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Off The Fence - A Quest For God

by Patricia Spencer, taken from her book How to Survive Suicide: What nobody told me about how to survive losing my son to suicide, available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com

Note from Mary: This article, written by my dear friend Patty Spencer, is from the above-mentioned book. It presents such excellent concepts re God and science that I felt it should be included on this website.


In this essay I’m going to pour gasoline on open flames.

I’m going to talk about God.

The God conversation, I have noticed, is so inflammatory that any discussion about God quickly deteriorates into animosity and name-calling. People have strong feelings about the topic, whether pro or con, and they can’t abide divergent opinions.

I debated whether to include this essay at all because God is such a contentious issue. However, I decided to incorporate it because connecting to a Great Spirit was a critical part of my survival. If I didn’t have this conversation, I would be leaving out a key element in my recovery. In fact, without this piece, for me, there might not have been a recovery—at least not one as peaceful and rich.

Still, if you are a reader who under no circumstances would even consider the possibility that God exists, you should just hoot in derision now and skip to the next essay. If you’re already an ardent believer, you too might want to skip this essay because my eclectic ideas will undoubtedly upset you also.

On the other hand, if you’re in the middle like I was—if you’re someone who had a childhood exposure to God and had some sense of a Higher Spirit being afoot in the universe, but drifted away because you were upset by how christians behave, because you like to reach conclusions based on evidence, because God seemed too fantastical—then maybe you’d like to read on.

There’s no question, evolving from a secular, science-oriented world view to a belief in God is like going from being a white supremacist to marrying a person of colour. It requires a profound change in world view.

Why Bother

Nonetheless, for me that change of world view bestowed deep solace during a time of great sorrow, and it gave my life a sense of purpose and meaning that sustains me. That’s why in this essay I want to share with you some of the shifts in attitude that got me from secularism to God. Maybe some of these thoughts will be useful to you in your own search for spiritual peace. Maybe some of my insights can help you reframe some secular ideas that create obstacles to God.

First let me acknowledge that believing in God requires a leap of faith. It requires you to dismiss the socially-dominant idea that the scientific method is the only legitimate way to learn about the world. It requires you to trust your own experience and stop reframing it with scientism. And it requires you to accept mystery. There’s no scientific evidence I can bring you that can prove there is a God, just as there is no scientific evidence that can prove there isn’t a God.

The thing that finally prompted me to seriously search for God is that I found Aiden’s body.

I witnessed an atrocity—a disturbing act of violence perpetrated by my child, with himself as the victim. By my witness I became a party to something so horrific, so profoundly vile, that I could not purge it from the core of my being. It is not a small thing to end a life. I felt tainted, sullied, infected— sick in my soul. I woke every morning with a foul feeling in my gut, like I had some grotesque thing living inside me. At bedtime, with the distractions of the day quelled, I felt so distressed in my spirit that

I could not settle down. I felt restless, panicky. The more the numbness and shock phase wore off, the worse it became. That sensation of dis-ease became so strong I became convinced that if I didn’t find a way to purge that ... whatever ... from myself, I would eventually become physically ill.

That psychic illness I was experiencing was bigger than me, overwhelming, in fact. I intuited that I needed a solution bigger than myself, too. A spiritual crisis had to be met with a spiritual solution.

Thus I set out on a quest for God.

Major Insights

The first thing I realized was that everything I thought I knew about God was based on vague recollections from childhood catechism, and urban legend. I hadn't formally studied religion since I was 13 years old. It wasn't just that my formal education had taken place forty-five years before—I'd never come to it from an adult perspective. All through those secular years, I was so busy being disdainful and cynically superior—Yeah, right, I'd say. God sent his kid down to be crucified. That's fatherly love. Yeah, right. We're born with original sin, screwed before we even get started.—I'd never realized I was woefully uneducated. (BTW, I still reject these troublesome ideas, just from a now-examined point of view.)

Despite my facile attitude, I never quite let go of the idea of God during those years, either. I still sometimes went to church. It's like I had a sense there was something out there, but as science-oriented as I was (I was married to a scientist, I had studied nursing, and many of my friends were scientists), the idea that there was an actual overarching, unseen, Spiritual Being in the universe ran so counter to dominant thinking that it was hard to fully embrace.

I held onto a few strands of faith—scrawny refugees from my early christian upbringing. I believed in the importance of adding our light to the sum of light. And I believed that humans possess a spark of the divine. This was the spark I discerned when I heard stories of altruism, especially of people who risked their lives to help strangers. In fact, when I tried to explain God to Aiden, that was how I illustrated God, through altruism. I told him that God was what gave us the capacity to do the right thing (like rescuing Jews during the Nazi regime) when there was no personal gain in it, simply because it was the right thing to do.

If pressed, I might have said divinity was part of Life Itself, that it came as a standard feature in the human package. I thought maybe this spark, in all of us combined, created what humanity called God— a kind of collective uber-power capable of great works. I referred to this as 'godness.' Later, I'll get back to this idea and talk about the gaping hole that Aiden's death revealed in that little theory.

The first thing that helped me parse out the God question was the insight that what we refer to as christianity is actually composed of three separate elements—God, churches, and christians. You've got to figure out who's responsible for what, and therefore who you're really mad at.

Only one of these three elements is holy—God. Sadly, the only blameless one in the trio is the one who takes the heat. Which makes you wonder: If there is no God, as atheists keep saying, then who are they so mad at?

Personally, I think atheists and secularists are angry with churches and christians. Well, me too, because these two elements of christianity have historically done many indefensible things, things that warrant great shame. Worse, they've often done these dreadful things in God's name. In the past 80 years alone, they've failed to resist Hitler, they've participated in the genocide of First Nations through their residential schools, they've sheltered pedophiles, they've sat on their piles of plundered gold while the very faithful they stole it from live in poverty, etc., etc., etc.). I won't list more because this is an essay, not a library, but this abysmal history was another big reason why I shunned christianity. I didn't want to be associated with it any more than the next person.

Therefore, to get myself into a church again, to be part of a christian community, I had to come to grips with the fact that misconduct occurs everywhere that humans gather. Politics happen everywhere. Chicanery happens everywhere. Hypocrisy happens everywhere—including in the institutions that self- righteously proclaim their piety.

Churches, I had to realize, are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints.

I also had to admit that the fervour with which religion is attacked is also hypocritical. Why is it okay to feverishly oppose one institution but not another, when the same ugly traits are being expressed in both? For example, why is it that when our churches and their followers are greedy, corrupt, and abusive to the powerless, secular society calls for the eradication of religion, but when our government and its followers are greedy, corrupt, and abusive to the powerless, they still call democracy the greatest system in the world?

Trusting Human Nature

Now let me look at other shifts in attitude that inched me toward God. You can call them rationalizations if you want. (Isn't it ironic that in a scientist society, 'rationalizing' is considered pejorative? Hah.)

Another irony is that the first steps I took toward God were actually decisions I made to trust in human nature. As part of my exploration of different faith traditions, one Sunday I attended a service in a cathedral that was built in the late 1700s. As I walked up its time-worn stone steps, it occurred to me that for over 200 years, people had been coming up those same stairs, carrying woes just like mine.

That made me think about how those people, like my own ancestors, had relied on God to get them through their trials. Even if God didn't really exist and was just a concept—God had been instrumental in their survival. I realized that even just the concept of God was powerful, like a placebo or something. I know that sounds outrageous, even sacrilegious, but the placebo effect is extraordinarily cool. (And who knows how or why the power of belief works—or where it comes from.)

Secondly, I think the fact that humanity has an innate urge for God is a sign that God is essential to our survival. I kept coming back to the fact that through all time, in all places, across every culture, people have believed in a God. This universal human desire for God did not seem accidental to me—it was just too widespread, too tenacious, too powerful. The urge was as primal as thirst or hunger. Even today, outside of the so-called advanced western world, God still has many adherents. Are they all wrong and we're the only ones who are right?

Atheists argue that religion must go because it causes conflicts that lead to war, but here they are coming to fisticuffs with believers over whether rationalism is superior to faith. To me, all conflict is about power. If we eradicated religion, believe me, we'd still have war. We'd just have to use other excuses, as did Stalin (50 million dead), Mao (15-45 million dead), and the Khmer Rouge (1.5-2 million dead).

Thirdly, I decided to trust the wisdom of Life Itself. Our brains have two hemispheres. The left brain is responsible for analytic, rational, logical thinking. The right deals with creativity, intuition, and insight. Proponents of scientism are insisting that only the knowledge derived from left brain thinking has validity. I decided that if the material world was the only important one, the right brain never would have developed. I think that fully half our brain power is dedicated to experiencing and interpreting non-material phenomena because that realm is just as important to humans as the rational and material experience.

Pushed Off The Fence

A fourth important decision I made didn't come from trusting humanity. Quite the opposite. This insight pushed me off the fence I'd been sitting on for so long.

I told you before about the mashup of ideas that served as my spiritual base in the years before Aiden's death, about how I thought 'godness' was generated from the human spirit. Of course, those notions got put to the test after Aiden died. As one would expect, his suicide caused my life to fall apart. My collapse was so profound, it left nothing of me but ashes. Spiritually I was a vacuum, completely depleted, no reserves.

Well, it turns out that when you get devastated like that, it shows up the glaring hole in your little 'godness' theory, and this is it: If divinity comes from humanity, and if you get to a point where your spirit is drained dry, where do you go to get more? How can you replenish it? You can't draw it from yourself. You're empty.

Grace, I realized, has to come from outside of ourselves.

Otherwise, when we fall into an abyss, we're done. Finito. Kaput. We just have to look around to see that people don't all die when their spirits fail them. Many of us do rise from the ashes. We aren't finished. We get refilled.

The notion that spiritual energy comes into you from someplace other than a human source, was pivotal. It took me another step closer to a belief in God as an entity outside of myself. Despite my complete spiritual bankruptcy during those awful years right after Aiden's death, I have survived this tragedy and grown spiritually from it. I know I didn't pull that rescue out of myself. I didn't have anything left upon which to draw. As I journalled, trying to figure things out, I had some Aha! moments that brought me great calm. I felt peace come over me as I began praying every day. I believe that a Greater Power was at work, gradually replacing my desolation with grace and hope. Increasingly, I became unwilling to discount those strong experiences, to reframe them with scientism and write them off as I would have in the past, as artefacts of concentration or meditation.

Another piece of the soul / God puzzle I decided not to write off—the concept that there is a realm outside of the strictly material world—are the stories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs). These NDEs, related by credible people with more to lose (professional licenses, and social status) than to gain by telling their stories, support the argument that there is individual consciousness separate from our bodies, and that there is a Loving Being in this realm of Higher Consciousness.

NDEs are finally getting the study they merit, instead of being summarily dismissed (which smacks of skeptics throwing out the data that doesn't support their hypothesis). Although there are countless stories becoming public, I was especially impressed by the stories of Dr. Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon who wrote Proof of Heaven, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mary Neal (author of Heaven and Back), French anesthesiologist Dr. Jean-Jacques Charbonier (author of 7 Reasons to Believe in the Afterlife: A Doctor Reviews the Case for Consciousness after Death), and Anita Moorjani (author of Dying to be Me).

Except for Dr. Charbonier, who studies NDEs, the others all speak to having had vivid experiences that were life-altering in a way a simple hallucination would not be. In his book, Dr. Alexander, drawing on his medical background, refutes each major mainstream hypothesis that suggests that NDEs are caused by changes in brain chemistry during the dying process.

Dr. Neal, whose knees were broken and completely reversed in direction in a kayak accident, suffered no pain from her accident. Anita Moorjani, who was within hours of dying from widespread cancer, experienced a complete, medically-inexplicable, cure.

If you are familiar with NDEs, you know that many survivors' stories have a similar pattern. Reports of these same experiences can be found in volumes as old as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Plato's Republic. They are also reported by the very young, who have no notions about death theories, or craving for publicity.

The more I looked into it, the more I agreed with Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson, who says about scientism, that we are letting ourselves be talked out of our lived experience by the insistence that only rational, material explanations are valid ways of understanding the world.

I was tired of having my intuitive thinking process herded, cattle-like, down a chute that ended at a materialist slaughterhouse.

Scientism

Which brings me to scientism, the argument that science is the only reliable source of knowledge and that knowledge is independent of experience. Because scientism has become the prevailing world view, for me, it was the single biggest obstacle to God. Therefore, I will devote a fair amount of space to examining it.

And, yes, I will devote more space to its shortcomings, relative to the space I gave to the shortcomings of religion. The focus of this essay is on how I got to God. That means I have to dwell on how I challenged scientism.

First, I had to figure out what I thought, so I decided to write an essay about God, science, and faith. I intentionally did not research other people's ideas. I wrote from my own experience, trying to discern my own thoughts. (This might be an exercise that would be useful to you, too.)

One of my key conclusions was that though science is A wonderful way to discover and think about our world, it is not THE source of truth. That's because I decided that for a fact to qualify as a capital 'T' Truth, it has to have been true for all time in all places.

Using that criteria, science cannot qualify as being The Truth.

Here's an example why: In 1803, Dalton's Atomic Theory proposed that atoms were indivisible units of matter. Subsequently, J.J. Thomson discovered electrons (1897); Ernest Rutherford found protons (1918); and James Chadwick identified neutrons (1932). More recently, quantum mechanics has identified even tinier particles.

Therefore: At which point in that process was scientific knowledge about the atom 'The Truth'? In 1803? 1918? Today? No definition of the atom remained constant. Knowledge kept changing. OK. That's cool.

But what if you were waiting for science to reveal the cold hard facts (i.e., 'The Truth') so that you could base your life on something 'real'? When would that knowledge be available? In 1803? 1918? Ever? If researchers never stopped discovering new things about those cold hard facts you were waiting for, then what? Would Truth just be indefinitely postponed?

There's also another problem. What if the cold hard facts turned out to be too complicated for humans to understand? Would The Truth still exist? That is, if we were incapable of explaining the cold hard facts would that mean that they therefore didn't exist, due to lack of proof? Is the universe constrained by the limits of the human brain? Or does the universe extend beyond the limits of a blob of pink tissue trapped inside a human skull?

Perhaps the real problem is not God, but our human arrogance, our belief that nothing in the universe could possibly surpass what humans can describe.

Blemishes

Another reason why I couldn't accept science as The Truth is that sometimes it's just wrong.

In 1972 the prevailing thinking was that 98 percent of the human genome was 'junk DNA'—useless noncoding stuff that evolution hadn't bothered to delete. By September of 2012, however, the Encode Project announced that in fact these sequences are crucial to the way our genome works. Today, the basic evolutionary premise itself—that genes are the units of heredity—is under fire by the likes of Oxford's Denis Noble.

We like to think science rests on a solid foundation, and for centuries we have looked upon its complexion as if it were flawless, but it has blemishes. For instance:

  • Using the scientific method doesn't guarantee that researchers will either correctly design the experiments, or accurately interpret the results.
  • The scientific community has its popes, power structures, and 'in groups,' too.
  • While peer review serves as a way to 'validate' science, it can also eliminate 'outside-the-box' ideas. Even professional training itself may contribute to narrowed vision.
  • Science is limited by available tools.
  • While researchers can use the scientific method to answer questions in a systematic way, they may not pose the right questions.
  • Researchers can't be sure that the methods by which they test their hypotheses provide definitive results.
  • There are limits to what the scientific method can test. For example, because you must have a hypothesis that can be proven wrong, you can't test the existence of God. (Isn't it ironic that rabid atheists in the scientific community, bent on discrediting God, can't supply any scientific proof to support their claim? They have to rest their case on their strongly held beliefs, just like the faithful do.)
  • Science may produce unforeseen results that aren't immediately apparent (e.g., thalidomide, diethylstilbestrol).
  • Once a theory is widely accepted, subsequent research is framed exclusively within its paradigm. No one funds research that debunks the dominant way of thinking.
  • The scientific method uses reductionism. It looks at a phenomenon at the most basic level possible. It's like examining a novel by studying the individual letters of which it is comprised. This reductionism may hide how an element interacts with the bigger system of which it is a part.
  • Commercial interests exert huge pressure on scientists to create experiments that produce specific results when profit is involved, a troubling trend given how many university research facilities are now corporately funded.
  • Institutional and political interests can also undermine the practice of good science. (Ask Galileo.)


All the time our secular society turns its attention to the excesses of religion, it has turned a blind eye to the destructive aspects of science. We ignore the fact that science developed the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that science develops chemical weapons, and science advances germ warfare.

In the service of corporate greed, science has engineered terminator seeds (seeds that won't reproduce future generations) for the world's most important food crops, and wants to release them into the wild. As well, science has concocted the deadly slurry of cancer-causing liquids used in fracking at the extreme risk of our underground water reserves.

Above all, by developing the atomic bomb, science has brought us to the brink of destroying the entirety of humanity—as well as of destroying the very planet upon which we stand, our precious 1 in 10 billion blue planet with its 8.7 million life forms.

Science, in short, is just as impeachable as religion. Just as many serious accusations can be levelled against the scientific world as the religious. My point isn't to revile science. Science, by revealing the beauty and intricacy of the natural world makes me love creation all the more. I'm just trying to make it clear that the same human limitations and excesses that affect religion also affect science. It is not fair to dismiss the entirety of religion on the grounds of malfeasance any more than it is fair to dismiss science on that basis—especially since much good can also come from both those quarters.

One final thing I want to address about science has to do with reductionism (Michelangelo's David is just a piece of marble). In the context of this essay, reductionism harms the human spirit. By looking at Life Itself only through the lens of DNA, brain waves, or other reductive means, science devalues the human experience. The extraordinary concoction that is a human being becomes a pawn to its machinery. Love is reduced to oxytocin, personality to molecules, consciousness to brain chemistry.

As the survivor of a major trauma, I did not need to feel any more insignificant than I already did. I decided to take a stand and declare my worth beyond my molecules and synapses—to stop defining myself as the least I could be, rather than as the most I could be. I am the novel, with story and theme and subtext and character and dialog—I am not the alphabet.

Jesus In Particular

I believe all prayers rise to the same God, only via different traditions. In this section, however, I concentrate on christianity because this is a personal essay, and christianity is my experience. I don't think God left people out, but rather came to different peoples in ways that work for them. Therefore, I don't believe that christianity is the only 'true' faith; it is just one of the many true faiths.

Since most people in the west are familiar with the basic Jesus story, in this last section, I'm just going to quickly outline a few insights that I gained after I started studying christianity that strengthened my belief in the veracity of the story.

The one book I recommend that covers the basics of christianity and is very easy to read is Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God—Belief in an Age of Skepticism. (I don't agree with all the theology, but it's a great entry point that covers all the stuff you thought you knew, but actually didn't.)

For two years, the only thing I read about was religion. So much has been written, from so many perspectives, for so long, that it's hard to figure out what's what—everyone has an interpretation. Ultimately I decided to just concentrate on the source story, the four gospels.

I began by asking how we even know the Jesus story is real. Once again, I came back to trusting human nature. Early christians, Jesus' contemporaries, were persecuted. So the ancients literally risked death to preserve that story, and to follow the teachings of Christ. Under life and death conditions, would you risk your life for a bogus story? Me neither.

Many people are troubled by the inconsistencies among the gospels. It doesn't bother me that there are four versions because the core premise remains consistent. If you and three other people were in New York City on 9/11, you would have four accounts of what happened, depending on where you were standing and on what kinds of things you notice, wouldn't you? In fact, it would be odd if you were all called to court to testify and all your versions were identical, wouldn't it? It would sound a bit like collusion.

Neither does it bother me that the gospels were written "long after" Jesus' death. JC died in the year 30 (ish). Paul's letters were written in the 50's, and Mark's gospel is from the 70s. For a society with an oral tradition, 20-40 years is nothing. (Heck, 9/11 happened over 20 years ago now—do you think the survivors have grown fuzzy about what happened? Maybe about some minor details, but certainly not the core events.) Unlike us today, lazily relying on the internet for our information, people in those days had prodigious memories (think of the 'begats!'). Story telling, often in parables, was their way of transmitting wisdom from generation to generation. The reason the gospels were written at all is that the apostles were being killed off during the persecutions, and christians were seeking ways to protect the information. (Think how the Dead Sea Scrolls were protected. Same idea.)

Also, in those days, any number of false messiahs had swung through the region and gotten themselves crucified too, but no one knows their names. If Jesus was just another loony, why did his story persist? Why did people become his followers and not followers of the other Joes who called themselves messiahs? I think it's because something extraordinary happened. Remember, the first christians were Jesus' contemporaries. They were eyewitnesses to what actually happened—and there were hundreds of them. They were the ones who got the christian faith tradition rolling. They weren't going on hearsay like we are.

Another compelling insight for me was that most of the original apostles were martyred. Remember, on the night before the crucifixion when the authorities came asking about Jesus, some of those same guys denied being associated with Jesus. They didn't want to get in trouble any more than you or I would. But afterwards—after the resurrection—the apostles refused to repudiate Jesus. In my opinion, people don't go from: "Jesus? Nope. Don't know the guy" to: "Go ahead. Crucify me. I saw what I saw" unless they're convinced they've seen something worth dying for.

As far as I'm concerned Jesus was about love. His life exemplified the divinity of which humans are capable. His message was short and sweet: Love God. Love your neighbours. Over and out.

He was a man of humble origins who healed others and preached love. He had no social status, and no army, and he associated with all the wrong people. And yet, his message was so powerful, so compelling that the authorities felt they had to silence him. He demonstrated that there's tremendous power in our connection to the divinity within us. We are matches, lit from the Sun. We need to tap into that Light and reflect it in the way we behave in the world.

Becoming more familiar with christianity helped me discern the difference between the direct teachings of Jesus and the troublesome theologies that were tacked on after the fact. They're just theories, interpretations promoted by scholars who maybe spent too much time in the library stacks of the institutional church.

All Told

God, as I said earlier, comes down to faith. So does science, despite its certainty that eventually it can explain everything. I chose to have faith in the option that made me feel like my life has value and meaning and purpose. I chose the option that offered solace.

I simply would not have bothered to go through the hardship of recovering from the loss of my son and my marriage if my only reason for being in existence was to hand down my DNA (the purpose of life from an evolutionary point of view). In fact, from that perspective, with both my sons dead, my purpose for being alive was over. There was no reason to go on.

I chose God because God took me from desolation to consolation, from despair to possibility, from hating my life to honouring my life.

Ain't no strand of DNA that can code for that.


Read more about Patty and her books here.

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

July 19, 2020, Note from Mary: I listened to this broadcast in my car today (CBC Radio: Tapestry) and felt the content was so powerful that I wanted to share it with any who might be questioning whether there is "a God".  This is about faith and science, and has nothing to do with being gay and Christian.

Dr. Francis Collins is one of American's leading scientists. A physician and geneticist, he led the Human Genome project to identify and map human DNA. 

He has been the director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, making him the longest-serving director in the institute's history. Collins and his team are currently hard at work trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
Dr Francis Collins

Dr. Francis Collins is the 2020 Templeton prize winner.  Former winners include Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. This talk is based on his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Please go to the CBC Radio website.   The full audio episode is 54 minutes long.

There is also an hour and a half long video on the same page.

 

 

Free Home Entertainment During Covid-19

This is taken from an email from Lesbian Connection Magazine April 17, 2020. If you are not familiar with the magazine, I highly recommend it!

MARGY’S MISC NEWS

I’m sorry to report that last week on April 9 lesbian icon Phyllis Lyon passed away. According to reports, she died peacefully at her San Francisco home at the age of 95. We’ll have lots more about her in the next issue of LC. In the meantime, if you have Amazon Prime you can watch the 57-minute documentary directed by JEB called “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon.” I hope you enjoy it.

Speaking of women’s movies, due to the coronavirus, through May 31, Women Make Movies is hosting a free Virtual Film Festival of movies by and about women.  Sign up at https://bit.ly/3c7I9AJ and you’ll get a link and password to access the festival. Once on the page, just click on the image next to the film you want to watch.

A number of other websites and Facebook groups are currently offering a variety of performances by women musicians, speakers, comedians, authors and more. On Facebook, search for the group Women’s Community Events Online to see what’s coming up – their page highlights upcoming live shows we can all watch together, but there are also links to many performances that have already taken place in the last few weeks. Starting two Sundays ago, Lisa Vogel, producer of the Michigan Womyns Music Festival, has been reading some of her Fest stories at 4pm Pacific Time (7pm Eastern). To watch go to her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lisa.vogel.587.

Olivia Travel is putting on some wonderful virtual concerts, dance parties, and talks as part of their At Home With Olivia series. I heard that they were even putting on a special Pandemic Password game featuring a lot of their favorite comedians. On Facebook, search for Olivia Travel and look for “videos,” or try this link: https://www.facebook.com/OliviaCompanies/videos . And on weekends through May 31, Curve magazine is putting on what they’re calling a Global LGBTQI Virtual Festival. Most of the events seem to ask for a suggested donation, but several of the earlier ones can now be seen for free on YouTube (search for “curve virtual festival”).

A number of mainstream companies also have special deals to help us all get through this stay-at-home period. Comcast/Xfinity (say “Free” into your voice remote, or go to On Demand and look for "Free"), Roku (look for "Home Together" in the Roku Channel), Spectrum and Dish all have been letting their subscribers watch a selection of premium channels for free, including Showtime, Epix, Hitz, Hallmark Movies Now, Lifetime Movie Club, Stingray Classica, Docurama, The Great Courses, History Vault, Acorn TV, and more. Which channels each service is offering, and their expiration dates vary. I know Showtime ends soon (4/19/20), but that might still give you enough time to catch the latest rendition of the “The L Word” series. During the past few weeks, I’ve also watched several of the movies on Showtime right now, including “On the Basis of Sex,” a fictional bio-pic about Ruth Bader Ginsberg; and “Tell It to the Bees,” about two women living in a small town in Scotland in the early 1950s. The silly but enjoyable movie “Poms” is currently available on Showtime, too.

Right now, many premium channels are offering extended free introductory periods to all new subscribers, often going from the usual one week free up to a whole month. This includes CBS All Access (sign up by April 30 with the code ALL), and I’m looking forward to catching the two seasons of “The Good Fight” I haven’t seen yet, as well as checking out the new “Star Trek: Picard” series. By the way, I just read that when your free month is ending, you might be able to get a second free month by entering the code ENJOY on your account payment screen. But remember, when you sign up for these channels, you’ll usually be asked to create an account and include a credit card #, so you may want to put an alert on your calendar so you remember to cancel the channel before the month is up.

Some of the other channels with similar deals are Acorn TV (commercial-free British TV – use the code FREE30), Sundance Now (use the code SUNDANCENOW30), and Shudder (for fans of horror - use the code SHUTIN). Hulu is also offering a 30-day introductory period, and they just began showing the highly-rated film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (there is a short review of this movie in the latest issue of LC (May/June). If you like documentaries, you should check out the Dox Channel. In addition to its usual 7-day free trial, it is cutting its annual subscription price in half to $14.99 for the year. Quibi is a brand-new streaming service that just came online in April, and it features a variety of original programming that it presents in 10-minute segments made specifically for your phone or tablet. It plans to charge $4.99/month, but you can sign up now for a free 90-day trial.

For something less mainstream, there’s www.meditainment.com/free-meditainment. They say that for the duration of this global crisis, they are giving everyone free access to their library of guided meditations in order to help us all “de-stress, beat anxiety, and boost our mood.” And while the site www.BroadwayHD.com is only offering a 7-day free trial, it has an impressive library of over 300 performances of Broadway musicals and plays. Some that I’m looking forward to seeing are “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (about Billie Holiday), “Ann” (Holland Taylor stars as the former governor of Texas, Ann Richards), “A Night with Janis Joplin,” and the all-female Shakespeare Trilogy.

During the coronavirus pandemic, The Metropolitan Opera is offering free nightly streams of operas at 7:30pm ET.  I’ve only been to one opera in my life, but I may try out a couple of these just to see.

Tempted

Original Article Posted on Journey With Jesus Webzine
Used with Permission and Much Gratitude

Debie ThomasBy Debie Thomas. Posted 23 February 2020.

For Sunday March 1, 2020
Lectionary Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, Year A)

Genesis 2:15-17, 3, 1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

On this first Sunday in Lent, we follow Jesus into the wilderness, and watch as the Son of God confronts the fullness of his humanity. As Matthew's Gospel describes him, Jesus is "famished" after forty days of fasting. Physically, he's at the end of his strength. Socially, he's alone and friendless. Spiritually, he is struggling to hang onto his identity as the glow of his baptism recedes into a hazy, pre-wilderness past. And it’s in this state of vulnerability that the tempter comes, ready to pull Jesus away from his belovedness, and his vocation.

Yet it is precisely the appalling messiness of humanity — both Jesus' and our own — that we grapple with during Lent.  We begin on Ash Wednesday, acknowledging via the imposition of ashes that we will surely die, that our bodies will fail us no matter how cleverly we attempt to preserve them with medicine, exercise, cosmetics, or mindfulness.  

From that austere beginning, we venture into the wilderness like Elijah, like Moses, like the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt.  With ashes on our foreheads and mortality on our minds, we begin a precarious journey inward, a journey to explore who Jesus is, who we are, and what our shared humanity requires of us here and now.

Tempted 1As Matthew tells the story, the devil comes to Jesus in the guise of a brilliant interrogator.  "Can you be like God?" is the savvy question he posed to Adam and Eve in the lushness of the first garden.  "Can you take hold of a higher wisdom, a keener knowledge, a more divine humanity?"  

Now he comes to the exhausted Son of God with a shrewd inversion of those primordial questions: "Can you be fully human?  Can you abdicate power?  Exercise restraint?  Work in obscurity?  Can you bear the vulnerability of what it means to be weak and mortal and human?"

I have to confess that until fairly recently, I didn't see what the big deal is with the devil's taunts.  Jesus is starving, after all.  Who cares if he zaps a rock or two into bread?  God is supposed to be Jesus' protector after all, an omnipotent commander of legions of angels.  Why is it sinful for a son to call on the protection of his father?  Jesus is the rightful ruler of all the earth's kingdoms, after all.  What’s wrong with him receiving the worship that's his due? 

These days, I read the story differently.  The devil doesn’t come to make Jesus do something “bad.”  He comes to make Jesus do what seems entirely reasonable and good — but for all the wrong reasons.  The test is a test of Jesus’s motivations.  A test of his willingness to identify as fully human, even as he is fully God.

The first temptation targets Jesus’s hunger.  “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  The temptation implies that God’s beloved should not hunger.  In the devil’s economy, unmet desire is an aberration, not an integral part of what it means to be human.  In inviting Jesus to magically sate his hunger, the devil invites Jesus to deny the reality of the incarnation.  To “cheat” his way to satisfaction, instead of waiting, paying attention to his hunger, and leaning into God for lasting fulfillment.  

Along the way, the devil encourages Jesus to disrespect and manipulate creation for his own satisfaction.  To turn what is not meant to be eaten — a stone — into an object he can exploit. As if the stone has no intrinsic value, beauty, or goodness, apart from Jesus’s ability to possess and consume it.

Many of us have “given up” something for Lent this year.  Chocolate, wine, TV, Facebook.  The goal is to sit with our hungers, our wants, our desires — and learn what they have to teach us.  What is the hunger beneath the hunger?  Can we hunger and still live?  Desire and still flourish?  Lack and still live generously, without exploiting the beauty and abundance all around us?  Who and where is God when we are famished for whatever it is we long for?  Friendship, meaning, intimacy, purpose?  A home, a savings account, a child, a family?

Jesus TemptedI write these words with trepidation, because I know what it is to let hunger gnarl and embitter me.  Hunger in and of itself is not a virtue, it’s a classroom.  To sit patiently with desire — to become its student —  and still embrace my identity as God’s beloved, is hard.  It’s very, very hard.  But this is the invitation.  We can be loved and hungry at the same time.  We can hope and hurt at the same time.  Most of all, we can trust that when God nourishes us, it won’t be by magic. It won’t be manipulative and disrespectful.  It won’t necessarily be the food we’d choose for ourselves, but it will feed us, nevertheless.  And through us — if we will learn to share — it will feed the world.

The second temptation targets Jesus’s vulnerability.  “[God] will command his angels concerning you,” the devil promises Jesus.  “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”  The implication is that if we are beloved of God, then God will keep us safe.  Safe from physical and emotional harm, safe from frailty and disease, safe from accidents, safe from death.  

It’s such an enticing lie, because it targets our deepest fears about what it means to be human in a broken, dangerous world.  We want so much — so much — to believe that we can leverage our belovedness into an impenetrable shield.  That we can get God to guarantee us swift and perfect rescues if we just believe hard enough.  But no. If the cross teaches us anything, it teaches us that God’s precious children still bleed, still ache, still die. We are loved in our vulnerability.  Not out of it.

The third temptation targets Jesus’s ego.  After showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world,” the devil promises him glory and authority.  “It will all be yours,” the devil says.  Fame.  Visibility. Recognition.  Clout.  A kingdom to end all kingdoms, here and now.  The implication is that God’s beloved need not labor in obscurity.  To be God’s child is to be center stage: visible, applauded, admired, and envied.  A God who really loves us will never “abandon” us to a modest life, lived in what the world considers insignificance.

That Christians tend to have an uneasy relationship with power is an understatement.  Church history is littered with the ugly fallout of “Christian” ambition, power, fame, and authority gone awry.  So the question for us is whether we can embrace Jesus’s version of significance, a significance borne of humility and surrender.  How important is it to us that we’re noticed?  Praised?  Liked?  Is our belief in God’s love contingent on a definition of success that doesn’t come from God at all?  Can we trust that God sees us even when the powers-that-be do not?  Can our lives as God’s beloved ones thrive in quiet places?  Secret places?  Humble places?

The uncomfortable truth about authentic Christian power is that it resides in weakness.  Jesus is lifted up — but he's lifted up on a cross.  

Three temptations.  Three invitations.  What will we do with them?

Tempted 2If Jesus’s forty days in the wilderness is a time of self-creation, a time for Jesus to decide who he is and how he will live out his calling, then consider carefully what the Son of God chooses: deprivation over ease.   Vulnerability over rescue.  Obscurity over honor.  At every instance in which he can reach for the certain, the extraordinary, and the miraculous, he reaches instead for the precarious, the quiet, and the mundane.    

Needless to say, there’s nothing easy about affirming Jesus' choices.  Sometimes I find them appalling.  I much prefer the miraculous intervention, the dramatic rescue, the long-awaited vindication.   I understand too well the demands of the tempter: Feed me!  Deliver me!  Prove yourself to me!   I know what it’s like to find the restraint of God offensive. 

The other aspect of the temptation story we might consider offensive is this: God’s Spirit orchestrates it.  Jesus doesn’t meander into the wilderness on his own. He doesn’t schedule a National Geographic expedition, or a marathon in the desert to rack up Fitbit steps.  According to Matthew’s Gospel, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, specifically “to be tempted by the devil.”

I'll admit it: I don't know what to do with the Spirit's role in this story.  But might it be possible to draw some comfort from it?  Simply because it rings true — that even the wilderness can't separate us from God's purpose and care?  After all, we don’t choose to enter the wilderness, either.  We don’t (for the most part) volunteer for pain, loss, danger, or terror.  But the wilderness still happens.  Whether it comes to us in the guise of a hospital waiting room, a toxic relationship, a troubled child, a sudden death, or an unshakeable depression, the wilderness appears, unbidden and unwelcome, and sometimes we have no choice but to trek into its barrenness.  Sometimes — can we bear to ponder this? — it is God’s own Spirit who drives us into the parched landscape amidst the wild beasts.  

Does this mean that God wills bad things to happen to us?  That he wants us to suffer?  I don’t think so.  Does it mean that God can redeem even the most desolate periods of our lives?  That our deserts can become holy even as they remain dangerous?  Yes.  I believe so.

I write these lines hesitantly, too aware of how Christians have suffered under the false teaching that God authors human pain and suffering for some greater good of his own devising.  God does not.  But we walk a fine line, nevertheless.  Sometimes our journeys with God include dark places.  Not because God takes pleasure in our pain, but because we live in a fragile, broken world that includes deserts, and because God’s modus operandi is to take the things of death, and wring from them resurrection.

Tempted 3At his baptism, Jesus hears the absolute truth about who he is.  The Beloved.  That’s the easy part.  The much harder part comes in the wilderness, when he has to face down every vicious assault on that truth.  When the memory of his Father’s voice from heaven fades, and he has to learn how to be God’s beloved in a lonely wasteland.  

Maybe we, like Jesus, need long stints in the wilderness to learn what it means to be God’s precious children.  Because the unnerving fact is this: we can be beloved and uncomfortable at the same time.  We can be beloved and unsafe at the same time.  In the wilderness, the love that survives is flinty, not soft.  Salvific, not sentimental.  Learning to trust it takes time.   

So.  What does Jesus’s temptation story mean for us as we begin our Lenten journeys this year?  Maybe it means we need to follow Jesus into the desert.  Maybe it means we should hunker down and look evil in the face.  Maybe it's time to hear evil’s voice, recognize its allure, and confess its appeal.  Maybe it’s time to decide who we are and whose we are.  

Remember, Lent is not a time to do penance for being human.  It’s a time to embrace all that it means to be human.  Human and hungry.  Human and vulnerable.  Human and beloved.  

May the God who loves us even in the wilderness, grant us a holy Lent.

Debie Thomas: debie.thomas1@gmail.com

Image credits: (1) Wikimedia.org; (2) Chris Cook Art; (3) Catholic World Report; and (4) Wikimedia.org.

A Meditation of Good Friday

Jesus' Last Words From The Cross

The life of Jesus was not taken. It was given. Jesus knew that in order to go back to God He had to let go of His body. Jesus knew for the Kingdom of God to succeed, for you and I to be admitted, He had to let go of His body.

Our bodies are gifts from God. They bring us much pleasure. There is nothing evil with things that bring us pleasure. Money, sex, food are all blessings given to us by God. But when the blessings of pleasure get in the way; when pleasure is more important than the Kingdom of God; when things become more important than people, God calls us to sacrifice, crucify, give up these things. May we learn from the words of Jesus in His final hours.

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The Inevitability of the Rise of Liberal Christianity

left turn sign

It is inevitable that Christians who would now be described as "liberal" will be the overwhelming majority of Christians in America. That sea change, the waters of which we already feel swelling everywhere around us, can no sooner be stopped than can the moon passing across the night sky. Today's conservative evangelical Christians who are rallying against "postmodern relativism," "revisionist secular theology," "a naturalistic doctrine of God," or however else they might label the theology of the left, are like yesterday's horse-and-buggy owners rallying against the newfangled automobile.

The future of transportation was obvious then; the future of Christian theology is obvious now.

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The Roman Catholic Church Hits A New Low

Just when I think the Roman Church has hit the bottom of the gutter with all of the Papal and Vatican sponsored attacks against the Gay community, we learn that we have yet to see the bottom.

The latest news to disgust me is the refusal of the San Diego Diocese to allow any of its parishes to bury a gay man who happened to have owned two gay bars during his lifetime. He chose to own businesses that catered to the gay community. That was his crime, his sin, that was so grave that it kept him from being buried from a Catholic Church or chapel. Is the Bishop trying to buy political capital with this decision? Is he pandering to the religious right and the Republican party for some reason?

Read more

Queering Luther

Vaughn RosteNote: The son of two Lutheran pastors, Vaughn Roste is a Canadian who has worshipped and worked in Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United and Christian Reformed Churches, but his current employment is teaching at a United Methodist College. He has visited five continents and lived on four of them, holds three degrees in two different areas (theology and music), and has written one book: "The Xenophobe's Guide to the Canadians," available at Amazon.com.

The title of this article is surprising, perhaps even offensive to some people. It combines two powerful words in a way that might seem strange to most. What could queer - a word connected with homosexuality - and Luther possibly have in common?

My purpose here is not to offend, or even surprise, but to identify some points of common ground. All I ask is that you hear me out. I believe that we all must try to be open to seeing issues, including but not only homosexuality, from every side, especially the side with which we don't agree. Failing this, communication is impossible.

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Do Not Be Afraid!

Scripture

Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. Isaiah 43:2

A Word of Hope

You know, of course, that some of the most common words of scripture are: "Do not be afraid." I know for most of us that is easier said than done. Still, if I were to pick a phrase that I believe could be considered the "mantra" of our holy scriptures it would be, "Do not be afraid."

I've often wondered if God had angels and prophets begin their pronouncements with these words because they were getting ready to bring really challenging news or just the appearance of angels or the prophets speaking with the voice of God were enough to scare the pants off everyone.

Read more

James Dobson Slammed By Professor For Distorting Her Research In Time Magazine Article On Mary Cheney's Pregnancy

'I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work,' NYU Professor Carol Gilligan Tells Focus on the Family Leader in Blistering Letter.

Miami Beach, FLA. - New York University educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, PhD, today slammed Focus on the Family leader, James C. Dobson, for "twisting" and "distorting" her research in a guest column he wrote in this week's issue of Time Magazine. Dobson misrepresented her work in an effort to smear gay families while discussing Mary Cheney's pregnancy. In a pointed letter to Dobson, Gilligan demanded that he apologize and "cease and desist" from quoting her work in the future.

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Thoughts on Hell and God's Grace Part 1 - H.E. Double Toothpicks

road sign to hell or damnationMaybe I should ease into this post by doing my usual schtick of rambling around the edges before getting to the point, and there are times, believe it or not, when opinionated and straightforward me taps lightly around my beliefs because I know for those located in, or coming from, a conservative Christian tradition as I did, it can feel unsettling when people you connect with on other levels seem to be walking dangerously close to the ledge in others. All I can tell is ledge walking might not be the safest place but once you've seen the horizon from that viewpoint there's no going back.

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Thoughts on Hell and God's Grace Part 2 - The Long and Winding Road that Leads Absolutely No Where!

Part 1 if you missed it

As mentioned in my last post, my initial experimentation at blogging on my new bright and shiny iPad was less than successful, at least in addressing the topic of "Sin, Salvation and A Savior" as I had originally intended. On the other hand, had my goal been to make my directorial debut in creating a based on a true-story movie premiere of "SisterFriends: The Lost Post Episode," then row out the red carpet and don't stand between me and my Oscar!

So to sum it up I've gone on record that I've come to a place in my life of faith, my relationship with God, and my deepening understanding of grace that I no longer am able to believe that anyone will ever be consigned to the suffering of eternal punishment and banishment from the presence of God. While it seems reasonable to me that there would be a time and place for divine purification and correction there must in my heart and mind ultimately come a time when the soul of every man, woman, and child will be re-united with their Creator.

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Thoughts on Hell and God's Grace Part 3 - Sin, Salvation, and The Savior

Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them

Memo to Self:

Skip the witty lead-in.
Pass on the relevant but lengthy personal anecdote.
Don't bother with an introduction that ends up longer than the actual post.
For once would you just get to the point. These people have other things to do, you know.

Memo back to Self:

I know I know I know.
Quit nagging me already!

Oh. Hi. I'm sorry you had to hear that.

I've been telling you for the last week that I don't believe in the concept of eternal damnation, fire and brimstone, or that anyone will spend all eternity in perpetual time-out for their sins, so now seems a good time to take that a little further as to how believing all that impacts how I believe about sin, salvation, and Jesus as Savior.

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"Coming Out"

"Coming out of the closet" (very often shortened to "coming out" in winking reference to the public introduction of debutantes) describes the voluntary public announcement of one's (often homosexual or bisexual) sexual orientation, sexual attractions, gender identity, or paraphilia.

Being "out" means not concealing these characteristics. Being "outed" refers to having these characteristics made public typically against one's wishes or without one's consent. "Outing" is the process of deliberately disclosing these characteristics of another who presumably wants to keep this information private.

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Who Are Angels? by Rev John Brown

A few years ago, here in the USA, there were a couple of shows called "Highway to Heaven" starring Michael Landon, and "Touched By An Angel" starring Della Reese. They purported to show angels helping out in the lives of everyday, ordinary people. They also showed them at the moment of death, waiting to help escort the dying over to the other side. 

How accurate were these portrayals? Who are angels? Where do they come from? Do we become angels when we die? Perhaps they are just created beings like humans. What does the Bible say about them? In this study we will look at angels as they are found in the Bible and try to answer the above questions. 

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Can Men Breastfeed?

Odd as it seems, men can lactate. In their 1896 book, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, Dr. George Gould and Dr. Walter Pyle recount several occurrences of men breastfeeding their young. The stories include a sailor who put his son to his breast to quiet him and started producing milk; a South American peasant who sustained his child with his own breast milk during his wife's illness; and a Chippewa man who put his infant to his breast following the death of his wife and produced enough milk to rear the child.

The phenomenon hasn't stopped. In 2002, a Sri Lankan man named B. Wijeratne lost his wife and was left to care for their 18-month-old daughter. When the child refused powdered milk, Wijeratne tried something different. "Unable to see her cry, I offered my breast," Wijeratne told a Sri Lankan newspaper. "That's when I discovered I could breastfeed."

Read more

Interview With Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson

Recently I had the pleasure of having a virtual chat with Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson of the Old Catholic Church, a known champion for the reconciliation of the GLBTI community with an inclusive faith. This interview coincides with the release of his first book, an autobiography of sorts, The Gay Face of GodInterview With Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson 4

The book itself is not your typical book about Christianity and the issues of homosexuals (though you will find a very simple, scriptural, and no-fluff approach of that issue addressed in Chapter 14 if you're interested.) Rather, the book is a memoir of the life and times of a gay man who, like most GLBTI people, has done a little bit of everything along the path of his life. 

Read more

This Gay Teacher Had The Best Response To A Christian Mom Who Pulled Her Kids From His Class

Michael NeriMichael Neri is a drama teacher in England, and he’s pretty popular.

His Talking Props Theatre School that he set up in 2014 had a good enough reputation for a Christian woman to sign her kids up. But when she learned that Neri is gay, she texted him to pull the kids out.

Her reason? She’s worried that theater lessons with a gay man will “influence” her children with “unconventional ideas.”

That is, she thought he’d turn her kids gay.

Read more

Gandhi Rejected by Christians

by Rev. Frederick L. Pattison
from his booklet "Challenging: Gay & Lesbian Baptists"
available on the CG Store

Mahatma Gandhi, the renowned leader of the people of India, in seeking to overthrow British colonial rule of his native land, was an avid reader. Although a Hindu, in his quest for freedom, he read the four Christian Gospels. He wanted to know more about Jesus of Nazareth. In his reading of the Gospels, Gandhi was impressed with this man whom Christians worship and follow. Where could he find out more about this Jesus whom Christians refer to as "the Christ - the Messiah?"

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University Offers a Free Ride to Gay Teen Abandoned by Parents

Seth OwenJacksonville, Fla. student Seth Owen, 18, had a 4.16 GPA and all the promise of the future. He just had no money to make it a reality. After his parents kicked him out of the house for being gay, he was on his own.

That’s when the town chipped in to help fund his college education and raised over $120,000 (the original crowdfunding goal was set at $100,000) so that he could attend Georgetown University.

However, an incredible thing happened after all the money was raised: Georgetown decided to waive his tuition. Completely.

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Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home

MINNEAPOLIS - Right before Christmas, Jamie McConnell arrived at the Lake Country School here, as he does most days of the week, to pick up his son, Ben, 3. Hardly short on spunk, Ben made his way out to the snowy playground, and Mr. McConnell, as parents have done since the dawn of swings and monkey bars, trailed behind.

Mr. McConnell had plenty of time to watch Ben romp and to invite one of his classmates and his mother home for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

For years, Mr. McConnell ate very different lunches. He was a corporate litigator at Dorsey & Whitney, among the country's most prestigious law firms. But since he and Dr. Bill Atmore, an anesthesiologist, adopted Ben as an infant, taking care of the child has been his full-time job. Dr. Atmore, his partner of eight years, works full time.

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My Birth Defect by Wendy Montgomery

 

I've always had an excellent memory. This is both a blessing and a curse. Some of my earliest memories are feelings of frustration, inferiority, and wanting to be someone different that I was. I learned very young that I didn't fit in to my family. There are seven people in my family - dad, mom, 3 brothers, 1 sister, and me. I was the only one with a birth defect.

Please read this excellent article on Wendy's website.

Viral Letter About Being Gender Non-Conforming

Jacob TobiaThis viral letter about being gender non-conforming is the heartwarming read we all deserve.

April 10, 2018

Kids can be a bit of a liability.

Although they mean well, the level of their curiosity knows no bounds and can result in awkward public moments that nobody knows how to account for.  

That's why Jacob Tobia, who is gender non-conforming, decided to write an open letter to address how kids stare at the way he is dressed in public.

"Dear Parents of America or Anywhere Else: As a gender-nonconforming person, I get a lot of attention — both wanted and unwanted — anytime I walk around in public," wrote the writer.

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List of EVERYTHING

Miscellaneous Articles by Title

Click Here To View Articles With A Short Introduction To Each One

Wine and Wafer as Weapons? The Politics of Holy Communion

Seems that every election cycle, there's an unholy alliance of politicians and fundamentalist religious leaders who unite to attack the LGBT community.

Well, here we go again.

In its latest incarnation, there's a movement - an epidemic, actually - of religious leaders who have lost sight of religion's most noble goals. This time they're using Holy Communion as a political and spiritual weapon against LGBT people.

In recent weeks, one can hardly pick up a newspaper without reading how another religious leader or religious group has turned Christianity's most sacred rite into a weapon against LGBT people.

- In Chicago, LGBT Roman Catholics wearing rainbow sashes were denied Holy Communion as they knelt at the church altar.

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The Hard Lesson of Suicide

by Rev. Tessie Mandeville

The Cathedral of Hope was honored to have Mary Lou Wallner with us this past Sunday May 11, 2003, in Dallas and Oklahoma City. Mary Lou shared her story of tragedy and how God helped her transform that tragedy into healing, not only for herself but for thousands more. Mary Lou's daughter, who was a lesbian and a Christian, committed suicide in February 1997. Anna took her own life after years of struggling with being a lesbian. Her struggle came in part because of the fundamentalist teachings that she received from friends and family that homosexuality is a sin.

I was deeply moved by this story as I recognized that I walked a very similar path at one time in my life. I know many of us have walked this path and we know the struggle. I heard and learned so many things from Mary Lou but there is one thing in particular that I hold up for us today. It is the lesson of compassion. For you see, Mary Lou, shared that she did not show compassion to her daughter or to her daughter's homosexual friends. In fact she said, "I had no use for them."

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Ten Reasons Why the ELCIC Should Accept LGBTQ Clergy

(or all mainline Protestants, or all Christendom, for that matter)

Yes, indeed. There is a strong possibility that the ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) will be voting on this possibility at its annual convention this summer. What is this church coming to?

An understanding, I hope. I hope the church is coming to an understanding of the damage that it has done, and continues to do, to LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer) people. I hope that it's starting to realize how its policies hurt others, and itself. And I believe it's possible that critical mass might soon be achieved by those who wish to effect change. Let me give you, as concisely as possible, ten reasons why the ELCIC should accept LGBTQ clergy.

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Homophobia is Wrong

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

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The Rapture - Is It Scriptural?

by Rev John W Brown

Note from Mary: Harold Camping of Family Radio Network of Christian Stations, predicted the end of the world would happen on May 21, 2011 (which happens to be today). He preached that homosexuality is such a shameful abomination that it normally is "in the closet," but since God is about to destroy the world, the sin has been "let loose" and now the world is seeing gay pride parades and same sex marriage. He says that open homosexuality is a sign of the end times just like in Sodom and Gomorrah - proof, he says, that the world is indeed ending on May 21, 2011.

Well I'm still here and you are too, but it got us thinking that perhaps we might talk about the Rapture in Hot Topics, so our dear Rev Brown provided us with some background to give thought to.

If you are at all concerned about the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, please read my Article The Sin of Sodom was NOT Homosexuality!


A. What Is The "Rapture"?

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Bill Gaither Issues Press Release Regarding Marsha Stevens

ALEXANDRIA, IN (Press Release) - Apparently, a visit by Marsha Stevens to a Gaither Homecoming concert in 2002 is being misrepresented and misused by her and others. Marsha Stevens is an outspoken lesbian singer-songwriter who operates an organization called Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM Ministries). Her story is a sad one.

In 1969, as the 16 year-old leader of what many consider to be the first contemporary Christian music group, Children of the Day, Marsha wrote "For Those Tears I Died," which quickly became one of the most popular songs of the so-called Jesus Movement. Featured on "Maranatha's "The Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert" album, her song became one of the best known Christian folk songs of the decade.

Gloria and I, along with hundreds of churches around the country have sung that song for years. Unfortunately, in more recent years Marsha publicly declared herself to be lesbian and took her music and work in a very different direction from where it started.

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Native American Code of Ethics

Now THIS is what Morality is About! Morality is NOT about Gender Identity.

  1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
  2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
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I Didn't Catch Gay

I didn't catch gay from a toilet seat,
I caught it when for the first time a girl smiled at me and I knew why.

I didn't catch gay from playing with G.I. Joes,
I caught it from the secret longing I got when I looked at the other girls around me.

I didn't catch gay from the girl's locker room,
But I did feel the shame when I hid my eyes so that I wouldn't get caught staring too long.

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The Bible Comes "OUT"

There is no book I love more nor one that has shaped my life more dramatically than the Bible. This is probably true for many of us. The stories in the Bible have filled many of my days and really, are part of my very soul. I have come to realize that the Bible can liberate us but there are times when we must liberate the Bible.

Last week we celebrated "National Coming Out Day" for gay people all over the world and we encouraged people to come out of the closet. I preached a sermon about how the Bible needs to come out! When you think about it, there are many coming out stories in the Bible. As a matter of fact, in the beginning, God came out through the heavens, the earth, and all of creation.

The children of Israel came out of bondage in Egypt and into the promised land.

God came out of a closet of laws and commandments and became flesh, in the person of Jesus.

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Unreasoned Ignorance Abounds

Everywhere I turned today, I read yet again another perversion of Holy Scriptures with a decidedly anti-gay twist. It is an epidemic of ignorance and misplaced righteousness.

First, the Vatican is at it again, or should I say still at it. What I predicted last year has come to pass: The Pope has banned gay men from becoming Priests and has launched a new inquisition which he is quite experienced at as he came from the Office of the Inquisition. This Pope has sent squads of clergy to visit all of the 229 American seminaries in order to ferret out any gay men; even those who might have a "close friendship," as observed by other seminarians and faculty. He is also calling in Priests who have been ordained within the last three years for questioning. In fact what this Pope has done is turn Seminarians and Priests into KGB type spies who report on their fellow clergyman to the Vatican. It disgusts me to no end. Major Archdiocese like Washington, D.C. could not function without their gay clergy. There are many more Dioceses that this holds true for also, including those led by gay Bishops.

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The Self-Destruction of the Roman Catholic Church

I have once again finished reading an official document issued by the Vatican in Rome that deals with the complex issue of gays in ordained ministry. Not since the document "CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS," issued two summers ago by John Paul II, have I been so absolutely dumbfounded at the total lack of knowledge, understanding, compassion, theological insight and right reason as it relates to the homosexual person exhibited by the Vatican hierarchy.

In the second paragraph of the Introduction to this latest obscenity from Rome, a clear unmistakable purpose is given as to why this document has been issued: "It (this document) contains norms regarding a particular issue, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is the admission or not to Seminaries and Holy Orders of candidates that have deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

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"Love The Sinner Hate The Sin": Plea For A New Paradigm

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard the line "love the sinner, hate the sin" when the topic of homosexuality comes up I'd be a rich man (or at least have enough to pay my bills). It seems to be an 'easy' response to the situation but one that irks me considerably. I recently came upon this quote from another blog that I found hits the target:

'I don't think they could begin to understand how "love the sinner, hate the sin" doesn't cut it with this community. It's like saying, sure, we don't mind dogs, we love dogs - but leave that mongrel outside. All anyone hears is "hate the sinner with this sin." It's getting pretty old. I'm not saying that they have to change their theological stance, but... don't they have to at least be gracious?'

This statement is so intrinsically flawed, particularly in its application to homosexuality that it deserves some treatment. So in good 'sermon' mode here are three simple points to get us thinking.

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Attempts To Become Straight Leads To Heartbreak And Divorce

'Ex-Gay Groups Love To Spotlight The Wedding Photos, But They Never Show The Divorce Papers,' Says TWO Executive Director Wayne Besen

TRUTH WINS OUT UNVEILS VALENTINE'S VIDEO SHOWING HOW ATTEMPTS TO BECOME STRAIGHT THROUGH MARRIAGE LEADS TO HEARTBREAK AND DIVORCE

Miami Beach, FLA. - Truth Wins Out today unveiled a Valentine's Day video that shows why right wing attempts to pressure gay people into "reforming" through marriage destroys families in the name of family values and usually leads to divorce.

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Dr. Robert Spitzer Tells Focus On The Family to Stop Exaggerating His Work

(Out Of) Focus On The Family

Miami Beach, FLA. - Truth Wins Out released a new video today on YouTube featuring a famed psychiatrist who says Focus on the Family has chronically exaggerated his scientific data from a 2001 study to support their anti-gay political agenda.

"The gay person who is thinking about entering some kind of program to change should know that the likelihood of success is quite small. And, of course, Focus on the Family does not say that," said Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, in an exclusive video interview with Truth Wins Out.

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James Dobson - Science Strikes Back

University lecturers left their classrooms this week to lecture Focus on the Family's James Dobson to tell him he has no class. The tenured were teed off and staged a revolt because they were revolted by how Dobson had perverted their work in TIME magazine. In a Time magazine guest column criticizing Mary Cheney, Dobson justified his trashing of gay families by citing the work of renowned researchers. But instead of allowing their work to be distorted, the scholars hollered and told Dobson to stop lying for the Lord.

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What About Suicide? by Rev John Brown

In the last few weeks there have been a rash of young men who have committed suicide because of being bullied for being gay. So what has happened to them? Are they in hell because they took their own life? Is it possible they could be in heaven? Could it be God saw their hearts, knew exactly why they killed themselves and forgave them? What about those who drove these young men to take their lives? What does God think of them?

In this study I would like to look at the topic of suicide and see what the Bible has to say on it. While suicide is not the perfect will of God for anybody, what does God actually think about it? Is it pardonable like any other sin? Let's have a look at a few men in the Bible who are recorded as having committed suicide and see what we can learn.

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Does God Approve of Surrogate Mothers and Fathers?

Dear family,

I was recently asked in chat if God would approve of two gay men using a surrogate woman to bear a child for them. The one asking also thought it might be a good issue for discussion for a future "Hot Topics".  I thought it was an interesting question and though I felt God would have no problem with it, I wanted to get a biblical foundation for it if I could.  The result is the study you will find here.  As always the views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect Christian Gay's views or those of Mary or anyone associated with them.  They are intended as food for thought and discussion and should a future "Hot Topics" be done on the subject, then this study could be a foundation for our discussions at that time. As always any comments are welcomed. Hope you all enjoy.

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The King That Was A Queen

Coretta Scott King was a wonderful soul of love and empathy who will be mourned by millions of people. She was the King who was a queen, because she understood her husband's "dream" was much greater than achieving liberty for one narrow slice of the population.

"For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people," Coretta Scott King said at the 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."

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