Thursday, September 29, 2005

Good news!

KAET-TV in Phoenix released a new poll that reinforces what I've believed since I first heard about the drive to put a marriage amendment on the ballot: Arizonans do not support discrimination. "Red" state or not, we believe in individual freedom.

A new statewide telephone poll of 390 registered voters conducted by KAET-TV/Channel 8 and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University Sept. 22 – 25 found that the proposed Protect Marriage Arizona initiative is in early trouble. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the initiative, 60 percent would vote against it and 7 percent were undecided.

The survey found that one reason the initiative may be in trouble is that while Arizonans tend to be about evenly divided on whether there should be a ban on gay marriages (41 percent favorable to 49 percent opposed) voters favor allowing partners of unmarried workers to receive domestic benefits. Thirty-six percent favor banning domestic partner benefits, while 57 percent are opposed.

This is excellent news. First of all, it means that (at least of the people polled) the public is understanding that this initiative goes much further than just defining marriage. I've believed since I got involved with Arizona Together that we will defeat this amendment if people understand the full implications.

Even more impressive is that even if it were only a ban on same-sex marriage without all of the other mean-spirited language about "status for unmarried persons... similar to that of marriage," then 49% of those polled would still be opposed.

That's huge. It indicates that people's minds are changing. A year ago, I think a poll would've shown an overwhelming majority of people being in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage if domestic partnerships and other benefits were left alone. Now it's a virtual dead heat. Maybe it's because same-sex couples have been getting married in Massachusetts for a year now and the sky hasn't fallen nor has the institution of marriage been destroyed. Maybe it's because the legislature of our next-door neighbors to the west just voted in favor of extended marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples (even if the governor will most likely veto it). Whatever the reason, the tide is turning. On November 7, 2006, Arizona will be among the first states--if not the first state--to defeat a marriage amendment to its state constitution. Count on it.

This doesn't mean it will be easy. It will be a long hard fight and there's a lot of work to do. But we're off to a great start.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Theology is NOT science!

I have huge issues with Intelligent Design, mostly because it seeks to take a concept that cannot be proven or disproven by scientific method--the existence of God--and try to force it into science. However, at least its proponents aren't out to try and make a word-for-word reading of Genesis the basis of scientific theory about our origins.

Unlike those behind the Creation Museum.

"We're placing this [velociraptor] in the hall that explains the post-Flood world," explains [museum vice president Mark Looy. "When dinosaurs lived with man."

"We call him our 'missionary lizard,' " Looy says. "When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

Whoa. T Rex in Eden. Oookaaaaay...

What scares me about this kind of thinking is that it seeks to make the Bible be something it isn't: a science textbook. How can the Genesis account of creation be the basis of our "scientific" understanding when Genesis has two separate and incompatible Creation stories. Within two chapters of each other. The first, for example, teaches that man and women were created simultaneously and last. The second teaches that man was created before animals and when none of the animals were found to be a suitable helpmate for man, woman was then created after them from man. Attempts to reconcile these versions as one and the same, as if the whole Bible or even all of Genesis are one continueous story rather than a whole library of stories by a myriad of different writers with different purposes so distorts it that it renders it utterly meaningless. Conservatives accuse progressives of twisting the Bible to conform to our views, but no progressive Christian take on the Bible violates scripture anywhere near as much as the attempt to smash two distinct creation stories into one and say it's literally true and must be the basis for our scientific understanding of our origins.

Young Earth Creationists emphasize the rigor of their science. Looy rattles off the names of experts with doctorates, many of whom obtained degrees from mainstream universities. A creationist scientist, Kurt Wise, worked as a graduate student at Harvard with prominent biologist Stephen Jay Gould. John Baumgardner of the Los Alamos National Laboratory became a well-regarded designer of computer models for planetary catastrophes.

They herald successes. Recent discoveries by geologists tend to support creationists' beliefs that great floods -- albeit not necessarily ordered up by God -- played a role in gouging out some canyon lands.

But often, scientists say, the creationist bottom line is a through-the-looking-glass version of science. The scientific method of theory, experiment and assumptions upended does not apply. Ask ["Answers in Genesis" President Kenneth] Ham if he could accept evidence that conflicts with his reading of Genesis -- proof, say, that a fossil is more than 6,000 years old -- and he shakes his head.

This is idolatry plain and simple. The Bible is not God, it is from God. There is a distinct difference. You can't believe in a Living and Infinite God while worshiping a finite text. You can't be putting your trust in God--and the world God created--if you have to force everything in nature to fit into a tenth century B.C.E. mindset. It does violence to scripture and it crams God into a tiny box in which God cannot possibly fit.

God's creation of the universe and what that means to us is theology. Don't make it into science.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What's really incompatible with Christian Teaching?

One of the things I don't understand about marriage amendment initiatives and "defense of marriage acts" (DOMAs) in various states and in our federal government is the idea that my idea of who you should or shouldn't love should somehow be encoded into law. I can have my opinion about whether someone should love another person. I can even believe that my opinion comes straight from God. But I don't have a right to stop them from living their lives. My right to an opinion on your life stops where your right to live your life begins.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we're seeing exactly how devastating the effects of "protecting" marriage--at the cost of other people being able to live their lives--can be, as this article from indicates.

Louisiana has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing any legal status for common-law relationships, domestic partnerships or civil unions. Mississippi and Alabama both have defense of marriage acts which also deny rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The Federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents FEMA from providing any relief in the form of family benefits to same-sex couples.

The laws also will directly impact gay and lesbian families where one partner has died as a result of the hurricane.

Federal DOMA bars Social Security survivor benefits. State benefits would also be denied.

If the deceased partner were the birth or adoptive parent of the couple's children those children could be removed from the care of the other parent and placed in foster care.

Should the family home be in the name of the deceased partner the survivor would have no rights. Any insurance payouts could go to the estate of the deceased and if there is no will would go to the closest blood relative.

In cases where one partner is hospitalized the other partner would not be guaranteed visitation rights or any say in medical care.

Surviving same-sex partners even could be denied any say in funeral or burial decisions.

Even in those cases where couples had legal documents such as living wills, powers of attorney or other agreements that could be valid in the states in which they were prepared and notarized there is no guarantee they would be honored in states where survivors were relocated.

This is a travesty. If I lost my husband in a tragedy, my pain would be no greater than the pain of someone who lost their same-sex partner or even opposite-sex significant other. My need to keep my house and for financial support is no greater than that of a GLBT person who has lost their partner. If our family needed rescuing and relocating, our need to stay together as a family is no greater than the need of a same-sex couple (with or without children) or the non-married opposite-sex couple (with our without children) to stay together with their family. To believe otherwise, to believe that my marriage license makes my pain, my need greater than yours is pure ego-centrism.

I may have an opinion about whom you should and shouldn't love. But that won't stop you from loving them and my opinion should and must end where your right to live your life begins. This is why we need equal domestic partnership rights. Call it marriage or don't; I don't care. But when we behave in ways that remove people from those they love and don't help them through their losses because we are so arrogant as to determine that their love doesn't count because we say so, then we are not following Jesus. We are going 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church says that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Sure. Fine. Whatever. But what does Jesus say? Jesus commanded us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
By definition we aren't doing the first if we aren't doing the second, and we aren't doing the second if we are looking down our noses at our neighbor because they don't love whom we think they should. Full stop. That's what's really incompatible with Christian teaching.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Pretty words, ugly actions

I read with great interest the latest missive from Len Munsil of the Center for Arizona Policy.

Christianity … teaches respect for all people who are created in the image of God, so violence or ridicule directed at those who struggle with same-sex attraction or behavior is never acceptable. Most importantly, Christianity recognizes that all of us have fallen short of perfection, and that only through God’s amazing grace and forgiveness can we be reconciled to our Creator. Efforts in Arizona to preserve the definition of marriage must be conducted with humility and with respect for those who disagree.

Hear hear! I think this is quite eloquently put.

Would that his actions matched his words.

Let’s look at some of the ways Mr. Munsil and CAP have “conducted [themselves] with humility and with respect for those who disagree.”

In a statement about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, he claims that “for some, who have embraced the lies of moral relativism and evolution, a sudden state of nature leads to lawlessness, looting and animalistic violence.” He then goes on to extol the virtues of the good Christian heroes. I’m not sure how assuming because someone doesn’t hold your views on the origins of life they must be a looter is showing “humility and … respect for those who disagree.” Sounds like some pretty base and unfounded accusations.

Then there was this gem about a woman who was abused by her gay father and then uses this to argue that therefore all gay parents are bad.

Dawn grew up in a homosexual household during the 1960s and 1970s, and though she loved her father, who died of AIDS in 1991, she is speaking out about the awful consequences of raising a child in a home dominated by homosexuality. She writes, "From a young age I was exposed to explicit sexual speech, self-indulgent lifestyles... and gay vacation spots. Sex looked gratuitous to me as a child." She goes on to describe the insecurity, depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem and anxiety she suffered as a direct result of her father's decision to live as a homosexual.

These clearly abusive and disgusting behaviors are attributed solely to the sexual orientation of her father, never mind the fact that the 60s were a time of “free love” for straights as well, and never mind the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexual predators are straight, white, married, church-going men. This generalization of one man’s horrible behavior to everyone of the same sexual orientation shows neither humility nor respect.

There’s this editorial that appeared in The Arizona Republic on June 26 written by Lynn Stanley from the Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition. I don’t have the space in this post to even begin to get into all the lies and twists in logic that are used in this one. I analyzed in depth in a previous post. I don’t think telling outright lies to make your point, which I believe runs afoul of the Eighth Commandment, is showing Christ-like humility and respect.

And speaking of bearing false witness, this one is my absolute favorite from Mr. Munsil and CAP. It’s the one about how “homosexual molestation occurs at a rate about 17 times higher than heterosexual molestation.” Read more here about the bogus study conducted by a doctor who has been kicked out of the APA and the ASA both. They went on two weeks later to e-mail a follow-up that is not posted on their website, but that I cut and paste into my blog here. They basically took one quote out of context from the Wingspan response to their claim that gay people are more likely to be molesters than straight, then claimed that because that one quote didn’t refute the study, that the study is therefore irrefutable. Never mind the fact that all the other quotes that Mr. Munsil didn’t use (and he never linked the original response from Wingspan) did exactly that. Again, I really can’t say that lying and choosing your “facts” represents good humble, respectful Christian behavior.

I applaud Mr. Munsil’s call for civility, but I given his past record, I don’t have a lot of faith that he’ll live up to his lofty words. I would remind him of Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:21:

”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

In other words, you can’t just talk the talk; you’ve gotta walk the walk. Our pretty words are meaningless if our actions contradict them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Props to the California Legislature

Today California became the first state to pass a bill--in legislature, without a court order--legalizing gay marriage.

Tuesday's vote came after 23 lawmakers addressed the chamber, many of them focusing on the historic element of their action, others relating intensely personal stories.

In a moment of high drama, with dozens of gay rights supporters watching from the gallery, Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) hesitated for several seconds as the tally hung at 40 "ayes" — one short of passage. Then, having promised Leno months ago that he would not let the bill fail, Salinas pressed the "aye" button on his desk, making the final vote 41-35.

Analysts say Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto the bill, which would be sad. Schwarzenegger is one of the few good fiscal conservative but not socially extreme Republicans left, and yet, it seems currying favor of the bigwigs in the party will likely win the day.

Still, this is historic. I'm proud of my neighbors to the west. It's only a matter of time before we all get there. And eventually, bills like this won't be vetoed, either. For now I'll be happy with any step in the right direction. You go, California!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Darwin made me do it!

Got another jaw-dropper in my e-mail from Len Munsil of the Center on Arizona Policy. (Evenutally they'll archive it here, but as of posting this, it isn't up yet.)

HURRICANE KATRINA. A natural disaster like we are seeing unfold in the southeast has a way of reminding us of the things that matter most. In times of trial, our priorities change and our true character is revealed. For some, who have embraced the lies of moral relativism and evolution, a sudden state of nature leads to lawlessness, looting and animalistic violence. But for the majority of Americans, tribulation reveals our underlying greatness as a people, a greatness rooted in our historic faith. Acts of heroism, compassion and self- sacrifice flow from the virtues taught in an ancient book, a book that maintains a strong influence in what we refer to as the Bible belt.

Okay, let me get this straight. Being an evolutionist makes you a looter and the only heroes are his brand of Christian? Presumptuous much?

My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, survivors, and heroes of Hurricane Katrina, no matter what their religious or political affiliation. You don't have to think like me to be a hero.