Painting the Stars Review, Part 1: “We are moving!”

pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-firePierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who was also a trained paleontologist and geologist.

He was the first truly evolutionary theologian. He publicly sought to reunite science and religion. What has become embraced by many was first lauded by this man, and like most geniuses, he was not understood and was even ridiculed at the time. I have just learned of him today and I am utterly mesmerized. Consider this:

The conflict dates from the day when one man, flying in the face of appearance, perceived that the forces of nature are no more unalterably fixed in their orbits than the stars themselves. But that their serene arrangements around us depicts the flow of a tremendous tide. The day in which the first voice rang out, crying to mankind peacefully slumbering on the raft of earth, “We are moving! We are going forward.” It is a pleasant and dramatic spectacle, that of mankind divided to its very depths into two irrevocably opposed camps, one looking toward the horizon and proclaiming with all its newfound faith, “We are moving!” and the other without shifting its position obstinately maintaining, “Nothing changes. We are not moving at all.”

To quote my friend Steven Baxter, “Holy shit you guys!” This is amazing. It makes me want to go out in the street and yell, “We are moving!” It is a revelation and a truth that stirs my soul. This is not how it ends. The beginning was just that the beginning and the whole of humanity and creation and time and space is moving. Isn’t that exciting? We started out moving and we are still moving. Lovelies, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I think our new friend might even take that a step further and say, “The arc of the entire [moral, spiritual, relational, emotional, physical] universe is long and it moves toward justice [all things made right].” I believe this with all my heart. It makes me feel alive.

I was having a talk with my friend Josh Mitchell the other day about tattoos and we were saying how if either of us were to get a tattoo that it would have to be words. Words that meant something. Words that were personal. Words we didn’t want to forget. Today, if I had to pick, I might choose, “We are moving!”

Jesus was continually pointing people toward the future. He called it, “The Kingdom of Heaven“. The teaching carried with it the idea of already but not yet. Jesus had come, history and evolution and movement had brought people to the moment of being brought face to face with Jesus. Both man and God, he declared that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand and that also it was yet to come. More movement, more evolution, was and is required.

 

But I am getting ahead of myself.

This post is part one of a review series I am starting. I will be reviewing Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and an Evolving Faith. Each of the 7 sessions is 20 minutes long, and I will be writing one post about each session. After viewing session 1, I am very excited to be sharing this experience with you. The makers of the series, Living the Questions, produced the series in order to celebrate and explore the promise of evolutionary Christian spirituality.

The first session begins with the suggestion that like tectonic plates, the realms of evolution, religion and science often butt up against each other causing philosophical earthquakes, tsunamis and dramatic changes in the intellectual and spiritual landscape. Ironically, this is an evolution all its own. When some new reality in science collides with our beliefs about God, religion and the origins of the world, “something must eventually give way or merge” in order for a new landscape to emerge.

Evolution. What immediately comes to mind when you hear that word? Biology? Survival of the fittest? Charles Darwin? The big bang? What about personal, psychological, emotional, relational, culture, language, belief systems, political and economic systems? When we think about these areas, we find evolution is simply a fundamental universal reality.

This video series proposes to address how people of faith can engage difficult questions about science and faith in ways that decrease conflict and may even benefit us with new and challenging understandings. Questions like:

How are Christians who work in the disciplines of the sciences and technology able to accommodate and even embrace evolution?

Is the voice of the Scriptures somehow diminished by descriptions of a cosmology that no longer serves?

Is the Genesis story of creation voided by descriptions of a creation no longer seen as complete but rather driven by evolutionary processes that embody randomness and mortality, mutation and adaptation?  Or is the Genesis story deepened each time we discover more and more about our universe, about the amazing complexity of species and life that live on this planet?

How can people of faith engage such questions in ways that decrease conflict and even may benefit by new and challenging understandings?

The session titles are:

  1. Toward Healing the Rift
  2. A Renaissance of Wonder
  3. Getting Genesis Wrong
  4. An Evolving Faith
  5. Evolutionary Christianity
  6. Imagining a Future
  7. An Evolving Spirituality: Mysticism

The DVD series features over a dozen leading theologians and progressive thinkers including:

To learn more about Living the Questions, Painting the Stars or to purchase the DVD, click here.

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Let me count the 1,138 ways

doma TEXT 4 RESOURCE PG

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.

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.

Why Christian Companies’ Corporate Conscience Should be Clear

English: Hobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio

Hobby Lobby store in Stow, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This is NOT a post about:

  1. when life begins
  2. whether contraception causes abortion
  3. whether Roe vs. Wade should be overturned
  4. Pro-choice vs. Pro-life

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

So there is a lot of hubbub out there right now about Hobby Lobby and their suit against the Federal Government over Obamacare.  Their basic concern, and the concern of many Christian business owners is that Obamacare is causing them “to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits” by requiring them to provide insurance that covers abortions, contraception and the morning after pill. They contend that it violates their conscience to provide such coverage because they morally oppose the use of such medications and procedures. It is my contention, however, that Hobby Lobby — and companies like them — can and should comply with the new law without any hesitation. It is also my contention that they can rest easy knowing that God does not lay (what they consider to be) the sins of others at their feet.

Requiring Christian-owned businesses to provide health insurance which covers contraception is not, honestly, that big of a deal, simply because it effectively changes nothing. Companies such as Hobby Lobby already pay people money that some of those people then use to pay for contraceptives/abortion themselves. Should Hobby Lobby be allowed to fire all those people? Of course not. Hobby Lobby is no more or less responsible for the use of said contraceptives either way. Once the money leaves their hands in the form of a paycheck or insurance premium the use of the money is no longer their responsibility. Some companies argue that under Obama care, they know that their money will be used to pay for abortions. Here are the facts.

#1. Every state must offer at least one plan that does not cover abortion so that there is an option for individuals who do not want this coverage.

#2 You will not have to pay for other people’s abortions unless you have opted to have this coverage for yourself.

In her article from earlier this year, Laura Bassett summed it up this way:

In fact, the policy does not require anyone who does not want abortion coverage to pay for it. Under the law, states have to offer at least one health plan on their insurance exchanges that doesn’t cover abortion services at all. If a state decides it does want to have health plans that cover abortion services on its exchange, and if a woman chooses one of those plans, then she has to pay a separate fee of at least $1 to a separate account for that coverage in order to make sure no federal dollars are used to support abortion services.

For people who opt into a health plan that covers abortion, the Affordable Care Act requires that health plans “provide a notice to enrollees” at the time of enrollment that their plan includes the surcharge, but those plans are not allowed to advertise the specific surcharge.

In short, the employees are given their choice of plans at least one of which will not include abortion coverage.

Now I realize that if even one woman they employ chooses that coverage and then has an abortion, some of their money will go to paying for it. But think of it this way; if I hire you to clean out my garage and then you use that money for an abortion, it is exactly the same. The health care law requires employers to provide an insurance option that covers abortion and contraception. It does not require employers to pass out morning after pills or write checks to abortion clinics. The employee is still making the choice, not the employer.

Listen, I am not pro-abortion. I think it should be as rare as possible. But to argue that I am then morally responsible for your choices off the clock simply because I provide you a paycheck or help pay for your insurance is insane. I guarantee you Hobby Lobby has paid people who have used their money to sin in all kinds of ways. I do not hold them responsible for that. They cannot, nor should they be able to, tell people how they can or cannot spend their paychecks. Unless of course they are breaking the law.

A well-meaning friend said to me today that it is a free country and the people don’t have to work there. They can just go somewhere else where that coverage is offered. Really? So now people have to know all about the owners of a company before they take a job? They need to find someone they agree with on all moral and spiritual accounts before they can work somewhere? That is like expecting an employer to know everything about a person before hiring them. This is a free country, we embrace freedom of religion when it comes to personal practice. What we do not allow is one person’s freedom of religion to trump the rights of others. If you want to do business in the United States, there are all kinds of things you may consider sinful that you cannot use to discriminate against someone when considering them for a job. For example we don’t allow companies to ask if people have already had an abortion, whether they are living with their boyfriend/girlfriend or are gay. I guarantee you that people who already work for Hobby Lobby are and have done all these things. People in fact spend their paychecks from Hobby Lobby in support of those choices.

Sadly, I think most people are just more comfortable with people who sin in the same ways they do or just keep it to themselves.

Here is the bottom line: The owners of Hobby Lobby should comply and then go to bed with a clear conscience. The individual using the contraceptives or getting the abortion or living with their boyfriend or doing drugs with the money you pay them was doing it yesterday and will do it again tomorrow. Obamacare does nothing to change that or make you pay for more of that (in fact it may be that less of an employer’s money goes to abortion since the insurance will pay a portion rather than 100% of it coming from that person’s paycheck). A company has no control (nor should they) over the private acts of an individual – and that is a good thing. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others.

Consider this? What if the owners were Jehovah’s Witnesses (which don’t believe in getting blood transfusions) and they decide to remove the coverage for blood transfusions from their insurance policies. Would you be okay with that? What if they were Christian Science? They do not believe in much medical intervention at all. Should they be required to provide insurance for their employees? You see, when taken to its logical conclusion, it falls apart. The only truly fair way to handle this is to let each individual choose for themselves and Christians should be okay with that. After all Romans 12:10-12 says:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

My point is that by providing the mandated insurance options ,Hobby Lobby does not need to feel their conscience is being violated. They are not controlling whether or not these people have these procedures either way. The individuals involved are controlling their own behavior. The owner’s consciences should remain clear. Their money (in the form of people’s paychecks) is already being spent donating to pro choice causes, Democrat candidates and Planned Parenthood, not to being spent on drugs, alcohol, abortion, porn and any number of other things they may not agree with. It is the nature of commerce in a free society.

Another friend asserted today that we should afford rights to people as long as they didn’t contradict the Bible. Wow! Here is the problem. Turning the Bible into American Law is a BAD idea. Even if you are a very conservative Christian this should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Exactly whose version of the Bible do we follow? The Southern Baptist Convention’s? Brian McLaren’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mark Driscoll’s? Heavens to Betsy! Let’s think this through!

I am a follower of Jesus and I want my country to afford and protect my right  to worship as I see fit. I DO NOT want to live in a theocracy until Jesus is the one leading it, even if my personal beliefs were respected. Even if you, my lovelies, got to write up the laws based on your understanding of who God is and what he wants, eventually someone else rises to power and next thing you know all the women are not allowed to go to school and are forced to wear burqas. Afghanistan springs to mind. The beauty of the United States is that the same Constitution that guarantees my Muslim neighbor, my atheist neighbor, my Israeli neighbor, my gay neighbor and my Mormon neighbor their rights to believe and practice ensures my right to do the same. As soon as I begin removing or denying their rights it is only a matter of time before mine are next.

If you do follow Jesus as I do, we can look to him for how best to handle this situation. In Matthew 22:15-22 it says:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

During this period of history the Jews were occupied by the Romans. There were many Jews who thought the Messiah would come in and overthrow the government. By all accounts the Roman Empire was not known for being kind and benevolent. In fact, quite the opposite. They were most likely spending the money that the Jews paid them in tribute to perpetuate all kinds of things the Jewish people disagreed with. Did Jesus blame them for the sins of the Romans since the money they provided was used for things they didn’t allow? Did he say, “Refuse to pay Caesar what he requires? In fact, sue him. Our money shouldn’t be used for such things!”? No, actually, he didn’t. Did he ever say anything to the political leaders of the Roman Empire about how they spent the money? Nope. Not a word in the scriptures about that. Jesus reserved his words about money and how to spend it for the people who claimed to follow God. And here, where he could have said stop paying the tribute and use that money for something else, he instead says, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

We can also look at the scriptures and see that God never forces us or manipulates us or bans us from making poor choices.  (For the record I don’t see birth control as a poor choice, and I think any situation where an abortion is chosen or necessary is tragic, but there are many for which any abortion or contraception is seen as sin). He also never forces us to choose him and he doesn’t strike dead those who don’t. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. God’s mercies are new everyday.

I think we can draw from these passages that Jesus is more concerned with the hearts of the owners of Hobby Lobby who say they follow him than he is about the money they essentially pay as a tax to provide healthcare.

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Just me and Dad.

My father-in-law and I only ever did one thing completely on our own. We went shopping for lingerie. Now there is a statement that just begs for an explanation.

A few years ago Mom and Dad came to visit us in Thousand Oaks for the holidays. Shortly after their arrival my father-in-law pulled me aside and with a twinkle in his eye he asked me if I would help him buy a very special gift for my mother-in-law. Of course I agreed and later that week we made up some reason to go out and we went to the mall. Now, if you knew Kent you would know that shopping was NOT his favorite thing to do and shopping for women’s clothes was certainly among his least favorite things to shop for. And, well, shopping at the mall on the week of Christmas? Now that was unheard of.

I had never seen him like this before. Jean had recently lost a lot of weight and he was so proud of her that he wanted to buy her something very special. He kept reiterating to me that he had never bought anything like this before and that it had to be just the right thing. We went to several stores. He was serious about making a thorough search. Our shopping eventually led us to the mecca of lingerie – Victoria’s Secret. Now Dad was not out to buy mom something that he thought he would like to see her in, he was out to buy something for her to make her feel special. He selected a lovely nightgown and a satin robe. It was beautiful and he decided it was perfect. My father-in-law was not known for being showy. But that day he wanted the full effect. He wanted the metallic pink striped gift box, the pink tissue paper and the gift bag. When we arrived back at our condo, we left the bag in the trunk of the car. We waited for our moment when the coast was clear and then we hid the bag in the back, under the tree, behind all the other packages. He wanted it to be a surprise. He wanted it to be last. He wanted her to feel like she was valued and important and beautiful. She is all that.

Today, my Dad and I did something else together. Just me and Dad.

Today I went down to my local Post Office with a little manilla card in my hand. It said I had a registered package that I had not been home to receive yesterday. I waited my turn. The woman working the window motioned for me to come forward. It was my turn. I handed her my card, signed it and she checked my identification. Then she disappeared into the back room. She had to come back and check the card. The next time she came back she was holding a box. She gave it to me and I took it knowing what or rather who was inside. It was a smallish box, brown cardboard like most and I carried it to my car. I got in the car and placed the box on the passenger seat. As I was pulling out of the parking lot I reached over to touch the top of the box.

My father-in-law donated the use of his body to science through a group called Science Care. He and Mom made this decision together as they wanted to help others in death as in life. My father-in-law hoped that with his last act he would be able to contribute to someone else’s healing.

When we got the news that my father-in-law had passed we had just come through security at DFW to wait for our flight to Phoenix as we knew he was not going to be getting better and had been moved to hospice. My husband’s knees buckled and he crumpled to the floor in my arms. I cried with him. I cried for him.

When you give your body to be used for research, they come to get it within 2 hours. My husband and I were not there in time to see his Dad before they came to take his body away. Now I know, that what they came to get, was merely his lifeless body, not him. Not who he is. But nevertheless, it made the whole experience seem even less real and more dream like.

We went to Phoenix; we gathered with the family; we reminisced with friends; we celebrated his life. I cried. I cried for Mom. I cried for Kent. I cried for their friends. I cried for the family. But I still didn’t or couldn’t begin to really mourn like he was gone. It just didn’t seem real. I knew it was. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I touched that box on my front seat. It was real. He was real. He loved me. He took out my trash and fought with my husband and I about whether Lady Gaga has any talent.  He enjoyed a good drink and gave us all funny nicknames and loved to see people enjoy a good meal. He swam in the pool and drank margaritas with us just 2 months ago. He loved to watch sports and he always made sure he was close to the phone every night for his call from Kent. He was strong and loud and quiet and funny and stern and loving and smart and kind and he would have loved that he got a one-way ticket here for just $26.26. “Now that is a good buy,” he would have said.

He was with us, just two and a half weeks ago and now all that was left of him here and now in this time and place was in this box on my front seat. I bawled. No really. I stopped the car and bawled. Snot. Sobbing. Real. 

We drove home. Just me and Dad.

When we got home I carried the box inside. I hugged it. I hugged that damn box and I cried and cried. This was our moment. I NEEDED to open that box. I didn’t want his remains in a shipping box. Why? I don’t know. I opened it. Inside was baby blue wrapping and just under that was a certificate of cremation. On the end of the box it has his name. I bawled again. I carried the box in and placed it gently on my husband’s desk. I am not sure what happens now. Except this.

I had to come and write it down. I guess this is what I do now. It is funny. I never used to do this.

I want to leave you with one last thing my lovelies. Life, it is real, and so is death. Death sucks but love wins. Love wins. Love wins. Love wins. My husband will see his Dad again. My Mom will hold the love of her life again. We will laugh again. We will eat a big ass steak again. What we won’t do with Dad, is cry again. When next I am with you Dad and we get to do something, just you and me, let’s take a walk by the crystal sea, eh? Or maybe sit in the pool and drink margaritas. I wonder if heaven has a swim up bar?

 

Read more here: Cancer, Family & Hope

 

What is Traditional Marriage Anyway?

Recently a friend told me that they “just believed what Christians have always believed for thousands of years” about marriage. Hmmmmm. Really?
Do they believe in arranged marriage? Marriage for family connections or financial gain? Women being forced to marry their rapists?

There was an excellent article written this week on this very subject called, Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves by Jay Michaelson on Religiondispatches.org. In it Mr. Michaelson pointed out in answer to the assertion by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that marriage has been one man, one woman for over five thousand years by pointing out the following (from the Bible):

Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.) But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants.

He goes on to make the points that marriages up until 200 years or so ago were all arranged marriages (the idea that people would get married of their own volition to a spouse of their own choosing was a radical notion), and that in Europe and North America, marriage was mainly a commercial proposition rather than a romantic one. As he says,

Princes married princesses not because of fairy tales, but because their parents had political alliances to consider. Further down the economic ladder, people married for a variety of biological, commercial, and genealogical reasons—but rarely for love. (See Stephanie Coontz’s excellent Marriage: A History for more.).

And finally he raises the issue of interracial marriage, which certainly was not traditional and was even seen by some as a crime against nature and God up until the 1960s.  We must remember that a century ago, African Americans were not considered fully human by religious conservatives. Interracial marriage—as much as it’s disgusting to even say so today—was seen as an unnatural marriage between different species.

Last week I also ran across a little something that BLEW MY MIND. Now, in all fairness, these ceremonies were mainly “civil unions” more for legal purposes and not carnal ones, however there are indications in some of the cases where the men concerned were also called lovers. My point in bringing it up here is that these “unions” certainly call into question at the very least what “traditional marriage” actually means.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, wrote a little book called, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In it he cites liturgical church documents which discuss, Christian ceremonies dating from the 10th-12th centuries called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” and the “Order for Uniting Two Men”.  These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, the couple was blessed at the alter with their right hands joined, they exchanged vows, a priest administered the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was held afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

The chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded Christian same-sex  unions taking place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Boswell also tells of same sex unions as late as 1578 that took place at St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church).  As many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in many archives such as the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in his collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Latin Catholic Rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally “Order for the making of brothers”. Also see Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement.”[4] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, which article demonstrates the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in life long unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

In an article written by Allan Tulchin titled, The 600 Year Tradition Behind Same-Sex Unions, he states,

The affrèrement, which existed in France and elsewhere in late medieval Mediterranean Europe, was a contract that provided the foundation for non-nuclear households of many types and shared many characteristics with marriage contracts, as legal writers at the time were well aware. Non-nuclear households were quite common in Mediterranean Europe — more than half the population probably consisted of people in such households. So it is hardly surprising that the law provided for affrèrements as a means to regulate them.

The consequences of entering into an affrèrement were profound. The new “brothers” pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’—one bread, one wine, and one purse. All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir, cutting off other close relatives. They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, normally the friends of the affrèrés. The model for these household arrangements is that of two or more brothers who have inherited the family home on an equal basis from their parents and who will continue to live together, just as they did when they were children. But the affrèrement was not only for brothers, since many other people, including relatives and non-relatives, and even married couples, used it.

He also writes in an article in the Journal of Modern History:

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.

While my post today doesn’t clear up much on the topic of marriage, one thing is for certain, marriage as recognized and practiced by American churches and the U.S. Government is anything but “what Christians have always believed for thousands of years.”

You can look up the research in these places.
http://www.amazon.com/Christianity-Social-Tolerance-Homosexuality-Fourteenth/dp/0226067114
Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day  is October 7th. Catholic Encyclopedia [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13728a.htm ]
John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Random House, June 1994

Your Existence Gives me Hope

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So I woke up today with a strange feeling of hope; hope that the tide is shifting; hope that the conversation is taking a new shape. Hope in the face of setbacks like a female attorney who bows to the will of her client,  by wearing a burqa; a client, who if he had his way, would have prevented her from becoming an attorney in the first place and who would strip her of her freedom to practice law and even from leaving her home unaccompanied if given the opportunity. Setbacks like the state of North Carolina passing an amendment that robs fellow Americans/humans of enjoying the same privilege to marry their beloveds and not to be alone, that is why God designed marriage, remember? It is not good for us to be alone, we need someone who is a perfect fit for us.

But like I said, I am feeling hopeful today. Why?

1. The existence of Kent Krabill; Proof that God loves me.

2. The existence of my children who live and breathe and change the world with their love.

3. The existence of Novitas (aka the island of misfit toys) who continually challenge me to love more and judge less.

4. The existence of the countless new friends I am discovering daily.

5. The existence of inspiration. I finally feel like I am learning who I always was.

6. The existence of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead me into the truth and to change me.

7. The existence of the amazing Rachel Held Evans (who inspires me over and over) and her new article.

8. The existence of Justin Lee and his 30 confessions.

9. The existence of magical moments. I mean did you see Josh Hamilton hit 4 home runs in one game? Have you been to Disney World?

10. The existence of Sixty Percent and people who write such things.

11. The existence of Kathy Escobar and The Refuge, Alise Wright, Amanda Miller Garber and RISE church and Pam Hogeweide and all the other UNladylike women of the church.

12. The existence of Brian McLaren, Wade Burleson, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, my husband and every other men who supports the UNladylike women of the church.

13. The existence of Bert & Evelyn Waggoner and the influence he had on my life and the seeds of change planted in Kent and I at the Sugarland Vineyard.

14. The existence of Derek Watson  who set in motion the tectonic plates of our lives.

15. The existence of Laurie Watson and the work she does as a sex therapist who happens to be a follower of Christ.

16. The existence of the parents I know who are trying to teach their kids to love people, all people.

17. The existence of a shift that has begun in our country and the church toward freedom, equality and acceptance.

18. The existence of people who fight for these things every day.

19. The existence of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality.

20. The existence of the Marin Foundation.

21. The existence of common ground: President Obama and Vice President Chaney both support gay marriage.

22. The existence of Matthew Vines.

23. The existence of people who refuse to stop loving or believing better of people; even the ones who disagree with them.

24. The existence of my parents and grandparents and all the people who have helped to make me who I am.

25. The existence of art, music and poetry.

26. The existence of my God who never stops loving, never stops pursuing, who will one day make EVERYTHING right, who loves all and gives everything to bring his children home to him.

27. The existence of…YOU. YOUR EXISTENCE GIVES ME HOPE