Thursday, June 30, 2005

Just in time for Canada Day!

This is being discussed in other venues, so I don't have much to add except to say good for Canada!

I continue to be disappointed that we in the U.S. are followers instead of leaders on this, however. I think in time we'll look back on this in embarrassment that while Canada was making great civil rights strides, we were busy trying to take away people's rights.

Monday, June 27, 2005

More holes than the plot of a Saturday morning cartoon

The Arizona Republic printed two op-ed pieces about the Arizona marriage initiative in yesterday's paper, one for the amendment initiative and one opposed to it. I want to address the one in favor of the amendment here because, to put it bluntly, the cartoons my kids watch have fewer plot holes than the holes in the arguments presented by writer Lynn Stanley.

The opposition claims this is a Republican issue, but Gov. Janet Napolitano, the state's leading Democrat, has publicly expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage.

Uh, I'm on the opposition, and I'm a Republican. Steve May, who wrote the "con" editorial that appeared in the same paper, also a Republican. We're not saying this is a Republican issue, because it isn't. It is about playing politics, though, with those on the far right specifically pushing this issue for 2006 instead of 2005 because Gov. Napolitano will be up for re-election in 2006.

Also, while Gov. Napolitano may have expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, she certainly has not expressed support for this amendment, which goes well beyond defining marriage. The implication that she is in favor of this is disingenuous at best.

This amendment will receive wide support from members of all political parties and all ethnic and religious groups.

It will also receive wide condemnation from members of all political parties and all ethnic and religious groups.

Despite the majority's desire to retain the traditional definition of marriage, activist judges continue to block the will of the people.

Ah, the old "Activist Judges" refrain. I have to wonder if the people who like to use this made-up term have ever taken a high school government class. The process in question is called "judicial review" and it was established by our founding fathers as one of the checks and balances over the three branches of government. James Madison wrote eloquently about it in his Federalist Paper #10:

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Mr. Madison's words, not mine. An interested and overbearing majority deciding to negate the "rules of justice" and the rights of a minority is a bad thing. Hence judicial review.

Back to the editorial:

With Scandinavia as our example, we know that a redefinition of marriage negatively affects the culture. Wherever marriage is devalued by sanctioning same-sex relationships, the majority of children are born out of wedlock. Same-sex marriage sends a message that the definition of marriage doesn't matter, that gender doesn't matter, and moms or dads are irrelevant.

Huh? Can we have some specifics here about Scandinavia? And what kind of twisted logic gets us from more people getting married, which is what same-sex marriage would allow, to more kids being born out of wedlock? Seems to me more kids would have their families legitimized if their parents were allowed to marry.

Studies prove that children do best when they live with a mother and father. Same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and we do not yet know how it will affect children.

So which is it? Do studies prove that children do best with opposite-sex parents or is it an unproved social experiment? It can't both be proven and unproven.

I know of no studies that say children are better off with two opposite-sex parents than two same-sex parents. There have been studies that show children are better off with two opposite-sex parents than single parents, but as same-sex parents weren't addressed, then no conclusion can be drawn from this study about opposite-sex parents vs. same-sex parents. I know of studies that showed that children did just as well with same-sex parents as with opposite-sex parents. The methodology of these studies has since been called into question, but that doesn't mean the opposite conclusion is true, it just means that we still don't know the answer to the question. So of the two contradictory statements Ms. Stanley made above, the second one is the correct one. It is an unproven social experiment. Let me name some others. Desegregation. Giving women the right to vote. Ending slavery. A representative government ruled by elected officials and not a king. All untested social experiments of their time, so I don't see how that is necessarily a bad thing.

No compassionate society would intentionally deny a child a mother or a father, a benefit that has repeatedly been proved to be in his or her best interest. If we validate and promote same-sex marriage - and consequently, same-sex parenting - we send a message that we care less about the children than we do about the desires of same-sex couples.

Again, not been proven. And if you want to talk about promoting the political agenda of adults over the needs of children, lets talk about the kids who will lose health care benefits if this amendment passes. Let's talk about kids who get ripped away from one parent because the other one dies and the living parent has no legal custody even though she's raised this child from birth. Let's be clear here: children will be hurt if this amendment passes. Full stop.

Spouses and children are already covered by benefit plans, and the amendment doesn't prohibit the Legislature from creating a reciprocal beneficiary scheme for anyone else. There are default rules for unmarried persons who choose to undertake legal obligations for one another. The amendment does not prevent same-sex couples from giving anyone they want the right to make hospital visitations or medical decisions, or to receive beneficiary status on insurance policies, wills, etc. All of us can create and cancel contracts to cover these issues at any time.

Excuse me, but this is the most blatant amount of excrement in the entire editorial. The amendment very specifically prohibits any "political subdivisions" of the state (ie: local governments) from recognizing any "legal status for unmarried persons ...that is similar to that of marriage." That means the contracts she so blithely says can be used to protect hospital visitation, etc., which already can be challenged in court by unsupportive family members, could easily be challenged even further by claiming they represent a "legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to that of marriage." If Ms. Stanley and the other supporters of this initiative really didn't want to negatively impact the rights she mentions above, they would have limited their initiative to defining marriage as between one man and one woman only, but instead they went after domestic partnerships and benefits that already exist in several cities. Anyone who thinks they can vote yes on this amendment and still be supporting hospital visitations, medical decisions, beneficiary status on wills, etc., is kidding themselves. Challenges of exactly this nature are occurring in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky, which have this exact type of "marriage plus" amendment.

Let me give an example. I am a married stay-home mom with three children. My husband works full-time and supports the family financially, and also provides medical coverage for the whole family through his work. Now let's say that my husband was not the biological father of my children. Let's say further that we'd just met a week ago and were married yesterday. Simply by virtue of that one act, signing a marriage license, my children and I would be eligible for the same benefits through his work. I could still be a stay-home mom and we would all get health care coverage and no one could challenge that.

Now let's say instead that I am a lesbian and my partner works for Pima County. Under current domestic partnership policy, me and my three biological children are eligible for the same kinds of benefits described above. Now let's fast-forward to November 2006. The amendment has just passed and Pima County can no longer offer domestic partnership benefits. Now my children and I are uninsured, unless I get a job. I am forced to choose between working so I can get medical benefits for myself and my children and staying home to raise them. Is that a choice we really want to force on parents? Is that a choice a conservative Christian really would want a parent to have to make?

Whether conservative Christians like it or not, same-sex families already exist. Denying them rights won't make them go away and won't stop people from "sinning." All it will do is hurt families and hurt children.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sin and the law

There is a fascinating dialogue about faith, politics, and same-sex marriage in the comments of this entry in Bad Catholic's blog. Since the entry is not the most current and the comments are numerous, I wanted to point it out for people to check out.

I also want to reiterate here some points I made there (comment #21) because they are at the crux of why I believe Christians should oppose laws that seek to define sin in the civil legal system.

Q: Isn't it incumbant upon Christians to "Love the Lord your God" by following his will and advocating the things you believe about him?

Of course! But there is a universe of difference between advocating what you believe in and compelling others by law to behave like they believed what you believe in. I have zero problem with a Christian having the belief that same-sex relationships are inherently sinful. None. If someone wants to do their level best to convince GLBT people that their relationships are wrong in the eyes of God, they should go for it. But don't force it on them through the legal system. Again, I use the Catholic position on birth control as an analogy. Would those of us who do not believe the use of birth control is a sin want the devout Catholic to convince us we're wrong by trying to change our hearts, or by making it illegal to practice birth control? When a group tries to define sin through civil laws, it is taking away the ability of others to freely practice their faith. If my faith says it's okay for me to use birth control, and there is no reason that it clearly is a detriment to society, then why shouldn't I be allowed to do so, even if to another person's faith I'm sinning?

Christ advocated what he believed, but never once did he advocate changing the laws of the land. On the contrary, he completely rejected the role of political leader. Now that doesn't mean people of faith can't be political leaders or that their faith shouldn't inform their politics. But when it comes to laws, if the only reason you support something is "my paticular faith says that's sinful" then stick to trying to change hearts, not legal remedies.

Q: Progressive and moderate Christians talk about "loving your neighbor" as if believing same-sex relationships are sinful and loving your neighbor are mutually exclusive. Won't you concede that advocates of GLBT rights are not the only ones who love their neighbor?

If you're talking religious conservatives can be "loving their neighbor" by arguing that same-sex relationships are sinful, then yes, I concede, they are loving their neighbor.

If you're talking religious conservatives advocating laws that take away rights from same-sex couples, or don't allow them rights in the first pace, then no, I don't concede that this is "loving your neighbor." Telling someone they can't visit the person they love in the hopsital is not loving your neighbor. Taking a child away from one of the only parents she's ever known when the other parent dies is not loving your neighbor. Not allowing someone bereavement leave from work when their loved one dies, or family medical leave when their loved one is ill and needs care is not loving your neighbor. I could go on and on about the ways laws against same-sex marriage, and specifically the really draconian amendment initiative out collecting signatures in AZ right now are definitely not loving your neighbor.

When everyone is treated fairly under the law and then you tell them, "Go and sin no more" and you passionately advocate for GLBT people to not live a sinful life through your words and not taking it from them by force, then you are loving your neighbor, however much I might disagree with your point of view. This is Jesus' example from John 8. First see to people's safety and physical well-being. Then and only then, when their equally sinful accusers are gone ('cause straight or gay, we're all sinners, right?), then tell them to go and sin no more. That is loving your neighbor.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Slacktivist on grace and works

Slacktivist's latest Left Behind entry is an excellent discussion of grace, works, and salvation and really nails some of the problems I have with how conservative theology often addresses these subjects. I've written on this topic myself, particularly in my Skittles Theology entry, but as usual, Slacktivist presents a better argument.

Jesus makes it very clear that it is God's job, not ours, to distinguish between true believers and false ones. But every time he discusses this distinction -- every time -- he does so on the same basis as in the passage above, on the basis of deeds. Not on mental allegiance to a series of particular propositions. Not on saying "Lord, Lord" or another set of magic words in the sinner's prayer.

Consider Jesus' most expansive discussion of this subject in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). The righteous sheep are separated from the unrighteous goats exclusively on the basis of their deeds -- specifically on the basis of how they responded to the neediest, the poor, the hungry, the sick, imprisoned and homeless.

The remarkable, but little remarked on, aspect of this story is that Jesus suggests two and only two categories of people. The first type, the sheep, do his will, but have no idea who he is. The goats, by contrast, know who Jesus is and claim to follow him, but they do not do his will.

We reflexively fill in the other, unmentioned quadrants when we read this story, the ones that contain the categories of people we're most accustomed to thinking of. Surely, logically, we reassure ourselves, there must also be people who claim to follow Christ and do so, and people who do not know who Christ is and do not do his will. But the story makes no mention of such people. This is part of what makes the story so unsettling, a perfect example of what it means to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Wow. I'd never really thought of it that way. Not that part about the sheep who don't know who he is but do his will; I've believed that for a long time. It's similar to C.S. Lewis's take on this topic in The Final Battle from the Narnia Chronicles where Aslan (Christ) tells a follower of Tash (Satan) that he was, in truth, Aslan's follower because he followed Aslan's will and not Tash's, even though he followed Tash's name. However, the idea of there only being two categories, and that claiming to follow Christ is mutually exclusive with actually following him is a new one. I don't think that's really true, and I'm not sure Slacktivist is saying that it is, but it is interesting and unsettling, as he points out, that Jesus, true to form, criticizes the religious first. We are, after all, the ones who should know better.

Perhaps what Jesus was pointing out is that often those who talk about following him the most are the ones too busy talking about it to actually be doing it.


Friday, June 17, 2005


This editorial by John C. Danforth, an Episcopalian minister and former Republican senator, on moderate theology and politics is so good, I have nothing to add.

Where's the love?

Here's another "Accent" article that bugged me. This one is about how "girl on girl" kissing is becoming more acceptable.

Yeah, you read that right. The gay civil rights promoter is bugged by the whole girl on girl kissing thing. Here's why. The article starts out be referencing Madonna and Britney's much-ballyhooed televised kiss. Right there it's very clear what we're talking about. This isn't about acceptance for people who are different than us, or about giving people the freedom to express their feelings for someone they love. This is about entertainment. Madonna and Britney aren't in love or testing the waters of a relationship. They're performers trying to titillate the audience.

Acceptance for same-sex couples isn't helped by the idea that it's okay for girls who aren't attracted to girls to kiss each other in order to get attention from boys. The whole concept of sex-as-entertainment cheapens the entire concept of love. MaryAnn Kincaid, a 24-year-old lesbian interviewed for this article, points out the pitfalls:

She says men will try to buy her a drink in a bar, and when she tells them she's a lesbian the automatic response is "Can I watch?"

"It's not a sideshow," Kincaid says, her voice tinged with exasperation. "This is my life. I'm not here for your entertainment value."

Now don't get me wrong, I like to watch a good, sexy, romantic love scene (in a movie, though, not in a downtown bar!) as much as the next person, and I think lesbian love stories can be every bit as beautiful and romantic. (As can love stories about gay men, but we're not seeing guys kissing on TV or straight guys kissing casually in bars... hmmm, wonder why that is??) The problem is, there's no love involved here. Madonna/Britney and girls making out with other girls to make their boyfriends hot is pornography, pure and simple.

I hope for a world where people have the freedom to figure out their sexual identity and orientation without fear. I hope for a world where people can love who they love and make life-long commitments to them without the government telling them their love isn't as good as mine. I do not hope for a world where anything goes so long as it's sexy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Some markets just need to stay untapped

I'm really having a hard time coming to grips with this little gem. Greeting cards for people having extra-marital affairs. Because it's sooooooo romaaaaaaantic! ::swoon::

More like ::gag::. Seriously. It is pretty abhorrent to support the concept that cheating is beautiful and romantic. It isn't. It's cheating. It's hurtful and deceitful, full stop.

Here are some of the fine selections from the "Secret Lover Collection:"

One holiday card reads, "As we each celebrate with our families, I will be thinking of you." Another card laments: "I used to look forward to the weekends, but since we met, they seem like an eternity."

Now a lot of sappy cards make me want to hurl, but this makes me want to hurl something at Cathy Gallagher, the creator of the Secret Lover Collection. Here's how she justifies this "niche marketing:"

"These are for people who are in love affairs," said Gallagher, who finds inspiration in movies, songs and people she knows. "These are not sex cards. Those have been done."

Oh, okay, it's about twue wuuuuuuv, not sex! Now it's okay! Never mind that true love involves fidelity and honesty and something a little more enduring than weekend trysts. Gallagher then goes on to explain her market research:

"By the time we reach our mid-30s, we come into contact with someone who has had an affair," she said. "I researched it and found it was an untapped market. There were relationship cards but nothing about this kind of relationship."

You know, I'm all for capitalism and finding untapped markets for an innovative new product, but really, some markets are untapped for a reason. We really don't need any more industries that tell us that romance is all about the fall and that commitment is boring. We already have enough television, books, and movies trying to sell us that lie.

Ms. Gallagher, do you want a nice little quote about what true love really looks like? Rent the movie Keeping the Faith. There's a gem near the end, and ironically, it's an older priest offering advice to a younger priest about his commitment to the priesthood even after he's fallen in love with someone. His words, however, give insight into what true love really looks like:

The truth is, you can never tell yourself there is only one thing you could be. If you're a priest, or if you marry a woman, it's the same challenge. You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept it's a choice that you keep making again and again and again.

That's true love: making the choice over and over again to love the person to whom you've committed yourself. That's something "Secret Lovers" by definition can never have.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Even conservatives think it's a bad idea

The Arizona Republic, the conservative Phoenix daily newspaper, has taken a position against the "marriage protection" initiative.

What's more, the amendment being pushed by the Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition includes the statement that "no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage."

Opponents of the amendment argue convincingly that this would prohibit towns, cities, counties and the state from offering domestic-partner benefits, which are used by heterosexual couples living together.

It likely would also prohibit civil unions for gay couples. Such unions could satisfy legitimate concerns about gaining legal standing to make medical and other decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner.

It's good to see a conservative political stance that actually remembers what conservative political stances are supposed to be about: less government interference in individual lives.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Another religious/political unholy alliance

This article describes yet another example of faith crossing the line into politics and vice-versa. Pastors are supposed to shepherd their flocks spiritually, not place voter-guides in the pews. The Rev. Dr. John Lentz agrees.

This is not America's mission. This is frightening, diabolical stuff for non-Christians and Christians alike. It is blasphemous to claim that any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom. The theological foundations of this movement are vacuous. They are set on the sands of opportunism, self-righteousness and greed.

It is time for the citizens of Ohio to wake up. This group and those like it will stop at nothing in making America a theocracy shaped by one very limited interpretation of scripture.

Now I suppose an "amen" to this from someone who regularly combines the political and the spiritual in her blog might seem a bit hypocritical. Here's the difference as I see it. My faith informs my politics, yes. However, I recognize they are not the same thing and that not everyone who shares my faith must necessarily share my politics, nor everyone who shares my politics must necessarily share my faith. They are enmeshed in me because they make me who I am. I do not, however, use a position of authority, like a pastor, to "preach" politics as if faith in God can only have one specific political outcome. This is an abuse of the pulpit.

Similarly, when politics and laws are used to dictate faith, it is an abuse of the legal system. The "litmus test" I use when putting my faith into my politics is, does this political course allow for the fairest outcome if I should happen to be wrong?" Take my stance on gay rights. If I happen to be wrong and same-sex relationships are horrendously sinful, what harm have we done by allowing them civil rights? None. On the contrary, I believe people are more willing to listen and change their hearts and their behavior when they aren't being persecuted and discriminated against. Jesus first saved the adulterous woman from being stoned and when and only when she was alone and safe, did he then tell her to go and sin no more. We are better able to follow this course of action if we stop trying to force change on others through the legal system.

On the other hand, suppose I'm right about same-sex relationships not being inherently sinful. Then the laws against them are doing great harm. My position, I believe, allows for the fact that I might be wrong. The opposing position does not. That's why I cannot support it. No one should ever assume they know God's heart so well they cannot possibly be wrong, but that's what the ultra-right does all the time. There were people like that in Biblical times, too. They were called Pharisees and they were not the Good Guys.

Christians are called upon to use their faith to inform their politics and to speak up and take a stand for what they believe. They are not called upon to claim to be THE voice of God. Rev. Lentz is right. Therein lies the way of blasphemy.