What a Dog Can Teach Us About the Best Antidote to Fear Ever

Rev. Eugene H. Peterson, who is a “Professor Emeritus” of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver B.C. is the author of one of newer translations of the Bible called “The Message”, the Bible in contemporary language. In his introduction to the Old Testament book of Amos he writes:

 

“More people are exploited and abused in the cause of religion then in any other way. Sex, money and power all take a back seat to religion as a source of evil. Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that god, is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history worldwide of religion fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering.”

 

As most of my readers know, our fair city of Atlanta is about to get a visit from The National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Dr. Peterson could have very easily been talking about them.

After reading and following on the web the rallies these folks are holding, it is really hard for me as a pastor not to speak out, hell shout out. The rallies are nothing more then “shock and awe” events designed to perpetuate the fear of the big bad homosexual agenda is about to destroy life in America, as we know it.

The GA Voice reported NOM’s theme by quoting from a press release,

“We’re excited to get on the road and meet people face-to-face, sharing with them the importance of marriage and how critical the future of marriage is to our country,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president, in a recent press release. “Marriage will be a key national issue once the California Prop 8 battle gets to the Supreme Court. We need Americans to rally behind marriage as the union of one man and one woman and tell the Courts and state legislatures that marriage matters.”

 

Are you kidding me? This is the theme for a national event?

I really don’t want to take up more written space on why this is a ridiculous smoke and mirrors kind of statement. I spent sufficient space pointing that out in my last blog.

However, this statement and what this group represents are about something far more sinister, evil and dangerous. You see they want you to believe they are representative of “true” Christianity. However, this “truth” is based on a “fear” of God.

If one does any channel surfing with the TV it will not be long before a TV preacher in “full preaching mode” will be seen declaring that for those who choose to go against God will pay the price of God’s harsh judgment. God will punish those who live in a homosexual life style and God will destroy and bring destruction to the society, which does not “fear” the Lord and eradicate this horrible sin against God.

It is the preacher’s use of the word “fear” that always gets my attention.

Fred Phelps out of Topeka, Kansas has a whole ministry and picketing based on this rubbish.

Jimmy Swaggart built a religious empire based on this crap and his message of fear was so deep as to feel it was OK to say he would kill us and then lie to God about it. Think I am kidding…check it out: http://www.spike.com/video/jimmy-swaggart-would/2650343

Let us not forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are always proclaiming God’s wrath because we somehow misbehaved. Everything from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. These people have gotten filthy rich off people’s “fear” of God.

These fools who are coming to Atlanta are no different.

Make no mistake these people don’t give a damn about 2 people being in love and living a full life, they are simply interested in proclaiming a sadistic God who creates humanity gives it a brain to think, reason and a free will only to kill them off when it uses it’s brain, thinks and exercises a free will.

In other words if we are fearful of punishment from God then we will behave. My friends this is really bad and dangerous theology. It makes a mockery of the Cross-and the teaching of Jesus as a whole.

In fact Jesus made a comment or two on this kind of theology,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:13-15 NIV)

 

Now we should recognize fear is a natural and normal event for human beings, it is part of the creation.

Sigmund Freud had written at some point that we experience fear when we enter a field and see a large animal charging us; hence our well-being is in real danger.

Anxiety, is what we experience when we enter a field and we think that a large fierce animal may, perhaps be somewhere in the field and might; just might attack us.

Natural fear is a positive thing, while anxiety is negative and many times harmful to our thinking and physical well-being.

Positive fear is part of our instincts as human beings. If we are at risk for some reason, fear is indeed an emotion that will cause us to take action to protect ourselves. This is usually based on fact or real experience.

However, it strikes me this “fear the Lord” and the enforcement of morality being preached by NOM and other religious groups is more about “negative anxiety” rather then genuine concern or fear of something factual or experiential.

“Negative anxiety” about what may happen after we die or even while we are alive is nothing more then a means by which evil people use to gain power and control of others.

Further this thinking gives those who are snobs, bigots and “power and control” freaks the ability to ignore the words of Jesus at every turn. It gives them an excuse to total ignore Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-40.

People who are anxious have a tendency to comply with “rules for living” when faced with what “might” happen. In fact they even send more money to the folks who are making pronouncements about “what may happen”.

Need proof, watch the 700 Club for about 15 minutes. Better yet read Don Wildmon’s “American Family Association” newsletter, this dude has always got his hand out for money over what might happen.

Think about the fact NOM has raised 2.9 million based on their fear message.

Fear is the great motivator of war and killing…take a look at Iraq. We are giving away constitutional right after right because we have been convinced to fear somebody or anybody from the Middle East.

Better yet look what fear has accomplished in the state of Arizona.

These same people who bring the message of fear concerning the LGBTQ community also have other fear messages.

This same “fear message” says women must submit to men.

This same “fear message” says one must be pro life and than willingly support the snuffing out the life of another human being by lethal injection.

This is nothing more then late term abortion, but then what do I know.

This same “fear message” says women do not have a place in the pulpit.

This same “fear message” says if their “cash-cow” pastor gets a divorce it is OK to change the rules so the cash keeps coming in.

This same “fear message” makes law that sweep the homeless off the streets and into jail.

We in the LGBTQ community must stop deceiving ourselves. This is not about “gay marriage”. This is about causing sufficient fear so as to control our soul, control the very essence of who we are as God’s people.

Therefore when NOM arrives we must greet them with a different message…

We must speak the truth of God’s love for all people. We must speak this truth as a whole creation of God, rather then some freaky “love that dare not speak its name”.

We must make this claim with the full knowledge that we are uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God.

We must celebrate our gifts because we are gay, lesbian, bi or transgendered and God has something for us to do, something to give back to this world. We must be intentional in pointing out our contributions to our community.

We must claim our history, our heroes. We must act rather the re-act. We must point out that some of the best; the brightest and most articulate people of the world have come from the LGBTQ community.

We must point out that in blighted urban areas, it is our talented and creative community who rebuilds and puts life back into those areas.

We must point out we are the military, teachers, police and fire personal. We are athletes, writers, actors, preachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. We must point out we are woven tightly into the fabric of life.

We must remind them they have been trying to kill us off for centuries and we are still here stronger and more blessed then ever.

We must talk about how in the midst of our young dying that we have taught the world how to die with dignity and to live life to the fullest.

We must confront and refute the blatant lies and fear mongering of these religious bigots. Now is not the time to sit quietly in the comfort of our homes while the LGBTQ people of the world continue to die, get beat to the point of death or drown out who they are in alcohol and drugs.

Finally we must take to heart why NOM’s message of fear will ultimately fail as this wonderful story illustrates…

 

“There was a person visiting their minister and during the course of the conversation said to the pastor, “I am afraid to die, I have no idea what is there on the other side of life or what will meet me when I get there. Pastor, can you help me with this and tell me what to expect.” The minister look at his friend sadly and said, “No, I cannot tell you what it will be like after you die or how it will be.” The person was astounded, as they knew this pastor was a good solid praying Christian. So the person replied. “How can this be? How can you not know? You are a Christian and you can’t tell me what happens after one dies?” Just then there was a scratching at the office door and the doctor opened the door and in bounded his beloved dog. The dog was just all over the minister so happy to see its master. It was in this moment the minister looked at the patient and said, “You see how my dog just bounded into this room having no idea what was on the other side of the door, not fearing what was on the other side but only knowing that his master was here. I suspect that is the way it will be for us going to the other side of life with only one solid piece of knowledge…Our Master is there and waits to receive us.”

 

So when NOM arrives I will be there to shout loudly and clearly, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 New International Version)

Look Up in the Sky… It’s a Bird… No a plane… No it’s…

The “National Organization for Marriage”: Protecting Marriage and the Faith Communities that Sustain It.

They will be in Atlanta in early August to attempt through slick lies and fear mongering convince the people of Georgia by allowing our community to get married it will be the end of the world and the precious institution will be ruined.

According to their website the concern is:

“For over a decade, the institution of marriage, the very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning. Now, for the first time since its passage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) is being directly threatened. And probably more threateningly, a federal lawsuit in California is challenging the validity of Proposition 8- a measure passed by voters defining marriage between one man and one woman- on core Constitutional grounds. All observers believe this case is headed for the Supreme Court, where 5 justices could create a “constitutional right for homosexual marriage,” which will put into question what marriage means for every American across the nation.

It is time for the people to stand up and make it clear that they will not let marriage be redefined. Now, more than ever, is the time to rally behind marriage and let our voices be heard. The National Organization for Marriage is launching the month-long, nationwide Summer for Marriage Tour 2010: One Man One Woman. The tour will criss-cross the east coast, mid-west and southern states to hold a series of 20 rallies to encourage supporters to stand up for marriage. Many of the states we are visiting are the key battlegrounds in this critical debate.”

In 2008 these folks raised $2,967, 495. So let there be no doubt these folks are playing hardball and intend to destroy the sanctity of our relationships along the way.

The reason for concern here is because NOM is not just your run of the mill homophobic group. They are taking a new direction by saying our community is taking from them what is not rightfully ours. With a slick marketing campaign they are attempting to throw us out of a room we have been in all along.

The brilliance of their approach is not so much in what they say but rather what they do not acknowledge, either by omission or a distortion of the truth.

On their website one of the talking points is as follows:

“Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is:

“Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. Some modify it to “People have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

Language to avoid at all costs: “Ban same-sex marriage.” Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”

It strikes me this approach is a little like up North where I am from it was the “Civil War” or the “War between the States”. Yet here in the south this same history is described as “The War of Northern Aggression”. Let us be real here, marriage has been redefining itself for centuries.

So let us clarify some things here. Maybe the definition of the word would be helpful. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary marriage is defined as follows:

mar·riage
Pronunciation: ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
Date: 14th century

1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union

Wow, would you look at that the LGBTQ community made it into Webster’s. Folks, that is not we trying to redefine…that is scholarship’s recognition of what is.

NOM says, “The very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning.”

What poppycock. There has been no real clear marriage tradition or understanding of just what exactly marriage is for centuries. One man and one woman? Please, in Old Testament times the more wives a man had the better. Marriages prior to the 20th century had more to do with property rights, business agreements, and certain families being brought together to consolidate political power.

I said earlier they were trying to throw us out of a room we are already in. According to “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Various types of same-sex marriages have existed,[40] ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.[41]

While it is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly used by mixed-sex couples, recent publicity and debate over the past decade gives an impression that civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples is novel and untested. There is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world.[42] It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome,[42] some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history.[43] A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 342 CE prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome, but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.[44]”

The States or the Government didn’t really have anything to do with marriage
until the 1800’s and moving forward to now. Since, the feds have gotten involved there has been an ever steady set of rights and privileges which go along with this thing called marriage.

Today Kathy Belge, from About.com Guide writes:

“According to Lambda Legal Defense, more than 1,400 legal rights are conferred upon heterosexual married couples in the United States. By not being allowed to marry, gays and lesbians are denied these rights. Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:
Joint parental rights of children
Joint adoption
Status as “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions
Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
Crime victim’s recovery benefits
Domestic violence protection orders
Judicial protections and immunity
Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
Public safety officer’s death benefits
Spousal veterans benefits
Social Security
Medicare
Joint filing of tax returns
Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
Child support
Joint Insurance Plans
Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
Estate and gift tax benefits
Welfare and public assistance
Joint housing for elderly
Credit protection
Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

NOM also argues, “Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage.” It is also pointed out by this group that church’s will be forced to do weddings they disapprove of.

Again, this is a flat lie…Church’s have never been forced to marry a couple which did not meet the requirements of a particular church.

I should also note there are several denominations including Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Quaker, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, Reform Jewish congregations, several independent-progressive churches and some Anglican dioceses which now recognize what has become known as “Gay-Marriage”.

So, the debate concerning “gay marriage” continues to new heights of passion and meanness. There is now this national organization helping stir the pot.

NOM says they are concerned about faith communities. Frankly, NOM is just using that as a tool. I suspect the basic reason for this is as with most right wing conservatives is centered on power and control issues.

Those who have defined marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexuals want to continue to control the rules. It is a “Members (who meet the standard) Only Club”.

Marriage in today’s sense is less about two people who love each other deeply and commit to living in a way that will enhance that love.

I find it just a tad ironic our people have always had to choose to be together for the most part because they love each other deeply and now simply desire the Government to recognize that.

After 28 years of “marriage” to my partner I can safely say we made this far not because of any encouragement or support society gave us. We made this far because our love for one another is as wide as any ocean and as high as any mountain.

So I wonder from a faith and spiritual stand point what God is more concerned with, love and commitment or power and control?

We live in a world where marriage vows are usually not worth the paper they are written on. 50% of all first marriages will end in divorce and 60% of all 2nd and third marriages will end before “death do us part”.

If Marriage is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship or from the church point of view a covenant between two people and God then we are talking about the total investment of those involved.

I wonder if God is more concerned about broken promises or covenants that call on people to go deeper in their relationship than simple vows.

Finally, I wonder from a spiritual perspective if a God who by biblical definition is both male and female is really concerned about the gender identity of a couple who are willing to live in covenant with each other.

After all, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, in other words which commandment should be the basis of who and what we are, his reply was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself: All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If these commandments are where it begins and ends — I believe our God is far more interested in covenants of love regardless of gender identification rather than alleged traditional marriage, which NOM is trying to save, and nowhere in any of their talking points do they address these two commandments for which all the law and prophets hang.

So how about NOM? Maybe take some of that 2.9 million you raised in 2008 and use it to give a drink to the thirsty, or feed the hungry, or cloth the naked or visit the sick and imprisoned. Maybe while you are in town you could provide some beds for the 11,000 homeless in Metro Atlanta. Or better yet how about taking your time, energy and resources and save the building for the “Task-Force for the Homeless”.

Defiantly Inclusive

Did you ever wonder why when something happens to one of our folks in the community it is almost always followed by stories that discredit the victim?

Remember Matthew Shepard? The child was not warm yet in the arms of God when the stories started circulating he may have set himself up for being tied to a fence tortured and murdered.

Remember the fella who got beat up leaving one of our gay watering holes? It didn’t take long for stories to get started that his behavior may have lead to his beating.

Let us not forget the murder, which took place in Piedmont Park. One could have set their watch by how long it took to be pointed out he was there cruising for sex.

Then of course we have the unsolved murder of Precious Armani, who in many accounts was described as a “cross-dresser” for hire.

Now most recently, we have the young man from Savannah hit so hard as to have his brain bruised by one of two US Marines because he may have winked at them?

Straight men better hope and pray women around the world don’t remember this story the next time they wink at the object of their desire!

Again, one could have set their watch by how long it took to publish stories that well maybe he did do something to deserve to be damn near killed.

Could someone please explain to me what an incident of “road rage” and an alleged racial slur have to do with an alleged wink, or squint that results in being knocked out cold in the middle of the street?

No, if the racial slur happened it is not cool…but damn people it is not even remotely connected to this “big tough Marine” having his manhood allegedly offended and his hysterical response.

For those who want to know more about this story, the police report has now been published and if it weren’t such a serious matter it would be “Saturday Night Live” funny.

The police officer found the two tough US Marines hiding in a vacant lot, saying they were waiting for a friend and had just been trying to get away from a homosexual who was harassing them. These two are trained to fight and kill terrorists…damn what power we little old homosexuals have!

Finally, while not as violent physically it certainly was violent emotionally. I got e-mail the other day at the office “demanding” I justify my position regarding homosexuality. Saying they were not trying to be argumentative but were trying to understand. Now mind you I do not know this person or ever had any contact with them until they jumped into my playground…

Well, I fell into the trap and spent 3 or 4 hours writing a response, which clearly stated where I was coming from, how our church operated and what we saw as the main work of the church to be. Here is the response:

“YES AND YOU STILL ARE TWISTING SCRIPTURE! G-D CONDEMNS SEXUALLY IMMORALS! JAMES EVE STATES: 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. [HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE, THE MOST ACCURATE IF YOU ARE SERIOUS OF ABOUT G-D’S WORD]. YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE! YOU MAY BE GENTLE BUT YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE! HEED THE WORDS OF THE MASTER HIMSELF IN MATTHEW 19: 4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” HE MAKES A DIRECT QUOTE FROM TORAH GENESIS 2: 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. AS I HAVE SAID I WAS RAISED JEWISH, I WAS ORTHODOX, I KNOW WHAT THE HEBREW SAYS, I ALSO STUDIED BIBLICAL GREEK AND YOU TWIST THE WORDS! THE ONLY RESPONSE I HAVE TO GIVE YOU IS THIS:
7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur,which is the second death.” (ALL QUOTATIONS ARE FROM THE HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE, THE MOST ACCURATE BIBLE ONE CAN GET)! YOU WILL DIE THE SECOND DEATH, LIVE WITH IT! YOU AND YOU DISGUSTING COCK SUCKING HUSBAND WILL BE IN ETERNAL HELL FIRE! YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS TO EITHER TURN OR BURN! REMEMBER THIS IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE LATE SIXTIES THAT LIBERAL LUKEWARMERS LIKE YOURSELF STARTED TO TWIST WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY TEACHES! ALTHOUGH I AM NOT FOR THE NIV TRANSLATION (IT IS AS BAD AS THE MESSAGE), I WILL SUGGEST THAT YOU PURCHASE FOR YOURSELF THE ZONDERVAN NIV ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE AS IT HAS WONDERFUL ARTICLES IN IT INCLUDING HOMOSEXUALITY IN PAUL’S TIME AND IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST, IF THIS DOES NOT SET YOU STRAIGHT IN YOU FALSE DOCTRINE, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT WILL! YOU ARE A WALKING CURSE AS YOU PREACH FALSE DOCTRINES AND A FALSE GOSPEL! EITHER TURN OR BURN, THOSE ARE YOUR ONLY OPTIONS!”

Yup, that is a response from a “concerned Christian” who felt they had the right not to just shout in this email but to scream at me, (like right in my face kind of thing) and threaten me with eternally death, not to mention set it up so if some wacko shoots me I deserve it.

I got to tell you it feels a whole lot like what happens to women at rape trials or in domestic violence situations. Well, if she hadn’t been where she was…if she hadn’t been wearing what she was wearing…well if she had not drank so much as to be inviting.

Of course usually by the time the defense attorney was done with the cross examination, one would think she had invited the rape or the beating because the victim was of not good character.

The sad truth of this is in our enlighten world is we know and acknowledge the act of rape or abuse is not about sex, but rather is a violent act of power and control.

There has been in our society a prevailing thought that says men are powerful and women are to be controlled, therefore they bear the responsibility for what happens to them. They should know how to conduct themselves so as to not put them in danger. Therefore, women should not smoke, drink, go out to clubs or dress in ways which are inviting or tempting for the male to loose control. Women are responsible for maintaining a “high moral standard”.

We know this phenomenon as “sexism”. Well, a dear college of mine coined a phrase years ago, which explains why those in our community who are victims of violence are so often discredited. Suzanne Pharr wrote a book about the subject entitled, “Homophobia, the Weapon of Sexism.”

This book was written in 1988 and while there has been progress it still rings true.

Our community is truly caught in this trap of sexism. At the bottom of this snake pit of homophobia and sexism is the church…everything from blaming original sin on Eve and Old Testament teachings saying men should not behave like women to denominations saying women much less homosexuals have no place in the church or pulpits.

Yes, I know it is not every church and yes I know there are plenty of churches fighting this crap.

Yet, I got to tell you it is not enough and they are not loud enough. People are dying, being killed, committing suicide, falling into drug use and losing families over this crap not just once a week but every day, yes every day!

A pastor that I find myself working with often in the community who disagrees with me on almost every point concerning homosexuality said,

“All that said, those who engaged in homosexual behavior are people—who need love and forgiveness, and who need to understand the love of God. It is hard to engage in cultural battle and still have people feel that you love and accept them. Ugly rhetoric, inappropriate jokes, ridicule and violence of any kind should be off limits. And most importantly, we need to do a better job in our own marriages so we don’t lose the moral authority to talk about these issues. We obviously have a lot of work to do.”

No sir, with my brothers and sisters dead in the streets and parks, beat up and abused, fired from their jobs, told to not ask and not tell, our gathering places raided by the police on the smallest complaint around neighborhood values Where people feel they are justified in sending emails like the afore mentioned, where the church feels it can stop me from being married, passing on property, visiting my husband in the hospital, and having the right of raising a family and with heterosexual marriage experiencing a 50-60% divorce rate…you have already lost your “moral authority”.

It is time for a new team to step up and be heard.

It is time for the inclusive, affirming and progressive community to like Moses, like Gandhi and like Jesus to stand up to the arrogance of religious authority. Such arrogance presumes to know what is best for others, indeed, even to know what God thinks. Ultimately, such arrogance assumes that some should be excluded from the human community. The response of Moses, Gandhi and Jesus was a defiant reaching out in order to include the excluded. So my friends how defiantly inclusive will you be today?

SILENCE=DEATH

A couple of weeks ago, a person in our community received the news at the age of 26 they were HIV positive. This young mans life has taken a turn that sadly was preventable.

As I write tonight I am worried…I am scared…I am deeply disturbed. For you see for the last 30 years or so I have seen this before and this is reality come home again, for there are no fairy tale endings.

Yes, there are miracles, yes there are new discoveries and yes there is hope…for with the unconditional love of God there is always hope, always miracles, and always-new discoveries.

So here we are half way through 2010 and I find myself once again climbing up on a soapbox. I want to sound a warning, ring an alarm, rise up and shout from the mountaintop to my brothers and sisters in the gay, bi and straight community…ENOUGH ALREADY…STOP IT…HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MINDS?

This is 2010 not 1994 nor 1982. We know for a fact how HIV keeps it’s bloody record of death going. We really know this is not a manageable disease, but rather a killer that does unbelievable harm to untold millions of people. We know that the medications used to fight off this virus have horrible side effects and in the long run lose their effectiveness. We know that whole generations of humanity will never see their 21st birthday.

Yet, many gay men, bi men and straight men still behave as if HIV is an after thought, as if the magic pill will arrive just in time for Christmas. While I dare say it is not a majority, it is significant enough to cause untold misery and destruction for millions of people.

This is 2010 and we know we have the weapons that can stop this disease in its tracks. The weapons are so simple. One is an object and the other a program.

The object is called a condom and the program is called “needle exchange” or harm reduction (needle exchange and harm reduction is another blog).

Yet when you talk to folks in the community you would think I was “Henny-Penny and crying the sky is falling…think I am kidding? Take a look at this: (not for the squeamish) Some samples from Craig’s list:

“I’m into a lot of different things such as public sex, fisting, bareback, bondage, w/s, group fun, Master/slave type “relationships”… and yes, that is meant to mean “strings”. I expect that anyone who wants to get to know me should at least be open minded and adventurous, even if they haven’t done it all. I live a polyamorous lifestyle. I hope this stuff here sums me up well.”


“I need to suck a **** and eat a large load of ***. I also get into rimming, body contact, J/O and whatever else you can think of. If you are negative I am bb friendly.”

“Yeah, bb btm loves to get plowed hard by raw ****
Into it? like seeding a hot, horny, furry hole?”

There are places in the fair city of Atlanta where one can go and have any number of sex partners in an evening and there are no condoms in sight or asked for. Before the straight folks reading this say ah hah it is you gays…let me be clear there are plenty of these clubs for straight folks as well and the men who are picking up women while out of town are not using condoms either. In fact go to any straight party club and well you get the idea.

I had a person in pastoral counseling who is now a recovering sexual addict tell me how he would go to a local hotel here in town…place an ad on Craig’s list giving his location and room number. He would invite anyone who wanted sex to his room to find the door unlocked and him blindfolded with his butt in the air waiting to receive all the bareback sex he could.

Or how about these websites that have thousands of subscribers for both gay and straight people:

Bare-back-central

Gay Bareback Sex and Hairy Masculine Men

Bareback Resources

The porn industry is a multi billion-dollar empire whose hottest films involve sex without condoms. If people are spending that kind of money you cannot convince me they are not doing what they see in film.

This is not a blog to sound a moral cry about how sexually loose society is, nor is it to start an ethics debate on adultery and or fornication.

Rather it is about admitting and recognizing people regardless of morals, ethics, or the churches teachings are going to have sex. They have been doing the “deed” since the beginning of time.

I will save the sexual ethics discussion for another time. Right now I am concerned about stopping the bleeding. For you see when a person is wounded, 9 times out of 10 before you do anything else you have got to stop the bleeding.

Stopping the bleeding in this case means if you are going to have sex be safe about it. Use a condom!

Believe me, I know they are easy to use, easy to dispose of and can save one from any number of life threatening or life ending diseases. My partner and I have been together 28 plus years and have never had sex without condom use.

My friends don’t we have a moral obligation to not put others at risk for our sexual enjoyment?

For those who call themselves Christian can you really in good conscience put your partner or yourself at risk of a shorten or messed up life for a night of taking care of a “sexual itch”?

Do not those who consider themselves tops have an obligation to say no to bare backing?

Do not those who consider themselves bottoms have an obligation to say no to letting someone inside them without a condom.

How about straight folks…unless you are making a child and you both have tested negative, don’t you have an obligation to keep each other safe? I know all about the marriage vows of fidelity, however it is what it is…I mean really…do you want to find out your partner cheated on you when you come up with a positive test?

If you are going to cheat on your partner or even if you have an open relationship do you really want to introduce HIV or God knows what other disease to the one you say you love?

Isn’t the whole relationship thing difficult enough without adding a premature death sentence to it?

The moral police will tell me the answer is abstinence and then only sex in wedlock.

Well that has really worked well hasn’t it? Read the court dockets and the reasons for divorce. Look at the record levels of teen pregnancy. HIV rates of infection are up not down. STD’s are on the rise rather then declining.

People committing adultery in the State of Georgia can go to jail…but that is of little good to the one they infect and I might add too little too late. People who do not disclose their status if positive can face jail time…of course this is a little late isn’t it. Kinda like closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.

Gay folk are denied marriage, so their only answer is no sex? Right-so now convince me that a healthy 20 something man is not going to have sex regardless of the marriage laws.

I was talking to a Pastor who works with folks who are HIV positive and he told me about an informal survey that was done for men in prison. People going into prison are given an HIV test. Of those who tested negative when they went into prison, 54% of them tested positive when they came out. Of course you don’t give prisoners condoms because that would be approving sex and the wrong kind of sex at that. What kind of screwed up thinking is that?

I want with all my heart to have conversations around long-term monogamous relationships.

I want to teach values, respect and commitment as a part of our sexual relations.

My faith walk encourages and even demands me to support and model that kind of sexual responsibility.

However, we are left with the reality people are going “sow their oats”, they are going to experiment, they are going to be wild, they are going to be stupid and do sexual things out of a lack of judgment.

Like it or not that is the condition of the human race, it is the way we live and learn.

Yet if I can convince folks who are going to have sex regardless of some moral authority, to use a condom they might live long enough to learn a sense of responsibility.

If I can convince folks that if you have sex without a condom you are either suicidal or are a totally self-absorbed selfish person they might live long enough to learn there is other peoples lives at stake.

So to those men in the gay, bi and straight community…I am begging you, pleading with you, save a life and use a condom.

For those who would blast me for writing this blog, thinking this is the wrong subject for a minister to write about or it was just too graphic please remember:

Silence=Death and my friends we have been silent far too long in the matters of safe sex and the use of the condom.

For those who think this blog reads familiar…well yea, I wrote it in 2008 and not much has changed, so I am sounding the alarm again.

The Hypocrisy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Well everyone is all in a twitter because it looks like the day of the homosexual not being able to serve in the military is coming to an end.

Those who are on the political and religious right have gotten especially hysterical over this fact. Here is a pretty good representation of their thought process:

“Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with G-d not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes. Once a disaster is unleashed, innocents are also victims just like in Chernobyl.

“We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society. Enough is enough.”

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, Spokesman, Rabbinical Alliance of America

“So Hitler himself was an active homosexual. And some people wonder, didn’t the Germans, didn’t the Nazis, persecute homosexuals? And it is true they did; they persecuted effeminate homosexuals. But Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Storm troopers, they were his enforcers, they were his thugs. And Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the Storm troopers, the Browshirts, were male homosexuals.”

American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer

“Repealing the ban on open homosexuals serving in the U.S. military would be a mistake of historic proportions.

First, there would certainly be a mass exodus of normal men from a homosexualized military, leading to the reinstatement of compulsory service. The entire premise of a military system based on voluntary service is that young men will want to serve. But will normal men want to volunteer when they know they will share close quarters with other men for whom they will be objects of sexual interest? It is a recipe for deep and widespread moral and morale problems.

Then there’s the likelihood of physical conflict among the troops. Will proud young men being honed to become weapons of aggression against America’s enemies tolerate being ogled in the showers or touched inappropriately or bunking near sexually active “gays“? Undoubtedly blood will spill over such (inevitable) indignities.

But what will be the political consequence? Once homosexuals are invited to serve, the authorities will be committed to integrate them into the ranks, which means “sensitivity” training, anti-discrimination policies, and all of the other “politically correct” nonsense that has been such a disaster in the other spheres of our society. These policies have smacked of pro-“gay” fascism in the civilian world; how much worse would it be in the rigidly-controlled environment of the military?”


Dr. Scott Lively President, Defend the Family International

The talking points of the religious and political right only get more hysterical and patently ridiculous from what I have just quoted. Even going so far as to express the wild fantasy that sleeping soldiers would be in danger of experiencing force fellatio.

A closer read of the mentioned quotes will reveal what this is really all about: fear of sexuality. Ever since Augustine we have lived in a world where the act of sex has been thought to be some how the dark side of humanity not to be enjoyed and celebrated but done only out of duty to procreate. The end result of this thought process has turned sex into a “power and control” game, with homophobia being the ultimate weapon of sexism at it’s worst.

The “biblical” arguments against homosexuality for the most part have in fact been disproven or at minimum so open to question of what was actual being said they have become a mute point. In fact biblically speaking much stronger and pervasive arguments can be made for feeding the hungry, being merciful rather than justice seeking, loving one’s neighbor unconditionally and not bombing the world into a million pieces should be our priority rather than ones sexual orientation.

A little research will show most Western military forces have now removed policies excluding sexual minority members; of the 26 countries that participate militarily in NATO, 22 permit open lesbians, gays, or bisexuals to serve; of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, three (United Kingdom, France, and Russia) do so. I might point out here most of these countries would consider themselves spiritual nations of one sort or another. If the reader wants to see the complete list of countries where this is a non-issue go to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation_and_military_service

Steve Chapman points out this interesting little thought: “Israel, being small, surrounded by hostile powers, and obsessed with security, can’t afford to jeopardize its military strength for the sake of prissy ventures in political correctness. But its military not only accepts gays, it provides benefits to their same-sex partners, as it does with spouses. Has that policy sapped Israel’s military might? Its enemies don’t seem eager to test the proposition.

You could argue that none of these experiences is relevant, since, being Americans, we are utterly unique. But our soldiers don’t seem to have any trouble fighting alongside gay soldiers from allied nations.”

Rabbi Steven Wernick, the Executive Vice President and CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has this to say:

“The United States was founded on the principles that all people were created equal. We know that sexual orientation is innate, and it cannot be God’s will to give gay men and lesbians less dignity than God has given the rest of us. We believe strongly, therefore, that every American citizen, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, should have the right to serve our country. And no American citizen should have to lie about the person he or she most loves. The “don’t ask” part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” equation is on target – it is no one’s business, ever. But the “don’t tell” part is a violation of every person’s right to seek love, and the right that Thomas Jefferson affirmed for us, the right to the pursuit of happiness.”

As for the hysterical fear stating if DADT goes away sexual assaults will suddenly become a problem…please! According to Marie Tesser a writer for womensnews,

“Sexual assault remains a pervasive problem for women in the military, including those currently deployed overseas. Experts say the military’s hierarchy is ill-equipped and unprepared to deal fairly with rape complaints.”


According to CBS news,

“Katie Couric asked Michael Dominguez, principal under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, how big a problem sexual assault is in the military.

“Sexual assault injures troops,” he said. “Injures readiness. So regardless of the numbers we have, it is by definition too much.

But how often does it happen?

The Pentagon only started a comprehensive program to track incidents in 2006, and only after Congress mandated it do so.

That year there were 2,974 cases of rape and sexual assault across the services. And of those, only 292 cases resulted in a military trial.

And in 2007 there were even fewer prosecutions.

“Of more than 2,200 servicemen investigated for sexual assault, only 181 were prosecuted?” Couric asked Dominguez.

“Yes, we absolutely have to get better,” he said. “[Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates himself is driving this initiative this year to improve our ability to investigate, to prosecute and convict. This is not where we want to be.”

And in a majority of cases, the punishment doesn’t seem to match the crime. Often most offenders only get a reduction in rank or reduced pay.”

Seems pretty clear to me gay folks are not the sexual problem of the military.

The hysterical right will never admit the TLGBQ folks have been serving in the military all along, standing in harms way as much for them as you and I, spilling their blood for the country they love and have taken an oath to defend…generally suffering in silence, being denied partner benefits and pensions, being forced to lie, hide and sneak around.

Yes, we have been in the military for a long long time. Denny Meyer writes:

“In 2003, at a summer Pride rally in a small park in the heart of New York City, I met an elderly couple who had strolled into the park to see what the festivities were all about. He wore a WWII VET baseball cap and had his arm around his wife’s shoulders. Seeing that I was wearing a veteran’s garrison cap, he asked me what was going on. I told him that it was a Gay Pride rally and that I was handing out leaflets advocating the right of gay people to serve in our armed forces. He nodded and told me that he’d been in the Normandy Invasion and that on that dreadful D-Day, as they stormed the beach under an incessant hail of machinegun fire and artillery, there were five men in his unit that everyone knew were homosexuals. He said, gravely, “The German bullets didn’t discriminate; we all took care of each other and covered each other.”

Our military leaders know our community has served and done it with distinction and true heroism, which is why DADT is so hypocritical especially in a country where we hold dear and the military exists to defend: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The religious and political right in the days ahead will grow even more resolute and hysterical in their fight to stop this “house of cards” from falling. Yet our community will continue to stand firm, continue to defend to the death the right of all people to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We will no longer hide in shameful silence.

We will always point out the hypocrisy of DADT until it is no longer the policy of deceit, hypocrisy and shame with these simple words placed on the gravesite of Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich (1943–1988) who served his country with honor and distinction:

A Gay Vietnam Veteran
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one

We Are the Salt of the Earth…

As I was going through the week it occurred to me that for as much progress as our community has made, our dignity and self-worth still needs some work and reminders of who we are as a people of faith.

I came across this particular reading and I was reminded once again of something we in the TLGBQ Christian community ought to hear again and read again.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by people. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everything in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your God in heaven.”
Matthew 5: 13-16

I have taken a closer look at these words…more specifically the “who” in this setting. I have started asking the question of “whom” was Jesus talking to a lot these days.

To whom were these words aimed?

The religious rights has waged an open war against our community and with their talking points have succeeded in making us a part of the crowd on the hill that day.

Who was sitting on the hillside or in the meadows listening so intently to the words of one who seemed to understand their hurt, their need, and their hunger?

Understanding, the “who” will change the message and its impact. Understanding the “who” can and does effect how we relate to our God and to ourselves.

Listening closely that day were the lepers. These were the people affected by a disease that was not understood and contagious. They were not allowed sanctuary within the mainline tradition of the temple. Instead, they were put off to some far corner of society to fend and make due for themselves.

There were prostitutes, in an act of survival sold themselves to other people so that they would have food to eat. They served a need of the rich, but they too were thought of as the dregs of society.

There were those women who were childless and therefore considered outside the realm of blessing by a God who demanded procreation as that sign of blessing.

There were the poor, who by their lack of money, land or prestige were outcasts in a society that demanded one have these things in order to be heard and to be genuine contributing members of that time.

There were the blind, the deaf, the emotionally distressed, and the physically handicapped. All of who did not measure up to the standards set by the religious leaders to be worthy of God.

There were the outcasts of the society because they were not married. There were those who were not pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough to be considered worthy of the great institution’s care and or concern for their welfare.

Yes, God forbid, there were homosexuals and those who expressed sexuality in ways that no person in their “right” mind would tolerate much less include as a part of the proclaimed good of society.

So has not the loudest and well-financed campaigns against our community made us apart of those who were listening that day.

Is the audience of Jesus’ words really all that different today? I think not!

Are we not a people who are affected by a disease that is in reality little understood, is contagious and thought to be of our own doing a curse by God? Before you object remember there are people in our own community who say AIDS is about our lack of sexual responsibility and promiscuity and therefore we reap what we sow.

Are we not a people who prostitute ourselves to eat and have shelter? Are we not a people who look for the rich, the famous, and the influential to feel good about ourselves? After all we can prostitute ourselves in so many ways aside from sexual encounters.

Are we not accused of not contributing to society through the act procreation? Yet at the same time accused of gathering and influencing children to our “agenda” on one hand and on the other hand denied the ability to give a child a home that is safe and loving?

Are we not a people who are poor? We are not allowed in many cases to get health insurance for our partners. In most states we can’t protect and pass on our property to our loved one without a fight and at the cost of ridiculous sums of money that any state recognized married couple would not have to expend.

Is not our love for each other defined as a perversion and therfore sick?

Even our own community participates in “horizontal violence” from those who hold themselves out as “holy than thou” when we allow certain parts of our community to be thrown under the bus for political expediency.

We are being told we must wait for the elimination of DADT, the passage of ENDA and many other privileges of being an American.

So, yes, the TLGBQ community is sitting on the hillside and listening to the words of Jesus. We are the “who”!

Jesus is speaking to each and every one of us.

Jesus is in fact telling all those people (us), that rather than outcasts and victims we are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world! We are front and center for all to see and celebrate the diversity of creation and life. We are to experience a new day, a new message. We do not have to justify our place in the world.

Salt is a common commodity today and it is relatively inexpensive.

Yet at the time of Jesus it was very costly. In Rome a main road is named “via salaria” or the way of the salt. That name is said to have dated from ancient times when Roman solider could have been paid with salt.

Salt in those times and having access to it was the difference between life and death. Salt was preservative, it kept food from spoiling. It added flavor and zest to that which otherwise was ordinary. Salt gave its recipient character and integrity. Salt was not potential but rather reality.

When Jesus called those persons on the hillside that day “the salt of the Earth” he paid them a high compliment.

Jesus pays us this same high compliment. We are a people who add a spice and a zest to life. By virtue of what and who we are then are preservative of life, that which gives flavor and zest to that which is otherwise ordinary.

Salt by its very nature gives to rather than extracts from. We as TLGBQ people actually add far more to our society more than we detract.

In accepting ourselves we give and contribute to the beauty of creation rather than take from it. Just as salt adds and enhances everything that it touches, so do we.

We have added the beauty of incredible art, expressions of love, expressions of emotion not found anywhere else in our society. We add zest and flavor to life itself. We have even taught the world to die with dignity and grace.

Salt becomes apart of everything that it touches. Despite what some would have you believe… we are everywhere, and we are apart of everything.

We have touched, influenced, and participated in every part of creation. We are a part of the fabric of culture and society. Written laws, massive beatings, or even killings cannot extract us. We are in the DNA of creation.

No biblical interpretation will cause us to go out of existence and I really think this is what gets under the religious zealots skin; they know we are here to stay.

Since we have penetrated life itself, our world is having new discussions around sexuality and gender identity. We are discovering creation is far more expansive and evolving then we ever imagined.

Our world is discovering new ways of looking at relationships, how the roles of men and women in relating to each other are important. How roles within a relationship can be redefined to include and meet the needs of both partners.

Because we have penetrated the world in which we live, there are new ways of defining modes of dress, architecture, honesty and integrity. Oh, yes, friends, we are giving to the world in which we live, not taking from it.

We are the “light of the world!” Jesus tells us to not hide who and what we are, rather let it shine so that all may see.

When we are allowed to talk about our history rather than cover it up, we discover we have had a part in all facets of what we call life…leaders of countries, states and cities. We are the famous and infamous artists, teachers, lawmakers, scientists, and sports figures: the names and the list of accomplishments is endless.

These words of Jesus point out with certainty we are not to be ashamed of who and what we are, thereby living under a basket fearful of discovery. Rather, we are to stand as a bright light so that our world may see clearly that God is diversity, and the acceptance of the diversity will bring about wholeness rather than brokenness.

Salt penetrates and preserves. Light brings sight and penetrates that which is dark.

Yes, we are those on that hillside.

The religious zealots should take note: “We are the salt of the earth”, we are the light of the world.” Nothing they do will change this.

In fact the more they try to remove us, the harder they try to get rid of us the brighter our light will shine and the more zest and spice we will add to this world. My friends never forget who you are. You are “the salt of the earth, the light of the world!”

The Church’s Actual History on Immigration Might Surprise You

I was a little fuzzy as to what I wanted to write about or what thoughts to express in this particular blog. To be honest as a person of faith, who has a strong desire for decency, justice and mercy, I must say the new Arizona law concerning illegals is more then just a little troubling for me.

I have read, extensively opinions on this new law from both the right and left of the political spectrum. The arguments for and against this law range from compelling and thought provoking to ridicules and racist.

Yet when is all said and done, this law disturbs me deeply…not just in the head or the heart but the far reaches of my soul…you know that place where only you and God go.

Even more perplexing to me is, why as an out and proud gay Christian man this law should disturb me so deeply.

Then it hit me, this law was not written to hand out any kind of justice, or extend any kind of mercy. Further this law was not written to prevent crime or to allow the Arizona law enforcement folks to “serve and protect”. No, this law was written out of fear and political opportunism.

Ever since 9-11 our fear of illegal immigrants has reach unprecedented levels of fear. We are now justifying our fear of people and cultures we don’t know or understand by painting with a very wide brush that says if you are not American then you must mean us harm. Of course lost in this is Tim McVey, the “Uni-bomber”, Eric Rudolph, John Wayne Gacy or Charles Speck, all who were white and as American as they come…but I digress.

All this concerns me because this is the same kind of fear used against LGBTQ people and through various laws attempt to control and crush or kill if need be those who don’t live out their lives from the correct biblical perspective and view of the universe.

We have heard all the arguments why “these” people must be contained, captured, and deported without benefit of legal counsel or trial. Why it is justified to destroy families and even kill those coming across the border with very little provocation. These arguments have affected “collateral damage” by making the landscape ripe for “human trafficking and smuggling”. We don’t seem to care about the truck loads of humanity that have died in mass in the desert heat and without water or food.

It is argued first, this is a matter of national security since we don’t know which illegal who simply wants a job and food for his family might be a terrorist sneaking into our country to blow off the very hand which feeds them.

When that argument doesn’t have the desire results the arguments added to the rhetoric is the rise in violent crime, theft, poaching and land destruction (property values). At the same time this is being spewed across the landscape, we hear the cry: “They are taking our jobs”! Further, because of our ridicules drugs laws we have set ourselves up for more collateral damage with an unwinnable “drug war”, which also becomes part of the collar placed on the necks of all illegal’s who well you know are “drug traders”.

Finally when all else fails the argument is made these illegal’s are taxing to the breaking point our health care system. Really? Our “health care system” was pretty screwed up long before out of political expedience it jumped front and center in our “war” on illegals.

Now let me be clear these concerns are things for which we must be aware of and admit at some level as with anything there is good with the bad.

However, all these arguments are being made and exploited without benefit of our faith connection being considered as our starting point for our conversation, questions and concerns.

Rev. Richard Nathan is the pastor of Columbus Vineyard Church and makes two excellent points in two different articles:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a liberal organization, published an extensive report refuting often-cited myths concerning immigration (“Immigration Myths and the Facts Behind the Fallacies,” www.uschamber.com). Despite claims to the contrary, illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year, and do not qualify for or collect public assistance or welfare benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or Section 8 housing.

Furthermore, enforcement-only policies are no solution. Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants is utterly impracticable. Not only would it cost hundreds of billions of dollars ($206 billion over five years, according to the chamber), it would destroy families and communities across the country.

The way forward is clear. We need to secure our borders, crack down on dishonest employers and require illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements, including learning English, working and paying taxes before they earn the chance to become citizens. Such practical reforms would strengthen our economy, serve the interests and honor the ideals of our nation, and provide immigrants with the opportunity to fully join our society.

His second point asks his readers to put on their “biblical spectacles” when confronted with the issue of illegal’s and your “faith response”. I would ask my readers to do the same:

I would hope that Christians would first put on biblical spectacles when approaching the issue of illegal immigration. The biblical Christian would:

1. Begin with the conviction that illegal immigrants are persons made in God’s image and are, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity (Genesis 1:26,28).

2. Appreciate the fact that many of our spiritual ancestors were themselves economic refugees. Thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved from the Promised Land on several occasions in search of food (Genesis 12:10; 26:1; 41:57; 42:6; 43:1-7). The story of Ruth is the story of an immigrant who continually crossed national borders in search of food. Other spiritual ancestors of ours were pushed out of their homeland because of war or persecution (Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, and the baby Jesus). So immigration because of economics, war, and asylum-seeking is not far from every Christian’s own heritage.

3. Specifically apply the Second Commandment to illegal immigrants: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

4. Care for immigrants since they had a central place in the laws and practices of ancient Israel. Israel was commanded to love immigrants because God loves immigrants. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

5. Be hospitable according to New Testament teaching which literally means to “love the stranger” or the alien (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Jesus commanded his followers to welcome people who had no social standing, such as the poor, the sick, and the outsider (Luke 14:12-14).

I am fully aware that these considerations will not solve the challenge of illegal immigration, but it will sure change the discussion from what is now destructive and life ending to something that more closely resembles “doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God”.

As Christians we are encouraged to “cast out all fear and replace it with unconditional love”…so then we must ask ourselves how does the Arizona law promote the love we are suppose to be living, the love we are suppose to be practicing, the love we are suppose to be sharing?

In looking through my copious notes for sermon writing I came across something I had cut out of an article (I am not sure who gets credit for this) and they more then apply here:

One must consider where they stand…how do they love others? Is this love up to the standards set by Christ?

-if you haven’t killed some one-who have you called a fool? What emotion did you pour out upon them when you became angry with them? Whose reputation have you slaughtered by the harsh things you had to say about them?

-If you haven’t committed adultery-and felt good about this-then consider for a moment what you have wanted to do….

-Or consider who holds a grudge against you because of something you did-something for which you have not apologized?

-Or again-what promises and vows have you broken and then justified yourself in doing so?

-When was the last time you criticized immigrants for stealing all the jobs in this country, or expressed your dislike for the person who took the promotion that belonged to you?

Let’s be honest here the whole thing in a nutshell comes down to a prevailing attitude in this country today:

1) We greet those who greet us.

2) We do good to those who do good to us.

3) We lend to those who will pay us back.

4) We welcome those who welcome us.

As for everyone else, well if asked, most people have a reason for what they do and an excuse for what they do not do.

That is the problem with the Arizona Law; it is an excuse for what we have not done.

God have mercy on us all.

YET AGAIN…

Just when I have made a commitment to myself and signed on to Bishop Spong’s manifesto to not discuss or engage in the ridiculous and tiresome debates concerning LGBTQ issues and the religious and or political right when a small town in Mississippi drags me right back into the middle of the fray.

By now I am sure the readers are aware of the incident in Fulton, Mississippi where a high school senior named Constance McMillan wanted to go to the school prom with her girlfriend. When the school district found out about her intentions their stroke of brilliance was to cancel the prom.

“In March, after the Itawamba County School District refused to allow McMillan to bring a female date to the prom, the district canceled the event altogether. McMillan and her lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union challenged that decision in court and a judge ruled the district could not bar McMillan and her date.

The judge declined to force the school district to hold the prom because a parent-sponsored, private prom was being organized — and the understanding was that McMillan and her date were invited to that event. But Hampton says McMillan was never invited and organizers made it very difficult for her to find information on the time and location. That prom was later mysteriously canceled, with the Friday night event at the country club officially replacing it.”
(http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/05/ACLU_Investigating_Fake_Prom/ )

Now this is where the story gets murky and hard to actually confirm anything…however, it appears the good folks of Fulton decided there would be a prom after all…a private affair by invitation only. Now depending how you read the story or who you believe, this prom was either boycotted by the overwhelming majority of students or as Facebook pictures and comments would indicate there was another prom happening on the other side of town which was planned and carried out with the full knowledge of the parents and school officials.

Based on what I have read from the few student names I have picked up here and there through different stories on the web and by the articles printed in the local newspaper for Fulton (http://www.itawamba360.com ), my personal opinion falls to the belief there was a 2nd prom to which Constance along with some other “undesirables” were steered.

So what has my pastoral hairs disturbed?

First, the letters written in response to the story contain the usual southern bravado, “The ACLU” don’t scare us!” This is coupled with letter after letter quoting scripture in one fashion or another screaming about every sexual sin known to creation.

Of course these letters failed to mention the sin of “inhospitality” on the part of the school and town folks in general.

Further, I cannot find words strong enough to express my utter disgust and shame over this whole episode. Adults who apparently have an unhealthy dose of sexual insecurity revert back to behaviors popular in the 1950’s and date back to Augustine’s time.

The extraordinary fear of homosexuals and the theological arrogance in this behavior makes one wonder if we truly have moved into the 21st century.

Even more, this shows just how fundamentally flawed the whole damn issue around LGBTQ folks really is.

People in the LGBTQ community have to fight for full and legal recognition of their relationships, job protection, and safety from being hunted down like animals and killed. We have to fight for the ability to be contributing members of society, to serve our country or just live in peace.

We have to fight to visit our partner in the hospital, get health insurance for our partner, or pass on our property to whom and where we want too.

To make matters worse we are told that because of whom we love, we don’t meet biblical standards for being included equally in God’s creation. Yet when these same biblical standards are applied to these zealots the hypocrisy could not be more obvious.

Finally, anybody with more then a 6th grade education knows to claim the Bible, as the inerrant word of God is as ridicules as it is foolhardy. I am sorry if I offend people’s faith here, but God and the Holy Spirit did not go out of business 2,000 years ago.

Hey wait a second…let’s take the Bible at its word…let’s suppose for a moment we have an exact quote from Jesus. Let us suppose there is a heaven or a burning hell for which people are heading. Let us suppose God is going to sit in judgment and one by one will decide who is in and who is out.

How will God make the determination? By what standard will we be held accountable? In the very words of Jesus here is the answer.

31″When the Son of Humanity comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34″Then the Sovereign will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Creator; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The Sovereign will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and the devil’s angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25 (New International Version)

I wonder how canceling a high school prom fits into this. I wonder where teaching the kids of Fulton to lie and deceive fits into these words of Jesus?

I will make a deal with all the traditionalists, fundamentalists, conservative family value folks. When y’all begin spending your time, energy and resources living up to God’s agenda for who is in and who is out as stated by Jesus, then and only then can we talk about homosexuals and how we are supposedly destroying the world. It seems to me going to a high school prom with someone of the same gender is the least of the problems with the coming judgment.

A Day in the Life of a Street Pastor

I get asked a lot what my day is like — as in, “Pastor, just what is it that you do all day?”  And honestly, most of my days are spent living out the words of Matthew 25:31-40.  I know for some this might sound hokey, but it is truly what I spend most of my time doing. So, I want to share with you the story of Kurt [not his real name], a young man who came to my attention after he found himself in a local jail after an accidental brush with the law. By the time I got to the jail, I had been told that Kurt had just been casually informed by a jail employee that the “mandatory intake blood work” revealed Kurt to be HIV-positive.  Then they had tossed him into his cell to be alone with this new knowledge.  So he was alone in his cell with the agony of knowing his life now had a terrible and awful stigma attached to it. When I met with Kurt I could tell that in his eyes, his world was crumbling.  He believed that when he left the jail he’d have nowhere to live, no job, and a new medical condition that he didn’t know the first thing about.  When I walked into the visitation area, I could also see in Kurt’s eyes that he thought I had come to preach to him. But that’s not my style.  I let Kurt tell me his story, and I comforted him.  As he shared his story, I listened.  Sometimes he would stop and look at me as if to say, “This is where it really gets bad; this is where I really messed up.”  And I would tell him, “Go on — there is nothing you are saying or telling me that would cause me to walk away.” When he finished, I suggested to him that he was not any different from the prodigal son Luke 15:11-32.  I shared with him he was a child of God, and that this jail time and new medical stuff was not the end but could in fact be a wonderful new beginning.  I invited him to come by the church office when he got released so we could see about getting him a job, a place to live and some referrals for his medical challenge.  A few days later we were in my office, and I walked him over to a local restaurant where he got an interview and a job.  The connections were made for him to get proper medical treatment, and the hunt for housing is underway. Almost every week I meet someone like Kurt.  Someone who’s just lost something — or maybe everything.  And every week I try to help them get it back.  In the last few months, our church and the friends of Gentle Spirit Christian Church have helped three people find housing, five people find jobs, and one person overcome an almost lifelong addiction. I wish I could say this was an occasional happening, but it is not.  Every day there is someone who needs to be fed (with either food or affirmation), someone who needs clothing, someone who needs a drink (of either water or spiritual nourishment), someone who needs a visit at their home, hospital, hospice or jail, someone who needs an advocate, someone who needs a friend. I used to think all this stuff was for someone else to do, some agency or community group…  But the message of Matthew 25:31-40 says clearly that it is my job, it is our job, and everything else is secondary.  In other words, do these things and everything else will be fine.  And you know, today as I think about Kurt, I wouldn’t have it any other way. God bless, Pastor Paul

An independent, affirming and progressive church serving metro Atlanta. We are open, positive and inclusive.