Life and Living: Real, Real, Really Real

     I’m going to start this article off by saying that I haven’t sat down and penned anything in a “really” long time. My last article was published back in late November, and since then I have been pretty much dialed in to taking care of IRL issues during the holiday season. Now that 2014 is here and the holidays are over…well, allons-y!

What is "real"?

What is “real”?

     A friend of mine posted the picture on the right to her Facebook wall, and it duly showed up on my newsfeed. More than anything else, it gave me a few moments of pause, causing me to start thinking about what “reality” is, and how we perceive and relate to it. It occurs to me, that there is not one, but two types of “reality”; subjective reality, and objective reality.

     Take for instance, my opening statement. My application of the term “really” is meant to attach an immenseness to the actual quantity of time that has elapsed since my last article was published. However! What might seem like a “really” long time to me, may not seem so long to another observer. In this case the reality is subjective, based upon the perspective from which it is being observed. Another example would be my observation of say, a rose. While I may see the rose as being red, someone who is color-blind may see it as being a shade of blue. Which color is “real”? To them, the rose is really blue, while to me, it is red. Does this difference in observation render their observation any less valuable than my own?

     Conversely, there are things that exist that, no matter who observes them, everyone will agree that they are real. Gravity, for example. Regardless of who observes it, gravity still pulls all things down to Earth at a uniform 32 feet per second, squared. (Now, I know that this brings up the argument of our standards of measurement, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that 32′ /sec2 is universally true, where the Earth is concerned.) The point being, that the force of gravity is real, and can be proven across multiple disciplines and (rational) schools of thought.

     I have a ginormous issue. It has to do with the penchant on the part of some, to try applying the term “real” to ideas, institutions and concepts, in order to impose their own beliefs on these things. A “real” American. A “real” Christian. A “real” man. (Word to the wiser amongst you, my fine, young readers! Whenever anyone presents this “No True Scotsman” statement as a representation of fact, it should set off alarm bells in your rational thinking centers!) Take the picture above. According to the creator of the meme, a “real” man is monogamous, devoted and, most importantly, heterosexual. Anything else, and the man is not “real.” So, a man like George Takei, who has devoted his love and life to another man, is not “real” according to the meme’s standards. Likewise, someone who truly loves, and is devoted to two women…a polygamist, (as allowable in Islam) is not “real” according to the meme.

     The idea that I’m attempting to get across to you all, what I’m saying, (if I’m saying anything) is to exercise a modicum of caution when attempting to present your own opinions. Sure, we’re all entitled to possess our own opinions, but that doesn’t necessarily elevate them to the status of being factual. Wikipedia defines “reality” as:

“…the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

     In other words, “id est quod id est.” (“It is what it is.”) Any standards that someone might seek to impose on it, regardless of what “it” may be, are subjective. (Which circles back to my observation on gravity, which we can get into in another article!)

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Faith and Religion: Rift-fail-A

Here we go again…

     As the debate regarding Chick-fil-A rages on in multiple venues, it also seems to be taking on several additional layers. You see, onions have layers…ogres have layers (a nod to “Shrek” there!)…and this is one “ogre” of a debate to be sure!

     I recently became embroiled in one such debate over at Facebook, (Again with the Facebook drama!) with regard to the concept of “separation of church and state.” I asserted (and still assert) that it’s there, enshrined in the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution. In support of this position, I provided evidence via Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, along with SCOTUS case references, where the highest court in our land has applied the concept…

     It boggles the mind. Some Fundamentalists can be so unbending, so willfully ignorant that the attempt to reason with them and show them irrefutable proofs of something becomes an exercise in futility. Unfortunately, I ran smack into one such person. Now, in the interests of keeping everything on the “up and up,” I refer you, my fine young readers, to the following thread for the entire dialogue / exchange. The names have been blurred to protect the “innocent”…

     I’m hoping at this point, that this hasn’t taken on a “TLDR” (Too long, didn’t read) aspect for you all. As a proponent of both marriage equality and the necessary separations between church and state, and a vociferous opponent of religious intolerance, I thought it imperative to show just how deep in denial some can be. After two more replies which basically amounted to the “sticking the fingers in the ears and going “LALALALA”” approach, I ended it. I had to, as it was becoming far too painful of a “limo-wreck” to bear witness to;

“If you’re going to deny the existence of the moon, you have no right to opine about the tides.”

     The thread pretty much says it all. There is a willful disconnect from reality going on within some sectors of the church, an obstinate refusal to see the truth. It is obfuscated by stained glass and deafening praise music…and it is dangerous. If one wants to see the prime example of exactly what happens when a group of people take this type of thinking to the extreme, one has no further to look than to the beginning of this millennium to see the painful truth…

American Rhetoric: A Game of Political Chicken, or, The Ballad of Abby Farle

Chick-fil-A versus Marriage Equality

     Well, after a months-long hiatus from writing, I’m back at it. Nouns here, verbs there, a preposition or two…let the wordsmithing commence!

     I’m not really sure just where to begin with this one. Suffice it to say that it’s a mess; a political food fight which is unfolding in the debate regarding marriage equality. By the title alone, most of you probably already know who the subject of this long overdue article is; Chick-fil-A. First, please allow me to give you, my ever-appreciated, fine young readers, a little background to the story…

     First established in 1946 as “Dwarf House” by S. Truett Cathy in Hapeville, Georgia, and then re-branded and opened as Chick-fil-A in 1967 in Atlanta, the restaurant chain has grown to over 1,600 locations in 39 states, as well as future plans for locations in Mexico and the Philippines. Founder S. Truett Cathy is a devout Southern Baptist, whose religious views are reflected in the manner in which the Chick-fil-A business is run; the entire chain is closed on Sundays, and according to President and COO Dan Cathy’s bio page on the Chick-fil-A website, their stated corporate purpose is to, “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”(1)

     Within the scope of this “divine mission”, Cathy et. al. have also established “WinShape”, a foundation from which charitable donations are channeled to various faith-based interests. According to a July 5th article at Business Insider, in 2010 WinShape doled out charitable donations totalling 2 million dollars, including 1.1 million to the Marriage and Family Foundation, one thousand dollars to the Family Research Council and two thousand, five hundred dollars to the Georgia Family Council.(2) Notably, each and every one of these charities is opposed to the concept of same-sex marriage.

     Now, we arrive at the current controversy swirling around Chick-fil-A. Between two interviews given to the Baptist Press and the Ken Coleman Show, Dan Cathy shared his thoughts on both the operation of the restaurant chain, and on same-sex marriage. From the July 16th Baptist Press interview:

    “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that”(3)

    In the Ken Coleman Show interview, he stated:

    “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”(4)

     Now, up to this point, Chick-fil-A had been in a partnership with the Jim Henson Company to develop and market toys for the restaurant’s kids’ meals. The Jim Henson Company, creators of the puppets of Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, has now broken ties with Chick-fil-A over their stance on marriage equality, and issued the following statement on July 20th, via their Facebook page:

     The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors.  Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD.  (http://www.glaad.org/)(5)

Posted at a Chick-fil-A location in Plano, Texas

     Within hours, a public relations fiasco took shape. A Chick-fil-A in Plano, Texas posted a recall notice dated to July 19th, stating that the toys had been voluntarily recalled, due to possible safety issues.(6) (7) Meanwhile, a debate was taking place on the Chick-fil-A page at Facebook. At some point within the last week since the announcements by both Chick-fil-A and the Jim Henson Company, a user named “Chris” initiated a discussion thread with the following post:

     “Admit it, Chick-fil-A: you stopped carrying Jim Henson’s puppets as kids meal toys because you got dumped for being bigots, not because some kids “got their fingers stuck.””(8)

     At some point in the thread, a user named Abby Farle posted the following reply:

     “It was taken back weeks before any of this…check your info Chris…John 3:16”

The infamous Abby Farle thread

     Later in the thread, a user named “Robert” noted that the Abby Farle account had been created a mere eight hours before the post, inferred that this account was in fact a “sock puppet” for Chick-fil-A Public Relations, (sorry, but Chick-fil-A will never be as good at puppetry as Jim Henson!) and pointed out that the Abby Farle profile picture was actually a generic stock photo from Shutterstock.com, of a teenaged girl. Once this post was made, “Abby Farle” disappeared back into the mist. Since then, Chick-fil-A has denied any involvement in the Abby Farle situation.

     In the midst of this public relations quagmire, Don Perry, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of public relations, died suddenly on the 27th due to a heart attack.(9)

     [SOAPBOX=ON] Now that we have an overall view of what’s been happening, the opining can commence. First of all, I think that this whole thing is a “tempest in a teacup.” If Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A want to run their business in the way they see fit, then as long as it’s legal, I say go for it. Those of us that support marriage equality don’t absolutely have to spend our money at Chick-fil-A. There are several other restaurants out there, even ones that are run by people based in Christian faith such as In-N-Out Burger, that haven’t crossed ideological swords with other groups or people. Let’s spend our money at those establishments instead. The point is…we have a choice here.

     As far as the mess with Chick-fil-A and Abby Farle, there’s no way to be absolutely sure that it was someone from Chick-fil-A’s PR wing (chicken?) that created the account. It’s also quite possible that this was done by an opponent of the chain, in order to further discredit them. It’s also possible that it was Chick-fil-A. We just don’t know.

     As for the toy recall, I find the timing of Chick-fil-A’s “safety recall” extremely suspicious. One has to know that the decision to break ties with the chain wasn’t undertaken and announced within just a few hours. I suspect that there were a plethora of “back-and-forth” phone and e-mail discussions between Chick-fil-A and the Jim Henson Company, beginning shortly after Dan Cathy’s July 16th statements. A decision was definitely arrived at, most likely around the 18th or 19th of July, and the Henson Facebook announcement was posted the following day.

     What’s become clear in this imbroglio, is that Chick-fil-A has done something that no fast food chain should do, especially if it wants to maintain its profit margin in today’s struggling economy; get its self embroiled in a political “hot button” issue.

The Chaser: Marriage Moves Closer To Equality

Another victory for Marriage Equality in the US

     “Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”

     Immediately on the heels of news regarding Komen, comes another related item that spells trouble for the conservative agenda in the United States. In a 2 – 1 decision by a three judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a lower court’s 2010 ruling on California Proposition 8’s unconstitutionality has been upheld. The lower court ruled in 2010 that the voter-approved measure infringed on the civil rights of the LGBT community. In its ruling today, the panel’s majority position stated that;

    “Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”

     Attorneys representing the supporters of Proposition 8, along with the two couples that have petitioned the courts to overturn the ban, have both said that they would follow the appeals process, all the way up to SCOTUS if they did not receive a favorable ruling in the matter.(1)

     This news follows Washington state’s pending adoption of new legislation that would legalise same-sex marriage. Last week, the state senate passed the legislation in a 28 – 21 vote. This week, the bill will go through the state’s House of Representatives, where passage has been claimed to be likely according to state senator Ed Murray, the bill’s sponsor. Washington state governor Christine Gregoire has stated that she would sign the bill into law if it arrives on her desk. Opponents to Marriage Equality may challenge the bill if it becomes law, with a push to bring the question before voters in November.(2)

     Likewise, the Los Angeles-based gay rights group Love, Honor, Cherish has plans to start gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative geared toward repealing Proposition 8.

     In this writer’s own humble opinion, a defeat of Proposition 8 must result in a re-evaluation of DOMA’s own constitutionality. If SCOTUS upholds that any provision in state laws that limits marriage to “one man and one woman” is a violation of the civil rights of LGBT citizens, then the Defense of Marriage Act cannot be upheld either. Once DOMA is put in its rightful place, (six feet under!) then real progress in the battle for LGBT equal rights can be realised.

LGBT Issues: Life Without Fear

My awesome friends, Mark and Bart

     While the Viki Knox case winds its way through the educational and legal systems in New Jersey, the debates still rage on the Support Viki Knox page at Facebook. Two opposing views are at play; support of Ms. Knox and opposition to homosexuality, and vice-versa. The expression of these views has taken on many forms, including picture posts, logical arguments and flat-out finger-pointing from both sides. Concepts of respect, tolerance and acceptance have been discussed, as well as fear and hate. The latter is what I want to expand on in this article, only because I think there’s a gross misunderstanding on the part of some as to what the exact issues are. The word we’re going to focus on, is “Homophobia.”

     Now, there are some in the “straight” camp that have gone so far as to deny the very existence of homophobia, such as one Enoch Glover III, who recently posted a reference to a video he recorded on the topic.(1) Mr. Glover’s video approaches the topic from what I would consider to be a severely uninformed / under-informed basis, completely discounting widely-accepted word definitions and etymologies. Indeed, this seems to be an underlying issue with many anti-LGBT arguments in the Facebook venue.

     Those who have read my weblog, know exactly where I stand on issues impacting the LGBT community. So, in an effort to clear up the misconceptions surrounding homophobia, I’ll start by clarifying the definition(s). In my opinion, any reasonable person with a modicum of intelligence will acknowledge the following definitions as being accurate.

     The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “homosexual” in the following manner:

     homosexual (\ˌhō-mə-ˈsek-sh(ə-)wəl, -ˈsek-shəl\) 1: of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex. 2: of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex.(2)

     The word “homosexual” is derived from the root words “homo” and “sexual”:

     homo- (1) comb. form meaning “same, the same, equal, like,” before vowels hom-, from Gk. homos “one and the same,” also “belonging to two or more jointly,” from PIE *somos (cf. Skt. samah “even, the same,” Lith. similis “like,” Goth. sama “the same,” samana “together;” see same.(3) E.g.: “homophone,” “homonym.”)

     sexual- 1650s, “of or pertaining to the fact of being male or female,” from L.L. sexualis “relating to sex,” from L. sexus (see sex). Meaning “pertaining to copulation or generation” is from 1766; sexual intercourse attested by 1778; sexual orientation by 1967; sexual harassment by 1975. Sexual revolution attested by 1962.(4)

     Now, let’s examine the word “Phobia”:

     phobia (\ˈfō-bē-ə\) 1: an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.(5) An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something: “he had a phobia about being under water”; “a phobia of germs”; “a snake phobia”.(6) 1786, “fear, horror, aversion,” Mod.L., abstracted from compounds in -phobia, from Gk. -phobia (in widespread popular use with native words from c.1800), from phobos “fear,” originally “flight” (still the only sense in Homer), but it became the common word for “fear” via the notion of “panic, fright” (cf. phobein “put to flight, frighten”), from PIE base *bhegw- “to run” (cf. Lith. begu “to flee,” O.C.S. begu “flight,” bezati “to flee, run,” O.N. bekkr “a stream”). Psychological sense attested by 1895.(7)

     “Homophobia” therefore, can be defined as an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to homosexuals and / or homosexuality (or some aspect thereof). It is in this light that we all need to examine our statements, actions and responses. For those in the LGBT community and their supporters, I think that whenever we come up against someone or some statement that opposes homosexuality, we need to consider whether that person’s words or actions are borne from a genuinely rational approach, or if they exhibit an “extreme or irrational fear or aversion.” The words “homophobe,” “homophobic” and “homophobia” tend to get bandied about quite a bit whenever we come across opposing views. Even I am guilty of having engaged in this type of knee-jerk reaction from time to time.

     On the part of the straight community, a thorough inventory of motivations needs to take place at some point. Each person needs to ask themselves what it is exactly, that bothers them about the concept of homosexuality. Could their actions or statements be considered fearful or irrational by any reasonable person? A good indicator of fear and / or aversion is to examine (honestly) how your personal interactions with those in the LGBT community differ from those with straight people. If you notice a marked difference between the two, you might be homophobic! If you find yourself engaged in willful ignorance towards homosexuals or homosexuality, I would encourage you to examine the motivations behind the “I don’t want to know” mentality. Fear of the unknown, while being an understandable basic human reaction, can only be overcome by enlightenment.

     As for Enoch Glover III and those like him, I think it’s safe to say that their statements attest to a degree of homophobia, based upon their irrationality and blatant disregard for established facts. More’s the pity.

     Straight, not narrow!

Burned By The Church: Part Two – An Indictment

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

     Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones had a conversation with Mohandas K. Gandhi in the first decades of the 20th century. During this tete-a-tete, he inquired of Gandhi, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi ever so candidly replied, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”

     In the course of my life and experiences with the church, I have found Gandhi’s words to be disturbingly accurate. Especially since 2004, I have been increasingly critical of the church, of people who identify as “Christians” and their words and actions. If Mohandas Gandhi noted this dichotomy between Christ and Christians almost 100 years ago, just imagine what things are like now!

     2012 presidential GOP candidate Michele Bachmann, a self-avowed Christian, has on numerous occasions supported the use of torture techniques against detainees in this nation’s “War on Terror.” If I’m not mistaken, Christ directed us to love our enemies, not torture them. Bachmann doesn’t see waterboarding as torture though, not having experienced the procedure herself, she refers to it as an “enhanced interrogation technique,” as if changing the words will soften the act. I expand on this in the article “Michele’s Maleficence.”

     In the past few years, I have also become far more politically-oriented. One of the causes near and dear to me is that of working to secure equal rights for the LGBT community. The resistance to this cause from organised religion is downright scary at times! I have personally been cursed at, belittled and denigrated for my stance on Marriage Equality and LGBT rights by people claiming to be “Christians” and citing Bible passages in the same messages as disparaging words towards me. This isn’t surprising though, as I have also noted an overt agenda of control by the religious right, which includes political lobbying and a decades-old, anti-LGBT propaganda effort. For instance:

     If you ask any serious Christian in the 21st century why Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed, the immediate answer that you will get is one of several variations on the word “homosexuality.” This is due to the fact (and I also remember being taught this!) that Christians focus specifically on Genesis 19:5, which reads:

     Genesis 19:5 – “Who crying vnto Lot said to him, Where are the men, which came to thee this night? bring them out vnto vs that we may knowe them.” (1560 Geneva Translation.)

     What is excluded (to the loss of the Christian, because I know several that display these traits) is the wider message on the detriments of sinfulness, found in Ezekiel 16:49-50. Here, the MAN HIMSELF explains the true reason for the downfall of Sodom and Gommorah:

     Ezekiel 16:49 – “Beholde, this was the iniquitie of thy sister Sodom, Pride, fulnesse of bread (“Gluttony“), and aboundance of idlenesse (“Sloth“) was in her, and in her daughters: neither did shee strengthen the hande of the poore and needie.” (“Greed“) [16:50] –  “But they were hautie, and committed abomination before mee: therefore I tooke them away, as pleased me.” (1560 Geneva. Yes, I’ve developed a love for the early “Englyshe!”)

     What the “abomination” was that S&G committed, he doesn’t say. However, coupled with the Genesis account we have a pretty good idea, and I am willing to take that on a bit of faith. The important thing here is to know that Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed because of a culmination of things; because of their overall decline and not simply due to the one thing that people keep zeroing in on. The problem with any propaganda effort is that other important information is excluded, and in this case the lack of info has resulted in many Christians across the board embracing the very things that S&G were destroyed for.

     This propaganda effort is just part of a growing trend within Fundamental Christianity, fast becoming known throughout the blogosphere as “Dominionism.” Simply put, Dominionism is the active involvement of the church in the formation of policy and the politics of the state. One has no further to look than to groups such as the Parents Television Council, the Parents Music Resource Center and the American Families Association to see Dominionism in action. Even churches outside of the mainstream are taking part in this disturbing attempt to control our freedom to choose. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was instrumental in the recent passage of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure that’s only purpose was to deny the LGBT community equal rights under the law.

     The Catholic Church has been involved in state politics, almost since its inception. In keeping with those fine (italicised for sarcasm) traditions, bishops in the Catholic Church in the U.S. are collaborating on their own political agenda for the 2012 elections. According to the Catholics, the purpose for this active involvement in politics is to “safeguard religious freedom.” Ah, yes. Safeguard it for whom? In my not-so-humble opinion, the Vatican needs to extricate itself from our political arse, and fix their own issues first.(1)

     I have a friend who used to be a pastor. As a matter of fact, he was the pastor of the very church that sits next to my parents’ house, Madera Avenue Bible Church. It was during his tenure as pastor of this church that he lost his faith. As he states it, he became acutely aware of an underlying “meanness” in everything from the Genesis account of the “Fall of Man” to the final battle of Armageddon in the book of Revelation. He, like myself no longer identifies as “Christian,” in fact he is having more of a tough time accepting any form of deism than I!

     A few months ago, I wrote another blog article on Faith and Religion, and how each denomination and church seems to think that they have the monopoly on God and salvation. If you ask me, no one is right anymore. Churches have become big business, focused on the same things that have the Occupy Movement so pissed off at Wall Street. This was not what Jesus Christ meant the church to be. During Christ’s time, he taught! People could, if they had a question, raise their hand in the middle of services and say, “But wait, rabbi! Doesn’t the book say….?” If you try doing this in church in the 21st century, you’ll more than likely find yourself being escorted out the door by the deacons!

     Ladies and gentlemen, I no longer go to church. I go to God. I have become so disenfranchised, disgusted and disdainful of the rampant hypocrisy in the “Body of Christ,” that I no longer want any part of it. No, I haven’t lost my faith. I still believe in the Trinity, in salvation, in the concepts of the Bible and other basic tenets of the Protestant Reformation, that’s why I identify as “Spiritual” these days. I do not however, believe in the doctrine of Dominionism, the premise that it’s our job to keep people from sinning and save them by force of will.

     Since at least the late eighties and my experiences with my wife’s church, there has been something churning in my gut. This sense that things are not as “rosy” as they appear on the surface. For at least the last fifteen years, I’ve been actively questioning the state of things so that I could more readily identify what that “something” could possibly be, and how to reconcile it. I’ve never been one to simply accept the word of authority, or be satisfied that, “that’s just the way it is.” No, there has to be a reason behind everything in this existence, because that’s how God made it. Gandhi knew this, and also saw a hundred years ago what I see now. God rest his spirit, Gandhi was right.

The Marriage Equality Debate: Definitively Speaking

     Everyone who has read at least some of my blog articles knows where I stand on the topic of Marriage Equality. In this entry, I will attempt to posit some of the reasons behind my stance so that you, my fine young readers, might be better enlightened.

     Let’s start right at the top, with our nation’s own “Pledge of Allegiance.” This pledge, originally written in 1892 by Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy, then altered here and there in the intervening years, the pledge that every patriotic American knows by heart, reads as follows:

     “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”(1)

     The words that I would like to focus on are the six at the end. They are a noble and profound statement of how the people should be treated. These six words, “with liberty and justice for all” convey the idea that every American is entitled to enjoy the same freedoms, and be protected under the same judicial standards regardless of age, gender, race, religious preference, creed, sexual orientation or otherwise.

     Now, let’s look at marriage from a purely legal perspective. The legal dictionary defines marriage thus: 

     “The legal status, condition, or relationship that results from a contract by which one man and one woman, who have the capacity to enter into such an agreement, mutually promise to live together in the relationship of husband and wife in law for life, or until the legal termination of the relationship.”

     In essence, “marriage” is a civil union between two persons of an age where they are legally able to consent to and enter into the contract, for the purpose of creating kinship, facilitating long-term cohabitation and having the ability to access all rights, privileges and liberties granted by law to both parties in the marriage. It is a liberty that every American enjoys….EXCEPT those in the LGBT community!

     Measures such as California’s “Proposition 8: California Marriage Protection Act”(2) and the federal government’s 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)”(3) have been introduced by social conservatives and Dominionists in an attempt to solidify the traditional legal definition of marriage. Both of these measures have been challenged in court lately in respect to their constitutionality.

     When the principles of DOMA and Proposition 8 are placed against the Pledge of Allegiance, we get something to the effect of; “…with liberty and justice for all, except gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons.” Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t recall the Pledge reading that way. In my opinion, both DOMA and Prop 8 should be stricken down permanently, and “marriage” as a legal arrangement should be redefined to meet current demographic considerations.

     From a theological standpoint, the tired arguments of the “Religious Right” appear at face value, to be nothing more than an attempt to force their own perceptions of the morality aspects of a belief system on others. As I recall, this was not the “Great Commission” that believers were given. The commission was to deliver the “Good News” of salvation through faith in Christ, not to force it upon others, either at the ballot box or otherwise. The addage that I have always equated to this is;

     “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. If you try to force the horse to drink, you will only succeed in drowning the horse.”

     I have my own personal suspicions that this may be exactly what the people backing initiatives like DOMA and Prop 8 are attempting to do. They’re actively trying to “drown the horse.” More often than not, this endeavor is being undertaken with the same intolerance for the LGBT community that some of the forerunners, the great-great-grandparents of these same Fundamentalists and social conservatives, applied to African-Americans a mere century ago. The more one looks, the more similarities become apparent.

     In regards to the “Great Commission,” the Bible instructs the believer to deliver the message of salvation to all who have ears to hear. In the “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus describes the varying results of delivering the Gospel, also referred to as “sowing the seeds:”

    Mark 4:13 “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14 The sower soweth the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. 18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (KJV)

     Again, nowhere in the above passage do I read anything regarding forcing seeds to grow where otherwise they’re not meant to. Regardless of what I personally hold to be true about the Bible, faith, morality and such, it is not my place to force others to live by my beliefs.

     Clint Eastwood, self-avowed Libertarian actor and former Mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, granted an interview to GQ magazine last month in which he stated the following:

     “These people who are making a big deal about gay marriage? I don’t give a [expletive] about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of … Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”(4)

     I tend to agree.

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This post is part of the “Gay Agenda” series. (Remember to print a copy and put it in your agendas!)

LGBT Issues: Viki’s Vitriol…

Union Township teacher Viki Knox

     Well my fine young readers, the fur is flying once again. You may remember a few weeks back that I covered the story of Jerry Buell, the Florida high school teacher that was suspended for comments that he made on his Facebook page against marriage equality. Now, the focus shifts to the state of New Jersey. In Union Township, 49-year-old Special Education teacher Viki Knox has not only been suspended, but was also escorted from school grounds pending an investigation into comments she posted on her bible group’s Facebook account, regarding an LGBT History Month display at the school where she teaches.(1) (2)(The entirety of Mrs. Knox’s comments were subsequently removed from Facebook, but not before a third-party was able to capture them. The discourse can now be found here.)

     As with the Jerry Buell situation, FB groups have sprang up both in support of her dismissal and in support of her reinstatement. And, as with the Jerry Buell situation, the debate circulates around the following questions:

  • Does Viki Knox have the right to express her personal opinions in a public forum like Facebook?
  • Should she be held to account for what she posts on Facebook?
  • Most importantly: Are her personal views affecting her job performance?

     In this writer’s personal opinion, I would answer those questions in the following manner; Yes, Mrs. Knox has the right to her own opinions and the right to express those opinions, as do I here on The Cybersattva blog. As for question number two, that gets a little more tricky in this case. You see, Viki Knox posted a rather lengthy, intolerant and vitriolic message regarding the school display, and her views on homosexuality. The comments that were made by Mrs. Knox even drew the attention of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who referred to them as “disturbing.”(3) Within all that commentary were the following trigger words; “That’s what I teach and preach.” So in THIS case, I would say that the Union Township school board is doing exactly what it needs to do. As for question three, I would say that Viki Knox answered it herself, in her post on Facebook.

     I have a very close friend who is in a Lesbian relationship. It is a monogamous, long-term one that works for both her and her partner. She also has a son in school, who is a special needs child. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call him “Bobby.” Hypothetically, if “Bobby” had Viki Knox as his teacher at school, and if Mrs. Knox was indeed “teaching and preaching” her views on homosexuality like she says in her Facebook post, what kind of effect would this have on a child like “Bobby,” who has two same-sex parents in the home? How would this impact his views and behaviors in the home?

     What I’m about to say here is going to sound quite racist to some, even though it’s not my intention to offend. I’m going to write it anyway, only because it needs to be written. The thing that I find completely ironic is that Viki Knox, while being African-American, completely rejects the concept of tolerance where the LGBT community is concerned. In an age where our nation has finally reached a level of maturity where we feel not only able, but also proud to have elected our first black president, now some (notice I said “some,” not all) who were mere decades ago decrying intolerance are now perpetuating it! Others however, including civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, widow of the martyred activist Martin Luther King Jr. are calling for tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community.(4) The whole thing has me scratching my head, and again this whole paragraph was not meant as an affront to any particular demographic or race. If it appeared or was taken as such, I deeply apologize.

     Again, I feel that in this particular case, the school has done the right thing. In contrast with Jerry Buell, who did not allow his personal views to jade his performance in the classroom setting, Viki Knox personally attests to the fact that she not only allows her intolerant views to jade her job performance, she’s proud of it. In my humble opinion, her brand of intolerance…no, NO brand of intolerance can be allowed to pervade the schoolhouse.

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Just one in a series of articles for the “Gay Agenda.” (Mine has a calculator!)

American Rhetoric: Spreading The Love

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R. PA)

Well, scratch another GOP candidate from my list for serious consideration in the 2012 primaries. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R, PA) has been “rickrolled” by the LGBT community and its supporters on the internet in a very big, very crass and very public manner it seems, and Mr. Santorum is not at all happy about it. In fact, he has contacted internet search provider Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), in a vain and misguided attempt to get the afore-mentioned provider to censor the search results that come up when one “googles” his name. Google has responded, stating that Mr. Santorum needs to contact the webmaster of the offending site directly. There’s only one tiny, little problem with that…

Back in 2003, Rick Santorum gave an interview to the Associated Press. During this interview, he compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. The following excerpt is from the interview in 2003:

     “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

Immediately following the release of this interview, the LGBT community sprang into action. Dan Savage, sex columnist and gay rights activist, started a website that encouraged visitors to come up with an alternative definition for the word “Santorum”, and to promote the winning entry. Well my fine young readers, eight years later and the product from that campaign now comes up as the number one result when you google the name. (I’m not going to list the definition here on the blog, as I’d rather keep this at least a “PG-13” rated show! Instead, I submit this link to the resulting website. Click at your own visual peril…)

My take on this is two-fold; first, if Mr. Santorum can’t stand the heat, then he should stay the frip out of the kitchen. I have to wonder if he was paying attention way back when his parents told him that there were consequenses for the things he said and did. Second, and this is the clincher, if Rick Santorum is successful in this bid to censor internet content, what might he propose to do along those same lines if he succeeds in a presidential bid?

No. This man is trying to force damage control for a slip of the lip he made eight years ago by censoring the internet. In the words of one of my favorite websites, Fail Blog; “GOP candidate EPIC FAIL!”

(See this CNN article for further information on the story.)

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Another in a series of articles, fit to be tucked inside your “Gay Agenda.”

The Marriage Equality Debate: The Ballad of Jerry Buell

     Earlier today while perusing the news for blog fodder, I ran across the story of Jerry Buell. Mr. Buell is a teacher of American History at Mount Dora High School in Mount Dora, Florida. Mr. Buell has been suspended by school officials in Lake County, for posting statements on his personal Facebook wall in strong opposition to gay marriage. Since then, pages have been created on Facebook, both in support of Jerry Buell getting his job back, and in support of the decision to fire him.

     My personal feeling is that the Lake County school board went overboard, and may have violated Mr. Buell’s right to Free Speech when it took the action against him, so I “liked” the page supporting his reinstatement. In the process of reading through and commenting on some of these posts though, I really get the picture of the opposing sides in this debate!

Jerry Buell     On the one side, you have neo-conservative types including Mr. Buell himself, some of whom bandy about their bibles and quote scripture after scripture in support of their position, while at the same time using tactics like namecalling and personal attacks against people to whose arguments they are opposed. Not very “Christian” of them, is it? The way I’ve read MY copy of the KJV, NASB and LIV, we’re supposed to love the sinner, and hate the sin. The players in this debate on the religious right however, seem to be using vitriolic rhetoric and outright hateful words against those they consider the “sinners.” Doesn’t the Bible also tell us that we should be good stewards in our witness for Christ? It’s no wonder that so many people looking in from the outside see Christians and modern-day Christianity as something they want no part of; a hypocritical, “has-been” religion whose adherents are so self-righteous and narrow-minded that it is no longer workable.

     On the flip-side of this sour pancake, we have the ultra-liberals. People like the Lake County school board, who would apparently seek to stifle and deny freedom of speech, and punish those exercising this right. People who camp in the message boards, and poke fun at the neo-cons, calling them foul names as well.

     People, this is why we can’t get anywhere in this debate. Neither side follows Hoyle when it comes to fair debating and open, honest dialogue. BOTH sides are guilty of hurling the insults. The difference that I can see is the right bases their position on some conception of “Godliness.” Seemingly, it’s perfectly cricket for them to hurl the vitriol, because it’s done from righteousness and the idea that they’re “not perfect, just forgiven.” The left must look to the LAW to back them up. The only problem is that the left often takes that just as far over the line as the right, such as the school board’s actions against Jerry Buell.

     This my friends is an epic tug-of-war that will not be decided for quite some time. It is a battle being waged in the school district board rooms, in the Facebook pages and groups, in courtrooms across America and in the living rooms and at the dinner tables of homes everywhere.

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Second in a series of articles fit for tucking inside of the “Gay Agenda.”