Monday, November 30, 2009

Hatred Knows No Boundaries

As the U.S. was building up a head of steam to go "kick a little Iraqi ass", I remember how many leaders on the European continent were cautioning then President Dum-dum NOT to do it. The French were particularly concerned with the ill-thought plan, and became the target for much scorn among the crowd that now is waving their tea bags and screaming that they don't want health insurance reform. We actually had members of Congress pressuring the folks in the Congressional cafeteria to rename French Fries to "Freedom" Fries (because that would hurt the French??)
The concerns of our European friends made sense for a lot of reasons... as we are now learning. But chiefly, these countries are ones that had been seeing an influx of immigrants, many of whom were Muslim, and it was putting their own social, economic, and humanity to the test. These folks don't look like us; they don't speak like us; and they don't pray like us. And in countries, such as France which used to be a colonial power in places such as Algeria, there have been very tense relations with the Islamic immigrant community. So any kicking of that ant hill was bound to have ripple effects felt much more closely in Europe than the United States.

Now, in a rare instance of "Well, at least this isn't us bull-headed Americans being the idiots", the Swiss have voted to ban minarets, the towers that arise from the domes on mosques in that country. They did not take a similar vote to remove all crosses from their churches. If you read about the campaign that was waged to pass this ugly legislation, you'll see the roots of racism and fear of "the other": ads showing a set of brown hands grabbing for a Swiss passport and minarets arising like missiles from the Swiss flag.

Many of the 6-percent of the Swiss Muslims are people who escaped to this supposedly-neutral country during the upheaval in Eastern Europe, particularly Yugoslavia, in the 1990s. According to the Associated Press, only one in ten of those Muslims practices their religion in this country of 7.5 million people. So clearly, we are talking about a minority within a minority. All the more reason to pass a constitutional ban on this iconic feature of their mosques, right?

Gay people, especially in Florida, can understand the feelings of Swiss muslims this morning. Nothing like being a minority group who must endure the tyranny of the majority voting on your personhood!

The Swiss have not only kicked an ant hill, they've done so with a bucket of honey poured on their shoe. And I imagine the rest of Europe is a little nervous about the fall-out from this prejudicial vote.

O God: Help! Help! Help!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hallelujah! A Marriage Milestone in Massachusetts

Great news arriving just in time for the start of the new Church year! The Bishop of Massachusetts is directing clergy in his diocese, who so desire to marry same-sex couples, that they may go forth and do so using resources developed by the leaders in Province I of the Episcopal Church. Read about it HERE on the Integrity blog.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Year C

Happy New Year! OK, that's happy Church New Year. We are entering into Year C in our Church calendar, and with this comes more readings from the Gospel of Luke. Attend church on Sundays for the next year, and you will likely be hearing a reading from the gospel according to the "other", the non-Jew among the evangelists, the one who tells the story of a Jesus whose wide embrace reached beyond the chosen ones of Israel to often incorporate women, Samaritans, and prodigal sons.
In some ways, Luke's gospel might well be the one written for those who often felt excluded or unheard. He was writing for a Gentile audience; thus there are often times longer explanations of "things" that the other gospel writers didn't need to explain because they presumed those hearing their words were already in the know. Luke is the one who tells of Jesus' birth from the perspective of his mother, Mary. Luke is the only one who gives us a glimpse of a teen-aged Jesus in the Temple asking questions and giving answers that astound his audience. In Luke, we have the teaching about what it means to love your neighbor and the explaination that the "neighbor" is anyone, including a Good Samaritan... a character many Christians are familiar with from Sunday School teachings. But how many Christians would cringe if we were to update the story and instead of a "Good" Samaritan, Jesus would have said that a transgendered person or a lesbian stopped and helped the beaten and bloodied man who was left to die on the road? See, Jesus' point was to tell the self-righteous of Israel that "the one who showed mercy" may be one of "those people" that they so despised who, nonetheless, did the right thing. And it is also in Luke's gospel where we see Jesus, hanging on the cross and in excruciating pain, absolving the thief dying along side him when the man asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. That story has always made an impression on me and has made me see Jesus as one who will listen for the earnest cry of repentance from even the lowest of the low, and will not turn them away.
So, I am happy to be entering into Year C which might well be seen as "The Year of the Lukian Calendar". It will be an opportunity for all of us "others" to hear the call to come home, and to recognize and give thanks for the "otherness" of everyone who surrounds us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks for Blank Sheets

Some time in the past week or so, I had an email exchange with my mentor about the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. Hannah is the mother of Samuel who, at first, was childless; hence her rival, Peninnah... the "other woman" who had lots of kids, would "provoke" her and Hannah's husband, Elkanah, would try to console her by noting, "Am I not more to you than ten sons?" None of this helped Hannah feel better about her situation, and she finally turns it over to God. The priest, Eli, also is not particularly sympathetic to her, believing that this woman who is sobbing and praying quiet prayers of desperation in the Temple must be drunk and he tells her to stop making a spectacle of herself. She pulls it together to tell him that she's sober, but hurting. And from here, she receives not only the blessing of the priest... but she bears her son, Samuel who would be the line from which we have the first kings of Israel.
In looking at this text, post Year One of Education for Ministry, something leaped out at me that I hadn't seen before:
Hannah was a woman living in the margins. She was a woman ridiculed by her rival, misunderstood by her husband, and chastised by her priest. And still, here is God in action, bringing this woman out of the margins to make her the matriarch of another important chapter in the history of Israel.
More than that: here is God establishing, as God has, does, and always will, that in the view of God... the piece of paper in which God has drawn all creation does not have margins, or lines. No one is on the "first line"; no one is placed to the right or to the left of a red vertical stripe on the sides of the page. Everyone, everything, exists for God on a blank sheet of paper. We are the ones who draw the lines that separate "us" from "them" and attempt to push those we see as "random" or "unimportant" out into the margins which we have created and imposed on God's blank sheet.
How often does this occur? How many times has a Peninnah or an Elkanah or an Eli in our lives made us feel as if we belonged somewhere closer to the hole punch on the page or possibly that we don't even belong on the same page at all? And when we feel ourselves getting drawn out of the picture, do we respond as Hannah and turn to God to see what is really true. To see that these lines that have suddenly appeared on the page are not God's, but that of other humans. Furthermore, as I consider the sacrifice that God made as Christ who challenged and "provoked" in his own way, I think of how all the lines that had been drawn were wiped clean in that moment where he announced, "It is finished." Why would we then insist on restoring those horizontal and vertical divisions between ourselves instead of rejoicing in the liberation from such restrictions?
On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks to a God who sees a full, whole, blank sheet and doesn't set us apart on lines or in margins. I am thankful that I have been shown a view of God, the creator and keeper of blank sheets.

"My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired
themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world."
--Hannah's Prayer, 1 Samuel 2: 1-8

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Uganda Update: Finally!

A report on the Episcopal News Service website indicates that the Church's Executive Council will hold a teleconference meeting to respond to the urgent human rights issue involving the Ugandan government's proposal to pass "Anti-Homosexuality" legislation. The Council is made up of laity, clergy and bishops. Normally, the group only meets three to four times a year, but the Presiding Bishop can always call a special meeting. That would be the case here.

Officially, it seems the Episcopal Church has taken the position of taking no position on the legislation; hence this meeting. The Church HQ is advising people when they call about the horror show in Uganda to contact their elected representatives and tell them they want the State Department to take action. I agree: we should have Secretary Clinton's voice in on the outcry over this brutality of LGBT Ugandans. AND our Church should also take a position that sentencing people to life in prison for being gay or jailing them for supporting gay rights is a violation of human rights. Does the Church not see the injustice? Does the Church not understand that the dignity of every human being is at stake here? Was the Church this skittish about speaking out against Hitler and his attempts to wipe out the Jews? (I really don't think I want to hear the answer to that!)

I'll give them credit: they're at least finally going to teleconference on this issue... once they're done giving thanks to God on Thursday that they don't live under such threat of violence in their own lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uniquely Eunuch

His disciples said to him, "If such such is the case for a man and his wife it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."--Matthew 19: 9-12

This passage was in yesterday's gospel, and raises an interesting point for me. Eunuchs, who were in many ways "the other" in the First Century world, were the ones who were not to marry but rather to serve as attendants to a harem. They may have been people with same-sex attraction; they may have been people who were asexual. But, as noted above, Jesus' discussion of eunuchs indicates that some were "born that way", some were made eunuchs by others (possibly a physical castration done in war or by force) and then there were those who chose not to marry "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven" and thus remained celibate. In any case, there are some who see this mention as Jesus talking about the existence of lesbian and gay people and they note that he doesn't dismiss them. I would take this another step to say that Jesus not only observes the existence of lesbian and gays, but this may also be noting the presence of the transgender community of this Greco-Roman world.

All that aside, my attention to this passage was on the last type of eunuch, the one who is celibate, done so for "the sake of the kingdom of Heaven." I suppose this is where the Roman Catholic Church has gotten the idea that priests need to abstain from sexual relations. And in some quarters of the Episcopal Church, this same demand is made on lesbian and gay people in the priesthood. The rationale given for this demand is that we queer people, if we are going to serve God and the People of God, must remain chaste, celibate, asexual, "other-worldly" beings because sexual relations are only permissible within the bonds of a "Christian marriage". And since in some places (Florida!) marriage is now constitutionally-barred by the state, any gay person called to the priesthood must also take a vow of celibacy. And in the eyes of the Church, and lots of other heterosexual human beings, the only way to know that a gay person is celibate is for them to remain single. No living with another person of the same gender or nothing. Single. Alone.

I recently read the thinking of a Presbyterian minister who, after much thinking and praying, has come to realize that this effort in his own church to subvert God's will of having gay people in the pulpit is, well, un-Godly. He made a great observation about the beginning of time... aka Genesis... and what was happening in the second version of the creation story. Yes, God made Adam and Eve. And that's been a favorite of all homophobes in the church. But the reason God made Eve was because of a recognition that no human should live alone. God starts by trying to give Adam animals and birds of the air etc., but none of them were quite the partner that Adam needed. And so we get Eve. But the point this man was making is that to expect human beings to live alone without a partner in this world is cruel. God will always be with us to the end of the age, but humans need companionship on earth as well as in heaven! And given the demands placed upon priests and ministers, having a partner in life may be the one thing that helps keep them centered.

To become a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven", from what I read in Christ's words, is a special vocation. So, does that mean that the only gay people God will call to the priesthood are these uniquely eunuch people? I somehow doubt that. I somehow doubt that the same God, who chose a con man like Jacob and whose son claims his lineage to be that of King David, the adulterer, and who had prostitutes saving scores of people from death and destruction in the Old Testament would only pick the "purest of the pure" the "spotless and without blemish" of the LGBT community to become leaders. Certainly, if a person can and is willing to be celibate, that's great and it certainly would make all the straight people much happier. And isn't that what the celibacy demand is all about? Making straight people comfortable?

Sunday, November 22, 2009


We have reached the end of another church year. The Last Sunday after Pentecost which is also called "Christ the King" Sunday. The readings we will be doing at St. John's are definitely geared toward emphasis on "The King" (that's Jesus, not Elvis).

The gospel reading is from John. Pilate, the Roman Governor, is questioning Jesus, the Jew. Jesus is confounding Pilate by answering questions with more questions:

Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus: Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?

Pilate goes on to talk about how the chief priests and the elders have turned Jesus in, and now Pilate wants to know why. Jesus doesn't give him a direct answer, but more of the "reasons behind" the current predicament:

"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, then my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from here."

And Pilate, like others before him, takes only the plain-meaning of this statement and heads straight to "the rank":

"So you are a king?"

"You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

For reasons I don't really understand... the grand minds that create the lectionary stop the reading there. But the next line in that gospel is interesting and important:

Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

Boy, that's the eternal question, isn't it? We've probably fought more wars, burned more people at the stake, bounced more people out of churches and synagogues, and erected more billboards over that question than anything I can imagine. In Florida, it's not uncommon to see the war playing out on car bumpers. There are those who have the Christian symbol of the fish, those who have the Christian symbol of the fish with legs and the name "Darwin" inside the fish, and those who have the Christian symbol of the fish that says "Truth" devouring a smaller fish with legs that says, "Darwin". This is not to exclude those who have made a total joke of this war by having fish symbols with words such as "Gefilte" and " 'n Chips" inside the fish!

Jesus never gives an answer to this because he, in a way, already answered: those who listen to his voice know 'the truth'. In other words: hint, hint: I'm God. This would be "the truth". At least, this is what works for those of us who are Christian. But is this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? How do we know that this is truth?

Rationality and scientific testing won't prove God exists. We know this as "truth" because we believe and we have faith that it is truth. We get to that belief and faith in this truth through the testing that we do in our own lives and experiences. Each of us has our own story of how that happens and it quite often involves some extraordinary something that suddenly makes us stop and realize we are not alone. We come together in that truth as a community of believers who may be quite different people in lots of ways, but we have all reached the place of believing that there is something to this story about a God who reached out to us by entering the world as a baby, lived and taught among us, became popular and yet despised by the ones who had had a corner on popular belief, got killed, but overcame death through resurrection and ascended into Heaven where he has laid out a banquet table, prepared a room, and keeps entreating us to join him. And that call gets louder and more insistent during those times when we start to lose faith that this is the truth. And given these times in the world, I am surprised he's not going hoarse in the effort to get heard above the static!

As we enter Advent, the challenge, I think, will be to keep listening for this voice that calls to each of us. Keep our eyes focused, our ears alert, and our hearts open to the truth, the love and the light.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ad Wars

Above is an ad for the Episcopal Church as put together by Reverend Susan Russell, past President of Integrity. It's her response to the ad the Episcopal Church ran in USA Today. Most of the blogosophere has been ripping the ad (which I shared here ) to pieces... noting it's dry, lacks graphics, and isn't compelling. And, looking at what others have come up with in its place, I have to say there are a whole lot of very creative people out there. I've always been partial to the button that I picked up on Facebook that has our Presiding Bishop and the phrase, "Don't Believe in Any of That Crap? Neither Do We!"

I agree that visually, the Church could have done a much better job. And I would say, living in a place where the Episcopal Church NEVER advertises itself in the newspaper in any way, this is at least a start. It clearly got the juices flowing in people! Good stuff showing the diversity of the People of God who call themselves Episcopalian. Visually showing the words that are in the Church's full-page print ad.

Perhaps bloggers ought to flood the offices of 815 with their "better ideas." I mean, the thoughts of the laity are supposedly taken seriously according to the original ad!

There's No Place Like Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI who has outlined the procedures for Anglicans who just can't stand the idea of women as bishops... and really don't like gay people very much either... to go back to Rome. They won't have to surrender their prayer books, but they will have to surrender to the infallibility of the Pope.

The ABC doesn't believe this move by the Pope to cater to the "traditionalists" in the Church and set up a "Catholic Lite" track for them does anything to injure the relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. And I suppose it wouldn't; it might make our side of the equation nicer because all the malcontents can become RCs. And we might gain some more of the open-minded members of the Roman Catholic Church who can't stomach remaining with an institution that would invite in more bigots, and insist on celibacy for their priests, while allowing married Anglican priests to be considered "on a case-by-case" basis.

The ABC's visit, which had been on the schedule for awhile, will be to discuss the relations between the two churches. I admit to feeling a little uneasy about all this. I'm wondering what ++Rowan will "offer" to maintain some kind of civility between the two men. O God: Help, help, help!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do They Read USA Today at the Vatican?

If you turn to page 9A of the Nov. 20th edition of USA Today, you'll see the above ad which highlights all the reasons one might want to join the Episcopal Church. I can't help but find the humor in noting that "Episcopalians recognize that there is grace after divorce" and that "birth control" is a matter of "personal informed conscience." And any married OR celibate man OR woman may be ordained as a bishop, priest or deacon in the Church. Wouldn't it be fitting if all those Roman Catholic celibate men in the priesthood, angered by the incorporation of married Anglicans, would tell the Pope, "See ya!" In a sense, that's what Fr. Cutie did down in Miami.

The ad also sends a message to those crafting and clinging to the Anglican Covenant.. when it notes that, "Lay people exercise a vital role in the governance and ministry of our church." Not bishops only: laity=vital role. Sorry: it's not a purple shirts only club!
I wonder if USA Today has kiosks outside of Lambeth Palace or in Vatican City? Probably best that they not read such stuff coming out of us uppity Yanks with our "respect the dignity of all people" garbage. What sort of hippy-dippy flower child came up with THAT language?
It is timely for the Church to prepare this kind of publicity for all parishes and dioceses to use in their local media. Especially at this time of realignments, papal invites to whole dioceses, and announcements from disaffected ELCA members that are so angered by the Lutherans decision to accept LGBT clergy that--guess what-- they're going to break away and start another Evangelical Lutheran Church where they tell everyone that gay people are icky, gross and have cooties.
Has it ever occurred to any of these schismatics how absurd it is to start a church based on who you want to keep OUT?
Oh, by the way, if you didn't get the Friday USA Today, don't worry: The Friday edition stays on the stands all weekend, so there is PLENTY of opportunity for people to buy, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest page 9A!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Question of the Morning

I have been encouraged lately as I read about more bishops in the Episcopal Church putting forth statements on how they plan to show "pastoral generosity" to the LGBT faithful. Many, in recognition that there are jurisdictions that still have marriage equality, are directing clergy that it is time to allow for the churches in their dioceses to bless the civil marriages of same-sex couples who desire that from the church. Bishop Singh in Rochester, NY, is encouraging reluctant members of the state Senate to pass a marriage equality bill. And Bishop Paul Marshall of the Diocese of Bethlehem (PA) has given an outline to clergy there on how to proceed forward with opening the church doors to those lesbian and gay couples wishing a blessing on their relationship.

It gives me hope that in eastern Pennsylvania, and southern Ohio, moves toward being inclusive are happening, not with loud trumpets, but with a steady drumbeat of what is the right thing, the good thing, and the joyful thing to do for those LGBT faithful who have lived on the other side of the gate for too long.

The question I have is when will the music make its way southward?

Perhaps what's needed is the same thing that happened with the spread of Sacred Harp or "Shape-Note" singing. The tradition had its roots in New England, where music teachers developed song books and taught this simple (and loud) method of acoustic singing in four-parts. The music teachers would travel from town to town, and eventually started going south where it became hugely popular to convene in a church and sing for hours. So, maybe that's what's needed. Maybe these new "song masters" of the loyal order of Purple Shirts need to to take these new songs of God's inclusive love into the south land and share their song books, and teach us a new tune.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Uganda: O Lord, Make Haste to Help Us

At some point on Tuesday, November 17th, I hope each of us will take a moment to light a candle, and set aside 30 minutes to say a prayer for Uganda.

Specifically, the call going out across the globe is for all people of faith to pray that the Ugandan government withdraw the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 which threatens the lives of LGBT people in that African nation.

It also threatens the work of any western organization that is doing outreach to the LGBT community in Uganda. If caught, there are fines and possible imprisonment. It could lead people to snitch on neighbors who are disseminating information about LGBT activities. As Integrity USA observes, this proposal is the most draconian attack on the civil rights of a minority since Hitler's regime passed anti-Semitic laws in Germany!

The silence from church leaders and politicians in the west is disturbing. The United States and European nations basically bankroll the Ugandan leadership that is proposing this hateful legislation! And where is the outrage from the Archbishop of Canterbury? Why has our Presiding Bishop remained mum on this topic? And what about Pope Benedict XVI? The government of Yowero Musevene is poised to pass a bill that should offend any Christian's sensibilities, and yet not a word. Why? Because the Ugandan Church is complicit in this action?

The Ugandan Church leadership is using the language adopted at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (Lambeth 1:10) to bolster its support for this anti-gay legislation. Is this what the bishops of the Anglican Communion intended when they approved this? That, in Uganda, the "listening to the experience of homosexuals" (while keeping a boot on our necks) should result in a "seek and destroy" mission?

The leadership of the church may be asleep at the wheel, but the faithful community of believers is not. So, please, let us join our hearts, minds and souls in prayer for deliverance of Uganda from this evil legislation.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred and bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. --Collect for In Times of Conflict, BCP pg. 824

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.-- Collect for Proper 28, BCP pg. 236

I have mentioned the name Father Lee Graham before in this blog. He is the priest with whom I have the pleasure of serving with on Fridays at the noon-day service at St. John's. And this Sunday's collect is "his" collect. I say it belongs to him because these are often the words that he'll pray aloud before he begins his homily. This particular collect has its roots in the Reformation and is based on words in Paul's Letter to the Romans. But beyond the academics of the Collect, I think it expresses a truism about what we are to do with "The Good Book."

For some, the goal is to memorize the passages from the Bible so they can spout them off in the heat of a dialogue with a "non-believer", or a Christian who isn't from "their" Church. Fundamentalists and Baptists seem to enjoy this art of debate with Episcopalians because we are notoriously bad at knowing chapter and verse, but we're always impressed with how often the Bible quotes our Book of Common Prayer! ; )

While there are certain passages of Scripture that I do have readily available in my brain, I haven't gone about my studies of Scripture with a mind toward memorization. Instead, the encouragement I receive from listening to Fr. Graham, or Mtr. Phoebe or my mentor is to think about what is being said in the Scripture. Listen and hear first what is in the lessons of the morning, and often the sermon will provide one person's insight into what these passages mean for us in the here and now.

This past Friday, our reading for the noon day Eucharist service was from Wisdom 13: 1-9, a passage that notes how some of our ancestors would look to the stars for gods, but not see the work of an artisan God who gave them the stars... and lots, lots, lots more. As I read through the passage, I saw it to be a distancing from pagan cultures of the time, and a personal reminder to go look deeply into the heart of a rosebud and not only see that rose blooming, but to know that it receives its nourishment from the earth and the sky, which are all part of the creation that we, as God's people, are to look after. When we got to the homily portion of the service, Fr. Graham said much the same thing about the Wisdom reading, and went further to remind us that the gifts of God (the bread and wine) are also part of that earthly piece of creation... having once been wheat and grapes growing on a vine.

The joy for me in this journey is when we come across a passage in Scripture that pings me in the head, and makes me take notice. And then, in looking at it again, and putting it in context and then broadening out from there to get a sense of why these words resonate with me, I am doing the very work that the Collect of the Day is calling on us to do: take these words into your body, and see how they fuel your thinking and being in the world. Such attention, I think, is the road map that keeps us on the journey and living into the eternal life that is promised to us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thank God for the Scots!

Time for a short history lesson on the Episcopal Church in the United States. While we twist ourselves into knots, and bang our heads into walls, in an effort to not thoroughly offend the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, we might take a moment to consider that our true friends in the beginning of our church were farther north in Scotland.
After the Revolutionary War, those of the Church of England in the newly-freed American colonies were left without a bishop. Clergy had had to go back to England to be ordained. Now with our new relationship of no relationship with the Crown, there was a bit of a problem: who would be the bishop? An assembly of clergy held in Connecticut chose Samuel Seabury to go back to England and seek to be consecrated. Seabury went, but was told that unless he would swear allegiance to the Crown, he could not be consecrated. Afterall, the Church of England was (and is) a state religion. No "God Save the King", no mitre for you!
In Scotland, the Episcopal Church had already fallen out of favor with the government. The Roman Catholic King James I had been deposed in 1688, and most of the Anglican clergy and bishops had sworn allegiance to him. They said they couldn't undo this oath during his lifetime and became known as the "non-Jurors". Because of all of this, the new monarchs and Parliament of Scotland declared the Presbyterian Church the new state religion in Scotland. This left the Episcopal Church of Scotland unrecognized by the Scottish government. As such, they didn't have to swear allegiance to the monarchy, and were free to consecrate Samuel Seabury a bishop.
On November 14, 1784 in Aberdeen, the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen, and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness laid hands on Seabury, and he returned to the colonies as our first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in this country.
Part of the deal was that Bishop Seabury had to agree to use the Scottish prayer at the consecration of the host, which apparently is a lot longer than the one they were using in England at the time. We made some slight modifications over time, but largely the prayer used today is modeled on the 1764 rite from the Scottish Prayer Book **.
So, today we celebrate our independence... again... from England, recognizing that our Episcopal flag carries the cross of St. Andrew in rememberance of our special relationship to the Scots. And Samuel Seabury's name lives on in the church with Seabury-Western, one of the eleven Episcopal seminaries.
( information gathered from )
** corrected from original post. Thanks, frdougal!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cruel Irony

Students on the Florida State University campus, along with a few of us working-types, walked behind a rainbow-flagged draped coffin to mourn the passing of Question One in Maine... which put a halt to the marriage equality law there. The occasion was both solemn and filled with determined hope to see this issue come back and come back again until people in this country are allowed to marry the one we love, regardless of gender.

It was a pleasure to be a participant, and not a ringleader, for such an event.

I headed back off the campus on my Honda Ruckus, and then found myself behind a car from Killearn United Methodist Church. I know because the sticker proclaimed the church name and that this particular driver was "living" their faith. I thought, "Oh, that's nice." And then my eyes traveled to the other side of the back bumper. And there was a sticker proclaiming that the couple who rides in this American-made sedan has a rock-solid marriage because their "marriage is fireproof". The two "O's" in "fireproof" were in the design of interlocking rings, one with a diamond stud. And the flames looked like those often used to depict the fires of Hell. And in an instant, I felt my initial charity toward somebody "living their faith" chill as I contemplated what they meant by living their faith.

Experience has taught me that someone "living their faith" in their supposedly"fireproof marriage" is a person who believes they have an obligation, according to the Gospel of Matthew, to tell me that I am a sinner because I am a lesbian. And they won't stop repeating the idea that I must "repent" my God-given gift of my sexuality until it looks exactly like their's. You might imagine, such talk makes me go cold. I have not mastered yet the ability to remain open, in any real sense, to a person like that. Perhaps I could if we were blind-folded and made to interact with each other in a bodywork session, and then--surprise--the queer and the fundementalist are interacting!

Actually, that doesn't always work. I remember one such experiential exercise in massage school where we were all blind-folded and then the teachers placed us in pairs and we had to (carefully) reach out and place our hand on our partner's heart. This one time I was paired with a person who was a fundementalist Christian. Her contact with me felt strange, and strained, almost as if she was trying to push me away. And I felt a deep sense of rejection and couldn't understand why I was being pushed away. When the reveal came, it was a moment of "Wow!" A therapist's hands can communicate A LOT about the person making the contact! And then we had to do a massage session with each other. It was hard.
It still is difficult for me to know how to respond, or not, to people who refuse to see me as a fellow member of the Body of Christ. How do you deal with the person who will not return your smile, and "Good morning!"? Or the person who will not go to the altar rail with you, or shake your hand at the passing of the peace?

I have no answers for these questions. I just trust that God is holding us all in the eternal hope and love that one day we will serve Christ in one another and love as He loves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christian Queen Esther?? Oy, vey!

Forgive me for a moment while I sigh heavily! OK, here it goes:

Today, I was perusing Facebook and found that one of my friends, a fellow blogger, had posted something about the very tiresome, two-bit California beauty queen what's-her-name Prejean (you can see how much I care about this woman and anything she has to say about gay marriage or anything else, for that matter). At any rate, he bemoaned how "christians" embraced this woman, but as her soft-porn past is made more public, are trying to run away from her. One of his readers made note of the connection that seems to be there between "female christian heroes" and "beauty queens". And then she added, "I guess I have to add Esther in that one, too."

Having a Jewish partner, my eyes did a roll, and my fingers went to work to respond that "Esther was a beautiful *Jew*." Some time later, this person responded with acknowledging that Queen Esther was, indeed, Jewish, but she is also a Christian heroine. (?????) And if I didn't believe her, I should Google the line of toys and see for myself. And so I did.

And, yes--- in the world of "Christian Action Figures", you can find the beautiful Queen Esther, the heroine of her Hebrew people who saved them and her Uncle Mordecai from the evil Haman (although they don't tell you that's the bad guy's name... even though getting to drown out Haman's name is a big part of the Jewish Purim celebration). Queen Esther, the Christian Action Figure, talks... but she doesn't say very much. You see, the makers of the toy only want her to quote the Scripture that *they* think children should memorize. That's apparently part of the "teaching" of this line of dolls: handy-dandy Bible quotes taken out of context and put onto recorders operated by a pull of a string.

I have a nifty idea: how 'bout if the people purchasing these toys start from the premise of telling the 3+ year-olds who might play with this "action figure" that this particular "Christian heroine" was NOT a Christian?! Can we admire her? Can we enjoy the story? Can we see this woman of the Bible as one of those few women in Scripture who gets to have her story told? Yes, on all three counts. But to try and pass her off as a "Christian" heroine is not only inaccurate, it's a great way to stir up your Jewish friends and neighbors! We thought we had 'em with the Gospel of John and that insistence that Jesus is fully-human and fully-divine, eh? Oh, no! Tell them that one of their matriarchs is a "Christian" heroine. Then duck before they deck your noggin with brass knuckles and knishes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Honor of Our Veterans

As I noted on Facebook today, my father served in the United States Navy during World War II. He trained fighter pilots, and then was assigned to serve aboard the USS Natoma Bay in the Pacific in our war with the Japanese. My father never really spoke much about the war, beyond quick references to Naha where they didn't leave "stone on top of another stone." But I remember during the Iranian student uprising when our embassy in Tehran was seized, I, as a patriotic youngster, crowed that we ought to go to war with Iran. After all, isn't that how you settle a score with an enemy?

My dad put his fork down at the dinner table and fixed me with the "Dad" stare.

"You do NOT want to go to war! War is hell!"

I suppose I should have straightened up, saluted and given him a, "Sir, yes, sir!"

Much later, as part of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I interviewed my dad for the radio and gathered more information about his thoughts on serving in the Navy and being part of the World War II generation. Dad said that, initially, being in the Navy was just about having a good time. When Pearl Harbor happened, it changed the landscape and the meaning of his service. He acknowledged there was a difference between how someone in the Navy, particularly pilots, experienced the war versus' someone involved in on-the-ground combat. Mostly, he said, the pilots never got to see the human results of their bombing.

I wouldn't say my dad was a pacifist. But he certainly seemed to be a realist. He said that everyone likes to believe that when they go to war, they're doing it for good, for the "right" reasons. But I think my dad, after having served and seen the cost of wars both before, during, and after his time in uniform, came to a place of thinking there has to be a better way to settle conflict between nations.

And so on this Veteran's Day, I have taken quiet moments of remembrance for the service of my father, and other men and women, who put aside other pursuits in service to our country. I remember the countless number of lesbian and gay service members who remain silent, and enlisted, or have been discharged for simply being who they are. And I can't help but take pause at the tragedy that happened at Fort Hood in Texas last week, and all the people affected by that act of violence.

I pray for all of them and all of us that we will understand that war is hell, and find better ways to settle our differences than to sacrifice the lives of servicemen and women.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.--Isaiah 2:4

Charter for Compassion

This is a marvelous lecture by the religious scholar Karen Armstrong. It's a year-old, but the compassion message is still necessary for our world today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another day, another disappointment

Y'know, it seems only fitting that we had Tropical Storm Ida passing through the Florida panhandle today. The perfect natural soundtrack for that feeling of "When it rains, it pours."
Such is the case for today when word came that the New York state senate is stalling on the marriage equality bill because they don't have enough votes to pass it. The Republicans are standing against it, and there are a collection of Democrats who are either not willing to commit to support it or have said they will not vote for the bill.
Governor David Paterson had pushed to have the marriage measure heard during a special session called to deal with a budget deficit in New York. But the political will wasn't there to get the bill to the floor with Republicans insisting that the session was called to deal with the budget, not with marriage. Ironically, the Senate failed to deal with budget issue today, either!

Gay activists in the Empire State were vocal in their demand that the bill be heard, noting that there is nothing new about budget problems getting business bogged down in Albany.

My hope is that this is only a temporary set back. Meanwhile, I think the gay community in New York needs to look at who among the Senate has been naughty or nice on this topic, and take note of that in 2010. Many of my friends disagree with me, but I don't understand electing Democrats who vote as Republicans simply because they have a "D" after their name. What's the point?

A Voice Cries in the Wilderness

Over at CHANGING ATTITUDE, there are a series of posts from a blog written by a Uganda gay man who uses the name "Gug". We don't see his face, but when you read his words, you can sense the level of anger and betrayal he feels, and his humanity. Imagine living in a country that, up to a few years ago, was content with pretending you didn't exist. And then, at the encouragement of "christian" leaders, began a campaign of fear and hatred against this supposedly "invisible" enemy called the "Gay Ugandan". On the one hand, these officials refused to accept that there is such a person (absurd, yes; but there you have it). But then, with the encouragement of western homophobes especially the schismatics of the Episcopal Church and fired-up evangelical preachers, they wanted a pogrom to purge themselves of homosexuality in Uganda.

Caught in the cross-fire of all this are the real people like Gug. THINKING ANGLICANS has quick links to Gug's posts. But I particularly wanted to share this one because it shows the damage done by a church that purports to uphold the ethics of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And while Gug's story is about being a Ugandan Anglican, it gives insight into why LGBT people in this country are so hostile to Christianity. The level of spiritual violence experienced by Gug mirrors what some in the United States have experienced in their own lives and places of worship. And it behooves ALL bishops, priests, and other ministers whom we pray for each week to answer those prayers by working toward ending the hypocrisy of preaching "Love God and thy neighbor"... and then supporting rules and laws in the church and state that create inequality for LGBT people.

To Archbishop Orombi, I say it is high time for you to repent of your wickedness. Gug's story tells me one thing about you: there is a millstone around your neck that only grows heavier the more you and others of your ilk continue to persecute queer Christians, and drive them away from a God who wants nothing more than for them to come home and eat at the banquet of eternal life.

Prayers ascending for Gug and his fellow brothers and sisters in Uganda.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Desert Living

Tonight, I heard an extraordinary statement.

I was at the Tallahassee Equality Action Ministry or TEAM meeting at Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church. The member congregations, 29 in all, were gathering to caucus and vote on the social justice agenda we want to pursue with our elected leaders. We were called to overcome our fears, trust in our faith that we can make a difference, and triumph over obstacles to get things done.

When we reached the end of the night, I heard the extraordinary statement. A straight, married, white male priest told us, "I am sick of living in the desert!"

What this meant, for him, was living in a world where there is so much injustice, brokenness, and lack of political will to do anything. For me, it is those things... and so much, much more. I mean, if a straight, married, white guy can say he's "sick and tired of being sick and tired", how much more so can I, an Episcopal white lesbian in Florida?

Living in a desert is one image for how I have been feeling this past week. I realized that the vote taken in Maine was a sign that there is no region of this country that is totally safe for LGBT people.

And the more I thought about that, the more my mind moved from the to-be-expected depression to a quiet place of considering Christ. It's at times such as this that I wish my queer brothers and sisters would take a moment to consider the meaning of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection rather than accepting what somebody else has told them... which is usually the lie that Jesus doesn't love them, or the insidious "Love the sinner, hate the sin" which is just a soft-peddling of the usual anti-gay message.

The reason I identify as Christian goes beyond my baptism and confirmation. I am a Christian because what I see in Jesus Christ is a divine man who knows exactly what it means to be a lesbian.

Say what?

Consider this: when Jesus says, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," he says to me, "I know that loneliness of being an "other" in your own country." He is saying "I know your journey is tough because I have endured that journey, too." Jesus is relentless in his message of love, and, if you study Luke's gospel, you find a Jesus who extends his reach to all kinds of "others" from Good Samaritans to prodigal sons. Turning to the gospel, and punctuating the reading with the psalms, my desert place can become a little less arid. How long must I wander before I reach the land of milk and honey?

A Plea to Uganda

Pressure continues to mount in the effort to stop the Ugandan government from falling into a nasty homophobic pit of rotten legislation. The African government is proposing a law that would lead to the imprisonment, and in some cases death, of LGBT citizens and anyone who sympathizes with them. In this essay published at Other Sheep, the Rev. Michael Kimindu of Kenya articulates the reasons why Christians need to voice opposition to this proposed law, and he is calling on African religious leaders to, in short, repent and return to Jesus Christ. This hateful and hate-filled legislation is totally at odds with the teachings of Jesus. And I appreciated Rev. Kimindu's explanation of sexual orientation:
Sexual orientation refers to how an individual feels as a sexual being. One's sexual orientation may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender or inter-sex. And when we talk about sexuality, it is not just about procreation, family planning, disease, violence and morality. We forget that human sexuality involves pleasure, intimacy, closeness, fun, love and a way to survive the harshest of poor economic circumstances.
And on faith and sexuality, he says:
People from all nations are to be made disciples. And no distinction is to be made on how one is created.
Go read his appeal. It is a well-thought out statement of faith, justice and mercy.

For Those 215 Members of Congress

Actually, while the cartoon is called "Republican Jesus", it really needs to be renamed "Jesus of Greedily". I wouldn't want to leave out those 39 Democrats who enjoy federally-subsidized health insurance while voting to keep it away from other people.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thanks Be To God For Those Steps Forward

Amidst all that has happened these past few weeks... or not... for the LGBT community, it is always great to celebrate those bright lights in the Episcopal Church when I see them amidst the fog and clouds of prejudice. Such is the case in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, where Bishop Tom Breidenthal at his Diocesan Convention said it was now time for Southern Ohio to consider blessing same-sex unions. And, in an act of symbolic significance, this new policy would go into effect as of Easter 2010. Breidenthal himself has always been a supporter of blessing same-sex couples who are in committed relationships, but the Bishop notes, that is not where the diocese was at when he took office. But now, with the passage of C056 and D025 at the General Convention directing bishops on "pastoral generosity" toward the LGBT faithful in the pews... he says its now time to follow the lead of the national church toward full inclusion. Hooray for him!

The Diocese of Rochester (NY) has passed a resolution condemning the anti-homosexuality act currently before the Uganda legislature. The bill, which I commented on here and here, would imprison gay people, and in some cases, lead to their executions. The Anglican Church in Uganda put out a statement in which it refers to homosexuality as a "sexual disorientation." The Diocese of Rochester is sending its resolution to political and church leaders in Uganda, informing them of their disappointment in light of the Anglican Communion's stance on violence toward people. Glad somebody is saying something!

Finally, the Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, in light of this past summer's General Convention, is lifting the ban on clergy acting as state agents in signing marriage certificates for lesbian and gay couples. Remember, it's been legal for queers to get married in Massachusetts for awhile. Now the Church is catching up to the state in allowing the LGBT faithful to get the full treatment, as it were, for their marriages in the Church. I think that's grand... and I stick by my earlier argument: the religious officials should stick to blessing marriages and leave the state functions to the state. Otherwise, poor misguided straight people will continue to believe that when the priest pronounces you "husband and wife", you are now recognized as spouses and will be admitted to a hospital room if, God forbid, your sweetie is in accident... or dies and you are eligible for his or her social security benefits. Those are rights granted by the law, not by God. Because I firmly believe if we were to really leave these matters to God... this idiotic debate over marriage equality would have been over, and gay people would be getting married.

So hurrah for the Church in the Northern (Kingdom) part of the United States. Please help spread the love South!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Congressman and the Widow's Mite

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."--Mark 12: 41-44

It seems oddly fitting that the Gospel reading from Mark, with the above commentary on the corruption of the Temple leaders, is the reading that is assigned for the Sunday following the vote on the Health Care Reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lawmakers passed the bill after a day-long debate on a 220-215 vote (one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of LA voted with the Democrats). My Congressman, Democrat Allen Boyd, was reportedly among the 39 Democrats who voted against his party's proposal. I attended one of Boyd's town hall meetings, as reported in this post from August, and his statements at that time told me, he wasn't going to vote for a bill that had a public option... or really held private insurance companies accountable to their consumers. So, when he announced today that he wasn't voting for the bill... no big surprise.

But it is supremely disappointing. Because Boyd, like all members of Congress, have excellent health benefits through a federally-subsidized health care plan, the type of insurance somebody like me would love to have; 75-percent paid by the government and that includes prescription drugs. The premiums for the federal health care run from as little as $55-$355 a month. When your salary for the month is $12, 500, these numbers are a drop in the bucket.

But a self-employed person like me, who has seen my business drop off in this shaky economy, I don't have enough money at the end of the month to afford the kind of premiums quoted to me (often between $150-$400... depending on the deductible). And trust me: that lower end figure only helps if I have a catastrophic accident... and the insurance kicks in after I've met the $15, 000 deductible. Anybody want to hold a rock concert to raise that money for me?

I wrote an email letter to Boyd voicing my disappointment in him. And I offered a way for him to make amends for his callous disregard for those of us without health insurance: he could refuse to accept the Federal Employee Health Benefits Package, and go out and purchase private insurance for himself and his family. This would seem to be the only fair thing for those who are able to put large sums into the treasury to do. They should have to negotiate and purchase insurance in the same way I have to do it. And then, that Congressperson had better pray that they or their family never have a serious illness that makes the private insurer say, "Oh: you have cancer? Sorry, but according to the terms of your contract, we don't actually cover potentially fatal diseases which, in all likelihood, was a pre-existing condition."

"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplace..." could be translated today into "Beware of Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs, and claim to be fiscally conservative when their decisions lead to more and more stress on hospital emergency rooms, since that is the place most poor people end up and usually when it's too late." Blue Dogs clearly do not care about the poor, the meek or the lowly. Allen Boyd has disappointed me, again.

Banning Divorce

Hahahaha! This campaign in California makes me laugh, especially since it appears to be real! It's worth reading the comments at the bottom just because it highlights (a) the cognitive dissonance about the word "marriage" and (b) how some people have absolutely no sense of irony or satire!

Watch the ads; they're really funny!! Find out more about this campaign by clicking HERE.

Friday, November 6, 2009

We'll Give You Everything But...

Finally, some good news from a statewide election. According to the Associated Press, Washington State appears to have approved an expansion of the Domestic Partnership benefits offered to lesbian, gay, and some straight couples.

It seems that just over half the people in the northwestern state believe that, as long as LGBT people aren't asking for "marriage", then they're OK with granting us all the rights and privileges thereof. I'm glad they see it that way. I'm glad that they believe people such as myself, when we enter into a relationship and begin building a life together, should be afforded such benefits as a married straight couple.

Just don't call it "marriage". Because then--what--we'd have something "more"?

I find the whole "marriage" business a very strange and peculiar hot potato. I really do not understand the reluctance of the straight community to share this word with the gay community. Oh, yes: people have tried to explain it to me. I have heard that its because of "the church" or "religion" or "chrisitians" (that last one should be said as if hissing). But in Maine, as is the case in most of New England, that vote can NOT be hung purely around the necks of bigoted "christians" because, unlike in the South, the church doesn't hold as much sway over the hearts and minds of people. And, to be fair, there were religious leaders... including the Episcopal Bishop of Maine and many American Baptist ministers... who were encouraging people to vote No on Question One.

But back to this hang up about "marriage". I find that the possessiveness of straight people about this word is only matched by their unwillingness to accept that if "traditional marriage" is SO important, then we should go back to the "traditional laws" about divorce. Namely, make it extremely hard to break out of a bad marriage. Suggest to a straight person that we should eliminate divorce and require these "traditionally married" couples to live "happily ever after dammit", and you'll watch the beads of sweat form on their brow and lots of excuses for why we need to have divorce. How many priests and preachers, when confronted with the words about divorce as uttered by Christ, prefer to steer their sermons toward the Old or New Testament reading instead? I guess "divorce" is an equally hot potato as "marriage". Perhaps because divorce is a sign that not all "traditional marriages" work out?

Furthermore, if the Church (or synagogue or temple or mosque) is the reason that straight people can't stand the idea of LGBT people getting "traditionally married", then I wonder why when straight people get divorced they don't have to return to their place of worship and renounce the vows they've taken before God and their friends and family? If the priest (or other religious official) can sign the state papers to marry a couple, why should we not require them to sign the state papers to divorce said couple? And, if that religious official is unavailable, make another one do it instead.

What? NO!? Separation of church and state, you scream? Exactly my point.

I do not know what churches or other religious institutions gain by performing the act of signing the state papers making a couple legally married. But I believe this cross-over into a state function has done a terrible disservice to the straight members of the population. Because straight people seem to believe that marriage, the civil right, is tied into marriage, the sacramental rite. And, bless their hearts, the religious leaders in this country have done nothing to clarify this issue. And, in some corners, have used this confusion to their wicked ends of making LGBT people second-class citizens.

My answer: those who have the power to join together, through God, a couple whom no one should put asunder should stop their participation in the state-side of marriage. No more slinking off to sign the certificate with the love birds and a couple of witnesses. Make it clear that all you really have the power to do is bless the union. But for the purposes of the couple being REALLY married, in the eyes of the law, they must seek out the services of a clerk of court, an attorney, or a notary public (i.e. Me, the one not allowed to get married in Florida).

Some Episcopal churches, and individual priests and religious leaders, have gotten out of the marriage "business". They might bless a couple's union, but they direct the couple to go to the state for the actual signing of a marriage certificate. I believe this is the way, perhaps the most helpful way, for the church to lead on a very painful topic within the LGBT community.

My congratulations to the voters in the state of Washington for conferring on your LGBT brothers and sisters "everything but marriage." Perhaps, one day, you'll be able to take the next step... with God and the Church's help.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pain in Maine Feels All Too Much the Same

Maine: How could you do this to me?

Watching the election results roll in via the Internet last night, I suddenly felt myself reliving a nightmare. At first, the No on One campaign was succeeding. Portland, Auburn, Kennebunkport... all of them saying in one voice, "No One" tells Mainers to reject their gay neighbors.

But then the rural areas began reporting in, and the margin narrowed... and then it flipped. And by the time I was going to bed, the margin had widened to 53-47 percent against the gay community... again.

Maine: How could you do this to me?

I know we fell back an hour Saturday night, but this feels as if we have fallen back a full year. When I read the story of the tears of my Maine brothers and sisters at seeing hope snatched away by popular vote, I knew those tears. I lived this last year in Florida, where we had no hope of marriage to begin with, and then the voters decided to make it even more so. And the nagging question of "Why?" is on the lips of same-sex couples wanting to protect their relationships in the same way as their straight siblings.

The Associated Press notes that the leaders of the anti-LGBT marriage camp were trumpeting this vote as a victory for traditional marriage. And again I wonder how one couple's marriage threatens or diminishes another's. What are they trying to protect except to keep other people from being able to enjoy the same legal protections?

Maine: How could you do this to me?

Also on the ballot in Maine was a question to allow for the creation of a Medicinal Marijuana Act. That passed with 59-percent of the vote. So Mainers are willing to protect pot smokers, but not queer couples. Was there no outcry to protect traditional medicine, so drug companies can make more profit on the pain of a cancer patient? Apparently not.

A bright spot in all of this is Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the people overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that protects LGBT people from being fired from their jobs or denied housing or accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That IS different than 2008. I'm still unable to find results from Washington State's vote on the domestic partnership law, but that vote apparently was also close.

But Maine. Maine! Have you not seen how nothing horrible has happened to your neighbors in New Hampshire as a result of "gay marriage"? Does your proximity to Canada not demonstrate that a country doesn't go belly-up if the civil authorities allow LGBT couples the access to marriage rights?

I suppose the silver-lining is that the vote was 53-47... unlike Florida's 61-39 a year ago. But there is no rejoicing for me in a world that allows majority votes on rights conferred onto a minority group.

Shame on Maine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Ask Your Prayers For...

Today in Maine, and in Washington state and Kalamazoo, Michigan, there will be votes that directly affect the LGBT community. Maine has received the most focus because, like California last year, it is a state where the political leadership has approved same-sex marriage... and there is a referendum to try to undo the will of the politcians... the ones voted into office to, presumably, represent the interests of their constituents.
In Washington state, there is a challenge on the ballot to the state's domestic partnership law... which also covers straight couples over the age of 62. And in Kalamazoo, the city is trying to keep an ordinance banning discrimination against the LGBT community in housing and the workplace.
These are all very important votes not just for the LGBT people living in these areas, but for all of us who are queer in the United States. It was about this time last year that voters turned out in record numbers to cast ballots for President Barack Obama. At the same time, voters in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, responded to their fears or their inability to decipher the intent of ballot measures that slammed our community hard.
One year later, and after much education, I am hoping to see a different result. Let's pray for that with this collect based upon the Collect for an Election:
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the many communities in the United States in the election of officials and representatives, and grant them discerning hearts and minds as they weigh ballot issues; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. --BCP, pg. 822

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Soul's Day

"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life. Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so has he granted the Son to have life in himself, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man." --John 5: 24-27

Normally, this is the day to remember all those who have died, and hold in our prayers those who mourn the passing of loved ones. In thinking on those "thin spots", this is likely the thinnest of times. But on this All Soul's Day, I find my mind moving in a slightly different direction, particularly in thinking on the above passage from the Gospel of John:

"Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life." Such a statement has echoes to me of the words of Jesus found in the synoptic gospels, such as Luke: "Anyone with ears to hear listen!" This is a listening that is not passive, but active listening... more like really hearing the words and understanding the meaning of those words. Hear the message that Jesus is bringing, and believe it, and such hearing will bring you life. A life that has "passed from death into life."


No, I haven't been smoking any savory herbs or drinking Whiskey in the middle of the day. What I am thinking about, and have thought for awhile, is that the words of Jesus which address the idea of "living" versus' being "dead" are as much about the plain meaning as they are about a more metaphorical meaning. There are plenty of people walking around in the world who are still wedded to the idea that they can have happiness and meaning in life through things that are going to go away. Chiefly, they crave money and lots of it. And while there's a kernal of truth in the notion that life is a lot easier with money, is it any better? Fuller? Richer? Happier?

"... the hour is coming, and is here now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Again, I see in this statement the active listening and absorbtion of what Jesus is teaching is a pathway to life. And this becomes even more clear to me in the next lines about God having life, and having given life to Jesus, and through this "life" that Jesus is now liberally sharing with his teachings, we may also have life. It's like the passage in Luke where people are worrying about following Jesus before they've buried their dead. And Jesus says, "Let the dead bury the dead." I read that as, "Let those who are still focusing their energies on wealth, power, and pride be the ones who bury the dead." Or, another way of seeing it, "Let those communities that have fallen away and aren't following the commandment to love God and love the neighbor as God so loves you do that work."

What this is leading to for me is my recent concern for the Church and the world. Too many people appear to be trying to do this life alone, and suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally, from that. And they won't trust in the Love that is out there waiting for them because it's not something they can wrap their arms (or their minds) around. Compounding this issue is the Church leadership who, through their refusal to actually walk in the daring, daunting steps of their ancestors and Jesus and challenge the boneheaded moves of political leaders or take stands that may cost them something, are unwittingly throwing up a barrier in front of those who might seek God. People who are "outside" the Church view it as a bunch of hypocrites because the leaders refuse to say, "Boo" about injustice. Has the Church leadership forgotten what happens to those who cause another to stumble?

The only way I know how to counter this is through my own actions. To remember "the source" and to stay as close to that as I can, so as not to stand in the way of the light that leads to eternal life. And to tap into that "source" regularly for guidance. God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Living and the Dead

All Hallow's Eve... or Halloween... or Samhain, as my pagan friends call it, has come and gone and today is its companion in the Church calendar: All Saints Day.
As Fr. Lee Graham noted in a recent homily, the Church has made All Saints into a day when we remember those who have gone before us as if they are in some far away place. In reality, if we were to pay attention to the rubric of many pagan beliefs, its not that the saints are far away; they are actually quite close because the veil between the worlds is pierced. Or, as Fr. Graham was describing it, the separation between the living and dead is "a thin spot" at this time of year, one where we feel the presence of our ancestors more than at other times.

There is some comfort for me in knowing that there is a time when those who have left this earthly realm draw closer to us in celebration. In my own understanding, as of November 1, 2009, the major difference between those who are considered the "living" vs. the ones who are "dead" is the body. Those still considered "alive" have physical bodies; the dead do not. Unless they are zombies in search of brains. However, even in death, I believe, there is still something else. My deep sense is that once the soul has turned out the lights in the body... its destination is another stage of life. In my belief, it is a life in Christ and God and the Holy Spirit... another step in the journey toward reunion in God. Do I know this for a fact? Heck no! I haven't died and left this body yet! And I don't have a particular desire to find out any time soon. But I do think its plausible. Our view of what is life is limited by our own bodily experience. But just because a body no longer has a soul, I think the soul goes on to a new life even as the body goes back to the earth.
I have something of "living" proof that out death comes life: my funny-looking, skinny cat Ziggy died very suddenly about three years ago. We buried him in the front and marked his grave with a rose plant. Just a couple days ago, a bud emerged and is now beginning to bloom... just in time for All Saints day.

Seeing this, and thinking about the baptisms slated for our services, the idea of the "thin spots" seems very real!

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon assigned for this Sunday is the same reading we had at my dad's funeral: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them." Although applied to the dead, I think this is equally as applicable to the living. "Those who put their trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect." God is watching over both worlds: those who are among the living and those who are the dead... both on earth and in heaven. Are we doing those things that we should be doing to keep us abiding in love and understanding truth? Are we doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God?