Antiwar poster (photo by Baltine)
The first time I saw my father after my AIDS civil disobedience arrest (during my senior year in college), he approved of my actions and then said, with a mixture of sadness and bemusement, “It’s a shame you won’t be an idealist after you’ve been an adult for awhile.” I recall bursting into tears and protesting that I would be an idealist my whole life.
Well, Dad was both right and wrong, bless him. Twenty-something years later I am still an idealist, but now I am a chastened idealist, and I think you should be too. Or at least that you should think about the idea, since it has elements to commend it.
UU Flaming Chalice (author unknown)
It’s common around the turning of the year to look forward, to make resolutions of change, to wonder what new experiences might await us. Today, I would like to do something different: in honor of the year just passed, I would like to list the five most important lessons I learned this year as a spiritual progressive. I’m culling these lessons from three particular sources: my seminary experiences to date (since starting in August), my experiences writing for Tikkun (which began late spring), and my long, slow, and incomplete recovery from a detached retina in late August, which has cost me a fair amount of vision in my right eye. I realize these experiences are individual and personal, but my sense is that the insights that have come from them are not particularly unique. Indeed, I would normally say that these lessons are simply clichés, but for me they have been hard won and so are precious. In no particular order:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8)The shepherds make for a nice presence, don’t they, both in Luke’s nativity and more recently in countless nativity pageants the world over. In Luke’s version of the nativity story, the shepherds are the first to receive the good news of Jesus’ birth.
The shepherds matter to my understanding of Jesus – of Yeshua ben Miriam – because of where they stood in the social hierarchy of their day. So who were the shepherds? Peasants at best, and therefore marginal figures. There is some possibility they even belonged to the outcast class, according to writings from after Luke’s time. They were not people with power or status. Who would they be in our time? Poor kids who are lucky to get fast food jobs, maybe. If they really were outcasts, perhaps undocumented immigrants. We have plenty of shepherds today. And we know who they are.
What would constitute “good tidings of great joy” (luke 2:10) for the shepherds of Judea, circa 4 BCE? Maybe the announcement of a particular birth: the birth of a man who would, as an adult, go into the synagogue and say that God had anointed him to bring good news to the poor. And especially in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had a lot of good news for the poor. He said they were blessed. He said the Kingdom of God was theirs. He ate with them and healed them and invited them to walk with him along the way. What an incredible experience that would have been, to be a marginal figure in society and suddenly to find oneself in relationship with a God-intoxicated prophet and teacher.
DADT Defense Dept. Report
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed by the Senate, and now only awaits the President’s signature. A great day for social justice, right?
It is. But my joy is profoundly mitigated by the Senate’s failure to pass the Dream Act, a bill that would have granted legal status to undocumented immigrant students and allowed them to go through a process by which they could have become U.S. citizens. What a wonderful pro-lives stance that would have been. And with the incoming Congress, we can’t reasonably expect to see the bill passed anytime soon.
Seattle LGBT youth chorus Diverse Harmony (photo by benjiboi)
It had to happen sooner or later: critiques of the “It Gets Better” campaign. But not from antigay religious conservatives; oh no, that would be too easy.
Instead, the critique appears to be coming from the left, and it comes down mostly to the following: the campaign is too assimilationist; it only really supports white middle-class young gay men and its vision for them is that they will turn into Dan Savage, though perhaps with fewer insights about how to write a sex column. Left out of the equation are women, queers of color, transyouth, and poor LGBTQ young people, according to these critiques (well-represented by Jasbir Puar’s piece, which ends by claiming that the campaign might be making things worse for queer youth who don’t fit the wealthy white male profile).
Then there’s Danah Boyd’s research on how teens in general don’t conceptualize bullying the way adults do, with the consequence that well-intended adult attempts to address teen bullying are falling on largely deaf teen ears. This piece doesn’t address sexuality at all, but winds up presenting bullying as a simple (and complex) matter of teen social dynamics. One could read the article and come away thinking this issue really is not about social injustice at all.
Rochester, MN UU church sign (photo by Jonathunder)
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to blog, something I have been learning about over these past few months. You have to be pretty sure of yourself. But sometimes, the ethically and spiritually right thing to do is apologize. And I owe you my readers an apology. (We’ll get to the question later. It is on a different topic.)
A few days ago, I posted on DADT for the first time ever. I did so because I felt that a particular argument needed to be made and offered to the public, and not having seen anyone else make it (maybe I just haven’t been reading broadly enough), I decided it must be mine to deliver. But I did so with trepidation, and my trepidation proved well-founded.
US Army: Border Police in Paktiya (photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
In times of war, sacrifice is, unfortunately, required. The US is at war now, and we live in a profoundly dangerous world. Thus, while we may wish it were not so, when it comes to DADT we must put personal agendas aside and focus on the greater good.
That’s right, DADT supporters, I’m talking to you.
by: Amanda Udis-Kessler on November 12th, 2010 | Comments Off
LGBT ally Kristen Chenoweth (photo by chris.ptacek)
When I was a kid, “Getting to Know You” was one of my favorite songs from the musical, “The King and I.” Now it’s a strategy for tolerance and healing.
Both academic research and personal experience have suggested for years that heterosexual people who know LGBT people are more likely to be comfortable with us, and even if they have religious inclinations toward homophobia, those inclinations may be at least somewhat tempered. Now there’s a new book out by sociologist Robert Putnam, American Grace, which finds the same thing to be true with people of different religions (to a moderate extent).
Bishop Gene Robinson (photo by janinsanfran)
Today the New York Times reported on two stories that might seem only tangentially related: the new culture wars around schools’ attempts to put anti-bullying curricula into place, and the announced 2013 (early) retirement of Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the country’s first openly gay bishop. Yes, they are both about homosexuality, but what else do they have in common?
Casualties. The story on Bishop Robinson makes it clear that the uproar around his episcopacy has been hard on his personal health as well as on his otherwise healthy and happy diocese. And while schools debate about what can and can’t be said about homosexuality, young LGBT people are still at risk of self-harm and suicide because of precisely the kinds of attitudes held by those opposing the curricula.
Gay-friendly church (photo by Drama Queen)
Last October, retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a manifesto declaring his unwillingness to keep publicly debating the issue of LGBT inclusion with conservatives who oppose inclusion on religious grounds. The manifesto is strong, clear, and bold. LGBT people of faith should be grateful to have (to have had?) such a powerful ally on our side.
But I’m not writing to Bishop Spong. I am writing to the rest of us, for whom there is no rest. We who continue to labor in the field for a harvest of LGBT religious inclusion need our own manifesto, especially those of us who are ourselves LGBT. We need some stirring words as we confront opportunities to clarify our position, to witness to our basic humanity, and to demonstrate empirically that faith informs our life as strongly as it informs the lives of those who witness against us. Here are a few words – perhaps not stirring, but intended as a small start, one that can be built upon by many others: