Let me count the 1,138 ways

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Yesterday I was asked this question on Facebook by a single, straight, male acquaintance…

Michelle, tell me where I currently have any more freedom than a random gay couple?

Yes straight dude, you do have more freedom than a random gay couple. In honor of DOMA Day and the Supremes, let me count the ways… by the way, there are 1138 of them at the federal level and many more at the state level. Here are a few…

You are more free to marry whom you love and enjoy the same benefits, rights and responsibilities of that union under the law.

Your surviving spouse (since you are a working American) is eligible to receive Social Security payments should you die and you are eligible to receive those payments should you die.

You surviving spouse who is caring for your minor child is also eligible for an additional support payment and vice versa.

Notice…a lesbian couple who contributes an equal amount to Social Security over their lifetime as a married couple would receive drastically unequal benefits, as set forth below.

Family Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits (quoted from http://hrc.org/resources/entry/an-overview-of-federal-rights-and-protections-granted-to-married-couples)

  • Family #1: Married husband and wife, both are biological parents of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #2: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was the biological parent or adoptive of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #3: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was not the biological parent nor able to adopt child through second-parent adoption
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

Your future spouse’s medical contribution is made pretax.  However, an employer’s contribution for a domestic partner’s coverage, is included in the employee’s taxable income as a fringe benefit.

Should you have a child, you would be eligible for an earned income tax credit calculated in part based on the number of qualifying children you have. Gay couples can be disadvantaged by this if the biological parent stays at home or earns less than their partner, since they must file separately the family is ineligible for the adjustment in the EITC and therefore has less income to devote to raising the child.

You are eligible to be recognized as the “head-of-household” for an increased standard deduction which provides you with increased funds to care for your future dependents.  Thus, a gay or lesbian parent who supports his or her partner’s child (and who is ineligible in their state to adopt the child) has less income with which to support the child(ren).

If you meet income eligibility requirements you are entitled to a credit against taxes for qualifying children in your household.   This provision limits the child tax credit to children who meet the relationship test set forth in the earned income tax provisions, § 32(c)(3)(B) which do not include children of a taxpayer’s domestic partner if they are not related to the taxpayer biologically or through adoption. Again, less cash to help take care of the family.

As pointed out in the aforementioned article from  Marriage Equality USA,

All three of these inequities have the effect of penalizing families who choose to have one parent in the work force and the other caring for the children full-time.   In addition, they disadvantage such couples and their children by limiting the choice of which parent will be a full-time caregiver.  Although similarly situated married couples may choose which parent will fulfill that role without consequence, lesbian and gay couples, as well as other unmarried couples, face negative tax consequences for the same decision.

You may exclude up to $250,000 of profit due to the sale of your personal principal residence from taxable income.   If you should get married and file jointly you may exclude up to $500,000 on the sale of your home.  Lesbian and gay couples marriages are not recognized by the federal government and therefore cannot file jointly, are therefore taxed unfairly on all gain above $250,000.

Your surviving spouse is exempt from estate taxes transferred from your estate upon your death. For same-sex couples, this exemption is not available, creating another unequal tax.

Your surviving spouse may transfer plan benefits to an IRA or a retirement plan in which he or she is a participant upon inheritance.  This is important because  it allows your surviving spouse to defer taxation of the proceeds, perhaps even until she is in a lower tax bracket; and because it protects your spouse from being forced to withdraw from an investment program when its value is down.  Because gay and lesbian couples are treated the same as strangers under federal tax and pension law, they may not transfer plan benefits without incurring significant penalties, and cannot withdraw funds when they choose.

Jim and Stan have been in a committed relationship for over 15 years.   They are registered as domestic partners in Washington, D.C..  They have taken every legal step available to formalize their relationship and protect themselves, legally and financially.  Jim participated in his employer’s 401(k) plan, naming Stan as the primary beneficiary.  Stan purchased an IRA.  While driving to his job, Jim is killed in a car accident.  Stan does not have the option to transfer Jim’s 401(k) funds into his existing IRA because, under current law, only a “spouse” may roll over 401(k) and/or inherited IRA upon the death of a plan participant.  Stan must then take the entire proceeds of the inherited 401(k) in a lump sum and pay taxes on them immediately (at a much higher rate) rather than rolling it over tax free into his own name as a surviving spouse can do.

You are guaranteed family and medical leave to care for parents, children or your spouse.   This law does not provide leave to care for a domestic partner or the domestic partner’s family member.

If you should happen to find a wife who is currently not a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to petition for her to immigrate. (Approximately 75% of the one million green cards or immigrant visas issued each year are granted to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents).  Under current immigration law domestic partners are not eligible to immigrate as family.  Thousands of lesbian and gay couples are forced to separate under this law or live in constant fear of deportation.  In some cases, they even face prosecution by INS. Fifteen countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom recognize lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of immigration.

According to the Government Accountability Office Report, marital status affects over 270 provisions dealing with current and retired federal employees, members of the Armed Forces, elected officials, and judges.   Under current law, domestic partners of federal employees are excluded from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Which you and your spouse would be eligible for).  Although married couples are eligible for reimbursement for expenses, expenses incurred by a domestic partner are not.   As of August 2003, nine states and the District of Columbia and 322 local governments offer health benefits to the domestic partners of their public employees, while the federal government does not.

You and your future spouse are eligible for COBRA benefits.  An increasing number of employers, including 198 of the Fortune 500, now offer their employees domestic partner benefits.  However, the Federal COBRA law does not require employers to provide extended coverage for domestic partners like it does married couples.  Under 29 U.S.C. § 1167, an employer is only required to offer continuation coverage to the employee and to “qualified beneficiaries,” which are defined as the employee’s spouse and dependent children, regardless of whether the employee’s original benefits plan covered other people (read their domestic partner).  Because of the narrow definition of “spouse” under federal law, employees are not guaranteed continued coverage for their domestic partners.

There is one more thing I would like to point out. DOMA defines marriage as: “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and spouse as: ” a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”. In her post today entitled, “One Man, One Woman”… Really?, Anya Cordell discusses how this definition breaks down when discussing the reality of human sexuality.

Yes, there are those who apparently neatly fit in these two categories; those with the requisite anatomies, who do not chafe at being the gender with which they are identified.

But overarching laws, policies, practices, and customs should be fair and just for all, not just for a proportion of a population. Such justice is what law is designed to protect.

The fact is, biologically and scientifically, that gender identity exists on a continuum, which is imprecise and indefinable, as opposed to two perfectly distinct categories into which every human can be assigned, and the discussion can be shut down…

We must, therefore, question this notion that “man” and “woman” are perfectly valid legal designations for humans, any more than configuration or color are allowed — any longer — to classify anyone as not fully, legally, human.

Why does not this issue, alone, put an end to the discussion of marriage equality, under the law, and even under religious institutions? Should religions blithely dismiss a percentage of humans, (those who are intersex, as the clearest example), from having the rights to love another, and form the bonds of family life? When religions make decrees and proclamations in terms of “male” and “female”, it is inconvenient when gender is not clear cut, but mustn’t the essential question, “Who is human?”, override “Who is a man or a woman?” If religions cannot grapple with such an appropriate question, then how valid can we hold such religions? (Convention alone cannot hold sway; science pushed even religions to eventually acknowledge the world is not flat; the sun does not revolve around the earth.)

I know for some of you this is making your heads explode right now. That’s okay. I get it. But as long as I have breath in me I hope I will have the courage to speak for the outlier as Jesus did. And when you read the feedback I received from a new friend today on Facebook I hope you will know why I continue.

Thank you for your blog today…my dear friend Janine (name changed to protect privacy) turned me onto you…I am a gay man of faith who wasted too much of his life hiding in fear and though I’m out of the closet now, I live every day with the consequences of having hidden who God made me to be for so long.

I am particularly struck by your stance on the gay marriage issue given you don’t have a gay loved one in your life that you’re advocating for…even my own family, who claim to support who I am, don’t speak out on these issues…you truly epitomize what it means to be Christ-like.

So today thanks to you, I am not just a gay man of faith but a GRATEFUL gay man of faith.

ADDENDUM: The above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface by the way. These are just the legalities. When was the last time you were threatened or harassed simply because you were on a date with a member of the opposite sex? When was the last time you were denied service because you were straight? When were you last told God hated you because of something you had no choice in? When did you get passed over for a promotion or a job because you were straight? Just some food for thought…

This video is a bonus and brought tears to my eyes. I hope you enjoy it.

Love is not silent.


martin_luther_words_enemies

I was asked this weekend why I felt I needed to be an advocate for the homosexual community. Why me? I am not a lesbian after all. I have no close gay relatives.  Why do I feel like I need to be the one who speaks out about worship equality (Yes, I made that up and remember you heard it here first) and marriage equality. 

[Since I just made up a term I suppose I should define it for you. Here we go. Worship equality is the radical notion that God created us equal, that we each bear in us the image of God, and that we can and should all (regardless of gender or orientation) be welcomed to worship him with all our heart, soul mind and strength and that we should be encouraged to love people (our neighbors), all people as we love ourselves. This encompasses the radical notion that women are people and are equal in every way to men (notice equal DOES NOT SAY the same in every way, I am not the same as my husband just as I am not the same as any woman) and also that our LGBT brothers and sisters are equal to their straight counterparts in the eyes of God and therefore in our own.]

My friend also asked me what exactly it is that I am advocating and how I could be for marriage equality both in the public sector and as a Christian when (as he said) the Bible clearly calls all gay sex sin. My answer is simple. Politically, I am for marriage equality because anything else violates the equal protection clause. As an American and as a Christian I believe in an individual’s freedom and therefore I will not support legislation against marriage equality (indeed I will advocate for it to be overturned). Also, when people want to make laws against something purely because they believe it is biblical or Christian  I always ask, who’s version of the Bible shall we base the laws on? May I wear pants? May I drink alcohol? May I dance? May I eat shell fish? Of course the answer is really always (when you get down to brass tacks) the version of Christianity that person espouses (things really get sticky if you ask if people of other faith traditions, should they become the majority, start making Christians follow Sharia?). This is America. We are not truly free, unless we are all free. I would like to humbly suggest we remember that our forefathers and mothers wanted religious freedom. They did NOT want the government to tell them which religion to practice or how to practice it. You are free to believe what you will. You are just not free to force others to live by your convictions (incidentally this means they also are not free to force you to practice theirs.

As far as the Christian side goes. My answer is also simple. I believe that all the “so called” clobber passages (if they are even talking about homosexual relations) can be categorized in one of three ways or a combination thereof: idol worship, prostitution and/or pedophilia. I have already done extensive writing on all of these passages in my Homosexuality & God series from last year. I hope you will take a few minutes out to read these as it may, at the minimum, give you some food for thought. (I have come back and put this in bold because I have people asking my scriptural basis for my statements and I realized they were missing this link as they read. I hope this helps.)

Now my friend is like many Christians I know personally. He falls into the camp that says we should always love everyone God puts into our lives as completely as possible as God has equipped us gay or straight. He knows many LGBT people both privately and professionally and he treats them all with dignity and respect. He does however believe (at least currently) that the act of homosexual sex, no matter the context, is always sin. He also understands that he and I differ on this point. What he doesn’t get is why I feel the need to be an advocate. He wonders what it is that makes me write these posts and to have conversations in which I try to persuade people to my perspective. I will tell you what I told him. What if there were no advocates? Nothing would change. Without William Wilberforce or someone like him there would still be slave ships sailing legally, families being split apart and human beings who bear the very image of God being sold at auction to the highest bidder. LEGALLY. Without advocates, from outside an oppressed group it is much easier for the status quo to roll on decade after decade and century after century. Why do I advocate? How can I not? How can I be silent? Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”  Throughout history everyday people have stood up and cried out,

“THIS MUST STOP!”

William Wilberforce, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Harvey Milk, Oscar Schindler:  You can still hear them if you listen closely. Their voices can still be heard in every human heart that cries out for freedom and justice. Bob Dylan has an amazing song called What Good Am I in which he says, “If I shut myself off, so I can’t hear you cry…What good Am I?” What good Am I indeed? How can it be love if I stand silent when I could have spoken?

So today again I raise my voice and join their sad and beautiful and victorious song. Their song that still plays on

So today I say to gender inequality, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to marriage inequality, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to bullying, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to use of words like, “fag”, “retard” and “slut” to insult people and dehumanize them, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to female genital mutilation, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to the killing of babies just for being female, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to rape culture, “THIS MUST STOP!”

I say to human trafficking, “THIS MUST STOP!”

Why do I speak, because silence is deadly.

Margaret Cho said in her poignant response to Michelle Shocked’s tirade, “…the effect of someone saying “God hates fags” can never be underestimated either. It’s a license to kill. It’s a death sentence, It’s not funny. It’s not OK…there is this idea that it is OK to kill us, that it doesn’t matter if we die.” You see, when people are dehumanized (women, LGBT or otherwise); when people believe that someone is hated by an “all loving God” then it becomes okay for them to be spat on, beaten, bullied and even killed.

I simply must not be silent. I cannot stop. I am not naïve. I know there is only so much I can do with my little soapbox. But it is WHAT I CAN DO. And so I do it. I stand with Jennifer Knapp when she said in her article today entitled, Acknowledging Faith Voices Crucial for LGBT Civil Rights,

“…now we recognize that silence is too easily confused with consent for injustice.”

And I will tell you this, when I receive a letter that says, I was rejected by my church and my parents I thought God rejected me too. I thought I was disqualified from having a relationship with God. I was told God hates me. Because of you, I now know that God does love me and that he still wants me;  how can I stop?

This is what I was made to do. I don’t know what else to do on this day but stand on the side of love and tell you that God has gay children and he loves them. And to hatred and bigotry I say, “This MUST stop!”

Before The Supreme Court Considers Gay Marriage, An American Change Of Heart

INTERVIEW: Rob Bell on Why He Supports Gay Marriage

Acknowledging Faith Voices Crucial for LGBT Civil Rights by Jennifer Knapp

http://godlessliberals.com/Pix/liz-feldman-gay-lunch.html

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell” – Rachel Held Evans

Is abolition “biblical”? – Rachel Held Evans

FROM MY BLOG:

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

WHAT IS TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE ANYWAY?

https://wordofawoman.com/page/2/?s=homosexuality

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

——————————

As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

365: looking forward to 2013

mapWell, I did it. A whole year of blogging. It has been quite a ride let me tell you. 2012 was at once an amazing year of greatness and a year of painful loss; for example this year I celebrated 25 years of marriage to my amazing best friend and this year we buried his Dad.  What a dichotomy.

As you may or may not have noticed (I like to think that at least some of you noticed) I have not done much writing in the last several weeks. Believe me it hasn’t been for lack of material or ideas but rather because life has been a bit on the full side. It is funny and I never would have believed I would say this before starting this blog on a complete whim…but I missed writing. A LOT.

I would like to close out the year by saying thank you to all of you who have read and commented, subscribed and shared and liked my Facebook page. You have turned what was a little spark of an idea into something beyond what I would have imagined. Because of you the site has reached 32,945 page views and has been seen in 152 countries! Holy crap!!

You have also made 794 comments and shared my page 348 times. Thank you.

This year I wrote 110 posts covering politics, religion, sexuality, equality, art, science, poetry and lots of personal stuff.

Here are your top 20 posts by number of page views:

  1. God and Homosexuality: Parts 6 and 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai and Malakoi
  2. Pray Away the Gay?
  3. What is Traditional Marriage Anyway?
  4. God and Homosexuality: Part 1
  5. So She Did. A Word of Encouragement to Women…and Men.
  6. God and Homsexuality: Part 4 – “Eunuchs Who Have Been So From Birth”
  7. Why I Love Being a Woman
  8. Why Do Christians Curse the Silence?
  9. Dear John Piper, Would You Like a Ride on my Toboggan?
  10. Today My Daughter’s World Changed and It Broke My Heart
  11. If all are Martha Stewart where is Amelia Earhart?
  12. Sometimes I Grow Weary of the Fight
  13. Homosexuality and God: Conclusion
  14. Memes the Word.
  15. Raped Too Much?
  16. Boys Will Be Boys?
  17. The Closest Friends I’ve Never Met and an Unladylike Manifesto
  18. I Choose Chow Fun’s
  19. Your Existence Gives me Hope
  20. Why I’m Voting for President Obama  (a guest post by my awesome husband)

I am also going to include here some links for posts you may have missed that I think you may want to revisit (as they say on American Idol, “In no particular order.”).

Here is to the next year my lovelies and here’s to you. May it be our best year yet.

If someone comes out to you today…

There are a lot of things coming out means. Here are a few things it should not mean.

That you will be told God hates you.

That you will be bullied at school.

That you will be called ugly names.

That you must live in fear of violence.

That you forfeit your rights as a human being.

That you are less equal.

That you are less loved.

That if you are a teenager you will be thrown out and become homeless. (This happens to 26% of LGBT teens who come out to their parents)

Today I call on everyone to let love rule the day.

If someone comes out to you today, instead of reacting with judgement or disappointment or anger why not try this…

Ask them about their journey. Listen. Try to understand.

Love them. Right. Where. They. Are.

That is what Jesus would do.

More resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Growing up LGBT

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

Unworthy of the Title Eagle Scout?

Well this may not make me any friends…

When we say to people, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one,” we cannot turn around and say the Boy Scouts MUST award Ryan Andresen his Eagle Scout Medal. The common phrase could actually be tuned around to say, “If you don’t like the policies of the Boy Scouts, don’t become one.” [If you are already upset, please keep reading.]

I personally won’t join a club that excludes black people, women or homosexuals, but the law gives private organizations the right to exclude people based on these and plenty of other criteria. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Boy Scouts overturn their policy, but if we truly believe in liberty and justice for all then we have to allow groups like this to exist no matter how much we disagree. Why, you ask? Why don’t we just make a law that mandates that everyone love accept each other?  Sadly, my lovelies, that may sound great but it really isn’t. #1. Outward rules don’t change hearts. Love does. The Holy Spirit does. And #2. If we start denying rights to private groups your group may be next and whoever is in power can make you do that which is against your conscience.

Does that mean people shouldn’t speak up if they disagree? Of course not. In fact, the site Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges (thanks Alise Wright) features the letters of men who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout who have returned their badges and medals in protest of the policy in question. These letters are amazing and you owe it to yourself to check them out. In the mean time here is a small excerpt from a letter by Kyle Tiemeier:

I cannot bear to support an organization that endorses such profound intolerance and discrimination. The very values the Boy Scouts of America helped me develop—integrity, service and commitment to my fellow man—are what lead me to be ashamed of my affiliation now. You will find my Eagle Badge enclosed in this letter.

I sincerely hope the Boy Scouts of America will reconsider its policy toward homosexual members. I look forward to the day when I can once again be proud to be an Eagle Scout. When I have my own boys, I hope they will have an opportunity to be part of the inclusive, tolerant organization that I know the Boy Scouts of America can become.

I was also moved by this one by Dr. Erik Melchiorre

The Boy Scouts of America still discriminates against atheists, women, and gay men and boys. Even the US Army has moved beyond this level of discrimination for each of these groups. These are not the scouting values I grew up with, and I don’t want to be associated with bigots.

Returning my Eagle Medal and writing this letter was not any easy thing. I have agonized over this decision with my wife and daughters for several months now. The problem is that when I was a scout in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a troop of scouts of European, African, Sikh, Japanese, and Chinese ancestry; with fellow scouts whom we knew were gay and others who were atheists; with women helping in leadership roles; this was the “big tent” of scouting as I knew it. Originally, I felt that returning my Eagle would dishonor the memory of this unique experience that made all of us such good men. But now, I realize that it is the Boy Scouts of America who dishonor this memory.

I admire these men for taking a stand on this issue coming from inside the ranks. As Alanis Morissette asked, “Isn’t ironic, doncha think?”  These men are standing up to their own organization based on the values taught to them by the very same organization.

I will say this, Ryan Andreson’s Eagle Scout project was worth doing even if his award from the Boy Scouts never comes. It is a “tolerance wall” which he built to deter bullying in school. The wall features tiles painted by elementary school students. You can see a picture of it here.

I do understand and support the legal right of the Boy Scouts of America to deny this young man the rank of Eagle Scout; however I pray that they will be motivated to extend the love of God (whom they wish to honor)  to all and not to exclude others based on their perceived unworthiness. God says that humanity is worth everything, not just all of us, but EACH OF US.

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Bethany has asked to remain anonymous, and I am honoring her request by using a different name.

A while back I wrote a blog post called, Let Me Help You With Your Luggage or Coming Out of the Church Closetin which I asked you this:

I want to hear your stories; Stories of the beautiful and the hurtful; Stories of the pain you couldn’t bear and those who helped you bear it . I need to share your journey from where you have been to where you are going. I want, no, I need to help you carry your luggage and lighten your load. I am anxious to hear the stories of your travels and see the pictures of where you have stopped along the way. I want to know the life lessons you have learned and the ones you are still struggling with. I believe it is through the telling and retelling of the stories of what God is doing and how he is traveling with us, that change people. Through stories our eyes are opened and we understand things that were just abstract to us before. And you, you my lovelies, are not abstract. You are very very real aren’t you? You are people. You are children of God. You are loved and valued beyond what you can imagine. First by God and then by me. So I would like to ask you, would you share yourself with me?

Saturday I very unexpectedly received this email from Bethany M.

hi michelle, found your blog while digging deep into the “i’m gay and a christian” debate. because i am. both gay and a christian. raised in the church (in a loving home with loving/supportive/still-married parents) – i decided to be honest about my sexuality at 24 years-old… and it has absolutely destroyed my family. from shock to anger, denial, harassment and condemnation, their reaction and behavior has been baffling and painful. more painful than anything i’ve ever dealt with to this point.

it all comes down to scripture for them. the “gay” verses in the bible that specifically “assign hell” to “same-sex behavior.” they’ve been used against me, for nearly a year, in every conversation and argument we have.your “pray away the gay” post brought me to tears. i just (this weekend) received a stack of “pray away the gay” books and pamphlets and emails (from extended family too). the cherry on top of my family’s “intervention,” where i was given an ultimatum: “choose us and our familial happiness or choose your alternative lifestyle. you cannot have both. and if you choose to continue in your sin, we refuse to be a part of your life from this day forward.” as someone who’s always been close to my family, it’s the most critical decision i’ve ever been presented. as a child, you expect your parents’ love to be unconditional. and it was my entire life… until i told them i was in love with a woman. and now, i am a dirty, shameful, sexually-perverse sinner in their eyes. to seek truth, i’ve turned to my bible, to scientific studies, to books, to prayer, to everything… because even if i choose my family over my relationship, it would be entirely sacrificial… because they’ve pleaded and begged me to. not because i want to. not because my heart or mind has changed about being in love with a woman. “that’s okay,” they say. “sometimes we have to deny ourselves, our happiness, our selfish desires for the greater good.” and sometimes i wonder if they’re right. maybe they are. maybe i cannot possibly be a christian and be gay. but why don’t i feel condemned? why does this loving, caring relationship with a woman feel healthy, happy and right? if god was displeased with my choice, wouldn’t my spiritual conscience clue me in? “you’re blinded by satan. you’re being deceived. you cannot possibly believe that god accepts your choice.” if they only knew, their responses push me further from the church and further from the fundamentalist principles on which i was raised. because the god i know and serve is a god of love. one in whose image i was created. one who sees my heart and already knows what my future holds. this comes as no shock to him. your series confirms that. at a time when i question my ability to be loved by god – not because i don’t feel worthy, but because my christian family says i’m not – i’ve found answers, backed up by scripture. and above all, a confirmation that i am saved by grace through faith regardless of who i love. so thank you and bless you.
Bethany
As I said in my response to Bethany I wrote that I was both honored and horrified to read her honest and compelling email. I also shared with her something from another former post, When Did I Become Such a Dangerous Woman?
The Scriptures say, as much as it depends on me that I should live at peace with everyone. And I do. But sometimes it does not depend on me. Sometimes the peace comes undone because people do not want to live at peace with me when what I see when I read the scriptures does not match up to what they see. They say I will have to answer to Jesus for every word I have written and spoken. I am ready. I am prepared to stand before the lover of my soul and say that I have tried everything in my power to move people to love God and love each other with no unless. I have not been perfect. I guarantee you I am wrong about some things (as are we all). But I KNOW that what Jesus did is enough to fill the gaps and erase my sin and cover my errors. It is enough for yours too. It is enough for all of ours. As my good friend Sarah said,

I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room!There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.

I like to think Jesus stands out in the field with Sarah and I banging his own pots and pans, singing and yelling and whispering…There is room for Bethany and There is room for you!

Sally Ride, DOMA, Chicken Sandwiches, Military Pride and the “Gay Lifestyle”

By NASA (Great Images in NASA Description) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Sally Ride‘s obituary is not a political statement it is a statement of fact. She is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessey. The fact that she lived her life committed to the woman she loved does not make her any less of a pioneer, scientist, explorer, astronaut or champion of women in science. When she was alive she kept her private life private, perhaps because she knew it might make her uphill climb steeper or perhaps because she wanted to be judged by her accomplishments and character and not by her sexuality. I guarantee you Ms. O’Shaughnessey’s pain isn’t any less because her partner was a woman. I hope you will join me in praying for peace and comfort for her as well as the rest of the Ride family.

2. The current rules do not allow for Ms. Ride’s benefits to be extended to her surviving partner. That is currently the way it is. If you do not like it, work to change it.

3. Chick-fil-a has expressed their beliefs about many things of late including marriage equality. You may like what they said and continue to eat there. You may dislike what they have said and discontinue eating there. You may also dislike what they say and decide you are going to eat there anyway. That is the beauty of America. They have freedom of speech and you have the freedom to spend your money where you wish. I find it troublesome that people have a problem with people choosing not to eat there. If you told me my marriage was the reason God was going to send judgement on America I probably wouldn’t buy your Chicken sandwiches either.

4. This week military members were allowed to march in Pride Parades in uniform for the first time. Their presence there should remind us that many gay and lesbian service members have served and sacrificed to bring liberty and protect freedom around the world. They deserve our thanks and admiration. Period.

5. Today Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network wrote an eye opening blog about the term “gay lifestyle“. You should read it.  I for one will endeavor to choose my words more wisely. There was one comment about the article I thought communicated very well.

Roger Smith Here’s a lil example I like to give people who talk “gay lifestyle”: so what’s a “straight lifestyle”? Billy Graham, and … oh, let’s say Hugh Hefner. Same orientation? Yep. Same lifestyle? Um … not exactly.

Well, there you go my lovelies, that is all I have to say about that.

When Did I Become Such A Dangerous Woman?

Was it when I said, I don’t believe you can Pray Away the Gay?

Maybe it was when I suggested that I am capable of independent thought and that Kent is not responsible nor does he agree with everything I say.

Perhaps it was one of the days I decided to stop being divided in my heart and become an ex-good-Christian woman.

Or maybe it was the day that I decided it wasn’t my job to keep “the peace” when keeping the peace requires the silencing or muting of half of the church.

Most definitely it was the multiple days I encouraged others to take a closer look at what they have always been taught about what God says about homosexuality and consider that maybe there is more to the story.

Certainly it was the day I encouraged other women and men in patriarchal situations to become what God always intended for them to be.

The Scriptures say, as much as it depends on me that I should live at peace with everyone. And I do. But sometimes it does not depend on me. Sometimes the peace comes undone because people do not want to live at peace with me when what I see when I read the scriptures does not match up to what they see. They say I will have to answer to Jesus for every word I have written and spoken. I am ready. I am prepared to stand before the lover of my soul and say that I have tried everything in my power to move people to love God and love each other with no unless. I have not been perfect. I guarantee you I am wrong about some things (as are we all). But I KNOW that what Jesus did is enough to fill the gaps and erase my sin and cover my errors. It is enough for yours too. It is enough for all of ours. As my good friend Sarah said yesterday,

I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.

Make no mistake about it. Somewhere along the line I fell in with a dangerous crowd. I posted this status last month on fb and i think maybe it fits here.

“You say I run with a dangerous crowd, we ain’t to pretty we ain’t too proud. We might be laughing a bit too loud, but that never hurt no one.”

I have good news this morning. Jesus came for the poor and the sick not for the rich and the well. What many “good” church going people fail to realize is we are all poor and sick because of all that is wrong here and now both in our hearts and in this world. But old things are passing away, and he is making all things new. You bring his kingdom on earth as you love the people around you. God hates no one. His love is for everyone. He can and is making all things new. Our rules we place on ourselves and others seem like they will work (see Col 2) but they have no effect on the heart. Love? now that changes things.

“So c’mon Virginia, give me a sign. Show me a signal. I’ll throw you a line. That stained glass curtain you’re hidin’ behind, never lets in the sun.”

Only the “good” die young.

Here ends Theology 101 with Prof. Billy Joel.

Being dangerous isn’t always a bad thing.

Oh yes, please read this spec-freaking-tacular post by my friend Matt.

 

A Change of Focus

That moment when someone says something to you that changes your focus. Ever have one of those?

I bet you have. I know I have.

Recently I have had a couple conversations that have shifted my focus on the way I am going to be handling the crazy ass, hateful, ridiculous things being said by people who think they are serving Jesus by cheering for kids who are taught to parrot hateful songs, or calling for the extermination or legal prosecution of our homosexual brothers and sisters. Rather than focusing on these negative and hateful messages that do not bring life or hope, from here on I am choosing to focus on the people who are living in the light and bringing a message of hope and love to the world.This does not mean that I will stop standing up for people and standing up against injustice. On the contrary, I intend to fight it with the only weapons that work.

My focus was becoming increasingly negative and I was allowing the hate they have been spewing to become my focus which only brings hopelessness.  I had become increasingly frustrated, especially since the passage of Prop 1 in North Carolina, because these things are going on in churches. In a recent poll 91% of people 16-29 choose “anti-gay” to describe Christians. Heck, even 80% of church going people in that age group described the church as “anti-gay”.  I am hurt and distressed that people are taught that God can’t possibly love gay people. For crying out loud people even if you believe it is a sin, Jesus died for sinful people and the cheering for such a horrible song this week made me want to do something. Say something. Maybe because I didn’t know better when I was young and listening to people like like the leader of my former community saying homosexuals should be lined up and shot and producing songs like Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Homos”.

Well, this is where hope breaks in. While I do think it is important that people realize just how pervasive this kind of thinking is and while I do feel that people need to be informed, I also think that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr . had the right idea. Whenever he spoke about injustice he always cast it in the light of the truth. That side loses. Love wins. Dr. King called us to be our best selves, he called us to overcome, he called us to love. He set a vision for the dreamers. He invited us to hope that things could change; that God’s will could truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Romans 12:14-21 it says,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not that this is easy. It isn’t. Individually we must love, even when someone is hateful towards us. This week on Primetime: What Would You Do? the scenario was that a young white woman was introducing her black boyfriend to her dad for the first time. He was not happy, to say the least, about their interracial relationship. There was an elderly woman who (after the young couple left) expressed support for the father and her extreme distaste for interracial relationships. At the end of the segment after it had all been revealed for the social experiment it was, this beautiful young black man hugged that ignorant old woman and do you know what he said when asked why? He said I have been taught all my life that people like her exist, I wanted her to know what kind of person I am.
Dr. King said,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
That is my plan. Let us drive out the darkness with the light. Let us drive out the hate with love. Let us overcome evil with good. Starting today, whenever I am feeling hopeless about the state of this or like the darkness might be winning. Instead of focusing on that I am going to feature a person or organization who are bringing light, hope and love. I am going to start today with Minnesota Pastor Oliver White.  According to the Independent, Southeastern Minnesota‘s daily newspaper, Pastor White is

A black leader at the helm of a predominantly black church, White — who marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights era — faced pushback from his own community after he stood up for gay rights in 2005.

During a national synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, he joined a majority of delegates from across the country in voting to adopt a resolution supporting gay marriage.

He returned to his congregation the following Sunday and explained his decision. Almost immediately he saw church membership plummet. Within weeks he lost two-thirds of his followers, and now a Sunday sermon draws at most about 20 people.

He now stands to lose his church for good as their balloon payment of 200k came due yesterday. Even though Pastor White, 69, stands to lose everything he stated in a recent interview,

“If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” White said. “I’ve often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”

Here’s to you Pastor White. You are my hero of the day and the champion of those who Christ loves. Your reward sir is in heaven.

Grace Community United Church of Christ
You can email your word of encouragement here: mystory42@hotmail.com