Thursday, January 31, 2008

Holy Crap

Getting my hair cut is always a lesson in Bible belt piety. My stylist, afraid of the very real gang activity in her son's school, has put him in a Christian school. He's learning some strange things about what it means to be a Christian. He told his mom recently, after a very innocent touch with a relative that, "Men shouldn't touch a woman until they're married." Wow, his high school days are going to be very awkward.

My stylist also told me that she came home tired and angry one day and used some adult language in front of her child. "You need Jesus," was his reply.

Hmmm. So, Jesus keeps us from swearing and teaches us that men can't touch women until they marry them. This is what I call "Holy crap." I'd say it's "shit" but then someone might tell me that I need Jesus (to wash out my filthy mouth, I suppose).

Is it just me who gets irritated with Jesus being used as behavior control for children? Why can't we simply teach children that, in polite society, it's best not to swear and when a woman wants you to touch her, she'll let you know, whether you're married to her or not, and it's called sexual assault if you touch her when she doesn't want you to. Why must we drag Jesus into this? He never said any of this stuff (except maybe that if you lust in your heart, you've already committed a sin).

Why aren't we teaching children the real meaning of Jesus - that we are to love everyone and judge no one as below us or unworthy of God's love? Why can't we teach our children that the greatest thing they can do is help another person and put the needs of others above our own? If we truly taught the kind of love Jesus came to teach us we'd all be able to understand that swearing is unnecessary and touching anyone without their permission is bad. Our behavior would improve greatly - no matter what our age.

But, the pap that passes for Christianity today is prevalent. Scott Bateman has animated comedian Eugene Mirman routine about "Revolve" - a copy of the New Testament made to look like a teen magazine. The tips offered are just as banal as what my stylist's son is learning in Christian school.

Holy crap, indeed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Transforming Our Anger

No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, pure and good without the world being better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.
- Phillips Brooks

I haven't been making the world a better place recently. I've been cranky, frustrated and downright angry with folks. The media keeps lambasting John Edwards for being "angry" in his message. Perhaps that's why he appeals to me. If you're not angry in this nation right now, you haven't been paying attention. We all have every right to be angry - an illegal war we were lied into, falling wages, rising inflation, rising poverty. The only ones who aren't angry are those still making a fortune on the backs of others. Of course, the only reason anyone is talking about an economic "stimulus" package is because some of the fat cats are now seeing their own empires affected by the Bush economic scorched earth policies. That's why the businesses are getting big tax cuts and again the little people get crumbs or outright ignored.

Angry? You bet.

But, unfortunately for us - and John Edwards - you can't make the world better by simply getting angry. The challenges around us may make us angry, but we must transform our anger into compassion - into compassionate action. Not the "compassionate conservative" lip service, but true action that helps people. Bug the heck out of your Senator so unemployment and food stamp benefits get into this "stimulus" package. Don't do it with anger, but with gentleness and compassion. Find someone near you with needs and help them. Put feet and arms on your anger and use your energy to help and comfort those around you. That's what makes the world better.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our Greatest Enemy

Whosoever's latest Godcast in now online. It features interviews with Rick Brentlinger about his new book Gay Christian 101 and filmmaker Lisa Darden, whose new movie For Such a Time as This comes out later this year and features an interview with the editor of a humble Internet magazine for GLBT Christians. :)

Below is the text of my Godcast commentary:

In his book Freedom, Glorious Freedom John J. McNeill wrote:

Gays and lesbians need to develop a conscious awareness of the destructive role of fear in their community. Our greatest enemy is not some outside opponent -- it is the fear within us.

I once had a friend who was very active in the MCC I attended in Atlanta many years ago. He was a member of the board, he helped coordinate worship, he was everywhere at once within the church. However, outside the church he was closeted. I remember the first time I visited his house and discovered all his gay related books locked away in the hall closet. Even his books were closeted!

Growing up in the South I can understand the deep fear this man had. He was basically a good ole boy. His family had deep Southern roots and certainly would not take kindly to one of their own being "that way." So, he hid. But the fear that drove this man was palpable. You could feel his paranoia and fear even if you just spent a little time with him. This deep fear played itself out in several ways in his life, making his personal and professional lives a misery.

I know that fear well because, as a good Southerner, I hid my own sexuality for a time. The fear of being revealed, of showing the world my true nature, was real and terrifying. I knew I would lose friends, jobs, church status and maybe family members if the truth were known. It's this fear that kept my friend and his books locked in a closet.

It will finally be this fear that defeats the gay and lesbian community. It won't be attack ad from the religious right. It won't be an organized assault by mainstream churches on the "sin" of homosexuality. In the end, our own fear will be our downfall.

Jesus tells us to have no fear of those who can kill the body. We are assured by God that when we live a life of honesty and integrity, free from the fear of retaliation, we will be blessed with an abundant life. We are God's children and "if God be for us, who can be against us?"

I can't adequately explain what a freeing experience coming out is. The English language is not equipped with words to describe that absolute joy and relief I felt. Yes, there were losses. I lost a few friends and I can't worship in truth and in spirit at my old hometown church anymore. But my losses have been minimized by the abundance with which God has blessed me.

Now, as an open lesbian Christian, I have a wonderful partner, a job where I can be open and accepted, great loving and caring friends, a church community that values my gifts, and a family that, though they may not understand, has embraced both me and my partner.

Coming out is the best thing that you can do, not only for the community at large, but for yourself. You'll experience loss, and pain, and probably make some enemies. But in the end you defeat the biggest enemy you face: the fear inside that one day would have consumed you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Evangelicals put their heads in the sand - again

Amazing. There is an endless war going on that is sucking our economy dry. Homeless veterans, millions without health care insurance, millions more falling into poverty every single day and what are the most important issues in this election to evangelicals?

Abortion and homosexuality, of course!

The Barna Group's research found that in this important group of voters, whose strong support propelled George W Bush into the White House, abortion was the most pressing problem their country faces for 94%.

For 75% of evangelicals "homosexual lifestyles" or the "political efforts of homosexual activists" were a concern. Among the general population only 35% agreed.

Did I mention that this is amazing. Why focus on real problems in this world when you can continue to bang the twin drums of "real evil" - women who can control their own bodies and sexual outlaws like gays and lesbians?

And they say gays and lesbians the ones obsessed with sex? Methinks the evangelicals doth protest waaaaaaaaay to much here.

Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Evangelical - take a page from that Jesus fellow in Matthew 25:

31-33 "When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

37-40 "Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

41-43 "Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

44 "Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

45 "He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

46 "Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."

I don't see anything there about abortion and homosexuality, but I see a lot about serving the poor and needy. With so many poor and needy amongst us, can you stop thinking about sex for just a few minutes and help us help the "least of these" in the world?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Normal After All

According to a new study committed gay and lesbian relationships aren't all that different from heterosexual relationships.

The current study adds to this literature by demonstrating that, controlling for demographic differences, gay males and lesbians in our studies were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts on measures of self- and partner reported relationship quality, as well as in how they interacted with one another—and responded physiologically—while attempting to resolve conflict in their relationships.

Translation: Far as these researchers can tell, gay and lesbian committed relationships look to be as psychologically healthy as committed heterosexual relationships.

And here I thought gay and lesbian relationships were all special. Turns out we're just as screwed up as straights.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

What Do I Need To Believe This Morning?

I don't have to wake up everyday wondering what I need to believe. - Mike Huckabee

GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee makes this ridiculous statement in one of his recent campaign ads. In the opening line, Huckabee reassures the voters that faith is something that "defines" him. It so defines him he doesn't have to wonder about what to believe.

Here's the interpretation: If you're not a Christian, you're gullible - you don't have the conviction of your beliefs.

Here's the truth: Huckabee is an idiot. But wait, calling a GOP candidate an idiot is an insult to idiots, because even idiots have the conviction of their beliefs. Even the most wrong-headed person in the world does not wake up wondering what they need to believe. We all have beliefs, for good or ill, and we are all stubborn human beings who cling to beliefs even in the face of the most solid facts. Nobody likes to be proven wrong and if we do admit that beliefs we hold are erroneous it's usually with great reluctance - or by shifting the blame for our beliefs to someone else ("I only believed that because someone in power told me it was true! It's not my fault!").

But, in Huckabee's world, it's really those without faith who are the ones constantly groping for what they "need to believe." The charge is ridiculous, of course. Even the staunchest atheist has the conviction of their beliefs. They know what they "need to believe" every single day.

Over Thanksgiving, I had a maddening conversation with my sisters who proudly proclaimed that FOX News is "the truth" and all other media is "liberal" and not to be trusted. They, like too many people in this country, get their beliefs and opinions from the propaganda machine that is FOX News.

Perhaps these are the people Huckabee meant by those who wake up every morning wondering what they need to believe. These are, after all, his core supporters.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Resolve to Love

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
- Rumi

Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone had a fabulous New Year celebration. Wanda and I spent time with some friends, enjoying adult beverages and games, including football.

Note: Shameless self-promotion ahead ...

This coming year holds some exciting things for me including the release in September of my first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. This book is the culmination of nearly 15 years of experience working for the full inclusion of GLBT people in the church and society. GLBT people are constantly under attack by religious people for who they are. We are constantly told that we are "sinners" hated and rejected by God unless we change who we are. My book will give GLBT people the tools they need to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality once and for all so no attack can ever weaken their faith again.

I'm looking forward to touring with the book and speaking at churches, conference, colleges and other organizations. If anyone is planning a conference and needs a qualified and dynamic speaker, please contact me. You can check out my workshops and topics at this page.

**end shameless self promotion**

As we enter the New Year, Rumi's words struck me this morning. These past few months, I've been seeking ways break down the barriers to love that I have built within myself. We are all afraid to truly love. When we love we become vulnerable. We open ourselves to others in the world in ways we normally wouldn't. Being open means that we can be hurt. Being vulnerable means that our feelings can be trampled upon by others. We can be taken advantage of by others. We can be deeply hurt by others.

So we close off our hearts. It's easier to not love than it is to love. It's easier to not care than it is to care. Loving - being genuinely caring for everyone - regardless of who they are or how they may have hurt us in the past - may set us up for fresh hurts and injuries.

But, to find love - real, true, lasting love - we must tear down the barriers we have erected in ourselves. Until we do, the love we find around us will never be that real, true, lasting love. It will only be a fleeting facsimile of real love.

The big sensation this year was "The Secret." Everyone wanted to know the secret of creating wealth, health and love. Apparently, it's all in your head - what you think on grows. We all know the secret now - but we're not all fabulously wealthy, healthy, and in love. Why?

Because we misunderstand the power of the secret. It's not just another way to build wealth, health and our love life. If we see the secret as simply a way to get more, be more and attract more into our lives, then we've missed the point. The true secret is to remove all barriers to love that we have built up. The true secret is to stop being afraid of being hurt by the world or those around us. We will be hurt. It is inevitable. The question we must ask ourselves is, do we truly seek to be happy? If so, then we must love without reservation and without fear. We must plant seeds of true love and happiness in the world. Instead of seeking selfish gain, we must seek the gain of all people. Only then will our love and our happiness be complete.

If you make resolutions, resolve now to begin removing the barriers to love you have built within yourself. Stop thinking of how you can gain something in this world just for you and think instead how your thoughts, your actions, your very life can benefit everyone. Then and only then will you find true happiness and suddenly your life will be filled with wealth, health and love. You may still be poor, sickly and alone, but your definitions of wealth, health and love will surely have been transformed - and the world along with it.