Category: gay rights

Can we learn anything from the Chick-fil-A squabble?

Protesters held signs and shouted slogans outside a Chick-fil-A food truck in a demonstration organized by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington on Thursday.By Alan Bean

In an effort to enjoy a genuine vacation this summer, I left off blogging for ten days and am just now back in the saddle.  As a consequence, the Chick-fil-A controversy has run its course without benefit of my insights (how does the world keep spinning when I’m not paying attention?)  I have been keeping abreast of the fire fight, however, and have decided to share a few highlights.

Fred Clark, a progressive evangelical, is perplexed by the guy who decided to counter the folks who are protesting Chick-fil-A’s gay-unfriendly stance by going after General Mills, the folks who market Honey-nut Cheerios, a product deemed to be near and dear to the hearts of the gay community.  Maybe its because Omar, a cold killer made famous by The Wire, was a gay man with a predilection for that particular confection.  At any rate, this guy decided to protest the gay-loving General Mills by taking a match to a box of Cheerios and ended up starting a grass fire.

The video went viral.

Here’s Fred Clark’s reaction:

The odd thing, though, is that everywhere I saw this video linked and posted initially, the man was identified as a Christian or a preacher or some kind of evangelical protester. (more…)

Youth Pride Parade

By Pierre R. Berastaín

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A couple of months ago, I took my friend DeSean to Boston’s Youth Pride Parade. Pride was as new for him as it was for me, except he had an excuse; I didn’t—I am twenty-four; he is sixteen.

I never really gave much attention to Pride. Even as someone who has never attended, I saw the festivities as a strange mix of debauchery and activism, of partying and self-reflection, and of acceptance of those who fit in and rejection of those unlucky to fall outside the stereotypes. Judging from afar, Pride seemed to act as a misnomer—what were people proud of? How much they could drink? How few clothes they could wear? How much they could shake their bodies dancing to Madonna?

Youth Pride in Boston seemed a bit different. As we entered the festive grounds, the five of us (my sister, her boyfriend, my best friend, DeSean, and I) were greeted by people eager to tell us about their services, organizations, and upcoming events. Present were religious institutions—from Christian to Buddhist—health care organizations, support groups, and even a man who lured us all into his delicious candy tent. People of all ages had the opportunity to enter a raffle for an i-Pad if they went through HIV testing.

Against this backdrop of information and activism, the youth danced to Lady Gaga and Rihanna (for next year, I suggest more cultural variation in music and diversity in genres, although DeSean tells me “the music was very cool!”). Taken as a whole, Youth Pride was not only a celebration of youthfulness and queerness, but also of the community we have created, of the services we provide, of the faiths we follow, of the activities we involve ourselves, and of the mouth-watering candy only gays know how to make. For a sixteen year-old, I think Pride was important in helping solidify his identity in a hetero-normative society. It was important in helping him understand that as weird—or queer—as he is, there are others who are even stranger but who are nonetheless proud of their bizarreness. Youth Pride also gave both DeSean and me something else to be proud of: that as an LGBTQ community can take care of our youth, that we have progressed to a more inclusive society, and that we have expanded the support and services for the LGBTQ in Boston. When I asked DeSean what he thought of that day, he said, “Youth Pride was very fun and amazing. All the people there were very cool and entertaining. I enjoyed walking around and seeing all the tables and stands and I learned a lot of the services we have.”

But as proud as I am of my community, I am also cognizant that many others despise the idea of ‘promoting the gay agenda.’ To them—some family members included—a Youth Pride is a way to turn more kids gay or lesbian and a way of spreading immorality and disease. I do not expect to change people’s views in this short posting, but I would like to ask that we consider that LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide than does the general population. Supporting Youth Pride, therefore, is not about coming out in support of gay marriage or accepting the “homosexual lifestyle” (though it can be). Most importantly, youth pride is about being pro-community, of coming out in favor of support systems for a population traditionally marginalized; it’s about affirming to ourselves that in a sea of non-inclusiveness, we can find pockets of acceptance and love. I think we can all relate to these desires.

Note: DeSean and Pierre are both part of the Hispanic Back Gay Coalition’s Mentorship Program.
The original article appeared in the blog Turn It Up Boston.

Conservative lawyer Ted Olson makes the case for gay marriage

By Pierre R. Berastain

Ted Olson and David Boies–opposing counsel in the Supreme Court case Bush V. Gore–have been on the same legal team defending the right to gay marriage.  Mr. Olson is one of the most conservative lawyers in the nation, while Mr. Boies falls the other extreme end of the spectrum.  They won the landmark case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger at a federal court and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The case is set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

In this video, Mr. Olson explains the difference between judicial activism and judicial responsibility, arguing that upholding the right to gay marriage would not fall under judicial activism; after all, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the right to marriage fourteen times since 1888, and upholding it again would reflect the responsibility of the Court to defend people’s right to marriage.  When Fox News’s Chris Wallace asks Mr. Olson why we should not let the people decide state by state–as we did in California–Mr. Olson asks, “Would you like your right to free speech put up by a vote?…We do not put the Bill of Rights for a vote.”

At war over the culture war: Dionne and Gerson go toe-to-toe

By Alan Bean

When two columnists working for the same newspaper address the same subject (the culture war and the contraception debate) you can learn a lot.  Michael Gerson accuses Barack Obama of sustaining our endless American culture war by forcing a conservative Roman Catholic Church to conform to “the liberal values of equality and choice.”  In Gerson’s view, the Catholic Church is an inherently conservative, indeed ‘illiberal’, institution.  Gerson endorses a pluralistic view of America in which a variety of civic organizations, some liberal and progressive, others illiberal and traditional, co-exist in a free society.  But this dream of a pluralistic America is being thwarted by an inherently intolerant “liberal” view of American life in which every individual and institution is expected to conform to the liberal values of equality and choice.  By forcing illiberal Catholic medical providers to provide free contraceptive services to their clients, Gerson alleges, the Obama administration is rejecting the pluralistic vision of America and stoking the fires of culture war.

Gerson believes it is a mistake to antagonize conservative institutions because, unlike their liberal counterparts, they encourage 

The habits of good citizens — attributes such as self-control, cooperation and respect for the law — don’t emerge spontaneously. They are cultivated in families and religious congregations. The health of liberal political institutions is strengthened by the success of traditional institutions, which often teach values that prepare individuals for the responsible exercise of freedom.

In Gerson’s view, Obama moved to the left on immigration and gay rights because he is an ardent culture warrior who disrespects the views of American conservatives.

Then comes E J Dionne, a progressive columnist who, unlike the evangelical Gerson, happens to be a living, breathing Roman Catholic in good standing.  Dionne agrees that Obama’s initial handling of the contraception issue was ham-handed and out of character.  Dionne’s Obama is no champion of the liberal view of America.  At his core, the president is an even-handed pragmatist who is generally eager to negotiate with his ideological opponents.

In fact, Dionne reminds us, six years ago Obama complained that

There are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word ‘Christian’ describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.

Sounds a lot like Michael Gerson, doesn’t it.  Obama dropped the ball on the contraception issue, Dionne admits, but was able to self-correct by offering a compromise that was joyfully embraced by Catholic medical care providers.   

Unlike Gerson, Dionne refuses to define the Roman Catholic Church as an inherently traditional or illiberal institution.  The Catholic Church is a pragmatic and pluralistic blending of conservative and progressive impulses.  Dionne says he remains in the fold largely because

When it comes to lifting up the poor, healing the sick, assisting immigrants and refugees, educating the young (especially in inner cities), comforting orphaned and abandoned children, and organizing the needy to act in their own interest, the church has been there with resources and an astoundingly committed band of sisters, priests, brothers and lay people. Organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Catholic Health Association, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services make the words of Jesus come alive every day.

Moderate Catholics appreciate the president’s willingness to meet the Church half way on contraception and Dionne hopes the conservative wing will tone down its opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage because the American Catholic community is as divided on these issues as the rest of society.

Two views of the Roman Catholic Church; two views of the sitting president.  Who wins?

Dionne gets the best of this dust-up.  The culture war doesn’t separate illiberal traditionalists like a monolithic Catholicism from liberal, pluralism denying, culture warriors like Obama.  Obama has been deeply influenced by both secular liberalism and the traditional values sustained by the Christian Church.  Roman Catholics, like most Christian denominations, are split down the middle over culture war issues like gay marriage, abortion and, now, contraception.  Gerson’s neat divisions don’t fit either Obama or American Catholicism.

If the president has moved off the fence on gay marriage and immigration it’s because he sees no point in placating ideological opponents for whom the word ‘compromise’ has become the vilest of profanities.  Any politician on the right willing to meet the president half way on any contentious issue gets his or her (usually his) mouth washed out with soap in full view of the cameras.

Nice try, Michael, but you didn’t nail it this time.

Would God kill homosexuals if he had the chance?

By Alan Bean

Pastor Curtis Knapp is probably a great guy. I have been a Baptist pastor in Kansas and I know the type: kind, gentle, fun-loving, infinitely polite. In a recent sermon, Pastor Knapp suggested that the government, if it understood its divine mandate aright, would put gay people to death. He wasn’t advocating vigilante violence, mind you; only the government is authorized for this kind of malice.

Now he says he was misquoted. Or quoted out of context. Or quoted by people who, were they as drenched in the biblical world view as his congregants, would have realized he loves gay people and wants them saved, not slaughtered.

On the other hand, Pastor Knapp still thinks God, if he had his way in this wicked world, would have gays massacred en masse. The Almighty said as much in plain black and white in the 20th chapter of Leviticus.

That passage (I call it the ‘killin’ chapter) also calls for the summary execution of adulterers, idolators, father-cursers, and sinners engaged in various kinds of incestuous coupling. Even sex with a menstruating woman is liable to punishment–for the man and the woman.

When people talk about “the angry God of the Old Testament” this is what they have in mind. You could spend a lifetime in most churches and never hear a single sermonic reference to Leviticus 20; but pastor Knapp ain’t no kangaroo preacher who bounces over the tough texts.

How should Christians interpret this kind of passage? The normal practice is to pretend the “texts of terror” don’t exist. If you don’t get around in the Bible much, that works pretty well.

But there are always folks intent on reading the Bible clear through. Some of them even make it to Leviticus 20. “Oh my God,” they say, “I’ll have to talk to the preacher about this.”

But the conversation rarely takes place. Parishioners fear, rightly, that the preacher won’t have a comforting or enlightening answer, so they try to forget about it.

Creative exegetes find clever ways to domesticate passages like Leviticus 20. Perhaps this is just hyperbole, the intentional overstatement of the truth. God doesn’t want us to kill homosexuals; He just wants us to know he hates them (and idolators, and adulterers and father-cursers, and . . .)

I’m not sure this helps much. If God thinks homosexuals are an abomination, why shouldn’t there be open season on the non-straight?

And if sexual orientation isn’t a choice, it must express the creative will of God. Does God make people gay and then hate them for it? Is this commendable, or even logical?

In all likelihood, the author of Leviticus believed that everybody is born straight because that’s the way God planned it. The perverse insistence on going against your natural inclinations constitutes a conscious rejection of God which must not be tolerated. This view of creation is then attributed to the Creator.

Unfortunately for adherents of the “biblical worldview,” this understanding of sexual orientation is just plain wrong. If some people are born gay, either God messed up, God isn’t in control, or God wants it that way. Either way, God must bear the ultimate responsibility.

This issue comes down to the character of God. Is God the perfection of love, as the Bible insists, or is God a weird alloy of love and hate, good and evil who must be obeyed even if he doesn’t make sense because . . . he’s God?

A proper understanding of incarnation is helpful here. According to the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), Jesus was fully God and fully human, even if we can’t understand how that could be so. To be fully human, Jesus had to be born into a specific culture at a specific time, and the tenor of his teaching would reflect that fact. Jesus spoke and acted as a first century, Second Temple, Palestinian Jewish peasant because that’s what it means for God to empty himself of divinity and take on human flesh.

God speaks to us through the Scriptures. But here too the logic of Chalcedon applies. The Bible is utterly of God and utterly human. Being human, the Bible reflects the perceptions and thought processes of the epoch in which it was written. It is the product of a pre-scientific world. As an inescapable consequence, the Bible doesn’t give us a scientific take on creation.

To say that the Bible must be right because it is God-breathed is like saying that Jesus, although he appeared to be human, was really God wearing a clever disguise. We can’t have it both ways. Incarnation and inspiration are both self-limiting realities. God comes to us clothed in human limitation and yet is never less than God.

You aren’t suppose to understand this, and you certainly don’t have to believe it; but that’s what orthodox Christian teaching boils down to.

So, what if the scientists speak of evolution over billions of years and the Bible speaks of fiat creation over a six-day period? Which is right? Almost half of the American population believes that buying into evolution means giving up on God. But evolution is just another form of incarnation; a completely natural process that is entirely the work of God. God doesn’t just give the evolutionary process a nudge now and then; God inhabits the evolutionary process.

Which brings us back to texts of terror like Leviticus 20. A Christocentric (Christ-centered) interpretation of Scripture means reading Leviticus through the mind of Christ. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Jesus counseled his disciples to forgive their enemies and wouldn’t back down from the hard implications of this teaching even when nailed to the rough wood of a Roman cross: “Forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Jesus didn’t reference Leviticus 20 either, but he did address the death penalty.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

How would Jesus respond to Pastor Knapp and the twentieth chapter of Leviticus? “You have heard that it was said in ancient times, ‘hate the homosexual’, and ‘when a man lies with a male as with a woman they shall be put to death.’ But I say to you, love everyone. If you look down on your homosexual brother or sister, you are liable to judgment, and if you call your brother a ‘fag’, a ‘fairy’ or a ‘dyke’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Did Jesus really believe in hell? I don’t know, but he talked about it all the time and, inevitably, the hell-bound are the unforgiving, the uncompassionate, and the hard of heart. If the biblical worldview is the vision of Jesus (and I believe it is) there can be no place for sermons that pander to the worst impulses of the people in the pew.

God is good all the time. We are all helpless sinners, even the best of us. We are all saved by the infinite grace revealed in the eyes of Christ the Savior. Thanks be to God.

Coming Out Black and Brown

Pierre Berastain

Pierre Berastain was a Harvard Undergrad when he worked as a Friends of Justice intern in the summer of 2010.  Pierre completed his first year at the Harvard Divinity School last week and we are thrilled to announce that he will once again be working with us as an intern.

When Pierre and I got together at Starbucks this Saturday morning to talk over the details of his work this summer, we talked about the shaping power of narrative–the stories we grow up listening to.  To live in America is to grow up listening to demeaning narratives about homosexuals and homosexuality.

Canada wasn’t much different.  Just before the sixth grade (or Grade 6 as we Canadians called it) my family moved from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to Edmonton where I was enrolled in Queen Alexandra elementary.  All the boys were calling each other “homos” or just “mo’s”.  I had no idea what you had to do to qualify as a “mo” but I knew it had to be shameful . . . and funny.

I was wrong on both counts; but since this was the only narrative I was exposed to, what was I supposed to think.  Admit it, you grew up in the same cramped and fearful world.

GLBT people grow up with these toxic narratives too, and the damage can be dreadful.  For people of color, the trauma is compounded. (more…)

NAACP rallies behind the president on marriage equality

By Alan Bean
Barack Obama’s recent announcement that he favors marriage equality was a game changer.
Nearly 60 percent of African Americans report supporting marriage equality according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, up a remarkable 20 points from about 40 percent in similar polling earlier this year.
You would have seen a similar shift among white conservatives if, say, Ronald Reagan had suddenly come out for an easing of the war on drugs.
Most of us aren’t at all confident in our grasp of moral issues and tend to take our lead from a small cadre of respected opinion leaders.  Obama’s “evolution” on the gay marriage issue won’t impact Tea Party types because, in their eyes, the president doesn’t qualify as an opinion leader.
There is an odd dance, of course, between opinion leaders and the constituencies they influence.  If you get too far ahead of the parade, you may glance over your shoulder and notice that no one is following.  But gay marriage, as an issue, has finally come of age and when that happens, public opinion can shift quickly.
I find it interesting that only two NAACP board members objected to the group’s decision to endorse the principle of marriage equality since the Black church has traditionally taken a conservative stance on the issue.
But, as Pastor Amos C. Brown notes in this article from the Associated Baptist Press, the perception that some on the right hoped to use the gay marriage issue to win support among African-Americans played a large role in the sudden shift in Black opinion.  It is one thing to be disappointed in your president; it is something else altogether to vote for the opposition.  You may be screaming mad at the quarterback; but cheering for the other team is out of the question.
People of color tend to empathize with the GLBT community for the same reason American Jews were disproportionately supportive of the civil rights movement; they’ve seen this movie before.

Pastor Defends NAACP Marriage Stance

The NAACP voted overwhelmingly May 19 to oppose “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

By Bob Allen

Associated Baptist Press

A Baptist minister and board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said May 26 it would have been hypocritical for the 103-year-old civil-rights organization not to pass its recent resolution supporting marriage equality.

Amos C. Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of the city’s local NAACP branch, is a member of the organization’s national board of directors, which voted May 19 to oppose “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.” (more…)

Osler: The Christian case for gay marriage

I first encountered this story in front of a recording studio in Austin, Texas.  “My mother sent me this,” attorney Jeff Frazier told me.  “It’s a really refreshing perspective.  He says he’s for gay marriage because he’s a Christian!”  I looked at his cell phone and was delighted to see Mark Osler’s name. 

In this piece written for the CNN blog, Osler doesn’t argue that the Bible endorses homosexuality; he says the life and message of Jesus is a compelling argument against withholding any holy sacrament (marriage, baptism) from anybody.  

Mark couldn’t have made this argument so neatly when he was a Baptist at Baylor; but now that he’s wandered down the Canterbury Trail it makes a lot of sense.  In fact, the baptism-marriage connection is breathtaking in its simplicity.  Why hadn’t I thought of that?  Probably because I’m still a Baptist. 

By Mark Osler, Special to CNN

I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriage. The reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith.

What I see in the Bible’s accounts of Jesus and his followers is an insistence that we don’t have the moral authority to deny others the blessing of holy institutions like baptism, communion, and marriage. God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life, and it is not ours to either give or deny to others.

A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the “rock” on whom the church is built. Peter is a captivating figure in the Christian story. Jesus plucks him out of a fishing boat to become a disciple, and time and again he represents us all in learning at the feet of Christ.

During their time together, Peter is often naïve and clueless – he is a follower, constantly learning. (more…)

Rogers: Obama and the two types of marriage

By Alan Bean

The gay marriage debate is gradually bringing clarity to a complex subject.  Americans oppose gay marriage for a variety of reasons.  Some believe they are forced to choose between accepting “the gay lifestyle” and the teachings of Scripture.  Others are primarily concerned about preserving strong traditional families.  And then there are those who, lacking any first-hand association with actual gay men and lesbians, allow unsympathetic, and often lurid, stereotypes to fill the void. 

People of faith sometimes fear that the legalization of gay marriage will force pastors and churches to go against deep personal and traditional conviction.  Not so, says Melissa Rogers.  After paying careful attention to the totality of President Obama’s remarks, she makes some crucial distinctions in this brief article originally published by the Huffington Post and the Associated Baptist Press.

Obama and two types of marriage

   
By Melissa Rogers
Friday, May 18, 2012
 

Melissa Rogers

In the wake of President Obama’s declaration of his personal support for the right of same-sex couples to marry under civil law, the nation is understandably focused on debating the merits of this position. Three related points from President Obama’s announcement, however, deserve our attention as well.

First, President Obama noted that there is an important difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. The state defines civil marriage, which serves as the gateway for a wide variety of government benefits, rights and privileges. Religious marriage, on the other hand, is defined solely by religious communities.

These categories may be fuzzy in our minds because current law not only respects the ability of clergy and religious communities to define and bless religious marriage, it also allows clergy to solemnize civil marriage. That’s why one often hears a minister conclude a wedding by saying, “By the authority vested in me by the state of X, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” (more…)