June 23, 2005

The Medical Decision Making Act

The Pastor at my church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun that, with his permission, I feel is very appropriate to republish here.

The letter was affirming an op-ed piece written by Dan Furmansky, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, a LGBT civil rights organization. The subject was the veto of The Medical Decision Making Act by Maryland's Governor, republican Robert Erlich. This act, passed by the Maryland State Legislature, would give unmarried couples of any gender combination, the opportunity to register with the state and participate in critical care medical decision making. This is a right only legally married couples and blood relatives currently have. The following is Apostle Dale Jarrett's letter.

Dear Editors,

I am writing to shout my agreement with the Baltimore Sun's recent op-end column written by Dan Furmansky regarding The Medical Decision Making Act and my total disapproval of Gov. Erhlich's decision to veto it.

It is precisely because of the actions and intentions of the religious right and conservative republicans that these kinds of laws are having to be brought forth to be put into effect. In the name of morality, our freedoms and personal rights to make our own life decisions and choices is really what is under attack. This concerns me just like the personal freedoms we are losing everyday in the name of national security. Once taken away, they are hard pressed to get back. This is what people have bled and died to get back, personal freedoms.

I am a Christian and I am an American citizen. My citizenship rights are not granted unto me because of my religion, or because of any religious text be it the Bible, the Kuran, or any other religious text. My rights are solely based upon the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Those rights grant me the priviledge of pursuing life, liberty and happiness....as I choose for my own self. There are boundary lines in place (laws) designed to protect me and everyone who participates in American society. More than ever, I can 'see' the reason why our founding fathers wrote in the separation of church and state clause because they didn't want the state to dictate it's citizen's personal religious beliefs. The state should not intrude on it's citizen's personal religious beliefs so as to make laws that are religiously acceptable to some, but not to others. To me, it is clear that our laws have been influenced by religious law, particularly the 10 Commandments. But the state doesn't promote any particular or specific religious affiliation, doctrine or dogma. THAT IS WHY gay and lesbian (bisexual & transgender) Americans should have every right to make their own decisions as citizens and have those choices be respected and protected against those who would use their religious beliefs to try to keep them from having their promised right to pursue their own life, liberty and happiness. As I have heard said before, it is not about having 'special rights', it's about already established and GIVEN rights being protected, respected and honored.

If this protection is not afforded to this one social/people group within American society, where does that stop in potentially affecting any and every other people group over future issues? Look at the American Indian and all they have been through....segregated, controlled, beaten down, ostracized. Look how women were denied the right to vote for so long, and that changed less than a century ago. Some religions have approved of and allowed slavery, something that the Constitution and Bill of Rights declare to be wrong and forbidden in America. Can't people see the slippery slope we are on and the potential chains being prepared for all of us?

As a follower of Christ, I try to hold on to the Golden Rule (which exists in every religious belief system) and says to us, "Treat others in the way that you would want to be treated." I believe it is important for me to live by my convictions and to live to honor God in all that I do, including how I treat other people who are created in His image. Jesus told us the greatest commandment, "To love God with ALL that I am, and the second is like it, to love EVERYONE ELSE as I love myself."

I want to see America, and Christian America truly treat ALL people the same, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. In that I believe that we would fulfill the great commandment by demonstrating a God of love that loves ALL people regardless of their faults or failures, strengths or weaknesses, adequecies or inadequecies. It's an American ideal, and for it to work, everyone has to have the same rights and protections and everyone has to agree to play by the rules. If the religious right wants to act aggresively and oppresively, it will come back to haunt them for we reap what we sow. Unwittingly, they are sowing in a way that could come back to bite them in the behind regarding their OWN rights and freedoms!

VERY CONCERNED about Maryland, our Country, and our leadership,
Apostle Dale Jarrett
Believers Covenant Fellowship

June 22, 2005

Out and About

There are many rights, written and unwritten, that straight people have which are not enjoyed by the GLBT community. Some of them are related to issues currently under debate in legislatures all over the nation, such as gay marriage. I’ll be writing about those down the road, but right now I want to address something much more subtle.

My fiancée Brenda and I are very affectionate towards each other, and we have no problems showing that in public. We don’t make out in the back row of movie theaters, but we hold hands, put our arms around each other, and are not hesitant to kiss while we are out and about. This is a right I took for granted until recently.

A few months ago, my gay brother and his long-time partner (who I consider my brother-in-law) were visiting us and we dined at a nice restaurant. Brenda and I shared a mushy moment, then naturally turned and kissed each other. My brother-in-law pointed out, “You know, your brother and I can’t do that here.”

By nature, they are not nearly as demonstrative as we are, but that point struck me as unjust nonetheless. Correct, but unjust. If they had shared a moment and turned toward each other to exchange even a peck on the cheek, it doubtlessly would have disturbed at least some of the people in the restaurant. You can usually pick someone out of any crowd that frowns upon public displays of affection regardless of the genders involved, but that number increases exponentially if it is between two men or two women.

I recently tested that point by thinking of how often I have ever seen a gay couple kiss on television, at least on a show not geared toward a GLBT audience. I’m sure I have seen it, but could not recall a single specific occurrence. It’s not all that uncommon to see two men or two women kiss on television anymore, but it is almost always between clearly straight people who are trying to embarrass each other or someone else watching. These situations merely reinforce the message that it is wrong for two people of the same sex to show affection in public.

To be perfectly honest, it has taken me some time to adjust to gay couples in my church calling each other “baby” or “honey” because I have been taught, both directly and through examples in the media, that they should not be doing that.

What a load of crap!

If there is anything this world could use, it is more people openly showing love toward one another. There are small-minded leaders of the Religious Right who preach how we should all love one another, but only so long as it is someone of a sexual orientation that meets with THEIR approval.

During Jesus' time on earth, he constantly came into conflict with the Pharisees, who enforced what they called God’s laws. These laws were actually interpretations THEY had made of God’s words to fit their own desires and beliefs and which they considered inflexible. Does this remind you of any groups in today’s society?

When I see my brother and brother-in-law together, I am filled with joy that they found each other. My brother in particular traveled a very bumpy road to reach the point in his life where he is happy and content. Surely he deserves that at least as much as I do. What would have been wrong with him turning to his partner in that restaurant and planting a big kiss right on the lips?

Absolutely nothing, that’s what. It’s a shame that our society makes it uncomfortable to do so.

You can post your feedback here or e-mail straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com

June 19, 2005

Taking Pride

As a straight man, I never had a burning desire to attend a Gay Pride festival. It turns out, that was my loss. I recently participated in my first event of that type, helping out in a booth my church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, a non-denominational congregation that ministers to GLBT individuals, was running.

As I have found in the relatively short time I have been active in this fellowship, the more I open my mind and heart to new possibilities and opportunities, the more I am blessed. Such was the case again last weekend, at the Washington DC Gay Pride Day, held in the shadow of the U. S. Capitol.

Most of the images I had seen in the media from this event over the years included men dressed in drag or revealing leather outfits, or other members of the gay community who mistook Pride Day for Halloween. As I talked to some of my co-workers in the weeks leading up to this year’s celebration, they confirmed the stereotyping of Gay Pride Day as little more than a freak show. I was even asked more than once what type of "outfit" I planned on wearing. I politely reminded them that I’m a straight man—we don’t wear "outfits."

Early on in the festival, while there were plenty of people available to work at our booth, my fiancée Brenda (one of the founding members of our church) and I had a chance to check out the other exhibits. While there were a couple of booths that wanted to sell lewd t-shirts and videos, there were even more exhibitors representing large mainstream corporations, professional services, and yes, even churches. Like any other festival, there were also plenty of people there to promote political causes or just sell refreshments. Going against what I’m sure my mother would have expected, no one tried to "convert me" into being gay.

Once we returned to our church’s booth, Brenda and I took our turn out front, handing out little stuffed bears and tootsie pops along with information about our fellowship. While I did see some individuals that fit the media image I referred to earlier, they didn’t stand out any more than sports fans that paint their faces and bare chests with their team colors and logos. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many families—husband, wife, and children—I saw strolling along and checking out booths that interested them. How odd that I never seem to catch them in the video highlights of these events.

At one point later in the afternoon, I had a moment of clarity (which are coming more often these days) and realized the single most basic truth of Gay Pride Day. I turned to Brenda and said, "You know, these are all just people. Some are gay, some are straight, but we’re all just people. God made us all and loves us all regardless of our orientation or any label placed on us." This was a point she had reached a long time ago, but rather than make me feel slow, Brenda simply enjoyed being able to share it with me.

The most moving part of the day for me came not long before we closed the booth. A young man with a "Metallica" cap on came up to us and shared his astonishment that a charismatic church like ours existed that would openly welcome the GLBT community. He just couldn’t seem to get over that, sharing how he was a gay Christian but often felt like a man without a nation. He stayed at our booth for quite a while, first talking to Brenda and myself, then moving over to enter a deep discussion with two of our other members.

It was for people like him that our church went to the trouble and expense of setting up a booth at this event. There are so many still in the GLBT community that have been shunned, condemned or worse by their families and/or the Religious Right who don’t realize that God does love them and will embrace them AS THEY ARE if they will accept Him as their Savior.

There are also Christians who don’t judge people based on which gender they prefer to sleep with before welcoming them into fellowship. At Believers’ Covenant Fellowship (http://www.imabeliever.ws/) , I am privileged to worship with a group that practices and preaches this type of inclusion along with the importance of forgiving all those who have hurt us along the way. We also study and learn from the TRUE word of God, not one twisted to suit any political agenda.

That’s what this blog is all about. Please post your comments or send e-mail to straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com.