Tuesday, June 30, 2009

S/R Rpt 05 Let Marriage belong to the Church; Civil Unions to the State

This article was first published elsewhere in March 2009).

My opinion is that those who oppose same-sex marriage do so on religious grounds, not because of legal civil unions. I have not heard the opponents of gay marriage say they want to deny gays/lesbians the rights to visit a "friend" in the hospital, share resources, have legal status shared, and to have all the rights of survivorship.. What they don't want, more than anything else is to have their church perform a 'marriage' ceremony.

I am a retired minister in the United Methodist Church. My church, like most other main-liners says it is against the church law for a clergyperson to perform or bless a homosexual union.

But, there are chuches who will perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. I believe the Metro Church, the United Church of Christ and others will do so.

If we let "marriage" be done at the discretion of a church most church members would be okay with whatever their church dictated. [I know many members would not, but stay with me for a minute.] Surely no church member would want to impose their religous understanding upon another church.

Whenever I would conduct a wedding ceremony, I would sign the wedding license (issued by the state) and the couple would have to take it to the courthouse and register their married status. So far as I know it has always been that way (forever and ever and ever, Amen. :=} ).

So, let us require that "marriages" must be done by a clergyman (or justice of peace, judge, ship captain, etc.) and let the legal processing of that union be done by the state.

Marriage in the church (religious authority); civil union by the state (civil authority).

What right would any religious body have to intefere in the state's role?

from Newsweek, "Perspectives" (March 16, 2009) p. 25:

"If you 're in the marriage business, do it equally. If your're not going to do it equally, then get out of the marriage business." --Michael Maroko, a California lawyer for same-sex couples, on a judges proposal to issue licenses for civil unions to all couples, and leaving "marriage" to the faith community.

Sounds like a plan.

Each individual church (or denomination) could decide whether it would allow same-sex marriages. The state would process the legal contract. Any pastor (or specified leader) or any other authorized official could perform the marriage, according to the dictates of their own conscience. The state's role would only be to record the union in their records, thus authenticating the legal union.

The state would not interfere with religious matters, and the churches would not interfere with secular, state matters.
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SR Snips

Hate Crimes United States Attorney-General Eric Holder urged the Congress to step up the passage of federal hate crime legislation. "The rising tide of criminal activity fueled by bias and bigotry must be addressed."
Gay (Human) Rights President Obama assured gay rights leaders Monday (6-29) that he continues to work for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which governs participation in the military.
Defense SpendingJune 25 (Bloomberg) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee today (6-25) added money to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2010 budget to buy seven more Lockheed Martin Corp.The Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates opposes the spending proposal and the Obama administration threatened to veto any legislation that contains them. [Smells like pork: defense establishment: "we don't need them,nor want them". Congress: "We need to keep the jobs in our home states."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Uncomfortable" with Wall-to-Wall Michael Jackson

David Schuster, MSNBC anchor person, tweeted Friday or Saturday that he felt the MSNBC coverage of Michael Jackson's death was about in the correct ratio to iits importance. I tweeted him back that I was gtad I had some good programs recorded on my DVR so I could watch something besides the expanded eulogy of the fallen musical icon. One hour of details about the death was a little more than I needed.

This morning (Sunday) on "Face the Nation", Bob Schieffer drew the distinction between a national hero and a pop star icon. He said that we have monuments in Washington honoring those persons we admire: Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, along with the WWII monument. A nation is defined by the heroes it honors.

Schieffer went on to say that he once took his daughters to a MJ concert and concluded that the star did have talent and it was a fine concert.

Then Scheiffer nailed the way I have felt about Jackson, his life and his death.

His tortured existence, his devotion to excess, to celebrity, and, for lack of a better word, his "weirdness" seemed to me to be an example of how not to live one's life.

I have seen very little of the cable coverage of all this uproar. I imagine the cable neetworks can make a lot of money with little production costs just by by waiting for a coroner, an ems person, a doctor, friends or admireres to step up to the camera and tell us what they have done or how they feel; and, to speculate on the use of drugs, was it homicide, who will get "his" kids.

Talk about formula, cheapo coverage. It looks just like the fixation the networks had over Anna Nicole Smith's death. This excessive coverage has a somewhat "ghoulish" quality to it. Both Smith and Jackson had some serious perversions they dealt with; and we gather, like vultures, waiting to peck off a hunk of flesh and fly away.

The death of Michael Jackson brings to an end the sad, tragic and gifted life of a pop icon. But he was not an American hero. Like Bob Scheiffer, watching some of the wall-to-wall coverage left me "feeling uncomfortable with the whole thing."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

S/R Report 04: Hatred Is Learned

It was 1949, fifteen years before the Civil Rights Act would be passed, fourteen years before Martin Luther King, Jr, shared his dream in Washington. It was a time in America of unrest. Joe McCarthy had the nation looking for Communists behind every front door. "White Only" signs were enforced with threats of axe handles. America was in a state of social flux with thousands of troops having returned from the WWII war theater; and, industry was converting from a powerful war machine back to the manufacture of plow-shares.

Onto this scene, on Broadway, ."South Pacific" opened for a run that would not stop until January 16, 1954. For 1,925 performances the audience thrilled to "Younger than Springtime" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair". Rodgers & Hammerstein had done it again.

But the love story took place on a island in the South Pacific not far from where Japanese forces were stataioned. A Navy ensign, Lt. Cable was stationed there and fell in love with Liat, the daughter of a Tonkinese trader, Bloody Mary. Cable was torn by his racial prejudice and his feelings for Liat. He resolved his dilemma by deciding racism is "not born in you; it happens after you're born". Then he sings these lyrics:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

These words probably would not attract that much controversy today but sixty years ago they raised legislative challenges and were even suspected of being Communistic.

While [South Pacific was] on a tour of the Southern United States, lawmakers in Georgia introduced a bill outlawing entertainment containing "an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow." One legislator said that "a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life". Rodgers and Hammerstein were pressed to remove this song from the play, but stubbornly refused--even if it meant shutting down the production.*

Of course, this musical and the words of that song only played a small part in the change of America's feelings about relations between the races. But they did play a part. And many other expressions stood up to the hate-filled prejudice until finally the political will of the American people became law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But, hatred still speaks out of fear, anger or injury. Ultimately hatred punishes the one who expresses it. It has been said that hatred is a boomerang which is sure to hit you harder than the one at whom you throw it. (anonymous) Touching the roots of that hatred with sensitive care can bring a measure of healing to the hating person's hurt.

Hatred will continue to grow or diminish depending on whether you and I express words of love and truth, wherever and whenever we hear lies directed at gender, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, disability or political affiliation.

SR Snips:

Hate--Hall Turner, a former talk-show host, was arrested at his New Jersey home for threatening to assault or murder three Chicago-based judges for refusing to overturn local ordinances banning handguns. An internet posting by Turner said "These judges deserve to be killed." A map showing their courtrooms was posted with a promise to post maps to show their homes later. San Antonio Express News, 6-25-09, p.A2

Gay Rights:--A group of current and former Mormans have created a website that calls upon leaders of the church to end hurtful anti-gay policies.

Defense Spending The White House has threatened to veto a $680 billion military spending bill if it contains funds to continue building the F-22 fighters. Secretary of Defense Gates and the Pentagon say they do not want the planes. San Antonio Express-News, 6-25-09, p A11. But production sites for the fighters are in over thirty states, and Senators don't want to lose jobs--whether we need the planes or not.

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*Amy Most, The Politics of Race in . . . South Pacific, Theater Journal 52, no3, 306 (as quoted in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youve_Got_To_Be_Caefully_Taught copied 6-23-09)

Monday, June 22, 2009

S/R Report 03: Balanced Military Spending?

My bias is that the United States spends too much money on military expenditures. I admit that statement is biased, or prejudiced. I hope, through the SR Report to learn about our defense spending and to determine some solid facts about it. If the statistics I present are not accurate, please refer me to a more solid base.

While I am anti-war, I am not anti-military. I have a son who is a Sergeant in the US Army and I am very proud of him and his service. I support a strong military, one which is an adequate deterrent to any would-be adversary. I am a patriotic American, born and raised, who truly loves this land. [So, when I say "but" do not forget these things I have just said.]

But, it seems to me that we spend way too much money on defense. Money which could be applied to very needed domestic projects, or to paying down our national debt.

For example: according to Time Magazine (6-12-09, p. 15)*in 2008:

  • the United States spent $607 billion on the military
  • China, France, UK and Russia spent $274 billion combined
  • The US has 2,000 nuclear warheads on alert for instant launch
  • The US has spent $903 billion in Afghanistan and Iraq since conflict began

President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) is remembered by many for his "Military-Industrial Complex" speech. That farewell address has been used by some to build fear of the growing power of the military and its defense contractors. There is serious concern in that area; many see that speech as an indictment of possible excessive spending for our military on defense projects. But, the primary thrust of Eisenhower's speech was an appeal that we maintain balance in our national spending, not that we weaken our military capabilities. He asked that we keep our priorities in order. He said:

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs

  • balance between the private and the public economy,
  • balance between cost and hoped for advantage
  • balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable;
  • balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual;
  • balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.

Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration. The text of the complete speech can be found at: this site.

What follows is a short excerpt from Eisenhower's speech. Please remember, prior to being a two-term president of the United States, he was a five-star general in the US Army, and was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Farewell Speech

The first question I raise in this S/R Report is one of balance. Is the amount of money we spend with the Pentagon an appropriate amount, given the other national needs and budget Items?

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SR Snips:

Hate Crimes: No religion is without its extremists, including those who think killing others is within God's will. Murder is a perversion of God's will and religious people must speak out against this heresy. --Rabbi Barry Block, Temple Beth-El,San Antonio. SA Express-News, 6-20-09

Gay rights: The Georgia Supreme court recently overturned a ban prohibiting a divorced gay man from attending a Little League game, or a concert if his three kids were taking part--and, if his gay partner were with him.--AP, SA Express-News, 6-21-09, p.22.

Defense SpendingThe military has purchased 183 F-22 Raptor fighters and says they probably need 60 more. The fighter costs $353 million each. --Time, 2-23-09, p30-33.

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*Time got its figures from the Stockholm International Peace Institute.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

S/R Rpt 02: Gay Repression & Expression

Sanity/Respect Report--Focus: hate, gay rights & defense spending

June 28, 1969 is a date in American homosexual history revered as a watershed moment. On that date, riots broke out at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in the early morning hours. Those riots are often pointed to as the first instance in American history where gay and lesbian resistance to government-supported persecution took place. It is held to be the start of the gay rights movement in the United States. The following year, June 28, 1970, Gay Pride marches took place in New York and Los Angeles--and are currently held annually throughout the world to mark the Stonewall event.

Suppression of Gays In the 1950s, strong suppressive movements existed with the purpose of controlling and eliminating subversive security risks. The McCarthy hearings led to a somewhat paranoid search for communists and anarchists. The State Department added homosexuals to the list, saying they were enotionally unstable, and thus were subject to blackmai (as security risks). From 1947 to 1950, 1700 federal job applications were denied, 4380 persons were discharged from the armed forces and 420 were fired from their government jobs for being suspected homosexuals.

In the fifties and sixties:
  • the FBI kept lists of known homosexuals and their friends
  • the US Postal Service kept track of addresses where homosexual material was mailed
  • state and local governments shut down gay bars, arrested customers and exposed them in newspapers
  • the wearing of "opposite gender" clothing was outlawed in some cities
  • professors suspected of being gay were fired by universities
  • thousands of gays and lesbians were jailed, fired or institutionalized in mental hospitals

The above material was gleaned from an article in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots , reviewed 6-17-09.

Is there any wonder why gays would tend to stay "in the closet" and live in fear of having their sexual orientation disclosed? A homosexual young person, in their twenties or thirties shows great courage in openly declairing their sexual orientation. Even to their parents, who for the most part were culturally conditioned by the "anti-homosexual" culture of the last half of the twentieth century.

I worked as a professional counselor at a mental health facility in the 1970s. I became known as the "gay counselor" because I was one of a very small number of counselors who were willing to counsel with gays. In ten years of counseling I found no homosexual persons who experienced the sexual orientation as a choice. The only person who said it was a c hoice turned out to be a bi-sexual person, not a homosexual person.

Think about it: why would anyone freely choose a sexual life that would bring such hatred and social ostracism? It is not a choice. Think about it. If you are heterosexual, do you remember making that choice regarding your sexual orientation? Think about it. Most heterosexuals are usually repulsed, or at least have an aversion, to same-sex intercourse. Most homosexuals express the same repulsion, aversion to opposite-sex intercourse. Think about it.

SR Snips:
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Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity or political affiliation.
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US Defense The United States has spent $903 billion in Afghanistan and Iraq since hostilities began.
Time, 6-22-09, p. 15
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Gay RightsThe Defense of Marriage Act (1996) says that no state needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state. The federal government defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman.

S/R Report 01: HATE is available at this same site. Scroll down.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sanity/Respect Report 01: HATE

A World of Hate

"hate 1.a: an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger or sense of injury b:extreme dislike or antipathy . . . 2: an object of hatred."

We live in a time when the fires of fear and anger are being daily stoked. An almost constant parade of evocative words march past our consciousness: Islamic terrorist, socialist government, job loss, foreclosure, nuclear war, baby killers, gay marriage, hate groups . . . . And fear often evolves into hatred. "In time we hate that which we often fear." (Shakespeare)** No wonder it has become sytlish to hate, more than to love.

As seminal as fear may be, anger is an even more potent seedbed for hate: "Anger may repast with thee for an hour, but not repose for a night; the continuance of anger is hatred, the continuance of hatred turns [into] malice." *** A warning regarding anger comes to us from the New Testament, "Let not the sun go down on your wrath."**** Because, holding onto anger, leads to hatred, and holding on to hatred fuels the desire to hurt the object of hate.

Too often we hate because we forget that we are brothers and sisters. We tend to divide the world up into "the good" and "the evil"; and, always "we" are on the side of the good, the honorable, the righteous. We make our divisive issues, e.g., racism, abortion, terrorism, etc., into sides of right and wrong. And we get so polarized in our thinking that it become impossible for us to see any good in the view opposite to ours. Iba Ezra said, "Love blinds us to faults, but hatred blinds us to virtues."

Representing the "other side" as less human than we--demonizing them, making them totally depraved and evil--makes it even more difficult to share a common vision of progress. In fact it makes us slightly paranoid, suspicious that they might do something to harm us. Hear the words of Archibald Macleish, "The man who lives, not by what he loves, but what he hates is a sick man."

With kindness, yet forcefulness, let each of us reduce hatred in our space by diminishing fear, anger and malice.

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New San Antonio mayor Julian Castro has agreed to serve as the grand marshall of the city's Gay Pride Parade July 4. He is the first SA mayor to agree to so serve.
In 2008 the US government spent $607 billion to upgrade its military. Other figures, in billions: China was second with $85, followed by France ($66), ($65), Russia ($59). Total world spending; $1.46 trillion.
Southern Poverty Law Center link: http://splcenter.org/
* http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hate (copied 6/13/09)
** William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Charmian at I, iii)
***. Quarles Francis, no citation
**** Ephesians 4.26, KJV.