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What Is a Bishop Supposed to Do?

Getting older every day.

Someone on Facebook told me that the Pope popped off at Castel Gandolfo again about how “marriage and the family” must be preserved, and suggested that Gay people are not whole human beings.

Here’s a link. The writing is a bit skewed past the point of logic, trying to reiterate that Benedict is an anti-Gay extremist, but in fact his language is sufficiently moderate to allow for multiple interpretations – if you ignore the giant insult that he’s a human being and I am not. That isn’t Christian, denying another person’s humanity. It is anti-Christian.

Whatever it says on that website above, it’s true that past statements this Pope has made were plenty extreme: the whole world will come to a crashing end if Lesbian and Gay people can get married. Civilization is at stake!

I wish internet reporters would stick close to the facts. The Huffington Post is terrible at this, with yellow-journalism headlines that promise more than they deliver. But HuffPo’s in a battle for clicks, and is every bit as commercial as any other news source; that’s how Arianna makes her money. She’s a nice woman and a talented political analyst, but she sold her soul to the devil a long time ago. Stick to the facts, honey. You don’t need more moolah, you’re already rich. The question is, what about the Pope?

What about this claim that civilization will collapse if Gay people get rights, including the civil right to a civil marriage? Will the world end???

Uh, no. There aren’t enough of us to make the world end.

Nor is current Gay culture so attractive that we’ll make all Straight people turn Gay.

Homosexual behavior is quite attractive, but that’s a different issue than the current low state of Gay culture. And make no mistake, heterosexuality is a very strong attraction too. Billions of people are committed to it; there’s no chance that it will die out, just because a few guys or gals marry each other.

The Pope diminishes his office with this Chicken Little act. The sky is not falling.

God’s principal concern is love, not the birth rate – which is plenty high. In the next century the earth will host another two billion people, thanks to all those heterosexuals parading their nasty bits.

I blame the Pope, but Protestants are just as paranoid about LGBT people. “If we don’t stamp out homosexuals, the whole human race will die!”

It’s nonsense; Straight guys are as obsessed with sex as Gay guys are. And that’s a good thing overall. Gay people aren’t battling for market share, and Straight parents consistently produce millions of Lesbian and Gay kids.

Straight sheep produce Gay lambs; it’s part of the plan – to stop overpopulation.

God’s very smart. S/he really doesn’t want this planet to overheat.

So I can take the Pope’s latest insult with a grain of salt. It isn’t the first time Popes have sought to diminish my humanity or make me a scapegoat. I don’t get angry at Popes anymore. I condemn their latest stupidity, urge people to convert to the Episcopal Church – then ask myself, what are bishops supposed to do?

(In English, the name of the Episcopal Church is “the Church of Bishops.” The Presbyterian Church is “the Church of Priests,” although they’ve gotten so far away from that they’re not priests anymore. These names have to do with governance: who runs the church? In the Episcopal Church, the bishops do, though we’ve put in effective checks and balances. In the Presbyterian church, the presbyters (ordained ministers) do.)

I belong to an Episcopal church; we still have bishops, whose office is much the same as the Pope’s. So I wonder, what is the correct, proper role of a bishop?

Episcopalians elect ours; the Pope appoints his own. That makes us very different, because Episcopal laypeople are in charge of the election. But what is any bishop supposed to do? What exactly is the correct job description?

It’s to be Defenders of the Faith. That is, they are the guardians of the tradition, handed down by Jesus and illustrated in the Bible. It’s a very important job, and as a Christian I want the bishops to perform it. I want the Christ I follow to be the actual Jesus who once walked in Israel.

Defend the faith from all the cultural changes that might alter it. That’s what I want bishops to do; it’s why I support them. Episcopal bishops do defend the faith.

But they also change. And that’s the crucial distinction.

The Pope’s bishops try to prevent all change; Episcopal bishops try to create more of it, for the things that need to change.

We even have a formula for this: “the historic episcopate, adapted to local circumstances.” And the fact we have a Prayer Book to tell us how to perform the sacraments and how to pray guarantees that the essentials don’t change, although the externals might. It’s a good balance.

I am forever wishing that the Episcopal Church would catch up to this century, but in fact we’re open to change. We’re slow, which is in keeping with that competing desire that Jesus doesn’t change; but we eventually kind of catch up to the times – because “the times” matter. People learn things; society develops.

Churches must keep up with the times. They also must consistently deliver the message of Jesus 2000 years ago.

So here I am, a Gay guy in 2012, watching the Pope spout off again, because the new French socialist government is going to legalize Gay marriage, yet I belong to an “episcopal” church run in part by bishops. What is the proper role of these fathers- and mothers-in-God?

It isn’t to prevent all change, as the Popes believe. It’s to find what the essentials of the Christian faith are and hold fast to those, while embracing what humanity has learned in the 2000 years of learning since Jesus walked here.

The Popes say that since Jesus only chose men as his apostles, we can’t have women priests.

Episcopalians call that misogyny, sexism and the oppression of women – which we have slowly learned is offensive to God.

Jesus relied on women constantly; they were his most consistent supporters, spiritually and financially.

They paid his bills, so he could walk around Galilee preaching and healing. The women did the work that allowed Jesus to do the work.

In modern times Episcopalians have found that there is nothing in the nature of priesthood to prevent a woman from being ordained. They’re just as good at it as men are, so the Episcopal Church has ordained women priests since 1974. We have more priests than we know what to do with, because so many men and women love God.

The Pope thinks otherwise and sits around watching his all-male, “celibate” priesthood (it never has been celibate, and never will be) disappear, because he thinks that’s his job.

Roman Catholic women are begging to be ordained; so are married men. The Pope doesn’t give a damn. So the priesthood withers, and here in my Indiana home town, one priest has to serve three parishes.

What do I want bishops to do? What is their actual job?

It’s to preserve the faith while drilling down to the essence of it.

The Pope seems to think male superiority is the essence of it, and I disagree. “In Christ there is no male or female.” Jesus called himself a “mother hen.”

The Pope seems to think heterosexuality is also the essence of it, and again I disagree. Straight people are very, very good at being fruitful and multiplying, which is the Pope’s stated concern. Indeed, they’re too good at it, like rutting deer who destroy state forests.

If Jesus were here today he’d preach at Gay bars. And the Gay people wouldn’t always like what he said, but they’d give him a big listen. He was enormously charismatic, with a physical presence about him as well as a huge spiritual aura.

I want the bishops to preserve the essence of what he said and did and was, while discarding the prejudices of the past. The world was not “created in seven days” –  not even the Genesis writer thought that. What s/he wrote was a meditation on sunrise and sunset, the holiness of the Sabbath (which is why the poem is geared to seven days); the passage of time, the magnificence of God’s creation, and the sacredness of living in the now.

“Wo-man” was not created out of “man.” There is no man without a woman; if you disagree, show me one.

The creation myths are lovely (and true in spiritual ways), but they’re not science. We go on science now, and reinterpret the old myths. They’re quite beautiful, but they’re not the end of the story.

Jesus doesn’t care who you make love to; what he cares about is how you treat that person. That’s what he would say in Gay bars, and that’s why he wouldn’t be entirely popular. There are users in Gay bars and online, and he condemned all who sought power over others.

Meanwhile we’re left with a Pope who says Gay people aren’t really human beings. In the words of Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?” Ain’t I a man, Benny?

Who the hell are you? And why do you besmirch the Christian religion by claiming that some people are not human beings?

The whole point of Christianity is that God loves us so much he became one of us. Don’t deny that, or I will deny you.++

Jesus and Friends; David LaChapelle.

Mitt Pulls a Boner

There’s no need to stick a fork in him, since there never was any blood in him in the first place.

It’s been four days now since Mother Jones magazine published Mitt Romney’s comments at that $50,000-a-plate fundraiser last May in Boca Raton, Florida, in which he asserted that 47% of all Americans are freeloaders who consider themselves “victims,” take no responsibility for their lives and expect the government to give them “free health care, free housing, free food, you name it.”

Poor little rich boy, with his 12% tax rate (in 2010; no one knows about the past) and $77,000 deduction for his wife’s dancing horse. He resents every police officer, firefighter, military veteran and active duty soldier, teacher, social worker, waitress, desk clerk, retail employee and factory worker, as well as every retiree, orphan and disabled person scraping by on Social Security, because they “pay no income taxes.” The horror of it all!

I’ve got news for you, pal. Everyone who works for a paycheck and gets Federal taxes deducted is paying income tax – along with FICA and Medicare.

While the media bleats about “payroll taxes,” those are income taxes. You make some income, you pay some tax. That’s how it works. Those are income taxes.

Every worker in this country pays income taxes.

True, they may get some of it back at the end of the year, but they’re paying income taxes. Believe me, the Federal government appreciates the float.

I’ve never gotten all of mine back, nor do I know anyone who has. Most people are glad to get a little refund on April 15, on what they paid in income tax.

Romney insulted half of America in front of his rich friends.

Meanwhile, I’m really disappointed in Howard Fineman (Huffington Post) and the rest of the pundits on MSNBC. They’ve been all over Romney for his idiotic remarks, but they won’t come out and tell the truth, which is that he’s just lost the election. It’s over. He’s done.

Fineman’s just covering his ass.

There’s nothing fine about Howard Fineman. The man needs a haircut in more ways than one.

“Oh,” the pundits say, “there’s a lot of time left, the debates are coming up, we could have a foreign crisis, this is way too soon to make a call.”

They won’t, but I will: President Obama will be re-elected this November.

Does anyone expect Mitt Romney to have a strong debate performance? He can’t even run a respectable campaign. He thinks the rich are supporting the middle class, when it’s the other way around!

Republican pundits know this election is over; but the Democrats profess to worry. And while some of this is strategic perhaps – people do still have to vote, after all, and that’s 50 days away – they end up not telling the truth, when the only reason they’re on TV is to tell the truth.

As a former reporter I understand the impulse to hem and haw. No one likes making a public mistake and having to eat crow. It’s a lesson reporters only learn by making public mistakes, and doing it often enough that by the time they’re Fineman’s age, you couldn’t drag them out on a limb. But they end up looking foolish anyway.

By pronouncing the presidential race over early, they could talk about the U.S. Senate instead. I think the Democrats will pick up a few seats, which will strengthen Obama’s hand in his second term. I think Maine will flip, that Angus King, the independent former governor, will win and caucus with the Democrats. I think Missouri’s going for Claire McCaskill. I think Tammy Baldwin could win in Wisconsin. Elizabeth Warren has pulled out to a lead in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sinking millions into trying to defeat former Gov. Angus King, but Mainers are an independent bunch.

Romney’s bonehead remarks will drag down Republicans in the House, too, maybe not enough to yield control to the Democrats, but the Tea Party is running out of tea. Republicans won’t be partying come November.

Here’s what’s happened. Romney isn’t ready for prime time and everyone knows it. He’ll still get millions of votes and carry some states, but he has proved himself incapable of governing the country, since he can’t even run a campaign. He isn’t ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Obama will win the military vote; he’ll win veterans.

Between now and Election Day attention will shift to the down-ballot races, those governors, senators and House races, and Republicans will find their candidates are too conservative. They have the Tea Party to thank for that, and after the election there will be a bloodletting.

I’ll be curious to see if Richard Mourdock wins in Indiana. He’s the Toilet Paper guy who beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary, but now Mourdock’s in trouble. His opponent is a conservative Democrat, Joe Donnelly; he may have a shot. He isn’t very talented and he doesn’t stand for much, but at least he’s mainstream; Mourdock is not. Hoosiers are used to splitting their tickets. I’ll also be interested to see if John Gregg can pull an upset in the governor’s race; he’s folksy, a smalltown guy, and he’s likable. He needs a lot to break his way in the next two months, but as a former Speaker of the state House, he knows what he’s doing. It would be very important to LGBTs in Indiana if Gregg can come from behind over Rep. Mike Pence, who’s already announced his anti-Gay, “pro-family” witchhunt if he gets elected. Indiana Democrats are going to need a lot of money, but Romney and the Tea Party are certainly a cause for hope now.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) compared the decision to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: Romney’s going to depress turnout. That gives Democrats a chance to win.

Pay no attention to Fineman, he’s more worried about covering his hiney than covering the news. Obama’s got this one, and America will be safe for four more years.++

Even older Republicans have come to trust this man with foreign policy and the military. He killed off Osama bin Laden, and Mitt Romney did not.

Fundamentalist Chickens Come Home to Roost

A lawyer lays out photos of a child who died at day care, as his father looks on. (Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star)

Here is a sad story, worth telling because one family’s tragedy is directly traceable to America’s so-called culture wars – which have nothing to do with whether you prefer Mozart, Gaughin or Woody Allen. Two parents in Indianapolis took their little boy to day care, just like millions of other parents do every day. Except this time the little boy didn’t come home.

Juan Carlos Cardenas, age 1, wandered off during lunch, but none of the adults noticed. When they finally went looking for him, they found him face down in the baptismal pool. He drowned.

Why was there a baptismal pool at the day care center? Because it was held at a church; specifically the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God.

The newspapers never have said, to my knowledge, how far away the baptismal pool was from the main day care area; or whether the pool was covered with a lid when not in use; or whether he had to climb up to get to the pool; or whether it was sunken into the floor, so that anyone could trip and fall into it; or how long Juan Carlos was gone before the adults noticed and went looking. The Indianapolis Star, whose story this is, has always been vague about the details – except for a very salient fact: day cares aren’t licensed in Indiana if they’re run by churches.

In Indiana church day cares are “registered,” not licensed. They are exempt from all the safety and staffing requirements state government imposes on commercial day cares and secular non-profit versions. The state legislature decided, after pressure from churches, that they didn’t have to comply with the legal requirements. The church-run centers have lower costs that way; the state doesn’t interfere with their “exercise of religion.” Juan Carlos sadly exercised himself all the way to the room with the baptismal pool.

How many staff were on duty that day? The Star doesn’t say, never has. I guess that’s up to the judge to find out, because a lawsuit’s coming – against the Indiana state government.

Thank you, legislators, so much.

By “registering” church day cares instead of licensing them, the state knows that they exist and takes a role in advising churches how a day care should be run. The state can even do inspections – but it can’t force compliance, because that would interfere with “religious freedom” – to run a day care that kills a kid.

But wait, there’s more: it turns out the state legislature decided, faced with the obvious need for more day care facilities, that it would give out vouchers to qualifying families to send their kids to day care – without requiring them to go to a licensed facility. The Cardenas family enrolled their son at the Praise Fellowship.

Thus the state is deeply implicated here, and probably liable to some extent, though a judge will eventually decide. The church itself has already settled with the family – and shut down the day care center by refusing to accept the vouchers anymore. The state didn’t order the shutdown, they left that to the church.

Indiana sent an inspector to examine the facility back in November, four months before little Juan Carlos was drowned. The inspector cited the facility for 18 violations. However, the church was exempt from complying. See how this works?

After the child’s death, the state sent another inspection team, but by then it was too late, and besides, the state couldn’t close what it never licensed to open.

All this so the Assembly of God, and every other congregation like them, could practice its religion.

No doubt they were well-meaning, but that didn’t keep the child safe. He wandered off and nobody noticed, probably because there wasn’t enough staff.

The Star has never said whether the baptismal pool was considered a violation. Pity the poor inspector whose hands were tied by the legislature. She was busy counting the number of marked exits and making sure the applesauce was refrigerated and not expired, but never got trained in what to do about a baptismal pool. Clearly baptism is a religious matter.

A rational state – New York comes to mind – would handle this differently, I suspect. There, if a church wanted to open a day care center, the state would have welcomed them with open arms – and then told them that religion notwithstanding, they had to be licensed. If they got licensed, they would be eligible for the state to send children there and pay for them.

Not in Indiana.

I hope the state pays through the nose for the parents’ loss. I wish, though it will never happen, that the settlement funds had to come out of the salaries of state legislators. They’re the ones who failed the kid by not requiring oversight.

Why did they do it? Because the churches wanted them to, and had a thousand reasons why they couldn’t comply with the regulations. These aren’t just day care centers, but “ministries,” and everyone knows you don’t mess with a ministry, no matter how wacky it is. Indeed, politicians are eager to do everything they can to help out churches – including giving them money to take in kids like Juan Carlos.

The stupidity of all this need barely be mentioned. A child is dead and politicians killed him. They didn’t mean to, the kid just wandered off.

Surely however we can see many connections between religion, politics and the nation’s problems. Are you worried about the budget deficit? Try paying for your wars next time. Whose wars? George W. Bush’s, the Lord’s Anointed. That’s what the Fundamentalists said; by invading Iraq, Bush was going to remake the Middle East, guarantee Israel’s safety and thereby usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

I’m still waiting.

We could make long lists of the failed promises and lies of Fundamentalist preachers and politicians, but instead let’s ask another question: why and how did mainline Protestants let these goons take over in the first place?

Or: how are Episcopalians responsible for the wholesale theft of the Christian religion?

Fundamentalism is a 20th century movement, and its roots go back to developments in the 19th century, a period of great scholarly ferment among theologians. New methods of Biblical “criticism” arose, and many reactionary Christian leaders became alarmed. They launched a movement to stress the “fundamentals,” no matter what discoveries scholars made about the texts.

They decided to take over Protestant Christianity – and they did it, because Episcopalians didn’t want to dirty themselves fighting back.

They decided to write papers instead, and become even more scholarly. To the triumphant Fundamentalists, it meant God slew all the Amalekites. Piece of cake, really.

Now a hundred years later we are living with the results – when we’re not dying from them, like Juan Carlos Cardenas.

Does anyone realize how many state legislatures, like Indiana’s, Fundamentalist Christians now control?

Here’s a map of the 2004 presidential election results, which I submit as a proxy to answer the question. St. George the Bush won, of course.

It’s a vast swath of the United States.

But maybe you’d rather look at it by population; we’ve got a map for that too. This map is called a cartogram.

2004 presidential results, weighted by population.

 

That looks a little better perhaps and helps reveal the closeness of the popular vote and Electoral College. But it doesn’t do Juan Carlos or his parents one bit of good in little red Indiana, or a pregnant rape victim any good in Todd Akin’s Missouri.

God help you if you’re a Muslim in Murfreesboro, Tennessee or a Gay kid in Casper, Wyoming.

The unwillingness to fight of Episcopalians and others these past hundred years has real consequences. If the questions were only theological they wouldn’t matter so much. But Fundamentalist Christians want to make themselves the Established Church in the United States, and every other country they can get.

Christian Fundamentalists act just like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the “ultra-orthodox” in Israel. They want to control everything and everybody, and they’ll happily use war to get it.

It’s that last part that freaked out the Episcopalians so much and paralyzed them. “These people are warlike!”

Well, d-uh. Memo to theologians and bishops: there’s no sense arguing when your enemy’s got a gun in his hand.

So they surrendered. They won’t admit that’s what they did, but the evidence is all around us.

Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who’s “no abortion, no exceptions,” would have told my grandmother, “We don’t care if this pregnancy will kill you. Your maybe-baby is more important than you are.”

(My grandmother did die in childbirth. If she’d had a safe, legal abortion, I wouldn’t be here – and I still think she should have had a choice.)

As I consider my own Church, and how willfully useless it’s been in fighting for an accurate, balanced, faithful and intellectually respectable Christianity, I think back to the great heroes and heroines of the faith, who were never afraid to fight back. Our calendar of saints is filled with intrepid fighters, who didn’t shed blood but gave their lives combating heresy and preaching what the Church calls “pure doctrine.” We celebrate these people every day and every year. What made us so wimpy when challenged in our own time?

We’ll never fully know, and can’t turn back the clock, but here’s the good news: Fundamentalism can still be defeated, if we’ll take up the tools at hand and fight for the full, entire faith – including its nuances, doubts and contradictions too. I give credit to the 20th century bishops and theologians, they preserved and enhanced the faith for those of us inside the walls. That’s no small achievement. But it doesn’t bring back that little boy, either.

Fundamentalists don’t like the truth, and are afraid of it, so they rely on lies. This is a position of great weakness, because the truth can beat them every time, and the keyboard is mightier than the sword. Mine isn’t, but ours are; Leonardo Ricardo has pointed out the similarity between the Arab Spring and America’s future choices if the Fundamentalist-Tea Party-Republicans succeed this fall. We are not powerless, no matter how many billionaires line up for Romney. If the Assembly of God takes over the government, Americans won’t like it one bit. (In many places, when Fundamentalists have taken over the school board in one election, they’re thrown out the next. Even Kansas finally got rid of its militant anti-abortion attorney general once they saw what he was like.)

No side will ever win a complete victory. But we have power if only we’ll use it.

My hope for the Episcopal Church is that the next time we elect a Presiding Bishop, we’ll pick one who isn’t afraid to fight for the truth. Jesus doesn’t care if two men or two women get married, but he cares very much about how we treat women – children – the poor – the elderly – the sick – the homeless – the oppressed. Since Fundamentalists are intent on marginalizing powerless people, we can count on having his power on our side.++

Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618: Take That, Goldman Sachs!

 

 

Thelma Glass Has Died; Lessons from Her Life

Thelma Glass (David Campbell/Alabama State University)

Professor Thelma Glass of Alabama State University has died. She was a principal organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, the nonviolent action which propelled Martin Luther King, Jr. to world prominence. She was 96. Go here to read her inspiring story in The New York Times.

I want to focus on a detail we often overlook: people like Rosa Parks weren’t just forced to sit in the back of the bus. One hears that phrase so commonly these days that its meaning is weak tea.

Instead Blacks were told, “Sit in the back and give up your seat to a White person.”

Male, female, it didn’t matter; any White person. An able-bodied kid, even one who couldn’t sit still. This was the law.

In fact it was psychological warfare—brainwashing, programming, conditioning. “You matter so little that you have to stand up so a snot-nosed kid can sit down.”

The entire Jim Crow system of segregation was built to control people’s minds as much as their bodies. Colored drinking fountains—movie balconies—waiting rooms—swimming pools—all were intended to keep the people feeling down; worthless, helpless, confused, intimidated, separated, alienated and self-destructive.

If you can control people’s minds, their bodies follow.

There wasn’t a single White person, ever, who believed they would be harmed if they had to drink from the same fountain as a Black person. When you’re thirsty, water is water—and on the farm, it all comes from the same tin cup or gourd, and everyone cheerfully drank after each other without the least concern about hygiene. Remember when you were a kid? “Gimme a drink of that Co-Cola.”

No cooties to be found—including when a Black person got out of her seat on the bus and a White person plopped his butt right down where she’d been a-sitting.

It was largely psychological. But if you dared not to cooperate in your own brainwashing, they’d burn down your house, or bomb your Sunday School.

I’m still stunned by all the violence Whites were willing to commit to maintain their little advantages. I’d guess their self-esteem was pretty shaky too.

And it’s not as if the violence doesn’t continue, or the little mind games; just this week news bubbled up about a White Baptist church in Mississippi that refused to allow a Black, heterosexual couple to get married, purely for reasons of race. This couple had been attending there awhile, but when it came time to stand up in the White folks’ sanctuary, some of the members threw a fit—and the timid, “sensitive” pastor let them.

Thank God you don’t live in Miss’sippi. Or if you do, just slip out the back, Jack. There must be 50 ways to leave the Worst State Ever.

Now let’s bring it home to us. What did Prof. Glass do, and why did it have such an impact?

What does it mean for us today?

What she did, with Rosa Parks, Dr. King and the Montgomery Women’s Political Council, was remove one of the cornerstones in the edifice of racist psychological warfare.

Eventually, with a great deal of suffering and death, the rest of the structure fell down. Black folk stopped letting White people control their thoughts.

I think this applies directly to LGBTs.

The most homophobic people on earth are Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual. We’ve internalized homophobia; we’ve let Straight people brainwash us and control our thoughts.

We then turn around and use their weapons against ourselves, and each other.

I think we do this as much now as we ever did. Psychologically we’ve not made much progress at all. We’re outwardly more free, but our most casual, everyday conversations are laden with Straight people’s thought patterns.

Every “camp” remark ever made is homophobic, dividing the world into worthy Straight people and unworthy Gay people, or worthy men and unworthy women. (Because, you know, to be Gay and male really means you’re just a woman.)

Does this mean we give up our humor? Not at all. It means start being funny for a change!

My Jack was a wit; he kept everyone in stitches. He almost never made camp remarks. He liked Gay people, and fought for us.

Here we are, in 2012, and we’ve still got Gay men signing up for non-existent cures. Evidently they can’t think straight – or Straight’s the only way they can think, and they hate themselves.

We’ve still got Tyler Clementis jumping off bridges. That should teach the camp crowd something – but instead they always blame someone else.

We still churn out devastating statistics on LGBT depression, smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, and tons of new HIV infections.

We worry about children being bullied, instead of teaching them to fight back.

There is plenty of blame to go around for our personal problems and social problems – but we’re perpetrators too, and we never take responsibility for it. We’ve got more denial than all the rivers of Egypt.

You can’t watch 10 snippets of Gay porn without seeing 8 snippets of homo-hatred. “You like that, bitch?”

Um, no, I don’t. We are not female.

We’re just Gay, that’s all.

I would like us to stop oppressing each other and ourselves. We can’t do much, directly at least, about anti-Gay violence, but we can stop thinking like some Straight people do.

Remember, the oppressor’s as terrified as we are. Do you think those ’50s crackers didn’t know they were doing wrong, bombing churches, burning crosses, shooting people dead?

They knew, all right, and so do we.

It isn’t a crime, when you’re an oppressed person, to absorb the mind games and thought patterns drummed into your head.

But it is a crime to keep thinking that way once you lose your chains. And it’s a felony to make other victims keep feeling bad about themselves.

It’s the old programming principle; garbage in, garbage out.

We’re still putting out an awful lot of garbage, every day, in most of our thoughts and conversations.

“Pride” is supposed to be the antidote to this, but it takes more than marching in a parade or buying a T-shirt. It takes deep soul-searching to root out all the bad programming.

There’s nowhere to go to get a brain transplant. If there were, none of us would smoke, drink or get HIV.

What we can do, though, is act. Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and got arrested. She knew she would; she’d planned it all out.

Then once the news of her refusal reached Ms. Glass, she acted too; the Women’s Political Council acted – and within four days all the buses were empty.

The Black folk who depended on the buses had to make other arrangements. Some walked and some caught a ride with a friend.

They all knew instinctively how important it was to grab onto that cornerstone and yank it.

They didn’t need to go to therapy to change the voices in their heads; they had a tremendous advantage over LGBTs in the support of their families, who always knew racism was wrong.

This isn’t to say there weren’t Black folk who were scared to death to challenge the system; there were. The longer the bus boycott went on, the more internal dissent there was. It’s hard to get someplace when you don’t have transportation.

But they acted, and within a year they won, and only later did they stop to think about what they’d done and what it meant.

The larger civil rights movement was rife with internal dissent; the historical record shows that Dr. King got stabbed in the back more often by fearful Black pastors than any other group. But still he kept it together, even as younger, more militant leaders emerged, without his principles of non-violence. They didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, he did.

LGBTs have made remarkable strides as everyone now sees. We’ve been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land.

But if we want to be actors and not just reactors; if we want to have real pride and not just the kind you buy; if we want political change as well as inner peace and joy, we have to change our behavior and our thoughts.

We have to stop oppressing each other as a crooked way of showing/hiding how oppressed we still feel.

If you find it hard to change your thoughts, change your behavior; boycott Chick-Fil-A – and don’t be too quick to laud Target for running Gay ads and selling Pride trinkets just two short years after donating $150,000 in corporate money to a bigot running for governor of Minnesota.

Penney’s, Ellen’s sponsor, didn’t slip corporate cash to bigots first.

And don’t tell me that you can’t keep up with all the terrible companies, so therefore you don’t do jack shit.

Don’t tell us that you love Jesus or the pope or the Mormon church so much that you’re sticking with them no matter what – or we’ll come and pull you off the bus so you can walk. (You can still love your church, but don’t give them one thin dime as long as they treat LGBTs like the antichrist.)

Don’t tell us that you’re voting for Mitt Romney, “even though you disagree with him on this issue,” without expecting the rest of us to call you out. The only thing the Republican Party stands for now is greed – so we know exactly who your god is, the Almighty Dollar. You didn’t get the Gay gene without also getting the Gay compassion, the Gay empathy.

The more we act to liberate ourselves and others, the more our thoughts realign. (If we try changing our thoughts before our actions, it takes forever.)

Most of all stop oppressing other LGBTs with your idiotic remarks and pathetic humor.

Gay women are women; Gay men are men; and yes, you can play with those roles and gender boundaries all you want – as long as you don’t oppress others.

Bisexuals are real people with real feelings, so stop trying to make them fit your brainwaves.

Transgenders are allowed to be themselves – so hire one.

Imagine the world you want to live in, and your place in it; then act so that it comes true, and your thoughts will follow you. Create a world in which everyone is free.

That’s what Thelma Glass did, and she wasn’t much different from you or me.

But what made her different was that she acted. First Rosa, then Thelma, and suddenly it all went viral.++

Their Anti-Gay Prejudice Precedes Their Bible-Quoting

The kid does make it to sanity, thank God.

Last night I watched a documentary on Netflix called “This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.” It’s about a 16-year-old Gay boy whose fundamentalist parents shipped him off to a “Gay cure” residential program in Memphis, Tennessee, against his will.

I found it hard to watch, partly because of several poor choices made by the filmmaker (failure to attribute some sources, sitting for a pseudo-interview instead of just facing the camera himself, and constant use of MySpace, the declining social network, as a framing device, which gets old very fast) – and, of course, the topic. It amazes me that in 2010 there were still people – some of them adults – going for the “Gay cure,” paying through the nose for unqualified hucksters to shame them morning, noon and night.

This week Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the umbrella group for “ex-Gay” ministries, has finally agreed there’s no such thing as a “Gay cure.” Good for him; he has a bit of integrity at last.

However, his announcement is causing him to be slammed by others in the “pray away the Gay” movement, a story you can read here in The New York Times: “Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ is Renounced.”

So far Exodus seems to be holding most of its supporters, though some have left the group. The Times article contains this killer quote:

Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.

The quote marks around Gay Christian are Gagnon’s. The man can’t even write an e-mail without insulting millions of people. Some Christianity, huh?

Meanwhile a website I sometimes visit has a video up from something called The David Pakman Show in which Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, a pro-LGBT group, debates a military chaplain who claims he can exorcise the Gay out of him.

It isn’t worth watching, unless you also get a thrill out of seeing Pat Robertson predict that God will send a hurricane to destroy Orlando because of Gay Day at Disney World.

Not very amusing, to my taste. Seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.

There was a time, early in my activist career, when I used to appear on television a lot, talking about Gay stuff. That’s partly how I became, for a few years anyway, “the most famous Gay person in Ohio,” according to Cleveland magazine. Such a title, eh? I’m sure I could have pawned that for a peanut butter sandwich.

I mostly did it because no one else would. Now there are plenty of spokespeople. I think I was fairly good at it, but I quickly realized that I didn’t care to debate homophobes about whether we have a right to exist. Wayne Besen can, if he wants; I find it boring, and useless, and even worse, insulting.

Elie Weisel shouldn’t have to go on TV and sit next to someone denying the Holocaust, just to satisfy some misguided journalist putting on “both sides of the story.”

There’s only one story about the Holocaust; it happened, six million were murdered.

There are six million stories about the Holocaust, but skinheads and bigots can’t tell you one of them.

I’m no Elie Weisel, of course; just one little Gay guy in the Midwest. And what’s happened over the centuries to GLBT people is that we’ve mostly been picked off one by one, not as part of an organized, nationalistic genocide.

Death is death, and injustice is injustice. They don’t give prizes for who’s the most oppressed, and if they did the Jews would win.

However, none of them would show up to collect their plaque. And I really think we shouldn’t either.

Wayne Besen is free to do his thing; maybe it’s useful to someone. But the journalism involved is badly flawed.

TV did the same thing to Martin Luther King, Jr.

And no, reporters, it’s not a matter of “giving the other side enough rope to hang themselves.” That was never TV’s motivation in the Civil Rights Era. There was only one side to the story, and CBS, NBC and ABC were too scared to say so. Their big fear was that Southern stations would cancel the network news and they’d lose money. Lester Maddox and his axe handles got on TV to safeguard corporate profits.

So here’s little David Pakman, who found himself a chaplain in a freak show. And here’s Wayne Besen, thinking he can get some logic through to the audience over the intertubes.

We need to understand that bigots’ prejudice precedes their Bible-quoting. They learned the prejudice before they were old enough to read.

Uh-oh, boys holding hands…

This fact, that the bigotry comes before the religious “justification,” is important for LGBTs, especially Christians, to remember, because we can easily get caught up in debates with homophobes just like Wayne Besen and others do, without any cameras rolling. Principles of the faith, such as listening to others and respecting them, almost seem to require it.

But in 2012, let’s be aware of the Law of Diminishing Returns. In my experience, homophobes understand one thing only: power. They shut up when we show up.

That’s what happens in the movie; the teenage boy blogs on MySpace about being trapped in Christian hell, and protesters show up where he’s being held against his will.

The protesters are smart, loving and kind – just like Gay people mostly are – and eventually the state of Tennessee shuts the place down for providing mental health services without a license or qualified personnel.

No doubt, Alan Chambers has experienced much of the same; that’s the reason for his shift. He and his board members have finally realized those queers make some good points.

There isn’t any “cure,” and Exodus has finally stopped claiming there is one. Praise the Lord for small favors.

President Obama has come out for same-sex marriage in an election year. That is, he finally did the right thing he was afraid to do before.

I remain half-bemused and half-appalled at the Big Media descriptions of all this. While there are more and more LGBT voices being heard, of writers, thinkers and activists, Big Media’s still playing it straight, focusing on rising poll numbers supporting equality. I guess they’re so caught up in the moment (and the homophobic history of their companies and profession) they can’t get much perspective. They don’t seem to know why attitudes are changing, beyond that a generational shift is taking place.

Well, yes, but that doesn’t explain it. The facts are on our side!

We’ve always told the truth about ourselves, including the science, what’s known and what’s unknown. We’ve told the truth like Martin did and Elie still does.

He knows what he’s talking about; he lived through it, and he’s even got pictures to prove it.

The generational shift is happening because we’ve got the facts, our opponents put out bald-faced lies – and the rising generation can tell the difference.

They were not carefully taught the prejudice – for which we have the civil rights movement and especially the women’s movement to thank.

They told the truth too.

It will be interesting to see what happens when America stops denying global warming – but that apparently will take another generation, and I’m not sure I’ll live that long.

Truth Wins Out is well-named, Wayne Besen; I give you credit for that. (Their slogan is “Fighting Anti-Gay Lies and the Ex-Gay Myth.”)

Though really, you should have dressed up like Linda Blair and made that chaplain exorcise your Gay away right on camera.++

Whaddayou bet her makeup man was Gay?

 

Anglican Covenant Defeated; Time for Something New

This is what killed the Anglican Covenant: Elton John and David Furnish got married in 2005 and the world didn't come to an end, even for English church ladies and closeted curates.

Several of my Episcopalian friends are celebrating today the defeat in England of a proposed Anglican Covenant, a power arrangement that would have punished Episkies and Canadian Anglicans for not beating up Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Bi people.

To me today’s vote is an anti-climax, so I wonder what all the shouting was about. The Anglican Covenant was dead on arrival, and I said so two days after it was introduced.

I take my friends seriously; they’re some of the leading progressives in the Church, people like Louie Crew, Leonardo Ricardo, Grandmère Mimi, Tobias Haller and others. Mimi has obsessed about this for months, hanging on every vote, diocese by diocese, reporting the numbers as if Romney and Santorum were slugging it out in the Ohio primary for future world domination.

Mimi’s happy now and I’m happy for her. Let the good times roll and all that.

Can we all get back to real life now?

FWiW, I told you so. (H/t JimB, whose handy little acronym I rather like.)

Did anyone think that English people would go for legalized ecclesiastical homophobia, seven years after Elton John married David Furnish in the royal village of Windsor?

How little respect these Americans have shown for basic English decency. For heaven’s sake, even the Tory government’s now proposing that Gay weddings be performed in churches, if the couple want.

To paraphrase Jesus, the bigots are always with you, but they’re not a majority anymore, they haven’t been for years, and it’s time we stopped acting as if they are. England isn’t America, where Rick Santorum can still hope to be president. English fundamentalists are loud, but not numerous; not in the Church of England and not in other churches either.

U.S. Episcopalians have been unduly worried – ridiculously alarmed, in fact – about this foolish Anglican Covenant. It would have created first class and second class status among member Churches, with pro-Gay North Americans stuck in the back of the bus. But the bus didn’t have a transmission, so it never could go anywhere.

I struggle to understand my friends’ paranoia, though now it’s moot. I hope it’s the last gasp of Episcopalian Anglophilia.

The Episcopal Church is not now and never has been the Church of England, even though our roots go back there. Really, all this was decided when Washington defeated Cornwallis in 1781.

We do not swear allegiance to the English crown. No English bishop has jurisdiction in the USA, including that bearded old man in Canterbury.

My friends know all this, but still they’ve run around like Chicken Little.

Let them celebrate today, the right outcome has been achieved. But honestly, people, why did you think English Anglicans would turn their backs on us? How ever much they tease us, they’re deeply affected by the “special relationship” – and they’ll never cut themselves off from Canada.

So okay, the CofE spent a million pounds and half a dozen years debating this corpse of a Covenant – Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, staked his entire episcopacy on it – and now it’s over. Done. Dead as a doornail. If the Church of England doesn’t want this Covenant, there isn’t going to be one.

Williams resigned a couple of weeks ago, knowing this thing was going down. The vote wasn’t a direct referendum on him, but it might as well have been, and so he lost. Bye bye, Rowan, enjoy that new job at Cambridge you’ve got lined up. Feel free to convert to Rome if that’s what you want. It doesn’t matter anymore.

Mind you, I’m glad that Episcopalians care about the Anglican Communion; we’ve made that loud and clear. I’m proud of my friends for taking that stand.

But as long as Rowan was head of the Communion, and doing his best to steer it towards homophobia instead of inclusion, the U.S. Church was better off without the Communion.

That’s what gets people so terrified. “Independence? How could we? Unthinkable!”

Pardon me, I thought of it. But as sometimes happens, I turn out to be more radical – and more conservative – than even my best comrades-in-arms.

They cannot conceive of continuing relationships outside the stifling confines of the Communion. I can. To me, relationships would continue better than ever between the U.S. Church and our friends in other continents.

I don’t think those relationships depend on a seal of approval from Lambeth Palace. But my friends evidently do.

They bitch and complain, some of them, about how much money we pour into the Communion, but they never decide to quit paying.

In 2008 the American Church spent over a million dollars to send bishops from all 110 dioceses to a two-week tea party called the Lambeth Conference – all but one, that is; the Bishop of New Hampshire wasn’t allowed to attend because he’s Gay. Rowan didn’t invite him.

But rather than tell Rowan to go fuck himself, all the other Americans packed up their finery and went a-teaing.

They said “the relationships are too important for us to stay home.”

I was ashamed. But there wasn’t any big outcry over their decision, so the die was cast.

Plenty of Americans complained about Gene Robinson’s exclusion, but nobody told the rest of the bishops to stay home.

Every year since, every U.S. diocese continues to appropriate laypeople’s money to pay for the next Lambeth Conference.

Some church bloggers pointed out, “This is an abusive, dysfunctional relationship,” but we keep going back like battered women.

I still say it’s better for domestic mission – that is, serving Americans, delivering the Gospel to Americans and attracting Americans to our churches – if we don’t haul around England’s baggage, much less the African baggage all this is related to.

African Anglicans are Gay-hating in the extreme. They’re the ones Rowan Williams kept giving blowjobs to.

He understood his job as keeping the Communion together at all costs. He assumed correctly that the North Americans would stay regardless, so he bent over and took African dick doggy-style.

You won’t read it anywhere else but here.

Today Rowan has lost his Church. All that butt-fucking did him no good. A majority of English diocesan synods voted him down. Mimi has now declared victory. (She’s even posted a Cajun Jig video – and claimed she doesn’t feel triumphant, which is either a lie or a joke. It’s a cool video, see it here.)

I don’t expect to sway anyone’s opinion with this post. Episcopalians are going to continue to suck off the English Church for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind, if that’s what they want to do. I don’t blame the English for hustling American dollars.

But I will assert again and again that our mission starts here, in our own country, with our own people, who need to know that there is one catholic and apostolic Church where Lesbigay and Trans people and our friends are more than welcome – half the time we’re running the place.

This fact gets lost in the din of American fundamentalism.

Episcopalians have a lifegiving message but we don’t broadcast it. We hide it under a bushel. We hope people will come to us – though in fact most Americans today have never heard of us.

We’re the most important church in U.S. history, but those days are gone. Now nobody’s ever heard of us, and if they have they get us confused with someone else.

We used to be rich and powerful. Now we’re not. All the rich and powerful people left us, because we decided that Black folk should be full members, and women can be priests, and Gay people can be good, and Lesbians are smart, and Transgenders are at the very least interesting, and sometimes gifted, and always oppressed, which Jesus doesn’t want us to do to people! So hello, have a seat, nice to see you.

That’s The Episcopal Church today. It’s a great place for Lesbians and Gay men, and for young adults who have friends who are Gay; who want to raise their kids as part of a diverse community.

Growth-wise we are ideally positioned for this very moment in time. But as long as we’re still caught up in all the doings in the Diocese of Bradford – as long as we care about Lambeth tea parties – we’ll miss our chance to heal and reconcile LGBT Americans.

That’s the real tragedy of this, not what Mimi gets obsessed about; God bless her, she did it because she cares.

She can’t hear right now that what happens on these shores, not in England, is what matters. Apparently no one in the Episcopal Church can hear that, not even Louie Crew. He values those overseas relationships too much to hear it.

He said a few years ago, “It will be even worse for LGBTs in Nigeria and the rest of Africa if we walk away from the Anglican Communion. We must maintain our relationships, if only for them.”

But we’ve done so little for them, and we’re so far away, that I don’t buy it anymore. The kill-the-Gays bill is back on the table in Uganda, and taking tea at Lambeth Palace hasn’t changed a thing.

My calling, though I don’t do it well, is to American Gay people. The more we rise, the better off African LGBTs will be. They depend on us, not for direct aid but for role-modeling, for courage, for an example. Their liberation must be indigenous, though outsiders can help.

My concern is for Tyler Clementi and Matt Shepherd, and all those kids who’ve killed themselves in the Hennepin County, Minnesota School District.

It may seem old hat by now, but my concern is for people with AIDS.

What I think ought to happen is something positive; let’s organize a Queer Episkie Roadshow to every major city in the country, starring Louie Crew, Mary Glasspool, Gene Robinson, Barbara Harris, Susan Russell, Sandye Wilson, Mimi and Leonardo, dancing bishops, musicians and artists, young and old, Straight and Gay, multi-lingual and full of passion. Make it fun – make it real. We know how to put on a show! Gather a crowd in whatever church will let us in, and then just preach Jesus Christ for 2012.

Yes, have a special outreach to LGBTs, but that won’t change the message; it’s still what it always was, Jesus loves you.

If we focused on that, instead of the internal workings of Anglican Land, we could change this country, change our Church and change lives.

This is the last generation of American LGBTs we can still reach on a mass scale, where some at least were raised in Christian churches before they walked out in disgust. If we wait much longer, the entire Lesbian/Gay community will be atheist or pagan. No one will remember the old hymns anymore.

Unfortunately my friends find it easier to worry about Lambeth. I think we’ll be judged for it, though I hope we are spared.

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” (Matthew 25:42-43)

That passage is a warning to people inside the righteous group, not outside of it. Progressive Episcopalians think we’re “in” when we may be out.

But a Good News Roadshow could light a fire in this Church. I bet Grandmère Mimi would be a smash hit.++

Taiko Project Drummers at the 2010 consecration of Mary D. Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce as Suffragan Bishops of Los Angeles. (Elizabeth Kaeton)

One Minute I’m Maria von Trapp, the Next I’m Baby Jane

Well, let’s start with the pretty one first!

Only a junior nun anyway, with those bangs peeking out.

Today I’m thinking about the role tension involved in being The Vicar to some people and to others the devil incarnate. Or an avenging angel.

It’s not only strange, since I’m one person and not two; it makes me re-examine my responsibilities. Am I doing my job correctly?

Maybe not; maybe I should be all Maria all the time, and keep quiet about the abuse of Gay people in church and society. I haven’t decided yet.

Because of that prayer site I run, maybe I have a public image I ought to protect. Twice a day I put up Bible lessons and prayers, accompanied by art and a bit of commentary. If I would leave well enough alone, I’d never face a controversy. People could come – millions already have – and receive comfort, instruction and strength to get through their day, trying to be as good, and feel as good, as they can.

This isn’t an unworthy goal. I like giving people encouragement and support. I like helping them relate to God and find their place in the cosmos.

The really nice thing about religion and all forms of spirituality is that we benefit from the questions, struggles and answers other people have come up with about what it means to be human.

The great thing about Christianity is that it offers a loving, noble and heroic role model in Jesus Christ.

I like heroes, don’t you? I’ve known a few, male and female, and they’re people I want to emulate.

As a Gay guy I love male heroes. And as a Gay guy I love women who are strong and good.

But heroes are made because they fight Evil. From Jesus Christ and Desmond Tutu to John Wayne and Superman, heroism becomes clear to the rest of us by the protagonist’s courage, skill and compassion as fighters.

Yes, Sojourner Truth, you’se a woman all right! Can’t nobody say you ain’t a woman!

Myself I don’t feel heroic much (and certainly not by playing The Vicar). I’ve done some things I’m proud of and lots I’m ashamed of too. I don’t think Jesus is enlisting the rest of us to be heroes, so much as showing us what to do if and when evil confronts us. “No greater love hath a man than this, that he give up his life for his friends.”

Then there’s the other side of my personality and value system: the mouthy one who’s verbally aggressive with Gay-haters. I’m not really Baby Jane, but I must look that way to them.

Don't forget, Blanche knew all along she was to blame.

I don’t care how they see me, I care that current and future generations of LGBTs not be persecuted by self-proclaimed Christians and the politicians who suck up to them.

I’ve been a Gay activist since I was 22, marching in New York’s 4th Pride Day, when no one else from my seminary dared to show up.

I know that the best way to win fairness for persecuted people is to stand up and speak back to the haters. To call them out; to fight back.

Times have changed and my roles have too; I’m not the activist I used to be, but I still engage the fight sometimes. Today I’m involved in a flame war online, resulting from Indiana politicians’ efforts to abolish a license plate for the Indiana Youth Group. (I’m trying not to keep running back and forth to The Indianapolis Star website to see the homophobes’ latest replies. I mean really, we should all have better things to do.)

Plus I have an essay, right on my prayer site, suggesting that all Christians should pray about whether God loves or hates Gay people. It’s one essay, on a different page, away from the prayers; a reader has to click to see it.

This essay has garnered more comments, pro and con, than any other entry on the site.

What I’ve learned is that there are opponents of LGBT people who spend their time trolling websites like mine, searching for sites where they can expound their arguments. (Note: my commenters are by and large respectful, not hate-filled. They disagree with me but maintain a basic recognition that LGBTs are human beings, at least.) People like that need to get a life – which is why I’m not on The Star’s website right now.

"I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?"

I can hear in my head all the reasons why it’s okay for me as a Christian to speak out sometimes; prophetic witness is a calling of a saint. And I don’t really intend to cut back on what I say; in the secular world no one knows me, so I’m not doing any harm. Maybe I do a little good, though probably not much; public shouting matches aren’t very entertaining.

I know I will continue to defend Christianity from its fundamentalist highjackers. That’s one thing that gets my goat, when fundamentalists presume to speak for God, when all they’ve got is their interpretation of some sayings from antiquity. Mainline Christians have done a miserable job of protesting Pat Robertson’s pronouncements, and someone’s got to speak up.

I don’t feel I have to protect the Daily Office crowd from my views on this issue; a few people come there because I express my views, and I want to make them welcome. My biggest evangelical impulse is to tell GLBT Christians to come home; the churches are better now and mine in particular is learning to be their suffering servant.

But I probably yap too much, and that can be bad too. The last thing I want is to drive a soul away from the prayers.

Ministers have to do a balancing act, and it isn’t easy. I feel for the bishops, priests and deacons who have greater responsibilities than mine. Churches need to offer comfort to hurting people, as well as to afflict the comfortable. If ministers lean too much one direction or the other they tip over. (They need to Stand Firm!)

What I’ve decided to do is to withdraw from certain other minor controversies in the Church, because people don’t need to hear from me about everything. An example: a priest-friend posted recently on Facebook about St. Joseph, Mary’s husband and Christ’s Dad. I was a little troubled by the suggestion that Joseph was his adoptive father (Mary was a virgin, of course), so I piped up. Another priest called Joseph “the patron saint of stepfathers,” and I don’t think that’s right either. God bless adoptive fathers and stepfathers, but I wouldn’t put Joseph in those categories, and I said so. Pissed off my friend the priest.

I need to learn when to speak up and when to keep quiet. Joseph doesn’t need me to defend him, even if I think those priests were going overboard.

Queers, though, do need defenders, so I’ll confine myself to them. I don’t have to enter into every church controversy there ever was or will be. No, I don’t think the Anglican Covenant is going anywhere (it was DOA the day it was released). No, I don’t think the Anglican Communion is something we must save at all costs. Yes, I’m opposed to spending millions of American laypeople’s money on a useless Lambeth Conference. No, I don’t think we should canonize the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” even if she popularized Thanksgiving.

But so what? Nobody died and made me Mr. Opinion.

Could we have a song now?++