Archive for category Homosexuality

Why the Right was against repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”

Because that’s how they handle the issue of sexuality themselves.  Keep it in the closet. (The other closet, not that ‘prayer closet’ – which doesn’t get used much by today’s crop of budding theocrats.)

It’s ironic. Although conservative evangelicals (who are now the power base of the Republican party) claim to be the champions of morality, they have such a hard time living up to their own standards.  Sure, liberals have their share of fallen angels, but rarely does the left claim to be the standard bearer of morality. Yet it is common for the most strident of the ‘moral majority’ to find themselves in the public spotlight with their pants down,  sometimes quite literally.

Why do so many conservative, evangelical, Republicans expose themselves doing precisely the opposite of what they say others should be doing? Henry Hyde, Helen Chenowith, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Bob Allen, David Vitters, Glenn Murphy Jr. – the list goes on. How many of these scandals have resulted in the outing of aggressive homophobes?  After years of rumors that he might be gay,  it looks as if  Lindsey Grahamw will soon find himself in the same predicament. What ‘s the deal?

A 1996  psychology experiment conducted at the University of Georgia found strong evidence that (at least among males) “homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.” If this is true, and since most politically conservative evangelicals are  vigorously opposed to the ‘gay agenda’,  then it makes sense that a significant portion of these people might very well be closet homosexuals.  Of course, this is just speculation, yet it does hold up fairly well under the historical evidence.  But why would people who are confused (or in denial) about their sexuality gravitate towards the evangelical right-wing of the Republican party?

Is it because, having been forgiven for all their sins, both past and future, these closet homosexuals no longer feel the need to confront and conquer their inner “demons”?  That Jesus has already taken care of that for them? Yet eventually many of them will find out that their religion is not sufficient to facilitate lasting personal change (if this type of change is possible or even desirable).

A huge part of Christianity is the idea that we are all broken people who can be healed through the redemptive power of God, as revealed to us by Jesus. But that does not mean that we are somehow magically, perfectly, made ‘whole’ (i.e conforming to someone else’s orthodox world view) – that we are completely changed by God’s grace or the Holy Spirit or the love of Christ.  It doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down and expect prayer alone to obliterate years of habitual behavior.  Or obviate our personal natures.  Nor, apparently, will the threat of punishment, divine or otherwise, accomplish this.

I think a better guess might be found in the attraction they may have to the hard-line theology of neo-evangelism.  It’s as if,  though perhaps in denial, they suspect that they are ‘bad’ boys in the eyes of God and feel a need to be part of an ideology that embraces the clear-cut rules of stern father figures, from Yahweh to James Dobson.

‘We’ve decided the Bible is the word of God. We don’t have to have a General Assembly about what we believe. It’s written in the Bible. Alright, so we don’t have to debate what we think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.” -Ted Haggard

‘Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted. . . Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, ‘You must obey me.’ ” – James Dobson

“Part of my life is so repugnant and dark, I’ve been warring against it all my life…the dirt I thought was gone would resurface … the darkness increased and dominated” -Ted Haggard

Christian fundamentalist parents, James Dobson included,  should know by now that children cannot be spanked into submission, not unless the goal is to create sadly warped versions of themselves.   Who has ever really benefited from this? What type of person is attracted to an intolerant,  domineering and violent task master? For many of these people violence comes to be associated with love.

“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up” – Mark Driscoll

The threat of punishment, even the ultimate punishment of Hell,  apparently cannot compel people to change their natures beyond a superficial level.  It can, however, compel them to mimic the doctrinaire natures of their overlords, even to the point of absurd and shameful  hypocrisy.  Or develop an appetite for hate filled language, perhaps even violence.  History has provided us with an undeniable pattern.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela


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What is so offensive about ants crawling over a cheap plastic crucifix?

So the Smithsonian caved in  and decided to censor a video  from a larger showing of work by the controversial GLBT artist, David Wojnarowicz .   The image above,  taken from a longer scene , was apparently offensive to some influential Christians.

“I think that in the artistic community, directors, curators are tremendously insensitive to Christians,”  You can’t make fun of the Holocaust, you can’t make fun of black slavery, and you can’t even depict anything about Mohammed.”  – Bill Donahue, Catholic League President

(Sounds like Mr.Donahue is really peeved that he can’t make fun of blacks and Muslims and get away with it. Sour grapes.)

“American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds. While the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money. Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January [when the new majority in the House moves in].” – John Boehner, incoming Speaker of the House

(In other words: a shake down)

Now the film itself is pretty disturbing and many will, understandably, find  it’s more explicit moments offensive .  But the part that is getting all the attention is where real live ants are crawling over a cheap plastic crucifix.  I don’t know if Wojnarowicz staged this, it certainly could be something he stumbled upon, but what exactly is the big deal? It’s not as over the top as Serrano’s “Piss Christ”, of which the most offensive aspect is probably the title.  If Serrano hadn’t told us, we would think he had taken the shot through an amber filter (but then it would have gotten little media attention).  According to the Serrano,  even that photograph was never meant to be a critique of religion per se,  but rather a commentary on the cheapening of Christian icons by today’s culture (something we see a lot of this time of year).  By comparison,  Wojnarowicz’s crucifix is much tamer and I doubt if it would have upset these people if  he hadn’t been homosexual.

So what’s the  theological concern here? Are cheap plastic crucifixes sacred? What about a dashboard Jesus?  Or porcelain angels? What do ants crawling on a crucifix mean to us?  Wojnarowicz  is certainly telling us something here.  But I would imagine, as with most art, the message is different for each person listening.  I wonder what message  the censorship advocates are receiving. Whatever it was, it likely was filtered through their perception of the artist’s sexual orientation.

To me, this image suggest that the institutional Church, with it’s cathedrals, statues, seminaries, doctrines, dogmas, creeds and icons, is as much a product of the complex human mind as the holy (and unholy) trinkets that clutter our lives. And as such, is just as likely to be cast off, either by those who have lost interest or by those who have grown beyond its allure.  So it is best not to pay too much attention to the trinkets or we may miss the bigger picture, which involves Jesus as artist, and not subject.   A picture that Mr. Boehner and Mr. Donahue and so many religious people seem to have missed.

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Signs of Christian Evolution? A not so straight and narrow Church

As reported on today’s CNN another Christian music artist, Jennifer Knapp, has come out of the closet and announced that she is homosexual.

After selling about a million records and winning at Christian music’s prestigious Dove Awards in 1999, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter simply vanished in 2003 — leaving fans wondering where she had gone. There were countless theories as to why Knapp checked out, including the possibility of illness.

But the one that raised the most ruckus among her die-hard fans was the one which proved to be true: Jennifer Knapp is gay.

So, far I haven’t seen too much ruckus, but give it time. It’s a comin’. Yet a breaking article on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website was surprisingly even-handed. Could this be a sign that a new, broader Evangelical mindset is evolving?

CNN was able to find some typical neo-Evangelical criticism, but when you consider the name of this fellow’s organization, what would you expect?

Rev. DL Foster is the founder of the Gay Christian Movement Watch Web site and said he believes as society has become more accepting of homosexuality, Knapp and other artists are finding it easier to go public.

“For a person to try and combine [being gay and being a Christian music artist] is not biblically correct, and I would hope that the church would reject such music because it does not represent us,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t matter if you are openly gay or closeted gay, sin is still sin.”

I find it interesting that what made her so endearing to her fans before, her music and her lyrics, have now apparently become unworthy for holy ears. It’s not like she wasn’t gay when she wrote them. But Knapp isn’t surprised.

Knapp said she realizes that some fans will now view her earlier work with lyrics about inner turmoil as evidence of the struggle between her beliefs and her sexuality. But she says she has always struggled as a person of faith to be the person she wants to be, and her sexuality was only a part of that, she said.

God has always known she would walk this path, Knapp said.

“I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being,” she said. “If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be.”

As already noted, Knapp isn’t the first Christian music artist brave enough to declare their sexual orientation is outside of the neo-Evangelical mainstream:

In 2008, Christian singer/songwriter Ray Boltz came out as a gay man after a 20-year career in the industry. In 2009, gospel star Tonex went public with his homosexuality as a guest on “The Lexi Show,” a popular program on the Christian channel The Word Network.

Lexi, who is also a gospel music artist, said that while many in the Christian music industry are aware of who is gay, “we don’t talk about it, because that’s the unspoken rule.”

Lexi said she doubts most fans will ever fully embrace an openly gay artist, but she points to other artists who have been able to straddle the line between secular music and songs of faith.

“I think some Christians will totally avoid [Knapp] and say that she is the devil and all that, but there are some that are more open who will embrace her new material,” Lexi said. “Then she will find a new audience.”

Undoubtedly she already has. But I think what we are seeing are more signs that the traditional Evangelical (and Roman Catholic) churches are going to have to find new audiences.

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Bad Christians Not Welcome

Most teachers and parents have long understood that the positive reinforcement of desired behavior is a much more powerful learning tool than any punishment for undesired behavior ;

Behavior modification assumes that observable and measurable behaviors are good targets for change. All behavior follows a set of consistent rules. Methods can be developed for defining, observing, and measuring behaviors, as well as designing effective interventions. Behavior modification techniques never fail. Rather, they are either applied inefficiently or inconsistently, which leads to less than desired change. All behavior is maintained, changed, or shaped by the consequences of that behavior. Although there are certain limits, such as temperamental or emotional influences related to ADHD or depression, all children function more effectively under the right set of consequences. Reinforcers are consequences that strengthen behavior. Punishments are consequences that weaken behavior.

(from “Behavior Modification in the Classroom” by: N. Mather and Sam Goldstein (2001) LD Online )

My pastor, Heather, worked this concept into a sermon last Sunday.  She questioned the old school practice of frequently suspending offending students, essentially telling the student that because they don’t conform they aren’t wanted. Eventually this point sinks in and guess what?  The student soon no longer wants to  be in a place where they aren’t wanted. Suspension is no longer a punishment but a welcome reward.  She used this analogy to point out that this is often how Christians approach the faith, they may feel unworthy of God’s love or may even make others feel this way.  It wasn’t long before her sermon began to impact the way in which I look at things.

Case in point; on John Shore’s blog there has been a lively conversation going on about (surprise!) homosexuality and the Church.  Predictably, the discussion tended to center on whether or not homosexuality was a sin or if it was a sin could it in some way be excused or was it even a sin deserving of any more mention than the  sins that afflict all Christians.

Inevitably someone will say that it is our Christian duty to call out sin wherever and whenever we see it.  But what is our ultimate goal here?  For instance, in the classroom we do not use behavior intervention techniques to make individual students look and act more like ourselves. We are not interested in a change in their behavior just because we disapprove of them.  The ultimate goal is for students to learn, as well as to have them help maintain an environment where other students can also learn .

If our goal, as Christians, is to spread the Good News (which hopefully will result in people coming closer to God) how is this accomplished by ‘confronting’ individual sin?  Shouldn’t we be interested in lifting up those positive “Christian” characteristics that a person possesses, no matter how few they might be?  Telling people that because of their ‘sins’ (especially if those ‘sins’ are not anti-social in nature) they are ineligible for membership in our community is selfishly aimed at satisfying the ‘supposed needs’ of the community and not the spiritual needs of others.  ‘Supposed needs’, because no community ultimately benefits from a lack of diversity.

So, rather than focusing on what we see as the negative (yet non-threatening) behavior of those who might be seeking a closer relationship with God, let’s try and focus instead on their other, positive, qualities.  What is more important to us as Christians; our behavior or our relationships? Not that behavior is unimportant, but at what expense comes  our attempts to change certain behaviors in others?

Who knows?  Perhaps the ‘righteous’  may learn a thing or two from communing with these ‘sinners’. Besides, if we all had to clean up our acts first then not one church pew would be occupied.



It’s OK, Steve. He Didn’t Make Little Green Apples, Either.

Hi. My name’s Steve. And I’m a little bit angry, frustrated and, well… hurt, actually.

You see, I do my best to stay out of other people’s way. I mind my own business, I go to work 5 days a week, pay my bills, vote in every election. Heck, I even go to church most Sundays.

And that’s just it. I don’t know how many times people have singled me out as being different from everyone else, not just in church, but in the whole friggin’ world. In fact, they seem to think that I must be the spawn of Satan or something.

Heck, I don’t even know Satan. I’m not sure that I really know God, but I’m tryin’. It’s just that, if what everyone is saying is true, then I guess God wouldn’t want to have much to do with me. Seeing as how he never made me.

Funny thing is, I don’t know who this Eve chick is. Or those two Adam dudes, either. I’m curious, though, if either Adam is wondering the same thing I am; “OK, then who the hell did make me?”

At least Eve can rest easy.

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The Danger of Attracting the Wrong Kinds of People

I once belonged to a small church and (possessing no musical talent whatsoever) took on a supporting role in our music ministry. Part of this ministry involved the promotion of a concert series using a very nice outdoor amphitheater that some of the members had built.

For the first season we booked some local Christian artists – musicians, poets, dramatists – and we bought advertising on the local Christian radio station as well as in some other outlets. The presentations were first rate but unfortunately the series was a flop. Though the congregation had spent a few thousand dollars the church leadership still believed that it was worth the effort and another season was approved.

This time we brought in some bigger artists and even booked Derek Webb, of Caedmon’s Call. He was excellent and also turned out to be a heck of nice guy. We promoted heavily, but apparently not heavily enough because few turned out for any of the shows, including Webb’s. Those who kept returning were mostly loyal church members along with some folks from the surrounding Christian community.

But this was supposed to be an outreach ministry; did it make sense to spend so much time and money on an effort that was only attracting other Christians? So, for the third season we suggested something a little bit different.

Why not bring in some local secular artists? They were likely to draw a larger audience and during the breaks our church’s praise band (very good and led by an accomplished professional) could spread the Word through song, to a group that otherwise might not hear it. It seemed like a no brainer.

Some of our leaders, though, felt that there was no place for secular music on church property, that all our songs should be geared towards worship and praise. We needed to be examples for the community at large and that meant putting aside the secular things of this world. We responded that ‘preaching to the choir’ would do little to bring ‘sinners’ into the church and finally got the go ahead.

Although more successful than the prior two seasons, we never got the results we were hoping for. The crowds were still small and we spent a boatload of money. But, as some said, if even one person was turned on to Jesus then it was well worth every dime spent. But… perhaps there were better places to be putting our dimes.

I distinctly remember one moment during a concert put on by a local R&B singer. I stood on top of the hillside that formed our natural amphitheater and taking in her performance. She was very good. At that moment one of the church leaders, a young guy who was opposed to the idea of secular music, came up beside me. He pointed down to where a couple of women were sitting on a blanket. They had their arms wrapped around each other and they were singing and swaying to the music. It was good to see folks having a good time as guests of our church.

But…rumor had it that this singer enjoyed a strong lesbian following from the local coffee houses where she often played. My feelings about this were…yeah, so what? Even though there was no way of knowing if these two gals were gay or just sisters of another sort, I knew what was coming next;

“See” he said sadly, shaking his head. “What did I tell you? Look at the kind of people this music attracts.”

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Remove Fat and Insert Tool

In my younger days I was a bit of a motor head. I wasn’t into big American muscle but instead my tastes ran towards small European cars that handled well. (This was the seventies and the only Japanese cars that fit this bill were the Datsun 510 and Z cars). My preference was for German machines, and since I was on a National Boh budget this meant Volkswagens and Audis and not Bimmers or Porsches. But Porsches, Audis and VWs were all sisters under the skin and their DNA was good.

Rebuilding the engine on my Sirocco (yet again) I encountered an amusing little lesson on how sometimes things get lost in translation. It was a piston rod and was factory made in Wolfsburg. Inside the box, in typical German orderly fashion, the instructions read;

1.) Take out tool.

2.) Remove fat from tool.

3.) Insert tool.

Fat? Tool? Of course they meant the protective grease that covered the part for shipping. I thought it was pretty funny, especially since Germans are renowned for their precision.

I was reminded of this recently while participating in some theological discussions on the net involving differing translations of the same scriptural text. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6 and in 1 Timothy 1 Paul uses the words arsenokoitai and malakoi. These two words have been translated as ‘homosexual’ yet it is not clear to everyone what Paul meant. In fact, arsenokoitai (a word that Paul apparently coined himself) was for the longest time thought to be about masturbation. It wasn’t that long ago that the modern translations began to use the word ‘homosexual’ here.

I’ve talked before about how the word Sheol has been translated to mean both the grave as well as hell, or hades. There are other places where people, especially those who are critical of faith, point out the obvious contradictions and inconsistencies found in scripture. Usually these contradictions and inconsistencies can be explained as errors in translation or just a case of literary styling. I think it is good to take all this into consideration when presenting small portions of scripture as support for our arguments (which I do all the time, I know). I sometimes wonder if this was how the Bible was even intended to be used. Which might be more meaningful when we remember that for most of its history it was never even a book.

Here are three web pages that provide information on Paul’s use of these words, the last one providing the more traditional Christian position.

And here is a link to one of the better atheist articles concerning biblical inconsistency. I think it’s worth while hearing the other side.

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