January 24, 2009

Prayers for Bobby

Our household just finished watching the premiere of this movie on the Lifetime network. It was wonderful, just wonderful. It is ultimately a story of redemption, of a woman named Mary Griffith who used the interpretation she had been taught of the Bible to ultimately drive her son to suicide but learned from that horrible mistake and has worked tirelessly to prevent other young people from taking their own lives.

If you have a gay child or know anyone who does, I urge you to watch this movie. Here is the schedule of scheduled encores.

It must be thought provoking because Focus on the Family warned conservative Christians not to watch it, since after all they are a group that discourages independent thought.

Serving Together on Common Ground

"We don't necessarily agree with their choices, because that's not part of our faith, but we still love them."

Oh oh, this line is usually followed by some serious gay-bashing from Christian groups.

Not this time, however. In this story from Christianity Today, a chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ International is preparing to work with a gay-lesbian group at the University of Central Florida to launch an HIV/AIDS outreach effort:

Josh Spavin knows the stereotypes about evangelical Christians: judgmental, sanctimonious, narrow-minded. He may not buy into the image, but at the same time, he knows how real — and damaging — it can be.

So that's why Spavin, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida and an intern with the UCF chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ International, wants to launch an HIV/AIDS outreach with a campus gay-lesbian group.

"Because of the way they perceive us," said Spavin, 25. "What we wanted to do is find common ground where we can serve along side with them. … We don't necessarily agree with their choices, because that's not part of our faith, but we still love them."

Campus Crusade — an organization that once denounced rock music only to later embrace it — is once again changing with the times, engaging potential new Christians through social issues that perhaps seemed taboo in the past. Unofficially nicknamed "Good News, Good Deeds," the initiative at UCF, and others like it, is a ground-up effort by one of the nation's largest evangelical groups.

It also provides a peek at what issues young evangelicals see as important, and how they are changing a faith they inherited from their parents, but sometimes chafe against.

"Young evangelicals in particular are very conscious about poverty and the environment, and they tend to be more tolerant on issues such as gay rights and homosexuality," said John Turner, assistant professor of history at the University of South Alabama and author of the new book, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America.

"Evangelicals and evangelical organizations, they do have a big public relations problem of being known for intolerance or homophobia or not being concerned enough about social issues, and I think their desire is to correct that image," he said.

The best way to change the image of a group is to change its actions. Talking about acceptance and love is one thing, but rolling up sleeves to work on areas of common ground actually has substance. No rational person wants someone else to suffer from AIDS and that area should be fertle ground for Christians across denominations to work together with GLBT groups.

Working together can brning understanding to both groups about the other, and understanding can foster reconciliation and acceptance.

That sure sounds a lot more Christlike to me than gay bashing.

Click here to read the rest of the Christianity Today article.

January 21, 2009

Will President Obama Be Good for Gays?

There already seems to be a difference opinion regarding that question. The San Francisco Chronicle is confident he will be:

As a senator, Obama co-sponsored legislation expanding federal hate crimes to add crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation and identity. He supports amending the Employment Nondiscrimination Act to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. Like every other major candidate in the 2008 presidential race, he favors civil unions rather than same-sex marriage. While that stance upsets some gay advocates, it's worth remembering that Obama voted "no" on the bill to ban same-sex marriage nationwide; for him, it's an issue that needs to be settled state by state.

In short, when it comes to gay rights, Obama gets it. His positions represent a 180-degree departure from the Bush administration's dogma.

The Washington Blade, however, is already chirping about Obama's lack of a direct reference to gays in his inauguration speech:

President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address that “all are equal,” but omitted a frequent stump-speech reference to gay Americans.

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness,” he said.

Speaking more inclusively to people across the globe, Obama noted that “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

The omission of a direct reference to gay Americans was a deviation for Obama, who had mentioned gays at many of his most significant stops along his way to the White House.

I believe one of Obama's biggest challenges will be trying to meet unrealistic expectations of how much he can do and how quickly he can do it. I actually saw one of my Facebook friends say in regards to his views on GLBT rights "so far, he's been all talk." This was within an hour of him being sworn in! We really need to keep some sense of perspective people.

While I have pointed out that, since he does not support full marriage rights, he is in fact not in favor of equality, just less discrimination, he is guaranteed to be light years ahead of Bush in his approach to GLBT rights. The only evidence you really need to support that is this link to the White House site, showing their agenda for GLBT civil rights. I dare say this was not a page previously found there and is a huge step forward for the GLBT community.

January 20, 2009

Bishop Robinson's Prayer

Biship Eugene Robinson's prayer at the Lincoln Memorial Inaugural event on Sunday was not broadcast by HBO, which had purchased exclusive television rights for the event. I found the text of his prayer on the Gay Indy list serv and thought you would be interested to read it:

"Welcome to Washington ! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president. O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will... Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS. Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future. Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah. Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world. Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger. Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world. And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States . Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln 's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people. Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times. Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead. Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States . Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims. Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods. And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace. AMEN."

Amen indeed!

Here is a link to video shot by Christianity Today:

Here is the Advocate's report on why Bishop Robinson's prayer. did not make the HBO broadcast

January 19, 2009

Crisis: Growing Up Gay In America

As far as society has moved toward acceptance of GLBT people, it is still difficult growing up gay in America.

Mitchell Gold has lived that. he grew up in Trenton, New Jersey in teh 1960's in an environment naturally hostile to "homos" as they were openly referred to then. Gold, who is an enormously successful furniture entrepreneur who also founded the GLBT faith advocacy organization Faith in America, wanted to help others avoid the pain and confusion he endured by telling his story and gathering others from all walks of life to put together in a book titled "Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, adn Religious Pain of Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America."

The wide range of sources for these stories makes this book accessable to a wide range of people, from teenagers to parents and grandparents who are involved in raising kids. The contributors include the famous (Barney Frank, Candace Gingrich, Richard Chamberlain), the activists (Joe Solmonese, Bishop Gene Robinson, Mel White) and others who have led more private lives and endured more private pain.

While the stories are full of pain, anger, confusion, desperation, and more than one suicide attempt, they are also tales of individuals overcoming these challenges, coming to grips with who they truly are, and embracing life.

I wish I had time to give this book the in-depth review it deserves, but I want to let everyone know how much these stories moved me and reminded me why I wanted to get involved in ministering to the GLBT community in the first place.

By opening up and sharing their stories, the people who contributed to this book, and especially Mitchell Gold for putting it together, will help mitigate the pain and difficulties young men and women have as they struggle to understand their sexuality.

I strongly recommend this book for any members of the GLBT community who are currently or have had issues with friends and loved ones as they moved toward an understanding of their sexuality, or any straight people who are their friends or loved ones. There is a lot to learn here-eyes and hearts can be opened by understanding what others have lived through.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.com.

January 18, 2009

The Political Agenda of Evangelicals

Ever since the emergence of the Religious Right in the 1980's, the political agenda of evangelicals has been fairly easy to ascertain--no abortion, no gay rights, vote republican. While that has not totally changed, there is another evangelical view emerging, one of unity, not division.

From the U. S. News and World Report:

A coalition of prominent evangelical leaders who've partnered with Third Way, a Washington think tank influential in shaping Democratic Party policy and messaging, is presenting policy recommendations to Barack Obama's transition team today that purport to offer a consensus approach to hot-button issues that have long divided evangelicals and liberals.

The recommendations include a framework for reducing demand for abortion without further restricting abortion rights, through initiatives like grants for sex education that emphasizes abstinence but includes contraception, an expanded adoption tax credit, and a call for a federal prohibition on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, with an exemption for religious organizations.

"This is the first time that evangelicals have taken a gay equality position," says Rachel Laser, director of the culture Ppogram at Third Way.

The memo's drafters, including the Rev. Joel Hunter, a prominent Florida megachurch pastor, and the Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, released the document—"Come Let Us Reason Together: A Governing Agenda to End the Culture Wars"—this morning, ahead of a meeting with religious outreach and policy aides on the Obama transition team.

The more traditional evangelical position is still alive and well, however.

From Politico:

The Christian right is not going to give up on the issue of homosexuality anytime soon, as much for strategic electoral considerations as sincerely felt religious ones. “[Cizik] seemed to be abandoning the one thing where evangelical activists felt they had actually made a difference this time around,” David Neff, editor of Christianity Today magazine and a member of the NAE’s Executive Board, told The Associated Press. In a country that has rejected much of its agenda, the Christian right sees the battle over gay marriage as the last issue where it can play a politically significant role.

The views of the American people are increasingly moving away from those of the Christian right on an array of policy issues. On abortion, which inspired the formation of the Moral Majority in the 1970s with the Roe v. Wade ruling and continues to inform evangelical voting patterns today, most Americans support keeping the practice legal with reasonable restrictions. Most Americans oppose mandatory school prayer and support the teaching of evolution. Most Americans believe in the separation of church and state. Even on homosexuality, the Christian right has lost. Americans overwhelmingly support allowing gays to serve openly in the military and laws that prevent gay people from getting fired because of their sexual orientation.

Gay marriage, however, remains the issue where the views of Christian conservatives are most in line with those of the rest of the country. More than 30 states have passed statutes or constitutional amendments preventing gay marriage. Last November’s passage of Proposition 8 in liberal California, which revoked a state Supreme Court ruling permitting gay marriage, as well as a ban on gay adoption in Arkansas, has convinced Christian conservatives of not only the moral justness of their cause but its political salience as well.

There are two points I want to make here. First, it continues to sicken me that Christian leadership is making choices and advocating policy with their political implications being a major factor. Jesus was not a politician, and a political emphasis takes us away from a Christlike life, not closer to it.

Even more importantly, these two stories serve as a reminder of the fact that there really is no ONE evangelical opinion on policies, just like there is no single Christian political view. The Religious Right has propigated that view for close to three decades, but more and more people are understanding the falicy of that and seeking God's plan and views on their own. I believe that's one of the reasons the right likes to portray their issues as a war that is being fought. In a real war, the leaders give orders and the followers blindly obey.

Fortunately, an increasing number of people are not engaging in this pseudo-war and simply trying to do what is right.