November 24, 2007

Can the GLBT Community Move the Needle on a Boycott?

From Ethics Daily:

The Human Rights Campaign tagged the nation's largest retailer with a red "do not buy" rating for the holiday season, claiming the company is moving in the wrong direction for equality of gay employees.

This year the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group, ranked Wal-Mart near the bottom of places to shop in its 2008 "Buying for Equality" guide. Wal-Mart scored 40 out of 100 possible points in the HRC's sixth annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on policies like anti-discrimination policies, domestic-partner benefits, diversity training, transgender issues and advertising.

"Voting doesn’t just happen on Election Day," HRC President Joe Solmonese said on the group's Web site. "Whenever you buy a cup of coffee, fill up your gas tank or book a flight for that dream vacation, you’re giving your dollars to a business that can have a tremendous impact on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

I've spent some time here bashing the American Family Association for their boycott of the Ford Motor Company, then crowing and claiming success when their sales dropped (like an auto company needed help losing sales with gas at $3.00 a gallon), so I've got mixed feelings about the HRC encouraging the GLBT community to take the same kind of approach here.

On the practical side, I wonder (1) how much the GLBT community spends at Wal-Mart in the first place and (2) can they make a noticable impact on Wal-Mart's sales if they take that money elsewhere.

That doesn't negate the issue of principle, but I don't think this is the right approach here either. I go back to the situations where right-wing groups have promoted boycotts, like the situation with Ford because they had the nerve to advertise and support gay-oriented activities. I thought that idea showed pettiness, and, while I agree with the goal of the HRC here, shunning Wal-Mart because of their ranking being hostle to gays also strikes me as somewhat petty.

I believe the issue deserves the publicity the HRC is promoting for it, but let's let everybody make their own shopping decisions this holiday season. Ooops, did I piss the right-wing folks off by not saying Christmas? I sure hope they don't boycott my blog!

November 23, 2007

Lutheran Church Ordains Lesbian Minister Without Celibacy Vow

From The Christian Post:

Jen Rude, 27, was ordained on Saturday at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago despite her refusal to take a vow of celibacy. She was installed on Sunday.

Under church policy, homosexual – and not heterosexual – ministers are required to make a vow of celibacy before they can be ordained. Although not currently in a relationship, Rude called the policy discriminatory.

Rude is the first homosexual pastor to test a resolution that urges ELCA bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships." The resolution was passed at a national assembly in August when members also rejected measures that would have allowed the ordination of non-celibate homosexual clergy.

More than 100 congregants witnessed Rude’s ordination and showed support for the lesbian pastor, whose father and grandfather are both Lutheran ministers.

"This is who we are and this is what we do," said Kathy Young, a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church, as reported by The Chicago Tribune. The congregation welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, according to its website.

This is good news. It will be even better when it's NOT news any longer, just a normal part of church business.

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of my American friends have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Pastor Brenda and I had a wonderful feast of food, family, and football. It was a rare opportunity for her to be with all three of her sisters at the same time, and everyone really enjoyed it.

Apostle Dale from my church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, sent out a message containing a scripture reference that is so perfect for today that I just had to share it with you:

Psalm 107: 1-9

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say this—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,
for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

I hope you have all had a blessed day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Folks in Europe are Getting It

I have written about how society should go beyond tolerating the GLBT community and fully accept them and grant them equal rights. That viewpoint received a strong voice at a recent conference in Portugal. From IPS News via PageOneQ:

"Tolerance? No. I want to talk about acceptance. I don't want to be ‘tolerated’, I want to be accepted as a disabled lesbian woman," said Lydia La Rivière-Zijdel, to a lengthy ovation at the event concluding the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, in the Portuguese capital Tuesday.

La Rivière-Zijdel, an international consultant on gender, disability and sports, was referring to the central message voiced by activists at the two-day conclusion of the year’s activities launched in January in Berlin, when Germany held the European Union rotating presidency, now held by Portugal.

Their message was that Europe should adopt policies that translate into acceptance of minorities, because the term "tolerance" implies that a generous concession is being made, rather than recognition of the right to full and effective integration for those who are somehow "different."

The more than 1,000 different activities carried out over the past year in 30 countries, in accordance with the plan designed by Germany, were aimed at raising awareness among people in the EU on the rights of minorities to equality and the benefits to society of diversity, and at informing non-EU immigrants, who often face discrimination, of their rights under the laws of the bloc’s 27 member countries.

There was a closing thought from the article that I thought was right on the mark:

"A society with more just laws is not necessarily a more just society. There is a great deal of in-depth work to be done on people’s attitudes in order to convert the EU into a promised land of happiness and diversity."

Laws can control behavior to some extent, but they can't change the way people feel.

That's the hard part, and it's an effort GLBT advocates and allies need to be devoted to in order for it to move closer to reality.

November 21, 2007

Let's Take Time to Give Thanks on Thanksgiving

1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NIV) For everything God created is good, j and nothing is to be rejected k if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God l and prayer.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, but sadly we often get too caught up in family, food, and football to stop and give thanks.

Pastor Brenda and I are wrestling with a couple of issues right now that threatens to divert our focus from all that God has richly blessed us with. We're striving not to give in to that and appreciate the opportunity to spend time with her mother and all three of her sisters tomorrow and share a bountiful feast (and hopefully a little football) on Thanksgiving Day. Both of my parents passed away many years ago, so I'm happy that Brenda's family has accepted me with open arms.

This will be the first holiday without my brother, who passed away in late July, but my brother-in-law Mike is all set, entertaining a group at his home on Thanksgiving day, then receiving his family over the weekend. He is doing well and thankful for the possibilities life holds for him going forward.

My prayer for all of you this holiday is for you to focus on your blessings, on what you have instead of what you don't have. Use this as your guide:

2nd Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

If you are feeling weak, you can draw your strength from God and be thankful for His presence, which He promised to us in His word.

November 20, 2007

Anger Still Festering Against HRC

Even though this is a quiet period in regards to the ENDA (Employer Non-Discrimination Act), the anger against the Human Rights Campaign in general and organization president Joe Solmonese for supporting the exclusion of gender identity protection in the version that was passed by the House of Representatives is still on the front burner.

From the New York Blade:

In the recent debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HRC failed to take a principled position to oppose a stripped-down version of the legislation out of fear that the organization would lose its “special relationships” on Capitol Hill. HRC President Joe Solmonese routinely cited this as the chief excuse for their inaction. It was then that HRC showed its true colors and what our $30 million was actually buying.

LET US BE CLEAR. HRC had previously committed itself to the passage of an ENDA, which provided protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet, it has become clear that HRC told our community that they maintained a strategy to ensure the passage of this legislation when they clearly did not and never had any intention of doing so.

HRC has devoted a large amount of time during the past month to forwarding the argument that the debate over ENDA was about incremental tactics, which get us something, versus moral absolutes, which achieve nothing. This was a false argument, and as stewards of our community’s treasure, we shouldn’t let the leadership of HRC get away with this. Promoting this lie might have suited the nuanced position of HRC but it did not serve its members or the community it claims to represent. $30 million should buy strategy and strength not subterfuge and spin.

This writer, Jon Winkleman, represents a group that calls themselves JOE MUST GO. They were scheduled to rally tonight and protest the HRC actions as part of the National Transgender Day of Rememberance. Their timing rubs me the wrong way but does serve as an illustration of just how deep and bitter the split among LGBT activists runs over this issue.

Someone is going to need to reach across to the other side and begin some healing, and the sooner that happens the better. There is much more to lose by working seperately than there is to gain by doing so.

Archbishop Tutu Criticizes Anglican Church's Priorities

In my view, there are two layers to the issue of how major denominations handle the issue of homosexuality. First, of course, is whether they accept GLBT people as full members of the body of Christ. Second, for those who do not, is the emphasis they place on condemning gays and publicly campaigning against equal rights and their very existence.

No less an authority than Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu weighed in on how the Anglican Church is handling both layers of the issue. From the Christian Post:

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has strongly criticized the Anglican Communion for its stance on homosexuals.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, the 76-year-old archbishop accused the worldwide church body of being “obsessed” with the issue of gay priests, while ignoring pressing global needs such as poverty and HIV.

"Our world is facing problems – poverty, HIV and AIDS – a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said Tutu.

"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another,” he added.

"In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

Tutu went on to criticize the spiritual leader of the 70-million member Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, for overlooking God’s “welcoming” nature.

"Why doesn't he demonstrate a particular attribute of God's which is that God is a welcoming God?” he posed to the BBC.

God wants to draw us close, not push us away. Churches who push people away that don't fit a particular stereotype are acting outside of God's will and the example Jesus set for us that is described in the Bible.

November 19, 2007

Scotland Holds "Hug-In"

We can all use more hugs, and a group in Scotland is employing them to make a political statement. From PinkNews:

Gay rights activists and members of the Scottish Socialist party are to travel on buses in several Scottish cities today in protest at the treatment of a gay couple on a bus earlier this month.

Same-sex couples will hold hug-ins on Stagecoach buses in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In Aberdeenshire protestors will join the couple in recreating their journey.

Altogether around 20 couples are expected to take part in the protest.

Steven Black, 16, and Mark Craig, 19, were travelling on the bus from Aberdeen to Old-meldrum, Aberdeenshire. The route is operated by Stagecoach.

The two gay teenagers were threatened with ejection from a bus and then made to sit separately after a fellow passenger complained about their behaviour.

Mr Black claims that he merely had his arm across Mr Craig's shoulder. Stagecoach remains unapologetic about the incident, and backed the actions of the driver.

As I became familiar with the GLBT community, I was struck by the restrictions they often face of showing displays of affection in public. Not crude ones, but just holding hands or rubbbing each other on the neck, not to mention kissing. Pastor Brenda and I are very comfortable doing all of those things in public, and would resent being made to feel uncomfortable with those displays, so I applaud these folks in Scotland standing up for their right to do so, and love the approach they are taking.

After all, we can all use more hugs.

Help Out the Hungry For Thanksgiving

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving here in America, and many people like myself and Pastor Brenda will be blessed with a loving family and more food than we could possibly eat.

Let's take a moment and think about those who are not as fortunate. Many of know a local organization that is helping out on Thanksgiving, giving people a good healthy meal who might otherwise not get one.

I was inspired to post this after receiving an e-mail from David Shelton, a pastor and author in Clarksville, TN. He sent a note out about a group in their area, H.O.P.E., Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education. This link tells more about them, including how you could help.

The organization I help out in the Washington, DC area, Food and Friends, is having their own Thanksgiving event they could use some help with.

I'm encouraging readers here to post a comment with information about a group in your area that could use some help feeding people on this holiday, a celebration of a bountiful harvest (it's true, check your history books).

If you want to help someone have a better Thanksgiving this year, you'll have several options. I encourage you to choose one.

November 18, 2007

Just Change the Word

Controversy has erupted on the campus of the University of Virginia over the word "gay."

From Inside Higher Ed:

We come from old Virginia,
Where all is bright and gay.

After a Cavalier touchdown, the marching band strikes up what, to an outsider, sounds like “Auld Lang Syne.” But, to its tune, students and alumni sing the “Good Old Song,” its lyrics written by Edward A. Craighill in 1895, its mention of all being “bright and gay” a throwback to when “gay” meant “happy,” the line a launching pad for what’s since become a university tradition of negating the word “gay” with gleeful (often drunken) shouts of “not gay!”

At the University of Virginia, steeped as it is in tradition, a student-led campaign this semester has applied peer pressure to encourage students to rethink the ritual. “Essentially,” said Stephen Leonelli, president of the Queer and Allied Activism group at Virginia, “we believe that it marginalizes the gay community by creating an environment in which certain people who may or may not identify as gay do not feel welcome.”

The campaign has sparked a fury of letters and opinion pieces in the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, with the latest opinion piece, on Wednesday, defending the “not gay” chant and criticizing a culture of political correctness and liberal groupthink. “I’m just expressing my religiously informed political views that it’s wrong to act homosexual,” Alex Cortes, a first-year student and the writer of “Not gay and proud of it,” said in an interview Wednesday.

Come on folks, isn't it time to change the words to the song or just don't sing it at a football game? I'm all for tradition, but since we all know the word gay means something quite different today than it did back in 1895 and that the intention was not to say everyone in Virginia is a homosexual. I work there and go to church there; I can testify that's not the case. Singing that in an environment with college students jacked up on adreneline, testosterone, and alcohol is bound to cause trouble.

It's not about "political correctness and liberal groupthink," it's about treating each other with respect.

Sounds like a good thing to teach in college, doesn't it?