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Vows

In just a couple short weeks on the 4th of July Kent and I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage.
I will turn 43 right before our anniversary so if you do the math you will quickly figure out that I had JUST turned 18 when we got married. On the 30th of this month we will be heading to Puerto Vallarta with both sets of our parents and our amazing friends to celebrate our anniversary and renew our vows. This is where you come in on the story. When we got married in 1987 writing your own vows was not the phenomenon that it is today (and frankly I was a little clueless on how to really plan a wedding) so we said the vows that were laid out in the little book our officiant used. Our wedding was at noon on the fourth of July and the whole wedding party wore white (If you think of Adam Sandler in the wedding singer you are probably kind of close). It was beautiful and I was thrilled.

I had no idea what the next 25 years would hold, but I knew one thing on that hot day in Moreno Valley, CA, I loved Kent with all my heart and I intended to be with him forever. Everything I knew at that point about marriage I had learned from my parents and grandparents and I had amazing examples. I can tell you though, watching someone else be married and being married are two completely different things. I had no way of fully knowing the amazing, powerful, difficult, glorious, challenging relationship that is marriage until after that day and I am still learning more all the time.

So wow, vows. Yeah.

I have been thinking about them ever since we decided we wanted to take this trip and renew our vows standing on the beach. I have thought and thought and have written n o t h i n g.

Yet.

My struggle is how exactly to put into words all that it means to me to be married to Kent? How do I sum up in feeble speech this spectacular, insane, beautiful ride that has been our life? What can I say to make him understand how I feel about him? It sounds so cheesy but I sometimes wonder if he really gets it.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our oil and water moments. (Let me tell you, being married to me isn’t easy for someone who likes order and organization.) I hate schedules, have messy zones, say yes to too much and live life by the seat of my pants (translation: I am fun to be around but I have a tendency to forget things). Kent is also ridiculously busy and spontaneous but as a general rule he is much more organized than I am (thank God).  Part of our biggest issue is, as we like to say, neither of us makes a good secretary. But I will tell you this. There is no one I would rather spend time with or that I trust and admire more. Kent helps me be my best self.

Kent is the kind of man I want our daughter to marry. It is not because he is perfect. He is not. He knows he is not. It is because though he is the same person I married he has changed in ways I never would have imagined or even known were possible in 1987. Together we have grown through workshops, college, faith communities and just plain living to question what we believe to be true and look at how we come across to others and adjust and shift. I have watched him in the last 25 years become more loving, more accepting, more humble and more wise.

His support of me and my writing this blog blows my mind. He never asked to be part of what was happening here and honestly I didn’t even know what was going to happen when I started Word of a Woman on a whim at the end of last year. But his grace under fire and his defense of me to friends who think I have lost my marbles give me strength to keep going when I feel like writing people off and hanging it up.

Over the years we have moved out of a church home in the dead of night, worked crappy jobs, moved hither and yon, had both our cars die on the same night, lost people we loved, watched our friends get divorced, dropped out of school, had health scares and hurt each other. But we have also made beautiful babies, finished college, drilled wells in El Salvador, lived in San Francisco and New York, driven cross country, danced, stayed up all night, been to Disney World, made love on a private balcony, given away more than one car, planted a church, written a song, made life long friends and grown together.

The last 25 years were more than I bargained for bad and good, but I chose the right partner to share the ride with me and I will happily spend the rest of eternity with him. As a good friend of ours used to say about her husband, “I just can’t imagine my life without Pat Powell!”. Kent and I actually say this exact thing to each other when there are no other words to express how we feel. I know it sounds weird but I think the Powell’s would love that wherever they are. (mental note:scour facebook and find Pat and Mary Powell)

I know what you are thinking, “there you go, you just wrote the vows!” Not quite, but I think I have a good idea where to start now. Thanks for helping me figure it out. I’ll tell you what my lovelies, when we get back from PV I will write another post about our little beach ceremony and share the finished vows with you. In the mean time. Live together and love each other deeply from the heart.

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God and Homosexuality: Part 2

Genesis Chapter 19
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earthand said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.”But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

This passage is one of the passages most often used to condemn homosexuality. If you read the passage through you will notice that it says “the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.” Think about that, young and old to the last man. In San Francisco, almost 20% of the males over 15 years old gay. Are we to believe that 100% of the males over 15 years old in Sodom were gay? Hold that thought. Now think about this, Lot knows people in this crowd, he lives in this town. If these men (and boys) were all homosexuals why did Lot offer them his daughters? If you wanted to appease a crowd made up entirely of homosexual men would you try to appease them with the offer of sex with beautiful women? It doesn’t seem plausible.

Ok, so if the sin of Sodom is not homosexuality what is it?

Perhaps mob violence and the mistreatment and rape of those most vulnerable, in this case, strangers. I have been reading a book called “The Children are Free” by Rev. Jeff Miner and Rev. John Connoley. They use a rather brutal example to illustrate their point; in 1997 two white police officers used a broomstick to sodomize a Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima. While they perpetrated their violent act they yelled things like “We’re gonna teach you n****rs to respect police officers!” No one accused these officers of being homosexual. People understood that the assault was motivated by hate and fear. There is “no better way to demean and humiliate an enemy than to sexually violate them.”

Archeologists and historians teach us that it was common practice in the Near Eastern cultures of ancient times to use homosexual rape to humiliate and subdue conquered enemies.  This brutality was not motivated by homosexual desire but rather hate and the desire to humiliate.

This practice is still carried out among the prison population and even in the Abu Ghraib torture and humiliation of prisoners.

In The Children are Free the authors ask this simple question:

Suppose the two angels in the story had been women, but the story otherwise unfolded exactly the same: The men of Sodom clamored to have sex with the two female angels and God destroyed the city. Do you think anyone would conclude this story was a blanket condemnation of heterosexuality?  Of course not! Instead we would conclude (correctly) that the wickedness of Sodom was shown by their desire to sexually violate two strangers in their midst.

Good point isn’t it? We often say that rape isn’t about sex or sexual desire but power and violence. It doesn’t change whether the rape is homosexual or heterosexual in nature.

None of the almost 20 references to the city of Sodom in the scriptures mention homosexuality. In Ezekiel 16:49-50 it says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” Why then do we assume Genesis 19 is about homosexuality? If it is about anything close, it could be called a condemnation of homosexual rape; however, I think the assertion that it is a condemnation of violence and mistreatment of those most vulnerable is most accurate.

Jesus also references Sodom and Gomorrah, where he warns those who do not receive them peacefully will be judged more harshly than those of Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10:5-15.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.  Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

According to The Real Meaning of Sodomy by Nick Gier, Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho:

the Wisdom of Solomon says that they “refused to receive strangers when they came to them” (19:14). On the other hand, and early Christian book 1 Clement states that Lot was saved “because of his hospitality and piety” (11:11).

He also points out that it is significant that in the Leviticus passages that we covered last Monday, it does not mention the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Miner and Connoley also make this brilliant observation:

It is ironic that the story of Sodom is now used by Christians to justify the hatred toward another vulnerable group – gay people.

It is also interesting to note that several of the leading voices in theology on the anti-gay marriage side of the conversation agree that this passage should not be used as a proof text against consensual marital homosexual intercourse. I found this list on gaychristian101

Dr Richard Hayes is a well-known evangelical author. He wrote The Moral Vision Of The New Testament,in which he defends the anti-gay viewpoint. Yet in spite of the fact that he regards all gay relationships as sinful, Dr. Hayes admits that:

the Sodom story “is actually irrelevant to the topic.” [of homosexuality].

According to Dr. Hayes, the attempted gang rape in Genesis 19 shows the depravity of the Canaanite people who lived in the cities of the plain but:

“there is nothing in the passage pertinent to a judgment about the morality of consensual homosexual intercourse.”

(From Dr. Richard Hayes, in an article entitled, “Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies”).

Dr. Robert Gagnon, of Pittsburg Theological Seminaryand perhaps the most prominent anti-gay author today, admits the same thing in The Bible And Homosexual Practice

Although he too believes all gay relationships are sinful, on page 71 of his book, Dr. Gagnon tells us,

The Sodom story in Genesis 19 is usually viewed by modern Christians, as the classic Bible story about homosexuality. However, to the extent that the story does not deal directly with consensual homosexual relationships, it is not an “ideal” text to guide contemporary Christian sexual ethics.

Dr. Mark Allan Powell, of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH expresses a similar view. Writing on page 23 of the book, Faithful Conversation – Christian Perspectives On Homosexuality,Dr. Powell says concerning the rape stories in Genesis 19 and Judges 19:

“Such stories reflect a mindset that regards the rape of men by other men as abhorrent, but with regard to current questions concerning homosexuality, these texts have little to offer. The stories speak only of the sin of homosexual rape and say nothing at all about consensual relations between persons of the same sex.”

Dr. William Brownlee, 1917-1983, of Claremont Graduate University, Claremont CA, an internationally renowned expert on the Hebrew language and the Dead Sea Scrollssaid about the Sodom story:

“The oppression of the stranger is the basic element of Genesis 19:1-9 [and] ‘sodomy’ in Genesis is basically oppression of the weak and helpless.”

Bob Davies, Former Executive Director of Exodus International, the largest Ex-Gay group in the world, in his book Coming Out Of Homosexuality, published in 1993.

“Pro-gay theologians are correct in saying that this passage [Genesis 19] does not provide a strong argument [for] prohibiting all homosexual acts.”

It is remarkable that one of the most theologically conservative national leaders of the largest Ex-Gay group on earth openly admits that the S@dom story does not provide a strong argument for prohibiting all homosexual acts.

Many scholars make the point that this is the first mention of any type of homosexuality in the scriptures and that it is featured in a violent and sin-filled story. While this is true, I believe that the foregoing analysis confirms one thing:  The story of Sodom and Gomorrah clearly has no significant bearing on whether or not God blesses consensual, marital, homosexual intercourse.

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