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Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Come Out or Not to Come Out; That Is the Question

Hide and Seek is a child's game; one that I used to play with relish. I much preferred hiding. It was so much more fun than wandering aimlessly looking, often in vain, for my brother or other friends.  One of my tactics was to follow behind the seeker and hide where he had already looked! Now that I am older (much), I, in the words of the apostle Paul, have put away childish things.

But for today's LGBT, hiding is not so much fun.  In fact, the "closet" is a miserable place to hide. I will devote a series to this later, but for now, I want to encourage my gay friends to consider "coming out."

One question I get asked these days is how do I account for the rapid change in America's attitude toward approving same-sex marriage and things gay in general?  The answer is not complicated. When the gay rights movement took off in the last half of the 20th century, it was of necessity led by the more militant, strident and ostentatious protesters. "We're here, we're queer. Get used to it," was their rallying cry. Gay pride parades featuring drag queens, nudity, Dykes on Bikes, and my personal favorite, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,  were forcing themselves and their cause into the public discourse. Naturally, they made as many enemies as friends, as these remain the stereotypical gays in the minds of the opposition.

But something happened.  As we are now well into the 21st century, LGBTs have a new face. They are represented by such as gay New York Fire Department Catholic chaplain Father Mychal Judge. Judge, 68, was killed while ministering to a fallen firefighter at Ground Zero. Or, Mark Bingham, 31, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, helping to thwart the plane's hijackers. Father Judge is being considered for sainthood, and September 16th is officially designated Mark Bingham Day in San Francisco.

The murder and torturing of sweet-faced Matthew Shepard made us sorrow.  He could have been our brother or son.  Then when the Phelps family picketed his funeral displaying "Matthew Shepard is in hell" signs, we became indignant. We were startled when Ellen DeGeneres came out, but we continued to love her and tune into her TV show by the millions. We adored Liberace, and when we found out the truth of his sexuality, it only disturbed us that he was forced to hide it all his life. We became aware, person by person, from the famous to the unknown, that so many people we thought we knew turned out to have a secret.

Some of them were our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, even our parents. Each one, dear to us.  They taught us a valuable lesson: their sexuality ultimately made no difference to us. They were the same person before and after. We found them to be as normal as the next person. Then when we saw gay characters portrayed on TV or in the movies, they seemed like everyone else, well...perhaps funnier, and maybe better looking, but not that different.

I can't tell you the percentage increase over other periods, but the 21st century has seen a huge increase of out of the closet, or never in the closet LGBTs, who are as normal as the next Joe or Jane, José or Maria. We no longer (in the main) distrust their motives, or are nervous among them, or see them as different. We elect them to public office, ordain them as our pastors, work for them or hire them, even hang out with them.  We listen to their music (Leonard Bernstein), watch their movies (Jodie Foster) and TV shows (Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"), listen to their news shows (Anderson Cooper), read their books (Truman Capote), recite their poetry (Emily Dickinson), marvel at their art (Michelangelo), watch their plays (Tennessee Williams), and engage them in countless ways and not even know it.

It slowly but surely dawned on us: these people we formerly didn't know are now as welcome in our lives as anyone else. All because they came out in sufficient numbers that a tipping point arrived.

I have no standing to urge any LGBT who is still in the closet to come out.  I understand, somewhat, the toll it can take on someone ill prepared.  I know that there are good reasons for some to stay closet-bound, and I hope you can be safe there.  But for the many others who are contemplating coming out, I only wish to say to you that your brother and sister LGBTs who have come out have made all the difference in general acceptance across our country.  So, if you do come out, it will mean a further deepening of that acceptance. All those who knew you before will now know that you are one like themselves, a normal American living a useful life, complete with the trials and rewards life brings to us all.

But in one way, if you chose to come out, you will be something most of us will never be: a hero.
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." ~Christopher Reeve 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Republicans Amazingly Support Same-sex Marriage

Republicans are finding their way to support same-sex marriage, not so slowly-but-surely.  In fact, for many formerly of the opposition, their turnaround is astonishingly quick.  The New York Times yesterday reported that some prominent party members are now encouraging the US Supreme Court, in an amicus brief, to get on board, also.  Here's a paragraph from their story:
Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress.
These are only a few of the 75 who signed the brief.  Other Republican supporters of same-sex marriage, including Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Laura Bush did not sign on, but have publicly affirmed their support.

So, what is behind this change of heart?  It seems to be a matter of long-held fundamentals catching up with political realities. The heart of the Republican ideology is the priority of and freedom for the individual.  For these who are changing their outlook, it's a simple matter of being consistent with this commitment.  This quote from same Times article is a case in point:
“The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support gay marriage,” said Steve Schmidt, who was a senior adviser to the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and who signed the brief. “As Dick Cheney said years ago, ‘Freedom means freedom for everybody.’ ”
The political reality is that the demographics of America, which are making the GOP irrelevant in coming national elections, strongly favor those who align with supporting same-sex marriage. As Schmidt put it, "the die is cast."  So the combination of wanting to be consistent with Republican ideology and demographic realities produce this amazing turn of events.

Welcome to the cause.




Margaret Hoover: Paul Ryan, Same-Sex Marriage, & Proposition 8 from KLRU-TV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

If, after watching this video, you do not see the connection with the gay rights movement and same-sex marriage, I'm afraid there is nothing I can do for you.

Here's the world according to Jesus:


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Purpose of This Blog


Although this post can be accessed above, it mostly gets ignored, as unless you look for it you will miss it.  So I will lead with it every now and then to catch new readers up with why I write this blog.



Why would a straight, married, father of two heterosexual children, and Christian pastor want to get mixed up in the most controversial, hate-filled and career ending ministry in support of LGBTs? Especially when there is absolutely no pressure on me to enter this fray. No, I don't have a death wish, or have a gay lover secreted away somewhere. I'm basically a normal guy. I shy away from confrontation and go out of my way to find mutually satisfying outcomes in disputes.

So, what am I doing here? Very simply, I've learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ compels me to come to the side of the oppressed wherever and whenever they are found. Harvard’s Byrne Fone calls homophobia “the last respectable bigotry in America.” Christians may not be responsible for creating homophobia, but we sure are responsible for maintaining it. Victims of spiritual abuse (not to mention, for now, physical abuse) abound. We have literally driven these “other than ourselves” from our churches. They have been demonized, scapegoated and condemned for so long and so often that to find one out of the closet in a congregation beats the odds of winning the lottery. We should be ashamed, but we are not; we should repent, but we do not. And the most amazing thing of all is that we need, for our own sake, the presence of non-heterosexual Christians in our congregations and don’t have a clue as to why.

I do not come to this struggle as their savior; I come as a repentant homophobe who has received much from the gay community and has more to learn about being a Christian from them. In future blogs, I intend to delve into the gifts gays bring to a congregation, gifts that are desperately needed, yet entirely absent from most congregations. Suffice it to say for now that the straight church has much to learn. In fact, if we don’t learn these lessons, we are at risk of losing our own way. No, I am no savior. I am a grateful recipient of their unmerited grace.

LGBT Christians (yes, there is such a thing), do not need us, at least not in our present state of hostility. They have managed to carve out an existence at the edge of the church at great expense to themselves which has ennobled them in ways that we cannot approach. When, at last, the straight congregations find their way to welcoming and affirming them, it will not be because we finally understand the issue. No, it will be because we finally understand our own desperate need for them in our midst.

This blog, then, is an effort to bring the straight church to its senses. It is an effort to bring the message of the inclusive gospel that will confront us with our sins and bring us to our knees. It is a plea to those LGBTs we've textually abused not to abandon us, but to nurture us and witness to the life changing power of Jesus. This is why I am in this struggle, and hope to convince you to join it yourself. I can guarantee you two things: your life will never be the same, and you’ll be thankful for that. On the other hand, if you don’t need convincing, welcome aboard. I hope to hear from you, as well as those who disagree. Maybe we can come together on at least this: what we share in Christ is more valuable than our disagreements. And I ask you, would you be willing to extend that grace to those “other than ourselves?”

See also, www.clergyunited.org for more information.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

If you have a question, I'll research an answer


The Weekend: I'll take your questions and comments. 
Just submit them below in the "Comment" box.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Gay Agenda, Pt. 6

Prelude to the Series
The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.


The last in this series, Pt. 6

Is the Gay Agenda really trying to "remove the First Amendment liberties of anyone who disagrees, including those of ministers, rabbis and priests who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies; and at the extreme, remove the protection of unalienable rights for dissenters to this 'new orthodoxy'"?

This assertion purporting to be a universally held item of the gay agenda has all the earmarks of a red herring (a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue). Here is how a politically conservative blog presents the issue:
Gay marriage will end up infringing on religious freedom. The moment gay marriage becomes the law of the land, all sorts of First Amendment freedoms involving the free exercise of people's religion will likely be infringed upon as a consequence. No pastor should be forced to marry a gay couple. No wedding photographer, cake maker, caterer, or wedding planner should be forced to be involved in these weddings. No church or any other location should be forced to be the site of a gay wedding. Children will be taught in schools that gay marriage is normal, legal, and moral -- and it directly contradicts the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. To create this special privilege for gay Americans would mean impinging on the First Amendment rights of more than 200 million Americans.
Nowhere in this post is there any referencing as to how these rights will be infringed upon. The weasel phrase "likely be infringed upon" is not only weak, it is an admission that there is really no basis for the fear. As for no "pastor should be forced to marry a gay couple." No pastor will be.  Anyone familiar at all with the doctrine of Separation of Church and State in the US Constitution should know that there is nothing to fear here.  Some appeal to the experience in Canada following the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005.
Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated. 
Two things of note. One, this is about CANADA, not the United States. They have very different laws and traditions concerning freedom of speech and religion than we.  And, their decade long experience shows that earlier agressive actions to enforce their law have abated and the law is in great favor throughout the country.   To date, 68% favor the law and only 18% oppose it. 

However, as to "No wedding photographer, cake maker, caterer, or wedding planner should be forced to be involved in these weddings," we shall have to wait and see.  Do recall that restaurants, theaters, hotels and the like which serve the public were compelled to integrate following the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is only right that we protect all minorities from the oppression of the majority whenever and wherever it is found.  As much as opponents want to characterize this as "special privileges," it is merely granting another group facing profound discrimination equal protection under the law. We will not only learn to live with this imposition of the state, but who would want to turn back to the days of Jim Crow and legal segregation? (Oh, yes, they are around, but they've turned their hate to other things.)

And, yes, children will be instructed in schools about things LGBT. Just as their parents were taught as children about the whys and wherefores of integration, the equality of the races, the harm of discrimination, and the need to accept differences for the sake of all. The churches may, if they wish, continue to teach that homosexuality is an abomination, and others will counter that God did make Adam and Steve. Funny, just as the news from the conservative right is full of horror stories about the coming ill effects of gay acceptance, and especially of same-sex marriage, so the pulpits and airwaves of the 1950s and '60s warned that this would be the end of America as we know it, and the end of the freedom to practice Christianity as we see it. Well, it was the end of America as we knew it.  Thank God.

The Weekend: I'll take your questions and comments. 
Just submit them below in the "Post a Comment" box.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Gay Agenda, Pt. 5

Prelude to the Series
The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.
"Elevate 'gay' relationships to a place of moral superiority for the wider culture to honor and emulate."

So far, each of what Rankin identifies as the gay agenda I uphold as not only true, but welcome in a free society.  However, this item goes beyond anything that the mainstream gay leadership has proposed.  Rather than "elevating 'gay' relationships to a place of moral superiority," they merely want to level the playing field; they are after simple equality with heterosexual rights and privileges.  

Here is a representative sampling of such goals:

In a 1987 speech to the National Press Club in Washington, homosexual spokesperson Jeff Levi remarked, "We are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a protection from wrong. We also have a right — as heterosexual Americans already have — to see government and society affirm our lives." 
In an article entitled "Gays on the March" in 1975, Time magazine quoted gay activist Barbara Gittings who stated: "What the homosexual wants, and here he is neither willing to compromise nor morally required to compromise — is acceptance of homosexuality as a way of life fully on a par with heterosexuality."
The only way the gay rights agenda can be expanded to include more than simple equality is to parade the fringe elements that don't speak for the majority. It's like saying the Republican Party is for killing abortion doctors because those killers have been conservative Republicans.  Or that Democrats are soft on defense because some peaceniks are Democrats.  Any representation that goes beyond wanting homosexuality to be considered anything other than as normal as heterosexuality is a straw man that easily draws the uninformed to the side of the dissenters.

So far I have not used the word homophobia in this blog.  I have avoided it, not because it doesn't exist, but because it too easily reduces the opposition to an easy target, which is what straw men are for.  Yet, it is true that those who are viscerally opposed to homosexuality will use any means whatsoever to bolster their prejudice.  They will look for the most absurd or extreme form of an argument to hang their hat on. I am afraid that much of the hysteria surrounding the gay agenda amounts to that.  The ideas that gays want to turn all children into homosexuals, that all child molesters are gay, that gay teachers are a threat to our children, that free speech is opposed by gay leaders, that gays are out to destroy the traditional family, and the like, have their supporters, but they are not supported by the experts who have given their lives to the study of these issues, nor are they a part of the broad consensus of gay rights leaders.  They are lies that are packaged with seemingly good  evidence, yet lack factuality.

Conspiracy theories abound. The "gay threat" is the perfect combination of atmospherics that lend themselves to conspiratorial thinking.  When you don't like gays, don't know many gays, don't trust gays, are afraid of gays, and think they tend to congregate together in dark places, you can imagine most anything is possible.  They are labeled abominations, deviants, psychologically disturbed, intrinsically disordered.  They allegedly hate themselves, hate the Bible, distrust Christians, and mostly meet in bars. What are they up to? What's going on when they are secreted away?

There are those who still believe that the moon landing is a hoax and that Elvis is alive, and that the gay threat is the most urgent concern for Americans. There is nothing we can do for these folk. As more and more LGBTs "come out," we discover that they are much more like us than not, wanting no more than what any respectable human wants, and deserves to be treated like the rest of us. The day is coming, and very quickly, when the rest of this foolishness will be as silly to us as having ever thought that races shouldn't intermarry.

Here's a video that shows a debate between someone who believes in the radical gay agenda, and those who don't. It's dated, and about 10 minutes long, but just over half is devoted to our subject.



TOMORROW: The last in this series, Pt. 6 
Is the Gay Agenda really trying to "remove the First Amendment liberties of anyone who disagrees, including those of ministers, rabbis and priests who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies; and at the extreme, remove the protection of unalienable rights for dissenters to this 'new orthodoxy'"?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Gay Agenda, Pt. 4 Legitimize Same-sex Marriage


Prelude to the Series
The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.

The following quote is another of critic John Rankin's notions of the gay agenda: 
"Redefine 'marriage' to include 'same-sex' relationships."

As I indicated in a previous post, the redefinition of marriage has been a continuous pursuit over many millennia.  Marriage has never always been between one man and one woman, as many critics of same-sex marriage would have us believe. They have recently modified it to say that it has always been a matter of opposite sexes marrying, and even that is false.  True, same-sex marriages are rare among Western societies, but they are found even today.  Their bottom line position has become that, well, Jesus was in favor of only one man and one woman marrying, so we should be too.  That is a far cry from their original position that it has always been that way.

But we are not talking about what the church should believe and how it should act in matters of marriage. I will only summarize the argument here, but not all biblical scholars agree that Christian marriage can be only between one man and one woman.  (You'd be surprised how many Christian missionaries allow converts in polygamous marriages to continue in them.)  

It's one thing to say there is a norm and quite another to say that that norm is universal.  It is the norm that most humans are right handed, but it is not universal. It is a norm that most Mexican speak Spanish, but not a universal. It is the norm that Christian heterosexuals are expected to marry in the opposite sex, have children, and not divorce.  As I say, this is the heterosexual norm.  But what of nonheterosexuals?  How can we expect them to conform to a norm that is not possible for them. See a fuller treatment of this reasoning here. 

As much as the critics of the gay agenda would like to believe that America is a Christian nation, it isn't.  Israel is a Jewish nation, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim nation, but the USA is a democratic republic, presided over by the Constitution.  So whatever Christianity may say or not say, its rules for itself are confined to itself and are prohibited from being forced on an unwilling public (insofar as it is unwilling). Therefore, to insist, rightly or wrongly that the Bible says marriage can only be between one man and one woman, we respectfully say, you have no standing in this decision.  It is not for you to decide.

What the Supreme Court of the US is wrestling with is not what does the Bible say about marriage, but what does the US Constitution tell us we must do with respect to same-sex marriage and DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act).  Children entering high school are astonished to learn from their history of the United States, that marriage between separate races was once illegal in many parts of our nation.  It's virtually unthinkable that as late as 1964, states could prohibit two people in love, but of different races, to marry. Interestingly, these same students are on record as overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage.  Do you suppose there is a connection?  Known injustices have a way of translating outrage against other injustices.  

The Mexican Supreme Court today (February 19,2013) produced an opinion that make same-sex marriage legal there.  Interestingly, they cited the logic of the US Supreme Court in its striking down of laws banning interracial marriage.  Here's the part of the Mexican courts opinion that bears on our point:
The historical disadvantages that homosexuals have suffered have been well recognized and documented: public harassment, verbal abuse, discrimination in their employment and in access to certain services, in addition to their exclusion to some aspects of public life. In this sense … when they are denied access to marriage it creates an analogy with the discrimination that interracial couples suffered in another era. In the celebrated case Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court argued that “restricting marriage rights as belonging to one race or another is incompatible with the equal protection clause” under the US constitution. In connection with this analogy, it can be said that the normative power of marriage is worth little if it does not grant the possibility to marry the person one chooses.
It may be that SCOTUS returns to its own logic in the Loving case and ends one more inequitable slice of American life and makes same-sex marriage legal across the nation.

I have to believe (the evidence is just too obvious) that the reason so many people fight against this inequality is that they really don't believe that LGBTs deserve equal standing with heterosexuals.  That they are somehow less than human, even, and to grant them this right would be to dignify the undignifiable.  The Roman Catholic Church considers LGBTs "intrinsically disordered." Those who are Christians and feel this way justify themselves, often, with the belief that anyone who is destined to hell should not be afforded any heaven on earth. What a pity; and not just for LGBTs, but for those miserable Christians who must detest life here on earth.  No wonder they can't wait for Jesus to return and destroy it all.

But for others of us Christians who fight daily for the realized dignity of LGBTs, we look to the day when no one is denied their rightful place in that great community called humanity. Even in the church as well as in the nation and world.  

TOMORROW: The Gay Agenda, Pt.5 
Here's where I part company with Rankin's listing of the gay agenda: "Elevate 'gay' relationships to a place of moral superiority for the wider culture to honor and emulate."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Gay Agenda, Pt. 3

Prelude to the Series
The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.

The following quote is another of critic John Rankin's notions of the gay agenda: He is (mostly) right

"Gain ecclesiastical, legal and social 'approval' of the personal and social 'goodness' of homosexuality, and call it 'gay'."  And, "Translate this 'approval' into leadership positions – especially ordination status in the church and political office in the culture."

Again, this is a perfectly legitimate pursuit.  It only seems strange to those who react negatively to the arrival of LGBTs in their places of worship.  But there is little we can do for such as these.  They will continue to accept the pronouncements from their pulpits and tightly run synods and denominations that the only possible reason a Christian would associate with gays is to have the opportunity to "save" them.  They will continue to close their ears to the volume of biblical scholarship amassed over the last century that clearly shows that, for those who wish to, LGBTs rightfully hold their claim as Christians.  

I will also hasten to add that those Christians who oppose LGBT acceptance have their right to do so, as well.  I would not want them disbarred from the conversation, or jettisoned from our churches, any more than I want them to continue disassociating with LGBTs.  Perhaps if we are longsuffering enough, we might even "save" some of them!

The removal of the Sodomy laws was a major step in advancing this agenda item. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the Texas same-sex sodomy law, ruling that this private sexual conduct is protected by the liberty rights implicit in the due process clause of the United States Constitution. Ironically, many of those crimes defined as sodomy were widely practiced by heterosexual couples, and continue to be.  How people consensually choose to express their sexuality is deemed not a matter of governmental concern and increasingly is not seen as anyone else's, either.

Also ironically, the uneven enforcement against LGBTs, overlooking the widespread breaking of sodomy laws by straights, was a major reason for striking down the law.  So the striking down of this law had as much to do with gay opponents overzealous abuse of the law as the proponents of gay rights fighting these laws in court.  No matter.  This aspect of the agenda is accomplished. Still to come are legalizing same-marriage, gay adoption, and the removal of all laws allowing discrimination against gays on the job.

The fact that many openly gay clergy have been ordained, even promoted to high office, signifies the success that the movement enjoys in promoting this part of their agenda.  The election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and Mary Glaspool as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles are just two of many LGBTs who have ascended to high office of late.  Also, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have recently voted to end their longstanding prohibitions on openly gay clergy members. The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist church have ordained openly gay clergy for decades.  Add to that the many congregations that will ordain and call openly gay pastors, the success of mainstreaming LGBTs in the church and society is apparent.  Give this agenda item its rightful due: it has succeeded and succeeded well.

Social approval was accomplished due to the widening acceptance of homosexuality as a normal part of the human experience.  Part of this was due to the research by the profession organizations that clearly shows that LGBTs are as normal as the next person.  But, the overwhelming verdict in favor of gay acceptance came when our sons and daughters, parents, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends and coworkers, and the person in the next pew, revealed their sexual orientation to us in large numbers.  When we came face to face with the true face of homosexuality, our fears vanished, our love for them continued, and our desire for their full access to all the rights any other human is afforded became our cause, too.  They are no longer strangers to be feared, but the very person we've always loved and admired.

I say to you who see only Gay Pride Parade exhibitionists, and think pedophiles are gay (they are not!), and hear only from homophobic ranters, get a life!  You are surrounded by gays who you actually admire and don't even know it.  That's how normal they are.  Imagine if heterosexuals were all thought to be like the Mardi Gras revelers or the nightly visitors to the singles bars, and the people displayed on porn sites. But we know there is a wide world of straights and gays who far outnumber these and act more like you do every day.  That's why the agenda is working.

TOMORROW: We'll examine Rankin's item: "Redefine 'marriage' to include 'same-sex' relationships."

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gay Agenda, Pt. 2


Prelude to the Gay Agenda Series

The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.



This quote combines the second and third items in John Rankin's list of the gay agenda.  See the full list here.  

"Define homosexual identity and behavior as a 'normal' and healthy 'variant' within the plurality of the human community, and call for 'toleration' of it."  And "Move from “toleration” of it as a “normal variant,” to a full “acceptance” of its intrinsic nature as being equal with that of heterosexuality."

If homosexuality were, indeed, an unhealthy aberration of the human condition, we should not tolerate it.  We should do all we can to alleviate the condition and bring its victims as much relief as possible.  If the above agenda items were pursued by means of propaganda and false science with the goal of making something aberrant seem justified, then we would be acting responsibly to oppose it. But this is far from the case.

There have been many in very responsible positions who championed the gay rights cause in and out of the scientific community.  Over the last 50 years, all the major psychological and psychiatric professional organizations have investigated the subject of homosexuality from every possible angle and determined that homosexuality is a normal and healthy variant within the plurality of the human community. Here is a representative statement from the American Psychological Association:
Is homosexuality a mental disorder:
No, lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are not disorders. Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The APA goes on to state that the only real problem associated with homosexuality is the unwarranted stigma that some in society wish to perpetuate, and the deleterious effects this can have on individuals.

Given the overwhelming documented results of the research, it can be affirmed that homosexuality is a normal, albeit, minority sexual orientation, and that it, in itself, engenders no mental health risks to homosexuals. By virtue of this, it must be considered a respectable orientation along with heterosexuality, and bisexuality, and toleration of gays and lesbians is the least we can do as a society. Ultimately, LGBTs deserve full acceptance and integration into all aspects of life. To do any less is to perpetuate what Byrne Fone of Harvard calls the last respectable bigotry in America.

As an agenda of the LGBT community, it is a legitimate and hugely successful agenda item. Because it is true.

So we are now left to wonder why it is that some do wish to perpetuate the now outdated and ill informed notions that gays and lesbians should be shunned, reprogrammed,  even persecuted.  Gay bashing is still done across America, and violence continues to be directed at them.

One statistic jumps out at those of us who wonder: It's the most religious Christians who are the most hostile to gay rights. That is, the most conservatively religious. Is it any wonder when Sunday after Sunday they get inundated with anti gay messages?  Just as with the global warming deniers, who deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence to support it, and with 98% of all climate scientists agreeing, churches continue to pedal anti gay "scholarship" that no respectable seminary or university would tolerate. And they have a professional organization, one, which tries, vainly, to uphold the anti gay end of the debate. There is no harbor safe for them; they are all occupied by people of good will who are armed with first rate evidence and no longer sit on the sidelines.

Yes, we've moved well past tolerance and are now accepting LGBTs as rightfully a part of our world and working diligently to get the proper information out.  Keep reading this blog; I hope to provide you with the most up to date and meaningful information I can.

TOMORROW: The Gay Agenda, Pt. 3 Gain ecclesiastical, legal and social “approval” of the personal and social “goodness” of homosexuality, and call it “gay.  And, Translate this “approval” into leadership positions – especially ordination status in the church and political office in the culture. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

What Are Opponents of Same-sex Marriage Afraid of? Pt. 1 "The (so called) Homosexual Agenda"

This is a Monday through Friday blog. New posts will resume on Monday.  How about reviewing past posts?

Prelude to the Gay Agenda Series

The fact that there is a gay agenda, at least on the part of the leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, should not be understood as anything out of the ordinary.  All movements have agendas, including political parties, religious organizations and nonprofit enterprises like the Red Cross.  So simply having goals they want accomplished should not be off-putting.  It is a normal function of modern movements that want to advance their causes.  

However, many opponents of the gay agenda are trying to make it look like there is something underfoot akin to the subversive activities of the communists of the 1950s, along with a corresponding witch hunt.  When I finish with this series which focuses on the publicly declared and commonly held items of this agenda, I will list some of the more outrageous charges that act more as red herrings than actual concerns.   I hope to show that, regardless of the hysteria surrounding the reality of a gay agenda, these are reasonable, responsible and valuable contributions to the public square.  (Not withstanding the outlandish charges masquerading as part of the agenda, but are only made up by the opposition.)  This is why I chose an opponent of the gay rights movement's (John Rankin) list of what he sees as the gay agenda, as it is, except for the last two, a fair assessment of it.

For some opponents of same-sex marriage, actually all things gay, the very survival of Western Civilization is at stake; at the least, their notion of what Western Civilization should be. Others fear for the sanctity of the church. Still others worry about their families and the survival of the basic family structure that they understand to be the biblical model, (but isn't). Their reactions to the forward progress that the gay rights movement has lately achieved range from hysterical (National Organization for Marriage) to measured (if you know of one, put it here).

There are two kinds of lists that purport to be the "homosexual agenda."  One is totally bonkers.  It claims that the bottom line of gay rights activists is to turn all our children into gays and lesbians.  Some even go so far as to claim that they want all children to be their sexual objects and would if they could get away with it, as Scott Lively suggests in "Why and How to Defeat the 'Gay' Movement."  Here's an excellent cautionary word from the Senior Pastor of Moody Bible Church, Erwin Lutzer.
So we have to remember that the radical gay community does not speak for all gays.  When we read that NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, wants to lower the age of sexual consent to thirteen, and when a book is published that advocates sex with children, we must remember that the authors do not speak for all of the homosexual community.  Indeed, such writers might speak only for a small fraction of it.  If we don't like it when others paint us with a big brush, let's not do the same with the gay community.
Thank you, Dr. Lutzer.

I would have put John Rankin of the Liberty Education Forum in the latter category (measured), since the agenda as he sees it is mostly correct and evenhandedly stated.  He is generally amiable and professes to love LGBTs, of which I have no doubt, yet he goes off the deep end with the final two. Here's his accounting of the (so called) homosexual agenda:
1. Remove the concept of homosexuality as “sinful,” and remove the concept that homosexual behavior is intrinsically unhealthy. 
2. Define homosexual identity and behavior as a “normal” and healthy “variant” within the plurality of the human community, and call for “toleration” of it. 
3. Move from “toleration” of it as a “normal variant,” to a full “acceptance” of its intrinsic nature as being equal with that of heterosexuality. 
4. Gain ecclesiastical, legal and social “approval” of the personal and social “goodness” of homosexuality, and call it “gay.” 
5. Translate this “approval” into leadership positions – especially ordination status in the church and political office in the culture. 
6. Redefine “marriage” to include “same-sex” relationships. 
7. Elevate “gay” relationships to a place of moral superiority for the wider culture to honor and emulate. 
8. Define “homophobia,” “hate speech” and/or “hate crimes” as the cardinal theological and political “sins,” and remove the First Amendment liberties of anyone who disagrees, including those of ministers, rabbis and priests who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies; and at the extreme, remove the protection of unalienable rights for dissenters to this “new orthodoxy.
Let's look at each in their turn.

1. Remove the concept of homosexuality as “sinful,” and remove the concept that homosexual behavior is intrinsically unhealthy.

I don't know why he chose to keep "sinful" and "unhealthy" as one category, unless he is equating the two.  Otherwise, they should be separate.  Regardless, there is a considerable body of scholarship defended by world-class biblical scholars that would not understand homosexuality as sinful.  Several denominations are now affirming same-sex unions and marriages as wholesome activities of the church, as well as portions of others.  So I would affirm that leaders of the gay rights movement should have this item as part of their agenda. It is based on the recognition that homosexuality is a natural part of the human experience, indeed, of the animal kingdom, and need not be characterized as aberrant any longer.

Think of it like this: There are those who believe that increasing the minimum wage is detrimental to businesses and those who don't.  There are good arguments on both sides. So the Democrats have increasing it on their agenda and the Republicans are opposed to it. Each is entrenched in their position.  But who would say that either side should not be allowed to present its case?  We argue this out in the marketplace of ideas where we hope the best side wins.

Similarly, to say that because one side has a strong commitment to a position that homosexual behavior is sinful does not mean that the other side should not be heard. Therefore, it is a suitable topic, and having it on an "agenda" is perfectly in order.

As for homosexual behavior being "intrinsically unhealthy," I offer a response that includes both male and female homoerotic acts from medical neurobiologist Jeramy Townsley:
From a biological perspective, the idea that God clearly created male and female genitalia to be complementary is based on pseudoscience and not on an understanding of human anatomy and sexual physiology. The common argument from traditionalists is twofold: 1) God had one purpose in mind for sex--procreation; and 2) the male-female genital anatomy attests to the complementarity of God's intent for sex as solely for male-female/penile-vaginal sex (see Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 2001).




  • The most obvious argument opposed to the proposition of singular usage is that the penis was clearly designed to serve several purposes: procreation (depositing sperm), pleasure (has nerves associated with pleasure, the pudendal nerve) and for excrement of waste. One of Gagnon's primary claims to the "obviousness" of the misuse of the rectum for sex is that the rectum is a transport for excrement, however he fails to explain the distinction for the penis which clearly has both sex and exremental functions. 




  • Further, the ano-rectal area also appear to be created for uses other than singularly for waste excretement




  • It may or may not be merely coincidence that this area is the appropriate size and expandibility to accomodate a penis (similar to the vagina). Despite Gagnon's claims, the medical evidence shows that ano-rectal sex does not produce muscule or pathological tissue damage to the area. 




  • Just inside the male rectal canal is the prostate gland, stimulation of which heightens the sexual experience due to innervation with the pudendal nerve, the same nerve that innervates the penis. Stimulation of the ano-rectal area and the prostate gland can alone produce orgasm in the male.




  • The vagina is obviously designed for multiple purposes--procreation and pleasure (innervation by the pudendal nerve). Contrary to traditionalist theologies and patriarchal cultures (including many cultures that practice female circumcision) that have ignored the sexuality of women as irrelevant, non-existent or evil, the biological fact that the vaginal area is innervated with nerves associated with pleasure, it would seem clear that God intended the vagina to be used not just for men, but primarily for women




  • While vaginal penetration is important to many women for sex, current research on the female orgasm is turning away from penetration as the primary stimulant for sexual arousal and satisfaction, to the clitoris, laying on the surface of the vagina, therefore not requiring penetration, indicating that God may have created women (by design) to be able to experience sexual satisfaction outside of penetrative sex. 




  • Most of the authors who oppose the various forms of gay sex based on biological issues fail to address similar types of sexuality between heterosexuals, including married couples. Many actively support oral sex between heterosexuals, quite common among both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Gagnon, for instance, quotes a Rabbinical text allowing for oral sex between heterosexuals (p. 299). Further, many of these authors fail to condemn heterosexual anal sex, which many studies have shown is not an uncommon form of sexual intimacy between heterosexuals. The question then becomes why issues of "nature" and biology can be used to condemn homosexuality based on anatomical issues while not subsequently limiting heterosexual sex to penile-vaginal sex. [End Townsley http://www.jeramyt.org/gay.html#add5]
  • I don't expect those whose minds are made up to immediately change their minds with exposure to the evidence and logic of this data.  I do expect that they will find room, at least in this instance (so far), that there is another side to this debate which can no longer be characterized as totally without merit.

    MONDAY: Rankin's second item on the gay agenda--
    "Define homosexual identity and behavior as a 'normal' and healthy 'variant' within the plurality of the human community, and call for 'toleration' of it."

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    What to Say to Your Friends about Same-sex Marriage, Pt. 3 -- Jesus on Marriage

    The first observation about Jesus and marriage that is often overlooked is Jesus never married.  This is significant for several reasons, the major one will be dealt with later.  But for now, let us just note that, for his time, to be a healthy man and single was considered loathsome.  On the face of it, such a person was willfully violating God's demand that humans procreate.  And Jesus would soon be at the age where peasant Palestinian men usually died, thus limiting his prospects for a family. He obviously opted out of the traditional family.  This could have something to do with the charge that he was a "drunk and glutton." Jesus as party animal.  He wouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt.

    He even took up the habits of the similarly loathsome Cynics, well known throughout Galilee, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism_(philosophy) who had no visible means of support, lived off others, believed in "free love," and traveled in groups which included women.  I am not suggesting Jesus was a Cynic. I am saying that he easily could be accused of being one by his contemporaries.  Such was his disregard for the conventional way of living.

    So, Jesus cannot be held up as the standard bearer for the Christian Right's notion that the ideal (Christian) man is married and the head of his household, with his subordinated wife and children trailing along behind. There is no place to go to for Jesus' example of a good husband.   And let's not appeal to the theological metaphor of Jesus as the bridegroom to the church-as-bride.  The marriage is not until after "the new heaven and new earth" is here, where "there will be no marriage or giving in marriage."  The most we can say is that Jesus had a very long engagement.  Marriage is a temporary, earthly institution in which Jesus did not participate.  Why that is the case is significant.

    In an earlier post I mentioned that both Paul and Jesus thought marriage was not the ideal situation for Christians.  This passage from 1 Corinthians 7 sums up Paul's thoughts on the matter:
    I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.
    If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his fiancé, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancé, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancé does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. [Emphasis mine]
    Paul would prefer that everyone be single, or behave as single, as he, himself, is.  For him, not marrying is the ideal for both men and women.

    Jesus has a similar view, and this is likely why Paul felt the way he did.  Here is how Matthew reports Jesus' thoughts on the matter:
    They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’
    His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with 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.’  [Emphasis mine] Matthew 19:7-12
    Both Paul and Jesus recognize that being single is very difficult, even impossible for some who would sin sexually otherwise.  So marriage is actually a lessor state than being single. Paul urges everyone to consider staying single, and Jesus urges anyone capable of living single to do so.

    It is clear that whatever purposes marriage used to serve, in the Christian age it is for the purpose of allaying sexual sin.  For both Jesus and Paul, procreation has been set aside as a lessor value and both marriage and children are an encumbrance on spreading the gospel. Marriage is decidedly not the be all and end all of life that needs to be protected at all costs. It is a contingency for the time being that will not be found in the afterlife.  This explains why marriage was not emphasized from the beginning in Genesis and allowed to be culturally derived for millennia.  God has no particular stake in it, other than it be proscribed by the Golden Rule, as all relationships are to be guided.

    So, you can see that allowing same-sex couples to marry is not so consequential that marriage cannot be adjusted to accommodate it, as marriage customs have changed to accommodate human need down through the millennia.  And LGBTs need marriage for all the same reasons that straight people need marriage. There are very few Jesuses and Pauls in our world.  For the rest of us, marriage is the answer.

    Here's a video to mull over:


    TOMORROW:  New series begins: What are opponents of same-sex marriage
    afraid of?

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    What to Say to Your Friends about Same-sex Marriage, Pt. 2 -- A Closer Look at the Bible and Same-sex Marriage


    (The features of this article are about the history of marriage in the West; Eastern customs are another matter)

    When was the last time you heard anyone actually ask the intended's father for her hand in marriage?  Even better, if asked and denied, did it really make any difference?  The wedding would surely have gone ahead without the father's permission.

    This quaint courtesy is a holdover from the days when father's actually controlled the destiny of their daughters (and sons, for that matter).  Marriage only recently has become the business of the couple alone.  In the days of the Patriarchs, in and out of the Old Testament, the father arranged for husbands for his daughters, and unless there was a need for a special alliance outside the immediate family, the bride usually was a first cousin, even a half-sister. The purpose of marriage was to continue the name of the father through his sons, and provide assistance for the family business and protection in old age.

    Another quaint custom not often heard of these days is the "hope chest."  Young women would store away items for their household, such as linens, trousseau, and other finery, for their new home with their (hoped for) husband.  This was the final remnant of the "dowry" that figured into ancient and early modern marriages.      Marriageable women would show their desirability as a marriage choice by the contents of their dowry.  Since most women were covered from head to toe, and little opportunities for getting to known them were available, the dowry served instead.  

    A man could have several wives and concubines. (Jacob married two sisters, Leah and Rachel, and Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.)  Women were only permitted one husband at a time.  In the case where a young married woman became a widow, the brother of the dead husband was bound to marry his sister-in-law, or be humiliated by the community.  This is known as Levirate marriage.

    Divorce was easy and only the husband's prerogative.  All the Old Testament husband had to do was find something "unclean" in his wife and he could write a bill of divorcement and she was kicked out of the house. What his unclean thing was, is not known.  In Jesus's day, the two central rabbis, had differing opinions. Hillel said that offering burnt toast was a sufficient cause for divorce;  Shammai said it must be a serious offence like adultery.

    Even the marriage ceremony is a modern invention.  Several stories in the Old Testament emphasize that the husband simply takes the bride into his tent, verifies her virginity, has sexual intercourse, and she lives with his family from then on.  There was no religious ceremony involved.  

    In the West, it was not until the reign of Caesar Justinian, A.D. 527-565, that laws regulating marriage were put in place.  Contracts were drawn up between families according to Roman law, and courts would decide the legality of certain marriages and divorces.  The lower classes basically practiced "common law" marriages, because they had little or no property to fight over.

    Until the ninth century marriages did not involve the church. Up until the twelfth century there were blessings and prayers during a ceremony that may or may not have been related to a church. Then priests asked that an agreement be made in their presence. It was only then that religion was added to the ceremony.  It became a sacrament in the 16th century by action of the Council of Trent. 

    Until the late 19th century and early 20th century, marriage was more of a necessity than it is today.  Men don't need women to run a household, or bear them children for labor on the farm, or to obtain a dowry.  Women don't need husbands to provide for their livelihood, or for bearing children, or for status in society. Marriage these days is for none of the reasons of yore.  

    So marriage today is quite different from marriage in Bible times.  It has evolved from being strictly an agreement between family patriarchs, involving a man and one or more wives, to a free will decision between two consenting adults.  And in the case of several states, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia, marriage is legal between two people of the same sex.

    Although marriage has usually been between a man and one or more women, it has normally been an opposite sex institution.  There have been cultures where women were able to marry more than one man, and where people of the same sex were allowed to marry.  (For a cursory history of accepted same-sex unions, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions) It is not possible to say with authority, as many try to, that marriage has always been between one man and one woman, or even opposite sexes.  

    All of this is to say that marriage is always evolving.  There was even a time when incest was considered appropriate, where sons and daughters were forced to marry even those who were strangers, where marriage was for the convenience of the father at the expense of the daughter, where love had nothing to do with it.  There is likely no period before our own in which any of us would have liked to live under their marriage laws or customs.  It took us centuries, even millennia, to arrive where men and women are free to choose their partners. Well, that is, if you are heterosexual.  If you are not you are still subjected to rules that no one else wants to live under.  For that reason alone, all people should be afforded the ability to marry the one of their own choosing.  

    (For a biblical argument in favor of same-sex marriage, see http://clergyunited.blogspot.com/2013/01/loneliness-first-not-good-of-creation.html)

    TOMORROW: Jesus on Marriage


    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    What to Say to Your Friends about Same-sex Marriage, Pt. 1

    Same-sex marriage is becoming less and less controversial as more states (and nations) are legalizing it, while books and articles on all sides of the issue abound.  It is a topic that has come of age.  Likely, you have been involved in discussions about this.  If you are unclear about how to think about same-sex marriage, or about how best to frame your responses, these suggestions may help.

    "Marriage has always been between one man and one woman."
    This is almost too easy to refute.  I am puzzled how anyone can hold this view.  The cynical side of me thinks that no educated person really believes this.  So, remind people that Abraham, King David, Solomon, and a host of Old Testament patriarchs had many wives as was approved under the Law of Moses.  In the New Testament, Paul advises that an Elder (congregational leader) should have only one wife, suggesting that polygamy was still in use among some Christians.

    And to make matters worse for those who would make marriage between one man and one woman the ideal, both Paul and Jesus forswear marriage for Christians if at all possible.  The ideal is a celibate life; marriage is considered an encumbrance to spreading the gospel.

    "Since the Bible condemns homosexuality, giving it the cover of marriage does not change the fact that it is a sin."
    In the first place, America is not a theocracy.  Our Constitution governs us, not the Bible. So the mere fact that the Bible condemns anything is irrelevant.  Do we make gluttony or pride unlawful just because the Bible says they are sins?  Of course not.

    "If we allow gay marriage, what's next? Polygamy? Child brides? Where will it end, marrying our pets?" 
    This is commonly known as the "slippery slope" argument.  The fact that any supposed next step may be undesirable is irrelevant.  What is at issue is the worthwhileness of same-sex marriage.  It should stand or fall on its own merits, not on what may or may not ensue.  Opponents of the ban on assault weapons in 1994 claimed that the next step would be the banning of all rifles and eventually the confiscation of all guns.  The next step was actually the repeal of the ban on assault weapons.  The government's argument for sending troops to Vietnam was called the "domino effect."  If we let Vietnam fall, then it's neighbors will fall and we will loose the entire of South East Asia to the communists.  Vietnam fell to the communists.  No other nations fell. Today, we have normalized relations and Vietnam is a member of the UN, the World Trade Organization and a threat to no one.

    The slippery slope argument is resorted to when no good arguments are any longer available. By using this, opponents of same-sex marriage are admitting they have nothing left of value to say.

    "Marriage is only for the purpose of procreation.  LGBTs can't procreate, so they aren't eligible for marriage."
    This is another of those arguments that stretch credibility.  This argument is made by the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups, but even they don't honor it, for they will marry people well beyond the age to procreate, and those who are young but can't conceive.

    Only the most dogged literalists would insist on limiting the definition of procreation to "sperm meets egg."  Procreation, that is, creating a family, is not only possible among LGBTs but happening every day.  Adoption   is one of the most urgent needs today.  Gay families have proven themselves to be appropriate options for raising a family.  Same-sex marriage would aid in making this possible.

    "Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm traditional marriages."
    The easiest way to defuse this objection is to ask a simple question: Tell me just how your marriage will be harmed?  In asking this countless times, I have yet to get any answer at all.  Not just a poor answer, but no answer.

    To broaden the issue just a bit, if it is suggested that legalizing same-sex marriage will impact traditional families, they are correct.  Their children will be obliged to recognize that some of their playmates have two mommies or daddies.  This will certainly raise questions for their moms and dads. Schools will likely have to deal with same-sex relations in health classes.  However, this situation already exists.  Not legalizing same-sex marriage will not change this.  Recognizing it will mean that we will have open discussions and fact based research, such as the realization that gayness is not an airborne disease that we catch by being in the same room with it.  The children of opposite-sex parents will not more easily become gay by association; their parents have nothing to fear.  If their children turn out to be gay, it is for other reasons, altogether.

    "Okay, smart-aleck, you tell me why same-sex marriage is a good thing!"
    Same-sex couples face the same challenges and problems that opposite-sex couples who are married face, yet are without the same resources to meet these challenges.  There are 1009 federal benefits presently withheld from them as well as many state benefits.  America is all about equal rights.  LGBTs unable to marry are being discriminated against, and this should stop.  As Byrne Fone of Harvard said, "Homosexuality is the last respectable bigotry in America."  It's time we ended it.

    Here's Bishop Gene Robinson's take on why separation of church and state works for the good of both the church and state:


    TOMORROW: A Closer Look at the Bible and Same-sex Marriage

    Monday, February 11, 2013


    What to Say to Your Friends about the Bible and Homosexuality

    So often we're in situations where someone says something that puts down a family member or a friend, but we're not sure how to go about dealing with it.  Here are some suggested replies that must be said with a smile on your face and love in your heart.  


    The response of consistency
    "Although you may believe that the Bible condemns homosexuals, it also condemns many things which we accept today.  These include eating pork, growing hybrid crops, working on Saturday, and women wearing pants.  How can it be proper to cling to this one prohibition and dismiss the others?"

    Explanation: Most people want to be consistent, or are a little embarrassed when an inconsistency is pointed out.  The burden is now on them to try to explain how this case is an exception.  They will fail.


    The response of more light
    "The Bible also approves of many things we condemn today, including polygamy, slavery, levirate marriage, subordination of women, and genocide.  Your disapproval of these things (that the Bible approves) indicates that you don't believe that just because the Bible once considered them proper that they are necessarily right for us today.  We learn more and we move ahead."

    Explanation: Levirate marriage (as an example) is the Mosaic Law that mandated that the brother-in-law to a recently widowed woman must have sexual intercourse with her so she will have children, even though her husband is dead.  Not only do we not approve of this, we condemn it.


    The response of proper motivation
    "I've looked at the Bible verses that seem to condemn homosexuality.  Most of them have nothing to do with homosexuality.  The most that can be said is that certain same-sex acts were condemned because the people were turning sex into an idol and acting out of lust.  All opposite-sex acts stemming from the same reasons were condemned also.  It isn't the kind of sex that's wrong, just the motivations for doing it."

    Explanation: Forcing a wife to have sex is rape; only if mutually agreed to is sex proper, even between married couples.  Things are often right or wrong depending upon the reasons for doing them.


    The response of "Aha!"
    "Did you know there is no word in Hebrew or Greek (the languages of the Bible) for homosexual?   How can the Bible be said to condemn what it doesn't know exists?"

    Explanation: The word homosexual was coined in the 19th century.  The word sodomy (Latin, sodomia)   was coined 1000 years after the Bible was written.  Semantisists tell us that if there is no word, there is no idea behind it.


    The response of love
    "I'm not a scholar, so I can't say I have studied the issues completely, but I can say that what Jesus expects from us is very simple: We are to love one another.  What we must be about is removing the barriers between people, not helping to maintain them in their rigid place."

    Explanation: It's the Golden Rule.  BTW, the Golden Rule is PROactive in that we are to DO to others, not merely NOT DOing the bad.


    The response of Pro-life
    "When Jesus violated the Sabbath by feeding himself and his disciples, he taught us that laws are to serve humans, not stand in their way.  Even the Sabbath law, the violation of which meant being stoned to death, could be set aside for the sake of human compassion.  Jesus would say that laws or beliefs that serve to dehumanize anyone, including homosexuals, need to be discarded."

    Explanation: There is no higher morality than upholding the dignity of a human.  Any religious notion that tells you it's OK to denigrate, dehumanize or otherwise withhold good to another is wrong on the face of it.  It is even evil to do so.

    Here's what one athlete does to help his team and many others to understand human dignity:




    TOMORROW:  What to say to your friends who oppose same-sex marriage

    Friday, February 08, 2013

    (This is the third post in a series emphasizing resources on LGBTQ issues)

    Here are the books I think are essential for the non-specialist. Certainly others could be added. These have shown themselves to be especially helpful to me.

    What Is Homosexuality?

    Calhoun, John B. “Population Density and Social Pathology.” Scientific American 206:139-148, 1962.
    Definitive study of effects of overpopulation that produce homosexuality in animals.

    Greenberg, David.  The Construction of Homosexuality.  The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
    The definitive work attempting to show that homosexuality is socially constructed as opposed to essentialist (inherent within the individual). Scholarly, yet accessible.

    Minor, Robert N.  Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay people and Why It's so Hard to Be Human. Humanity Works!, 2001.
    A thorough-going constructionist approach to gender issues.  Clearly shows how gender and sexual roles are created and reinforced and why deviance is punished.  Offers a way out of heterosexism into healthy sexuality for everyone.

    Mondimore, Francis Mark.  A Natural History of Homosexuality.  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
    Essential! Provides a comprehensive yet highly accessible overview of all aspects of current scholarship on homosexuality (except biblical).  Eminently readable. This book is a must have, but you will have to get lucky with a used book seller.

    Interpreting the Bible

    Borg, Marcus J.  Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.  HarperCollins, 2001.
    An easy, yet powerful introduction to biblical interpretation that takes modern science, other faith traditions and biblical critiques seriously.  Helps the reader understand how to separate the words of the Bible from the Word of God.

    Boswell, John.  Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. The University of Chicago Press, 1981.
    Easily the most extensive and comprehensive study of the questions central to Christianity and homosexuality.  His work in exegeting scripture is groundbreaking. Everybody must deal with Boswell, and he=s not easily contradicted.  Although he is considered an "essentialist", he is sympathetic to the constructionists.

    Brawley, Robert. L., Editor.  Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
    Noted biblical scholars deal with such issues in the sexuality debate as how to make ancient scripture accessible to modern readers, what scriptures to listen to and not to listen to, background information on the ancient Near East, and not all are written from the same point of view.  Fills in many of the holes left by others.

    Countryman, L. William.  Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today.  Revised Edition,  Fortress Press, 2007.
    Perhaps the finest exegesis of biblical passages relevant to homosexuality.  Although it is often heavy going, the payoff is well worth the effort. He presents a convincing case that Romans 1 has nothing to do with sin, along with a couple of hundred other compelling observations.

    Furnish, Victor Paul.  The Moral Teachings of Paul.  Abingdon Press, 1985.
    Provides good background material that sets the New Testament "clobber passages" in their social settings.  Undermines the common mistranslations and misinterpretations that lead to homophobic reading of the Bible.

    Helminiak, Daniel A.  What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Millennium Edition). Alamo Square Press, 2000.
    This is the book to begin with! (Since Mondimore did not cover the biblical material.) He explains in clear and readable fashion the latest scholarly research on the so-called "clobber passages" of the Bible.  Very useful as a refresher to the "Beyond the Bible and Homosexuality" seminar.

    Jordan, Mark D.  The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology.  University of Chicago, 1997.
    A scholarly investigation that explores the historical development of the "sin of Sodomy". Traces how the church in the Middle Ages invented a sin that did not exist prior to its invention, and shows its long-standing effects on same-sex relationships.  This is not easy reading, but very rewarding.

    Nissinen, Marti.  Homoeroticism in the Biblical World.  Fortress Press, 1998
    Surveys the ancient Near Eastern literature contemporaneous with the Bible and sheds light on how to understand biblical concepts of sexuality.  Demonstrates the erroneous procedure of confusing biblical and ancient concepts of sexuality with modern concepts.

    Scroggs, Robin.  The New Testament and Homosexuality. Fortress Press, 1983.
    A core volume that treats all the relevant New Testament texts in a scholarly but readable fashion.  Some say it's the best resource of its kind.

    Biblical Theology

    Alexander, Marilyn Bennett and James Preston.  We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God's Grace for Lesbians and Gays.  Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
    Challenges the church to take seriously its understanding of baptism and communion as means of grace, justice, and liberation. Charges the church with abandoning gays and lesbians who they baptized with the promise to accept, love, forgive and nurture, and calls the church to repentance.

    Countryman, L. William and M. R. Ritley.  Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church.  Moorehouse Publishing, 2001.
    This proactive and self-affirming book provides new hope for the lesbigay community, their families, and their communities, confidently appropriating and re-telling the biblical story of this unique and gifted minority's spiritual journey.  In short, it's about being gay and Christian from the inside while not repudiating the larger church.

    Johnson, William Stacy.  A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics.
    William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006
    Straight lawyer-theologian ties gay affirmation to biblical theology by using the categories of creation, reconciliation in Christ, and redemption.  Also offers excellent reasons for gay marriage.

    McNeill, John J.  Taking a Chance on God.  Beacon Press, 1996.
    A former Roman Catholic priest speaks directly to gay and lesbian Christians about why it makes sense not to abandon the faith.  His writings reflect the anguish and despair many gays and lesbians feel and offers life-giving options that all can embrace and be made whole.

    Scanzoni, Letha Dawson and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.  Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Response.  Harper & Row, 1994.
    Groundbreaking work in 1978 that looks at homosexuality from scientific, psychological, and biblical perspectives. Completely revised in 1994.  A wide-ranging synthesis of a lot of material found throughout this bibliography.  If you only read one book on the subject, this is it!

    Homophobia and Its Consequences

    Blumenfeld, Warren J.  Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price.  Beacon Press, 1992.
    Points out the hidden costs of homophobia in family relationships, religious institutions, social policy, and many other aspects of our lives.  Offers concrete suggestions for transforming attitudes, behaviors, and institutions.

    Fone, Byrne.  Homophobia: A History.  Metropolitan Books, 2000.
    Chronicles the evolution of homophobia through the centuries. Deals well with biblical texts, particularly on Sodom and Gomorrah.  Especially good at describing the sexual understandings of antiquity.

    Jung, Patricia Beattie and Ralph F. Smith. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge.  State University of New York Press, 1993
    Takes apart the sociological underpinnings of heterosexism and exposes their harmful effects on us all.  Particularly good at helping gays and straights alike see how we are all imprisoned in certain false assumptions about reality that we need to be freed from in order to be truly human.  Particularly useful in helping the church to understand the larger issues and offers a way to reform the church and society.

    Gay Life in America

    Bawer, Bruce.  A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society. Touchstone, 1993.
    Refutes the arguments used by antigay activists to stir groundless fears and hostility, and also offers a frank critique of an unrepresentative gay subculture that falsely equates homosexuality with promiscuity, hedonism, and political correctness. Great book to share with your friends who believe homosexuality is only sex, sex, and more sex.

    White, Mell.  Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. Simon and Schuster, 1994.
    The founder of Soulforce and former ghost writer for Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberston and Billy Graham, shares his struggle to be gay and Christian.  The single best first-person look at how a God-fearing man tried every conceivable means to rid himself of his "abominating affliction" only to discover that God loves and accepts him just as he is.  More than any other book, this one is convincing evidence that the center of the homosexual life is truly no different than that of the heterosexual.

    History of the Gay Rights Movement

    Clendinen, Dudley and Adam Nagourney.  Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America.  Simon and Schuster, 1999.
    The best single volume of the history of the gay rights struggle in America. It answers some nagging questions such as why the movement is so diverse politically, why gays and lesbians originally couldn't get along, and why the movement can't settle on a unified vision.

    In Defense of the Traditional Interpretations

    Balch, David L., Editor.  Homosexuality, Science, and the "Plain Sense" of Scripture. William B. Eerdmnas Publishing Company, 2000.
    Ten scholars, progressive and conservative square off in debating the issues.  Gives a good overview of the different ways of doing biblical interpretation.

    Gagnon, Robert A. J.  The Bible and Homosexual Practice.  Abingdon Press, 2001.
    The most current defense of the traditional understanding of homosexuality and the Bible. Most traditionalists view this as the best defense to date.

    Hays, Richard B.  The Moral Vision of the New Testament.  HarperSanFarncisco, 1996.
    Chapter 16, on Homosexuality, offers a highly nuanced interpretation of the relevant passages in the New Testament.  Some consider this superior to Gagnon's.

    Schmidt, Thomas E.  Straight & Narrow? InterVarsity Press, 1995.
    Attempts to answer the nontraditional arguments for acceptance of homosexuals. Offers scriptural exegesis, deals with whether or not people are born with homosexual orientations, and takes on John Boswell.  Wants to "hate the sin but love the sinner".  Fails.

    Reparative Therapy

    Besen, Wayne R.  Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.  Harrington Park Press, 2003
    An expose' of the ex-gay and reparative therapy movements from the inside.  Shows the connections between them and the radical right, and the damage they do.

    Same-sex Marriage

    Bibles

    Peterson, Eugene H.  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. NavPress, 2002.
    This is the only Bible that even comes close to dealing with the "clobber passages" with integrity.

    The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Third Edition. Michael Coogan, Editor. Oxford University Press, 2001.
    The notes in this Bible deal well with the "clobber passages."

    MONDAY: 
    What to say to your friends about the Bible and homosexuality