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Finding Out What It Is to Be Truly Human

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

Kind of a hot guy, actually. (Auguste Rodin)

This post will probably be a bit ragged, because I haven’t thought the subject all the way through. But it’s been stirring inside me long enough that it’s time for me to try to get some notes down and hope that they mean something to you. In the past people often called my writing stream-of-consciousness, which I’ve never thought was correct, but maybe this entry will be an example of what they meant.

Here’s a lesson appointed for Morning Prayer tomorrow. I’ll reprint the whole thing so you can see the context. St. Paul, whose writing is always wise and eloquent, claims that he put these gifts aside when evangelizing in Corinth, so that instead he could give “a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If he did that, he was surely a master teacher, but in this letter he will now eloquently explain his wisdom! (I’m convinced he knew that every word he wrote was holy scripture.)

1 Corinthians 2:1-13 (NRSV)

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him” –

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Learning what is truly human, seems to me, is our task in life.

And I can’t say I’ve arrived at the point of knowing; it’s more that I feel like I’m getting there, and also that I feel like I’ve always known. I want to ask, Don’t we all really know what it is to be truly human?

We may not live up to it – most people don’t, the world doesn’t – but that’s because we prevent ourselves from knowing.

We do, all of us, know what it means to be human. But we push that knowledge-awareness down deep inside; we seem to find it painful to know what’s human and not, so we keep ourselves from thinking about any of it.

As Leonardo Ricardo would say, we’re all about “pretend.” When I was a kid our adolescent term was having a “false front.” (Teenagers are experts on this subject, with built-in bullshit detectors.)

I never really lost mine and I bet you didn’t either. I’m not sure anybody does, but boy, does this world have massive incentives to give in to the BS.

Corporate life requires it – any large organization, for-profit or not. Bureaucracy demands we all worship the bullshit.

the-organization-man

Family life demands it in most families – at least the ones we grow up in. I suppose we think we don’t impose it in the families we ourselves create, but then again we probably do.

Commercial life – politics and television – are all about the bullshit. A TV show may make comedy or drama about rebelling against the BS (“The Daily Show,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey”) but every eight minutes it’s “brought to you by the bullshit.”

There’s nowhere you can go (including church) and not be knee-deep in bullshit. That’s all the Church of England puts out anymore, and the rest of them are usually even worse. I don’t really follow the CofE anymore, and even if I did I wouldn’t want to go into this, but the latest thing is some kind of yes-and-no from the House of Bishops about same-sex marriage; “Gay people are welcome, and marriages are legal now, but of course we can’t conduct them, and we don’t let clergy officiate, and they ought not even get one privately themselves, but of course we can’t prevent them, and though it might be possible to offer some prayers after people get the civil rite, prayers aren’t the same things as blessings, you see,” which makes no theological sense at all and therefore is pure bullshit, the Anglican kind, you get the idea, it’s all who-fucking-cares.

June Butler cares, Mark Harris cares, Alan Wilson does, Leonardo perhaps and Louie (Crew) Clay almost certainly. But me, I long since don’t care. Leonardo knows his vocation, to tell the world and church “Let’s quit pretend.” But that’s his vocation and not, thankyouJesus, mine, not where the CofE’s concerned. I don’t fucking care, it’s not human there anymore.

What does it mean to be truly human? One of God’s names is Reality. (h/t Bill Coulter, late great.)

Here in the Episcopal Church we mostly think our places are getting more human all the time; I think that about my own congregation online, and I hope you think it about yours, too – that you’re right to think so. Even the Methodists got human yesterday, though only in New York and we’ll see how long it lasts. The retired dean of Yale Divinity School officiated at his kid’s wedding awhile ago, so two bigotbrains put him up on charges, which were set to kick off Monday till the conference bishop called the whole thing off. Good for him; good for the dean and his wife and his kid and his son-in-law. The dean is quoted in today’s paper thanking God for such a great son-in-law. That was nice; truly human.

But it takes a lot more than being for Gay rights to make us human; have you seen any Gay porn blogs lately? They’re all for Gay rights, at least I presume, but good grief, they’re inhuman.

Or they were until yesterday, when somebody Tumbld this:

catchotd:

We need to quit it with all the “cumdump whore” and “slave faggot” bullshit, you know? We’re willingly throwing ourselves into an identification that’s demeaning and dehumanizing, and that’s so dumb. Like, damn, love yourself; if you wanna scarf down three dicks and swim in a veritable pool of cum, then more power to ya man, you’ve got my respect.

Amen brother

Interesting that the reblogger said Amen.

MEANWHILE, back here at the farm, I try to make sense of my life and keep up with how much I’ve changed these last ten years. It’s really astonishing to me; I can’t make sense of it. I’m 62, my body is starting to wear out and my soul is cleaner than ever. (Should I have written “purer”? That’s what it feels like, even though nothing can be crazier than to proclaim to myself or anyone else “I feel like I’m being purified.”)

That is what I feel, though, and it’s damn weird.

So what was it Paul said again? The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?

I sense, more than know, what that means. Has something to do with a spark of life inside. Some bit of honesty is surely part of it; and increasing [crotchety] impatience with everything that isn’t real.

You know when people get old, they get crotchety; men especially. I’m only 62, which I’m sure to some of you is death warmed over. And only 62, to others.

I want to ask all the old people, “Did something like this happen to you? Is this normal? Is this like the reward we get for living this long?”

I do not know; I’m living this by myself, and no one can ever be sure of what’s going on with them. Our human capacity for self-deception is too great. Every discovery has to be tested; we’re too involved with ourselves to observe objectively.

Mind you I don’t claim one bit of better-than-you; I am after all still looking at porn sites. And on some level I don’t mind that at all – or I wouldn’t if could find any humane ones. The internet was made for porn, so there’s more of it than ever, but very very few where people treat each other decently.

I worry about what young Gay men are looking at these days. The internalized homophobia is just thick – except it isn’t all internalized, it’s disseminated, it’s broadcast, it’s enforced.

Here we thought, those of us who are now veteran activists, that we were rooting out societal homophobia and the psychic kind with it, but it seems like kids are killing themselves as much as ever.

I’d show you graphic examples or provide links, but you don’t want to see it. I don’t want to post them.

Instead here’s a nice thing; my Straight friend Tim found it yesterday.

Now I’ll start to wind this up. When I bought this house ten years ago my sexuality was on a certain trajectory. What turned me on at 20 still turned me on at 50, while my interests got much narrower and more focused – like “I want what I want exactly this way.” I felt some concern about that, like the world stopped containing 3 billion men and now had only 300,000, but I felt I was refining my desires too. Then a couple of years ago, I finally finished the 1000th draft of my third/ultimate novel, and quickly, my sexuality changed.

This wasn’t just my aging body, but the satisfaction/destruction of a gestalt. “The Gospel According to Gay Guys” is (or so I hope) the world’s ultimate love story with the world’s hottest sex.

And then I was done, and I’m not into that stuff anymore. Or I am, but not in the same way. I said it already, I got it out of my system, so it’s out with the leather and in with the sweat pants and pajama bottoms. (I suppose I should sell that stuff on Ebay.)

“Refining” sexuality sounds similar to “purifying” one’s soul. Meanwhile there’s this other thing going on.

I have said the Daily Office twice a day now for almost ten years, and posted it online. I was in love with God at 20 and I’m certainly in love with God even more now.

I think the repetition, as well as aging, is what does it.

I’ve told people on my sites, “Daily Office, twice a day for 30 days, and you’re bound to get closer to God.” Pray twice a day in an organized, disciplined way, and you won’t be able to stay away from God – even if getting closer is the very thing that scares you. (We want to get close, but typically not too close. Getting noticeably close causes most people to panic and back away; sure did me for awhile.)

I think probably nuns and monks, and Wesley with his Method, got this right a long time ago, even though I’m not sure they fully grasped it or anyone can.

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

Never my idea of a Gay role model…

But here is what I’ve learned: the soul’s desire is union with God; reunion, from before all time, and communion, here and always.

The soul’s desire is that all of life is worship, no matter what we’re doing at the time.

We can’t just will this attitude in ourselves as if it’s a decision we can make. Try that and you’ll forget it completely in 15 minutes.

Instead it works like this. “7 a.m., time to get up for the webcast. 12 noon, time to post the next services. 12 midnight, time to post again.” And the same tomorrow and tomorrow, day after day, month and year until it’s a habit that becomes a way of life.

I can tell you for sure that if I am getting closer to God these days, and I am getting refined and purified, it isn’t any doing of mine. None, zero, at most I just cooperate. At most I’ve just let go of my fear. God is no one to be afraid of; you won’t lose your personality (what makes you human), you’ll gain it more than ever before.

So you won’t be able to stand some things you used to be into. You’ll click off “House of Cards” because it simply got too dark. (The British original was both more humorous and more disturbing; I don’t like disturbing anymore. I don’t want those people in my house.)

Maybe you’ll end up selling all your sexgear, I dunno. (I do know it is better to have started getting it when you were 20-30-40 than to have waited until you were 50-60 to finally let yourself be who you are.) Whatever happens as you age, you really can welcome it, assuming you got on the right path in the beginning.

What’s the right path? The one that commits to being human, to expecting that out of yourself. The one that doesn’t mind wandering away without feeling guilty. The one that’s authentic for you, so you can be authentic with others. This “right path” doesn’t prevent you from hurting, making mistakes, loving and losing; going through dreadful things sometimes. Jesus could have done without some of those wilderness times – but he wouldn’t have been himself if he hadn’t had them.

My life still isn’t all put together, and I doubt it ever will be. Still, I’m almost shockingly happy.

That “human spirit within” is the only way to go. And I pity the fool who doesn’t go there.++

Do we need a Christian Left political action committee?

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

There’s a story in today’s New York Times, interviewing historians about 20th century mainline Protestantism, which the reporter (wrongly) equates with the Christian Left.

See it here: A Religious Legacy, With its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered.

I think she’s wrong that Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Presbyterians and UCC/Congregationalists always or even mostly have a leftward tilt, and that the Christian Left doesn’t also include, say, the Baptist Jimmy Carter and most U.S. Catholic nuns. But disputing the article is not my point; the piece is fine as far as it goes. The questions it raises for people of faith are more important than what she chose to include or leave out.

Namely, where are we today as progressive Christians? What more should we be doing to assert our Christian values into the public dialogue?

This morning, dailyoffice.org ran this photo and caption:

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

The demonstration, and the photo of it I was able to obtain, are well-timed; the House of Representatives is taking up immigration reform today. Most people don’t really expect it to pass without another avalanche of draconian punishments for “illegal aliens,” but we’ll see.

What bothers me about the debate around this issue is that a Christian interpretation of it is completely lacking. The so-called “illegals” are “strangers and sojourners” in Old Testament parlance, and “neighbors” in Jesus-speak – as in “Love thy neighbor.”

They are also scapegoats, just as Christ was, for the real problems of the nation – financial collapse, unemployment, and the replacement of democracy with oligarchy.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

Scapegoats are not allowed, Christians; you know that. There can be no question that the racism and prejudice against Latinos must stop at once.

And while there are plenty of U.S. Christians saying these very things, we get consistently drowned out by shock jocks and their imitators in Congress.

I suppose if we were equally shocking we’d get on the teevee too. But there has to be another way.

What about a political action committee that’s specifically organized by and for the Christian Left?

There are many vehicles for the Secular Left and they all do good work. But so much of the vitriolic right-wing opposition claims Christ that I think we should take him back again and set him free from his fundamentalist captors.

The basic reason fundamentalist Christianity exists is to promote racism, sexism, homophobia and war. The Southern Baptist Convention is the proof of this in its very existence; it was founded to defend slavery.

As I look around the Episcopal Church, I see several manifestations of firm belief in Christ and in God’s liberating mission to save humanity. For heaven’s sake he parted the Red Sea a long time ago, to free the Jews from slavery.

That act is still God’s template. So is the Crucifixion, which set us free from sin.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

At 62 I don’t feel like I’m the person to organize the Christian Left PAC (nor that that’s necessarily the best name for it; we’re talking mainstream Christianity here). It’s something younger activists ought to do.

But they’re not, so I keep thinking about it.

What do you think? Do you not find, faithful ones, that nearly every public policy question on the American agenda is spoken of in the Bible?

Republicans in the House want to end Food Stamps, while Christ told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

We cannot let this impasse go on, because people suffer horribly from our inaction.

I do know this: we have to take on Christian fundamentalism full in the face. That’s something we’ve never been willing to do before, which I think is probably mainstream Christianity’s biggest mistake in the last 100 years.

But from 9/11 to the shooting of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who advocates for universal education, we’ve seen what fundamentalist violence is like. We’ve seen it when so-called Christians bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors, bomb Gay bars in Atlanta, send Orthodox priests to beat up Gay people in Russia; we see it in Israel, in Hasidic communities in New York. We’re even seeing it lately among Buddhists in Myanmar!

Slavery. Scapegoats. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Attacking the poor. Trayvon Martin. The Military-Industrial-Religious Complex, in case you’ve forgotten George W. Bush and the “Left Behind” series. None of the enemies of Christ are going away anytime soon, there’s too much money and power in sin.

We’ve lacked nerve; we’ve been unwilling to endure persecution. So we kind of nibble around the edges of theology and politics, not wanting to mix them up too much, even though half of what Jesus said was directly “political” as we understand it today.

“Feed my sheep,” don’t cut Food Stamps.

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.

— Psalm 45

I know we’re lovers, not fighters – but we’re fighters too.++

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

Have you seen NOM’s “massive public revolt”? I haven’t either.

One of the new tactics the National Organization for Marriage (& Against Gay People) has been forced to develop lately is “claim we’re really winning. Or will soon. Or you should be afraid we will.”

Here’s an example of the latest bombast out of Frank Schubert, NOM’s political director, when asked by The New York Times about today’s new ACLU lawsuit on behalf of a Lesbian family in Pennsylvania:

“Our challenge is to let the court see they’re not going to get away with this without a massive public revolt,” said Mr. Schubert of the National Organization for Marriage.

So I ask you: was there a big fundamentalist march in Chicago and I missed it? Maybe D.C. or Birmingham, Alabama?

Where is this “massive revolt”? It’s strictly in the mouth of Frank Schubert.

angry-man-shaved-head-shouting-pointing-20160814

After a huge string of losses (6 states, 2 Supreme Court cases), he had to come up with something. Lying isn’t working as well as it used to, so now he’s adding more intimidation.

Or did I miss that Catholic uprising in the streets?

Or that hurricane that destroyed the Castro, Greenwich Village and Boyztown?

There were big Catholic protests in France months ago, once the ultra-nationalists, skinheads, racists and punks saw their chance to join up and commit violence; but yes, there were nuns and priests too. There, not here; it won’t work here. U.S. Catholics favor Gay and Lesbian marriage.

Anti-Gay marriage violence in France, April 23, 2013.

Anti-Gay marriage violence in France, April 23, 2013.

This Schubert fella’s looking more and more like Harold Stassen, a 1940s politician who kept announcing he was running for president every four years, for decades after Americans forgot him. At one time he was on the cover of national magazines. Then he became a joke; he made himself a joke.

Nice toupee, Harold. They on sale this week at the five and dime?

Nice toupee, Harold. They on sale this week at the five and dime?

Never forget: while your Aunt Frieda may be a harmless bigot, what drives anti-Gay campaigns is a lust for power and money.++

FrankSchubert_blog

A Problem You Can Help Me With

A Kiss

(UPDATED)

I’m thinking of starting a couple of new photo blogs. Both of them would illustrate same-sex marriage; I think we need to see, to keep a record/archive of, this topic that’s so vitally important today.

Because it isn’t just a topic or a couple of Supreme Court cases, it’s people’s lives; their freedom and their future.

Their children sometimes; their families. It’s Edie Windsor and her beloved Thea; it’s some of you who read this. (It’s Barbi and Debbie, whose anniversary is today!)

And beyond you, it’s Gay and Lesbian students and elders worldwide, who don’t necessarily have access to visions of their dreams and aspirations, because of where they live and who they live with.

I have a computer file, called “Romance,” with about 300 illustrations. Some are culled from online newspapers or social media, and others are more erotic than that.

My first decision is that if I go ahead with this, I should separate the two categories – with skin and without. Some of the pictures I’ve collected show public figures – politicians, showbiz people – while others are less public, just couples whose wedding announcements have appeared in the paper. They deserve not to have their faces shown alongside images that are more sexual – even though, if our societies are going to “get” what same-sex marriage is all about, we recognize that there’s an erotic component to every one of these relationships.

Which category does this shot go in?

Walt Whitman and longtime lover Peter Doyle, from the Library of Congress.

Walt Whitman and longtime lover Peter Doyle, from the Library of Congress.

I’d say they’re pretty hot; what about you?

Now the thing is, my proposed new blogs ought to be tied together if I’m to present a full account of this moment in our relationships. Obviously it’s easy to place a link between the two, along the lines of The Slab and Slab’s Special Content. (Both of those show skin; the difference is how much.)

I find I really prefer The Slab to the X-rated stuff, because the author also includes non-Gay content that’s important to him; nature pictures, pithy quotes and political cartoons. I got this one from him:

DefilingASacredInstitution

Now here’s the rub: finding a platform, the right bloghost. I need to stay anonymous if I’m going to be posting pictures of naked guys, even if they’re not just any naked guys. I don’t do pornography; I don’t even like most porn anymore, it strikes me as typically a commodity, when it’s not downright abusive and homophobic.

I operate two very successful Christian prayer sites. I don’t want to do anything to drive people away from those.

But I have this other message, see; marriage is a beautiful thing, and now that we’re dragging the same-sex version out of the closet, let’s take a look at it, as it really is.

I’m kind of “evangelical” about this; it’s related to my vocation as a lay minister and a human being. I have one message for the general public and another, related one for LGBTs; “God is real, and loves you” for the public, and “This means you too, LGBTs.”

I would very much like to bring Gay women and men into the Church – especially those of us who grew up in it, then left in disgust with Christian homophobia.

I’m an Episcopalian; we don’t do homophobia anymore.

These guys could go on my G-rated marriage blog; one of them’s a priest, and he got married in church as well as City Hall. His hubby’s an assistant U.S. Attorney.

Daniel Noble and the Rev. Ryan Fleenor

Daniel Noble and the Rev. Ryan Fleenor

Now the question occurs to me, as I sit here writing “out loud,” why do skin at all, then? I’ve already listed two or three strikes against the idea.

Here’s my answer; it’s the same as why I wrote my most recent book, The Gospel According to Gay Guys: I think, to gain credibility with other Gay men, I have to tell the whole truth about us.

We love sex. It can be destructive to us sometimes (and Straight people find that too; boy, do they). But in the context of a relationship, sex can reveal the face of God to us, in the form of our lover.

(And once you’ve had that, it’s really kind of pointless to go out tricking anymore. Even porn-viewing loses its appeal. You can’t help but see the commerce of it, the very greed. Porn swine are completely willing to exploit your internalized homophobia, the view that Straight guys are butcher than we are, to part you from your cash.)

I just think we need to see the face of God – and it can’t all be done in iconography.

Though some of it can:

(Robert Lentz)

I love this – but see the depiction by another artist below.

I think the place to start in evangelizing Gay men (especially) is acknowledging the very physical side of our nature.

Only then is it possible to draw out our hugely spiritual side, too. To acknowledge and nurture that and celebrate it.

People can make whatever choices they’re going to make. But I don’t want Gay guys not to know they’re welcome in the Church, that we’ve got thousands of safe houses for them. And I don’t want Gay guys not to know that the wrong kind of sex can be very addictive and destructive. I mean, who got burned out faster and more completely than Donnie Russo?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My problem is that I’ve been all over the blog platforms, including Tumblr, Blogspot and here on WordPress, and I don’t know how to set up two new blogs anonymously. Any ideas? (I have only one e-mail address, and all the blogs cross-reference with each other. I’ve never had gmail or yahoo, and don’t trust them. Should I reevaluate that?)

I would like to bring Good News to LGBTs, not by preaching to them but by listening to them, telling them stories and showing them pictures of themselves. How do you think I should go about that, in ways I’m not currently doing?

Even dailyoffice.org has a Gay page, which gets a little praise or criticism every now and then, and last month with the Supreme Court cases and all the Equality signs on Facebook, I added this one to my main prayer page.

ChaliceEquality

But what I really want to do is illustrate our marriages – because for me, that’s where God is, a new and important place where God lives. Any ideas?

Because I really believe – especially for those on the outside of the Church – that this depiction of Saints Bacchus and Sergius by Anthony Gayton contains more Good News in it, for most Gay men, than the other one does.++

The very thing they hate you for - and that you hate yourself for - is your glory. God made your body, knowing that the miracle of loving would show you heaven itself.

The very thing they hate you for – and that you hate yourself for – is your glory. God made your body, knowing that the miracle of loving another person would show you heaven itself.

America Is Rushing to the Altar

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here's what freedom looks like.

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here’s what freedom looks like.

All over the teevee, Straight commentators are marveling at how fast Americans’ views on Gay marriage are changing. Why, they’ve never seen anything like it! And they can’t explain it.

Not to worry; I am here.

Jerry Falwell did us a big favor. Then he died.

U.S. politics changed dramatically in 1980; Ronald Reagan kicked Jimmy Carter out of the White House and ushered in a new conservatism marked by hyper-capitalism and greed, military aggression (with invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, and illegal funding of the Contra War in El Salvador throughout the decade), racism, sexism (the Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982) and homophobia. The pendulum swung far to the right.

Now it has swung to the left with the re-election of President Obama, and LGBTs are among the beneficiaries.

Falwell, a Baptist TV preacher, had huge political ambitions, and his support for Reagan was key in forming a new electoral coalition. Whenever one of these big shifts happens, the composition of the political parties realigns. Today’s TV talking heads, with their sound-bite brains, remember all this as involving “Reagan Democrats,” who were White ethnics and union workers in Macomb County, Michigan, right outside Black Detroit. But Falwell’s Fundamentalists were arguably the more important voting bloc; they were nationwide and united behind Reagan, in an effort to reverse abortion rights. President Carter won the union vote in 1980 despite the Reagan Democrats. He lost conservative Christians, despite being one himself.

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren D. Leffler)

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress in 1972. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren K. Leffler)

It’s proven impossible over the years to roll back abortion rights, and Reagan had a sense of how hard it would be. Every January Falwell and his allies would converge in a big demonstration at the Supreme Court trying to overturn Roe v. Wade; they helped elect Reagan and kept expecting him to show up, but he never did. Year after year he gave them a speech played over the loudspeakers, but he never once appeared in person; he didn’t want to be in a picture with them.

To juice up his movement, Falwell expanded his issues to cover “family values” and demonize Gay people. Abortion was always his number one target, and Gay people seemed like easy pickings. His strategy was successful for awhile, but it was fatally flawed.

He ran a persecution campaign, but those only work for awhile. (He should have known that, being a Christian.) Nothing generates more sympathy than TV pictures of people being abused.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Falwell had a problem; he couldn’t scapegoat all the women of America because there are too many of them. The goal of the anti-abortion movement has always been to put women back in their place. It’s not about unborn babies or the right to life, it’s about how grown women act here and now. It’s about men’s power and who gets to decide things. If Falwell had waged war on all women, not only would they object, so would a certain percentage of men; so he turned his venom on Gay people instead, thinking (and not unreasonably) that queers had no defenders anywhere.

It worked for awhile; but he and his clones, especially Pat Robertson, gradually became better known for hating Gay people than opposing abortion. They helped this image along by making outlandish claims and repeating obvious lies.

A hurricane did not destroy Disney World, and Gay Day went on as usual.

Where once Gay people were unmentionable, all of a sudden we were being talked about constantly.

We came out. And we kept coming out, coming and coming.

We started to reveal ourselves in the 1960s in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and of course in New York. What started as a trickle in time turned into a flood.

Daddy didn’t like that his boy was a queer, but Mama still loved her son; so did Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. As for that Lezzie daughter, well, anybody could see that Martha Griffiths had a point – and Betty Friedan, the whole lot of them. A woman ought to be able to be a doctor if she wants to be, or even a lumberjack. If that’s what she wants, well, it won’t pay to try to stop her. She never was the type to wear pearls anyway.

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of "Father Knows Best."

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of “Father Knows Best.”

Here’s a fact that’s still unbelievable to me: I was the first openly-Gay person in Cincinnati (Palm Sunday, 1978), along with an MCC pastor who soon left town. The Rev. Howard Gaass and I lent our full real names to a bunch of articles in The Cincinnati Enquirer. The reporters did a fine job with it, sensitive and accurate. They interviewed all the Lesbians and Gay men they could find. But none of the women were quoted by name, and only two of the men.

I don’t know what was running through Howard’s mind, and I’ve never criticized his leaving town; I hope he just got a new opportunity and jumped on it. But I knew you can’t run a social movement while hiding your name and face behind a curtain. You have to take responsibility; you have to show some leadership. On Gay issues that was especially important, because the stereotype was that we were all wimps and sissies, ready to run if somebody looked at us cross-eyed.

You have to be willing to sacrifice, in public, for your beliefs, even if it means you’ll get killed. John Lewis, in that Selma photo above, nearly did get killed. But now he’s a Congressman from Georgia.

(While I’m just blogging!)

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

I have never spent much time thinking about why it took most LGBTs so long to come out. I think I’d probably resent them, actually; so I’ve always banished that particular thought. What was obvious to me, that coming out is an absolute necessity, was not so obvious to most. I do not hold to the standard blather about coming out that “it’s an intensely personal decision that everybody has to make for themselves,” so that we end up with Ricky Martin finally telling the truth in 2010, once he had to explain how he and his male partner ended up with two kids. I don’t begrudge the man, even if he was livin’ the crazy life all those years.

I’d rather have allies than not. (And I suppose Frank Kameny could ask what took me so long – except that in 1960 when he took the U.S. Government to the Supreme Court over anti-Gay discrimination, I was only 9.)

Please tell the Talking Heads that this incredible shift on Gay marriage has come about because we started telling our families and friends the truth.

And because Jerry Falwell was a Public Idiot.

And because of AIDS.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn't win. Gay films never do.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn’t win. Gay films never do.

I don’t have much to say about AIDS today, except that I’m glad to be a founder of AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the world’s second-oldest support and advocacy group.

It grew because of Lesbians more than Gay men. The real heroes of AIDS, and there are many, are women who didn’t have it. That pattern was repeated in city after city – Gay women, Straight women, compassionate and courageous women.

What finally broke down the sexism of Gay men was that we needed those women.

The political connection between AIDS and Gay marriage is that what once was unmentionable became a topic on everyone’s lips. Ronald Reagan tried his best never to mention the word, until his friend Rock Hudson came down with it.

I was working at Gay Men’s Health Crisis while Hudson was jetting off to Paris, desperately trying to save his life. I didn’t blame him; my clients were doing the same thing. Still, there was a pathos to that whole episode. Hudson denied being Gay and having AIDS as long as he could, and then it stopped mattering.

I lost only one close friend to AIDS, an Episcopalian from Ohio named Craig Jason Byers. To his name I add composer Calvin Hampton, whose Mass music I used to sing at seminary in 1974, the same year I first marched in the Stonewall anniversary demonstration. “Pride Parades” used to be demonstrations, kids. (And yes, I was scared that first time.)

I credit my religion, my faith, my Christ, for propelling my activism. I credit my mentors Ervin Faulkenberry, Howard Galley and Brooke Bushong, Episcopal Church evangelists who couldn’t have been less like Jerry Falwell.

I credit the prophet Amos, to tell the truth; “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

God made me do it – and still does.

A flood of Gay victims made our existence inescapable.

People with AIDS; Frank Kameny. Matthew Shepard; “God Hates Fags.” Too many to count, and still going on today; Edie Windsor, fighting DOMA to the Supreme Court; Uganda’s David Kato, murdered for being Gay.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

All that victimization finally piled up – just as a new generation arrived, determined, as new generations always are, to prove that their parents were completely wrong about something very important.

For my generation it was the War in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights. For this generation, we’re It.

I still hate their tattoos and always will, but thank you, America’s Youth. You are once again leading the world.

2008 election results among LGBTs. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

2008 election results among swing-state LGBTs. With Democrats, women and young voters, we elected this President. His re-election marks another generational realignment in the governing coalition, much as Reagan changed the 1980s. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

Marriage is easier to deal with than discrimination.

When America changes, even radically, the change is only partial. Yes, we fought a civil war to end slavery. But we waited another hundred years to start to enact racial equality.

Same-sex marriage will soon be the law of the land, whether or not we win the cases to be argued this month in the Supreme Court. Maybe we’ll lose; we lost Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, then won Lawrence v. Texas just 15 years later. Yay, Gay people can have adult sex in private without getting thrown in jail!

(Justice Scalia, hateful bigot that he is, was right in Lawrence, that if Gay sex was made legal, Gay marriage wouldn’t be far behind.)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to languish. Apparently it’s okay with Congress if you’re queer and willing to die for your country, but not okay to be Gay at Chick Fil-A.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Marriage is something everyone can identify with (even as heterosexuals increasingly reject it), while having a job where you’re treated the same as everyone else is still too much to ask. This is just what John Lewis, Dr. King and millions of African-Americans went through in 1965; “you’re citizens but you’re not allowed to vote.”

Picketing the White House in 1965; not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

“Homosexuals Are Citizens, Too”: picketing the White House in 1965, not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

Of all the Gay issues to provoke a deep response in Americans, why is marriage the great galvanizer? I think it comes down to two things.

First, Falwell and his ilk were and are such clowns that anyone could see through them and laugh, long before Jon Stewart perfected political satire on “The Daily Show.” Ol’ Jerry was kind of a big fat guy, and he set himself up for ridicule the day he went after Tinky-Winky.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across; his Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; it was like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this little cartoon kid.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across. His Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; those rallies were like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this innocent cartoon kid.

Something else happened as part of this that I don’t think anyone’s really noticed.

• Goaded by their girlfriends, young Straight men stopped feeling threatened by Gay men.

I suspect this is the most powerful change of all; the dueling stereotypes (“All Gay men are sissies”/”All Gay men are dangerous rapists”) lost their power.

This is the personal, psychic equivalent of today’s political statement that Gay marriage has no effect on Straight marriages.

So live-and-let-live will soon become the law. Not even Fundamentalists can shout down “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s scripture in the United States, a self-evident truth.

It is a sad fact, though built into our democracy, that the law always lags social change. The battles over evolution and climate change are winding down, too. Obama’s re-election sealed their fate. I don’t know what will become of the Republican Party, but it’s increasingly obvious that ya just can’t turn back the clock. The 195os are done.

This is the best generation of young Straight men the world’s ever seen. My admiration for them knows no bounds. (Well, it knows one bound; I don’t desire them. But you know what I mean.) These guys are great!

When Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like: when Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

Finally, there’s this; it goes back to that quiet conversation between Gayboy and Grandma, Lezziegrrl and Grandpa. On the back porch, or over a cup of tea, or right after a big screamfest in the living room, or down at the fishin’ hole, where you have to whisper because the fish have ears:

It isn’t just sex, it’s love.

Well, it's both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there aren't many grandparents in America who would deprive their kid of that.

Well, it’s both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there are fewer and fewer grandparents who would deprive their kid of that.

So we win – and will live to fight again another day.++

Sore Loser

My neighbor across the street thinks somebody died last night.

Let us pity Republican Straight White men. Their world is coming to an end. Some of them are in mourning. They feel it like a death in the family; Grandpa died last night.

Sometimes I wonder where we get these drama queens.

A week ago my neighbor’s yard sprouted half a dozen GOP yard signs – not pointed to drivers and pedestrians passing by, but aimed across at me. A person had to stand in front of his house to read them – Mike Pence for Indiana governor, Richard Mourdock (conception after rape is “God’s will”) for U.S. Senate, some guy for Congress now that we’ve been redistricted from the Democratic 1st to the Republican 4th. I even voted for one of his recommendations, a candidate for county commissioner. But all of them aimed at me, like I’m the enemy.

Late Monday night, after dark, I retrieved my Obama ’08 sign from the garage and pushed it into the front yard for the sake of passersby. I didn’t have a need to taunt that neighbor; the house next to his sprouted an Obama-Biden sign Monday morning, where there wasn’t one four years ago.

You can tell Indiana wasn’t a swing state this year; my old yard sign.

This morning, the day after the election, my right-wing neighbor took down all his signs but one. Then he lowered his flag to half staff.

I’ve chuckled about it ever since. He’s defiant in his defeat. He’s proud of his beliefs and he seems to want to make sure I know it.

I feel a little bit sad for him. I can empathize up to a point; if President Obama had been beaten last night, I’d definitely be depressed today. So I can understand my neighbor’s angst. I wouldn’t be happy either if I thought my country had made a disastrous choice. If Mitt Romney had won I’d have been just as convinced as my neighbor is that the USA was headed for doom.

The difference is that Romney represented plutocracy, rule by the rich, as opposed to democracy, where everybody gets to decide. If he had won, our country wouldn’t have changed that much; our TVs would be filled with corporate propaganda under Mittworld, just as they are in Obamaworld.

My poor neighbor seems to think we’ve now sold out to the Commies, which is the End of Life as We Know It.

But turn on your TV, pal; doesn’t the screen look just like yesterday, without the political ads? Same Microsoft, same car commercials, same Olive Garden.

What can ya do? Same shit, different day.

I enjoyed the era when Straight White men ruled the world – until I was 13 and saw Black kids water-cannoned on TV just for trying to go to school; and old Black women beaten over the head for trying to vote. I’m not nostalgic for those days anymore. The only people they were good for was Straight White men.

Today I’ve got another neighbor across the alley and down two doors; he’s Mexican. I don’t know whether he’s here legally or not. And I don’t care, except that by choosing to live here and buying his house, he contributes to the economy of my little village. Yes, he plays music I can’t understand when he’s working in his garage, but whoever said I’m supposed to get into his music? I doubt he’d get into mine, but that’s good; let there be many kinds of music.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, voters just elected our first Lesbian Senator, Tammy Baldwin. Should we lower our flags over that?

(Associated Press)

Marriage equality won in Maine, in Maryland, in Minnesota, in Washington State; voters decided, for the first time, Gay marriage is cool. Is the nation supposed to mourn that? We don’t!

Daniel Noble, an Assistant U.S. Prosecutor in New York, married Ryan Fleenor last weekend; he’s an assistant priest at St. James’s, Madison Avenue. First they had a civil ceremony and then they went to church.

As Republican strategist Matthew Dowd put it last night, the GOP tried to sell us “Mad Men” in a “Modern Family” world. Should we all sing dirges now?

I’m not; I’m thrilled. But I acknowledge my neighbor’s sadness, even as I’m glad it’s him and not me.++

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.