May 02, 2008

Seminary President Testifies Against Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Dr. Riess V. Potterveld, president of gay-affirming Lancaster Theological Seminary, testified in a hearing in the Pennsylvania state legislature concerning a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

From the Lancaster New Era:

"Clearly, what is proposed in Senate Bill 1250 is a step backward into language of denial, devaluing, delegitimizing and in its simple wording, in my opinion, conceals a wellspring of toxic and prejudicial feeling," testified Riess W. Potterveld, president of Lancaster Theological Seminary.

"The text is not neutral but rather agressive in its language of invalidation. This would be a step back into what I will call 'worst public practices'; because it is essentially about the restriction of rights, the enforcement of inquality without any basis other than fear, prejudice and hostility," he said, according to prepared remarks provided to the New Era."

...To be honest, I cannot think of one good thing that would come from passage of this amendment; my hope is that reason will prevail and that the measure will be defeated," said Potterveld, the only local speaker.

I found this to be a very well spoken arguement against this measure, with a little added kick from the fact that it came from an ordained minister (United Church of Christ).

We need even more men like Dr. Potterveld to step forward and make this same arguement.

May 01, 2008

National Day of Prayer Not Really National

As clearly pointed out in this note from the American Prospect (item #4 on this link), the upcoming "National Day of Prayer" on May 1 should actually be called "Government Sponsored Day of Christian Prayer."

This is just another example of the Religious Right co-opting the government for their agenda. The first warning of this should have been the fact that Shirley Dobson, the wife of infamous founder of Focus on the Family Dr. James Dobson, is the chairman. Don't take my word for it, here is a quote from the official site:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.

Clearly Shirley Dobson has every right to organize this type of event on her own dime. Last Saturday, an event called ReignDown USA was held on the National Mall and broadcast across the world. There were no government proclimations behind this event (also an exclusively Christian gathering) however. There are plenty of them for the National Day of Prayer, from the federal government and all 50 states (you can see for yourself from this link).

Folks, this is not freedom of religion. This if freedom for the Religious Right to worship as THEY see fit and direct everyone included to worship ONLY as the leadership sees fit.

I'm a Christian, so I would be welcome to participate (probably only as long as I kept my mouth shut about GLBT people), but I don't want to be part of government led and sponsored worship anymore than I want my church to pass legislation (we could probably do a better job, but I digress).

I'll be praying for our nation to go back to its foundation of being inclusive and the end of state-sponsored religious worship. I hope you'll join me.

April 30, 2008

"These Are The People I Came For"

I found a story through the Gay Religion blog that fits perfectly with the message I try to convey here at Straight, Not Narrow. Even better, it comes from about as far away from my home base in Maryland as you can get, Sydney, Australia.

The Westboro Baptist Church may think God hates fags, but not all Christians agree. This year 100 clergymen from all over Australia made a formal apology to gays and lesbians for the way they’ve been treated by the churches, and marched with us in the Mardi Gras Parade.

Michael Hercock, the Surry Hills Baptist pastor who started 100 Revs, got the idea for the march and apology after seeing the damage done to some men with HIV by intolerant Christians.

“There were a couple of guys whose stories particularly affected me … and as I came across more guys like them, I thought, we need to have a conscience about this and ask ourselves some hard questions about what we were saying to these guys,” he said.

“I started sharing this with some other ministers and it resonated with them too.”

Pastor Hercock is adamant that the time has come to speak out.

“We have vilified the gay community much more than any other marginalised group. Our silence on First World HIV/AIDS is deafening. We’re all happy to go overseas and help out … with HIV/AIDS, but here there’s nothing. All through the 1990s, we did nothing.”

The 100 Revs included a few Pentecostal pastors, usually thought of as among the most anti-gay. But Pastor Hercock says those who “get outside their own church walls” and engage with marginalised groups such as the homeless, problem gamblers, and gays and lesbians, change their views.

He compares his critics with the Pharisees, who were sticklers for the letter of the law, held themselves to be superior to others, and disdained to engage with ordinary people.

“Jesus was criticised very heavily for the people He engaged with … He went out of His way to spend time with … the equivalent of the people who are marginalised today … accused of having dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors, His response was, ‘Well, actually, these are the people I came for.’”

If you are a GLBT person reading this, you need to know that Jesus came for YOU, not just me. They know that all the way Down Under, and there are people here in the United States that know it also. They may not have the popular radio shows or get a lot of face time on television, but power and/or popularity in society mean nothing when it comes to discerning the truth of God's word and the Holy Spirit. Having a heart like Jesus is what counts.

These ministers in Australia have found the heart of Jesus, one filled with love for EVERYONE.

Click here to read the rest of the article from the Sydney Star Observer.

April 29, 2008

A Truly Christian Response to the "Day of Silence"

Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin, I found what I felt is a truly Christian response to the "Day of Silence" observed in many schools around the nation last Friday--a response bereft of judgement and full of love. Here is an excerpt:

Yesterday morning, when I went to the SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) table to receive my piece of duct tape, I showed them my slips and told them that several ministries would be participating as well. The look on their faces was priceless. They were shocked, but ecstatic. This alone would have been enough to make my day.

People came up to me shocked. Over and over, people said to me, “Thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me. I’m amazed. Thank you!” The students seemed really surprised that a ministry, especially a Christian ministry would do that. I talked with several students, but one student spoke with me for a while. She told me that she was so surprised and couldn’t believe her eyes that she had to read the card twice even before it was read aloud. I’m so grateful for the relationships that were begun yesterday just by pledging to be silent for less than 24 hours. Later that night I went to eat with several of them and hung out until the wee hours of the morning. It was wonderful.

To those of you reading, I wish I could tell you in person because this day deserves more than a short summary. Yesterday, the LGBT community saw something revolutionary- they saw Christians loving them and more than that, they saw the love of Christ. What would happen if next year, hundreds of Christian students walked around with duct tape in silence?

I have to tell you about how I felt yesterday walking around in silence with duct tape. I felt humiliated at times, and other times proud. You see, everywhere I went, people stared. I felt like a leper, completely stigmatized from people. In fact, I was experiencing what the LGBT community has experienced for decades.

Walking in someone else's shoes is a great way to learn and empathize, but one has to be willing. It's great to see that students at Appalachian State, and I'm sure at many other campuses nationwide, took that step on Friday.

After all, that's an ultimate example of what Jesus did, coming down to earth and walking in our shoes, and anytime we can follow His example everyone involved is blessed.

Here's a link to the entire letter on Warren Throckmorton's site.

April 28, 2008

Young Faith Voters Moving Beyond Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

In what I find a very encouraging trend, this report from indicates that more young faith voters are widening their political focus beyond the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage to concerns like poverty and war.

In my opinion, the religious right seized on the abortion and same-sex marriage because they lent themselves to simplistic, black-and-white policies--DON'T! I believe the old guard religious right leaders either didn't have the intellectual capacity to adequately address broader issues or didn't believe their followers did.

The new generation of faith voters doesn't seem to be satisfied with that approach and shows signs of holding policy makers accountable for finding ways to make sure people don't go hungry and to bring peace back to our nation.

You know, the kind of thing Jesus did while He walked the earth.

Here's the link to the story.