April 29, 2006

It's Not About Restricting Religious Expression

Although the religoius right loudly complains about "activist judges", they sure do love to spend time in court. Here is a story about three high school students in Pennsylvania, backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, who are suing their school district claiming they are being prevented from quoting bible verses in posters they want to display at their school.

This sounds disturbing, but the posters they wanted to put up were supporting "the harmful effects of homosexuality." The Alliance Defense Fund is the group that sponsored "The Day of Truth" last week to "counter the homosexual agenda." There was also a recent ruling in California that upheld the prohabition of a student wearing a t-shirt saying"'homosexuality is shameful" during the 2004 "Day of Truth."

The "fundamentalists" of the religious right like to whine about cases such as this, claiming that schools and the courts are favoring "the homosexual agenda" at the expense of religious freedom.

As is the case with so much coming from that direction, it doesn't require much thought to see through their flawed, narrow-minded arguement here.

Events such as "Day of Silence" are designed to bring attention to mistreatment and bullying of GLBT students and promote acceptance and tollerance. This is the type of thing educators should and often do try to teach in our schools.

On the other hand, t-shirs like the one the student in San Diego wore don't promote positive affirmation, they promote hate and intollerance. Wouldn't it be the same if he had worn a shirt with a nazi symbol or one saying "muslims are murderers?"

Growing up and finding out where you fit in at school is tough even if by most measures you are "normal." It was difficult when I grew up in the 1970's and I understand it is even more so now. If school administrators allowed some students to actively promote hate and intollerance toward other students, wouldn't that only make things tougher and take away from anything they might actually learn.

Let's face it, our nation's youth don't need to learn that kind of thing in school. That's what their parents and churches teach them, but at least they are not supported with taxpayer money.

April 28, 2006

The Warning Signs of Toxic Religion

I read this list on a Christian web site and thought is was worth sharing:

All of us would like to enjoy a healthy spiritual life. But the sad truth is that many of us, and many churches today, are barren because of hazardous additives. We have believed a different gospel—one laced with legalism, performance-based religion and salvation by works—when Christ alone is our only source of life.

Jesus Himself referred to these toxins as “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1). He told us that the Pharisees’ brand of religion, which looked good on the outside, was deadly—and contagious.

Have you been infected? You can take your own pH test by examining these eight characteristics of a religious spirit.

1. A religious spirit views God as a cold, harsh, distant taskmaster rather than an approachable, loving Father. When we base our relationship with God on our ability to perform spiritual duties, we deny the power of grace. God does not love us because we pray, read our Bibles, attend church or witness, yet millions of Christians think God is mad if they don’t perform these and other duties perfectly. As a result they struggle to find true intimacy with Jesus.

2. A religious spirit places emphasis on doing outward things to show others that God accepts him. We deceive ourselves into believing that we can win God’s approval through a religious dress code, certain spiritual disciplines, particular music styles or even doctrinal positions.

3. A religious spirit develops traditions and formulas to accomplish spiritual goals. We trust in our liturgies, denominational policies or man-made programs to obtain results that only God alone can give.

4. A religious spirit becomes joyless, cynical and hypercritical. This can turn a home or a church completely sour. Then, whenever genuine joy and love are expressed, this becomes a threat to those who have lost the simplicity of true faith.

5. A religious spirit becomes prideful and isolated, thinking that his righteousness is special and that he cannot associate with other believers who have different standards. Churches that allow these attitudes become elitist—and dangerously vulnerable to deception or cult-like practices.

6. A religious spirit develops a harsh, judgmental attitude toward sinners, yet those who ingest this poison typically struggle with sinful habits that they cannot admit to anyone else. Religious people rarely interact with nonbelievers because they don’t want their own superior morals to be tainted by them.

7. A religious spirit rejects progressive revelation and refuses to embrace change. This is why many churches become irrelevant to society. They become so focused on what God did 50 years ago that they become stuck in a time warp—and cannot move forward when the Holy Spirit begins to speak in new ways. When religious groups refuse to shift with God’s new directives, they become “old wineskins” and God must find more flexible vessels that are willing to implement His changes.

8. A religious spirit persecutes those who disagree with his self-righteous views and becomes angry whenever the message of grace threatens to undermine his religiosity. An angry religious person will use gossip and slander to assassinate other peoples’ character and may even use violence to prove his point. Jesus, in fact, warned His disciples: “There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor” (John 16:2, The Message).

If the poison of religion has seeped into your life, ask Him today to pour a fresh understanding of His grace into your barren spirit.

Here is the link:

I wholeheartedly agree with this piece and encourage everyone involved in church to strongly consider how their life may be reflecting in our lives. I would also encourage the author to do the same.

The writer, Lee Strang, is the editor of Charisma magazine. He wrote the column "To Be Gay...and Christian?" that I posted about a month ago. In that column, and the subsequent firestorm on the message board I was involved in, I saw God viewed as a cold, harsh taskmaster (1), a spirit that had developed a formula (3), a near total lack of joy (4), plenty of pridefulness (5), harsh judgementalism (6), the rejection of further revelation (7), and persecution of those who disagreed (8).

Either they don't adhere to their own preaching, or homosexuality has drawn some type of exemption. Whichever is the case, I feel it does not represent the Holy Spirit very well at all.

Practice what you preach folks, especially when it is expressed so well.

April 27, 2006

Why Are "Fundamentalists" Anti-Gay?

Today, I had the first in an ongoing series of weekly columns posted at the site "Gay Christian Outreach." This is a growing community of GLBT Christians who believe as I do that the phrase is not an oxymoron.

I jump in headfirst with my first contribution, taking on the issue of why "fundamentalists" are so strongly anti-gay. Here's a hint--not much of it is about religious doctrine.

While you're there, check out the site and consider joining the numerous discussions they have there.

"Why Are Fundamentalists Anti-Gay"

April 26, 2006

Dean Wants Political Churches to Pay Taxes

According to this post on the website of the Illinois Family Institute (meaning only straight-couple families), Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said "The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax-exampt or involved in politics."


You'll notice that Dean did not single out churches promoting the views of the religious right. His statement would also include open and affirming churches like mine.


Brian Burch, a member of Catholic Advocacy Group Fidelis, objected to Dean's comment. Burch said, "It's important to remember the intent of the First Amendment was to protect, not constrain, religious speech and faith-filled activism."

That's true, but the First Amendmend did not guarantee anyone tax-exempt status. Dean is not adovcating silencing anyone, just not allowing pseudo-political organizations who also hold worship services to masquerade as churches.

Let's motivate churches to remain focused on preaching the word of God and saving souls.

Now THAT's fundamentalism!

April 25, 2006

"Day of Truth" Anything But

Tomorrow, April 26th, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) will sponsor its 10th annual National Day of Silence. This event will involve Gay-Straight Alliances and other supportive students all over the United States. GLSEN is expecting 500,000 students from over 4,000 schools to participate.

This event is described on the GLSEN site: "The Day of Silence®, a project of GLSEN in collaboration with the United States Student Association (USSA), is a national student-led day of action where those who support making anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying and harassment unacceptable in America’s schools participate in activities to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment - in effect, the silencing - experienced by LGBT students and their allies."

Not to be outdone, the Alliance Defense Fund (founded by leaders like Dr. James Dobson) will rebut with a "Day of Truth" the following day, promoting the "Anti-Homosexual Agenda" in many of the same schools that will host the National Day of Silence.

Alan Sears, the President and CEO of the ADF, wrote a piece that was published on the Baptist Press (the media arm of the Southern Baptist Convention). Here are some noteable quotes.

".....if you hadn’t reckoned with the advocates of homosexual behavior being so single-minded in their determination to crack every moral cornerstone of the country ... if it never occurred to you that they wouldn’t stop until they’d converted every child in America to their fierce distortion of human sexuality....."

"Scheduled for April 27 (one day following the “Day of Silence”), “Day of Truth” is an ideal opportunity for young people to make a strong, thoughtful, outspoken response to the tacit lies and subtle intimidations put forth on the “Day of Silence.”

That's right, Mr. Sears, don't forget to portray your side as the victims.

Our schools are rapidly becoming a major battleground when the "fundamentalist" right will seek to spread their message of exclusion and condemnation and repress any presentation of homosexuality as anything other than an abomination that will lead to the downfall of civilization.

Sears quotes surveys in his piece that show his side is being solidly thrashed in our schools, so they are intensifying their efforts. This only makes it even more important for those of us on the side of inclusion and acceptance to support our youth and reinforce the efforts to protect them from bullying and intimidation from those who aren't so enlightened.

April 24, 2006

Rep. Frank Optimistic on Future of Gay Rights

U. S. Rep. Barney Frank(D-Mass) shared some interesting comments at a fundraiser for the Utah Stonewall Democrats Friday night.

"There is no bigger difference between the two political parties today than on LGBT issues," Frank said. Being an openly gay congressman (he came out publicly in 1987), Frank has been right in the middle of those issues.

When gay people make their sexuality public, Frank said: "We tell the average American that they are not homophobic, they just thought they were supposed to be."

Frank said heterosexual people constantly out themselves by saying something about their spouse or pointing out someone they feel is attractive.

"Heterosexuals also discuss their sexual nature, but when they do it, it's called talking," he said.

To further gay rights, Frank said homosexual people must not only come out of the closet, they must become politically active too, encouraging their loved ones to follow suit. "We don't win this alone," he said. "We win this with the people who love us, who support us."

I totally agree, but it carries a lot more weight when someone like him says so, doesn't it?

April 23, 2006

If You Seek Answers, You Just Might Find Them

Here is a story about a Presbyterian minister who grudgingly agreed to serve on a task force to study whether his church in Southern California should ordain gays.

Boy, was he surprised what he found when he took a thorough schollarly approach to studying the bible to find the answer.

Jack Rogers approached the issue predisposed to an answer; "I opposed homosexuality reflexively--that's just what I thought Christians were supposed to do." Like many others active in the church, he had stopped at that point until serving on the task force.

Rogers now has a more educated and totally different view; "I am so convinced that Jesus and the Bible, rightly understood, support the equality of all persons, including gays and lesbians, and that the church cannot continue going against its central values."

Imagine that, an ordained minister who is not part of "the homosexual agenda" finds that study and an open mind lead to knowledge that supercedes what so many of us have been taught since we first learned the words to "Jesus Loves Me."

Maybe that's why the title to the song wasn't "Jesus Loves Me If I'm Straight."

Rogers has recently released a book titled "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. I have not yet read it myself, but it is already receiving some very positive reviews on Amazon.com.

I am glad that Rogers made the effort to share what he learned with anyone who is interested enough to read about it. We all need to do what we can to get the message out and counteract the thundering crescendo of hate and exclusion being spewed from the "fundamentalists" and their ilk.