Sunday, October 31, 2010

Out and About – October 2010

October was a very full month, as you'll see. And surrounding all the various activities documented here was, of course, the beauty of autumn in Minnesota. It's definitely my favorite time of year.

I took the photo above and at left while out riding my bike along the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River.

For more images of this beautiful time of year, see here and here.

Above: Two of the several hundred participants at a Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Anti-Gay Bullying – Loring Park, Minneapolis, October 14, 2010.

For's report on this event, click

On the evening of October 15, Doug and I were guests of our friend Brian to Dark Matters, a truly amazing dance performance at the Walker Art Center.

Above: At right with (from left) Doug and Brian.

Right: Outside the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. (For more photos of this unique building and nearby Whitney Bridge, see here.)

Above: Pictured at left with Daniel Maguire, Paula Ruddy and Paul Lipetzky – October 21, 2010.

I contacted and invited renowned theologian and ethicist Daniel Maguire to the Twin Cities to counter the Minnesota Catholic bishops' misguided anti-gay marriage campaign. On October 21, Daniel spoke on "Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage."

The event was sponsored by CPCSM, Dignity Twin Cities, and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. Held in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis (above left), Maguire's presentation drew approximately 400 people.

For more images and commentary, click here.

For The Wild Reed's special four-part series leading up to Daniel Maguire's Twin Cities visit, see here, here, here and here.

Above: Celebrating my 45th birthday – Saturday, October 23, 2010. From left: Bob, Doug, me, Paul, John and Cory.

For more birthday pix, see here.

For my special 45th birthday post, click here.

Above: With Doug at the unveiling of Lucinda Naylor's DVD to ART project, "The Wave" – Friday, October 29, 2010.

Right: Made from 2,000 unwanted copies of the DVD at the center of the Minnesota Catholic bishops' recent anti-gay marriage campaign, "The Wave," says Lucinda, is about "the Spirit of inclusion and love, which is sweeping through the Catholic Church as it continues to change, as usual, from the people up to the hierarchy."

For more images, commentary and links, click here.

Above and below: My friend Noelle's birthday celebration – Saturday, October 30, 2010.

Pictured above from left: Douglas, Fernanda, Noelle and Mark.

Above (from left): Phil, Annslie, John, Doug, me, Douglas, Fernanda, and Brittany.

Left: Phil and Brittany.

Above: What a handsome crowd!

Above and below: Earlier today, approximately 150 Minnesotans gathered at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Paul to respectfully let Archbishop Nienstedt and the MN Catholic Conference of Bishops know that they do not agree with their recent anti-gay marriage campaign.

The event was organized by a coalition of church reform and LGBT Catholic groups, including the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, Rainbow Sash Alliance, and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: My friend Phil in the scariest Halloween costume he could come up with. I think he succeeded, don't you?

Above: Quinn in his Halloween costume. And, no, he doesn't look too thrilled to be dressed as a banana, does he?

For more traditional Halloween fare, click here.

The Signalman - A Ghost Story by Charles Dickens

It's All Hallows Eve, that time of year when it is said the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and all kinds of spirits and specters can cross over. A perfect time to share ghostly tales of the unknown! And so this evening I share, courtesy of YouTube, one such tale.

Lawrence Gordon Clark's made-for-TV adaptation of Charles Dicken's The Signalman scared the crap out of my brothers and I when we first saw it as kids in the late-1970s. It features Denholm Elliott as a railway signalman in nineteenth-century England, haunted by the repeated appearance of a specter at the entrance of a railway tunnel. Disaster follows each ghostly apparition until . . .

Well, I can't give too much away, now, can I?

What I will share is Helen Wheatley's observation that Clark's adaptation of The Signalman maintains the original story's "sense of decorum and restraint . . . withholding the full revelation of the supernatural until the very last moment, and centering on the suggestion of a ghostly presence rather than the horror of visceral excess and abjection."

And here's what John Coulthart's has to say about The Signalman in the anthology Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death.

The Signalman conjures a palpable quality of dread from a few simple ingredients – a dismal railway cutting with a baleful warning light, the black mouth of a railway tunnel and Denholm Elliot's haunted features.

When an unnamed stranger comes to visit Elliott's lonely signalman a series of fireside talks lay bare the workman's recurrent premonitions of disaster haunting his stretch of the line. The unpredictability of this setting works in its favor [with] The Signalman summon[ing] new fears for an industrial age, of sudden calamity and death delivered by an alliance of thundering steam engines and an implacable fate. The scenes in the dank railway cutting have an authentic, visceral chill and [the film] successfully withholds the tragic secret at the heart of the tale right to the moment of its shattering climax.

And so, without further ado, I present The Signalman . . .


So how are you enjoying it so far?

Before sharing the final two installments, here's the BBC's Simon Farquhar's appraisal of The Signalman.

The Signalman is the first evidence of [screenwriter] Andrew Davies' gift as an adaptor of literary fiction, as he transforms a Victorian page turner into the finest 40 minutes of supernatural drama television has ever produced. His script constantly refers back to the original story, tightening the screw by adding dream sequences, pindrop conversations and tantalizing hints of the terribly inevitable climax.

Director Lawrence Gordon Clarke cast Denholm Elliott in the lead. "Denholm was so wonderful in that role, like a tightly coiled spring. There was such tension in the character: he was always only a step away from insanity."

The railway itself becomes a character in the story, Dickens somehow managing to spot that beyond the shock of the new, there was already something eerily antiquarian about this strange new mode of transport that was roaming through lonely corners of the countryside. And despite an extremely arduous shoot, Davies and Clarke's fog-wreathed, flame crackling masterpiece manages something the production team could never have imagined: it's better than the book.

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Halloween Thoughts
Halloween Hijinks

The Cruel Idiocy of Christianists

John Shores (pictured at right) has an interesting commentary over at The Huffington Post all about religious fundamentalist’s “anti-love approach to homosexuality.” My only issue with Shores’ piece is that he lumps all Christians in the same boat. Believe me, not all Christians are saying to gay people, “Stop acting gay.”

If I was chatting with John over coffee I’d suggest that he take a leaf out of blogger
Michael Hamer’s book. Michael, you see, distinguishes between Christians and right-wing fundamentalists and extremists who claim to be Christian by ascribing the term “Christianist” to the latter.

Anyway, to read John’s commentary in its entirety, click here. For highlights, see below.


Nowadays, the Christian refrain isn’t, “Stop being gay.” Now it is, “Stop acting gay.” They’ve given up trying to argue that the homosexual can change his or her sexual orientation: the complete failure of Christian Fix-a-Gay and Homo No' Mo! Programs – not to mention a universe of anecdotal and empirical evidence – have left them little choice. So they’ve changed their approach. Now the argument is: A homosexual struggling against the temptation to act homosexual is no different from anyone else struggling to resist a sinful temptation.

Christians love this new argument. If I’ve heard it once, I've heard it ten thousand times. We all have. . . . It’s just . . . too stupid for words. But lemme try [to refute it] anyway.

Virtually all sins share a crucial, defining, common quality. Because that quality, which is present in every other imaginable sin, is utterly missing from being or acting gay, insisting on putting homosexuality into the same category as every other sin is like gluing wings on a pig, and insisting it belongs in the category of “bird.” It doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t. Ever.

Here is that Big Difference between homosexuality and other sins: There is no sin I can commit that, by virtue of committing it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. I can commit murder. I can steal. I can rob. I can rape. I can drink myself to death. I can do any terrible thing at all – and no one would ever claim that intrinsic to the condition that gave rise to my doing that terrible thing is that I am, by nature, simply incapable of giving or receiving love.

No one tells the chronic drinker, or glutton, or adulterer, or any other kind of sinner, to stop experiencing love. Yet that's exactly what so many Christians are insisting gay people do.

When you tell a gay person to “resist” being gay, what you are really telling them – what you really mean – is for them to be celibate.

What you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of love.

Be alone, you’re demanding. Live alone. Don’t hold anyone’s hand. Don’t snuggle on your couch with anyone. Don’t cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don’t have anyone to chat with over coffee in the morning.

Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.

Just say “no” to love.

Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.

The “sinful temptation” that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.

Being, of course, the one thing Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.

Can we stop with this cruel idiocy already?

Recommended Off-site Link:
What Would Jesus Do If Invited to a Gay Wedding? - John Shores (, July 15, 2008).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lucinda Naylor's "The Wave"

Last night Doug and I visited the vacant storefront at 2756 Hennepin Ave. S. in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. It wasn't really vacant, however. Far from it.

Indeed, throughout the evening scores of people passed through, live music played, and an unusual work of art captivated everyone's attention and generated much conversation.

Yes, last night saw local artist Lucinda Naylor (pictured with me at left) display for the first time her new sculpture, "The Wave."

As regular Wild Reed readers would know, Lucinda is the former artist-in-residence at the Basilica of St. Mary. She was "suspended" from this position after going public with her plans to create a work of art with unwanted copies of the DVD at the center of the Minnesota Catholic bishops' recent anti-gay marriage campaign.

Following are some images of Lucinda's artwork along with her "Artist's Statement."

Above: Catching "the Wave" with Doug and Maura - October 29, 2010.

The Wave

By Lucinda Naylor
in collaboration with two thousand households

Media: Repurposed DVDs

These discs originally carried a divisive message sent in the name of the Catholic Church, seeking to block the civil rights of same-sex couples. I say sent in the name of the Church, but not the Church I know. The Church I know is inclusive, not exclusive.

For fifteen years, as artist-in-residence at the Basilica of Saint Mary, I used whatever materials I could scrounge from a budget-strapped liturgical department to create art for all the seasons of the church year. When I heard about these DVDs, I thought "Free art material! I'll turn them into art."

I put out a call on Facebook, asking people to donate their DVDs to my project. I called it DVD to ART.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The first DVD arrived in a bag of bagels. People slid DVDs through my mailbox, passed them to me in the pews, threw them into collection boxes outside several churches. They sent them to Reyurn the DVD with notes saying "Turn me into art." Church workers passed them along, laughingly, "under cover of night." Over and over, I heard, "Thank you for changing this message into one of love."

Some DVDs came broken, scratched, written on: "Return to sender, offensive material." "Not in my name." "You are not alone." Repeatedly they quoted Jesus: "Love one another, as I have love you."

Thank you to everyone who passed along a DVD.

The Wave is about the Spirit of inclusion and love, which is sweeping through the Catholic Church as it continues to change, as usual, from the people up to the hierarchy.

Above: With my friend Joan.

Above: The Wailing Wall Quilt.

Notes Lucinda:

This wall of DVD sleeves was inspired by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where people tuck their prayers on pieces of paper. Remembering my grandmother's quilting bees, I invited women and girls to sew the sleeves together, using their own creativity to create a "square." I invite you to leave your thoughts and prayers here.

Above: Writing my prayer for the Wailing Wall Quilt.

A prayer for transformation . . . of hearts, minds, attitudes, structures, beliefs . . . from fear to love.

Above: The reflection of my hand entwined with my boyfriend Doug's on one of the anti-gay marriage DVDs. This photo was Doug's idea! And it's a wonderfully subversive one, don't you think? I also love how there are rainbow colors on the metallic surface of the disc!

Recommended Off-site Links:
Wave-Making DVDs Now Wavy Artwork – Rose French (Star Tribune, October 28, 2010).
Artist Makes Waves with Protest Art for Marriage Equality – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, October 30, 2010).
Minnesota Bishops on Gay Marriage – Fred de Sam Lazaro (Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, October 29, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Local Artist Suspended Over "DVD to ART" Project
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
Bring Out Your DVDs!
Quote of the Day – September 25, 2010
Quote of the Day – October 29, 2010

Images: Michael J. Bayly and Doug Abbott.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Divinlys' Chrissy Amphlett: She'll "Deal With It"


One of my favorite Australian bands is the Divinyls, about which Wikipedia notes:

Divinyls were an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1980 and featuring vocalist Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. As the focal point, Amphlett performed on stage wearing a school uniform and fishnet stockings, often using an illuminated neon tube as a prop and displaying aggression towards band members and the audience. The band, originally a five-piece, underwent numerous lineup changes with Amphlett and McEntee as the core members, before breaking up in 1996. Divinyls have released five studio albums, with four of them reaching the Top 10 in Australia and one, Divinyls, reaching No. 15 in the US. Their biggest-selling single, “I Touch Myself” (1991) achieved No. 1 in Australia, No. 4 in the US and No. 10 in the UK.

Actually, I’ve always found the popular (and controversial) “I Touch Myself” a rather lame, gimmicky-kind of song. (To hear it, click here.) I much prefer the Divinlys earlier “new wave” output from the mid-1980s. My favorite of the band’s albums is 1985’s What a Life!, which features such gems as “Pleasure and Pain,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Good Die Young,” “Heart Telegraph,” and “Dear Diary” (which samples dialogue from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 film Strangers on a Train).

Since Friday night is often “music night” at The Wild Reed, I’ve decided to share the music video of one of my favorite Divinlys’ songs, “Back to the Wall,” from the band’s 1988 album Temperamental. This video is followed by a Sydney Morning Herald article in which Chrissy Amphlett talks about dealing with her recent breast cancer diagnosis. “I’m strong and I will get over this,” she says. My thoughts and prayers are with her and all who are dealing with and/or recovering from a life threatening disease.

We’re living in desperate times,
these are desperate times, my dear.
There’s no way out of here,
there’s no way out I fear.
I’ve been holding back all my tears
just so the pressure don’t show.
Like a time bomb ticking away,
I might blow up some day.
Don’t push me, don’t shove.
You better watch what you do.

When my back’s to the wall,
I might do anything at all.
When my back’s to the wall,
I might take any chance at all.
When my back’s to the wall,
I might do anything.

You’ve got the upper hand,
but I’ve got nothing to lose.
When I’m trapped in a corner like this,
I might light a fuse.
There’s no way out of here,
there’s no way out, my dear.
Don’t push me, don’t shove.
You better watch what you do . . .


I Can Deal With It

Divinyls Singer Tells of Breast Cancer

By Kylie Northover
Sydney Morning Herald
October 20, 2010

Chrissy Amphlett, the former lead singer of the Australian rock group the Divinyls, has revealed she has breast cancer. Speaking to the Herald from New York, Amphlett, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago, said the recent diagnosis had “thrown her for a six.” “My family knows, so I thought I might as well come out with it,” she said yesterday. “It was going to come out sooner or later. I’ll get over it – I’ve got songs to sing, I’ve got stages to perform on. I’m a keep-on-going sort of girl.”

The singer, who turns 51 next week, is seeking treatment in New York, where she lives with her husband of 10 years, the one-time Divinyls drummer Charley Drayton [right]. “With my MS it makes my treatment a little more … difficult,” she said. “I can’t have radiation and things like that. But I have the best people here. And right now, the MS isn’t even bothering me – it’s the least of my problems. But I’m strong and I will get over this.

“I have love around me; I have my husband and I have a sister in Victoria who is also a breast cancer survivor.” The singer said she expected her Australian friends and fans to be upset she hadn’t told them earlier, “but it’s easier this way. A lot of people have wondered where I am, why I’m not answering emails … This is why.

“It’s shit and it’s unfair, but life is not fair – even rock stars get breast cancer. But there’ve been many girls before me who have dealt with it successfully. It’s easy to feel sorry for me but I feel sorry for people who are suffering it alone.”

Amphlett, the cousin of the 1960s pop icon “Little Pattie” Amphlett, rose to fame as the feisty lead singer of the Divinyls, who formed in 1980.

Famous for Amphlett’s sexy schoolgirl outfit, torn fishnets and wild on-stage antics, the Divinyls had their first hits, “Boys in Town” and “Only Lonely,” after appearing in the 1982 film Monkey Grip. They had four Top 10 albums in Australia and one in the US. Their biggest-selling single, “I Touch Myself,” in 1991, was a No.1 hit in Australia, and made the Top 10 in the US and Britain.

The band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006, and, after a tour in 2007, split up. Amphlett, whose career will be celebrated in the exhibition Rock Chicks at Melbourne’s Arts Centre next month, is concentrating on her solo career. “I’m a very positive person,” she said. “I can deal with a lot. I’ve already proven it. And I can deal with this, too.”

April 22, 2013 Update: Divinyls Singer Chrissy Amphlett Dies – Monique Ross, ABC News (Australia).

April 26, 2013 Update: Chrissy Amphlett, 1959-2013 The Wild Reed.

Quote of the Day

A lot of change in the church happens from the ground up. The hierarchy doesn't always like to admit that. So I think [the issue of accepting gay people and relationships is] one of those things where the people are saying one thing and something else is happening up here. But that doesn't mean that wave [of change] won't eventually wash up that way.

– Lucinda Naylor
Quoted in Rose French's article,
"Wave-Making DVDs Now Wavy Artwork"
Star Tribune
October 29, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Local Artist Suspended Over "DVD to ART" Project
Local Catholics Seek to "Create Some Good Out of an Unfortunate Situation"
Bring Out Your DVDs!
Quote of the Day – September 25, 2010

Image: Richard Sennott (Star Tribune).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Despite Anti-Gay Activism of Catholic Hierarchy, Marriage Equality Seems "Poised to Prevail"


The Rainbow Times, the LGBTQ newspaper of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont, is predicting that marriage equality is “poised to prevail” in Rhode Island and Minnesota, and that, as a result, the Catholic hierarchy “may lose ground” in both states.

In his October 27 Rainbow Times article, Chuck Colbert notes that “equality gridlock may soon be lifted [in Rhode Island and Minnesota] as marriage equality proponents appear poised to prevail in key gubernatorial and legislative races regardless of church influence.”

Colbert highlights this “church influence” (which is really “clerical caste influence”) by documenting the efforts of Rhode Island’s Bishop Thomas Tobin and Minnesota’s Archbishop John Nienstedt to thwart the legalizing of same-sex civil marriage.

Colbert’s article also mentions this Sunday’s action at the Cathedral of St. Paul being organized by CPCSM, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Dignity Twin Cities, and Rainbow Sash Alliance.

Following is part of one of the media releases that the above groups have jointly issued about this Sunday’s event at the cathedral.

Minnesota citizens will have an opportunity this Sunday to respond to Archbishop Nienstedt and the MN bishops’ recent anti-gay marriage campaign. A coalition of church reform and LGBT Catholic groups are inviting people to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in downtown St Paul for a non-verbal “speak out.”

The organizers will offer fellow Catholics the opportunity to wear the Rainbow Sash at the noon Mass. That group will meet on the Selby Ave. side of the Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

Those who do not want to attend Mass, but wish to be present to celebrate LGBT diversity and demonstrate inclusiveness, will be able to meet on the front steps at 12:30 p.m., and then fan out to form a human circle around the Cathedral. Some Rainbow Sashes will be available to this group, but people are encouraged to bring their own signs, banners, and symbols too, and to wear bright rainbow colored clothes. When Mass is over, the Rainbow Sash wearers will join the “circle of love” around the Cathedral, and then all will assemble for a group photo on the steps.

“Our circle will symbolize inclusiveness – in contrast to the non-Gospel message of exclusion being pushed by the MN bishops’ anti-gay marriage campaign,” says organizer Michael Bayly. “All are welcome to join us in the circle – especially since the bishops’ anti-marriage campaign has the potential to impact all Minnesotans.”

Adds organizer Brian McNeill: “Our presence at the Cathedral on October 21 is intended to be a celebration of support for marriage equity – not an angry expression of feelings towards the archbishop.”

Following is Chuck Colbert’s Rainbow Times article in its entirety (with added links).


Marriage Equality Poised to Prevail,
Catholic [Hierarchy] May Lose Ground in Two States

By Chuck Colbert

The Rainbow Times
October 27, 2010

At a crucial 2010 midterm-elections crossroad, this is a tale of two states and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy along the road to marriage equality Minnesota and Rhode Island, with respective 20 percent and 59 percent Catholic populations, have had two-term Republican governors adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and equally vociferous church leadership vehemently against it. But equality gridlock may soon be lifted as marriage equality proponents appear poised to prevail in key gubernatorial and legislative races regardless of church influence.

“If our endorsed candidates win, we can really move marriage,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s leading LGBT organization, explaining, “If the Democrats keep control of the House and Senate and Dayton wins, we’ll be able to make history in Minnesota and enact marriage equality.”

Meyer was referring to Democrat-Farm-Labor Party candidate Mark Dayton who leads Republican Tom Emmer by seven percentage points in a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll among 999 likely voters, conducted between Oct. 18 and 21, using both cell phone and land-line phones. The poll has sample-size margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

As the Star-Tribune reports, “Democrats could be closing in on their best chance to win the governor's office in more than two decades, while Republicans may have a lot of convincing to do if they want to continue the Republican streak that Gov. Tim Pawlenty started eight years ago.”

A Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters, conducted on Oct. 20, shows Dayton leading Emmer by three percentage points.

A third party Independent Tom Horner, also a marriage equality proponent, is polling between 10 to 14 points overall, a distant third. While his support appears to be slipping, Real Clear Politics still calls the race a toss but notes, ”Dayton underperformed his polls substantially in the primary; there may be a similar phenomenon here.”

Meanwhile, very Catholic Rhode Island also stands at the threshold of marriage equality. No less than four gubernatorial candidates favor equal marriage rights – Democrat Frank Caprio and three other Independents, including former Republican US Senator Lincoln Chafee who leads in the most recent Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters by a seven-point margin over Caprio. While opposing same-sex marriage, Republican candidate John Robitaille favors civil unions.

“We are right on the cusp of marriage equality here in Rhode Island,” said Kathy J. Kushnir of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), a statewide advocacy group. Recently MERI’s political action committee rolled out a list of endorsed candidates for the General Assembly, giving MERI’s stamp of approval to 29 out of 75 House races and 12 out of 38 Senate seats. MERI’s PAC endorsement list includes current House Speaker, openly gay Gordon Fox.

“Our endorsement list is huge,” Kushnir said, explaining, “That’s just candidates on paper.” MERI only endorses candidates who return a survey, she said. “Some just don’t return questionnaires.”

The road to marriage in Rhode Island has been paved with lots of political hard work. “We’ve been on the ground since last September,” Kushnir said, collecting 20,000 postcards and knocking on 30,000 doors. The response rate for requesting postcard signatures is about 68 percent, she said.

Similar support has surfaced in public opinion sampling. A recent poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that surveyed 502 likely Rhode Island voters from July 7 to 12 showed 59 percent support for allowing same-sex couples to marry legally in the state, with practicing Catholics favoring marriage equality by 57 percent. The polls sample size margin of error was plus or minus four percent.

A rising tide of public and legislative support notwithstanding, Minnesota Catholic Archbishop John C. Neinstedt and Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin remain resolute.

Tobin said same-sex marriage is “spiritually harmful” in a 2006 letter-to-the editor of the Providence Journal shortly after a Rhode Island lesbian couple, Wendy Becker and Mary Norton was legally married in Massachusetts.

More recently, Tobin said “homosexual activity is unnatural and gravely immoral. It’s offensive to Almighty God. It can never be condoned, under any circumstances. Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity.”

But this summer Tobin declined to speak at National Organization for Marriage (NOM) rally held in Providence, the state capital. A recent state court ruling has cleared NOM to run anti gay-marriage ads, provided the organization discloses its funding of the advertisements. So far, NOM has not taken to the airways.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Neinstedt has infuriated many Catholics statewide by distributing a DVD to more than 400,000 of Minnesota Catholics in defense of traditional marriage. In the DVD, entitled “Preserving Marriage in Minnesota,” Neinstedt said, “At best so-called same-sex marriage is an untested social experiment, and at worst it poses a dangerous risk with potentially far-reaching consequences.”

Recently Neinstedt also took the unusual step of denying communion to college students wearing rainbow-colored ribbons during a Mass he said at the College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University, a Catholic liberal arts school located 70 miles from Minneapolis.

One local gay Catholic activist and blogger, however, said the archbishop’s rhetoric and actions have “backfired.” As Michael Bayly, who serves on the board of directors of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), a pastoral ministry, explained, “People who have never been vocal before are coming out in all sorts of ways to show their displeasure and outrage” over the DVD.

CPCSM and the local chapter of DignityUSA, the nation’s oldest LGBT Catholic organization, are preparing to stage a human “circle of love” surrounding the Cathedral of St. Paul’s church during the noon Mass on Sunday, Oct. 31, explained Brian McNeill, president of Dignity Twin Cities Rainbow Sash Alliance (RSA) will don rainbow colored sashes during Mass even as they expect to be denied Communion.

“It’s important to be visibly present at the Eucharist as part of the people of God,” said McNeill, also a RSA coordinator. “The sash is a symbol of celebration,” he said, “and also a call to the archbishop to dialogue with us.” Explained McNeill, “We’re saying to Nienstedt that we still want to talk with you about your positions on LGBT issues and sexual ethics.”

– Chuck Colbert
The Rainbow Times
October 27, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort
It’s a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to MN’s Constitution
Exposing NOM’s Shameful Behavior in Minnesota
A Message to NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
A Hopeful and Encouraging Trend
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Gay Marriage
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
Minnesotan’s Rally for Love and Equality at the State Capitol
Daniel Maguire in Minneapolis
Dale Carpenter on the “Win-Win” Reality of Gay Marriage
American’s Acceptance of Gay Relations Crosses 50% Threshold
A Surprising Finding Regarding Catholics and Gay Marriage
Steve Chapman: “Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage”

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

To Catholic youth: It does get better. I once thought that in order to live my life as an openly gay person, I would have to give up my faith. Now I know that I can be both proudly gay and devoutly Catholic. For every person in the church who says that being gay is wrong or LGBT rights aren’t rights at all, know that there are many more Catholics who will love and support you for who you are. I found my Catholic home with organizations like Call To Action and Dignity USA who are provide a safe and welcoming place for gay Catholics – for any Catholics – to express our faith. I know that you will find your place in and out of the church.

To all Catholics: Yes, it does get better for LGBT Catholic youth, but please know that we have the power to make it great. The teachings of the church hierarchy on homosexuality do not reflect the values and beliefs of the vast majority of Catholics. Standing together, we can create a church that is truly welcoming of all people. We can create a safe space for Catholic youth to explore their faith and their sexuality. We can create lasting change in a world and a church that so badly needs it. We can make life great.

– Kate Childs Graham
A Letter to LGBT Catholics: It Gets Better
National Catholic Reporter
October 19, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Shifting the Focus to the Real Issues . . . Live on Fox News!
Pastor Mike Tegeder Challenges Archbishop John Nienstedt's "Bullying Behavior"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Church and Dance

I find it interesting that the Christian church has, through the ages, embraced and helped foster many of the arts – painting, sculpture, architecture, music – but not dance. Why is this?

Well, I think one reason is that dance, being highly physical, is often very sensual. Sensuality, of course, is connected to sex – well, good sex, i.e., sexual activity that puts us in touch with the transforming and liberating presence at the heart of all things. This ultimately mysterious presence, theologians James and Evelyn Whitehead remind us, “courses through the world, enlivening and healing hearts.” We’re talking here of erotic presence and energy, known “through and beyond sexual arousal.”

Of course, religious institutions like to think of themselves as the sole conduits and administrators of such powerful sacred energy. (Not that they’d label it “erotic,” mind you. Their understanding of the term is, after all, far too narrow – fixated, as it is, on the physical mechanics of sex.) Still, because the clerical caste of Christianity perceives itself as the arbiter and gatekeeper of sacred power, it has through the centuries devised and enforced strict rules aimed at controlling and limiting sexual experience – experience which, like artistic expressions such as dance, utilize the body and sensuality to connect people to the transforming and creative energy of the sacred within and among us all.

I mention all of this because this evening I continue The Wild Reed’s series on dance by sharing a second excerpt from Jamake Highwater’s insightful book Dance: Rituals of Experience. (For the first excerpt, click here.)

In this particular excerpt, Highwater examines how the Church of the Middle Ages, even while accommodating many pre-Christian practices and rituals, suppressed dance. Well, at least theoretically. For as Highwater documents, creative ways were found to keep the artistic expression of dance alive. And although it did not bloom in innovative ways like other artistic expressions that were under the Church’s patronage, forms of theater and dance nevertheless “crept into the depiction of Christian legends performed in churchyards and town squares.” In this way, writes Highwater, “these mysteries, miracle plays, and sacred mines were the antecedents of contemporary theater, opera, and dance.”

Fascinating stuff, wouldn't you agree? Anyway, here's tonight's excerpt from Highwater's Dance: Rituals of Experience. Enjoy!


The Middle Ages has sometimes been viewed as a time of high-minded churchmen and their powerful authority. In theory, life was regulated by elaborate forms and codes, hedged in by religious rules that had the most awful sanctions. In fact, however, life ran wild, with a defiance of all rules upon which Christianity believed salvation depended. Not until the sixteenth century, when organization finally was imposed upon the wide-open university towns, and the Inquisition fell into the hands of an elite, did a sort of terrible order descend upon the Western world: a triumph of righteous aims and powers used toward private aims, and a triumph which, in turn, impelled the mass migrations of minorities to ancient lands newly invaded by Europeans.

This was a frantic era of transition from the classical world to the modern world. Subsequent ages have evaluated the medieval upheaval as both horrendous and sublime. In the late Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, writers coined the word “Gothic” to express their contempt for the Middle Ages. The Goths, who were the most effective destroyers of Rome, were looked upon as notorious barbarians. But the Romantic movement reversed this evaluation on discovering the sublime piety of Gothic art. Romantic novels glorified the ideals of chivalry and spiritual love, and recreated a wholly illusionary medieval world. This enthusiasm for the Middle Ages ran its course in the nineteenth century, but it left its residue and recently it has been revitalized by the writings of John Gardner and the music of Carl Orff, among others.

The Church offered the Middle Ages a staunch unity of mind, but it failed to lend a unity of lifestyles. A strong regional diversity of customs, which greatly enriched European cultures, was the result of this laxity of Church authority. Today many European patriots look to the Middle Ages for the sources of their national pride. In the breakdown of Roman homogeneity came the birth of individual cultures and of European nations.

“We have come to the last age of the world,” wrote Dante, propelled in his viewpoint by the Faustian spirit, that insatiable, inextinguishable willfulness that distinguishes Western civilization from all others. The power of Rome, which had subjected the lesser regional rulers, and had all but annihilated the concept of the common man, was gone. The restraining influences of the empire gave way to ambitious district rulers and to a resurgence of identity among common people. The very barbarians the Greeks loathed now found themselves center stage. The Church offered salvation indiscriminately to all, and through holy communion it forgave sins. To be part of the flock one merely had to come to the Church and abandon heresies. But the old gods were not abandoned. For the peasantry, the echo of fertility magic and fetishes still possessed strong appeal. The Church quickly recognized the force of such prehistoric practices and the more recent influence of Persian divinities as the sun-god Mithra. To curb the influence of the Mithraic and Cybelic rites, the Christian church permitted the distortion of its own ceremonies by wedding old rituals to new Christian concepts. Thus, the Teutonic rites of the dawn (Eastre) became the Christian Easter. A Druid ceremony, with its adoration of trees and the burning of a Yule log, was incorporated into the rites of Christmas – necessitating a decided shift in the date of the birth of Christ.

The accommodational policy of the Church had its limits, however: Roman drama was considered obscene and blasphemous. In fact, all forms of dance and theater were suppressed, at least theoretically. This meant that while the Church of the Middle Ages sponsored music, painting, and architecture, theater and dance were ignored, left in the care of the common people. The Church looked the other way when the commoners flaunted their quasi-ritualistic dances and the nobility welcomed traveling entertainers into their courts. Without Church patronage, dance could only reiterate old forms and did not enter the mainstream of innovative artistic expression which bloomed in the Middle Ages.

The brilliant paintings of artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder [right] depict the exuberance of the dancing of peasants in half-forgotten rites of harvest, marriage, and fertility. But dancing found no patronage, and its social exclusion aided its decline. Acrobatic dances, which probably came from the Orient, became central attractions of song festivals, fairs, and the theatrical pageants. There was a revitalization of ancient dances, whose steps were recalled but whose significance was largely lost. The maypole dance was a focus of fairs and weddings, but its ritual purposes were forgotten. The newly acquired sense of identity among the common people was epitomized in folk pageantry, with its assertive throngs in the marketplace. It was a recovered identity which resounded from a time before dominance of Rome almost obliterated the tribe’s awareness of itself.

In a manner not terribly dissimilar to the strong generational influence of pop culture in the 1960s, the dances of the Middle Ages were as aspect of a politicized culture which provided the masses with a sense of their own priorities, as distinct from the remote and literate powers of the Church. Dance was immediate. Salvation was eventual. In the Middle Ages, the peasantry accepted each in its own time.

One consequence of this situation was the rise of a nationalistic folk dance related to the emerging nations. Another influence was the Roman pantomimic dance tradition with its affinity for the theater that gradually crept into the depiction of Christian legends performed in churchyards and town squares. These mysteries, miracle plays [left], and sacred mines were the antecedents of contemporary theater, opera, and dance.

– Jamake Highwater
Dance: Rituals of Experience
Pp. 46-48

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
The Dancer and the Dance
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
Reclaiming the Queer Artistic Heritage
An Ideal Vision
Dark Matters
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake Returns to New York
Istanbul (Part 4)