Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Right Finally -- Again -- Jumps the Shark

Okay, so now I've heard everything from these Right-Wing twits.

Their take on the story of Jim Adkisson, the mutant nutcase who shot up the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, is (take your pick) that:

(A) The "liberal media" is calling it a hate crime because Adkisson hates lesbians and gays, but -- dark, dastardly them -- NOT because he opened fire on Christians.

Poor, poor Christians! Because they *ALL* condemn lesbians and gays, they are bitterly hated by us libruls!

-- or --

(B) Because they ARE liberals, who love lesbians and gays instead of condemning them, and/or because they don't hold traditional beliefs about Jesus, they aren't "real" Christians, anyway, their church is not a "real" church, and therefore, slaughtering them in cold blood is not really a crime of any sort at all.

Honestly, these so-called conservatives are so befuddled, their minds so darkened by the nonsense they've been telling themselves for so long, that it's a wonder how they keep their brains from blasting right out of their heads. How is it that, at mention of a news item like this one, the effort of assimilating the information doesn't drive them, naked and screaming, out into the streets?

Which is it, dimwits? Is it a hate crime because Christians have been brutalized and murdered, or is it not a crime at all because they weren't "real" Christians? Call me when you've drunk enough of the Kool-Aid to have it all figured out.

I am increasingly less concerned with whether people of faith totally agree with every single thing I believe, down to the tiniest detail, than I am with whether or not they get what Jesus was all about. The Unitarian Universalists are fine people. I am proud to know several of them -- including some members of my own family. I used to get my undies in a real bunch about whether people accepted my creed -- down to the last jot and tittle -- or not. Now I simply, and very gladly, count faithful folks like the Unitarian Universalists among those who follow Jesus the only way He really cared about being followed -- by living as He taught us to live.

Not, however, the people on the Right Wing, who have hijacked the name of "Christian" as surely as those terrorists hijacked those planes on September 11 of 2001. They harp on and on about "terrism" and who is or is not on Jesus' side. Yet they are about as far from Jesus as Lucifer himself, and the most extreme among them -- the Jim Adkissons of this world -- are terrorists just as vile and inhuman as anything ever dredged up by Osama bin Laden in the Middle East.

No wonder the American people are tiring of this shit. This isn't the first time the nutbag, asshat Right Wing has jumped the shark -- it has to be at least the hundred thousandth.

We are turning on this insanity -- turning away from it, in total, throw-up-'til-we-dry-heave disgust -- at long last and (I can only hope and pray) forever.

The vehement degree to which we are turning against it gives me hope this country just might survive after all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finally -- Some Honorable Opponents!

I was heartened to see, as I surveyed this week's blogosphere, that the libertarians are asserting themselves -- loudly and proudly -- in the political fray. Even though I have determined that I am no libertarian myself, this is good news to me.

Ron Paul's supporters refuse to go away. They are stuffing the Republican suggestion-box with input about the direction they believe the Party must take. And they are absolutely right. Big-government Republicans inevitably degenerate into fascists. For far too long, the GOP has been controlled by bullies, brownshirts and theocratic, hyper-militaristic nuts.

A good many Republicans are also defecting to the Libertarian Party. They're fed up with the antichrist, counterfeit "Christianity" that has hijacked their former Party. I've come to believe that a third party can do no more than influence the major party ideologically closest to it; I don't think it stands much of a chance of becoming a major party. The United States is basically a two-party country, and the Republicans and the Democrats are too entrenched to be deposed as the top two anytime in this century. But the Libertarians have gotten big and bold enough to make some real noise.

The GOP refuses to listen to this noise only at its own peril. It will not recover in less than a generation from the thuggery and corruption of the Junior Bush Administration. As a Democrat, I rejoice in this. But I realize how easily the Democrats can go soft and stupid. Hell, they've been that way since the Seventies.

I'm a progressive first, and a Democrat second. I'm only a member of the Democratic Party because I think it's necessary to belong to a major party in order to make much of a difference as a citizen in this country. I don't hold out any hope that the party, in and of itself, is ever going to be much of a vehicle for positive change -- unless the progressive wing, under President Obama, is able to really get some traction.

I guess I should say that I DO hold out at least some hope for this. And I hope, as well, that the Republicans -- heavily influenced by the libertarians -- will provide some energetic opposition. No political party, however successful at the polls, can do much genuine good if it is unopposed. Opposition keeps it honest.

Here's to worthy opposition. Go get 'em, you Ron Paulites! Though libertarianism is far too minimalist, in its philosophy of government, to hold in check the rapacious powers of mega-capitalism (which, left unchecked, will lead only to tyranny of a different form), it can definitely provide an important counterbalance against the sort of dopey nannyism Democrats tend to push for when they get their own way too much of the time.

Finally, the Dems have some honorable opponents. Though they'll only be able to do some good if they're successful in taking back the Republican Party from the Nazis who run it now.

May the ghost of Goldwater rise again!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Whack Upside the Head

It seems to me that my now-former pastor is getting pretty picky-choosy when it comes to her multiculturalism. After all, most of these same alternative cultures, in their perceived macho-ness and primitivity, regard not just gays but WOMEN as second-class citizens!

Does she, also, intend to "take one for the team" if it is demanded of her? Or is that merely to be expected of the gays? And really, why do I even bother to ask such questions?

Honestly, what part of the Golden Rule do these cafeteria Christian multiculturalists not understand? As soon as anyone in the Church gets an edge up on anybody else, they try to turn it to their advantage. This particular woman pastor has managed to get in the door, and she slams it in our faces.

It may seem that I'm obsessing over the matter here, but issues like multiculturalism (what it should mean, and what it must never mean), as well as what it means to be liberal and progressive in America post-September 11 of 2001, are the meat and potatoes of this Blog.

Multiculturalism is definitely an important value for progressivism. But it can never be our most important one. Were it to trump all the others, it would also destroy them. Especially in the hands of Western cultural chauvinists who credit their own culture (quite shortsightedly) for having singlehandedly invented inclusiveness and broad-mindedness. When they decide to go slummin' and condescend to the "savages" that live outside their exalted ring of light, they are all too likely to project their own benighted views onto others and use their "multiculturalism" as a handy excuse to be hateful.

I suspect that this pastor never really cared very much for gays in the first place. She may have regarded her congregation's commitment to including us as a bother. She obviously considers it a hindrance to ministering to those Latinos of whom she thinks so highly, she's never even bothered to get to know.

I cannot too highly recommend Bruce Bawer's recent book, While Europe Slept. It broods on just these issues, in an international context and specifically concerning the influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe. I'm grateful to God that "He" led me to it before all the nonsense started at my former church. Indeed, it helped me to make sense out of an attitude that might otherwise have flummoxed me.

Many people are talking, right now, about what multiculturalism really means. I'm very glad we're having this discussion. And I can only hope and pray that it will lead to the realization that the best qualities of humanity are the province of no one particular culture.

Don't women and gays -- who exist in every culture in the world -- have the right to partake of all the goodies of enlightened humanity, too?

Given our track-record over the past several years, we in millenial America would do well to be a little more humble about attributing these qualities exclusively to ourselves. And a lot more open to recognizing them when they show up in places we can't imagine finding them.

There's no excuse for respect to be such a scarce commodity. In this world that God so loves, there ought to be enough of it for everybody.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Big, Fat Gay Caveat Emptor

Another brilliant light bulb has just popped on over my head!

Cross Currents, now forming here in Phoenix, is a local GLBT social group. If it works out here, hopefully it will spread to other locations around the country. We're getting it together mainly for the purpose of socializing and mutual support. It's a chance to make friends, and for singles to meet that special somebody, without being bound to any specific congregation. As there are very few of us in any one church, being able to come together will strengthen us in our daily spiritual lives.

Now for my latest brainchild. This idea is totally new; I haven't even shared it yet with the others in our fledgling group. I think, however, that it would be an excellent endeavor for Cross Currents to undertake.

We could develop a website that functions, as we do, independently of any church or denomination. This way, it would not be subject to censorship from any outside interest. On this site, GLBT Christians could post their observations and experiences about the churches they visit. They could brag about the great ones they have found, and warn others about the not-so-great ones.

We can't necessarily go by what churches say about themselves. That tells us more about how the straight majority in these churches want to see themselves than it does about how WE may see them.

Official designations (varying from one denomination to another) like "Open and Affirming," "Welcoming and Affirming," "More Light," "Rainbow," or whatever else, are as much about marketing as they are about ministry. They are somewhat helpful, but not much. Very often, they were adopted after marketing "demographic" studies that informed their leadership we were a ripe group to target because lots of us happen to live in their area.

Some churches may genuinely want to include us, but if they're in an area where not too many of us live, they may feel that the punishment they would get from their denomination (and maybe their neighbors) would make publicly reaching out to us too big a risk. Others may include us simply because their denomination allows it with a minimum of hassle, and because there are a lot of us nearby. Our money, of course, being as green as everybody else's.

The bad news is that some of the churches that tout themselves as fully inclusive of us aren't nearly as inclusive as they claim to be. The good news is that many that don't officially advertise their welcome actually are. Some of the "unofficial" ones are really more hospitable to us than are some of those that boast about their hospitality.

In some cases, the larger religious body simply doesn't offer the opportunity for their churches to officially welcome us. There are some Catholic parishes, for example, that are very warm and friendly, even though there's no way the Church will let them bill themselves as such.

The degree of welcome we receive, in truth, has more to do with what's in the hearts of the individuals in that congregation than it does with their theology, their interpretation of Scripture or the politics of their denomination.

A welcoming congregation may be stifled by a rigidly homophobic pastor. And a welcoming pastor may be stifled by a congregation that refuses to go along.

This is exactly why a website of church "reviews" would be so helpful, especially for those of us who are new to a location and don't yet know our way around. All the ads in the local GLBT publications are going to tell us, again, is what the churches that advertise there want to think of themselves, and that they want our "business."

I know that I, personally, would have been spared a lot of heartache had I been warned that the church where I spent the last three and a half years was concerned with little more than butts in the pews and bucks in the plate.

We can have follow-ups and updates, tracking the developments made in the churches we review. Some of the folks in these congregations -- should they genuinely care about extending a welcome to us -- could read the website and learn what those in their midst may be afraid to tell them.

For example, should the people at my now-former church choose to stand up to their pastor and make clear that they WILL NOT treat the gays there like some shameful secret that must be hidden from those who might not approve, we can cheerfully include that good news. But if, on the other hand, the congregation chooses to sit back with their thumbs up their butts and simply let the pastor poison the atmosphere for gays, we can make darned good and sure that others are not suckered in.

We just have to think of a catchy title for our website. How does "A BIG, FAT GAY CAVEAT EMPTOR grab you?

Okay, so it's kinda grandiose. But I'm open to suggestions...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mercy, Mercy Me!

As I reflect on the nonsensical blather coming from gay conservatives about this election, I wonder how I could ever have bought into so much of what they said. Granted, I was angry and disgruntled about progressives not acting like progressives, but I'm embarassed, now, to admit how susceptible this made me to gay-Right rot.

It is much, much easier to be a conservative than it is to be a progressive. The Right caters to the lowest common denominators: hostility toward anyone different from oneself, suspicion of any idea that does not promise immediate gratification to oneself, and fear, fear, fear. Conservative politics are childish; they appeal to the sulking, cowering little kid inside each of us.

Progressivism, on the other hand, sets the bar considerably higher: concern for others (even those different from oneself), dedication to the common good, optimism about the future. You have to be an adult to commit yourself to a Leftward course. And because of its very ambitious nature, progressivism is hard to follow with super-consistency.

Conservatives -- especially gay ones -- love to criticize progressives for their inconsistencies. But we must consider the source.

My former pastor's problem is not that she is evil; indeed, all in all, she's a pretty decent sort. Her problem is, I believe, a case of runaway vanity: a common failing in progressives. She thinks, quite wrongly, that if she isn't consistently progressive and enlightened a hundred percent of the time, she must be a bad person. But her inconsistency does not make her bad; it merely makes her human.

In her scheme to keep the Latinos in her church from finding out that gays are welcome there, she is making a very big mistake. She thinks that she must "manage" us all, and she is wrong. Now that she has met with criticism for this scheme, she's reacting with hurt and outrage -- a bruised ego. Her image of herself is being challenged, and she doesn't like it one little bit.

Of all the people who should be able to show mercy to themselves, progressive Christians should lead the way. God is far more patient with her than she is with herself. We should, as well, be able to help the Left, in general, to be more patient with itself and less over-proud. The excessive pride is a defense against the bitter self-flagellation that would otherwise result from the occasional discovery that one doesn't always live up to a high standard. It accounts, I think, for much of what non-progressives see as obnoxiousness.

What we must NEVER succumb to is the temptation to lower the standard. Conservatives and their evil twins, the "Centrists," are forever advising us to do that. They don't like the constant reminder that they could be doing so much better than they are.

At least we're TRYING to do better than they are. What would help us in this endeavor, perhaps more than anything else, would be to remember that the same God Who shows such steadfast mercy to others wants us to extend at least a little of it to ourselves.