We can’t help ourselves…

We can’t help ourselves, can we? Liberals or conservatives, our collective pathology just won’t let us compromise and resolve our differences in ways that show forth the very different Way of Christ.
Here’s the thing… we read the reactions to Canon Glasspool’s election from around the world that are pretty much just the same opinions repeated from those for and those against. Maybe I’m just perceiving things wrongly, but show me the proof that we are actually making things better for those with the most to lose. …Show me the something different that actually works to resolve and heal
and that looks much more like the Gospel rather than socio-politics. The distrustful world yawns and stays away while we keep doing the same things again and again. But, I’m surely wrong, right?
Thinking Anglicans gives a good overview of what the chattering classes and the declaring classes have to say.

“Elite Fundamentalists,” The Family, and Uganda

As many may know, there is a proposed bill making its way through the Ugandan parliament that is incredibly draconian, yet consistent with those Fundamentalists (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) that believe God demands the death of homosexuals (as described in the Levitical Law Code for Jews and Christians – Leviticus 20:13). Of course, even Fundamentalist Christians do not abide by even the demands of the Moral Law spelled out in Leviticus (despite the assertion that the Moral Law is still in force for Christians), yet they are all too quick to demand obedience to the Moral Law when they think the issue of homosexuality is concerned.
An article from the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, concerning the proposed Ugandan law and the British Commonwealth entitled, “Uganda’s anti-gay bill causes Commonwealth uproar.”
The issue concerning the proposed Ugandan law comes off the heals of reports of the politicized Religious Right and Neo-Con’s exportation of the Culture Wars to other parts of the world. Read about the report from Political Research Associates entitled, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia.”

A groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered that sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars. U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight.

Much of these efforts come out of the groundwork over the past decade of the Institute of Religion and Democracy (IRD). Read the “Reforming America’s Churches Project” (and here) of the IRD.
What this group does not recongnize or wants to admit is that in the same way they believe the mainline denominations have capitulated to the prevailing culture in order to be “relevant,” so have they and the Evangelical/Fundamentalist denominations capitulated to the same culture, only on different issues. There is legitimacy in the recognition that when the Church – of the conservative or liberal bent – takes on as its primary focus social or political agendas, it gives up its mission and its power. The more fundamentalist left and right do the exact same thing to the detriment of the cause of Christ in the world, but form opposite ends of the socio-political spectrum.
Then there is “The Family.” Listen to a report from NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Jeff Scarlet, researcher of “The Family” and author of, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.”
Read the Fresh Air transcript from the episode entitled, The Secret Political Reach of ‘The Family.'”
From the transcript, this brief portion:

GROSS: Let’s talk about The Family’s connection to Uganda, where there’s a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.
And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it’s really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.
GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn’t been signed into law. So it’s not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it’s on the table. It’s before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

From the HarpersCollins website description of Scarlet’s book:

They are the Family—fundamentalism’s avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen—congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a “leadership led by God,” to be won not by force but through “quiet diplomacy.” Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its walls.

This all reminds me too much of Christian Reconstructionism or Dominionism – read about both here and here. The interconnections between these people, groups, and efforts are not by accident. While the coordination behind many of these efforts are the work of what I think is a relatively small and radical group of people, the influence of their work both domestically and internationally cannot be denied.
Andrew Sullivan comments on all this on his blog, “Christianity vs Christianism, Love vs Power.”

In the name of Christ, supposedly

I don’t know how many people have heard or read about the gay-bashing of a 49 year old man, Jack Price, in Queens a couple weeks ago. You know, sitting here in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan and having this story all over the news in all of NYC, I just realized that the incident barely registered on my radar. I don’t quite know what that says about me – too busy, too expectant of gay-bashing incidents even in New York City, hardness of heart towards or numbness for victims, cynicism about whether our society will ever get beyond such things (and I mean really get be on them, not just having Political Correctness forced upon too many people that brings nothing much more than a shut down in honest dialogue and real education than the changing peoples’ hearts and minds) – I just don’t know.
Well, here I am, and over in Queens a guy had to be put into a medically induced coma in order to survive.
A brief article in the NY Times.
I was going through some old photos on Sunday and came across some old Web addresses. One of them was for a website started and operated by a guy I met years ago through Soulforce, so I tried to see if it still existed. It did, and on the splash screen was an update on the guy attacked in Queens entitled “Idiots for Christ.” Here is the picture from a channel 7 (ABC-NYC) news segment that was posted on the website. Watch the full video of the news piece, with the interview of this guy.
What in the world would possess a straight guy in New York City to be tattooed with this verse? This guy, Gelmy, was defending his friend, one of the guys arrested for beating Jack Price. Why would someone get that particular verse tattooed on his arm? Alright, he may have a thing against gay people, but to go to the extreme of permanently tattooing such a thing on your arm where it will be exposed often is beyond me.
And, yes, this is the natural outcome of all the anti-gay Religious Right rhetoric that has been going on for the past 20 years. When you scape-goat a population, that population gets screwed. As much as the Religious Right organizations and leaders want to claim that their anti-gay stuff is all about saving souls and society, it is about power and money. There are those who have real theological positions opposed to homosexuality, but the Religious Right groups are unprincipled and dishonest and are not made up of these people.
The attack was caught on a surveillance video.

WSJ Article on gay/ex-gay stuff

Short article from the Wall Street Journal on the APA’s decision to state that there is no evidence that reparative-theorapies works to change a person’s sexual-orientation, and that there is a slow change afoot among religious conservatives concerning the issue.
Link to the WSJ article, Bridging the Gay-Evangelical Divide: Extreme opinions move toward the middle.

Continue reading

A change in descriptions

I’ve noticed over the past few months that there is developing another shift in the terminology and descriptive words used by the anti-gay Religious Right groups, such as Focus-on-the-Family and Exodus, that will winnow its way into everyday anti-gay language and arguments used by those opposed to emotionally healthy gay people.*
The new term to describe gay people being used theses days is: “gay-identified.”
Perhaps this term has been used for a long time, but I’ve just noticed it. Over the past 30 years that I’ve kind of been engaged with and watching those arguing for their cause/agenda in the whole ex-gay movement, I’ve noticed fairly regular changes in tactics, definitions, and terminology as many of their arguments and “facts” have proven to be flawed and going out of favor.
Here is an example from Focus on the Family’s “Citizenupdate.com” e-mail “news” updates. “Extending special rights to gay-identified individuals is set to be debated when Congress comes back in session. “
I’m curious of the round-table conversation that drove them to this most recent change in terminology. What went on, what argument was made, what are the reasons why? I suspect that once again, they determined that their arguments are not winning the day, so they have to mix up things a bit.
* Just to be clear, many people in the anti-gay Religious Right believe that for individual “gay-identifying” people, denying one’s homosexual temptation and realizing that they are truly heterosexual people, as God designed all people to be, IS what makes (ex)homosexuals truly healthy. The only problem is that for them to admit that there can be emotionally and physically healthy gay people, it would completely undercut their primary arguments against society giving legitimacy and acceptance to gay people and same-sex couples. So, the institutions and organizations (and, of course the leadership) must continually change their tactics for insisting that simply being gay is automatically unhealthy in every way and for every one. It is in their best interest to continue to insist that gay people are completely unhealthy, and so have to be opposed to healthy gay people and whatever may for heterosexuals encourage healthy lives – like marriage.

If marriage has friends like these . .

Interesting piece by Canon Giles Fraser (Team Rector of Putney, in south London) in the Church of England Church Times (Issue 7634 – 10 July, 2009): ‘If marriage has friends like these . . .
The concluding paragraph, quote:
Speaking of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans position and statement on marriage

So they will suck Christian mar­riage into a narrow religious ghetto, associating it with suburban 1950s curtain-twitching, thus making it even less popular than it is now. The FCA is a danger to marriage. So, for the sake of marriage itself, will it please pipe down and go home.

What is our foundation? Some imperfect thoughts on BO33 & DO25 and General Convention

This is going to be a rambling journey through a variety of stuff, I think. That, I suppose, isn’t so unusual, but as I’m trying to make connections and put things in some sort of rational order so to make an argument (or statement) that makes some kind of sense, this is just what I have to do. I process “out loud.”
I attended the first week of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I had a great experience seeing people, witnessing a process that can be tedious, but always precise. Our polity is different and regrettably hard for some around the world to understand.
I watched this video on YouTube for Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”

(not available to embed)
So much of our current culture drives us down a path that belittles and denigrates in one way or another our humanity and common good for the purposes of power, privilege, and greed. I can’t but head the words and the images of Jackson’s song and this video and say that this world desperately needs a different way of ordering itself. I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ presents us a way, but it is a voluntary way, a very difficult way, a costly way, a humbling and self-denying way, a way that will not be accepted by entrenched interests that thrive on maintaining the status-quo even if it means the death of the common good.
This different way in a Christian understanding is a way that is not possible by our own means or determination, but first by the transforming of our souls (the Cure of Souls) by God. It isn’t just institutional evil that causes and perpetuates our human ills, but firstly the evil that resides within all of our hearts – our rebellion against God’s good way, as the 1979 Pray Book Catechism stresses. We see from history that even religious institutions can often be humanity’s worst enemy!
Atheists and non-Christians do great charitable things, and we see many providing a far better example of the “caring for the least of these” than do many Christians, yet the way of which I speak comes only from God’s restorative work within our own souls. From that beginning point, institutions are changed by the people within them, our processes are improved, and our world is made better.
Some in this Church of ours (and the greater Body of Christ), have allowed themselves to be co-opted by some Systems of this World. This is true of liberals as well as conservatives, just in different ways! For example, I think that many people within The Episcopal Church have taken to an idea that the foundation of our work is a sort of psycho-therapeutic model that strives to make people feel good about themselves, a sort of institutional purpose that promotes self-esteem or being well-adjusted. If we make people “feel” welcomed, esteemed, and good about themselves then we have succeeded in fulfilling our Gospel mission. It is as if God is the great therapist in the sky (or the new-age kind of daddy-guru figure), rather than the great redeemer and restorer of souls.
For many, this way of thinking has replaced, for whatever reasons, the idea that the Church is to be about the “Cure of Souls” (predicated on the understanding that humanity has been impossibly burdened and bound by ways of thinking and being that separate us from God – sin – and irrevocably destroy true relationship with one another absent the restorative work of the Holy Spirit). I believe giving ourselves to this way of thinking and being has caused the Church to give over its vital purpose for a lesser one, to lose its reason for being (which might be shown by fewer and fewer people wanting to be a part of us). For people seeking a faith community of restoration, I think they recognize that in many ways our Church doesn’t look much different from the World – from those systems that perpetuate division, hatred, uncompromising attitudes, and the impoverishment of soul and the common good (even as we do some good works).
I have to ask what kind of foundation the current structures of this Church are being built. Are the structures able to withstand the test of time or the trials that inevitably come as the Systems of this World work their best to overcome and destroy the Way of God? I consider our current troubles and watch the actions and resolutions of General Convention, and I have to ask upon what foundation are we making our decisions. Do we consider the well being of the whole community as vitally important – in the U.S. and around the world – or do we continue to simply concentrate on our own limited and myopic goals and special interests? (It isn’t that I am not supportive of the desired outcomes of most of what is being proposed by General Convention as an example, but I question whether the reasons for the proposals are based on Christian precepts – understood through time and trial – or trendy precepts that have their origins in systems that in the end only perpetuate our continued boundedness by sin.)
Why do we do what we do? The injustice that infects this world, the bigotry and exclusion that overwhelms our societies, the selfishness that enables starvation, the myopic vision that encourages war and deprivation – all of these need to be called out and confronted, even unto death. Yet, why and how do we as the Church pursue the remedy of these things? For the Church, I don’t think the “why” or “how” rests on trying to make people feel good about themselves, to be self-actualized, or to be esteemed. That kind of psycho-social work is important and we should encourage and support it, but it isn’t the work of the Church. Our progressive sense of wellbeing, from a Christian perspective, comes from the results of a transformation of the soul. What good is it for a man or woman to inherit the world, but lose his or her soul? For the Church, we are to be about the Cure of Souls – salvation, forgiveness, restoration of relationship between God and man and between one another. It is profoundly difficult to give up one’s life in order to gain life. It is a long and hard row to hoe for the Church to stand in prophetic opposition to the Systems of the World, predicated on the salvific and restorative work of Jesus Christ.
What was (is) our motivation for BO33 or DO25? What is our foundation?

“Love Between, not Among”

Fr. Tobias Haller BSG responds in a post to the argument made by some who oppose same-sex marriages (or unions of any kind) when they ask a question such as, “Why shouldn’t three or more people be allowed to marry if they love each other?”
A paragraph:

A polyamorous or polygamous grouping of people may claim to (and perhaps actually) share a loving relationship among themselves. But “among” makes all the difference — it is not the same as between. Such a group or assembly may love one another, but they cannot love “each other” — that kind of reciprocal experience is limited to couples. A multiply partnered relationship cannot be “mutual” but must be “distributive.”

Read the whole post, Love Between, not Among.

Unexpected Consequences

From the blog, An Unapproved Road, here is a great piece on the effects of American Idol finalists Kris and Adam and their relationship and because of that relationship (between a Christian and the oh so talented and presumed to be gay guy) there is a shifting in the culture.
Read: We Get to Carry Each Other
A couple paragraphs:

Countless commentators wanted the Idol competition to be about more than just singing. With Danny Gokey rounding out the Top Three, many wanted to make it a tally of endorsements for, oh, shall we call it “lifestyles?” You know, Danny (and likewise Kris, the dark horse bringing up the rear), the card-carrying Christian versus Adam the flamboyant one who hasn’t said he’s gay.
Let us pause to decode that snapshot of American pop culture. In social shorthand, those characterizations imply juxtapositions, i.e. a Christian can’t be flamboyant, and the one who “looks gay” can’t (or wouldn’t) be Christian; or, the one is restrained, temperate, and “good,” the other is … not. (Alternatively, the one is open, creative, and “good” — while the other is not!)
Whatever. Moving on now, to real three-dimensional people, and the reason Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are important to our spiritual health…
I know next to nothing about Kris Allen’s non-musical life, except that he’s married, he calls himself Christian and he’s done missionary work across the world. I heard about the exchanges among the other contestants that made reference to what is supposedly “godly” and right in relationships, but Kris’s name wasn’t part of that. I don’t know what kind of Christianity he practises, or how he envisions his God. I do know this: he declares himself Christian to the television audience – i.e. to the world; and he freely, publicly, verbally, and especially non-verbally, loves Adam Lambert like a brother.


APA and Biological Determinates

Once again, it is evident that the anti-gay forces of the politicized Religious Right will cling to or glom onto anything that even remotely seems to suggest that their pet theories may have a shred of legitimacy. The APA (American Psychological Association) has published a pamphlet that discusses sexual orientation, and in it the Religious Right organizations are having a field day.
Now, these organizations tend to believe that homosexuality is a psycho-emotional “gender identity” disorder at best or at worst simply wanton and willful engagement in deviant sexual relations by men who are intentionally trying to destroy heterosexuality even if it kills their disease ridden carcasses in the process (that is a bit of exaggeration, but not much for some). Any time a study is released that might suggest a biological determinate, they are quick to condemn it and more often than not attempt to twist the comments of the study’s author(s) in order to support their agenda. They claim that most all pro-gay people or organizations demand a “gay-gene” theory be accepted as fact. This simply isn’t true. I am yet to hear any mainstream gay organization demand such a thing, even though individuals will say that they suspect that when all is said and done they believe a biological link will be found. (Of course, there are gay people who will say that it is all biological, but they are speaking not from fact but from emotion and play right into the hands of the anti-gay Religious Right.)
Here is the paragraph from the APA that is referenced by OneNewsNow.com and commented on by the likes of Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, and their compadres:

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

Interestingly, I don’t see links to the APA’s entire pamphlet on the anti-gay websites, “Answers to Your Questions
For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality
,” which presents much that is contrary to the Religious Right dogma. In the OneNewsNow article, Matt Barber states, “It’s irrefutable from a medical standpoint that people can leave the homosexual lifestyle…. Homosexuality is defined by behavior. Untold thousands of people have found freedom from that lifestyle through either reparative therapy or through — frankly, most effectively — a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
This is completely disingenuous. From the very same APA source that is used as a “knockout punch,” comes this:

What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?
All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.
Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his samesex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life. Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to selfdetermination; be sensitive to the client’s race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, language, and disability status when working with that client; and eliminate biases based on these factors.

Barber’s statement has nothing to do with the orientation of homosexuality, but homosexuals who decide to forgo relationships of an intimate nature – loving or otherwise. To “leave the homosexual lifestyle” means to no longer self-identify as a homosexual (regardless of the feelings anyone may have), to burn bridges to all people or anything that may temp people to consider themselves to be homosexuals or to be sexual engaged, and to life-long celibacy. They declare that Jesus will heal people of their homosexuality and make them into heterosexuals, but again and again it is shown that beyond willful hopefulness at best and self-deception at worst, this “healing” just doesn’t happen.
From this paragraph, comes the OneNewsNow opening line: “The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch.” Now, a generally unbiased read of this paragraph will conclude that the intent is to simply say that we don’t know yet what causes sexual orientation, period. But, the Religious Right will use this as a slam against gay-rights organization and homosexuals who claim that they cannot change into heterosexuals.
I think both paragraphs are true, plainly and simply. What more can be said – we do not have enough information to determine what causes even heterosexuality, let alone other expressions of orientation. It is as equally wrong for a gay person to say that homosexuality is biologically determined, factually, as it is for anti-gay people to say that homosexuals can be changed into heterosexuals, factually.
This certainly is not a “knockout punch,” but because it says nothing about a biological determinate being the cause they consider it a victory for Jesus (or rather their manipulation of Jesus for their own ends). The APA states the truth. I wish these groups could do the same.
Why can’t people simply be forthright and truthful? Honestly, gay people or anti-gay people, just deal with the way things are and not they way you want them to be in the face of evidence otherwise.