June 24, 2006

GLBT Sensitivity Creeping Into the Sports World

Ozzie Guillen, the manager of baseball's Chicago White Sox, got himself into some hot water this week. Guillen, who led the White Sox to the World Series championship last season, has proven to be a goldmine for reporters looking for quotes because he'll say just about anything regarding just about any topic. It was a comment he made to one of those sportswriters that has caused Guillen to get into trouble.

In a fit of anger last Tuesday night, he called Jay Mariotti, long-time sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, a "fag." I find it interesting that the reaction has been swift and fairly harsh toward Guillen. He has been fined by baseball Commisioner Bud Selig and ordered to take sensitivity training. Guillen was also suspended for one game. According to 365gay.com, this was not Guillen's first time throwing around that particular "f" word

In a statement, Selig said, "Ozzie Guillen used language that is offensive and completely unacceptable. Baseball is a social institution with responsibility to set appropriate tone and example. Conduct or language that reflects otherwise will not be tolerated. The use of slurs embarrasses the individual, the club and the game." Good stuff from a "leader" who often can't get out of his own way.

Later comments from Guillen show his resistance toward taking any sensitivity training, blaming the outrage on the allegedly different meaning of the word fag in his native Venezuela (coward instead of homosexual). He also gives a laughable explanation of why he does not hate gays, stating that goes to WNBA games, has attended a Madona concert, and plans on attending the upcoming Gay Games in Chicago.

Whatever. I know most of the readers here don't give a rat's tushie about Ozzie Guillen or the Chicago White Sox. I tell this story, however, to point out that mindsets are changing toward acceptence of GLBT people, even in the testosterone-laden world of professional sports. There's a long, long way to go, but the needle is slowly moving in the right direction.

June 23, 2006

Do You Want Your Lesiglator to Preach?

Think about that question. How comfortable would you be if someone representing you in either your local or the federal legislature stood up at the microphone and started preaching the Gospel of Jesus? What if he wrote a devotional in his newsletter originating from the state or U. S. Capitol? Even if you agree with what was said, I suspect most of you would share the same type of discomfort I would feel.

Let's flip that scenario around. Why is it then okay for church officials to push for specific legislation from the pulpit and/or in their church's newsletters? I don't think it is okay, yet the most recent example of that is occurring right now in Colorado.

According to this report on 365gay.com, Roman Catholic churches throughout Colorado will be working to collect signiatures for two ballot measures, one that would restrict the rights of same-sex couples, the other that would amend the state Constitution and ban same-sex marriage.

My point here is not to adress the speficic initiatives, but rather condemn the Catholic Church in that area for stooping to the level of a political operative. I understand their position on these measures are consistent with the teachings of the church. I respect their right to share that view from the pulpit in the same way that they would preach about various sins that we can all agree about, such as violence and adultery. Adressing the fact that there are almost certainly some closeted gay priests doing the church's bidding here is another issue.

I don't want to see any political initiative debated from the pulpit of my church, even if it is one that would favor the GLBT population that largely makes up our congregation.

Let the politicians and political organizations stick to lobbying for political issues (and hopefully staying away from preaching). I want pastors, priests, and anyone else standing behind a pulpit claiming to represent Jesus Christ's church would stick to that and not try to run a political campaign.

I attend church to worship God, not take sides on political issues. I wish everyone else took the same approach.

June 21, 2006

Don't Waste Time With Stereotypes

It’s easy for people to pick up a few characteristics about someone and categorize them into a stereotype.

For example, allow me to describe some traits and qualities of a man I know:

Likes romantic comedies
Enjoys snuggling
Has written poetry
Has platonic women friends
Cries openly, both out of sadness and joy
Doesn’t like working on cars or using tools
Is comfortable being a passenger in a car with a woman driving
Expresses his feelings without a gun pointed at his head or other threats
Has a gay brother and gay friends
Enjoys musicals
Enjoys decorating his home

Here are characteristics of another man I know:

Loves sports
Enjoys sex with his wife
Takes out the trash every weekend
Does work around the home that requires heavy lifting
Is an assertive leader
Sneaks a peek at other women when his wife isn’t looking
Doesn’t get the iconic status of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Enjoys science fiction and super hero movies
Has been “the provider” for most of his adult life
Did I mention he really enjoys sex with his wife?

Now let’s slot these into stereotypes. The first person is gay and the second is clearly a flaming heterosexual, right? Yes and no.

If the first person was gay, my wife would have some issues to deal with because I was describing myself. I’d also have to change the name of this blog, wouldn’t I?

I don’t have to worry about that however, because the second group of personality traits also describes me. My new friend Dennis, who recently began attending our church, says he believes everyone has some parts of being both straight and gay as part of their nature. If we limit our perspective to those classifications, I believe he is absolutely right and I put myself out there as an example of the truth in that.

Why have we fallen into the trap of trying to fit everyone into a slot? If we go back to the example of Jesus, we can see that he clearly did not do that. He ministered to sinners, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, man or woman. He still does. Paul also shared some inspired wisdom in Galatians 3:26-29:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

That’s the only category we need to worry about fitting into.

June 20, 2006

Pentagon: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, They're Nuts

That's only a slight exaggeration according to this AP report. Astonishingly, a Pentagon document has been uncovered that classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder. This is contrary to the findings of a group that is probably better qualified to make that judgement, the American Psychiatric Association. That organization dropped homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. In fact, they issued a press relase today asking the Pentagon to update this instruction.

Along with their "don't ask, don't tell" policy, it is painfully obvious the Pentagon don't get it.

June 19, 2006

Happy Birthday to This Blog

One year ago today, I made my first entry in this blog. I had no idea if anyone would read it or, if they did, care about what I wrote. All I knew was that I had something to say. A year later, Straight Not Narrow has been visited over 13,000 times, almost 7,500 of them within the last three months. People from 84 different nations have found this tiny corner of the blogosphere, and over 100 sites are linked to this blog.

Most importantly, many of the visitors here have contributed to the discussion of important issues or spiritual topics. I frequently think that the comments are better that what I write, and that’s fine with me. I’ve learned a lot over the past year…..

I’ve learned that there are many people in the GLBT community that are deeply, deeply wounded. Sadly, much of that pain has been administered by their families, both biological and within the church, often in the name of love.

I’ve learned there are a lot of people with a lot of money that will do or say ANYTHING to influence people to hate homosexuals as much as they do.

I’ve seen the Holy Spirit manifest in gay and lesbian women. I know for a fact that anyone who says that is not possible is wrong.

I have been reminded that there are few politicians who have the courage to take a stand that might not be to their direct political benefit.

I have learned that there are no limits to how much Jesus loves ALL his people and wants to bless us. If we don’t feel that in our lives, we are the one limiting Him.

I have seen things said and done in the name of God that I cannot imagine he is remotely connected with.

I have experienced a great enrichment in my life by getting to know and love gay and lesbian leaders and members of my church. I also treasure their love for me.

I have seen the power of people with different gifts and different perspectives getting together to work for a cause they all believe in.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn about the GLBT community, but that it’s worth the effort.

I hope you will help me, or allow me to help you, work for GLBT equality in the political arena and Christ’s church in the next year and beyond.

June 18, 2006

Comparing Notes

I've signed to receive e-mail notices from a number of organizations, some on the political left, others on the political right. It's interesting to compare notes when more than one of them send a release on the same news item.

That heppened this week regarding comments made by a Washington DC Metro Board Member Robert J. Smith. Metro is the transportation system, including subway and buses, that serves DC, Virginia, and Maryland. The three juristrictions share the cost and governing of the system, and Smith was appointed to the board by the governor of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich.

For reasons that escape me, Smith was on a Montgomery County (Maryland) cable show and said, "Homosexual behavior, in my opinion, is deviant. I'm a Roman Catholic."

Frankly, I don't really care what a transportation official believes about homosexuality, but a public official making this kind of remarks on television, even local cable, is newsworthy.

On Friday, Governor Ehrlich responded to the situation by removing Smith from the board.

That action prompted two press releases I received in my e-mail.

The first, from Equality Maryland, said:

“All fair-minded Marylanders should appreciate the action taken by Governor Ehrlich in swiftly and seriously addressing these repugnant comments by his appointee. It is good that he recognized that such hostile and hateful comments about any group of people makes him inappropriate for public service,” said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland.
According to a statement released by Governor Ehlrich, “Robert Smith’s comments were highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. They are in direct conflict to my administration’s commitment to inclusion, tolerance and opportunity."

Later, the American Family Association sent out a press release titled, "'Tolerant' Governor fires 'Intolerant' Christian.

"Gov. Ehrlich said he is intolerant to any view that opposes the full social acceptance of homosexual behavior and its promotion in government. He said Smith's comments were "highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. They are in direct conflict to my administration's commitment to...tolerance." Gov. Ehrlich contradicted his own statement! He is promoting tolerance toward homosexual practice while being intolerant to Smith's Christian beliefs and the teaching of his church. "

The AFA release continued, "Smith was fired not because he wasn't doing a good job. He was fired not because of his practice, but because of his thinking! He was fired because he held different beliefs. So much for tolerance! If this firing stands, it means that any Christian who states publicly that homosexual practice is morally wrong does so at the risk of being fired. "

The AFA loves for people to send e-mail to people the organization think has done something wrong, so they were nice enough to include the governor's e-mail address.

My position is to agree with Equality Maryland. Even if someone is just responsible for running the trains and buses, he should not be on the public record condemning any part of the general population.

The AFA used a common tactic of the religious right by making their side look like the victim. It's okay to condemn people publicly, in their slanted view, but wrong to hold them accountable.

Then again, the religious right isn't good at holding themselves accountable, just others.