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Romney Disqualified to Be President

The Romney scowl. (Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)

Presidential Debate #1: Mitt Romney looks presidential while running roughshod over sleepy Barack Obama. Debate #2: The President wakes up and punches him out.

Result: Obama retook the momentum, but Romney gained more the first time than Obama gained back last night.

The election, just three weeks from now, will be close – a lot closer than it needed to be, because at the time of the first debate, the President was pulling away in all the swing states and Romney was fading into irrelevance, just like John McCain did in 2008.

Obama allowed Romney to roll him like a drunk in the gutter. I count that as an epic moral failure, because as Obama well knows, this election isn’t about him, it’s about us.

With America still recovering from a terrible recession, our future depends on who wins this election. If Romney wins, rule by the rich will replace rule by the people. If Obama wins, we still have a chance to create our own destiny, as individuals and as a nation. And as we go, so goes the world.

It’s a world in which the Taliban shoots a girl in the face for advocating female education.

May God forgive Barack Obama for that first debate. Jesus is our Savior, but the Lord depends on us today to get his message out about Love Thy Neighbor.

Obama let Jesus down, and billions of us mortals. He let down Malala, now in the hospital in London trying to recover from her wounds.

Romney of course is no friend of the Taliban – but he’s also no friend of Malala.

He’s “qualified” to be president as a former governor and businessman, but his positions (to the extent anyone can say what they are), his values and his personality disqualify him. Two weeks ago Obama was well on his way to proving that.

Romney believes in patriarchy. Why would he not, being a Mormon? Patriarchy is the basis of his religion.

He’s a nice guy; I’ve never met a Mormon who wasn’t. But the foundation of the “latter-day saints” is one man, lots of wives, lots of kids, and eventually the man will end up as a god on a distant star.

It’s unbelievable in every way. Mormons think sex is the way to salvation – heterosexual sex, that is. It’s why they give millions to defeat same-sex marriage.

As Romney said last night, he’s got “binders full of women.” That’s a Mormon man’s goal. (Plus getting rich.)

I don’t believe in a religious test for public office, and Mormons who are Democrats are free to run with me. Maybe I’ll vote for a Mormon someday – but I won’t vote for Romney, whose Catholic running-mate wants to ban all abortions, no matter what, and whose Republican platform declares that a fertilized egg is a human being with 14th Amendment rights to life, liberty and, as Chris Matthews loves to point out, property. (What, they’re doing real estate deals in the womb now?)

Romney says he supports exceptions to the abortion ban in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. How many abortions do these exceptions account for, 5%?

What happens to the other 95% of women who feel they need an abortion?

I oppose abortion in principle, as an undesirable thing. But I completely believe in a woman’s right to choose. If she needs an abortion, I want her to be able to get one safely.

A lot of times, ethics and morality do not depend on good vs. evil, but on figuring out which is the lesser of two evils. Safe, legal abortion is the lesser of the two, because God didn’t put women on earth to be baby machines, for Mitt Romney or anyone else.

The Pope and the LDS church love to cite “natural law,” which states that women’s purpose is motherhood. But we’ve learned an awful lot of laws of nature since Aquinas popularized his notions of Plato’s philosophy in the 13th century.

We’ve learned what women can do, that they’re full human beings entitled to the same freedom as the penis-proud.

Abortion would be a lot less necessary is everyone had access to contraception. Yet Romney’s first order of business is de-funding Planned Parenthood.

To me that disqualifies him from being president. He’s a sexist pig, and these are the United States of America. We don’t do prejudice here, or take political contributions from bigots.

Romney takes them every day and says Thank You.

He politicized the death last month of the American ambassador to Libya – before his death was even confirmed. That disqualifies Mitt Romney.

I loved how Obama put him in his place about it last night. I’ve never seen a political staredown quite like that before.

This is the moment when Romney was certain he’d nailed Obama to the wall over the terrorist attack on Benghazi. Obama told him he had said the words “act of terror” the next day, and Romney wanted to get him “on the record” for what the governor thought was an outlandish claim. He stared at the President, then raised his eyebrows, like “Did I really catch you saying that?” When moderator Candy Crowley shot him down, Romney was left sputtering in disbelief. He clearly never bothered to learn the facts – after politicizing the assassination of a U.S. ambassador. (screen capture via MSNBC)

Romney wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer – and lies about it. That disqualifies him.

He says 47% of Americans “regard themselves as victims and refuse to take responsibility and care for their lives.” His running mate calls 30% of Americans “takers.” That disqualifies them both.

They’re anti-Gay bigots too, both of them. Maybe that’s why Romney won’t release his tax returns, afraid we’d see how much he gave to pass Proposition 8 in California. You know he didn’t sit on the sidelines; he gave money. He raised money for it from all his Mormon businessman friends. He’s a former bishop; they’re all such conformists they can’t say no to anything that will turn them into gods on a star.

(I must say I’m proud that Democrats have not raised the Mormon issue against the man. Let there be no religious test for public office. I only comment about it because it seems relevant in understanding Mitt Romney; Harry Reed is also a Mormon, and he favors same-sex marriage.)

Romney’s tax “plan” involves cutting Medicaid and shifting it to the states, which we all know will underfund it, thus harming the poor, disabled and elderly. It’s immoral; he disqualifies himself. He isn’t fit to be president.

He should try reading the actual Bible, not the Mormon counterfeit version. Jesus said, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” The entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrews demands justice for the poor – but Romney wants to make the poor poorer and then blame them for it.

He will run up the deficit and the national debt, after portraying himself as a savior who will cut the deficit and debt. Republicans always do this – while running up the national debt!

He’s a good salesman; he’s got nearly half the country believing him. But why on earth would we elect a financier, four short years after getting screwed by financiers?

Not only are they screwed, they smile about it. (Paul Fell/Artizans)

Romney enjoys threatening war with Iran. But no Romney has ever gone to war; his sons and grandsons won’t either. Going to war is something the “little people” do to indulge the fantasies and greed of the rich.

Romney wants more coal mining, and arranges photo-ops with miners ordered by their bosses to appear without pay. We’ve seen a remarkable increase in employer intimidation this election, but Romney has no problem whatever in cozying up to the dirtiest industry on earth. If it will get him elected, he favors lopping the tops off every mountain in Appalachia.

I guess he figures that when global warming renders God’s green earth uninhabitable, he’ll already be a god himself on a star somewhere.

Pollution is immoral, Mitt; you’ve disqualified yourself.

You’re a liar. God doesn’t think much of that either. Your campaign “isn’t going to be dictated to by fact-checkers.”

Steven Colbert predicted that truth will be replaced by “truthiness,” which George W. Bush was fond of too, and if you win, no one will ever be sure what the truth is again.

America’s existence depends on voting for what is moral, based on what is true. If you replace truth and morality with lies and immorality, we’ll never be the same.

That was the risk Obama – and his strategists – ran when he slept through the first debate. Thank God he woke up in time for the one last night.

We need America to be better than it is today, not worse, and that’s ultimately not a function of the employment rate; instead it’s a result of moral decisions by our leaders and our citizens.

Romney chooses immorality, and is disqualified.++

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.

Book Review: “Holy Women, Holy Men”

Like many Episcopalians, I’ve been using Holy Women, Holy Men (2009) for about three years now. It’s a book of saints, major and minor, whose “feast days” are observed every year during the Holy Eucharist, Morning and Evening Prayer.

The saints range from the world-famous to the truly obscure from the past 2000 years of Christian history. A large percentage lived prior to the Protestant Reformation; others lived through it and after it. They come from many traditions; the Undivided Church prior to the Great Schism of 1054, which split the Church into East and West, Orthodoxy and Catholicism; Episcopalians and other Anglicans; and, for the first time, worthy Baptists, Lutherans, Moravians and others. There are even a few Jews.

Holy Women, Holy Men is an update of prior works called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The new book’s purpose is to provide a calendar list (which saint goes on what day), along with Bible readings and a prayer known as the Collect of the Day, which mentions the saints and what they are known for; that is, why we observe them. A thumbnail biographical sketch is included on the page opposite the prayer.

HWHM, produced by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, offers a great expansion and diversification of the saints recognized by The Episcopal Church. There are many more women now, including more Americans. The list of saints is also more international than ever and goes beyond a standard collection of Dead White Europeans.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer mentioned 67 saints, but gave no liturgical directions; by 1964 the American Church added a hundred new worthies, each with lessons and a collect. Now HWHM adds another hundred or so, including 20th century Americans like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dorchester Chaplains of World War II, Julia Chester Emery, a great laywoman, and Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian who gave his life in the civil rights movement.

In broad terms this is a successful book; it holds up less well on any given day. After three years of trial use, the Episcopal General Convention decided, based on the Commission’s own request, that it wasn’t ready for prime time, and thus its trial use was continued for three more years in a vote last month.

Some of the saints chosen are controversial; I object to a few of them, for what that’s worth. John Calvin, the theologian of hellfire and damnation, is in there, including his proclamation that all humanity is guilty of “total depravity”; so is Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” (She also popularized Thanksgiving Day and helped make it a national holiday.) John Henry Newman gets a day, despite causing all kinds of uproar when he defected from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism – and then arranged to be buried next to his longtime “friend.”

Beyond the question of including or excluding someone, which is bound to be contentious, some people raise objections to the exact phrasing of the prayers; everyone’s a critic in this democratic Church. Some commenters want to substitute other Bible readings that accompany the Eucharist.

The Commission knows its work isn’t done yet, so I give them credit for that.

However, the production of the book itself is almost shocking in its flaws; like the Bible, the Prayer Book has to be letter-perfect, and HWHM, essentially a Prayer Book supplement, is full of typos and other mistakes. Sometimes it doesn’t even spell the saint’s name the same way from one page to the next. I don’t think The Episcopal Church has ever produced a book this sloppy. (I should know, having proofread the Psalms in Authorized Services (1976), the forerunner to the current BCP.)

The worst feature is the inclusion of unrelated saints on the same day. Apparently the Commission intends for some churches to observe one person and not the other, according to local preference. We’ve never had to pick and choose before, and the logic isn’t always obvious. On August 3 there are separate services for George F. Bragg, Jr., an African-American priest and Church historian, and W.E.B. DuBois, the African-American father of sociological science who studied the Black slums of Philadelphia. Could no one figure out a way to combine these two? Which one is a Black parish (or a White one, or any other kind) supposed to choose? They combine them, of course – or leave them both out.

On August 27, we observe two great priests and missionaries to the deaf, Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle—with the latter given the slightly degrading treatment no other saint receives of being merely “with” Gallaudet. Unlike all other clergy whose days are observed, their priesthood is not mentioned in the day’s title; why not?

We have a day for “William F. Mayo, Charles F. Menninger, and Their Sons, Pioneers in Medicine,” with the years of death of the fathers. The sons aren’t named, nor are their death dates given; are they really included or not? The bio accompanying the day mentions that the Mayos were Episcopalians, but there’s no note at all on Charles Menninger’s faith; his son Karl, who comes up in the sketch but not the title, wrote an influential book, Whatever Became of Sin?, which emphasized holistic healing of body, mind and spirit – but what his old man believed, we’ll never know.

The book is great for including a lot more women than we’ve ever had, but with the simultaneous inclusion of a lot more men, the male-female imbalance hasn’t changed at all.

Beyond all this is the question of how any day can be special if every day is taken up with a saint. At dailyoffice.org, I’ve had to alter my policy on including artworks with Morning and Evening Prayer, to put the emphasis back on Jesus and the other figures of the Bible, so we don’t get caught up in observing every Aelred, Aidan, Alban, Alcuin, Alphege and Anselm that comes along.

The bios are especially problematic, along with the grandiose titles given most saints of the middle and later Church. If someone was a king, an earl or a rich man’s daughter we’re going to hear all about their wealth, prestige and stellar education; apparently the poor don’t have what it takes for sainthood according to this Commission. It’s the worst English class-consciousness I’ve ever seen in an American book. Jon Daniels gets his whole name spelled out like a baptismal certificate, when he was just a young guy in blue jeans.

For a denominaton that is no longer the Church of the Upper Class, that indeed is struggling at times for its ongoing life, the Standing Commission has no clue how to market these people as role models – the principal role of a saint. It’s as if this Commission takes all its meetings at Downton Abbey, while the rest of us carry the tea and pay for the lodgings.

I exaggerate; I know some of the Commission members, who are good people trying to do a difficult job. This book isn’t the only thing they’ve had on their plate; this year they offered, and General Convention approved, rites for same-sex blessings (which aren’t marriages, they hasten to add). There was a little arguing about it but the Convention okayed those new liturgies by a landslide, so the Commission gets kudos for that.

Pushing back final approval of this book was also the right thing to do. It isn’t finished yet, it’s kind of a mess—and we’re not used to that. Millions of people depend on what our official books say, but HWHM isn’t entirely dependable yet.

Let me also give credit to the Commission for engaging the Church and the public in the process of revising the calendar, with all its pitfalls. Anyone can comment on their blog at http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com – and people do. I was able to put the Commission in touch with the descendants of a new saint, Conrad Weiser of Pennsylvania, a colonial diplomat with the Native Americans of the Northeast. I’m proud of that, but find it sad that Weiser’s family, with their own website and frequent reunions, had no idea that TEC was elevating their ancestor, and that the Commission never even looked for his relatives. All it took was a Google search.

I expect better of The Episcopal Church; I expect the best human beings can do, and Holy Women, Holy Men isn’t it. Maybe it will be someday, but it isn’t now.

Howard Galley, General Editor of the Book of Common Prayer (1979), would have made sure it was before it was released, but he isn’t here anymore; I nominate him for sainthood.++

Sometimes saints get added from the ground up, not the Commission down; Thurgood Marshall, an Episcopal layman and the first Black Supreme Court justice, was recognized after his parish in Washington, D.C. began celebrating his life every year and talking up his candidacy. The same thing is now happening for Dr. Pauli Murray, a priest and civil rights leader in North Carolina. The Standing Commission’s guidelines for recognizing sainthood say to wait 50 years after a person’s death, but that didn’t stop Dr. King, Jon Daniels or Justice Marshall.

 

The Gospel According to Gay Guys

13th century Russian icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus; graphic design by Peter Schröder Studio, Amsterdam.

My third novel was published yesterday and is now on sale as an e-book at Amazon, in the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

You can read it on all Kindle formats, iPhone and iPad, as well as desktop computers with a free downloadable Kindle app; link below.

Other formats will be rolled out soon, along with more stores.

My book’s as long as the Bible – but much more entertaining. It reads fast and has comedy too. At $6.99 it’s only a penny a page. (Although there’s really no such thing as a “page” in an e-book, since readers can change the text size to whatever they want.)

I’ll tell you a secret: it’s really a Gospel for Gay Guys. I stole “according to” from someone else’s work.

Three of the chapters are sexually explicit. My friend Leonardo is going to blush. He may even walk away from it for awhile, but I bet he comes back to find out what happens next.

It’s got four-letter words, because that’s how guys like us talk. I wrote it in the vernacular. Maybe it would sell better if I’d told Peter to label it “Vulgate Edition.”

But it’s good news for every Gay guy who ever loved God.

I have no idea what reaction I’ll get from women. They were 50% of the audience for Murder at Willow Slough (2001), the book that introduced these characters, Jamie and Kent. Women loved that book; some of them will like this too, but it is a grown-up story. Slough contained no sex; this book makes up for lost time.

Here’s the official pitch from the Amazon sales page:

Kent is a cop, Jamie is a reporter; they fell in love three months ago while working on a serial murder case, and now they’ve come to the end of their first date. They want to make sure their relationship lasts, but they are babes in the woods and the forest is scary. They have to face their dangers and fears, separately and together.

Their challenges range from a drive-by shooting in Murder City USA to a seductive waiter at a resort hotel, but their worst difficulties are close to home: family expectations, health issues, money concerns, sexual styles. And “what are you going to do about kids, anyway?”

Jamie keeps getting attacked by creatures out to kill him, and Kent’s never around when he needs him. They move into a weird old mansion and suddenly a 10-year-old boy disappears.

They treat each other tenderly, but what they don’t say matters as much as what they do.

The Gospel According to Gay Guys is a romance, a murder mystery, an epic family history. It’s the story of one man coming to faith, and two men making a marriage.

Does God love Gay guys? Absolutely – including, and within, their sexuality.

The Church has always taught that within marriage, sex is sacramental. So the book’s got a couple of communion times in it.

Last month the Episcopal Church approved same-sex marriage rites. It’s local option, so they won’t take place all over the country right at first, but in marriage equality states, local priests will be able to sign our civil licenses, the same as they do for Straight couples.

The Episcopal Church has given GLBT Christians everything we want: our own bishops and priests, marriage, non-discrimination, full respect. That’s great news.

Sure, it took a long time, about 40 years, but as God measures time, this was an eye-blink.

The message of the book is this: we’re free to come back to church now. The Episcopal Church Welcomes Us.

Episcopalians aren’t being trendy, they’re being faithful. God wants LGBTs in church, so Episcopalians have thrown the doors open.

There are other good, welcoming churches of all denominations, on every continent. Whatever church you grew up in or used to go to, you can probably find an accepting community.

I make a case that the Episcopal Church is ideal for Gay people because it’s both Protestant and Catholic, but also that no one should tell you how to think. Go where you’re comfortable; go where you find God in the church’s midst.

My biggest target audience is GLBT Christians raised in the faith, who left because of Pat Robertson and the Pope. Churches have been full of anti-Gay hatred for as long as most of us have been alive. I left too; I don’t blame you.

But times are changing, and churches are, too.

Find yourself a good faith community, test it and join it. It’s much easier to encounter God with other people around. Yes, you can worship on a mountaintop or in the woods, but let’s face it, you don’t do that very often. The community has a purpose: mutual teaching, mutual support.

And it welcomes people with no religious background at all. When we first meet Kent Kessler, his faith is as vague as can be. He doesn’t know much, he’s never examined the claims Christians make for Jesus, and his life is okay without asking about him. He goes to church because his family does, but he just never thought much about it.

I hope Gay guys can still listen when God calls.

But the book doesn’t preach, it tells a story: here’s what happened after these guys fell in love.

Genuine romance changes lives. So does real friendship. We’re never the same. We’re better off for knowing someone and trusting them with our inner selves, the way we really are.

I’ve loved several Gay guys, and they’ve loved me. So this is what I’ve learned from them; God is there inside our love.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally – in every way, God is right there.

I’ll end now with a final observation. Maybe you already know God loves you. I hope you do; it means you’re one of his.

But few of us perceive the height and depth and breadth of God’s love for us. It includes all the things about yourself you hate.

Gay guys have been taught to hate ourselves, and nearly all of us still do, deep down inside. The most homophobic people on the planet aren’t Christians, but Gay guys. “Religious people” have taught us how to do this, but we’re the ones who absorbed the lessons down to the core of our being, where our sexuality is located.

But The Gospel According to Gay Guys argues that Gay liberation began with Jesus Christ. There were these two guys living together, see…

You heard it here first. The idea isn’t original with me, but nobody tells the story like I do.

It takes a Gay guy to tell it; someone who isn’t academic, and whose job doesn’t depend on pleasing anyone else. Chances are your parish priest could tell it, but s/he doesn’t.

I’m the one who’s free to go for broke. So in this book, I do.

If that isn’t worth $6.99, go to the movies or buy yourself another drink. All I can do is tell you the truth; from here on it’s up to you.

You can download it here.

Whatever mistakes are in the book I’m responsible for. Whatever’s true about it the Holy Spirit wrote.++

Tom of Finland. I so wanted this for my cover art, but the Peter Schröder Studio had a better idea; saints first, studs second.

 

 

Terror Time: O, Have Mercy on Me Lord!

“Oh, the humanity!”

A few minutes ago I downloaded a free 30-day trial of Microsoft Word for Mac.

I’m not scared of the program; I’ve used it before. But the download means I’m now committed to publishing The Gospel According to Gay Guys, my third novel, on Kindle within a month.

Kindle requires Microsoft files. Seems odd to me, given that most creative people use Macs, but the rules are the rules. I have to have the whole thing done – reformatted (every damn page, according to still more rules) and uploaded to Amazon.

From here, there’s no turning back.

I have, of course, been pushing myself to get to this day for weeks, months, years – ever since I published my first book and then wondered, “What happens on the driveway?” So the driveway is where the sequel begins.

But now the day has finally come. And I’m a bit scared.

I’ve been in spiritual direction with a counselor so this day would come. (Curiously, Marcia and I don’t have an appointment this month.) Publishing the book has been my #1 spiritual goal/thing to work on, because I believe God calls me to do it, because it’s something only I could have written.

Therefore to become myself, I have to do it. And now, the spacelaunch begins.

Who wouldn’t be a little scared?

This morning I wrote myself a sign, which is on my desktop:

I worry that the book will go nowhere.
And rather than find that out, I don’t publish it.
7.9.12

But:

(Cobbed from Facebook months ago.)

I also have a picture of (ahem) a nekkid man on my desktop, to go with these images, as motivation to do the work. I won’t post the full pic here, but I decided years ago that my character Kent looks like a Colt model from years ago named “Terry DeLong.” Nice looking guy; he has deep-set black eyes, and I decided to make that an inherited trait of his family, many of whom are also characters in the book.

Ya gotta have somethin’ to hang your hat on. (No comments from the peanut gallery.)

The book is a love story, among other things. It’s a hybrid romance-mystery-historical novel. Of course I love it to death. But will anyone else?

Probably not. And that’s very scary, because my “whole life” is bound up in the success of this book. Or so I think.

It isn’t really; I’ll survive either way.

“It’s a big smash hit!” Or “Nobody noticed.”

Here’s what I would not survive: failing to see the project through to completion. Failing to be my best self.

Going in, I already know what the criticism of it will be – the same as the criticism of my first novel, that this story continues on the driveway. “It’s too sweet. They’re too nice, they’re too perfect. The writing is juvenile. It’s incoherent. It’s grandiose. He’s in love with his characters” – which is true, that last one. Maybe the grandiosity too, but I’ve never lacked for ambition.

It will rise or fall on its title, which I hope is an eye-grabber.

But::: You don’t set out to write a Gospel unless you’re an evangelist – and I am, commissioned 1977 by the Bishop of Indianapolis. And::: You can’t write a Gospel unless it’s full of Good News – which it is.

Good news is sweet, nice and it’s perfect. (When it’s not being jaw-droppingly difficult. “Pluck out your eye and cast it away,” anyone?)

These characters are morally good, but they’re not perfect. Jamie’s got brain damage and a mental illness, and Kent can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

But they’re good to each other, and that is something I want to talk to Gay men about.

We’re often not very good to each other, which I think is usually the result of internalized shame about being Gay.

Even in this day and age it’s still the #1 problem we face. If you want to collect the most homophobic people in the world, convene a big gathering of Gay people.

I am very, very high on the ethical and moral worth of LGBTs. But we often believe the absolute worst about each other. You can see that in almost every Gay video ever made, pornographic or entertainment-oriented – and you can readily hear it at any bar or cocktail party in five minutes after two people have struck up a genuine conversation.

Watch documentaries about us, though, and you’ll see heroes and heroines from start to finish.

So I wrote a book about two heroes; you could even call them two saints. They’re imperfect mortals, but they consistently do their best, just like you do.

They do not contain the seeds of their destruction within themselves, a fatal flaw that will kill them. That is the way of classical mythology, but it’s inadequate as an explanation of why good people die.

They do, that’s all; they’re mortals. And unlike classical mythology, becoming gods isn’t an option for us. So I don’t mess with any of that.

There is indeed some violence, destruction and evil in this book, but those originate outside my main couple.

So: here I go. No turning back. Thirty days, all formatting perfect; all spelling, all thoughts, every word.

Will it be perfect? Nah, I can’t do perfect. Will it sell? Not if it’s never published!

I really need it to sell. But even more, I need it to exist, to be available for discovery.

When no one else can do it but you, you have to do it.

The one who does it is a hero.++

Those eyes.

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?

 

Peter and the Blanket: Letter to a Conservative Friend about Same-Sex Marriage

To make the most sense of this you should read Acts 10:9-23, following the link immediately below.

Dear S—,

The pulled Scripture quote for tomorrow’s Morning Prayer is the best explanation I can offer you for why Episcopalians are getting ready to approve liturgies for same-sex marriage next month.

One can argue that in fact it’s no justification at all; we’re aware of that. The quote is sufficiently vague that it can apply to anything.

However, it perfectly matches our experience as a church and denomination. Just as Peter was surprised, we are surprised.

We think it would be good if other churches would listen to our experience. Indeed, the evidence is that many churches are not only listening, but undergoing the same revelatory experience.

We seem to be among the first to receive it in such a widespread fashion; I think that’s because of our democratic governance as well as unshakable faith. We are able, because of the power of laypeople, to enact changes faster than other churches – even though at that, it’s taken us 40 years of study, argument and schism.

I don’t want to discount the leadership of clergy on this issue, but the key thing is that the people in the pews have learned something that we take, in all godly sincerity, to be the Spirit’s ongoing revelation.

After all, the parish clergy are caught in the middle between bishops and laypeople. The bishops’ power to enact change is limited by the other “orders.” They can’t do it by themselves, the priests can’t do it by themselves, so the laypeople are the key.

When the vote is taken, it will no doubt be divided “by orders,” to make sure that all three orders are in agreement. This is a common delaying tactic, but it also has the happy result of affirming, when votes are favorable, the proposed course of action.

The vote will not be unanimous; people have their own minds. There will be a certain amount – less than you might think – of arguing over scripture. “How can you possibly vote for this, when it says right there…”, etc. But that will be over fairly quickly. The voting will proceed, the tallies will be announced, a brief demonstration (joy!) will be allowed, then everyone will adjourn for ten minutes so people can catch their breath and get ready to go back to work.

The vote will make headlines worldwide, and give hope to a persecuted minority in every country, except in Western Europe, where the attitude will be, “Well, they finally got there. How nice.”

The media will then proceed to recount the schism, quoting liberally from Biblical opponents while ignoring the lopsided vote. The end of civilization as we know it will doubtless be invoked, and we’ll have to suffer yet again having our faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God publicly questioned, doubted and denounced.

It isn’t easy being Episcopalian, but then again it is. We’re not victims here; we know who the victims are, and they’re not most of the members of the Church.

We find it both amusing and sad that our persecutors loudly bewail their victimhood for not being allowed anymore to brainwash children in America’s public schools, or to fight so hard to make their religion the only one in this country. It never has been; it never will be.

The quote? Acts 10:15:

What God has made clean, you must not call profane.

I write you this out of respect, affection and love, not to change your mind. It’s just a little testimony, that’s all. You’ll hear it again from others; you’re hearing it already.

The question is whether one believes in ongoing revelation, or whether the ancient scriptures are the last word on everything. I don’t know why they would be; they don’t make that claim. Indeed they tell us, “There’s more to know.”

Our solution to the genuine issue of whether to trust claims of ongoing revelation is whether they stand the test of time. If we made a mistake, we’ll correct it.

If we didn’t make a mistake, as God gives us to see the light, we’ll ratify the change, no matter what it costs us.

It becomes a matter of discipleship, of following the Lord’s call. We went through the same thing with women priests, whose service and holy leadership have proven impeccable.

We lost a million members over women priests and civil rights, and we’ll doubtless lose more over this. We’ll also gain new members consistently, from people whose churches drive them crazy and drive them out. People of faith will find us; they always do.

No one worries anymore, as Peter and the early Church did, about foods that are clean and unclean. If it doesn’t make you sick you can eat it. His vision, as a righteous Jew, must have been totally amazing. Revelation always is.

To go from a revelation about food to one about gender and sexuality is even more amazing – because the one thing people cling hardest to is their old notions about sex. It’s ironic, given the history of racism in this country and the world, that we’ve found it easier to give up old ideas about skin color than to change our minds about women and men.

But we live in a time in history when all that’s changing too, and I welcome it with everyone else in my Church. It hasn’t been a century yet since women started to vote – when they could own property and serve on juries. If an heiress married a poor man, he ended up with all her stuff.

That isn’t fair – but God is fair.

Of all the things that can be said about God, that one is obvious; God is perfectly and completely fair.

In fact, God is so fair that when his people the Israelites found themselves oppressed in Egypt, he got them out of it.

When all people were oppressed by sin, he got us out of that too – if we want to go free, by taking on the burdens of others in love.

Episcopalians have learned how loving these Gay and Lesbian people are. We’ve slowly started to take on their burdens in love, when they’ve always been there for the rest of us.

What God has joined together, let no human being tear apart.

Thus it seems right to us to bless their relationships in liturgy, which really means less that we impart a blessing (though we do) than that we recognize the blessing God has given them before we knew it.

If God be for them, who can be against them?

Episcopalians can’t, so next month, we expect to begin to celebrate their blessings.

If we are right, within a century the entire Protesting Church will join us; and if we’re not, I guess we’ll find ourselves alone.

We don’t expect to find ourselves alone.

We expect to continue to prosper in the Lord; God knows we have up to now, or you wouldn’t enjoy our boy choirs so much.

What this all reminds me of is the importance of taking a risk for Christ. The first Twelve sure did, when they had every reason not to.

Peter must have been afraid the day that blanket came down from heaven.

But it wasn’t the first time he’d been afraid either, and the previous times seemed to work out okay.

So he went ahead and met Cornelius’s representatives, and gave them shelter and food.

It is likely, though not certain, that Cornelius was the same centurion who met Christ and asked him to heal his beloved pais.

It is possible, though less certain, that those two were Gay. I don’t care what they tell you in Bible class, the possibility is there.

And if it should be true, which we won’t find out about until after we are dead, then Christ adorned and beautified their relationship just like he did at the wedding at Cana.

So Episcopalians, who are uniquely blessed by maintaining the Catholic religion while curtailing the power of the Bishop of Rome and all bishops, are going to take a risk for Christ. I’m excited; it’s better to take a leap of faith than to cower in doubt and fear.

Everything the human soul longs for lives on the other side of fear.

Our fellow Christians know this, and it’s okay with us if they watch while we leap. Somebody has to take the first jump (and we’re not the first; the United Church of Christ gets their name on the plaque).

The second leap is probably as important as the first; if nobody followed the Congregationalists, then nobody else ever would.

Thank you, S—, for your love and faith in me, knowing as we both do that I’m officially disapproved of by your tradition. You’ve taken your leaps too, and I’m thrilled.

I don’t need you to jump where I jump, or when I jump, or even to jump at all. The fact that you love me when I jump makes me, what, Street Vendor #4? [Her son, recently in a high school theater production.] “It’s not that he did it so well, it’s that he did it at all! And he was rather good, I thought.”

I will always cherish you, and whether we meet in this life or the next, I look forward to it. There’s going to be dancing in heaven that day – as there will be in Indianapolis next month.

Yours,

Josh