December 30, 2006

"In the Heartland and Out of the Closet"

Sometimes the religioius right is its own worst enemy. This story from the New York Times clearly illustrates that point. The story talks about a recent trend in the state of Kansas, where more and more gay and lesbian people are coming out of the closet following the passing of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. From the Times:

(There is) a dramatic shift that has taken hold lately among gay and bisexual Kansans, many of them well into midlife and ensconced in long-term relationships. An energized culture of coming out has emerged, apparently in reaction to what many see as the anti-gay climate that led to the marriage ban.

The gay rights movement was slow to make its debut in Kansas, but during the last two years it has developed with an intensity that has surprised even its leaders. Kansas, which has approximately 73,000 openly gay and bisexual adults, according to Mr. Gates’s estimates, had no statewide gay rights organization until late 2004.

Imagine that, the state that gave us anti-gay bigot Fred Phelps (please, take him back) has a GLBT population that is alive, well, and beginning to make its presence felt.

December 29, 2006

Progress In Oregon

Basic Rights Oregon, a GLBT activist organizaiton, applauded recommendations recently made by the state's Governors Task Force on Equality. From the post on the organization's blog:

In a statement released by the Governor's office, Governor Kulongoski said, "This is about basic questions of fairness and equity under the law," said the Governor. "We must continue to strive to make Oregon a state of economic and social opportunity for all of our citizens, regardless of race, gender, religion, age or sexual orientation."

The task force's report is linked in the BRO post if you're interested in details. There's some good work being done in Oregon.

December 28, 2006

New Documentary: "For the Bible Tells Me So"

Joel Heller, a media consultant who writes the blog "Docs That Inspire," was kind enough to alert me to a podcast interview he did with Daniel Karslake, the director of the new documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So." For this project, Karslake tells the stories of five Christian families struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs with the reality that a member of their family is gay.

The documentary is being screened at the Sundance Film Festival next month so it will receive some BIG TIME exposure. I commend Karslake for taking on this project and wish him all the best with the film.

Here are some brief excerpts from the interview.

"I wanted to take the view of people who had started out on one side of the issue and wound up on the other side."

"One thing I really have a problem with is people who use the Bible when they haven't even read it, they're just using what someone told them it said."

"I don't want to tell people what to think.....I want to give them another option in the discussion. As long as discussion takes place, we on the road to acceptance."

December 27, 2006

"Wanted: More Ministers Like Vincent Fields" NOT

The title came along with a story in The Christian Post that featured the actions of a minister who gave the invocation before a recent session of the New Jersey Senate. On a day when the Senate was considering the bill that would grant civil unions to same-sex couples after a court ruling mandated them to do so, Vincent Fields prayed:

"We curse the spirit that would come to bring about same-sex marriage. We ask You to just look over this place today, cause them to be shaken in their very heart in uprightness, Lord, to do what is right before You."

More from the report in the Christian Post:

He (Fields) said he didn't intend to say anything about gay marriage, but "[t]he Holy Spirit took over." Fields was unapologetic about his prayer, arguing: "We're living in a time now where we've got to take a stand spiritually. We're literally setting ourselves up for God to turn His back on us, and if we do, we'll have the chaos of other countries, in this country."

That's right, let gays marry and all hell will break loose. We might have rampant crime, poverty, adultery, drug usage and various other sins. Well, this just in; those things already exist! THAT's where our religious leaders need to take a spiritual stand rather than turning a prayer into a grandstanding political speech.

Same-sex marriage or any other granting of equal rights to GLBT people will not tear apart the very fabric of society--that ship has already sailed.

Instead of working to minister to a society horribly in need of spiritual guidance and strong moral leadership, men like Vincent Fields are too busy playing politics.

Isn't counting on political leaders to establish and enforce clear moral guidlines for this nation a bit like the fox watching the proverbial henhouse?

December 26, 2006

The Far Right Wing is Regrouping

Newt Gingrich, the author of the 1994 "Contract With America" which helped the Republican Party to a landslide victory in that year's elections and changed the political landscape in the U. S., is trying to lead a comeback for the right-wing nut constituency of the party.

According to this column in the Lawrence KS World-Journal, he has come up with another Contract With America. From the report:

The third plank in the platform promoted by potential presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich reads: “Recenter on the Creator from Whom all our liberties come. We will insist on a judiciary that understands the centrality of God in American history and reasserts the legitimacy of recognizing the Creator in public life.”

Call me cynical and paranoid, but I read into that Ten Commandments displays in every public courtroom. The Lord’s Prayer recited in unison in every public school classroom. Inquisitions into judicial nominees’ personal creeds to guarantee hostility toward abortion and gay marriage. More pointless fights over the essentiality of uttering “under God” to the very survival of the Republic.

And none of that will bring us any closer to liberty and justice for all.

Especially if you are a GLBT person. I recommend checking out the entire column, but I want to post the wonderful conclusion here:

What we need from our leaders aren’t platitudes and the pretense of promoting “values.” What we need are honesty, integrity and policies that are fair and sensible, and that make it possible for even the least among us to live with dignity. Because that’s the right thing to do.

Can I hear an amen to that?

Thanks to PageOneQ for the link.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

That's probably the most right-wing friendly thing I've ever written on this blog :)

I'm taking a few moments out from holiday festivities with Pastor Brenda to reflect on what Christmas Day is and is not all about.

It's not about fighting crowds at the mall to buy the hot gift of the year.

It is about the miracle of the virgin birth, when God planted the seed within the Virgin Mary to birth His Son.

It's not about who can put together the gaudiest display of Christmas decorations and win an award for best on their block.

It is about enjoying the beauty of a snow covered hillside, driving through a festival of lights, or being snuggled up in front of a fireplace with someone you love, taking time to be grateful for how God has blessed you this past year.

It's not about being angry at your current situation if you are alone, poor, sick, or all of the above. God did not bring his Son into this world for those who believe in him to merely struggle through life. He doesn't want that for any of us, and if we seek Him, He will lead us out of those chains that bind us in mediocrity or worse.

It is about receiving the hope and love that led God to send His Son to us. As someone who has lived through the separation and death of both parents and a spouse, divorce, and financial ruin among other things, I can directly attest to that. Thanks to the strength He gave me, I have an appreciation of how much God loves me and an ever-growing faith in Him and His plan for my life and that of all who turn to Him.

If you're not feeling that this Christmas season, it's on you. He's available to you, but you need to reach out and grab all that he offers your heart and soul. Take time this Christmas to reach back.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Jim and Pastor Brenda

December 23, 2006

"Lesbians of Mass Destruction"

One of the wittiest yet fundamentally sound arguements in favor of same-sex couples having children can be found in this column in Slate. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

The 30-year search for proof that gay parents are destructive looks a lot like the hunt for WMD. The American Psychological Association has compiled abstracts of 67 studies. Some are plainly biased, and only the latest two or three have avoided the methodological flaws of earlier investigations. But after 67 tries, you'd expect the harm of gay parenting to show up somewhere. Yet in study after study, on measure after measure, kids turn out the same.

If you're going to base family policy on averages, the chief problem isn't stepparents; it's men. That's what "pro-family" groups keep covering up. According to Focus on the Family, "Increased risks of physical and sexual child abuse at the hands of non-biological parents are another serious concern for same-sex families." Nope, not for lesbians. The latest study cited by the group actually concludes that the "key risk factors are living with a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend." Of 55 child deaths reviewed in the study, zero were caused by a stepmother or by a biological mother in a stepfamily or live-in relationship. Other studies show the same pattern in child abuse generally.

As we've recently been reminded, James Dobson really hates letting facts get in the way of his rhetoric of discrimination. It's nice to see someone on a national platform setting the record straight. I'm personally sick to death of hearing about Mary Chaney's baby, but it her pregnancy can focus some positive attention to same-sex couples raising children, that's a good thing.

December 22, 2006

Pope: Gay Relationships "Dismal"

Pope Benedict showed the world again on Friday that he just doesn't get, he isn't likely to get it, and he doesn't WANT to get it. This from the report on

He (the Pope) said that those who support gay unions endorse "dismal theories" that strip all relevance from the masculinity and femininity of the human being as though it were a purely biological issue."

That is either nonsensical or impossibly rigid and closed-minded. Then again, the Catholic Church isn't exactly known for being progressive now, is it?

"And so joining a man and a woman, and two people of the same sex becomes the same," Benedict said. "With that, the ominous theories that deny any relevance to the human person's masculinity and femininity are tacitly confirmed."

Given the well documented problems the Catholic Church has had with its priests and, shall I say gently, their own masculinity, this approach to the issue of same-sex marriage seems particularly flawed.

It is this kind of leadership that has the Catholic Church heading toward inevitable irrelevance.

December 21, 2006

"Why Defense of Gays Matters"

As you can imagine, the title of this column by Leonard Pitts, Jr. Like myself, Mr. Pitts is not gay so he is asked this question. He answers it very well in his column. He writes:

I have yet to learn how to segregate my moral concerns. It seems to me if I abhor intolerance, discrimination and hatred when they affect people who look like me, I must also abhor them when they affect people who do not. For that matter, I must abhor them even when they benefit me. Otherwise, what I claim as moral authority is really just self-interest in disguise.

I can't put it any better than that myself.

Thanks to Dr. Jerry Maneker for the tip.

December 20, 2006

"Episcopalians Against Equality"

That's the title of this op-ed piece in the Washington Post regarding the succession of nine Episcopal parishes in Virginia from the U. S. Episcopal Church. This part really struck me:

In slamming the door on their American co-religionists, the two largest parishes, which are in Fairfax City and Falls Church, also announced their affiliation with the Episcopal Church of Nigeria. The presiding Nigerian archbishop, Peter Akinola, promotes legislation in his country that would forbid gays and lesbians to form organizations or to eat together in restaurants and that would send them to jail for indulging in same-gender sexual activity. Akinola's agenda so touched the hearts of the Northern Virginia faithful that they anointed him, rather than Jefferts Schori, as their bishop.

That goes a bit further than the "hate the sin, love the sinner" line many anti-gay churches spout off. Check out the rest of this excellent column.

December 19, 2006

Episcopal Parishes in Virginia Break Away Over Gays

From The Advocate:

Two of the most prominent and largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly Sunday to leave the Episcopal Church and join fellow Anglican conservatives to form a rival denomination in this country. Truro Church in Fairfax and the Falls Church (located in the city of Falls Church) plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.

I respect the right of these and other churches to follow a different path, but the reason for it saddens me. The further splintering of God's people--that's Satan's work.

December 18, 2006

Book Review: "The Rainbow Kindgom: Christianity & the Homosexual Reconciled

There have been several books written in recent years with the purpose of reconciling homosexuality and Christianity, but if you want an easy-to-understand version that covers the basics, David W. Shelton’s “The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity and the Homosexual Reconciled” (129 pages, Lulu, $12.95) is an excellent choice.

Shelton, who has covered this topic extensively on his blog, “Skipping To The Piccolo, wrote in the preface of his book:

"This volume is not meant to be an exhaustive resource for the theological and Biblical study on the topic of homosexuality. It’s not even meant to replace other volumes that have covered this topic so well. Most of the book is based on my own life and studies of Scripture."

With this approach, Shelton delivers a book that contains a good depth of research but also reaches readers on a personal level, one where both straight and gay people alike can walk through the steps he lays out and understand how he reaches his conclusions. As I read it, I felt like I was taking that step-by-step walk with Shelton which made it easy to invest the time to read the book and also to buy in to his message.

Shelton is a pastor and gay man who lives in Tennessee, yet he is careful not to be defined by either label and cautions his GLBT brothers and sisters to avoid that pitfall. In what I found one of the more profound and moving passages in the book, Shelton wrote:

“Any part of our lives, whether it’s our job, our favorite food, our music, and our sexuality…..hetero or homo…..can be allowed to become something so important in our lives that it becomes the very thing that defines it.

I believe that when we start looking at those who have spoken such verbal violence toward us in recent decades with a kind of dismissive disdain that we start to judge them, then our sexuality has become a master. In other words, when our sexuality becomes so important that it’s the filter through which we judge others, then it’s exactly the kind of thing that we accuse “them” of doing."

I think this is a point that sometimes gets lost in the struggle for GLBT rights. I have run across a number of gay people who are so caught up in being gay and fighting the good fight that they lose track of everything else around them. I have a deep respect for the work that activists do, but everyone needs an anchor to reality—there is more to live than any one thing, even our sexuality.

“The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity and the Homosexual Reconciled” is broken up into two parts. In the first half, Shelton goes through the “clobber passages” of Scripture, giving a thorough analysis of the key verses. He does so in an easy to follow style, telling a story rather than writing a scholarly essay.

Shelton then systematically walks through the issues of context and the factors of society at the time Biblical events occurred that have been misinterpreted and misrepresented through the centuries and comes to the well-supported conclusion that these passages do NOT condemn homosexuality as sinful. He points out that there were many sinful acts committed by homosexuals, but they were actually cast in the same net as heterosexuals, a critical point many scholars and Christians have missed over the years.

Shelton starts the second half of the book by reviewing some of the pertinent Biblical stories, starting with David and Jonathan. He presents some very clear evidence to support the view that they had a homosexual relationship. Shelton points out that this relationship did not diminish the stature of either man in God’s eyes or that of the church.

The book concludes with Shelton’s thoughts on how a GLBT person should walk out this knowledge that he or she can reconcile their homosexuality and Christianity. He urges the community to rise up:

"It’s time for us to end our denial, come out of the closet, and to embrace our faith. We can reconcile. We can hope. We can live, dream, and love. We can worship, sing, pray, and yes, even have faith.

We can be gay. We MUST be gay. And we must be Christian. And most importantly, we must be OUT. In doing so, we can begin to show the world around us that we are not a contradiction at all. Instead, we’ll show that we are men and women of God who happen to be gay.

We need to reclaim the promises of Christ. As we leave the closet and reenter the Church, we do so with our heads held high and our hearts turned toward God. We should live as examples of stability, integrity, and honor."

I believe Shelton’s points here are critically important. I have written here time and again how no one can fully serve God and utilize the gifts He gave us if we don’t accept who we are. If you are gay, you must accept that to realize the full potential of the life that God wants you to have.

It is also important for gay Christians to set the example Shelton writes about to serve as a beacon of light to draw others from the darkness that life without Christ sentences them to. He emphasizes that point at the conclusion of the book:

"We can stand tall with confidence before the throne of grace, and before the judgements of others and know that God has not only called us, but empowered us. He called us to love, to show mercy, and to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations.

That, dear friend, is how we should live in the Rainbow Kingdom."

David W. Shelton has painted a wonderful picture of the Rainbow Kingdom which is worth your time to check out. You can order a copy at the book's official website.

December 17, 2006

Shameless Plug for the Music of Apostle Dale

Over the year and a half I've written this blog, I've shared about my church, Believers' Covenant Fellowship, and our pastor, Apostle Dale Jarrett, on a fairly regular basis. I'm proud to call Apostle Dale my pastor and my friend, and I want to show you another side of him here today.

Dale is a gifted musician who leads the worship music every Sunday. I have never seen him need sheet music to play his piano--he does it entirely by memory! He is also a great singer and has recently recorded a wonderful CD of big band/swing music titled "By Request."

Dale has just put up a website to celebrate his work, Dale Jarrett Music, and you can click through there or just click here to sample "By Request." Dale told me he came up with the title because the songs he selected are ones he has been frequently asked to play over the years.

You can also read Dale's biography on his website and realize he is a multi-dimensional man, a committed minister to both the GLBT and senior communities, a gifted entertainer in several genres of music, a committed partner and a wonderful friend.

I encourage you to check out his music, not just his current release but his previous dinner music CD, a Christmas collection, and a worship CD which Pastor Brenda also sang on.

They'll make lovely stocking stuffers.

December 16, 2006

Florida School Board Can't Stop Gay-Straight Alliance

The Okeechobee (I don't know how to pronounce it either) County School Board can stop a group of students organized as a Gay-Straight Alliance club from meeting on school property, but they can't stop it from existing. That's the good news from this report on

The ACLU has filed suit on the students behalf, pointing out that the school board allows a number of extracurricular clubs, like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for example, to meet at Okeechobee High School and that the board unlawfully discriminated against the Gay-Straight Alliance.

The best part of the story is that the Alliance is currently active, meeting at a local restaurant, and includes approximately 50 members. Good for them!

Here's a great quote:

“Florida’s gay and lesbian students deserve schools that are places of learning, not training camps for intolerance, intimidation and violence," said Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project.

Well said. Some of the most important things I learned in high school were lessons taught outside of the classroom. Intollerance should not be one of them.

December 14, 2006

James Dobson's Column In Time Magazine

Perhaps the most frequent object of scorn in this blog, Dr. James Dobson, is at it again. He wrote a guest column in the most recent issue of Time magazine titled, "Two Mommies Is One Too Many." Like many anti-gay bigots, he used the announcement of Mary Cheney's pregnancy to jump back on his soap box (if he ever stepped down) and lecture about the sins of same-sex parenting.

The magazine did post a rebuttal on its website, not the magazine, from Jennifer Chrisler, the Executive Director of the organization Family Pride where she pointed out factual flaws in Dobson's piece.

As usual, the disinformation campaign of an anti-gay leader has set off the radar of Wayne Besen, the founder and head of "Truth Wins Out," an organization that exists to counter such efforts. On the organization's website, Besen reports how two researchers blast Dobson for distorting and cherry-picking parts of their research to support his position.

This remnids me that anytime I am very confident of my position on an issue, whether I am debating an interpretation of the bible or who is the better of two quarterbacks, I don't need to distort or cherry-pick. I can address data that does not support my view if I know in my heart that the data which does support it will carry the debate. It's only when I am not sure of my position that I try to avoid the other side. After all, who likes to lose an arguement?

Unfortunately, Dobson tries to win this debate at the cost of people in the GLBT community who won't reach out to God and suffer in their own self-loathing because of the negative attitudes he invests vast resources into perpetuating.

Then again, if they're not writing checks to support his political agenda, they don't really matter.

"Gay and Evangelical"

Fellow blogger Barb Elgin was kind enough to forward a link to this article from the New York Times which was reprinted on the blog "Mirror of Justice."

It begins:

"Justin Lee believes that the Virgin birth was real, that there is a heaven and a hell, that salvation comes through Christ alone and that he, the 29-year-old son of Southern Baptists, is an evangelical Christian.

Just as he is certain about the tenets of his faith, Mr. Lee also knows he is gay, that he did not choose it and cannot change it.

To many people, Mr. Lee is a walking contradiction, and most evangelicals and gay people alike consider Christians like him horribly deluded about their faith. “I’ve gotten hate mail from both sides,” said Mr. Lee, who runs, a Web site with 4,700 registered users that mostly attracts gay evangelicals."

The Times writer does not draw any conclusions, instead presenting the thoughts of numerous gay and lesbian people who are involved in evangelical Christian outreach. There is also mention of the objections of those who do see the term "gay evangelical" as an oxymoron.

This is a well presented piece that is worth reading.

December 13, 2006

Another Megachurch Pastor Is Pushed Out of the Closet

Yep, here we go again. This report from The Christian Post tells us that Paul Barnes, the pastor of Grace Chapel in Englewood, Colorado for 28 years, has confessed to having homosexual encounters.

Sadly, it's the same old story. Preacher rails against homosexuality. Someone finds out he has been having homosexual affairs. Preacher is confronted by church leadership and tearfully confesses his horrible "sins." Church leadership hates the "sin" but loves the sinner. Rinse and repeat.

Of course, these people hide behind the perceived sin of being gay because if churches started holding leaders and members accountable for adultery there would be a lot of empty pews and lighter collection plates.

In a video-taped message to the church body, Barnes said "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy," Barnes, 54, said in videotaped message. "... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."

Obviously, God made Barnes that way, but his inability to accept that has hurt his family, his church, and his ability to serve God. I am again reminded that no one can reach the full potential of the gifts God gave them unless they can accept who God made them to be.

This man has inflicted and endured a lot of suffering because he could not come to grips with who he was created to be. That, folks, is not God's will but Satan's. Just as the Devil quoted scripture when he tried to tempt Jesus, he can use people preaching in God's name to work against his creation and undermine His will for our lives.

It also appears that Colorado is not the best state to live if you are a secretly gay pastor of a large church.

Paul Barnes, his family, and his church are just the latest casualties. There will be others.

December 12, 2006

Is the Push for Same-Sex Marriage Actually Hurting GLBT Civil Rights?

I like to consider different viewpoints--if I didn't I never would have started this blog. Here is a different twist on the puch for same-sex marriage, something I have spent a lot of space writing about here.

The blog "Proceed At Your Own Risk" recently posted a piece that asked the question in the title of this post.

"As emotionally difficult and as politically incorrect as it may be, we owe it to ourselves to question if the gay marriage fight at this time in the history of the gay civil rights movement is anything more than a distraction pulling us away from the real battle. Has this national issue become more of a danger to our future than a promise for a better life?"

".....the fact remains that in most states I can still be fired from my job for being gay, not hired for being gay, denied housing for being gay and even denied business services for being gay.
Marriage has come to dominate and in fact completely eclipse the overall fight for
gay civil rights. Strategically speaking, are we best served by this? Or are we and our leaders heading in a very wrong direction?"

"I applaud gay couples who are attempting long term commitments and those who are raising children, but it is not a practice that stands at the core of gay culture and I question whether it should be the central issue in the fight for our civil rights and full equality as Americans and human beings. Should the central issue in the fight for equality be an end to the kinds of discriminatory practices that effect each and every one of us, not just some of us."

"So are gay men and women exempted from constitutional protections because we are mentally ill, sinners or both? It must be one or the other. And the conclusion must be that if conservatives have their way with us, the mentally ill, the divorced, the adulterous, the dishonest and the covetous are next."

"Gay marriage is an effective way to divert us from these realities and betrayals of Constitutional law. It's easy to cry "God" over marriage, not so easy over housing and employment. But thanks to the marriage battle, politicians, preachers and bigots disguised as "social conservatives" can bundle up our rights in a nice little wedding bouquet and toss it into the air."

Are at least some GLBT activists taking the easy way out by focusing on same-sex marriage at the expense of issues like fair employment and housing rights which impact a broader section of the GLBT community?

There is a spirited discussion about that taking place on "Proceed At Your Own Risk," and I would like your thoughts on that question.

"Glory to God and all God's Children"

"'Tis the season to re-examine mainstream attitudes toward gays and other sexual minorities."

That was the subheading to this column which is noteworthy not as much for what is says but for where it is being said.

This column was written by Clarke Thomas, someone who is a newspaper editor, not a GLBT activist. It was also published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, not a GLBT or alternative newspaper in an area hardly known for it's liberal slant.

Thomas also writes:

"The growing gay family phenomenon should prompt churches and church people in this season of goodwill compassionately to re-examine their attitudes toward the GLBT population."

This column in a mainstream media outlet is more evidence that attitudes toward GLBT equality are shifting in a positive direction and that more people are seeing the right-wing rhetoric for what it is: bigotry and hatred.

December 10, 2006

The Right Wing Sure Gets Upset at Fiction

I was reminded of this again in Jerry Falwell's most recent newsletter, where he takes NBC to task because on their show ER, "the character of Hope Bobeck, who is defined as a Christian, abruptly decides that she should enter a sexual relationship with an atheist character."

Falwell continued:

"The storyline reminds me of a “Will and Grace” episode a few years ago in which a gathering of ex-gays (people who have walked away from homosexuality) suddenly run off with each other, overcome by their sexual urges.

The message here is clear: Christianity is a feeble crutch that cannot — and should not — stand against reckless sexuality.

believe these negative media portrayals of Christians and Christianity goes hand-in-hand with the accelerating effort to purge our nation of its Judeo-Christian symbols.

It’s a one-two punch: the media depicts Christians as either mean-spirited ogres or easily influenced simpletons while civil libertarians attempt to convince our fellow citizens that America should be free of religious symbols, specifically Christian ones.

I think this attitude is just pitiful, especially coming on the heels of "The DaVinci Code" movie that was based on A WORK OF FICTION!

Another point I want to make is, regarding the situations Falwell pointed out on TV shows, how many of the characters found true happiness and fulfillment with the choices he is railing against? Tension and conflict are two basic staples of fiction, either comedy or drama. Once the story reaches a happily-ever-after point, it's done and it's time for a new story. It is safe to say that the majority of characters in fiction, either on the screen or the printed page, make bad choices or are the victims of other people's bad choices. This allows for the conflict and uncertainty that makes for a good story.

Of course, if people are looking for mean-spirited Christians or those who are easily influenced, Fox News would be a good place to check out.

December 09, 2006

Mitt Romney Changes His Tune

The race for the 2008 presidential nominations is already well under way, and one of the contenders is the republican Governor of Massachussets, Mitt Romney. He has started his presidential campaign by lashing out against the state law that allows same-sex marriage. Saying that he is pandering to the far right wing of the party could sound cynical, but there is evidence to support that

This article in Bay Windows, a Boston LGBT newspaper, has some excerpts from an interview they had with Romney back in 1994, when he was competing for the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy. He's had quite the change in tune since then. Here's an excerpt:

I don’t just mean that each person can do what they want to do, I mean that our society should allow people to make their own choices and live by their own beliefs. People of integrity don’t force their beliefs on others, they make sure that others can live by different beliefs they may have. That’s the great thing about this country: it was founded to allow people to follow beliefs of their own conscience. I will work and have worked to fight discrimination and to assure each American equal opportunity. You’ll see that, for instance, in my relations in the workplace.

This recent column by Eleanor Clift in Newsweek discusses that strategy, starting out by stating:

There ought to be a prohibition against opportunistic politicians messing around in state laws to further their presidential ambitions.

Well, if I'm being cynical, at least I've got good company.

December 08, 2006

"T. D. Jakes Steps Up AIDS Efforts"

Given the lukewarm (at best) approach much of the African-American community has taken toward their GLBT brothers and sisters and issues that affect them, this was a very encouraging article to find in The Christian Post:

In the wake of a burgeoning evangelical movement combating the HIV/AIDS crisis, one of America's leading Pentecostal pastors stepped up his already ongoing efforts for AIDS awareness.

Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas launched a comprehensive campaign at the national and international levels to make a greater impact amid a growing crisis. The "It's Time to Step Up!" campaign comes as HIV infection is rising in every region in the world.

“More has to be done to halt the spread of this preventable and treatable disease and to address these frightening circumstances in the lives of all our brothers, sisters and children wherever they may live," said Jakes in a released statement. "We believe everyone has a role to play in educating the community about the challenges and issues surrounding this pandemic. As one of the largest predominately African-American churches in the nation, The Potter’s House is stepping up and taking action as part of a national and global offensive against HIV/AIDS.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

December 07, 2006

Merry Christmas...Or Not

The folks at the American Family Association are upset. They want everyone to have a Merry Christmas whether they want to or not! Here's their latest release:

Gap, which owns Old Navy, Banana Republic, Forth & Towne and Piperlime, has become the latest politically correct retailer, intentionally censoring the use of "Christmas" in their in-store, online and printed advertising.

Instead of referring to the season as Christmas, Gap instead uses the word "holiday." As hard as we tried, AFA could not find a single instance in which Gap-owned stores use the term "Christmas." Not a single time!

When one Old Navy store manager was asked by AFA if the word Christmas was in his store, he answered, "We have a lot of Christmas gifts in our stores, but the word Christmas is not used here. Everything is 'holiday.'"

Gap wants you to do your Christmas shopping with them, but they don't want to mention the Reason for the season. Gap doesn't want to offend non-Christians by using Christmas. The fact that their censoring the use of Christmas might offend Christians seems to be of no importance.

I've given the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Hollidays" a lot of deep thought and reached this

Who gives a crap.

Really, why does any organization waste valuable time and money worrying about how you are greeted at a retail establishment? Is anyone really shallow enough to believe that a "Merry Christmas" greeting will instill the Christmas Spirit in anyone?

As Apostle Dale eloquently preached at our church this past Sunday, the spirit of Christmas is all about understanding why Christ was born on earth and why he wilfully gave his life for our salvation. That spirit is not something that can be generated externally--it must come from within our own hearts from an understanding of how Jesus loves us.

If we embrace that, we don't need someone to wish us "Merry Christmas."

If we don't understand what Christmas is truly about, it doesn't really matter what anyone says, does it?

December 05, 2006

Announcing the Sixth "International Carnival of Pozitivities"

Ron Hudson, who writes the blog 2sides2ron, is hosting the latest monthly installment of The International Carinval of Pozitivities. Ron provides the background for this blog carnival:

"I founded this blog carnival in June, 2006, to help fill the void of information in mainstream media and other sources about the impact of HIV/AIDS in the world. It seemed to me that all we were hearing about HIV/AIDS related to how new drug therapies were stemming the tide of deaths from this disease. In the West, we have, indeed, seen a drop in the number of AIDS deaths, but some important aspects of this story were being omitted. Side effects, cost, lack of access and medication failures were not being discussed. Neither was the impact of AIDS in the more poverty-stricken regions of the World and the lack of infrastructure for providing medication to the over 40 million people infected worldwide. Far more frightening, we have failed as a society to discuss transmission modalities in frank and honest ways. While the disease continues to spread, we avoid discussions about our true nature as sexual beings as if our shame and denial will make this disease vanish from before our eyes. Prevention of HIV/AIDS can only take place through honest and open discussion. It is in the spirit of promoting just such a dialogue that I founded the ICP. I am proud to see the project has survived its first six months and am honored by all past participants for their courage and commitment to the project. Please join us."

They were kind enough to include a story from this blog in last month's carnival, and I would encourage all of you to take Ron up on his invitation and visit the sixth monthly installment of The International Carnival of Pozitivities.

December 04, 2006

The Fight Is Never Over

The battle for marriage equality was won in Canada, but opponents are gearing up for a rematch.

Along with this, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is using his push to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law as a tool to gain conservative support for his potential 2008 presidential candidacy.

This is a reminder that, even when victories are won, there are those whose hatred of equal rights runs so deep that they will NEVER give up the fight. Supporters need to have the same resolve and understand that this is the reality that has to be dealt with.

Ultimately, it will be worth the fight because it's right.

December 03, 2006

Perspective on Baptists by a Baptist.

Rev. Jim Evans, who regularly contributes to the site Ethics Daily, gets it. No matter what the topic, when I read his columns, in my opinion he gets it.

So it was no surprise that I read this piece on the recent North Carolina State Baptist Associaion's recent declaration that any church that affirms a homosexual "lifestyle" cannot join the association, and any current member that does so would be expelled.

While not directly affirming the place of the homosexual in the church, Rev. Evans asks,

"For instance, in the book of Leviticus homosexual behavior is described as "an abomination." But the exact same word is used to describe the eating of pork. Why don't we have a campaign against bacon eaters?

In the few places in the New Testament where homosexual behavior is discussed, it is always included in a long list of behaviors including greed and gossip.

Greed and gossip?

Why is it we never hear anything about greedy gossips? If Ezekiel and Jesus are right, greed makes more sense as a threat to our standing at the final judgment than anything else. In fact, greed may explain our general lack of concern and compassion for the poor in our midst."

It's always nice to see somebody dishing out healthy doses of perspective.

December 02, 2006

Mixed Bag in South Africa

The nation of South Africa is on the cutting edge in two important areas these days, one good, the other horriffic.

South Africa recently joined the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada in legalizing same-sex marriage, and they're lining up to do so. There is already such a backlog that many couples will have to wait until at least January to exchange vows. That's wonderful news.

The bad news is that many South African teenagers are not likely to live past their 60th birthday because of the overwhelming AIDS crisis in that country.

When I saw that headline, I couldn't believe it was true. After all, living in the United States, we hear a lot about how life expectancy is increasing so much that it threatens the solvency of our Social Security system. This report states that 15-year olds currently have a 56% chance of dying before they turn 60, up from 29% in 1990. Life expectancy in South Africa has dropped like a rock, from 63 in 1990 to 51 in 2006. Estimates are that over 11% of the country's population is infected with the HIV virus.

Reading that just makes my blood run cold.

These people need help, and they need prayer or else the gains they made in GLBT equality could literally be short lived.

AIDS Is Not a Gay Disease

Yes, you hopefully already know that, but a lot of people still don't. One person spreading the word unfortunately had to learn it first hand. Tema Gerhrardt contracted AIDS in 1985 from having sex with her boyfriend. She is now going around to schools in the Baltimore area making sure they know that "this is 100 percent preventable. When you have sex with somebody, you are having sex with everyone that they have ever had sex with. It's like a pyramid."

Teenage students are an important target area for AIDS education since 13% of the new cases being reported are among people 13-24 years of age.

I was stunned to see that my home state of Maryland has the fourth-most reported cases of AIDS out of 50 states, and the Baltimore area had the fifth highest total among U. S. metro areas. Neither one is near the top in total population, and that tells me people like Terna Terhrardt have their work cut out for them.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the link.

December 01, 2006

Do It Their Way Or Not At All--Even If People Die

That's what I hear from the Christian conservatives who are pushing Congress to cut US funding into the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. This fund fights not only AIDS but also Tuberculosis and Malaria in 136 countries.

So what could be wrong with that? In the eyes of organizations like Focus on the Family, there are issues like encouraging the use of condoms, providing clean needles for drug users and, in the words of FOTF's senior director of government and public policy, Peter L. Brandt, "It does such an unbelievable job in discriminating against faith-based organizations."

So because the Fund does not follow the rigid philosophy of FOTF, they and other groups of that ilk want our country to pull out, which would surely mean PEOPLE WOULD DIE!

Is that any different from the Phairasees not wanting Jesus to heal on the Sabbath because of the Jewish laws? I don't think so.

The Phairasees put rules ahead of people, and so does Focus on the Family and other religious organizations who want to short AIDS funding.

November 30, 2006

"The Cost of Coming Out Early"

If you're like me (God forbid), high school was an awkward time in your life. I struggled, like many of my friends, figuring out where I fit in and trying to figure out the whole dating thing.

Just imagine having added to that the uncertainty about which gender you should be dating, or even knowing that, but the answer being someone of the same sex.

This article from the Wilmington, Delaware News Journal, delves into the issue of teenagers coming out as gay or lesbian. They are a growing but still very small minority, which in high school is a major issue because the challenge of fitting in becomes even more daunting.

November 29, 2006

Churches Finally Mobilizing to Fight AIDS

World AIDS day is coming up on Friday, December 1, and the United Nations has issued an update that indicates World's AIDS epidemic is getting worse. Here is an excerpt from the report via the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

Religious leaders, citing a new report by the United Nations, are cautiously optimistic that the moral and political will to fight the pandemic is being finally being mobilized.

The statistics, however, are sobering, and religious groups vow to keep pushing politicians toward increased action -- and spending -- against the disease.

The U.N.'s 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update said the HIV epidemic is growing, with an estimated 39.5 million people worldwide infected with the deadly virus. In addition, the report said:

-- 2.3 million of those living with HIV are children under the age of 15.
-- 4.3 million became newly infected last year, 530,000 of them children.
-- 2.9 million died of AIDS-related illnesses, 380,000 of them children.

Let's pray that reports like this and events like the conference Pastor Rick Warren (author of "The Purpose Driven Life") is holding will continue to raise world-wide awareness and encourage churches to mobilize their resources to save lives.

November 28, 2006

Interview with Jen Austin

Jen, the author of "Coming Out Christian" which I reviewed a couple of days ago, was kind enough to answer a few follow-up questions. She and her partner Angela are in the process of trying to have a baby, a process she writes about on her blog at She is also a big Dallas Cowboys fan.

Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Q: What kind of feedback have you received about the book? Is there anyone you know of yet who has been led to make any major life changes based on your story? How have folks responded at your book signings?

A: The feedback has been wholly positive. The book seems to have opened up a dialogue and encouraged others to tell more of their own stories, which is all that I could have hoped for. It seems to have stirred the spiritual pot a bit. As we were leaving church a couple of weeks ago, one of the pastors told me that another church member said it was a "life-changer," but I don't know exactly that means. It's funny how the feedback just barely trickles back to the author! As long as it's helpful, that's the important thing. I know that one young gay man was encouraged to start his own Bible study independent of any church, so the book has renewed his personal determination and enabled him to take better ownership of his faith. That's encouraging. And just recently I got an email from a mom who hopes that my book will be the thing that helps her daughter realize it's okay to be a lesbian and still love God. These are all humble reminders about how powerfully God can use us when we allow ourselves to become vessels.

Q: Was anyone you wrote about in the book, especially Angela, uncomfortable with the directness and honesty in which you told your story and/or wrote about them?

A: Angela read most of the drafts as the book was being constructed, and she was okay with the honesty. She even helped me dig deeper in many places, and I think hitting the bottom of that emotional barrel made the book better than it otherwise might have been. It's painful for both of us to go back and read the parts of the book that highlight the weak spots in our relationship, but we don't regret that we've been exposed. The book is real, and that's what makes it relatable. The people who get upset with me are the new friends who don't know all the details of our history, and then they read the book and want to smack me! I made misakes, but God picked up the pieces and put them back together again. That's the truth that ultimately breaks through, and in that God is glorified.

Q: Was there any particular moment you and Angela realized you wanted to have a baby or was it a gradual process?

A: It was a gradual process. Angela always wanted to have a baby, but I was more career-driven and goal-oriented, and thought I didn't have time to be changing diapers. Quite plainly, I was selfish. (And perhaps a bit afraid of being judged as a gay parent. I thought perhaps I shouldn't bring children into the world under these circumstances, and that it might be better to remain focused on work.) Then things began to happen in my life that seemed to awaken me to the idea of having a baby, and I gradually grew into a place where the desire to have children was stronger than the desire for anything else. Now, I'm pretty much consumed by it. Call it maturity, or a ticking of the biological clock, but I can't wait for the day that Angela and I become parents. Five years ago the thought might have sickened me, but after maturing as a lesbian and as a Christian I've realized it's the simple things in life that ultimately give it the most profound meaning. The thought of being judged or discriminated against as a gay parent doesn't bother me a bit now, because I know that God will be at the center of our family and God will be what ultimately defines it. Anything else that comes at it from the outside will just be meaningless periphery, and the truth will remain firm despite it.

Q: What did you learn about yourself and your faith while writing the book?

A: I've never considered myself to be perfect, but when glaring personal weaknesses are written down on paper and published, it can make a girl wince. At the same time, it's inspiring and humbling to see the things that God can do in the midst of weaknesses if we name them and open ourselves up to being healed. I feel like a stronger person having overcome the worst of myself, and I'm grateful to God for the blessing that has been added to it. It's nice to know that my being a lesbian is not what gets in the way of my faith; it's my being an idiot that does the damage! That's strangely comforting, and I might not have known the depth of it if I had not written the book.

Q: You made mention on your blog about a new book you hope to have out next year. Can you tell me anything about it?

A: The new book is about taking better ownership of our faith as gay Christians. I'm incredibly grateful for folks like you, Jim, who aren't gay, and yet accept us fully and believe us when we say we have reconciled faith with sexuality. The support is revolutionary, and it will continue to carry us and edify us. But laws won't change and fundamentalists won't stop the derrogatory propaganda until we as gay Christians become so articulate in our faith that God practically jumps from our chests and declares a new gay Christian covenant. God is alive in gay Christians now, but we need to make sure that God is increasingly visible. I hope that the new book helps lead us in that direction.

Q: I see you're on My Space now. Is that part of a concerted effort to do more outreach? What kind of feedback have you received there so far?

A: I originally joined myspace about a year and a half ago as a way of connecting with radio listeners. (I work for Mix 102.9 in Dallas.) Then I discovered that a lot of my friends were on myspace, so it became a way to connect with them every day. It has gradually become an outreach mechanism, although I hesitate to call it that. I don't want people to hear the word "outreach" and take off in a dead sprint. I would rather that myspace simply be a way to get to know me as a person and as a friend.
I have noticed that people who disagree with me feel awfully free to tell me so on myspace. I've heard a variety of derrogatory things, and most of them try to make the point that I'm being misled by thinking that it's okay to be both gay and Christian. One 18 year-old boy in Alabama told me once that I am what's wrong with America, and that he hopes the Christian Right will eventually become successful in ridding the country of the immorality that I represent. If he lived close enough I might have invited him over for a Coke Zero, Triscuits, and Flannel Pants Movie Night at our house, so he could see exactly how "immoral" we truly are. But people see what they want to see, and gay was the word that jumped out at him and became my primary identifier. Still, I hope that myspace will continue to serve as a place to connect and positively impact others.

Q: How 'bout them Cowboys?

A: Oh, the Cowboys! If I were a straight chick I might start stalkin' Tony Romo. As it is, I'm content to keep diagramming plays and jotting down coachspeak in my own little lesbian football handbook. How 'bout that 3-4 defense! Sometimes the stereotypes are right on.

November 27, 2006

Bridge of Light

Fellow blogger Joe Perez over at Gay Spirituality & Culture asked me to let my readers know about "Bridge of Light." Here is how he describes it:

What: A new cultural tradition for celebrating the full equality and dignity of all people

When: December 31, 2006 and January 1, 2007

Where: Public and not-so-public celebrations to be held across the USA (and beyond)

Why: To raise awareness of the full spiritual equality of GLBT people and of all people, to have fun, to strengthen our communities, to celebrate an integral and holistic spirituality

Who: Everyone (not just gays) is invited to endorse and celebrate with us ... even YOU

I encourage you to check it out and see if it is something you want to get involved in and support.

November 26, 2006

Book Review: Coming Out Christian

Coming Out Christian. By Jen Austin. 254 pp. Sources of Hope Publishing. $15.

One of the aspects of blogging I find particularly interesting is people’s willingness to dig deep into themselves and share their findings, warts and all, with the world.

Accomplishing this in a blog is impressive enough, but capturing that in a book is another matter entirely. Jen Austin, a radio DJ in Dallas, Texas, has done an outstanding job of that with her recently published book, “Coming Out Christian,” (Sources of Hope Publishing, $15).

Jen has been blogging about her life on her personal website since 2005, sharing her views on being a Christian lesbian and the perspective that gives her on life and social issues. She was one of the first to link to this blog, supporting our goal of bringing the message of GLBT equality and the Good News of Jesus into the gay community.

In “Coming Out Christian,” Jen retraces the steps she took on her “journey of self-discovery” and gives readers an inside look at how she accepted the fact she was attracted to women, come out as a lesbian, and then reconcile that to her Christian beliefs.

Jen’s was often a difficult journey, one with plenty of obstacles. As she tells her story, Jen is almost painfully honest about the mistakes she made along the way. This is not a book written by someone trying to elicit sympathy or looking to make excuses when things went badly. Jen accepts responsibility for her decisions throughout and wants to help others not suffer through the same pitfalls she did.

In the introduction to “Coming Out Christian,” Jen writes, “The single greatest barrier to irrevocably accepting my own homosexuality in the mid 1990’s was the all-consuming fear that upon doing so, God would cast me into the fire in the pit of hell in absolute disgust, without even blinking an eye. This fear paralyzed me for many years, but after an extended period of intense study and even more intense prayer, I can now say with certainty that—contrary to popular belief, God is the author of homosexuality, and wholly embraces me as a lesbian.”

Regarding her family background, Jen writes, “Nothing traumatic happened to me during my childhood that my present-day homosexuality could somehow be blamed on…..I grew up in a situation, if it was not the American Dream, it certainly did resemble it.”

Yet despite a strong foundation growing up, it was still a difficult, at times traumatic process for Jen to accept herself as a lesbian Christian. One of the major problems was all the un-learning she had to do. Growing up in the nation’s heartland, homosexuality was usually discussed “under the guise of dirty jokes and religious condemnation….being gay was seen as an unacceptable lifestyle or behavior that you chose to pursue, rather than an orientation or state of being that you were born with and can do nothing about.”

Jen, not realizing there was another option, made a valiant effort of doing what was expected of her; date boys, get married, and raise a family. She writes, “I wasted a lot of valuable time in my late teens and early twenties barking up the wrong heterosexual tree. We gay men and lesbians seem to spend a good portion of our lives attempting to deny and even exorcise our most pure and native instincts, while the heterosexual population is allowed to carry on quite naturally. It’s a shame that the process of coming of age and dating which comes so easily for a heterosexual person is often years in the making for a homosexual person. We should not have to attempt to live as heterosexuals before accepting our innate homosexuality.”

While I personally didn’t find the coming of age process quite as easy as Jen implies it should be for a heterosexual male like me, at least I didn’t have the enormous disadvantage of being funneled into a lifestyle I was not born to live. Jen has come to understand this about the societal norm of heterosexuality, “I believe that most people who fear homosexuality do so because they consider heterosexuality to be the default identity….homosexuality is a corrupt departure from the norm…..I, for one, cannot fathom heterosexuality. Homosexuality is my norm. I don’t understand why a woman would want to have a husband and I don’t understand how a woman could sexually desire a man.”

She hits on a critical point here. I can’t explain why a woman would desire another woman, but I don’t have to. I can just accept that’s the way God made them and accept them as they are. Jen doesn’t understand how I can be attracted to a woman, but she accepts me as I am. Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who, instead of accepting what they don’t understand, fear and condemn it.

Jen details the ups and downs of her relationship with Angela, her long-term partner, including how she almost pushed Angela away for good. They shared worship experiences and studied the bible together, but it wasn’t until Jen made her final reconciliation with God’s acceptance of her homosexuality that she could be at peace and her relationship had the strong foundation it needed to last.

She writes, “I used to fear the Bible…..when I semi-blindly let others decide for me what exactly the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality ….. Thankfully, I began to “get real” with God and listen more closely to the things God would say to me personally, while trusting in the Spirit’s ability to reveal truth to me not via the vocal masses, but alone, through prayer and intimate moments with the Word.”

Folks, when you hear someone referring to “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, THAT is what they are talking about! Without it, we will stumble along, either following someone else’s direction like sheep or falling away from God entirely. He wants us to choose neither of those options. As Jen demonstrates, that intimate relationship with our savior is available regardless of our sexual orientation.

If you are a GLBT ally who wants to understand more about the coming out process and the reconciliation of homosexuality and Christianity, you will, like I did, find this book very informative and helpful.

If you are a Christian who condemns homosexuality and those you believe chose that “lifestyle,” I would strongly recommend you open you mind and read this book. It will be a lesson that not all homosexuals hang out at leather bars and sleep with a different partner every night. Many of them live like Jen and Angela; in a loving, long-term committed relationship.

If you are a GLBT person who feels that God does not love you as your are, you need to read this book to understand how he DOES love you and wants to have a relationship with you.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, “Coming Out Christian” is still worth reading. It is interesting, well written, and most of all real.

This book is available at

November 25, 2006

Is the King James Bible the Original Rainbow Translation?

You might read that headline and wonder what in the world I'm talking about. Try this on for size. The King James Bible, treated by some fundamentalists as the original writing of the Bible (no dummies, it was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic--the King James was the first ENGLISH translation from those original scriptures), was ordered by an actual King James in the 17th century.

What if he had been gay? What if, for centuries, the bible that has been the basis of much of the religious right theology had been authorized by a gay man?

Richard Mathis was kind enough to forward a link to this piece he wrote on that very subject for the site

Mr. Mathis wonders how the North Carolina Baptist Convention, which recently turned up the head on any member church that is accepting of gays, would view that revelation, then goes into great detail presenting evidence to support that assertion, one that is not new (Pastor Brenda was familiar with it) but is presented very clearly in this column.

Mathis writes, "How ironic it is that gay unfriendly Southern Baptists are the biggest proponents of the King James Bible. Then again, given that King James was remarkably arrogant, out-of-touch and torched "sodomites" and "witches" in the name of God while all the time being a sanctimonious hypocrite engaging in gay relationships, he could blend right in along side Ted Haggard putting the heat on gays and feminist abortionists."


November 24, 2006

"When Religion Loses Its Credibility"

A column recently appeared in the USA Today with that headline.

"Galileo was persecuted for revealing what we now know to be the truth regarding Earth’s place in our solar system. Today, the issue is homosexuality, and the persecution is not of one man but of millions. Will Christian leaders once again be on the wrong side of history?"

"Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability."

"The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication. Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be."

The author is a Baptist minister, and it certainly is refreshing to see this type of insight in the mainstream press instead of just in someone's blog.

November 23, 2006

U. S. Military Continues to Contemplate Homosexuality

A while back I posted about a story that detailed how the Pentagon had classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. I suppose, with not much else going on in the world occupying their attention, they have continued their consideration of how to classify gays.

The good news is that homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder. Hip hip hooray!

The bad news is that is it considered a defect:

"Among the conditions are stammering or stuttering, dyslexia, sleepwalking, motion sickness, obesity, insect venom allergies and homosexuality."

With this kind of insight into the human condition, or at least one of them, is the mess in Iraq really that much of a surprise?

November 21, 2006

"Gays Keep Separated, Church and State Not"

I ran across this op-ed in the Chicago Tribune written by Geoffrey A. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago who had a very personal take on same-sex marriage. He has watched his daughter Mollie settle into a very happy long-term relationship with another woman who she cannot legally marry.

He writes about previous restrictions on marriage:

"The institution of marriage has embodied many restrictions over the years since St. Paul. Marriage has been prohibited, for example, to people of different religions and different races. Like the ban on same-sex marriage, those prohibitions were justified by appeals to tradition, natural law and Scripture. In a representative statement, a judge explained miscegenation laws: "Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Mr. Stone closes with this thought:

"At least with respect to same-sex marriage, our society is about to change. A third of Americans now favor allowing same-sex marriage, and more than half now support same-sex civil commitment. Our nation's greatest achievement has been its ability to recognize and overcome deeply entrenched racial, religious, gender and ethnic discrimination. We will achieve this as well in the realm of sexual orientation. But some of us grow impatient. I'd like to go to Mollie's wedding."

I hope he gets his wish sooner rather than later.

November 20, 2006

Bucking the Southern Baptist Bigots

First Baptist Church in Greensboro is holding fast in its affirming and accepting policies despite a recent decree from the North Carolina State Baptist Convention. The convention decided to no longer affiliate with churches that embrace openly gay members, and even went so far to encourage member congreations to rat out other churches that did so.

First Baptist Church, however, is standing true to its convictions. After the convention's vote, the marquee outside the church read, "We practice confession, not condemnation."

"We try to stay away from labels like 'lesbian' and 'gay'; we just work together in the church in ministry, whether it's building a house for Habitat for Humanity or working for Greensboro Urban Ministry," said Mark File, a gay deacon at College Park. "Decisions like this are missing the point of the church, which is not shutting doors."

It seems like a LOT of churches don't get it these days. I'm glad there are ones like mine and First Baptist Church in Greensboro to shine God's light in the GLBT and all other communities.

November 19, 2006

The AIDS Evangelists

Here is an interesting piece from the Seattle Weekly publication that tells us about the struggle the organization World Vision is having engaging churches as part of the solution to the worldwide problem with AIDS.

Rich Stearns, the director of World Vision, answered the question "Where has the church been?"

"If we honestly ask who are the ones who have taken the lead in fighting against AIDS and showing compassion to its victims, we find a surprising list." He ticked them off: "the homosexual community, Hollywood, rock stars, political liberals, the U.S. government, the United Nations, secular humanitarian organizations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."

Some elements of the evangelical community have done worse than ignore the issue, they have incredibly actively opposed more AIDS funding.

"In May of this year, Focus on the Family's James Dobson and 30 other Christian leaders signed a letter to congressional representatives urging them to oppose a proposed increase in U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, a Swiss-based fund that raises billions of dollars in governmental and private money throughout the world. Among the Global Fund's alleged crimes were ties to philanthropist George Soros, whom the letter linked to "radical causes" like abortion and euthanasia. It also attacked the Global Fund for promoting condoms rather than abstinence and faithfulness. The increase in funding passed anyway."

Gee, what a surprise Dobson was mixed up in that. As usual, Dobson and his ilk are more worried about their base of political power than helping people, and it continues to disgust me that he claims to do so in the name of God.

There is movement from the evangelical community.

"A number of prominent evangelical leaders have turned their attention to the issue, among them Franklin Graham and the Rev. Rick Warren, the best-selling author and pastor of California's populous Saddleback Church, which is about to hold its second annual AIDS conference. World Vision enlisted Kay Warren, the pastor's wife, to make several appearances on its Hope Tour. That same year, evangelicals lent crucial support to a $15 billion, five-year AIDS effort launched by President Bush called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief."

Please join me in praying that more people turn their focus on God's work of helping to heal those who are sick and preventing more from contracting this horrible disease.

November 18, 2006

Gay Penguins Still Ruffling Feathers

"And Tango Makes Three" is a children's picture book that tells the story, a true story by the way, about two male penguins who raised a baby penguin as their own chick in New York's Central Park Zoo.

Of course, anything that exposes youngesters to a positive portrayal of homosexuals, even amongs penguins, will get some people's undies all bunched up. The lastest is in Shiloh, Illinois, where some parents have raised a stink. They are trying to get the book moved to a section containing "mature topics" which would require parental permission for a child to read it.

It's a sweet little book that you can buy on Anything that can get our kids thinking outside the box the religious right so desperately wants to keep them in is a good thing.

November 17, 2006

LGBT Equality As a Competitive Advantage

Here is yet another example of how economic pressure is one avenue LGBT advocates can use to move forward the policies of equality. Wisconsin is one of the states that voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. As a result, gay and lesbian employees, seeing little chance of receiving domestic partner benefits, are considering leaving the state's flagship institution of higher learning, the University of Wisconsin.

According to The Advocate article, Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school that does not offer benefits for domestic partners. For those of you who don't know what the Big Ten is, it is a collegiate sports conference comprised of many of the largest universities in the Midwest. These schools, like Ohio State, Indiana, Northwestern, and Purdue for example, often compete for the same academic and leadership talent.

GLBT people and their allies need to be aware of what employers and industries support equal rights and support them whenever possible. Maybe those groups who aren't supportive will get the hint.

November 14, 2006

"War, Religion, and Gay Rights"

Columnist James Carroll of the Boston Globe writes about the unity diverse groups can find in gay bashing and addresses a couple of the primary underlying reasons why GLBT rights are often so viciously attacked.

"Same-sex erotic love is not the issue. Humans, including Catholic bishops, have long accommodated it. But that accommodation assumes denial and shame. What brings demonstrators into streets across cultures, and what shows up in the United States as "values" politics, mobilizing bishops, is the movement to bring homosexuality out of the dark.

When gay people openly assert their identities as such, whether through parades or through the demand for full and equal social recognition, reactionaries cannot stand it. "

"The open affirmation of gay identity can pose a mortal threat to people whose own sexual identity is insecure. The Haggard story is a cautionary tale. As it happens, I was present last year to hear Pastor Ted preach a sermon at his mega-church, and it included a digressive attack on homosexuals that was as venomous and it was gratuitous. He equated gay sex with bestiality.

Even at the time, I wondered about the dark energy of his hatred. That it is revealed now as self-hatred comes as no surprise. One needn't draw a direct line from Haggard's behavior to the private morality of Catholic bishops to sense that the church's own deepening insecurity on all matters of sexuality, especially those surfaced by the still unresolved crisis of priestly sexual abuse of children, informs its exceptional opposition to gay rights."

That's right, since GLBT people have the nerve to assert their desire for equality, that has been seen as a declaration of war by people who are often focus on that while in denial or diverting attention from other issues.

Righteousness will ultimately prevail and more of these hypocrites and hidden agends will be exposed. The tide is turning in favor of equality, but it will be more of a steady flow rather than a tidal wave.

November 13, 2006

A State of Moral Confusion

Yes, here's another piece on Ted Haggard, but it's not really about him. This situation has brought a lot of people out of the woodwork with interesting opinions, some of them profound, some of them ludicrous. My last post reference one of the former, and this one shows one of the latter.

From the Rocky Mountain News:

As a practical matter David Frum's analysis of the situation is more disturbing, given that, at least for now, the David Frums of the world still have more political influence than the Mark Driscolls. A former speechwriter for President Bush, Frum now writes for America's leading conservative magazine, National Review. Here's his take on the Haggard scandal:

"Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse. One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives. The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution. Which man is leading the more moral life? It seems to me that the answer is the first one."

It seems to me that there's something about the topic of sex in America today that causes otherwise sane and intelligent persons to say crazy things.

On what conceivable moral scale is publicly acknowledging one's sexual orientation while taking a libertarian view on the criminalizing of drugs and prostitution (this is apparently what Frum considers vilifying "traditional moral principles") worse than spending a lifetime deceiving one's spouse for the sake of career advancement?

I never cease to be amazed by the ability of people to rationalize the sins of those who work with them to condemn what they perceive to be the sins of others.

Fortunately, their judgement carries no long-term consequences. We will all be equals on judgement day, when they only thing that matters is the forgiveness of Jesus--if we've asked for it.

November 12, 2006

The Party of the Angry Closet

I found this post on the blog Proceed At Your Own Risk which took a different spin on what appears to be a crowded closet in the Republican Party.

"It may very well be that the GOP's abominable homophobic campaign and party rhetoric is primarily fueled by a long-standing core and tradition of pathologically self-hating closeted gay men in key positions."

"So, I'm posing an ugly and incredibly distasteful question that the gay community must ask itself. Would a national political campaign be so focused on homophobia if not for the presence and influence of so many self-loathing closeted gay Republicans? When we blame straights for Republican and Christian homophobia are we pointing the finger in the wrong direction?

And are we ourselves, in a gay community sense, at least partly responsible if not primarily responsible for fueling this nightmare?

If this theory is even partly correct, then it is critical and vital to our future that we hunt down and expose these men with urgency and even brutality."

"It's time to consider that our collective silence on this issue and with regard to these individuals may be one of the root causes of national homophobia institutionalized by one of our two political parties.

The gay community may be more responsible for homophobia than we care to admit. Furthermore, the gay community may have more control over its own future than we care to address. In some circumstances, outing may be as much of a civic duty as voting. Forgive the cliche, but growing pains are an inevitable part of life and maturation; and now may be the time for some pain."

The word brutality seems to cross a line, but overall his points seem to make a lot of sense to me. What do you think?

November 11, 2006

"Ted Haggard-My Brother In Shame"

One of the things I find most appealing about bloggers and blogging in general is the opportunity for people to lay themselves bare for the world to see, sharing their experiences so others can learn from them.

This piece by fellow blogger Peterson Toscano is a great example of that. Ted Haggard's fall made Peterson reflect on a similar experience he went through in his own life, and the wisdom he gleaned from that kept him from gloating as Haggards demise, and he discourages others from falling into that trap.

Thanks to Peterson for opening up and sharing this experience with us.

November 10, 2006

Carol Channing On Gays

Entertainer Carol Channing, who I understand has a large gay following, is not a fan of their work.

In this interview with the Gay People's Chronicle, a publication based in Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Channing had some surprising answers when asked about her large gay following:

Q: You seem to have a very large gay following. Have you ever thought about why?
A: I don’t think about them. I’m grateful that they seem to like me. They’re terribly loyal to me. But I’m knee-deep in the Bible and you know what it says about that.
Q: Alright.
A: Oh, dear. Is this for a gay publication? Have I offended you?
Q: Yes. For the Gay People’s Chronicle. Right now, it’s really not my job to be offended or not be offended. I am just asking questions and reporting answers. I read that you have fought for gay rights. Do you think that the things gay people are fighting for are important?
A: I don’t think about it. If they can’t take care of their own problems, why should I bother. It’s not my problem.

Lest any GLBT readers get too offended, here's an example of the mentality that produced those quotes:

Q: As revealed in your biography “Just Lucky I Guess,” you found out later in life that your father was of African-American origins. Did you ever feel betrayed that you weren’t told that right from the start?
A: No. I didn’t even know it would matter, that reporters would ask questions. [It did] not change my relationship with him at all. But I did finally realize why I sang so well, why I danced do well. Everyone’s race is something to be proud of. I’m terribly proud of it. I was very close to him and loved him dearly. He was the kindest, most spiritually minded person I knew.

So she can dance and sing because she has African-American blood?

I think she's a lot better off sticking with singing and dancing and should probably give fewer interviews.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip.

The blog Towleroad has a copy of the press release Channing's pr rep sent out trying to clean up the mess.

Will Haggard's Fall Open Eyes and Minds?

I ran across this fascinating column in the San Francisco Chronicle that took a different approach on the Ted Haggard situation.

How about one overarching question: Will it make a difference? Will it be enough to effect any sort of ideological or spiritual change among the uptight and the sexually rigid? In short: Will God shake anyone awake?

In other words, will Haggard, one of the most
high-profile and influential Christians in America, and his evident love of men be enough to flip some sort of switch in the rigid Christian fundamentalist mind-set and slap them out of their ideological coma and maybe begin to tip the scales back toward, oh, I don't know ... let's say open-mindedness, generosity of spirit, happy grinning homosexual acceptance and an understanding that God doesn't give a flying evangelical crap about gender? Do you already know the answer?

Because this is, in a way, what it comes down to. A massive, hurtful hypocrite of Haggard's stature and influence comes to light, and you can only hope for, well, something. A shift. A hint of awakening, of movement, of evolution. An increase of urgent calls to the gay-love hotline from the GOP. You know, something.

Here's the bad news: Keep on waiting.

It's as sad as it is obvious. You'll find no evangelical, no Christian leader anywhere coming out and saying: Let's do something different. Let's take this shocking Haggard scandal as a cosmic sign, as a big rainbow-colored warning flag that maybe, just maybe we need to look at this gay issue with a little more love and a little less nauseating pseudo-spiritual homophobic dogma. Maybe now is the time to rethink this hateful ideology that has kept us so deep in fear and mistrust and sexual agony for so long. Can I get a praise Jesus?

Unfortunately, the religious right is probably too busy licking their wounds after the trouncing their candidates took in this week's elections. After some time passes, though, we can only hope that as least some of their leaders can step back and take a long, hard look at what they're doing and, more importantly, what the Holy Spirit is really trying to tell them.

November 09, 2006

The U. S. Moves Toward the Middle

The Democrats sweeping victories in Tuesday's elections signalled a move from the right, sometimes the far right, back toward the middle in our nation's political slant. This is good, but not yet great, news for the GLBT from where I sit.

The good news is that it should limit further passing of state constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage. Arizona became the first state to reject a proposed amendment at the ballot box, but seven more states passed a measure this week, increasing the number of states with a ban on the books to 27.

With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, there is virtually no chance that a federal amendment will even reach the floor again. There is also an upswing in out GLBT candidates getting elected to office, offering a louder and more visible voice for equality.

This is all good, but not great news. Many democrats got elected by presenting a viable alternative to moderate voters from both parties. While those individuals did not run on platforms including discrimination toward gays, few of them engaged in issues of GLBT equality either.

In other words, the 2006 elections stopped the bleeding in the political arena for GLBT interests and began some slow healing that, over the long term, could begin paving the road toward full equality for GLBT citizens in the United States.

That is still a long, winding road, however, but the bus has at least turned around and is now heading, slowly, in the right direction.

November 07, 2006

Taking Religion Away From Politicians

It's election day in the United States, and I found a piece that fit in with both the message here and the election theme.

An Episcopal priest named Tom Ehrich wrote an op-ed piece for the Indianapolis Star titled "Preachers much reclaim religion from politicians." I couldn't agree more. Here are some excerpts I thought were particularly profound.

"Now that the unloosed genie of religious intolerance has replaced racial hatred and anti-communist blather as the go-to guy of desperate politicians, it is time for religious leaders of all stripes to take back the night."

"Christianity has always served better on the margins than at the center of power. When we walk hand in hand with power-seekers, we lose touch with the Gospel. When we grasp public funds, tax benefits and prestige, we stray far from a savior who commanded exactly the opposite."

"We look stupid parading alongside the corrupt. The dais and dalliance of modern politics aren't our place. Crumbs falling from Republican and Democratic tables aren't the manna we seek. We have nobler ideals than staying in office for another two years. We have food that endures to eternal life.'

I am reminded of the old cliche "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As religious leaders like James Dobson have gained more political power, it has grossly corrupted any message they might bring from the pulput of a church. Leaders like him wind up preaching more about politics and less about Jesus Christ.

Any preacher who thinks politics is a higher calling should go in that direction because they don't beling in a pulpit. Anyone who believes influencing votes is more important than saving souls should not try the latter because they are obviously not hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.

We need more people to influence souls for Christ, not votes for Republicans.

November 06, 2006

More Haggard Fallout

Now the distancing begins from disgraced Rev. Ted Haggard.

A spokesman for President Bush, who Haggard was reported to have regular telephone contact with, said, ""He had been on a couple of calls, but was not a weekly participant in those calls," said Bush spokesman Tony Fratto. "I believe he's been to the White House one or two times. I don't want to confine it to a specific number because it would take a while to figure out how many times. But there have been a lot of people who come to the White House."

Dr. Jerry Falwell said, "He doesn't really lead the movement," Falwell said. "He's president of an association that's very loosely knit, and I have never been a member of it. Most of people that I know have not, and no one has looked to them for leadership."

Dr. James Dobson didn't let this little problem make him lose focus on what is really important to him, "Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election--especially the vote on Colorado's marriage protection amendment--which Ted strongly supports."

This reminds me of a movie Pastor Brenda and I were watching just last night, "X-Men: The Last Stand." There was a lot of talk among the LGBT community when it first came out this spring because of the story line--a cure that had been produced for mutants to make them "normal."

During the film, one of the members of the mutant resistance, a character named "Mystique," was shot with a dart containing the cure drug and rapidly changed to a normal woman. The leader of the resistance, "Magneto," look at her when she lay naked and helpless, reaching out toward him, and sneered, "You're one of them now." He promptly turned his back and walked away, never associating with her again.

That's just what these members of the religious right are doing. Now that Haggard has admitted at least some indiscretions, he is one of them, the unwashed masses, the sinners, just like them homosexuals.

In this black and white world of evangelical fundamentalism, you're either with them or against them. Ted Haggard, one of their leaders, has now been kicked to the curb and is one of "them."

Does it bother you that these alleged men of Christ are acting very much against the example of Jesus when he walked the earth?

It bothers me...a lot.

November 05, 2006

Someone Who Didn't Stop Learning

One of the biggest problems I believe we have in Christian leadership at this time is that leaders get to a point where they spend too much time teaching and not enough time learning. It is the exceptional leader who stays focused on learning.

Here is a piece by someone who learned an important lesson about life after he move into a position of leadership. Miguel A. De La Torre, director of the Justice and Peace Institute and a published author, wrote this piece about what he learned from his friend "Tommy" after Tommy came out to him.

Here's an excerpt:

"I agreed to be his spiritual partner in the struggle. We covenanted to pray together. We fasted. We cast out the demon of homosexuality.

If anyone ever truly wanted to be a heterosexual, if anyone ever truly wanted to stop finding men attractive, if anyone ever truly humbled himself before God to faithfully live a Christian life, it was Tommy.

Years went by, andow you know what? Tommy was still gay. Tommy did not change, but I did.

In a very real sense, Tommy taught me something important about God: either God lacked the power to save a willing believer from his sin, or maybe--just maybe--I have been taught to read the Bible through the eyes of homophobics, regardless of how loving they appeared."

A person with an open mind and open heart can always be taught important lessons about how God works in our lives.

We just have to listen.

November 04, 2006

Evangelical Leader Steps Down, Admits "Some Indiscretion"

The religious right took another severe hit this week with the downfall of Rev. Ted Haggard, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.

On Thursday, Haggard resigned as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, a group representing 45,000 churches with a combined total of over 30 million members after allegations that he paid for sex with a man from whom he also purchased drugs.

On Saturday, Haggard resigned at the pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs that he founded over 20 years ago after an investigative board of the church determined he was guilty of "sexually immoral conduct."

The Advocate has an exclusive interview with Mike Jones, Haggard's accuser.

The facts in this case are not clear. Haggard has admitted to part of what Jones accused him of, and Jones failed a polygraph test during a live radio interview Friday morning.

What is clear, though, is yet another of the loudest voices on the religous right has come up short. One of the men who love pointing fingers at those they do not deem as worthy of God's love as they are has taken a hard, painful fall off the pedistal they placed themselves upon.

This is another reminder that we ALL fall short of God's will for our lives and that we only gain admittance to heaven through his grace, not through earning it by our actions. As a result, no man is in position to judge his fellow man.

Hopefully, this situation will help open some minds and hreats to that critcially important truth.