Monday, July 18, 2011

Via JMG: Rainbow Falls

In order to highlight what they predict will be booming gay marriage tourism, city officials in Niagara Falls say they are working to have the falls illuminated in the colors of the rainbow on the first days of legalized same-sex unions.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said “This event, which will highlight Niagara Falls on an international level as a premier wedding and honeymoon destination, will serve as a tremendous economic shot in the arm for not only the area’s hotels and attractions, but for the florists, bakeries and restaurants throughout the city.” Dyster said. “Those who come here will see the efforts made by this administration in reinventing our downtown tourist district and be welcomed into a city that will once again reclaim its title as the honeymoon capital of the world.”

reposted from Joe

Via CNN: My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics.

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

How does that sit with “family values” activism today?

Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.

The community opposed to gay marriage has also departed from the Christian tradition on another issue at the heart of its social agenda: abortion.

Unbeknownst to most lay Christians, the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.

Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint and a giant of mediaeval theology, argued: “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.”

American evangelicals, meanwhile, widely opposed the idea that life begins at conception until the 1970s, with some even advocating looser abortion laws based on their reading of the Bible before then.

It won’t do to oppose gay marriage because it’s not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional.

And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.

The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”

The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: “It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies.”
Indeed it is.

On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals.

Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.

Since graduating from seminary, I no longer identify with the evangelical community of my youth. The community gave me many fond memories and sound values but it also taught me to take the very human perspectives of its leaders and attribute them to God.
So let’s stop the charade and be honest.

Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

Via JMG: MD Gov Vows Marriage Support

As Maryland's activists gear up to take another run at marriage equality, Gov. Martin O'Malley has pledged his full support.
"I certainly plan to be very active in support of it, and we'll have other announcements in upcoming months," O'Malley said at the National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City. O'Malley has long supported civil unions and has said that if lawmakers passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, he would sign it. But Friday marks the first time O'Malley has made same-sex unions a legislative priority. The Democratic governor said he would favor a measure in Maryland that mirrors the same-sex marriage law recently enacted in New York, which protects religious organizations from being required to ordain same-sex marriages.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: "Ex-Gay" Convention Set For Minnesota

Exodus International will hold its 2012 annual "ex-gay" convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Did the Bachmanns have something to do with that?
Amid news that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Christian counseling clinic performs therapy aimed at “curing” gays and lesbians of homosexuality, the nation’s largest “ex-gay” organization, Exodus International, announced it will hold its annual conference, “Exodus Freedom,” in St. Paul next year. The last time an Exodus conference came to Minnesota, Bachmann gave it a glowing endorsement. According to Exodus International, the conference will be held the last weekend of July 2012 at Northwestern College. Northwestern is a private Christian college with deep connections to Minnesota’s most conservative Christians. Minnesota Family Council CEO John Helmberger was a member of the college’s board of trustees until 2008, and current MFC associate Megan Doyle sits on the board. Bachmann’s been a speaker at the college, and the school has placed interns with her office.
When Exodus last held its convention in Minnesota, Crazy Eyes welcomed them: "I know that Love Won Out will present the truth about homosexuality and present it in a compassionate and loving manner. Those of us working to safeguard marriage from redefinition by radical judges must inform our efforts with an understanding of the deep emotional wounds that many in the homosexual community carry. I look forward to welcoming Minnesotans and residents of surrounding states to hear the message of healing that is possible."

reposted from Joe

Ben Cohen OUT Magazine interview

Dan Savage takes on Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum on Real Time with Bill Maher