July 13, 2006

Gay Parents and Gender-Bending Children

This article in The Advocate talks about two parents who sought out family therapy because their five-year old son likes to play with dolls and dressing up in little princess gowns. The twist to this story, though, is that the little boy has two lesbian momies. This quote is the crux of the story:

"We need to ask ourselves, as LGBT parents, what it is that we fear for our children who cross gender boundaries. Cross-gender behavior can be very anxiety provoking for parents; we may be embarrassed or frightened by a son’s overt femininity or a daughter’s masculine expression. Indeed, we also might be more fiercely protective of our children, living as we all do with the ghosts of our own queer childhoods. We are often torn between wanting to give our children room for self-expression and wanting to protect them from being teased. It is a rare LGBT parent that does not succumb, at least sometimes, to the fear that we are hurting our children because we are queer, especially regarding the development of their sexual and gender identities."

Some same-sex parent families apparently so closely resemble "traditional" ones that they also have a similar phobia about rasing a gay child.

Which Traditional Marriage?

Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research and Public Education for the Council of Contemporary Families, has a fascinating article up on the organization's website. She asks the question "Which Traditional Marriage?"

It is an intriguing question. One of the main arguements in favor of banning same-sex marriage is to "protect traditional marriage."

The Catholic Church did not make marriage a sacrament until the year 1215, and their were no official wedding ceremonies until 1563. There was not even a marriage license in England until 1754. It was only 130 years ago that husbands still had the legal right to physically beat or iimprison their wives. Would our society really be better off if it had protected THAT traditional marriage?

July 11, 2006

"The Cooptation of Christianity"

The following article first appeared in The Sacramento Valley Mirror, in Dr. Jerry Maneker's column "Christianity and Society", on July 1st, 2006. It is reprinted here with Dr. Maneker's permission. Dr. Maneker write the excellent blog "Christian LGBT Rights.org" and, I'm proud to say, is a regular visitor here. I appreciate his sharing this article with me so I can share it with you. I strongly agree with his thoughts.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8) This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9).

One of the definitions of the term, “co-opt” is the following: “to assimilate or win over into a larger group.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1997) It is quite easy to be co-opted by all sorts of rewards for conformity to the status quo, to the ways and means of virtually all institutions in secular society. Indeed, to its detriment, the Church may be seen to have gladly allowed itself to be co-opted resulting in the great loss of members in mainline churches, and the loss of many intelligent, sensitive people both from the Church and from even the likelihood of them taking Christianity seriously enough to even consider it as a viable way to have a relationship with God. Indeed, the cooptation of Christianity, frequently resulting in no Christianity at all, may well have had the effect of having many people not even want to consider God at all in their daily lives!

Rhetoric that is called “Christian” is frequently a downright embarrassment in its hateful stupidity and studied ignorance where godliness is considered to be synonymous with rank prejudice, xenophobia (fear and/or hatred of foreigners, and anyone or anything viewed as different from the person him/herself and his/her ways of doing things) and, increasingly, blatant advocacy of discrimination.

For example, as you know, I have a burning passion for full and equal civil and sacramental rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. That passion mirrors that which I had in the 1950’s and 60’s in regard to the rights of Afro-Americans. When I read and hear hateful rhetoric, which contributes to suicides, bashings, and murders of our gay brothers and sisters, I can’t help but recall the naked hate on the faces of professing Christians who carried placards and screamed at little black children going to a hitherto white elementary school, all the while citing select and distorted biblical passages to justify their prejudice and hate.

What makes the current climate of hate, as with the climate of hate that existed during the civil rights era, so tragic and shameful is the brutal fact that the major impetus for that hate, the rhetoric that fuels that hate, is largely coming from the leadership and their blind followers in most of Christianity’s denominations. Clearly, some denominations are much more moderate than others in their hateful rhetoric and animus. However, apart from the United Church of Christ (ads for which the major networks won’t air because they are deemed to be “too controversial”), I am not aware of any mainline denomination that seeks full civil and sacramental rights for gay people.

Jesus seems to make it very clear that divorce is only to be had in cases of fornication, and that when one divorces and remarries, he or she is committing adultery. (Matthew 5:32) Yet, if “the sanctity of marriage” and “the well-being of the family” are the real concerns of clergy and others who rail against same-sex marriage, why don’t they deal with the actual threat to those institutions: our very high heterosexual divorce rate, and not deal with same-sex relationships that have absolutely nothing to do with these institutions? The reason they don’t spew their rhetoric (nor should they) concerning this rational reason for the threats to marriage and the family is that many in their congregations are divorced and have re-married and the clergy don’t want to bite the hands that feed them when it comes time for the offertory.

Diverting our attention from the real threats to marriage and the family by scape-goating a minority group that, by any stretch of a rational imagination, has absolutely nothing to do with those threats, are tactics that most clergy use to please most of their constituents, just as many politicians scapegoat gay people to hustle votes and for purposes of diverting attention from a failed foreign policy and innumerable domestic fiscal and other policies that have considerably eroded quality of life and civil liberties in this country.

The Church is called upon to be the voice of the poor, the displaced, the marginalized, the hurting, and be a vehicle of compassion and ministry to see to it that our light so shines that God is given the glory for our ministries of love. However, the “Church” has allowed itself to be co-opted by opportunistic politicians and clergy where the name of God is used to hurt, demean, condemn, discriminate, ostracize, and even kill others.

That co-optation has ignored the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit who puts love in the hearts of all those who have Jesus in their hearts, and that is one reason why I strongly feel that we are entering a post-denominational age where God’s love will trump the Church’s co-optation by the most reactionary forces in our society, and where Christians worthy of the name will, once again, not be embarrassed by the selling out of Christianity by those who have eagerly sought to align themselves with opportunistic and reactionary secular and “religious” forces in society.

July 10, 2006

"Bringing the Church to the Courtroom

Today's Washington Post contained a front-page story about the Alliance Defense Fund. If you have not heard of them, you need to. This was a group founded by, among others, James Dobson and James Kennedy, two men who are sworn enemies of GLBT equality.

The ADF fancies itself as the answer to the American Civil Liberties Union, defending their view of the Bible and trying to get that enforced in the United States court systems.

Gary S. McCaleb, the director of the ADF's litigation team, who perceives "clear hostility to Christian thought," says "What we see is an overarching agenda from the left wing and the pro-homosexual groups." That right GLBT community--they want to be your worst nightmare.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, says, " They're not for some form of generic religious freedom. They're for Christian superiority, that Christians take over the courts."

Make no mistake folks, the ADF and people who support their agenda, are not seeking an equal voice in the courts--they want to be THE voice. Those like me who support equality for ALL people need to get behind the ACLU and any other group who will pick up the sword and fight for the GLBT community.

Two Different Takes on "Liberal Christianity"

CBS News ran this piece on their Evening News broadcast called "Religion Taking a Left Turn." They talk to several leaders of the emerging "religious left" including Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis. Their focus appears to be on issues like poverty, child care, the environment, and ending the war in Iraq. Let's see, that's helping the poor, caring for children and our natural resources, and promoting peace. Sounds like good Jesus stuff to me, and certainly a lot better then what is being spewed by the Religious Right.

Taking another approach is Charlotte Allen, an editor for Beliefnet, a conservative religious news source. In an op-ed piece she wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Allen states her belief that the declining membership in more moderate-to-liberal denominations, such as the Episcopals and Presbyterians, is due to "blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts."

If the majority rules in the United States, which is what I believe she is implying (and is also an increasingly common Religious Right arguement), then why worry about proselytizing nations where Islam and Hinduism is practiced by the overwhelming majority? These days, a majority in popular opinion often points more to the resources that side has to make their point and influuence people than it does the merit of what they are saying.