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Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner is the co-founder of Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company.



I Now Pronounce You… Much More Inclusive! PCUSA and Marriage Equality

Jun20

by: on June 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

Photo taken by The Layman (an organization opposed to GLBTQ marriage)

Spoiler Alert: The Presbyterian Church USA, at its General Assembly, voted this week to allow ministers in states where same-gender marriage is legal, to officiate at such weddings. They also voted to change the language in their “Book of Order” to say that marriage is between “two people.”

Now a perspective from a Jew in the pew.

On April 8th 1990, Derrick Kikuchi and I were married in the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. Back then there was no state recognition of our marriage and the Presbyterian Church USA, which banned ordination of GLBTQ folks, had not yet gotten around to making it a no-no for ministers to perform “holy unions” or other ceremonies recognizing lifetime commitments between GLBTQ partners.

In June 2008, between the time that the California Supreme Court decided that the state’s ban on same-gender marriage was unconstitutional, and the vote on Proposition 8, which amended the state’s constitution to say that marriage was only between a man and a woman, Derrick and I were to receive an award at the More Light Presbyterian’s dinner at the PCUSA General Assembly. Instead of giving a speech we thought it would be wonderful to finally get our marriage license signed at that dinner, making our marriage legal in the state of California, while we still could.

A reporter for The Layman, an organization and publication that opposes same-gender marriage, was at the dinner, took the wonderful picture above, and then spent the evening writing an article that lambasted us for what we had done that evening.

We never dreamed that six years later marriage would be legal in so many states and that the PCUSA would vote FOR marriage equality. But, despite not dreaming that it would happen, many many many people continued to work to make it happen and now…


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A National Religious Campaign Against Torture? Can It Work?

Apr3

by: on April 3rd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Senate Intelligence Committee / CommonDreams.org Photo

The images that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq sparked a movement against torture that has worked doggedly for many years now. Among those moved to action have been people of faith, religious people, who see torture as a moral issue. As one of those people who has written op-eds, letters to members of Congress and the administration in the White House, attended rallies/protests, and met with Congressional staffers, I wondered whether a group of committed religious people could have a real impact. Today, with the announcement by the Senate Intelligence Committee that they had voted to declassify their summary of what is being called a “CIA Torture Report,” the answer is finally “maybe.”


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The CIA May Have Just Ticked Off the Wrong Senator

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Senator Feinstein

Photo courtesy office of Senator Dianne Feinstein

“If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.” These are words that the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) will be pleased to have heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein. People of faith across the country (including the Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson and I) have been calling on her to pressure President Obama and the CIA to finish their review of the Senate’s comprehensive report on the CIA’s treatment of detainees since September 11th so that the report could be declassified and made public. Today, Senator Feinstein took to the floor of the Senate to reveal details about the CIA potentially having spied on the Senate AND the CIA seeking criminal charges against intelligence committee staffers.

Are we about to see Congress finally stand up and assert its power? Let’s hope so.

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“To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”

Feb19

by: on February 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

While speaking at a church about Afghanistan and the the lead-up to the Iraq war, one attendee asked us if we thought there was anything anyone could do to stop the war. I replied “I think that train has already left the station.” Later, when thinking about that answer, it struck me that we could have done a lot more than street protests, letters to the editor, phone calls to Congress, and faxes to the president. More of us could have, and should have, laid our bodies down on that track.

Sister Megan Rice, 84, was sentenced on February 18th to 35 months in prison for breaking into a nuclear facility, in her nonviolent act of civil disobedience, putting her body on the tracks, to bring an end to nuclear weapons.

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Sticks, Stones AND Names Can Damage the Spirit

Feb18

by: on February 18th, 2014 | Comments Off

Words HurtDr. Warren J. Blumenfeld shared a post that struck a very loud chord, loud enough that with his permission we’re sharing it here. Dr. Blumenfeld is one of a group of wonderful people who have reviewed the pre-release version of Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus, a powerful photo-essay book by Rachelle Lee Smith which our teams at Reach And Teach and PM Press are publishing this Fall. Dr. Blumenfeld’s experience, as described in this post, is all too familiar, not just to those of us who lived back in the day, but today.

Despite incredible progress for GLBTQ rights and increasing levels of understanding and acceptance, taunting, bullying, name-calling, and other hurtful behaviors are still epedemic in our culture. Dr. Blumenfeld alerts us to an article in the Feb 17 2014 issue of Pediatrics, in which a Boston Children’s Hospital study clearly and compellingly shows the long-term impact on quality of life bullying can have, especially bullying that occurs over long periods of time.

We’re sharing Dr. Blumenfeld’s post in the hopes that it will spark a desire in anyone reading it to make a difference. After his post we share a YouTube video of a song called “Don’t Laugh At Me” which we hope people will use to start a conversation with children AND adults in their lives. Talk about the pain that our words, laughing AT someone, teasing, bullying can cause. If each one of us takes the time to find a way to talk about this with someone, we may be able to start to make a real difference. Boys and girls shouldn’t come home from school crying, or be afraid to go to school, or go to school with stomach aches because they know how bad it is going to be. We can make a difference.

Thanks Dr. Blumenfeld for sharing your story, and thank you Mosaic Project, for providing a song and an entire curriculum that can be used to truly make a difference.

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You Must Remember This, A Kiss Is Just A Kiss, An Executive Order Is NOT A Law

Jan18

by: on January 18th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Photo courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov

YesterdayPresident Obama spoke about much-needed reforms to how the NSA and other intelligence agencies target, gather, store, sift through, and disseminate “intelligence” information. As president, he can issue executive orders which must be obeyed by those within his chain of command, and that gives him significant power to change the way things are done.

That’s very nice, but those executive orders are NOT laws, and they can be set aside faster than the blink of an eye by this president or any president in the future.

The Constitution that President Obama mentions in his speech, which guarantees our freedoms, created three branches of government, a balance of powers, to protect those freedoms, and those branches have not been doing much since 2001. Meanwhile, the executive branch has been going wild.


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Wow, in 15 Minutes I Could Save a Lot! ObamaCare

Oct3

by: on October 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off

Last week, while listening to the doom and gloom about what would happen if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t stopped dead in its tracks, and the other gloom and doom about what would happen if Congress failed to pass a “Continuing Resolution” to keep the government open, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to see what ObamaCare might do for me. Spoiler alert, there’s neither gloom nor doom in what I discovered when I visited Covered California at coveredca.com

I spent some time looking at the small business pages, because Derrick Kikuchi and I are both married AND we own a small business. We’ve been covered by a small business plan through Kaiser and can continue that coverage if we’d like. If we hire one more person we can get that same coverage, with tax credits thrown in to help us pay for it, through Covered California. Despite rhetoric from those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, there’s actually an incentive for us to hire someone as a Pa and Pa business! But, for now, with just the two of us, I needed to look at the possibilities of individual/family coverage.

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We Know Your Secret… Or Do We?

Sep26

by: on September 26th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Creative Commons by AJ Cann

Around the 4th week of Basic Training I was polishing my shoes when our “TI” (Training Instructor) yelled out “Wiesner! Get your ass over to building xxx… something about your security clearance.” Trembling, I headed out the door. Had they somehow figured out that I was gay? Was this the end of a short but quite exceptional 4-week career? On track to be a “Cryptologic Linguist,” I needed a Top Secret security clearance to eventually do the work I’d joined up to do. They’d told me that the investigation would take up to six months, allowing me to get through half of language school (Korean) before heading to the next phase of training that would require that clearance. Like NSA-contractor turned leaker-in-chief Edward Snowden and Naval Yard mass-murderer Aaron Alexis, as someone who would hold a national security clearance the government needed to make sure there were no skeletons in my closet (no pun intended) and that I was trustworthy to know key government secrets and have access to highly secure areas.

Unlike Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, the government actually did investigate me.

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Multifaith Voices for Peace And Justice Says NO to Bombing Syria

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2013 | 11 Comments »

I am on the steering committee of a grassroots organization in the Bay Area and was asked to work on a statement about the situation in Iraq with my friend, the Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson, who is currently teaching at Santa Clara University. As you can probably already guess, we are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria. This message is addressed to you, the people of America who have an opportunity to make your voices heard.

As people of faith from diverse traditions, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice joins with a growing number of faith organizations and people of good will around the globe in condemning chemical weapons use in Syria or anywhere, and insisting that the world community, in particular our own United States government, respond to this tragedy using diplomatic and political tools, not military intervention. We implore Congress to refuse to authorize any military action against Syria. Bombing and killing Syrians to send a message that bombing and killing Syrians is wrong makes absolutely no sense.

U.S. military interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan over the last 60 years make it clear that war as a solution to world problems is not the answer. By denying the president the authority to use military force against Syria, the United States Congress could bring us one step closer to the end of senseless war.

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How Does It Feel To Be Singled Out? Reflection on Trayvon Martin

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons.

You’re driving somewhere, in a perfectly normal state of mind, and suddenly, you see someone following you… after a few blocks, you see flashing lights behind you… police lights… how does it feel? Your heart races, even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. You start to perspire. You pray that they’re not after you. You slow down and realize, with dread, that yes… for some reason it is you they want.

I have to suspect that a vast majority of adults in the United States know that feeling. White, Black, of Latino descent, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, male, female… we all know what it feels like in those moments before we find out why we’ve been singled out.

Now… imagine how it feels when that happens all the time. Imagine what it is like to drive while brown, walk while black, or in my case as a 17 year old, drive in a car that didn’t look like it belonged in the neighborhoods where I drove.

I haven’t fully processed the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman but one thing is clear to me, no one should have to live with the constant fear of being stopped, pulled over, followed, beaten up, or in the extreme, killed, just because of who they are or how they look. The question is, now that George Zimmerman has been found not guilty, and for an important moment the nation’s attention is on this issue, what do we do about it?


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