April 21, 2007

"Hate Crimes Begin Amid Christian Disapproval"

I pulled that title directly off the headline from a story on The Christian Post. Am I the only one who finds it troubline? Are Christian activist groups willing to be labeled "pro-hate" for opposing this bill primarily because it specifies protections for gender identity? Sadly, it appears some are.

"This is the most dangerous bill in America," said Janet Folger, president of Faith2Action – an organization that fights society’s “culture war,” in a statement.

More dangerous than ones that perpetuate our brave young men and women getting killed in Iraq? Talk about twisted priorities.

"We must stop it," Folger concluded, in a statement, "before they send your grandma, your pastor, or you to jail for sharing your faith or speaking the truth about an agenda that seeks to silence us."

Here's a different view, taking a tad more reasoned approached instead of the right-wing fear-mongering above:

"It punishes acts of discrimination, not bigoted beliefs," explained Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington Legislative Office, in a statement. "This bill demonstrates that it's possible to vigorously pursue criminal civil rights violations without chilling our First Amendment rights."

Unfortunately, taking away people's ability to spew and encourage hatred could also infringe on the rights of someone like me to write this blog. However, there need to be consequences for bigoted and hatful actions, and I believe this legislation is an important step toward assuring that for GLBT people.

April 20, 2007

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Worse...

As families and loved ones make plans to bury the victims of Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech, the situation actually took another turn for the worse. Enter Fred Phelps and his band of psychopaths.

I've written about Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, here before. He gained notoriety by leading his church (almost entirely comprised of family members) to travel across the nation and picket the funerals of U. S. servicemen killed in Iraq. Phelp's twisted justification was that their deaths were a result of and punishment for the nation's embracing of homosexuals (that's a brief summary, you don't want to know more details).

Now Phelps plans to picket the Virginia Tech victim funerals. I only wish I was making that up. Phelps' daughter said, “The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants. You don’t need to look any further for evidence those people are in hell.”

This just in: Phelps has agreed not to picket the funerals in exchange for three hours of air time with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher on Tuesday. I doubt many people reading this blog listen to conservative talk radio, but next Tuesday would be a particularly bad day to check out that program at least. Gallagher's comments seem alturistic enough and his actions could result in sparing these victims' families another layer of pain they clearly don't need or deserve.

As I write this post, there is an ongoing siege at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX where a gunman is on the premisis. If you were uncomfortable with my overtly Christian message yesterday, let me know what you've got that could possibly bring sanity to this world.

April 19, 2007

Reflections on Virginia Tech: The Time To Decide Is Now

Since I'm still home recovering from complications following my gallbladder surgery (I've lost 10 pounds but I'm on the mend), I've had more exposure than I normally would to the media coverage of the horriffic Virginia Tech shooting on Monday. It helps that I live in the Washington, DC area, a prime feeder of students to the Blacksburg, Virginia campus five hours away and, tragically, the home of the shooter. Click here or here if your outside the US and don't know what I'm talking about.

One thing struck me during the moving convocation service Tuesday afternoon that brought me to tears; the time to decide is now! What do I mean? Simply, none of those victims, most of them 22 years old or younger, had no reason to suspect that day would be their final one on earth. What if they had not accepted Christ? What if they weren't right with God? They almost certainly have been exposed to the Gospel and had opportunities to say yes to Jesus. If they didn't, they're out of chances.

The cliche "life isn't fair" is most certainly true, or else this tragedy would not have happened. Think of how many times you have commuted to work and driven by a small wood cross on the side of a road where some youngster(s) had been killed in an auto accident. Had they accepted Christ?

Evangelists like Franklin Graham are seizing the opportunity to mobilize an outreach effort in the Blacksburg area and try to salvage something good out of this horror by saving some souls:

"Every one of us is going to die. Every one of us is going to have to stand before God one day. As the Virginia Tech tragedy reminds everyone of the brevity of life, the question is, are we prepared to stand before God," Graham posed.

Sounds a lot like the old man (his father Billy) there, doesn't he? Good stuff.

I know a lot of people who are still pushing God away because they are working through some serious anger or depression issues dealing with family, relationships, career, or the church itself. I really do have some understanding of that and in no way mean to trivialize the difficulty of walking through that emotional minefield.

The good news is, however, that you don't have to do it yourself. Walking with God makes that trip a lot more manageable. We don't have to be "fixed" before we present ourselves to God. If we think that way, we are probably sentencing ourselves to eternal damnation because we can't "fix" ourselves. Thank God, we don't have to. Jesus' death on the cross resolved that for us. If that doesn't make any sense, e-mail me at straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com or contact a local minister. If you don't know of one, I can probably point you in the right direction.

God gave us free will--we aren't mindless drones of His. The downside of that is people like the Virginia Tech shooter are able to commit atrocities and snuff out innocent human life. The upside is, if we choose Him, it won't matter because we'll have eternal life and fellowship with Him.

What's your choice? If you haven't made it for Jesus, I pray you make it today. This link to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will walk you through the steps.

April 18, 2007

Disney Hosting Gay Weddings, AFA Fears For Innocent Children

Kudos to the Disney corporation for being openminded enough (not to mention business savvy) to announce that it would sell theme park wedding packages to same sex couples.

"We are in the hospitality business and our parks and resorts are open to everyone,” said a Disney spokesman.

Seems pretty rational to me. Being both affirming and good for business is a win-win for the GLBT community and Disney. Now the other side:

Such inclusiveness, says AFA president Tim Wildmon, is why families must be warned. "You could be innocently taking your family to Disney World or Disneyland, and you're walking down the middle of the park and here's comes this parade of wedding attendees [that includes] two men who've just gotten 'married' at Disney World," he says. "That's something to take into consideration before you go and patronize the Walt Disney Company this summer."

My God, innocent children could get exposed to same-sex ceremonies! Oh, the humanity! Not so rational. Or maybe it is. If people see that same-sex couples aren't freaks of nature or deviants as groups like the AFA want us to believe, it would hurt their donations.

It's groups like the AFA, an organization led by an ordained minister that professes Christian values, that continue to be an embarassment to Christians like myself who don't spew hate and bigotry.

April 17, 2007

A Different Approach to GLBT Activists--Listening

Soulforce's Equality Riders are used to be hassled and arrested or ignored on their visits to Christian colleges, but that apparently won't be the case when they travel to Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. (the Boston area). From the article in the Boston Globe:

But officials at Gordon, where homosexual activity is barred by campus policy, have agreed to host the group for a series of presentations and conversations, saying they believe it will be good for students to hear a variety of views. The college has held three lectures about homosexuality and morality, the Bible, and science, and is highlighting the visit on its website.

"We present lots of ideas in the classroom that we don't agree with -- that's part of education," said Barry J. Loy , the dean of students. "I'm hopeful that they will come here to learn, and we will do the same. We're not keeping our students from them."

Did you catch that--"We present lots of ideas.....that we don't agree with--that's part of education." What a concept! It's easy to be angry as schools like Liberty that scorn these people and the message they are trying to spread, but not so much the folks at Gordon.

Exchanging ideas with those on the other side leads to greater understanding, which can eventually lead to acceptance. Of course the Regent of Liberty U, Dr. Jerry Falwell and his ilk don't want THAT to happen, do they?

April 16, 2007

Iowa: Another GLBT Rights Battleground State

With a 54-46 edge for Deomcrats in the state House, you would think passing a bill adding sexual orientation and gender idenity to an anti-discrimination bill regarding employment, housing, and public accomodations would get passed. However, in the state of Iowa, some of those Democrats represent some very rural, conservative districts that would have a hard time stomaching any such legislation.

The Iowa senate has already passed this bill, and pressure is coming to bear on the House to do the same as the legislative session comes to a close.

"Civil rights laws are designed to protect groups of people who have faced blatant and historic discrimination," said Carol Ryan Terrell, head of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund. "Civil rights laws do not give special protection to any person. They simply create a level playing field and guarantee the provision of tools necessary to fight and end discrimination."

When right-wingers whine about "special rights" they are talking about equal rights being granted to a minority that they are determined to discriminate against. That's one of those phrases that really grinds my cookies.

The Rev. Michael Pater, senior minister at the Urbandale United Church of Christ, said much of the opposition to gay rights comes from conservative religious groups, and lawmakers need to know there is more than one point of view in the religious community.

"The only motivation to withhold civil protection from discrimination and harassment of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is religious bias," said Pater. "This bias does not serve the public good."

No, discrimination NEVER serves the public good, only those who wish to discriminate. Hopefully 51 members of the Iowa House realize that in time to pass this important legislation before their session is over.

April 15, 2007

"Facing Truth of Being a Gay Christian"

First, sorry the site went a couple of days without being updated. I had my gallbladder removed on Thursday and I'm just beginning to get my legs back under me.

More importantly, Pastor David Shelton of the Christian Community Church of Clarksville, TN was featured in an article published in Clarksville's local newspaper, The Leaf Chronicle. Titled "Facing Truth of Being a Gay Christian," Pastor Shelton talks about that topic in some depth:

Shelton says people can "get away from trying to fix their gay identity, or absolve their gay identity, and be the child of God they were meant to be."

Through his writing and his church, Shelton hopes to show people who have been harmed by the Christian church that they can return to their faith and find love and welcome.

"I want to serve the people who have been hurt, wounded, crushed," he says. "I want to minister to the walking wounded — that's a hard thing to do. A lot of people, when they have arrows sticking out of their backs, they don't want to talk about God."

He offers a message of God's grace, hope and love with no expectation for how people will react to it.

"This is the path I'm taking. I invite people to join me. The good news is Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. And he was resurrected, which is what we celebrate on Easter," Shelton says. "The grace of God is for everybody. That's my mission. That's my message."

It's a wonderful message indeed, one which Pastor Shelton wrote about at some length in his book, "The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity and the Homosexual Reconciled," which I reviewed here a while back.

David also let me know that this article has spurred quite a discussion over at the site Topix.net. There are, as you would unfortunately expect, some nasty comments is a discussion that had 543 posts to it as I write this, so check it out only if you have the stomach for it.