Fear and Loathing in Arizona

signs

As we speak, the whole nation (and even the world) waits for Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision. And we are all wondering, “What is taking her so long?” One side is wondering why it is taking so long for her to sign a piece of legislation that both houses of her state’s legislature have passed insuring that the “rights” of business owners  to discriminate by refusing service based on their “deeply held religious beliefs” are not infringed upon. The rest of us are wondering why it is taking her so long to veto legislation that so blatantly violates the constitution and is so obviously discriminatory. Currently, the word on the street is that she is leaning toward a veto. It is my belief that if she does veto the measure it will be based purely on economics. First, “gay people have money and they buy stuff“. Second? The Super Bowl. So far the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL and the Super Bowl Committee have all come out with statements urging the governor to veto the legislation. Here are their respective statements:

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard…We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
— NFL spokesman, Greg Aiello

“We share the NFL’s core values, which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination.”
–Super Bowl Host Committee

“What so many love about football is its ability to bring people together. We do not support anything that has the potential to divide, exclude and discriminate. As a prominent and highly-visible member of this community, we strive to bring positive attention to the state. We are concerned with anything that creates a negative perception of Arizona and those of us who are fortunate to call it home.”
–Arizona Cardinals

As Bob Dylan once said, “the times they are a changin'”and thank God they are. Sadly, it seems, not fast enough, with laws such as this one cropping up all over the country, Uganda’s new law making being gay a crime punishable by life in prison, the lobbyist who is drafting legislation to make it illegal for gay men to play in the NFL, a thing I learned about today called “gay denialism“, and this article about Vladimir Putin which praises him as a “man of Christian faith and values” because of his stance on homosexuality. Yikes!

If you have been on my blog for long you know that I am an ally. I have written extensively  in support of full equality of LGBT persons both in the church, politics and society at large (you can use the search box on the right to see some of my previous posts, try searching homosexuality or LGBT). It is my prayer that the time is coming when legislation like this is looked back upon with embarrassment and contrition. For those of you still holding on to the notion that your rights as a Christian are being violated by being asked not to discriminate against LGBT persons, I came across a handy quiz you can take to see if that is indeed the case. Here are the questions from Rev. Emily C. Heath:

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

If you are a Christian and you are for this law, I have only one question: What do you think Jesus’ answer would be today if we asked him the same question the young lawyer asked him in Matthew, “Who is my neighbor?”  Knowing Jesus’ penchant for parables, it is a safe bet he would tell us a story…

“A gay couple was going down from Phoenix to Tucson to pick up a wedding cake he had ordered. The Christian owner, upon seeing that he was gay, invoked his right not to make the cake because of his deeply held religious beliefs. Now by chance a pastor was in the same bakery and heard the whole thing but rather than get involved he sat quietly eating his danish. So likewise the Governor, when faced with the opportunity to veto the measure before her, stalled. But a baker who worked in the next town, who happened to be an illegal alien, heard about the couple and had compassion on them. He not only offered to bake the cake for their wedding, he also set about helping them find a caterer and a venue. He even helped out with the flowers and bought the couple a wedding gift. Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the men getting married?” And we would say (I hope), “The one who baked the cake.” And Jesus would say to us, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus left us with only one law with two parts, love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the essence (or spirit) of Christ. This law (and laws like it) are the essence (or spirit) of antichrist. Is that a strong statement? You bet. But in 1 John 4:20-21 it says, “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.” When we truly love others we will afford them the same rights we claim for ourselves.  Until then, we are self-deceived and we are loving neither God nor our LGBT neighbors.

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Aside

No Longer Praying Out The Gay

love wins

 

 

Please go check out my interview with Phil Shepherd aka The Whiskey Preacher on Patheos.com:
No Longer Praying Out The Gay
Phil and I recently sat down and did interviews with each other in his home studio. Besides being a blogger, Phil and his wife Stephanie are co-pastors at The Eucatastrophe, an emergentish, missional faith community in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you missed it, you can catch my interview with Phil about living and ministering with chronic pain here:

First Ever Interview: Living in Chronic Pain with the Whiskey Preacher

A Little Late to the Party

Somehow I only became aware today that June is Gay Pride month.
So, WOW. I am a little late to the Gay Pride party.

It is interesting but at this time last year gay folks in the military were still under the umbrella of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” and I would have told you that I wasn’t sure where I stood on the issue of gay marriage. Oh what a difference a year makes. In the past year I have read and studied and prayed and refined and defined my beliefs about homosexuality and God and written about them in detail here. I have come out of the church closet (so to speak) as an affirming straight ally and supporter of same sex marriage. And then today, I read an amazing article from the Associated Press on plans for the military to honor gay troops and their service to our country for the first time in their history, much like they honor other service members during Black history month or Women’s history month.

In many ways my journey has paralleled what I read in the article. (quotes taken from, Pentagon the Mark Gay Pride Month)

  • The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy forced over 13,500 service members out of the military.
    • The way I used to view gay people has forced thousands out of traditional churches.
  • A Pentagon spokesman was quoted in the article as saying, “Now that we’ve repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ he [Leon Panetta] feels it’s important to find a way this month to recognize the service and professionalism of gay and lesbiantroops”.
    • Now that I have researched and prayed and changed my position, I feel it is important to find a way this month to recognize the ways in which gay and lesbian people contribute to society and the church.
  • “Although some feared repeal of the ban on serving openly would cause problems in the ranks, officials and gay advocacy groups say no big issues have materialized”
    • Although many of my friends feared the support and inclusion of gays and lesbians serving openly in our church would cause problems, no big issues have materialized.
  • “I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it’s accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, a finance officer and co-director of OutServe.

    • I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it is accelerating faster as my gay and lesbian friends are welcomed to worship and serve with us and as my straight friends are realizing that we have more in common than they thought.
  • He said acceptance has been broad among straight service members and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that gays continue to receive in some areas. “We are seeing such tremendous progress in how much the military is accepting us, but not only that – in how much the rank and file is now understanding the inequality that’s existing right now,” he said.
    • Acceptance has been broad on the blog and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that homosexuals continue to receive in many areas. I am seeing tremendous progress in how many of my friends are becoming more accepting, but not only that – in how much they are now understanding the inequity that exists.

So, even though I am a little late to the party I am really happy with where I am.  Recently I have had friends come out to me who remain closeted to their church and their family but who love Christ and seek to serve him because they knew that with me they would be encouraged in their future marriage and walk with Jesus. I have other friends who say that through this blog they have learned to look at the way they have treated gay people and to become more loving in their speech and actions.  Sadly I also have friends who have severed ties over this issue, who say “stay away from her she is a dangerous woman”. They say it is because I am accepting of my gay friends who come to my church. They say it is because I support them in their marriages. They say it is because I publicly speak out in support of marriage equality. All I have to say is this, I am proud to be known by my love for ALL people.

I may be late to this party, but I am here, my glitter is on and I’m ready to dance.

Let Me Help You With Your Luggage or Coming Out of the Church Closet.

Let me help you with your luggage. I want to hear all about your trip.

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?

I would like to start a weekly feature where I share more stories like the one in my recent post, Pray Away the Gay?  I would love to hear your “Coming Out of the Church Closet” story if you are part of the GLBT community or have a family member who is gay then I would like to share it with our friends here.  You may share your stories with or without real names (please make sure you have people’s permission if you use their names). Your choice. I hope you will decide to do this. The church needs to hear your stories because they are our own stories. You are a part of us after all, whether people want to admit it or not. Jesus died for us all and he came to save the world not to condemn it (John 3:17). You can send me your stories for review at Michelle@novitaschurch.com.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with me.

m