Showing posts with label "Listening to God". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Listening to God". Show all posts

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"The Truth About Lies And Deception..."

Now this is what's wrong with the teachings of so many religions... To convince someone to deny themselves the expression of their most innate and essential nature is to forever condemn them to a life of self-loathing misery and unhappiness.  Yet, these same religions claim that their whole purpose is to teach the universal truth of love...  The irony is more than I can bare at times.



"Fear Eats the Soul"



Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Did You Ever Wonder Why God Made Gay People...?"

Michael's Story From The Let Love Define Family Series

04/04/2014

This week’s installment of the Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family” series is written by Michael Arden-Sonego, a former foster youth who is now a 22-year-old college student majoring in music production. This is Michael’s story. 

Growing up, I never had a permanent home. The last place I lived with my mother was in a trailer in a Los Angeles suburb. I remember she always tried to kick my brothers and me out of that trailer for no reason. Coming home one day, I saw a man leaving our trailer that I didn’t know. Then I noticed more and more men coming out or going in.

I didn’t understand at first, but as I got older, I did. My mother was a drug addict, and this was her way to make money to buy cocaine and crystal meth. She did the best she could, but she chose the wrong path.

We didn’t have many opportunities in our early life. There was never enough money for food. My brothers and I would stand in front of the liquor store and beg for money so we could buy candy and junk food. It was either buy it or steal it.

When I was eleven, my brother Dereck and I were called into the principal’s office at school. There was a lady dressed in a suit and Dereck was sitting next to her crying. She was smiling, and it was weird, because I thought she was smiling to distract me from my brother’s crying.

She told me my mother was going away for a while and that we were to be taken away from her. It was for our own good, she said. I started crying, too.

The lady drove us back to the trailer to get our things. When we got there, I saw my mother in handcuffs and a police officer holding my baby brother. The last I remember of my mother that day was her looking at me from the back of the police car. At that moment I knew I was the man of the house, and it was my duty to make sure my brothers were okay.

For nearly two years, we lived in foster care. Our foster mother took us to weekly visits with our mother. Sometimes mom showed up, but a lot of times she didn’t. I could always tell when she’d been using because of the way she acted. I knew my mom wasn’t going to be able to get us back, especially after we were taken to a big picnic with other kids and a lot of people who wanted to adopt came to check us out. But no one wanted us, and I was always worried we would never have a permanent home.

One morning, our foster mother got a call and she seemed super excited. I was 12 years old at the time, and my brothers were 9 and 5. She said, “Michael, there is good news. The social worker is coming to talk to you.” She was happy, because she knew a couple wanted to adopt us. But I saw she was sad, too, because she had been our mother for two years, and she did a lot for us.

When the social worker came, she told me there was a couple that wanted to adopt my brothers and me. She wanted me to know this couple was different, because they were two men, and she wanted to see what I thought about that. She waited for some reaction, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to live somewhere I could call home, somewhere where I could finally relax and know my brothers and I were going to be taken care of.

When it was time to meet our potential parents, I was really excited. Their names were John Sonego and Michael Arden. I remember being a little intimidated by them because of how muscular they were. They both came up to us and said hello with big smiles on their faces, and after seeing their smiles I didn’t feel intimidated any more.

They brought a photo album with them. I guess it was a way of showing what our future life would be. They showed us pictures of their four dogs. Right away I knew that’s where I wanted to be, because I love dogs.

They showed us pictures of our new cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. This was another reason why I knew I wanted to go with them, because I never really had a big family.

This was their way of inviting us into their lives. They are good-hearted people and work hard to give us many opportunities. I am very grateful I have them as parents. They pay attention to everything. They guide us through problems with girls and school, and especially with some of the painful things we remember from our early life.

Everyday I want to thank them for giving us a new life and experiences. I love them a lot.

Michael’s father John Sonego is a board member of RaiseAChild.US, a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adopting to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. RaiseAChild.US works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “All Children-All Families” initiative. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has produced media campaigns and events to educate prospective parents and the public about the benefits of fostering and adopting. Its free Parent Advocate program has offered personalized guidance to more than 2,000 prospective parents. Learn how you can become a foster or foster/adopt parent, visit www.RaiseAChild.US and click on “Next Step to Parenthood.”


******

About my title of this post, "Did You Ever Wonder Why God Made Gay People...?"

To be honest, it's something I'd wondered about for almost my entire life. And I don't think it matters whether you believe in God or not, but I believe most of us have wondered why?  Why am I made this way and what is my purpose?  And even if you're atheist or agnostic, I think its human to want to understand our purpose in the world.

I think this post explained it, at least as I understand it.  I believe that we are here to be the super aunts and uncles, we are the "extra" parents of our nieces and nephews and I think that's always been the case.  We provide that extra bit of support and encouragement needed to ensure they can make it in life.  When I think back, I know I played a pivotal role in the lives of my nieces and nephews, so much so that as toddlers they learned to say uncle before they learned to say daddy.

And when we same gender loving people adopt (something I did on my own many years ago, even before I came out), I think we're fulfilling our purpose in life.  Whether you want to ascribe it to "God's plan" or simply declare that it is perhaps merely an instinctive and innate biological imperative doesn't matter, I think we've all felt the desire to parent tug at our heart strings at some point in our lives.  I believe this is the primary reason why we exist.  I believe we are part of the diversity of creation to ensure that the children of those who cannot care for them themselves will be loved and cared for and sustained to the next generation.

In my case, I believe in God (if not organized religion) and I am thankful that I was created as a same-gender loving man and that I have this unique purpose in being here and that part of the joy of my life is to love and nurture the children who need me.



"Fear Eats the Soul"


Monday, March 31, 2014

"What Would Jesus Do...?"

What Would You Do If You Found Out Your Child Was Gay?


Monday, March 31, 2014  

What would you do if you found out your child was gay?

It is a question very few parents ever ask themselves, and one that many think even less about since they believe it is something that only happens to 'other people'.

But finding out that your child is gay in a society that is still struggling to accept the lifestyle is something that a number of parents have to face.

In fact, it is estimated that between three to 10 per cent of the world's population is homosexual, meaning that it's an issue that parents face daily. So what would you do if you found out that your child was gay?

George H, father of four:
"Well, it might sound harsh but I would disown him. I'm telling you the honest truth! It may seem harsh, but if he was a gunman it's the same way I would treat him. He would have to go and live his life and don't get me mixed up in it. The way I see it, the world can't run without families, you have to reproduce to make families, and two men can't reproduce. So that alone should tell you that it's wrong. If it was my daughter, she stands a better chance with me. Women can get away much more than men 'cause it's not so obvious with females. But I still wouldn't encourage it. I would do what I need to do to try change her mind."

Garfield Y, father of three:
"It would be difficult as hell, but I would accept it. It would be easier to handle if it is my daughter as we could still maintain that father/daughter relationship. But it would be impossible to have anywhere near a good father/son relationship with my son."

Wayne W, father of one:
"As long as she is happy, I wouldn't kill her. I would more be happy that she trusts me enough to tell me. But if I have a son who is gay that is different still. I wouldn't want to hear, but I wouldn't kill him. I would just stay far from him. Just the thought of him doing that with another man turns my stomach! But girl or boy, support done at 18, straight or not!"

Hugh W, father of two:
"I would be very upset, but if it's my daughter I would love her just the same. I would not condone the lifestyle but what am I going to do? I would still have to love her."

Angela H, mother of three:
"I don't know, to be honest. A lot of people say it can't happen to them and then you realise that is when you are faced with it then you know how to handle it. But I would not judge."

Bobbette B, mother of one:
"If I find out while she is in high school I would try and get counselling for her. If that doesn't work, then it would be very hard to accept because it is not something I believe in. But I couldn't put her out."

Olivia J, mother of one:
"I would try and find counselling for her. But if I have a boy and realise he was gay, he would have to leave! Him couldn't stay in the same house with me."

Roxanne T, mother of one:
"I wouldn't do anything. It's my child. I definitely wouldn't throw her out. She just couldn't flaunt it in my house, but I would have to love her just the same."

Andrae T, father of two:
"With the knowledge I have now I would not throw out the child. But there would be a lot of rules in my house; for the boy: no tight clothes, no bleach-out hair and skin, no dressing in drag. He is still supposed to look respectable. And he still has to go to school. His occupation cannot be 'gay'. For the girl, no baggy clothes, no wearing of underpants — she still has to look like a girl. For them the rule is simple — like AIDS — you're not supposed to tell by just looking!"

*****


I titled this post, "What Would Jesus Do...?" because in my experience the extreme homophobia that exists in Jamaica and other Caribbean states is due to the influence of evangelical Christianity (especially that which is exported from the United States).  And the irony of this is that I am sure that the savior that many Jamaicans claim a fervent belief in would love and accept all of their children and wouldn't understand the hatred that is claimed in his name.

Nevertheless, this article is encouraging... At least the conversation, (albeit a horrifying one in some cases) has begun.  Recently, the courts in Kingston actually deemed that the many young and homeless gay men and boys in the capital had a right to live and sleep in the sewers (the police had routinely driven them out), and this was heralded as a great victory in the country where being gay is often a death sentence at the hands of mob violence.


Perhaps the day will soon come when it will be okay to be gay and just as you are.  For Jamaica, that day is long overdue.


"Fear Eats the Soul"


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"The Fearful Truth About Being Gay In Africa..."

Brave Nigerians campaign before the Anti-gay law is passed
Africa’s Gays Await Nighttime Door Knock as Crackdown Widens

By Yinka Ibukun
February 17, 2014


When Ayo answered a knock at his door one evening last month, four Nigerian secret service officers barged in and found gay pornography on one of the phones and laptops he and six friends had in the apartment.

The officers announced they were taking everyone to jail for being gay. Ayo, 27, and four of his friends gained their freedom by bribing the police the equivalent of $600. Two others had no cash and spent three nights in detention.

Ayo, who’s gay, is sure they’ll be back. “I don’t want to be used as business for whenever police need money,” he said in the southern city of Ibadan, speaking on the condition that his full name wasn’t used for fear of further harassment. Oyo state police spokeswoman Olabisi Ilobanafor said no arrests were made.

While gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since before its independence from the U.K. in 1960, President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law last month that bans gay groups, imposes a 14-year jail sentence for same-sex couples who live together and 10 years for people who make a “public show of same-sex amorous relationships.”

Homosexuality is a crime in 38 of 54 sub-Saharan Africa nations, according to Amnesty International. From Senegal, where a conviction for gay sex can mean five years in jail, to Sudan, where it can bring the death penalty, Africa’s gays are facing an unprecedented crackdown.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has decided to sign a bill that carries a life sentence for multiple convictions of having gay sex, according to a Feb. 15 e-mailed statement from his office.

‘Stop’ Homosexuality

“I totally agree with everybody that anybody who is promoting homosexuality we must stop him,” he said in the statement. “This must be stopped by law and harshly.”

Since the Ugandan parliament passed the bill in December, two people were arrested and forced to undergo anal examinations to prove they weren’t having same-sex relations, Amnesty International said in a Feb. 9 statement.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Museveni’s decision to sign the bill in a Feb. 16 statement, saying it will “be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its citizens.”

The experience of Ayo and his friends was relatively mild compared to that of 14 gay men who were dragged from their houses in the capital, Abuja, at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 13 by a mob wielding iron bars and sticks, according to Ifeanyi Orazulike, executive director of The International Centre on Advocacy for the Right to Health, a non-governmental organization that works with sexual minorities.

Beaten, Dragged

Four men were beaten and dragged to a nearby police station and spent the night on a cement floor, Orazulike said. The local police chief set them free the next morning, saying they hadn’t been caught having gay sex, he said.

“How do you subject people to such torture simply because they are gay?” Orazulike said. “I feel terrified.”

Abuja police spokeswoman Altine Daniel said by phone yesterday that she hadn’t received confirmation from the local police chief that the attack had occurred.

National police spokesman Frank Mba said concern about the new law is unfounded and the authorities will “be firm, but we will also be fair.”

In northern Nigeria, where some states follow Shariah, or Islamic law, the consequences for someone convicted of having homosexual sex can be far worse: death by stoning.

‘Religious Beliefs’

Nigerian officials play down the impact of the new legislation, which presidential spokesman Reuben Abati described in an interview as consistent with the country’s “cultural and religious beliefs.” That view was echoed by Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, who said “all cultures of Uganda condemn the homosexuality acts.”

Museveni also signed a bill this month that bans “provocative” clothing, including short skirts, as well as pornography, Lokodo said.

Cameroon, Nigeria’s eastern neighbor, has the worst record in Africa in terms of persecuting gays, according to Human Rights Watch. “People are often arrested and prosecuted simply for ‘being gay’ -- ostensibly indicated by the way they dress, their mannerisms, or their personal tastes,” the head of the group’s gay rights program, Graeme Reid, wrote in an Oct. 16 letter to the Pope.

Gay activist Eric Lembembe, head of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, was found dead in his home in July with his neck and feet apparently broken, Human Rights Watch said.

Deflect Criticism

Increasing anti-gay legislation may be a deliberate attempt by governments to deflect criticism from policies that have failed to create jobs and improve the quality of life for their citizens, Neela Ghoshal, a Nairobi-based senior researcher on gay rights for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a phone interview on Jan. 27.

“When the public gets worried about economic and governance issues, politicians try and swing it back to social issues the public can identify with, and poise themselves as the defenders of the African people against homosexuality,” she said.

U.S. Evangelicals


U.S. evangelical missionaries too have found traction in Africa by championing the issue. Their role has been portrayed in “God Loves Uganda,” a documentary directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.

“They are much more active in Africa than elsewhere and they have really taken hold of the idea of homosexuality as a threat to the African family,” Ghoshal said.

In Nigeria, elections next year and the growing opposition to Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party may be playing a role, said Charmaine Pereira, the director of the Abuja-based Initiative for Women’s Studies in Nigeria.

“You often find politicians trying to find scapegoats at times of political transitions,” she said in a telephone interview. “It seems designed to create a moral panic, create an idea in people’s heads that there are hordes of people rushing out to marry each other. People here weren’t clamoring to get married in the first place.”

Rights groups say the vagueness of Nigeria’s new law makes everyone susceptible to extortion by law enforcement officers and blackmail from rivals.

“The way that law is worded now, it’s open season on everybody,” said Abayomi Aka, human rights officer at Lagos-based The Initiative for Equal Rights. “It doesn’t call for any evidence.”

*******
This story from Bloomberg does a good job of highlighting the fears that same gender loving people face throughout many parts of Africa, but it doesn't go far enough. Although the world has rushed to condemn Russia for its anti-gay laws, nothing in Russia compares to what goes on routinely in African countries. The hatred fomented by laws such as those in Nigeria and Uganda has been well documented.  If you wish to see for yourself, click on the link below:


Brimtime - Giving Voice To The Voiceless
Two Nigerian Gays Beaten To Death With Plank Of Wood

WARNING: An embedded video at this link shows two Nigerian men being beaten to death by a mob who accused them of being gay.  This occurs while police observe but fail to intervene.


"Fear Eats the Soul"


Sunday, February 9, 2014

"The Hateful Ignorant Truth About Nigeria..."

A judge in Bauchi, in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria, re-enacted the lashing of a man convicted of homosexuality. Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times
Wielding Whip and a Hard New Law, Nigeria Tries to ‘Sanitize’ Itself of Gays

Adam Nossiterfeb
February 8, 2014

BAUCHI, Nigeria — The young man cried out as he was being whipped on the courtroom bench. The bailiff’s leather whip struck him 20 times, and when it was over, the man’s side and back were covered with bruises.

Still, the large crowd outside was disappointed, the judge recalled: The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning.

“He is supposed to be killed,” the judge, Nuhu Idris Mohammed, said, praising his own leniency on judgment day last month at the Shariah court here. The bailiff demonstrated the technique he used: whip at shoulder level, then forcefully down.

The mood is unforgiving in this north Nigeria metropolis, where nine others accused of being gay by the Islamic police are behind the central prison’s high walls. Stones and bottles rained down on them outside the court two weeks ago, residents and officials said; some in the mob even wanted to set the courtroom ablaze, witnesses said.

Since Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished.

Gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, but convictions were rare in the south and only occasional in the mostly Muslim north. The new law bans same-sex marriage and goes significantly further, prescribing 10 years in prison for those who “directly or indirectly” make a “public show” of same-sex relationships. It also punishes anyone who participates in gay clubs and organizations, or who simply supports them, leading to broad international criticism of the sweep of the law.

“This draconian new law makes an already-bad situation much worse,” the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said in a statement. “It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more,” she added. “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.”

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 African countries, according to Amnesty International, and carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, as well as Shariah-governed northern Nigeria. Recently Uganda’s president declined to sign a bill that carried a life sentence for gays, though he called them sick. In Senegal, where the press regularly “outs” gays, same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years.

Rights advocates say they have recorded arrests in multiple Nigerian states, but the country’s north has experienced the toughest crackdown. Mr. Jonathan’s national ban has redoubled the zeal against gay people here and elsewhere, according to officials and residents in Bauchi, where Shariah law prevails and green-uniformed Hisbah, or Islamic police officers, search for what is considered immoral under Islam.

“It’s reawakened interest in communities to ‘sanitize,’ more or less, to talk about ‘moral sanitization,’ ” Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said of the law. “Where it was quiet before, it’s gotten people thinking, ‘Who is behaving in a manner that may be gay?’ It’s driven people into the closet.”

Officials here in Bauchi say they want to root out, imprison and punish gays. Local lawyers are reluctant to represent them. Bail was refused to the gay people already jailed because it was “in the best interests of the accused,” said the chief prosecutor, Dawood Mohammed. In the streets, furious citizens say they are ready to take the law into their own hands to combat homosexuality.

Officials are also inflamed. “It is detestable,” said Mohammed Tata, a senior official with the Shariah Commission here, which controls the Hisbah. He added: “This thing is an abomination.”

Tahir is one of the few supporters of men awaiting trial in Bauchi after being accused of being gay.
Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times
Complaining of the difficulty in distinguishing gay people from others, Mr. Tata said: “They don’t do it in the open. You get one or two, you see how they speak, you see how they dress, then you might have reasonable grounds to suspect.” Mr. Tata, speaking in the whitewashed two-story Shariah Commission headquarters here, said that happily, “we get information from sources interested in seeing the society cleansed.”

The prisoners’ only local support comes from two gay activists who slip into and out of the area, not daring to stay overnight. “They started crying when they saw us, begging us to take them out of this place,” said one of the activists, Tahir, 26, after returning from the prison, where he and his friend Bala, 29, had taken the men food. The two activists feared being prosecuted themselves, so they said they were relatives of the prisoners to try to avoid suspicion.

Most of the prisoners have been abandoned by their families, Tahir said, declining to give his last name for fear of reprisals. They are mostly young men, he said — tailors, students, “just working youths.” One is a married school principal with eight children, four of them adopted.

The young man who was whipped has gone into hiding. Inside the prison, the guards mock the gay men, comparing them to “pregnant women,” Bala said.

At a downtown restaurant in Bauchi, under suspicious glances from other patrons, Bala said, “Let us leave this place.” Hurriedly concluding the interview, the two left for a town farther south and not under Shariah law. “We are not safe here,” Bala said.

His words were borne out by the mood on the street. “God has not allowed this thing; we are not animals,” said Umar Inuwa Obi, 32, a student who said he was in the mob that hurled stones and bottles at the court and the prison van transporting the gay suspects two weeks ago.

“In Shariah court you are supposed to kill the man,” Mr. Obi said, adding that he favored this judgment. “But the government has refused. That’s why they started throwing stones and bottles.”

A Shariah police officer at a court proceeding last month in the city.
Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times
Frightened, the judge retreated to his chambers, the van forced its way through the crowd and gunshots were fired to disperse it.

“People are out to kill,” said Abdullahi Yalwa, a sociologist who teaches at a Bauchi college.

“The stones increased,” said Musa Kandi, a lawyer who briefly represented one of the men on his bail application. “They wanted to have those people, so they could kill them.”

Civil authorities here, handed the case by the Hisbah, say the suspects have been charged with a very serious crime. “They had been meeting among themselves, which is quite prohibited — religiously prohibited, socially unacceptable and morally wrong,” said Mr. Mohammed, the chief prosecutor.

In the prison, the men are separated from other prisoners, not for their protection, but “so that they should not indoctrinate the other inmates,” said Mr. Mohammed’s deputy, Dayyabu Ayuba, who is handling the case.

Officials and activists here agree that the new law signed by President Jonathan has given added impetus to the country’s anti-gay sentiment, encouraging prosecutors and citizens alike to take action. The law “completely prohibited anything that is gay,” Mr. Mohammed said.

The Nigerian news media have been largely supportive of the law — “Are Gay People Similar to Animals?” was the headline on a recent op-ed article in a leading newspaper, The Guardian — and government officials have reacted angrily to criticism from the United States and Britain.

The acting foreign affairs minister, Viola Onwuliri, recently praised the law as “democracy in action,” and suggested that Western critics were hypocrites to promote democracy and then complain about a law that the populace supports. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last March, 98 percent of Nigerians said they do not believe society should accept homosexuality.

“Every culture has what they regard as sacrosanct or important to them, and I don’t believe what our president and lawmakers have done in that respect is contrary to our culture,” former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Thursday in an interview. In 2004, while he was president, he told African bishops that “homosexual practice” was “clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African.”

For gay Nigerians, the risks of coming out could not be higher. “In the north, you will be killed,” Tahir said. “You will bring total shame to your family.”

******

The saddest thing about the situation in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general is the ignorance of the people to their own traditions.  Homosexuality was celebrated, accepted and embraced by cultures of pre-colonial Africa.  The hatred that festers in the continent today was transplanted there by their former European masters who themselves have now realized the ignorance of such beliefs.

"Fear Eats the Soul"


Sunday, December 1, 2013

"An Open Letter To God..."

From Huffington Post:

Cyd Zeigler - Co-founder of Outsports.com
Dear God,

I don't know why or how you made me gay. I know that a lot of people feel that they were gay coming right out of the womb, but I don't feel that I was. I don't think my parents did anything to make me gay. I don't think I chose to be gay, either. To me it doesn't matter: If I had to choose, I'd choose to be gay.

However you did it, or whatever the reason, thank you. Being gay has been the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. While it's not all of me, it's the piece that I find myself celebrating the most, the piece that I'm the most, dare I say, proud of. It's the singular aspect of my being that most contributes to my being the luckiest man on Earth.

If I weren't gay, I wouldn't be with the greatest partner in the world. Dan is so many things that fulfill my life in powerful ways. He's sweet, generous and fun. At every party, every event, that I attend, I know one thing at the end of the night: I'll always leave with the hottest guy in the room. And every night I get to lie down in bed next to him, with one cat nestled between us and another curled up around my legs.

Being gay has made me better able to build a loving, lasting relationship. Years ago my grandfather told me that my relationship would never be as loving as his marriage to my grandmother because two men can't love each other the way that a straight couple can. Now, a decade later, I think he got it backward. There is a special level of honesty and selflessness between us that I find hard to believe exists in most straight relationships. What we're able to share about our past, present and future, particularly when it comes to sex, brings us closer together than we had ever imagined possible. And yeah, with all due respect to my ex-girlfriend, the blowjobs are way better.

I'm also a better person because I'm gay. Growing up on rural Cape Cod, gays were the weirdos down Route 6 in Provincetown. We only went near them once a year when our Harwich Rough Riders basketball team paid their high school team a visit. I was always a fan in the stands at the games, and I was brutal to those kids. We rained down every slur and stereotype you can think of. Imagine being some straight 15-year-old playing basketball for the gayest town in America and hearing the shit I hollered at them. Man, I was such an asshole.

As I came to terms with my own sexual orientation, my heart opened in a way that just wasn't possible when I was a "straight" guy. I didn't -- I couldn't -- understand what it felt like to be a minority. I'll never fully understand what it is like to grow up black, Asian, female, transgender or a member of any other oppressed group. Being gay has given me the space to listen and empathize with people who are "other" in a way that I hadn't understood before I struggled with coming out and accepting what makes me "different."

Because of that, I get to walk through life with the most colorful people in the world. Some of your believers see Chelsea and West Hollywood as the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. OK, maybe they are. They're also a shrine to you, a celebration of the wonders of life that you yourself bestowed upon us. If Amanda Lepore and Billy Francesca aren't angels sent from heaven, here to teach us how to live life to the fullest, then there's no such thing as angels.

Being gay has also given me some purpose. Growing up, I was taught in church that our job in life is to leave this world a better place than how we found it. Opening minds and making life safer for LGBT children just now coming into their own has been a big part of my purpose in this life. Even if it's just wearing my Nike #BeTrue rainbow sneakers to a meeting with a pro sports team, every day I hope in some way to give someone pause.

Finally, gay life is just so damn fun. When I wake up in the morning, I rarely know what the day or the night have in store for me. A game of flag football in the morning with some of the nicest, cutest, and most entertaining guys in the world; a late champagne "brunch" in the early afternoon; a fundraiser for an important charity, hosted by a drag queen, in the evening; and a party that devolves into a scene from Caligula at night. How does it get any better than that?

So thank you, God, for making me gay. My sexual orientation has made my life fuller, more joyous and more complete. I know it's not a gift that you bestow on everyone, and I feel fortunate and grateful that I'm one of the lucky few. When I visit you on the occasion of my death, I'm confident that you'll agree that I made the most of your gift to me.

*****

"Fear Eats the Soul"


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"The Truth About Life..."

An Oregon man who was nearly decapitated in a traffic accident has an epiphany about what he really wants from life now that he realizes how close he was to the end...


"I lived through something I shouldn’t have ... divine intervention is the only thing I can say because my hand shouldn't be attached, neither should my head...I told God, if he's going to save me from death from this and he doesn't send me a boyfriend, I'm going to call it a party foul.”

I'm sure God will send him a boyfriend and now that he know just how precious life really is, he'll be brave enough to accept that love is enough.


"Fear Eats the Soul"


H/T: Towleroad

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"The Sunday Truth About Obamacare..."









Okay, I’m really angry about the news coverage about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Yes, the law is complex, convoluted, and complicated.

So why isn’t anyone observing that the reason for this is that our bought-and-sold politicians were too cowardly to do the right thing, which is single-payer, universal coverage? Health care is a human right.
Why isn’t the media asking what alternatives the critics propose? Are they suggesting that we simply should leave people out of health care, drop those with pre-existing conditions, and let insurance companies cancel care when people lose their jobs or get too expensive? Healthcare is a human right for all, not just the healthy and wealthy.

Why doesn’t someone challenge the people who keep saying that folks without health insurance can simply go to the emergency room? That is deadly to those who are having an emergency, and it is the most expensive way to treat people. Health care is a human right, and you should not make the sick sit in an emergency room for eight hours in order to receive compassion and care.

Why doesn’t someone point out to those who are whining because they should not be forced to get health insurance that what they are doing is forcing other taxpayers to pay their health insurance? If they get cancer, they will get care for which they could never pay, so the taxpayers who provide those hospitals for them will pick up their tab.

Why isn’t someone pointing out the LIE that the United States has the best medical care in the world? Not even close. What we DO have is the most expensive. Health care is a human right, not a profit source for a cannibalistic economic system that exploits the poor and dying.

Most of all, why aren’t pastors asking Christians to consider what would Jesus do if someone who couldn’t afford insurance came to him needing healing, or had a preexisting condition, or were too arrogant to think they’d ever need healing?

Yes, the affordable care act is broken. There is ONE reason: GREED. Only in the United States do we believe the sick and dying should be a source for profit rather than a focus of our compassion. Everywhere else in the developed world, health care is a human right, and, because Jesus healed all who came to him, good or bad, rich or poor, Jesus must have thought it was a God-given human right.

If you agree, please forward or repost!

Blessings,

Rev. Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal


"A Sunday Thought To Ponder..."

From: Daily Kos
This past week, conservatives found yet another reason to condemn President Barack Obama as "un-American." The Muslim Kenyan Socialist showed his true colors, they said, by omitting the words "under God" from a video reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Of course, the line of attack is silly. President Obama was reading from an original draft of the speech penned by Lincoln himself. Of the five existing contemporary written versions of the speech, three contain the phrase "under God." All three of those drafts were prepared after Nov. 19, 1863, the day Lincoln delivered the speech.
Newspaper transcriptions of the day - which, because of the vaguries of telegraph service, often varied in wording - do all seem to agree that Lincoln added the words "under God," extemporaneously it seems, when he gave the speech, which is why the phrase appears in subsequent drafts, but not in copies written beforehand.
Should Ken Burns, who prepared the video, have considered the possibility of controversy when he selected that particular passage to feature President Obama, given the skepticism on the far right of the president's religious beliefs? Perhaps. Then again, it's my opinion that Barack Obama could conclude every sentence of every speech with a reference to the Christian God, and it still wouldn't satisfy the religious right. Their motivation is less about religion than it is about portraying President Obama as "the other," and therefore hostile to the nation he leads.
But the controversy did get me thinking - what, exactly, is God's relationship to the United States, and our relationship to God? I knew in rough form how the church-state relationship has evolved in this country, but I didn't know some of the details. And I'm fascinated by what I've learned. I'll share my newfound (and prior) knowledge below the sacred symbol of the Orange Sect of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
One thing I knew about the founding fathers is that many of them were deists, but I confess I had only a vague notion of what that meant. I've since learned that deism grew out of The Age of Enlightenment, and that it's adherents, while they accepted the existence of a deity, were highly skeptical of organized religion, miracles and the notion that a god intervened directly in the lives of individuals.
The deist philosophy permeates both The Declaration of Indepence (in its brief references to God) and the Constitution (in its lack of same).
Consider the Declaration (emphasis added):
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...
It's hard to imagine a modern-day evangelical Christian putting "the Laws of Nature" ahead of God, or, for that matter, referring to God as "Nature's God." And in the second paragraph, the authors of the Declaration abandoned references to God altogether, preferring instead to speak of a "Creator." Those phrases are directly out of the deist playbook.
The Constitution, meanwhile, purposefully omits any mention of God whatsoever. Organized religion, however, is mentioned - prominently - in the Bill of Rights ... at the very top of the Bill of Rights, in fact. We all know the words:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...
It's no accident that the so-called "Establishment Clause" tops the list. Ironically, it was the concerns of Protestants, primarily Baptists, which led to its inclusion. Throughout the Colonial Period, the Church of England was the official church of Virginia, and members of other religions, especially Jews and Protestants, were frequently the targets of religious persecution.
To address the concerns of members of those religious groups, Thomas Jefferson - a member of the Virginia General Assembly - introduced the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which would dis-establish the Church of England, in the assembly in 1779. It was finally passed in 1786, with help from James Madison. To further quell the concerns of members of minority religions - and to gain their support over anti-federalists competing with them for seats at the ratifying convention - Madison and fellow federalist James Gordon, Jr. promised to propose language prohibiting the establishment of an official federal religion as an amendment to the Constitution. And so the Establishment Clause came to pass.
Modern-day Fundamentalist Christian revisionists like David Barton now argue that the Establishment Clause was not intended to separate religion and government completely. To back up their claim, they point out that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, and wasn't mentioned until a Supreme Court ruling in 1878 (some argue it didn't appear until rulings in the late 20th Century).
That's not true. The phrase was first coined by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury (Conneciticut) Baptist association on Jan. 1, 1802 (emphasis added):
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Madison also used the phrase on at least one occasion. It seems clear from their own writings what the framers of the First Amendment intended in regards to the entanglement of religion and politics.
The only other mention of organized religion in the Constitution comes in Article VI, paragraph 3, and further amplifies where the founders stood on the subject (emphasis added):
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution;but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The United States' official position as a secular nation was further affirmed by another founding father, John Adams, during his presidency. Privateers in the service of the Barbary nations - Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli and Tunis - were taking American ships in the Meditteranean and holding their crews for ransom or selling them into slavery. At one point, it was feared (wrongly) that Benjamin Franklin had been captured by the Barbary pirates.
The fledgling United States didn't have a strong enough navy to project sufficient power into the Med to stop the privateers, so the federal government negotiated treaties with each of the four nations, promising annual payments in exchange for safe passage for American ships. Article 11 of the treaty with the Pasha of Tripoli contained these words:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims] — and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
The Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously ratified by the Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by Adams.
By the early 1800s, deism was beginning to fade. The next appearance of God in our national life came during the War of 1812, when an attorney and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. He was inspired to put pen to paper and write a poem, the first stanza of which is well-known by anyone who has ever attended a sporting event, or watched one on TV:
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Those words were, of course, later put to music and adopted as our national anthem. But the poem actually went on for three more stanzas, the last of which reads:
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Wow - who took God out of the national anthem? Oh, wait ...
Key not withstanding, it would be 50 years before a modified version of the phrase "In God is our trust" came to the fore in our national life. The United States Congress, eager to imply that God was on the side of the Union in the American Civil War, mandated in 1864 that some United States coins include the phrase "In God We Trust." But the appearance of the motto on our coinage was not uniform or continuous, and came and went on various coins throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1907, another pious Congress was pushing to add the phrase to the $20 coin. President Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican and Dutch Reformed Christian who sometimes attended church with his wife, an Episcopalian) vehemently opposed the move:
“My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege…”
It was not until 1938 that "In God We Trust" began appearing on all U.S. coins.
As for that other famous expression of American religiosity, "One nation, under God," not only was it never stated as a founding principle, it hardly made an appearance at all until the mid 20th Century. In my admittedly limited research, I've found no mention of such a phrase before the turn of the last century, other than Lincoln's extemporaneous and gratuitous inclusion of it in the Gettysburg Address.
It certainly wasn't in the original Pledge of Allegiance, penned in 1892 by socialist (ah, the irony) minister Francis Bellamy. His version read, simply:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Revisions in 1923 (adding "to" before "the republic"), 1923 (changing "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States") and 1924 (adding "of America" to "the Flag of the United States") still failed to make any room for God, and somehow the republic survived.
In fact, it wasn't until the 1950s that God achieved His current level of entrenchment in our national life. The Cold War was in full swing, and many attacked the Soviet Union not for being a totalitarian state, but for its institutionalized atheism. This was the era of "Godless Commies," and American politicians were eager to show their piety to differentiate themselves from their Soviet counterparts.
It was during this period that God was enshrined on our currency and in the pledge. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, had added "one nation, under God" to the pledge on their own, and instigated a grassroots effort to make the change official. Congress obliged in 1954. Then in 1956, Congress found another way to insinuate religion into our lives by dumping the nation's unofficial motto - E pluribus unum, or "Out of Many, One" - making "In God We Trust" our official motto, and mandating that the new phrase be placed on all U.S. currency (1957 marked the first time the phrase began appearing on our paper money for the first time).
So there you have it. Our nation is 237 years old, but only for the last 60 of those years has God been officially enshrined in our national life. And to avoid conflict with the Establishment Clause, our nation's god is of necessity a pretty weak and generic one.
In fact, those Christians who continue to offer up having "one nation, under God" in our pledge and "In God We Trust" on our currency as proof that we are a "Christian nation" don't have a leg to stand on. In a 2004 Pledge of Allegiance case, Elk Grove Unified School District vs. Newdow, a majority on the Supreme Court ruled that the inclusion of "one nation, under God" was permissible under the Establishment Clause because it has become an act of "ceremonial deism." Writing her own opinion but concurring with the majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote:
"Whatever the sectarian ends its authors may have had in mind, our continued repetition of the reference to 'one Nation under God' in an exclusively patriotic context has shaped the cultural significance of that phrase to conform to that context. Any religious freight the words may have been meant to carry originally has long since been lost."
And that about wraps it up for God - or at least for the fundamentalist Christian version of Him.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Fear Eats the Soul..."


CPR

For some reason, I was reminded recently about my first hospital visit to see a person who was dying of AIDS. It was in the very early 1980s, and we, of course, had no idea how it was contracted or transmitted. He was at the public hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. There was a small vestibule just outside his room with a supply of disposable gowns and masks and gloves. On the floor was also what apparently was supposed to be his lunch. An orderly had refused to go in, so they just put it on the floor.

At first I was furious and started to go find someone to give them a piece of my mind. How dare they starve a young man who was already dying? I decided, though, to first take the tray in so the food didn’t get any colder. I could not imagine that the tile floor was improving the quality of hospital cuisine.

As I began putting on the paper gown, I realized that the poor soul who left the food was just afraid of something that they didn’t understand. In those days, my ministry was pastoring a mostly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender church. As I thought about that, I realized that if casual contact could communicate this disease I likely was already infected, so I took off the paper gown and picked up the tray and went in to see my friend.

His face broke into a huge smile. I said, “Well, the food may not be the best, but I bet you are hungry.”

“No,” he said. “I wasn’t really hungry for the food, but you are the first person I’ve seen since I’ve been here.” I was stunned. I knew his partner, and I couldn’t imagine that he hadn’t been there often. When I asked about that he shook his head. “No, I’ve had doctors and nurses and other visitors, but you are the first person who wasn’t covered up by those awful yellow paper gowns and masks. Yours is the first real face I’ve seen in days.”

Perhaps there is nothing more important that we can do for the dying, the sick, the wounded, the hurting, and the lonely than to show them our real faces and let them feel the touch of our hands, ungloved of judgment or fear. Jesus was the Human One, and perhaps seeing the face of what real humanity is supposed to look like was the greatest gift he had to give.

Blessings,

Rev. Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The Truth About Hate Was Never More Eloquently Stated..."

Emmanuel Olisamedualim Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu

Dear Bishop of Enugu, why cherry pick bible verses in order to tell gay people they are evil?


Richard Queripel writes an open letter to Reverend Emmanuel Olisamedualim Chukwuma, who last week criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for being “sympathetic” to gay people.
Dear Right Reverend Doctor Emmanuel Olisamedualim Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu, Nigeria,
I read with interest this morning of the scathing attack you made this week on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a conversation with journalists at a Nigerian airport, in which you condemned him for being “sympathetic” to homosexuals and threatened that the whole of the African church would secede from the Anglican Communion if he continued to be so nice to them.
Upon reading of this attack, I simply had to write to you to say thank you. It’s high time that a man of such great importance, influence and standing in the world, respected and revered by millions (that’s you) stood up to Archbishop of Canterbury Welby (who’s even heard of him anyway?) and the permissive society of today that says that homosexual people are actually quite nice and shouldn’t be repressed, discriminated against and forced back into their proverbial closets. Who does this Welby think he is telling them things like that?! For God’s sake, he’s the Archbishop of a church whose job it is to tell people how evil they are! And now he’s saying nice things to gays…even apologising?! At one time, his church would have prided itself on ensuring that no gay child in its ranks grew up unaware of how evil he/she was, but now, it would appear, it’s only a few brave dissenters, often based in Africa who are left fighting to make sure that the Anglican church does not forget its primary purpose: letting gay people know how evil they are.
You should be proud of yourself, Bishop Chukwuma, quoting confidently Ephesians 5:7 to the assembled journalists, to remind them and the many countless billions of people around the world who hang on your every word, that God Himself has told you and all other Anglicans (because, let’s face it, you’re the best kind of Christians) to have nothing to do with the sexually immoral (i.e. gays). You have stood up and allowed yourself to be counted as one who is prepared, unashamedly, to spread pain and suffering in the name of the Lord. And there can be nothing more heart-warming to a Christian former teacher than that, I am sure.
But you are no stranger to standing up and exposing yourself to total ridicule in the name of what some people call bigotry and you prefer to call Christianity. Back in 1998, when the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion met at its decennial Lambeth Conference in the UK, and the issue of human sexuality and the Anglican Church’s response to it was a hot topic of discussion, you made a name for yourself outside the assembly hall when you laid hands on Reverend Richard Kirker, the then general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and prayed “Father, in the name of Jesus, deliver him. Father I pray to you, make him a Christian, in the name of Jesus. Hallelujah, hallelujah!”.  It was a characteristically bold and strident gesture on your part and one that risked making you look like a total idiot, but, yet again, you didn’t let that stop you. You know who the real Christians are and it’s your job to make sure that the fake ones (especially the gay ones) know that they can’t fool you. Good job Bishop. You must have slept well that night.
And you must have slept well every night since then, I imagine, happy in the knowledge that you have now become something of a mouthpiece for some of your fellow African bishops, who also believe that Archbishop Welby is too wishy-washy on the topic of homosexuality. You regularly issue warnings on their behalf that, if Welby does not come out and condemn homosexuals as evil, the African Church will secede from the Anglican Communion and set up on its own with proper Christians who don’t pick and choose from the Bible to support their own views. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more heinous and un-Christian than cherry-picking verses from the Bible to support a particular point of view, whilst ignoring ones that clearly state the opposite. One either takes the word of Lord as written or one is evil. Simple. Of course, every proper Christian (I’m using here, of course, your definition of “proper”) knows that this applies only to Bible verses that talk about men lying with men and other icky homosexual stuff like that and definitely does notapply to Bible verses that support things that you, Bishop, don’t agree with. For example, every proper Christian knows that Leviticus 25: 44-46, which supports slavery, is outdated, wrong and must be ignored, but that Leviticus 20:13, which condemns homosexual behaviour as an abomination, is completely correct and must be shoved down homosexual people’s throats at every available opportunity.
Leviticus 20:13
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
COMPLETELY RELEVANT AND TO BE BELIEVED (except maybe for the killing bit, as in some countries this is still sometimes seen as a little un-PC)
…but, five chapters later in the same book…
Leviticus 25:44-46 
However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.
COMPLETELY OUTDATED AND TO BE IGNORED
I imagine it must be very difficult for proper Christians to know which parts of the Bible they must believe word for word and which they must ignore, so I hope the above summary helps a little. I hope you don’t think I’ve stepped on your toes by including it, however. I’d hate you to think I was trying to do your job for you. You were the one hired by the Anglican Church to spread bigotry and hatred, not me. And I would never want to swap places.
Well, I’d really better not keep you any longer from the many countless billions of people around the world who hang on your every word. Someone needs to keep reminding them what they should be believing and what they should be ignoring! Perish the thought that they decide for themselves. God knows, if that happened, they might end up being nice to gay people! And we all know where that would lead. Yes, to a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion, with the African churches seceding and setting up their own proper Christian Church! I can’t imagine an event that would be more earth-shattering for myself and every other person on earth than that. We would scarcely be able to carry on functioning if the African churches split from Canterbury. Life as we know it would change in ways I cannot even imagine. The thought of it happening keeps me awake at night.
So, onwards and upwards, Bishop Chukwuma, you have work to do. You have a Church to save. And, whilst you’re at it, there are still some gay children out there who don’t know how evil they are.
Yours,
Richard
P.S. Just FYI, when perusing your diocese website, I found a lovely article about you and your wife, which lists all of your many accomplishments. However, I was struck by this sentence describing your wife: “Since she [your wife] got to Enugu Diocese, the women have become so strong and recognised in the governance and affairs of the State and Church”. I was struck by this sentence because, as I’m sure you are aware, in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, St Paul writes the following: ”Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
I was just a bit concerned that maybe your wife being involved “in the governance and affairs of the State and Church” might mean that she is actually speaking in church, which is clearly forbidden by the Bible. I’m sure that this isn’t the case but I just wanted to check.
P.P.S. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 may be one of the Bible passages that proper Christians are allowed to ignore, of course. In which case, forgive my even mentioning it!
Richard Queripel blogs at Queerily.com

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