Friday, January 16, 2009

Being Gay is gift: Change is in the air

One of the biggest challenges to GLBT rights is organized religion. Prop8 in California, denying marriage rights to a minority, was passed in large part by the unholy alliance of conservative Catholics and Mormons (especially Mormon money). Many gay people see their lives in opposition to religion, thanks to the ascendance of fundigelical Christianism under successive Republican administrations. There has been a defacto establishment of conservative evangelicalism as a state religion. And yet, along with other changes, perhaps that is changing too.

Progressive Christians are finding their voice on a national stage and offering a radical welcome to all. Will their voices finally be heard in Washington and in the wider culture?

Item 1 :Just this week, Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA, went on Oprah Winfrey's show and announced "being gay is a gift from God". As documented by Susan Russell's blog, Rev Bacon then on successive occasions defended and extended his comment, explaining that "I meant exactly what I said". He went on to say that his mail was running 30:1 in favor of his inclusiveness and affirmation. "Ironically," he lamented, "some of the most meanspirited email I received was from Christians".

Item 2: Apparently in response to the outrage over Rick Warren giving the invocation at the Inauguration, the Obama transition team invited Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to give an invocation for another inaugural event. Robinson is an out gay man who recently celebrated a civil union with his partner. On an interview on Rachel Maddow's show , Bishop Robinson reminded the audience that "Jesus had the biggest tent of all," scolding those who choose to exclude.

Item 3: In a series of screenings around the country, the award-winning film For the Bible Tells me so challenges the Christian Right's attack on homosexuality by showing the lives of faithful GLBT people and their families.

Item 4: The California Council of Churches filed an amicus curiae brief against Prop 8. This group represents over 4000 congregations of different mainstream traditions as well as ecumenical allies from other faiths.

Item 5: Finally, today, the estimable Mary Frances Berry of the Commission on Civil Rights takes on the subject:
To help resolve the issue of gay rights, President-elect Obama should abolish the now moribund Commission on Civil Rights and replace it with a new commission that would address the rights of many groups, including gays.....

There is no need to analogize the battle for the rights of gay and lesbian people to the struggle of African Americans to overcome slavery, Jim Crow and continued discrimination. But as Coretta Scott King said to me as she tried to imagine what position the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would take on “don’t ask, don’t tell”: “What’s the yardstick by which we should decide that gay rights are less important than other human rights we care about?”
We know that the anti-gay rights people are on the losing side of demographics. They are fighting savagely as a result. But perhaps with other changes, they are losing the battle to define Christianity by their exclusionary rules. And perhaps with the progressive Christians increasingly and vocally on our side, we can win this battle and offer the positive side of change, with peace.

Cross posted at StreetProphets, at Daily Kos and TPM Cafe


Wormwood's Doxy said...

And perhaps with the progressive Christians increasingly and vocally on our side, we can win this battle and offer the positive side of change, with peace.

My mission in life, dear friend. If you were a praying sort, I would say "From your mouth to God's ear!"--but I'll just say "Amen," which translated means "Make it so!"


Ann said...

amen and amen

James said...

I did not know about Item 4. Excellent news.

My prayer is that we are truly on the edge of a new era - a new Age of Aquarius, so so speak. I see so much of RJK in Mr. Obama's policies.

Ann - is your gavitar Morro Rock?

Grandmère Mimi said...

It is all good, IT.

Thanks for the link to Bishop Gene's appearance on Rachel Maddow's show. I had not seen that before.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

My prayer is that we are truly on the edge of a new era - a new Age of Aquarius, so so speak.¨ James

Just for the heck of it, no, just because it´s better with clarity while operating in REALITY...this time, this new age, this new opportunity at justice and human rights...let´s do it without blowing OUR OWN LIGHTS OUT!

Make LOVE not WAR!

James said...

But Leonardo, I love taht song - I thought we could all dust off our LPs and start playing it again! Drat.

Ann said...

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach OR

Cany said...

Mary Francis Berry/Correta King are right. This is not--and I have said this all along--to be compared to the African American experience. It is different.

Yes there are similarities--and we need to strategize, in part, from the lessons of the past placed in this modern and different context--but they are NOT the same things as issues.

Yes, it is about civil rights, but the two civil rights issues don't stem from the same history or whole thinking and I believe we make a mistake in comparing the two.

As the comparison offends many in the African American community (and some have been quite clear is saying as much), it is perhaps better to look at and learn from commonalities but not link the two. Imho, it is important to make the case on its own.

The biggest affront we have right now, imho, is, as you suggest and I have suggested, is "the church".

Per my recent post, the deep south and Bible belt are huge blocks, nationally, but not in terms of sheer numbers of people. Rather, they represent large blocks politically which IS important in that context though nothing but time will probably solve that.

Add to that pink states and purple states (which changed hue this election) and marginal blue states, and the 'political problem' is REAL.

THAT will change through not only the churches but through life association. So, the churches are a target.

When het men finally figure out that gay men are not a threat
(sheesh!), that will turn the tide. This group seems to be the most threatened (thus most fearful) of the whole concept of gay anything thus the most resistant to gay everything.

Given much of the Christian church is male dominated, this makes a huge difference and those that get it--especially those well known and respected--are invaluable in this context.

On the issue of marriage, the problem seems to be the belief that marriage is a religious institution. THIS is overcome by education. One doesn't get a marriage license from the church any more than the church grants a divorce. But for many--especially Christians--this is just matter-of-fact thinking and a lost link to reality.

One of the things that has surprised me in my reading on blogs and blog comments and comments on media items is that so many in the lgbt community have linked Warren to supporting a faction of TEC that is anti-gay. What this seems to suggest (on its face) is that among lgbt folks who are either Christians or watching the moves, there is a sense about TEC that is positive. I cannot possibly LIST the hundreds and hundreds of blogs/articles/comments I have read in this vein. It is increasingly striking to me that in articles on many things lgbt, this link is made.

Remember when some said TEC was the "gay" church (as though, despite the misunderstanding, that was a slap)? I am beginning to realize that, in fact, this is actually a compliment of the highest order in context.

I'm running on an on here, and I apologize for that. But let me just close with an analogy to the African American civil rights experience.

AAs were separated legally from society at large much the way the lgbt community is overall. Laws ceasing that separation (which didn't completely stem at all from the 1964 Act but came from additional litigation based on the Act, in part) required social intermingling of AAs into the general population. With "color" and/or ethnicity, it's a visual thing.

The lgbt issue doesn't present itself in the same way. It seems to be families and exposure and church.

Those are the places that need work.

Karl Smith said...

Excellent news man...
We never differentiate gay by their color in parties..