Friday, March 4, 2016

Via Huffington: It's Time to Rethink Religion vs. LGBT

by Mychal Copeland Co-editor of Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives and Director of InterfaithFamily Bay Area. 
martinwimmer via Getty Images

Despite what it sounds like on the campaign trail, Americans of all religious backgrounds are opposed to curtailing freedoms for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. While Marco Rubio states that " people...are being compelled to sin by government in their business conduct" and Ted Cruz is calling 2016 the "religious liberty election," statistics show a more complicated relationship between American religion and LGBT issues. A majority of Americans - across the religious spectrum - think that people should not be fired from a job, denied housing or evicted from their home simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

While more than 50% of white evangelical Protestants and Mormons do support Religious Refusal bills, every other American religious group - including Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Muslims - oppose them. Moreover, majorities in every single American religious group - including white evangelical Protestants and Mormons - would support legislation protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.

The Public Religion Research Institute, drawing on 42,000 interviews conducted in 2015, issued a recent report showing that even among religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage, a majority support legal protections for LGBT people and do not believe that small business owners in their states should be able to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds. Even where their religion has been vocal in opposing same sex marriage, a majority of Americans (53%) support it. 

The survey comes in the wake of a slew of anti-LGBT religious refusal bills being proposed at the state level which would allow businesses to refuse services to LGBT people and eliminate the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors through non-discrimination ordinances. 

On the national scene, the conservative American Principles Project approached all of the presidential hopefuls late last year to endorse the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), hoping to get their pledge to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would, according to the ACLU, "permit government employees to discriminate against married same-sex couples and their families - federal employees could refuse to process tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security checks for all married same-sex couples, and allow businesses to discriminate by refusing to let gay or lesbian employees care for their sick spouse, in violation of family medical leave laws." 

The act goes beyond affecting just LGBT people: it would allow landlords to refuse housing to a single mother on the religious grounds that sexual relations must only occur within the bounds of marriage. Six of the Republican candidates pledged to back the act, and three more have endorsed similar ideas. No Republican candidate has publicly opposed the bill. 

But the findings of the Public Religion Research Institute reveal that it is no longer possible to make blanket assumptions that people who affiliate themselves with a religious institution will support legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT individuals and families. When 73% of Catholics, 72% of Mormons, and 57% of white, Evangelical Protestants support LGBT nondiscrimination laws, we begin to see a more complex picture of religion in America. 

The numbers challenge some deeply ingrained myths about religion and religious people. First, no religious tradition is monolithic. Within each denomination, there is a wide array of belief and practice, and without fail, every American religious tradition is engaged in a struggle about LGBT inclusion. 

Second, the Public Religion Research Institute numbers challenge the overstated notion that all religions are, or should be, unchanging and timeless, unaffected by their surroundings. Even if these statistics merely reflect a shift amongst laypeople and not leadership, they still support a theory of change, albeit slow, within all religious traditions. 

As Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson writes in Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives, "Most people would tell you that religions are the keepers and preservers of unchanging, eternal truths. They would be wrong." If a religion has stood the test of time, it is because its adherents have struggled with new ideas and found ways to incorporate them. In fact, confronting and incorporating change is built into many religions. This kind of evolution occurs differently across the spectrum of traditions. For some, rather than doctrine or ideology changing with people following afterward, the opposite is true. A slow, subtle shift in attitude is followed by (or is concurrent with) expansive approaches to theology, ideology, and scriptural interpretation, and then, perhaps, changes in doctrine over time. 

Third, there is a prevailing assumption that individuals will hold anti-LGBT religious doctrine above other religious ideals. More and more religious leaders and lay people are prizing overarching principles of faith, such as compassion, love, dignity, and welcome over negative religious legislation. Even where there are prohibitions on the books disallowing same-sex relationships or activity, there is an underlying call for compassion and a support of individuals' rights. Most Americans now know someone who is LGBT, and see this acronym no longer as an amalgamation of heady labels but as a face of someone they love, someone they work with, someone who has struggled. Those Americans are more likely to see that individual as someone who should be able to rent an apartment, keep a job, and even marry the one they love.


Via Alternet / Belief: Why It's Heretical to Read the Bible Literally

Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong challenges a common tendency towards a literal reading of the Bible.

Bishop John Shelby Spong
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

That’s why, says retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, despite his best-selling controversial books and popular speeches, his position on Jesus and the Christian church will never be the majority opinion, because he believes Jesus is not the Savior of the world and that the Bible cannot be read literally.

That hunger for security is being sated by everyone from mega-church pastors offering assurances that Jesus will save the faithful, to the current crop of presidential candidates hawking their ability to keep us safe.

“Donald Trump can say the outrageous things he says because it speaks to people’s fears,” Spong said in a recent interview with RD’s Candace Chellew-Hodge. “They respond because he says what their fears want to hear. He can’t deliver any more than anyone else can.”

But that doesn’t keep him, or any of the other candidates or pastors from promising that security, whether it’s offered through God, guns or the government.

How did we get into such as sorry state? Gentiles, Spong says.

In his new book, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy, Spong dissects the Gospel of Matthew to uncover what the Jewish writers were really trying to do in their gospel narrative, and oddly enough, building megachurches and promising safety and security in exchange for right belief isn’t anywhere to be found.

What is there, however, is a powerful message that runs counter to the idea that faith offers nothing but a sweet and secure life. Instead, the biblical writers are inviting readers into the mystery of a life that is frequently messy and often downright brutal.
That, Spong says, is the real Good News.

Via JMG: US Promotes LGBT Rights At United Nations By Taking Ambassadors To See Lesbian-Themed Broadway Musical


March 3, 2016 LGBT News

Reuters reports:
The United States turned to cultural diplomacy on Tuesday to push gay rights at the United Nations by taking 15 U.N. ambassadors, including those from Russia, Gabon and Namibia, to see an award-winning lesbian musical on Broadway.
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the “Fun Home” coming-of-age production “brings home the challenges that LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) are facing every day around the world.”
“Thank you for bringing this all home in a way that resolutions and statements never can,” Power told the cast during a question-and-answer session after their performance.
According to the United Nations, being gay is a crime in at least 75 countries.
Last year, “Fun Home” won five Tony Awards – American theatre’s highest honors – including best musical and best actor for Michael Cerveris, who plays a closeted gay father.
The U.S. mission said ambassadors from the European Union, Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam also attended.

Make the jump here to read the original and more at JMG

Via Sri Prem Baba: Flor do dia - Flor del día - Flower of the day - 04/03/2016

“Estamos passando por uma aceleração do processo evolutivo, tanto como indivíduos, quanto como planeta. Apesar de haver uma grande fricção ocorrendo interna e externamente, estamos sendo levados a experienciar liberdade e união. Para aqueles que, de certa forma, já puderam ir um pouco além do egoísmo e das mazelas da natureza inferior, esse momento é um convite para se doarem mais; é um convite para colocar seus potenciais, dons e talentos a serviço do bem comum. Mas isso precisa ser feito de forma autêntica, verdadeiramente amorosa e desinteressada, como na passagem da bíblia que diz: ‘A mão esquerda não deve ver o que a mão direita dá’.”

“Estamos pasando por una aceleración del proceso evolutivo, tanto como individuos y como planeta. A pesar de haber una gran fricción ocurriendo interna y externamente, estamos siendo llevados a experimentar libertad y unión. Para aquellos que, de alguna manera, ya pudieron ir un poco más allá del egoísmo y de los males de la naturaleza inferior, este momento es una invitación a darse más; es una invitación para poner tus potenciales, dones y talentos al servicio del bien común. Pero esto debe hacerse de manera auténtica, verdaderamente amorosa y desinteresada, como el pasaje de la biblia que dice: ‘La mano izquierda no debe ver lo que la mano derecha da’.”

"The evolutionary process is accelerating, both on the individual level as well as the collective. Although there is a lot of internal and external friction, we are being led to the experience of freedom and unity. For those who, in some way, have already been able to surpass selfishness and the wrong doings of the lower nature, this moment isan invitation to give of yourselves even more. It is inviting us to put our potential gifts and talents at the service of the greater good. However, this must be done authentically, in a truly loving and selfless way. As a passage from the Bible says, ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.'"

Via Daily Dharma: Making History Here

World history is a record of the effects of the negative and positive thoughts of human beings. This, I think, is quite clear. By reflecting on these past occurrences, we can see that if we want to have a better and happier future, now is the time to examine the mindset of our present generation and to reflect on the way of life that it may bring about in the future.

—The Dalai Lama, "The Enemy Within"

Via JMG: GEORGIA: Gov. Nathan Deal Denounces Anti-LGBT “Religious Liberty” Bill By Citing The Bible


Feeling the heat from major local corporations, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal today denounced the pending anti-LGBT “religious liberty” bill by citing scripture. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Standing in the lobby of a government building after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, he laid out a lengthy condemnation of the measure from a Biblical perspective, first noting that he is a Southern Baptist who took religion courses at Mercer University.
“What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody. If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”
He then turned to a passage from the Gospel of John that showed Jesus reaching out to an outcast.
“What that says is we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs. We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”
Make the jump here to read the orginal and more at JMG