It Isn’t Power. It’s Fear.

This morning my friend Sheryl LeSage posted that if she had a blog she would write a post today. I was so moved by what she had to say that I asked her if I could share it with you all here. It is a powerful and important message.

It isn’t power. It’s fear.

If I had a blog, today I would make a couple of points. People in the US like to point out that GLBT people and women don’t have it so bad here–after all, they say, “you people are executed/raped/murdered/outlawed in Iran/Sudan/Russia/Uganda,” by which they seem to imply that we should stop whining about whatever protections we don’t yet have here.

Those same people–Mike Huckabee, for instance–say that gay people in particular “already have too much power,” by which I believe they mean “are not all in prison, or the closet, or dead.” The Huckabees and O’Reillys and Limbaughs and Pences of the world feel as if they are backed into a corner and might have to start treating some of us as if were fully-equal human beings.

But I can’t quit thinking about that too-common statement, “women/gays need to shut up about not having enough ‘rights’ here, because in Iran you’d be dead.”

Do you all not understand how we hear that? We hear it as a threat. We see you ALIGNING YOURSELF with the people in those places. And we are not imagining this: Evangelical Christians applauded the American “Christian” who helped craft the law in Uganda that calls for the execution of gay people simply for being gay.

When you roll your eyes and suggest that we could certainly have it a lot worse, and then you support a law that attempts to make things a lot worse for us–and THEN you cry foul when your hero-governor alters the law so that it keeps you from treating us–and no one else–as second class citizens, we see that you AGREE WITH THE LAWS OF IRAN or SOMALIA or UGANDA or RUSSIA.

And we don’t feel powerful. We feel afraid in our own homes. And that is not a new fear for us. We can still be fired for being who we are in many states. And unlike American Christians, many of us personally understand and feel that fear every day; it isn’t theoretical. We are only just now discovering what it feels like to be almost-protected by the laws of our own country, and the smug, comfortable “Christians” in many states are trying to rescind those protections.

So, do we know how people like us are treated in other countries? Damn right we do. And it would be nice if some Americans were not appearing to champion those policies or bring them here.

Popularity Contest: Gays vs. Evangelicals

Jesus-delivering-Pizza-46018742574Every once in a while as I’m flipping through my radio dial I stumble upon the Dennis Prager show. Today was one of those days. It was the “Happiness Hour”. Today Dennis theorized that, “You control how people see you.” If that’s true. I would like to know how evangelical Christians explain the latest poll that shows that gay people are seen in a more favorable light that evangelicals. An 11 point more favorable light to be exact.

Dennis of course was using this statement to say that you will be happier if others aren’t focused on what is different about you but rather on who you are. Just be yourself and don’t identify primarily as your minority group, disability, or some specific fact about yourself; i.e. a person who lost a child, widower etc.  What I don’t understand about that is if I am being myself how can I not identify as a woman? I am a woman. How can I not identify as someone who is short, or in their 40s, or a mom, or from Ohio? How is a black person not supposed to identify as black? And why would they want to? I just don’t get it.  Even if I don’t lead with these items, they are an inexorable part of who I am. The sum total of them is my identity.

But enough of that. Let’s get back to who is more popular gays or evangelicals? According to US News and World Report and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research:

In it, 53 percent of respondents held a favorable view of gay people, while 42 percent held a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the likely voters surveyed held an unfavorable view of gay people, while 28 percent held a negative view of evangelical Christians. Interestingly, the popularity of evangelical Christians mirrors the favorables and unfavorables of gay people in 2011, when 40 percent of those polled felt positively about gays and lesbians and 25 percent held a negative view. There was no comparison polling released on how the electorate felt about evangelicals three years before.

The poll goes on to reveal that:

…on average, about one-third of identified Republicans, Republican primary voters, conservatives and Mitt Romney voters, favor gay marriage. Younger members of the Republican base are driving that trend. When evangelicals, for instance, were asked if they favored or opposed gay marriage, only 19 percent of those older than 50 favored same-sex unions, but 45 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old set did.

In my humble opinion, if Evangelicals really do control how others experience them, if they really can choose what others focus on about them, they might want to get busy with loving their neighbors as themselves and stop worrying so much about whether they have to bake a gay wedding cake or even a gay wedding pizza.

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Of RFRA laws, lunch counters and turning tides.

gay-waterfountains-660x350-1413528166Separate but equal is not equal at all. Separate never was and can never actually be equal. Equality by definition is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities”. A conservative friend of mine posted an article today that asserted that there are plenty of other businesses perfectly willing to bake the cake or spin the tunes or arrange the flowers at a same-sex ceremony, why do folks like me want to tell them they have to. Or better yet, why would a LGBT person want to have a cake made by a baker that didn’t want to make it? Good question. Perhaps we should ask the young men from the Greensboro lunch counter why they would want a sandwich made by a person who didn’t want to make them one. Wouldn’t they rather have a nice sandwich made by someone who wants to make it? Seriously, why are separate water fountains so bad? You’re still getting water. I mean why can’t these people just go to a nice “gay” cake shop, buy a nice “gay” cake and leave me the hell alone? Sigh.

How can we as Americans (of any religion) think refusing service based on nothing more than who the client loves is okay? We do not allow this when it comes to interracial couples. At least not anymore. Why do you suppose that is? Right. The Supreme Court. Up until the Loving vs. Virginia ruling the United States allowed discrimination against interracial couples based solely on the fact that many Christians thought race mixing was a sin. Interracial marriage was illegal and interracial were forced to live without the benefits of marriage. They were also frequently discriminated against simply because the person they loved was of a different race. Now, of course, the vast majority of us realize that was not okay. Why? Right. Because laws! (You are really getting the hang of this) Once the law was overturned and interracial marriages were allowed to go forward public opinion slowly began changing, time passed and people realized how wrong it had been to have outlawed it in the first place. Especially younger people. Interestingly enough in a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that millennials now find homosexual sex between adults more morally acceptable than casual sex. And according to a Pew Research poll support for same-sex marriage is also at an all-time high of 67% among 18-32-year-olds. The tide is turning.

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If we begin allowing businesses to discriminate based on the owner’s idea of who is a sinner not worthy of cake (or flowers, or photos or tunes) where will it end? Can my local conservative Muslim-owned dry cleaner refuse to serve me as an unaccompanied woman? Can I, as the owner of a diner not allow black people to eat at my lunch counter? Can a Palestinian born business owner refuse to sell their goods or services to a Jewish person or vice versa? Can my Catholic pharmacist refuse to fill my prescription for birth control pills? Is that really the America we want to live in? I hope not. The America I love doesn’t put up with that crap. Are there still people in the United States who discriminate? You bet. Way. Too. Many. But what do our laws say these folks have to do when a person they disagree with comes into their place of business? Does the law demand they change their beliefs? Nope. Does the law require them to love the person? Nope. Does the law state they must agree 100% with that person about the nature of sin? Nope. The law just requires them to keep all that shit to themselves and bake them a fracking cake or sell them curtains, or paint the nursery for their new baby. If you disagree with how the person you are serving lives their life that’s your issue, not the person coming into your business to buy what you are selling.

anti-gay lobbyists

Alright, now I want to talk directly to the Christian folks and Anti-gay lobbyists who are the ones really pushing these laws forward. Do you really think Jesus would refuse to serve “sinners”?  Is that really the Jesus you serve? Personally, I think Jesus is quite disgusted that his name is being used to refuse to serve others. I cannot recall Jesus ever saying a damn thing about refusing to serve ANYONE. In fact, I am pretty sure he said the exact opposite. Wait here. I will get you an example…
Ah, here we go, Matt 10:42-45:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of ALL [emphasis added]. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

It is too bad that it will likely take a change in the laws of the United States to help conservative Christians see that they are at odds with the God they claim to follow and that it is time to actually serve everyone. Just like Jesus.

Of boys and girls (good and rotten) and climbing trees.

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Quote by Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy

I have seen this meme posted a bunch in the last week and I finally decided to say something. I understand what they are going for: if you are a “good” girl don’t worry if boys are not interested in you. The right one will do the hard work it takes to climb to the top of the tree for a “good” apple, I mean girl. How many ways are there to dislike this meme?  I think this meme sells both young women and young men short. It feels over simplistic and trite. It feeds into the notion that some girls are “good” and some are “rotten”, some are valuable and some are not. Their goodness to rottenness is presumably determined by how high on the tree a boy (boys are neither good nor rotten you should note just brave or not brave enough) In this meme a girl’s value or goodness is confirmed by the fact that most boys are too intimidated by her “goodness”, but the right, brave boy will risk everything to “climb the tree” to get her. (Whatever that means)

What a pile of horseshit.

So girls in this analogy are objects to be taken, rewards for bravery and either “good” and worth pursuing or “rotten and easy” rather than complex individuals who have worth and value whether or not they have made all the right choices. Interestingly the “rotten” girls are referred to as “easy”. Easy is often used to imply that a girl is sexually promiscuous i.e. damaged goods. Certainly not worth climbing a tree for. What about boys who are easy? Are they rotten or are they just doing what boys do? **eye roll**

[I find it fascinating that he chose to imply that the girls place themselves in one camp or the other by virtue of their choices and actions. And that those actions determine whether they are good apples or rotten apples. But in reality he is the one either placing girls at the top of the tree (the Madonnas) or on the ground (the whores) based on whether or not the boys will risk getting hurt and climbing the tree for them. The Madonna/Whore complex is a thing btw. It is when a man can no longer see a woman as a whole person. She is rather completely classified by her sexual status. In this rubric women are one or the other, either the non-sexual feminine ideal (the Madonna) or the oversexualized sensual woman (the whore). The man in this instance cannot love the whore because he finds her morally lacking even though he wants to sleep with her and he cannot be sexually attracted to the Madonna, because that would turn her into the whore. Thus, girls are no longer seen as complex whole persons but rather they are defined by how they are perceived by men. In sexual politics, this way of classifying women as either Madonnas or whores limits women’s sexual expression, offering two mutually exclusive ways to form their sexual identity. This is totally unhealthy for both men and women and when we teach it as a sanitized morality play to boys and girls we do them a huge and damaging disservice.]

Funny, he says the “good” girls just need to be patient and wait for a brave boy who is willing to climb the tree to the top for them. Forget about whether or not the girls they have judged as being “rotten” and “easy” are actually awesome too. Or whether or not the ones they have judged as “good” and worthy are actually either. “Good” girls he says should wait for a boy to give them validation and approval. Thanks, but no thanks. Instead, perhaps we should teach ALL the girls that they are not some boy’s prize for being brave and not slumming it with a “rotten” girl. They are not an object to be possessed. Their value is not determined by whether boys think they are “good” or “rotten” but rather on the fact that they bear the image of God him/herself. Perhaps we should teach the girls not to compare themselves to each other and judge one another. Perhaps we should teach the girls to love themselves and each other.

It matters little what decisions the boy in this story has made. He is neither good nor rotten in this story. He is either afraid of being hurt (And who can blame him “good” girls are SO much work. One must be brave. One must climb to the very top of the tree!) or he is super brave. That “good” girl should be so grateful that he was willing to work so hard to pick her from the tree. But perhaps the biggest problem with the boys in this little morality play is that they are all judgmental, narrow-minded little jerks who alone get to decide which girls are worthy and which girls are easy. Thank God not all men are like this.

The Yoke and If I Had a Hammer

A couple months ago I was approached by Fr. Larry Woodsmall about writing an article for his online quarterly publication called The Yoke.

The Yoke’s self-proclaimed mission is to:

1. proclaim good news to the poor.
2. proclaim freedom for the prisoners
3. recovery of sight for the blind,
4. set the oppressed free,
5. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

As members of the YOKE, a trans-denominational organization, we are fortunate to worship with a variety of groups. One Sunday may be spent at a rural Conservative Mennonite church, the next at a Baptist church, then attend a Roman Catholic mass, a Lutheran service, Quaker meeting house, visit our Pentecostal friends, or conduct our own worship on Church Street in Iowa City.

We believe in one church, which is the body of Christ. But we also believe that “salt must maintain it’s saltiness” for each limb and organ to function as it is destined by the Father. We must recognize our commonality in Christ, while having the grace to not condemn for our human differences and failings.

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After getting to know Larry and reading about their vision for this publication, I agreed to contribute to the Spring 2015 issue. Here is an excerpt from my article, If I Had a Hammer:

A practical way we can tear down our dividing lines is by spending time with people who are different than we are in some way. When we spend time living life together, learning about each other and listening to each other’s stories, we discover all the things that connect us. We must lay aside our judgments and learn to love one another, forgive one another, and begin to realize that none of us has it all together. We are all connected and the sooner we realize that the better off we will all be.

I would be honored if you would slide on over to The Yoke and check out my article there. 

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 48,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Euthanasia: Life and Death in Ohio -or- Why is my grandmother shown less mercy than my pet?

FullSizeRender (3)That lady on the left is my beautiful, strong, independent, tough and loving Grandma, Doris Morr (the handsome guy on the right is my Grandpa but that is a story for another day). Once upon a time she was quite a force to be reckoned with. She took joy in the small things: homegrown vegetables, a good game of cards with friends, family gatherings and cookies for breakfast! She was amazing and generous and taught me a lot about life and living well. It was a priviledge to know her and to be loved by her.

So it pains me to tell you my lovelies, that as we sit here chatting, my Grandmother is slowly dying in hospice. Let’s be honest, she has been slowly dying for several years now. And my question to you is, how is this the humane or right thing to do? And please, don’t give me some platitude about playing God. We crossed that bridge a long freaking time ago when we started performing surgery and taking antibiotics. I mean, we transplant organs, install defibrillators on airplanes, and a million other things. Hell, we even purify our water, pasteurize our milk, and use refrigeration in our efforts to cheat death. Sorry, we decided to cheat death a long time ago. Why the hell do we have such a hard time cheating life just a little bit?

More to the point, why am I allowed to end the suffering of my beloved pet but not my much, much, MUCH more beloved Grandmother? Why must she continue to suffer when no one I know would make their pet suffer even half as much for a few days? My Grandmother has been suffering for years. And even as I sit here waiting on the news that she has passed, I am praying that it will come sooner rather than later. Honestly, I will find her death a not so merciful relief.  In the dictionary we define mercy as, “compassion shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to harm.” In her case, (and millions of others) rather than show compassion we have opted to continue doing her harm, day after day, month after month and year after year. Think about it, we think it is okay to stop giving her all medications besides those for pain. We think it is okay to stop giving her food and water. We will give her enough pain meds to keep her out of pain and in la-la land but not enough to end her pain for good. We will allow her to; nay, we will make sure she dies a slow (hopefully pain free) death, after having helped her to continue living for years in a miserable state. Why?

Why do we continue to deceive ourselves into thinking anyone wants to or needs to live this way? What kind of twisted logic must we use? Where is our humanity?

Listen, I do not and will not lay the blame for this on anyone; not the doctors, not the nurses, not hospice, not lawmakers, and certainly not the family. After all, no one besides the patient suffers like the family does in these situations. What I will do, however, is call on all of us to embrace mercy, compassion, and empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of my beloved Grandma, Doris Morr. Is that how you want to go out? Slowly starving to death after spending years in a nursing home unable to care for your own basic needs? I ask you again, is that how you want to go out? I sure as hell don’t. It is too late for my grandma, but for the love of she and all of our loved ones and even ourselves, can we please change the system? The one we have now sucks.