"Fear Eats the Soul"
Monday morning, 8:30 AM, 600 8th Street, Sacramento, California
Many GLBT activists are upset with the president and the lack of action on the promises he made to our community... While I agree that we must hold him to his promises and even call him out on them, I'm willing to give him time. He has a heavy load to bear and I think his silence on our issues while he works on those that are arguably larger, speaks to the fact that his promises to the GLBT community are still on his agenda.
While we have much to be proud of in Barack Obama as our president, Lori L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center did a great job of calling him to task on our issues on the occasion of his visit to California following the news on Proposition 8...
Dear President Obama:
Welcome to California, Mr. President.
I welcome you with a heavy heart because of the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Prop. 8, relegating same-sex couples to second class status and denying us that most noble promise of America, “liberty and justice for all.”
You are arriving in Los Angeles on the heels of emotional demonstrations throughout California and our nation and your silence at such a time speaks volumes. LGBT people and our allies have the ‘audacity to hope” for a country that treats us fairly and equally and for a President with the will to stand up for those ideals. From you we expect nothing less.
We know the country faces many serious challenges and we have strived to be patient. We’ve waited for the slightest sign you would live up to your promise to be a “fierce advocate” for our equal rights while watching gay and lesbian members of the armed forces, who have never been more needed, get discharged from the military. And so far you have done nothing. No stop loss order. No call to cease such foolish and discriminatory actions that make our nation less safe.
You pledged to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Mr. President. You promised to support a “complete repeal” of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and pledged to advocate for legislation that would give same-sex couples the 1,100+ federal rights and benefits we are denied, including the same rights to social security benefits. You said “Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples.” What of those promises, Mr. President?
Your commitment to repeal DOMA has been removed from the White House website. Your promise to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was removed and then replaced with a watered-down version. And in the aftermath of yesterday’s California Supreme Court ruling, you have remained silent while your press secretary summarily dismisses questions about the issue.
We not only need to hear from our President, we need his action. And we need it now. We need your words, Mr. President. But we also need your deeds. We expect you to fulfill the promises you made to us. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Do not delay, Mr. President. The time for action is now.
Lorri L. Jean
Chief Executive Officer
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
For Gay Couples, Married Matters
Most say they feel more committed, accepted by peers
The third piece of evidence is circumstantial. In the Gospels, we have many examples of people seeking healing for themselves or for family members. But this story is the only example of someone seeking healing for a slave. The actions described are made even more remarkable by the fact that this was a proud Roman centurion (the conqueror/oppressor) who was humbling himself and pleading with a Jewish rabbi (the conquered/oppressed) to heal his slave. The extraordinary lengths to which this man went to seek healing for his slave is much more understandable, from a psychological perspective, if the slave was his beloved companion.
Thus, all the textual and circumstantial evidence in the Gospels points in one direction. For objective observers, the conclusion is inescapable: In this story Jesus healed a man’s male lover. When understood this way, the story takes on a whole new dimension.
Imagine how it may have happened. While stationed in Palestine, the centurion’s pais becomes ill — experiencing some type of life-threatening paralysis. The centurion will stop at nothing to save him. Perhaps a friend tells him of rumors of Jesus’ healing powers. Perhaps this friend also tells him Jesus is unusually open to foreigners, teaching his followers that they should love their enemies, even Roman soldiers. So the centurion decides to take a chance. Jesus was his only hope.
As he made his way to Jesus, he probably worried about the possibility that Jesus, like other Jewish rabbis, would take a dim view of his homosexual relationship. Perhaps he even considered lying. He could simply use the word duolos. That would have been accurate, as far as it went. But the centurion probably figured if Jesus was powerful enough to heal his lover, he was also powerful enough to see through any half-truths.
So the centurion approaches Jesus and bows before him. “Rabbi, my . . . ,” the word gets caught in his throat. This is it — the moment of truth. Either Jesus will turn away in disgust, or something wonderful will happen. So, the centurion clears his throat and speaks again. “Rabbi, my pais — yes, my pais lies at home sick unto death.” Then he pauses and waits for a second that must have seemed like an eternity. The crowd of good, God-fearing people surrounding Jesus probably became tense. This was like a gay man asking a televangelist to heal his lover. What would Jesus do?
Without hesitation, Jesus says, “Then I will come and heal him.”
It’s that simple! Jesus didn’t say, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to heal your pais so you can go on living in sin!” Nor did he say, “Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that your pais is sick; this is God’s judgment on your relationship.”
Instead, Jesus’ words are simple, clear, and liberating for all who have worried about what God thinks of gay relationships. “I will come and heal him.”
At this point, the centurion says there is no need for Jesus to travel to his home. He has faith that Jesus’ word is sufficient. Jesus then turns to the good people standing around him — those who were already dumbfounded that he was willing to heal this man’s male lover. To them, Jesus says in verse 10 of Matthew’s account, “I have not found faith this great anywhere in Israel.” In other words, Jesus holds up this gay centurion as an example of the type of faith others should aspire to.
Jesus didn’t just tolerate this gay centurion. He said he was an example of faith — someone we all should strive to be like.
Then, just so the good, God-fearing people wouldn’t miss his point, Jesus speaks again in verse 11: “I tell you, many will come from the east and the west [i.e., beyond the borders of Israel] to find a seat in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs [i.e., those considered likely to inherit heaven] will be thrown into outer darkness.” By this statement Jesus affirmed that many others like this gay centurion — those who come from beyond the assumed boundaries of God’s grace — are going to be admitted to the kingdom of heaven. And he also warned that many who think themselves the most likely to be admitted will be left out.
In this story, Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow. So consider carefully: Who is Lord — Jesus or cultural prejudice?
For Stephen Christopher Harris
"Fear Eats the Soul"
In today's excerpt - Jonah Lehrer proposes that
morality is a form of decision-making, and is based
on emotions, not logic:
"Psychopaths shed light on a crucial subset of
decision-making that's referred to as morality. Morality
can be a squishy, vague concept, and yet, at its
simplest level, it's nothing but a series of choices
about how we treat other people. When you act in a
moral manner - when you recoil from violence, treat
others fairly, and help strangers in need - you are
making decisions that take people besides yourself
into account. You are thinking about the feelings of
others, sympathizing with their states of mind.
"This is what psychopaths can't do. ... They are
missing the primal emotional cues that the rest of us
use as guides when making moral decisions. The
psychopath's brain is bored by expressions of terror.
The main problem seems to be a broken amygdala, a
brain area responsible for propagating aversive
emotions such as fear and anxiety. As a result,
psychopaths never feel bad when they make other
people feel bad. ... Hurting someone else is just
another way of getting what he wants, a perfectly
reasonable way to satisfy desires. The absence of
emotion makes the most basic moral concepts
incomprehensible. G. K. Chesterton was right: 'The
madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The
madman is the man who has lost everything except
"At first glance, the connection between morality and
the emotions might be a little unnerving. Moral
decisions are supposed to rest on a firm logical and
legal foundation. Doing the right thing means carefully
weighing competing claims, like a dispassionate
judge. These aspirations have a long history. The
luminaries of the Enlightenment, such as Leibniz and
Descartes, tried to construct a moral system entirely
free of feelings. Immanuel Kant argued that doing the
right thing was merely a consequence of acting
rationally. Immorality, he said, was a result of illogic. ...
The modern legal system still subscribes to this
antiquated set of assumptions and pardons anybody
who demonstrates a 'defect in rationality' - these
people are declared legally insane, since the rational
brain is supposedly responsible for distinguishing
between right and wrong. If you can't reason, then you
shouldn't be punished.
"But all of these old conceptions of morality are based
on a fundamental mistake. Neuroscience can now
see the substrate of moral decisions, and there's
nothing rational about it. 'Moral judgment is like
aesthetic judgment,' writes Jonathan Haidt, a
psychologist at the University of Virginia. 'When you
see a painting, you usually know instantly and
automatically whether you like it. If someone asks you
to explain your judgment, you confabulate ... Moral
arguments are much the same: Two people feel
strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and
their reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each
"Kant and his followers thought the rational brain
acted like a scientist: we used reason to arrive at an
accurate view of the world. This meant that morality
was based on objective values; moral judgments
described moral facts. But the mind doesn't work this
way. When you are confronted with an ethical
dilemma, the unconscious automatically generates
an emotional reaction. (This is what psychopaths can't
do.) Within a few milliseconds, the brain has made up
its mind; you know what is right and what is wrong.
These moral instincts aren't rational. ...
"It's only after the emotions have already made the
moral decision that those rational circuits in the
prefrontal cortex are activated. People come up with
persuasive reasons to justify their moral intuition.
When it comes to making ethical decisions, human
rationality isn't a scientist, it's a lawyer. This inner
attorney gathers bits of evidence, post hoc
justifications, and pithy rhetoric in order to make the
automatic reaction seem reasonable. But this
reasonableness is just a facade, an elaborate self-
delusion. Benjamin Franklin said it best in his
autobiography: 'So convenient a thing it is to be a
reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or
make a reason for everything one has a mind to
"In other words, our standard view of morality - the
philosophical consensus for thousands of years - has
been exactly backward. We've assumed that our moral
decisions are the byproducts of rational thought, that
humanity's moral rules are founded in such things as
the Ten Commandments and Kant's categorical
imperative. Philosophers and theologians have
spilled lots of ink arguing about the precise logic of
certain ethical dilemmas. But these arguments miss
the central reality of moral decisions, which is that
logic and legality have little to do with
Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide, Houghton,
Mifflin, Harcourt, Copyright 2009 by Jonah Lehrer,
Kindle Loc. 1922-79.
"Fear Eats the Soul"
"Sunday in Savanah"
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."
I Peter 3:15
For Stephen Christopher Harris
"Fear Eats the Soul"