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.