we've finally closed in on him and killed him?  Wow!

And it raises an interesting thought for me: will his death really bring closure for the families, and by extension, this country which was so deeply wounded by the 9/11 attacks?   I imagine it will be a mixed-bag.  There will be those who join in the chants of "U-S-A!!" but I'm not comfortable going there.  I'm not UNhappy about the demise of Osama bin Laden, and yet I find it hard to rejoice in the death of an individual.  I wasn't giddy on the day that they hanged Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and I don't find myself particularly joyous tonight.  I don't think the world is safer because I don't think Al-Qaeda stops it's plans to take us down.  In fact it may be a time of heightened security.  One can only hope that by cutting off the head of this organization, the rest of this particular body will collapse.