Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We believe that we are justified by God's grace...

Mike Vick apologized yesterday. It was a good apology. It started off well, with Vick apologizing to the NFL Commissioner, his team, and everyone else he lied to when he told them to their faces that he wasn't involved in dogfighting. That apology was needed and expected.
What I appreciated, though, was the apology to the kids out there, and the suggestion that they "use me as an example." He admitted that he "needed to grow up." Yeah, maybe he's stating the obvious. But it's a good message, and one which may actually do some good. So much bad has come out of Michael Vick's behavior over the past few years; I hope some lesson can come out of all of this.
We'll hear about his "fall from grace" for a while now. He'll be referred to as "disgraced." In human terms, those are apt descriptors. But people of faith ought to be careful with them. The third chapter of Romans teaches that being "dis-graced" is an impossibility, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." God heaps grace on us all, because there would be a lot left over if it only went to those who deserve it.
I believe that yesterday we saw a man who had sinned a whole lot, and fallen remarkably short of God's desires for his life. We saw him lower his head and offer a good apology that can't begin to make up for the harm he has caused and the pain he has inflicted.
And maybe we saw how hard it is to be God--to keep forgiving, to keep taking us back when we are unfaithful, to keep showering grace upon us when we screw up. I'm sure glad God is God and I'm not. I couldn't do it nearly as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Are You Feeling SSAD?

Hey--since satire keeps getting me in trouble, how 'bout a little irony? Or borderline irony--you know, kind of like that Alanis Morissette song "Isn't It Ironic?" in which almost nothing she listed was, in fact, actually ironic. "A no smoking sign on your cigarette break" is sad (or maybe not--the life you save could be your own), but not really ironic.

And speaking of sad, have you heard the one about the new disorder affecting 5-10% of the population? It's called Same Sex Attraction Disorder, or SSAD.

I hadn't heard of it either, until very recently. It was all the rage at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly--in certain circles.

It's a recent thing, I guess. Not same sex attraction. That's as old as the hills. But the redefinition of it as a disorder is new. In the early seventies, all of the major psychiatric and psychological associations stopped classifying homosexuality as a disorder.

So guess who is reordering us disordered?

If you said NARTH, take ten dollars from petty cash. If you don't know who NARTH is, take twenty dollars and stop reading now. Go to a movie. You are blessed and I don't want to corrupt you.

Okay, for those who are still reading, NARTH is the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality. NARTH promotes...wait for it...reparative therapy for gay men and lesbians. Members of the Association wear black capes and plastic face masks and duel with light sabers...oh hang on, that's a different group.

NARTH sells the snake oil of "conversion" to disturbed parents and desparate gay and lesbian people who believe that it is impossible to be gay and happy. (snicker snicker)

That's the point: the invention of this new disorder is an in-your-face reminder that those of us who are attracted to our own gender aren't gay, we're ssad. I can't quite figure out who invented SSAD, but if you Google it, the first thing that comes up is NARTH. If you try Wikipedia--which I do, but only for stuff like this--you won't find an entry on SSAD, but you will find a guy named Richard Cohen, who wrote a book in 2001 called Coming Out Straight. In that book, he used the term Same Sex Attraction Disorder. If you want to read about him, go to Wiki yourself:
Mr. Cohen is kind of creepy, and I don't want to take too much space on my blog for him, and his "holding therapy."

I just want to know why these folks can't simply accept the fact that a lot of gay and lesbian people are reasonably happy, productive members of society. We're not disordered (at least not because we're gay), and we're not hurting anybody. We make good teachers and soldiers and pastors, and, yes, florists and decorators.

Fix somebody who is broken, would ya?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reasons I Need to Move, #27

I was about a mile from my home in beautiful suburban Lee's Summit, MO, yesterday when I noticed this bumper sticker on the car in front of me. At first I laughed, because I figured it must be satire--you know, kind of like the "Gay Shame Parade" article from the Onion that I posted, which apparently offended someone anonymous who took it literally, which one ought not to do with satire.
>Other empirical evidence which led me to conclude that the bumper sticker must have been satire: this car had no fewer than eight bumper stickers. The only people in Missouri who have that many bumper stickers, in my limited experience, are other leftist pinko Berkeley types like me.
>Empirical evidence which led me to conclude that the bumper sticker was, in fact, not meant as satire: well, I was in Lee's Summit (most recently made famous as the opening location of the movie Jesus Camp), AND the other bumper stickers all made specific reference to a particular branch of the military, except for the one which said "The Iraq War Is Keeping American Families Safe."
Really? American families are safer because thousands of members of those families are being killed and maimed in Iraq. Not to channel Jon Stewart too heavily, but really?
And you love wiretaps. Really? That's some effusive emotion to be ladling out on a surveillance technique. Whether the technique is invasive, unconstitutional, even immoral, or not, is beside the point. (Though worth considering sometime. Maybe the Congress will get on that in a few years...) But I've got to ask the person in that car in front of me one more time, because I just can't wrap my brain around this: do you really love wiretaps?
I love my wife. I love my dogs. I love my mother and my brother. I love our cat, though she just tolerates me. I've been known to say I love Lake Viking, our other residence in rural northern Missouri, where people are, generally, less right wing than my neighbors in Lee's Summit (see post title).
I've been known to say I love clam spaghetti. Yeah, that's a bit of hyperbole. But I think it pales in comparison to "loving" wiretaps. I think no matter your political persuasion, it should be troubling that people are willing to take the discourse to this level. The level which says "I think my government ought to be allowed to do whatever it wants, as long as it promises that its actions are promoting the general welfare. And I will support my government, most especially its ever-expanding executive branch, with inflammatory rhetoric."
See, 'cause here's the thing. I really don't believe that the person driving that car really "loves" wiretaps. I'm willing to bet that the person driving that car wouldn't know a wiretap if it was right outsider her house, which it very well might be, though I'm sure it is her assumption that the FBI has carefully avoided tapping the lines of any red-blooded American, and is only listening in on terrorist communiques.
I'm also willing to bet that the person driving that car is a good person, with fine values--a parent (it was a big car), a taxpayer, a citizen. I'm willing to bet that she just wants to feel safe, wants her family to be safe, and feels a little bewildered that the safety rug seems to have been pulled out from underneath us. And in the absence of viable courses of action, sometimes you've just got to rely on your government, which is, after all, tasked with the job of keeping us safe.
But who protects us from ourselves? Who protects us from becoming so afraid that we're willing to say we love wiretaps?
I really wish that bumper sticker had been meant as satire.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I LOVE The Onion!

Posted in The Onion Daily Dispatch today: an article entitled "Small Town Holds Annual Gay Shame Parade."

The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Don't read this if you don't have a warped sense of humor like mine. I'd link it, but sometimes their links shift, so I'm just going to copy it (and hope that's not illegal...):

GRAND PLAINS, NE—A tight-knit rural Midwestern farming community commemorated the demonization of homosexuality Sunday with its annual Gay Shame Parade, a three-decade-old tradition that has become a cornerstone of the town's cultural identity.
The second-place float in this year's parade cruises down Grand Plains' picturesque Main Street.

"Every year, the whole town turns out to enjoy Nebraska's famous summer sunshine, sample foods, browse the craft bazaar, and shame homosexuals for their repulsive, decadent behavior," said Frank Mitchell, mayor of Grand Plains, NE and parade marshal. "This year was our biggest turnout yet. Everybody had so much fun ostracizing the gays."
The parade featured the usual assemblage of police cruisers, fire trucks, antique cars, and farm equipment, which local residents had draped in red-white-and-blue banners that read "Burn in the Eternal Flames of Hell!" City Councilman Fred Brandeen, this year's "Jesus," entertained children by making mock finger-wagging gestures of admonishment and passing out buttons bearing the parade's traditional slogan: "NO!" Members of the Grand Plains Area Wives Association followed behind with a 15-foot hand-sewn banner, cosponsored by Jerry's Auto Body, which read: "GPAWA and Jerry's Cringe To Think What You're Putting Your Family Through."
Organized every year by the Grand Plains City Council and a coalition of area churches, the Gay Shame Parade has been an annual event here since 1977, the year that citizens first became aware of gay people's existence.
"To see a whole community rally together like this around a good cause—it's really an inspiration," said Ellen Lundblom, a mother of four enjoying the festivities with her youngest son, first-time reveler Timmy, 3. "If I were a lesbian, this would have really made me feel awful about myself."
"My favorite part was the balloons," Timmy Lundblom said. "They had all different colors of angry frowny-faces on them."
The event got off to a rousing start with the Grand Plains High School Cougars marching band playing such classics as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Onward, Christian Soldiers." The mood grew palpably more sober during the middle portion of the procession, as members of the Grand Plains Baptist Church marched with folded arms in stony, judgmental silence and stared at the spectators lining the streets as if to ask, "Are you gay?"
The spirit of levity returned, however, toward the parade's finish, which featured balloon giveaways, a float contest, and an appearance by 6-year-olds Christopher Weiland and Courtney Wendt, who were crowned "Junior Mister and Miss Heterosexual" on Saturday. The parade concluded with a group reading of Leviticus 20:13.
After the last bit of confetti fell, spectators praised the parade's highlights, including a float, presented by local Little League team the Tigers that depicts a mother, sitting alone with her head down on a kitchen table, crying. The first-place ribbon went to "Sodom and Gomorrah," a miniature version of the two Biblical cities engulfed in flames. The float's designer, McPhee's Department Store window dresser Bruce Carlson, was not able to accept his prize, however, as he was away visiting an aunt in Lawrence, KS for the weekend.
Despite the pageantry, parade organizers stressed that the event has a serious message.
"Everyone loves a parade," PTA chairwoman Agatha Buell said. "But it's about a lot more than the clowns, the decorations, and those Shriner fellows in their tiny cars. It's about making folks feel sickened by the deviant homosexual lifestyle, like God wants us to."
Spectators couldn't help but be delighted by the parade's surprise finale, when, after dutifully leading the marching band for the entire mile-long parade route, local music teacher Colin Atherton was marched past the county line and told never, ever to return.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I decided not to go to the Churchwide Assembly this year. The Assembly started on Monday, and I've spent the week wishing I was in Chicago with my ECP colleagues and other friends from all over the church. (ECP: Extraordinary Candidacy Project; a roster of Lutheran candidates and ministers who will not pledge allegiance to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy.)

There were good reasons not to go to Churchwide. I can't really afford it, since we made an unexpected trip to San Francisco for a friend's ordination in June. A good part of the Assembly's time will be taken up once again with the topic of "human sexuality" (which is Church Speak for "those gay and lesbian people." Just once I'd love to see the Assembly have a tense, emotional conversation about heterosexual sexual activity.)

It's hard to go to these things. People walk to microphones and offer impassioned pleas to keep openly gay and lesbian candidates from becoming rostered pastors in the denomination we love. It's hard not to take those pleas personally, even though (to my knowledge) none of those people have ever known me, and don't likely know any of us who are serving openly. They probably do know some closeted pastors, though they may not know they do.

Still, I wish I was there. There is a ministry in being present. So I will be present in prayer, and hope that others in my congregation and other congregations across the church are also present in prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit, who is most certainly spending the week in Chicago.