Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Archbishop Misses

Walking with Integrity has published the transcript of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “Presidential Address” given today for the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered at Lambeth in the UK.

As has been widely covered in the media, the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference has been closely monitored for signs of a rift in the global church over the issue of homosexuality, especially the consecration of openly-gay Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire and the increasingly widespread pastoral practice of blessing same-sex unions throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

This is not a new controversy. Resolutions in previous Lambeth meetings have repeatedly called for a “listening” process, in which the global community is supposed to open its ears and its hearts to each other as a means of finding the common ground, or at least mutual understanding, necessary for moving forward together.

In his address today, Abp. Rowan Williams notes that while there seems to be a lot of talking, he is unconvinced that much listening is going on – a criticism he levels squarely at both sides of the debate. In the course of his talk, he outlines what he imagines is the core message each side wants the other to take away.

It’s a gentle idea but is unfortunately premised on the notion that we in the more progressive camp are not properly sensitive to traditional church teachings or the authority of Scripture.

This is absurd on its face, because it presupposes that we have largely come from a tradition that embraces the ordination of gay people and the sanctification of same-sex relationships. Nothing could be further than the truth; nearly all of us have grown up with the traditional understanding that homosexuality is an aberrance and a sin. It is not accurate to say that we are casually ignoring inconvenient Scripture or altering practice merely to keep pace with popular, secular culture. Whether gay or straight, it is our faith and our abiding love and respect for the Bible that has caused us to engage this question, to go deeper into Scripture and examine the problematic passages and to seek to understand them.

I personally grew up with a quasi-literalist understanding of the Bible; in the Lutheran church where I attended Sunday school, no one was promoting the idea of a literal six-day creation, but I doubt you’d have found anyone – especially me – who claimed to detect any wiggle room in the twin verses in Leviticus that appear to condemn homosexuality as an “abomination.” That was not up for discussion, and in my early teens, as I became aware of my orientation, I can recall the abject terror those verses inspired in me, because I took them seriously.

For the Archbishop now to muse on behalf of the Africans that Episcopalians haven’t spent enough time appreciating where they’re coming from is an enormous failure to comprehend the painful and scary journey that many of us – both gay and straight – have undertaken to reconcile our faith in a loving God with passages of Scripture that simply contradict what we objectively know to be true about the spiritual gifts of God’s gay and lesbian children. The arguments and appeals we have made on behalf of greater inclusion for Christ’s church are based specifically on our profound regard for Scripture, a regard that inspires us to re-evaluate and re-assess the traditional understanding.

Indeed, he is so far off the mark that he actually manages to suggest that the progressives have not bothered to consider “what it is to be known as the 'gay church' in a context where that spells real contempt and danger.”

That’s the entire experience of “coming out” – the fear of what it will be to be known as the ‘gay person’ in an environment full of contempt and danger.

Oh, yes, Archbishop. We know all about that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A New Addition to the Family

Sorry I haven't blogged all week; I've just been incredibly busy. I've barely kept up with what's going on in the world.

However, I am pleased to report a significant upgrade to my lifestyle.

Socially responsible and sexy. (Just like me.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Non Prophet

Oh, my God. I agree with James Dobson.

"There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context,” Dobson told the Associated Press.

Well, bravo. This is exactly right; in fact, that’s what mature people do, pause to re-evaluate ideas – even long-held beliefs – in light of changing circumstances and new information. Indeed, even (and especially) Christians should heed this call. It’s not merely not “dishonorable,” it’s frankly a moral imperative. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to change your mind, but the responsible person is open to bouts of second-guessing themselves.

Okay, I snark, because while I find this morsel from Dobson agreeable, the context in which he said it is pretty deplorable.

"Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances.” That’s James Dobson on January 13. Note his emphasis on ‘private individual’ – as head of the quacky “spank away the gay” organization Focus on the Family, Dobson has to be careful to refrain from commenting in an official capacity on elections to avoid jeopardizing the group’s tax-exempt status. Their budget for 2007? $150,606,000.00.

Well, apparently, Dobson is re-evaluating whether there might be, in fact, “any circumstances” under which he would not just vote for but actually endorse John McCain.

It turns out there is one: if a Democrat is leading in the polls.

Last month, Dobson assailed a 2006 speech given by Senator Obama on faith and politics at Call to Renewal in Washington, DC, and proclaimed that he was "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview." Oh, the delicious, delicious irony, topped with a zesty hypocritical glaze…kind of like fruitcake, the word Dobson famously used in the same jeremiad to describe Obama’s interpretation of the Constitution.

[Here I might add that Obama is a recognized constitutional scholar, previously a member of the adjunct faculty at the famously conservative University of Chicago Law School where he lectured on that very subject.]

On a Focus on the Family radio broadcast today, Dobson moaned, "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

Yes, indeed, Obama is so radical, so wildly out of touch with American voters that only a small majority of the country agrees with him. I mean, pulling out of Iraq and focusing on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan? That is some serious left-wing crackpottery. His foreign policy was recently lauded by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who – I might add! – just happens to be a Muslim. Maybe there is something to those rumors.

Clearly one can’t in good conscience vote for Obama, right? We’d be much better off with a Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t know Iraq doesn’t border Pakistan and thinks Shiite Iran is training and funding Sunni Al Qaeda in Iraq. Plus, he’s almost mastered The Google. I’m so relieved that Dobson went back for some deep introspection on this matter. It shows such character.

"While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might," added Dobson. Today. On the not-for-profit Focus on the Family radio broadcast.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meet the Prez

I'm watching Al Gore on Meet the Press.

My heart is aching --- aching -- that this man has not been our president for the last eight years. We would just be in such a different place now.

Plus...I have to say it, the man is hot.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Eine Große Katastrophe

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the day I fled Switzerland, following an incredibly difficult year in the young artist program at the Zürich Opera. I decided I would celebrate the occasion by cooking up a traditional Swiss dinner.

Some months ago -- it may well have been Christmas -- my mother gave me a box of Hero brand Rösti. Rösti (pronounced "rœ-shtee") is a popular but simple Swiss potato dish that's basically like a giant hashbrown, but oh, so good. I decided I would pair it up with my all-time favorite Swiss recipe, Kalbsgeschnetzeltes, basically sauteed veal in a cream sauce with paprika and marjoram.

First, let me just get out of the way that I haven't really mastered the art of cooking more than one thing at a time. Second: what happened to the price of veal? I used to buy veal in New York every once in a while and it never bankrupted me; it was $21/lb here. I'll be having top ramen until my next paycheck (not a popular Swiss dish, but nonetheless, often what I ate while I lived there).

Hero Rösti comes in this space-age, air-tight silver pack; there's not even an expiration date on the box. (This was the same technology the Swiss used to seal up their national sense of humor.) The directions are simple enough: heat up a frying pan, put the potatoes in the pan, pat down into a patty shape and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until a nice golden brown crust forms on the bottom. Carefully place a plate over the frying pan, turn it over, drop the Rösti onto the plate, then slide it back into the pan on the uncooked side for an additional 6 minutes.

Easy, right?

Okay, so at the 15 minute mark, I very, very carefully flipped the frying pan while holding a plate over it. I heard a little "thhhhheeeeerrrrrrrrthupkkt" and felt a delicate plop onto the plate. I gently removed the frying pan...and discovered a mass of yellow, uncooked potato pieces on the plate, while most of the Rösti hung in black and brown shreds from the bottom of the frying pan.


The veal turned out okay, though.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Of the Birds and the Bees...and the Mice

Another absolutely perfect summer day in Oregon. I was able to leave work early again today, and made it out to the pool about 3:00, and for the first 20 minutes or so, I was completely alone as I stretched out on the chaise. I fell asleep almost instantly. I could feel my muscles relaxing in the warm golden sunshine, a gentle, dry breeze blowing away my cares.

Alas, my reverie was broken by that most unwelcome of pool intruders; no, not a cloud, or a raindrop, or a hornet...a toddler. Not even maximum volume on my iPod could keep out the stream of conscious shrieked forth unceasingly from this little girl.

As her grandmother was applying her sunscreen -- "Gramma, it's COOOOOLLLLD!!!" -- a small garter snake, about six inches long, slithered across the patio. The scream that emitted from the tyke...indescribable. I am hoping my hearing comes back tomorrow.

"Oh, you don't need to be afraid of him, dear," said Grandmother.

"He can't eat me?"

"No, honey. He's much too small, and he wouldn't want to, anyway. Snakes eat...well...let's see, I suppose he'd eat small birds, and bird eggs, and maybe turtle eggs if he found them, and mice --"

"And mice eggs?"


"Well, no...mice don't lay eggs, honey."

"Why not?"

"Well...because they're not the kind of animal that lays eggs."

Safely strapped into a vest and inflatable arm thingies, the little girl splashed about in the pool while Grandmother sat in a chair and tried to read a magazine.

"Gramma...Gramma...Gramma! Watch this."

"That's good, dear," said Grandmother, not looking up.


"What, honey?!?"

"Did you know mommy has a bagina?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Am I Buying a Car or a Senator?

I am currently researching automobiles, in gleeful anticipation of a far-from-certain improvement in my income next month. I'm thinking about the Honda Civic Coupe. (Yeah, yeah, I know...the Hybrid would be lovely but waaaayyyy out of my price range; even the Coupe is pretty wildly optimistic, but one can dream.)

However, I did feel obligated to share with you this description on the Honda website of the Coupe's design: "A wide stance and exceptional body rigidity help provide a solid and sporty ride."


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is that a $600 Check in Your Mailbox or are You Just Happy to See Me?

I am officially stimulated.

Most of you are probably thinking, "You just got your check TODAY?" Well, yes. The IRS distributed the checks according to the last two digits of the taxpayer's social security number. My last digits are 98. Could have been worse, I suppose.

My dear friend "Anonymous" was looking in vain (though, not very hard) for some instance where I disagreed with Barack Obama; this is one. In fact, back in January I said the only politician on the right side of the government's "economic stimulus" bill was...Mike Huckabee. I am still upset that we're going to borrow billions of dollars from China (ummm...that we have to pay back, with interest) to send people a paltry $600.

Granted, right at this moment I'm pretty relieved to have $600 more in my checking account, but it irks me that this isn't actually a tax refund, it's essentially a cash advance on a credit card that George Bush and the Congress took out in my name.

* * * * * *

Following up on Bp. Robinson's visit to the UK during the Lambeth Conference from which he is being excluded on account of some other bishops' discomfort with homosexuality, the Vicar of St. Mary's, Putney -- where Robinson preached this past Sunday -- wrote one of his predictably acidic and hilarious columns for The Guardian about the event.

Money quote: "How on earth does Gene Robinson cope with the disgusting abuse to which he is subjected most days – the protester who interrupted his sermon in my church on Sunday being a pretty mild example? Day after day, buckets of spiritual shit are thrown at him, sometimes by fellow bishops, and he just keeps going."

Wow, I am loving the phrase I emboldened there (to use a favorite word of the President's). It's vulgar, sure, but so, so, so accurate. Absolutely the right metaphor for the situation.

* * * * * * *

It's To Wong Foo meets Priscilla meets The Last Debate: fellow blogger and JustOut columnist SMB and I are teaming up to cover Hermiston, Oregon's first ever Gay Pride event. Okay, well, no SMB will cover it, I'm just driving and along for the thrill of it. It's the weekend of August 1-2; stay tuned for another exciting Road Trip Live Blogging Event (this time without cats, I'm afraid.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not One of the Gifts of the Spirit

I kid you not: "An Oklahoma church canceled a controversial gun giveaway for teenagers at a weekend youth conference.Windsor Hills Baptist had planned to give away a semiautomatic assault rifle until one of the event's organizers was unable to attend." [Emphasis added.]

UPDATED JULY 15: They've changed their minds; the gun-giveaway is back on again. Money quote: "Windsor Hills Baptist apparently has a history of worshipping God through firepower, and last year ran a shooting competition as part of its annual shindig." Now, that is some snarky reportage! Bravo.

"I Believe in the Living God"

Over at Walking with Integrity (Integrity is the national GLBT advocacy network within the Episcopal Church), they've posted a recent sermon by Bishop Gene Robinson.

As I ponder the direction I think I want to go professionally in life -- working within faith communities as an advocate for LGBT people and as an ambassador to those who have been wounded by the church -- one of my main tasks will be to open new windows of understanding on the handful of Bible passages which have been used to condemn homosexuality.

"Could it be that even the Bible is too small a box in which to enclose God?" asks Bp. Robinson, a question that is likely to be met with disbelief and outrage in parts of the Christian world. For many, even within the Anglican Communion, the Bible is the Word of God, and to question or doubt the historic or scientific or theological accuracy of any given passage is to directly challenge God's self. This is a non-starter for a lot of people.

Nevertheless, as I have argued before, questioning God is what we are called to do. The Almighty isn't afraid of a mere question; indeed, what are the Gospels but the record of an extended Q&A session with Jesus? Within the stories contained in Scripture, people question God all the time. Questioning and even confronting what we read in Scripture is how we go deeper in faith.

The question before us is whether God stopped revealing His will to us when the ink dried on the last page of John's apocalypse, or whether God continues to speak to us today. Bp. Gene helpfully points to John 16:12, when on the night before he died, Jesus commented to his disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." There is a clear Scriptural argument to be made that the Bible does not contain everything the Lord wants us to know; there is a promise that "when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." That process -- as we look backward over a church history that includes the burning of women as "witches," the endorsement of slavery, the Crusades, the Inquisition and all manner of horrors -- is ongoing. It is essential to note that Scripture was used to justify all of these grievous sins; yet the Spirit never abandoned us, and continues today to call us and pull us and push us forward in the "spirit of truth," to go back now and re-read those parts of the Bible we thought we understood and discover them anew with astonishment that we ever thought they said what it was claimed they said.

"It is the brilliance of Anglicanism that we first and foremost read scripture, and then interpret it in light of church tradition and human reason. No one of us alone can be trusted to such a process because, left to our own devices, we recast God's will in our own image," says Robinson.

What a shame, then, that this year's Lambeth Conference will not include the duly elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire, nor will it include more than a fourth of all bishops, due to their decision to boycott the gathering over the ordination of women and God's gay children. Where is the Gospel passage recalling the time Jesus said, "No, I won't speak to that person"? When we read the Great Commission -- "Go forth, therefore, and make ye disciples of all people" -- where is the fine print that excludes some of those people or allows us simply to choose not to engage with others in conversation about our disagreements? Can we not trust "The Spirit of Truth" to guide us into deeper understanding and reconciliation?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Follow-Up

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Work has been busy and then of course on Wednesday we had the memorial service for my stepfather, which was a moving and fitting tribute attended by a couple hundred people (including a couple of this blog's readers; thank you, again).

* * * * *

My company has "summer hours," which means that we can leave at noon on Fridays until September, provided the boss is satisfied that everything that needs to be done is done. I worked like a crazy person for four hours yesterday morning and disappeared precisely at the stroke of 12. A few minutes later I could be found reclining on a chaise by the pool at my apartment complex, basking in dry, 83-degree bright sunshine with a gentle breeze, exhaling a deep sigh of exhaustion.

There was a familiar face hanging out with a couple of friends. They were deep in vapid tweentalk which I tried hard to ignore, until suddenly their voices dropped to a hush. My ears pricked up, because I'm wise enough to know that meant they were actually going to say something interesting. Here's what I overheard:

Girl 1: ....

Girl 2: How do you know that?

Girl 1: He told me.

Girl 2: What, he just came out to you, like, randomly?

Girl 1: Umm...it's a long story.

I can only imagine she was referring to this.

* * * * *

Readers may note that I have disabled anonymous commenting for this blog. It seems I have tremendous difficulty restraining myself from feeding the trolls. So now, if you'd like to comment, you'll need to sign in.

No doubt "Anonymous" will once again accuse me -- or would, if he were still allowed to comment here -- of being unwilling to debate (note the blog title), but the truth is, I will happily engage differences of opinion as they relate to a common set of what are known as "facts." "Anonymous" accuses me of not wanting to know "the truth" about Barack Obama, and then proceeds to insist that he is a stealth Muslim who, like all blacks and Hispanics, hopes to initiate slavery reparations using white folk's 401(k)'s.

For a time I found attempting to educate this dullard entertaining, but I've grown weary of it. His repeated "threats" to not return to my blog have not been kept, and he has ignored my pleading to go the hell away.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Poor Hillary

The New York Times reports today on the, shall we say, tepid response from Democrats to Barack Obama's gallant request for donations to help Senator Clinton retire her $23 million campaign debt.


I think it was a nice gesture on Obama's part -- he even personally contributed the legal maximum of $2,300 -- to acknowledge Senator Clinton's historic accomplishment.

But I am confused about this notion that there should be any obligation on the part of Democrats -- especially Obama supporters -- to provide financial aid to one of the world's richest, most powerful couples.

Gas prices are soaring, the US is hemorrhaging jobs, people are rioting around the world protesting the skyrocketing costs of basic food staples (16,000 children will die today from hunger-related causes) and we're supposed to dig deep into our pockets and pass a buck to a Senator and her ex-President husband who are collectively worth $109 million?

Senator Clinton was not some political neophyte. She knew well what she was doing when she spent $11 million of her own fortune -- check it, folks, eleven million dollars of her own money she spent, and she wants help!?!?!?!?!? -- on her presidential campaign. That was a gamble, not an investment. Even if she'd won the nomination, there's no guarantee she'd recoup that loss from donations.

It was many weeks from the time that her path to the nomination became mathematically improbable until the day she surrendered -- pointedly, not on the day Obama clinched the nomination; no, on that evening, she delivered a bizarrely Bushian alternate-reality speech in which she announced she would ponder her options -- and during this time her campaign wildly spent beyond its means.

It is particularly ironic that she wants help from Obama supporters, after she spent months (and millions of dollars) trying to damage his reputation with cheap guilt-by-association smears and misrepresentations.

I think we can breathe a sigh of collective relief that she will not be put in charge of fixing our economy. No wonder conservatives deride welfare and entitlement programs, when you have millionaire liberals telling the Times that they are "bitter" that no one is rushing to help them recover from their financial folly. Imagine if the Clintons had to pay for their own debts! Why, by my calculations, that would leave them with only around $80 million. Poor dears. How would they get by?

I don't know what she's going to do. Maybe she'll have to write another book?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Good Morning Kiss

It's an image from ancient myth and classic fairytale: Brynnhild and Princess Aurora are both awakened from deep, epic slumbers by the gentle kiss of a lover.

Today it was my turn.

And I also solved the age-old question, "Do cats have morning breath?"

Starbuck decided she wanted breakfast early today. 5:16, to be precise. At least, that's what time her plaintive, high pitched squeak first roused me from my dreams. I rolled over. I love you, cat, but I'm not getting up at five on a Sunday.

She then proceeded with a series of strategic "meow and run" bombings: she'd sneak up to my ear and emit a plaintive squawk and then dart away before I could grab her and force her to snuggle. Each little mew grew louder in volume and insistence. I sat up and she hopped off the bed and looked at me, pointedly.

I threw a pillow at her.

It only took me a few minutes to drift back to sleep. This time, Starbuck decided she wasn't messing around. She sidled up to me and purred, and did that head-butt thing. It felt good. Awww, I love you, kitty.

Then, without warning, she stuck her tongue in my mouth. And ran away.


I decided it would be bad to encourage this sort of behavior, so rather than reward her with breakfast, I chased her out of the room and closed the door, and slept for another hour.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Blogroll Update

I've cleaned up the blogroll on the right. I deleted several links that are now defunct or ones that I just don't check in with anymore. I've also added a bunch of new links to blogs that I've started reading recently.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Well Hello, Oregon

Jeez Louise, this is about the dreariest-looking 4th of July in history. It looks like February outside (though fortunately it's warm enough to have the windows open, and my lilies bloomed overnight!).

Happy Independence Day, y'all!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Things that Make You Go "Hmmm"

This morning I was out of milk, both at home (so, no cereal) and at work (so, no coffee) so I decided I'd go ahead and stop at Starbucks and get coffee and a treat to take with me.

Behind me in line was a very handsome, very well-dressed guy about my age who pulled up in a BMW. He ordered a "non-fat, one-pump peppermint latte."

I could not decide whether that was the gayest drink in the history of the world or something so disgusting that only a straight man could love it. Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

If Only James Dobson Were Right

My new upstairs neighbor is gorgeous. I mean...wow. He is hot sex in a bottle. (Now, where on earth did I pick up that phrase?)

Alas, his girlfriend isn't bad, either.

I hate them so much.

I wish I could work my secret evil gay powers; in tandem with the combined force of Oregon and Washington's Domestic Partnership laws and California's legalization of same-sex marriage, according to the wing-nuts that should be more than sufficient to wreck this relationship and make him go gay. I mean, the government has clearly sent the message that it's okay; why is he still hanging out with this chick?

I mean, I know that this would mean the collapse of civilization as we know it (or at least, that's what I'm told), but honestly, for him I'd risk it.