Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prayer of the Week

The Heart of Compassion

By Joyce Rupp

Compassionate God,
your generous presence
is always attuned to hurting ones.
Your listening ear is bent
toward the cries of the wounded.
Your heart of love
fills with tears for the suffering.

Turn my inward eye to see
that I am not alone.
I am part of all of life.
Each one's joy and sorrow
is my joy and sorrow,
and mine is theirs.
May I draw strength
from this inner communion.
May it daily recommit me
to be a compassionate presence
for all who struggle with life's pain.

Related Off-site Links:
Hurricane Sandy Aftermath 'Unthinkable,' Death Toll Climbs as Millions Left Without PowerFox News Latino (October 30, 2012).
Hurricane Sandy a Storm 'Many Have Feared for a Long Time' – Mark Pattison (Catholic News Service via The National Catholic Reporter, October 30, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Superstorm Sandy: A 'Wake-Up Call' on Climate Change

Image: Associated Press.

Superstorm Sandy: A 'Wake-Up Call' on Climate Change

I'm sure anyone reading this would know that much of the Caribbean and the North Eastern seaboard of the United States have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, a storm of such magnitude and destructiveness that it's been called a 'superstorm.'

Here's how Democracy Now!, a "daily independent global news" show broadcast from New York, described the situation earlier today.

Superstorm Sandy has pounded the East Coast, bringing massive flooding and damage that’s left at least 16 people dead in the United States, killed more than 60 in the Caribbean, and left more than seven million without power from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Parts of New York City were submerged under water as high as 13 feet, flooding a number of subway stations and causing blackouts. Sandy made landfall in New Jersey Monday night near Atlantic City after being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. But it still brought hurricane-force winds and rain, making it one of the largest storms the United States has ever seen. A snowstorm swept inland dropping heaving snowfall across Appalachia and shutting down large sections of the interstate in West Virginia and Maryland. Estimates of the damage so far have reached as high as $20 billion.

Above: People sit on the rooftop of houses submerged in floodwaters in the neighbourhood of Barquita, after days of heavy rain in Santo Domingo, October 26, 2012. Hurricane Sandy killed at least 41 people as it cut across the Caribbean. [Photo/Agencies]

Above: Waves crash on shore from high surf ahead of Hurricane Sandy at the pier at Virginia Beach, Virginia October 29, 2012. (Reuters/Rich-Joseph Facun)

Yesterday, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed Bill McKibben about Hurricane Sandy and climate change. McKibben is co-founder and director of 350.org and author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Following is an excerpt from this interview.

Amy Goodman: Bill McKibben . . . can you talk about the significance of what the East Coast is facing right now?

Bill McKibben: . . .[T]his is a storm of really historic proportion. It’s really like something we haven’t seen before. It’s half, again, the size of Texas. It’s coming across water that’s near record warmth as it makes its way up the East Coast. Apparently we’re seeing lower pressures north of Cape Hatteras than have been ever recorded before. The storm surge, which is going to be the very worst part of this storm, is being driven by that huge size and expanse of the storm, but of course it comes in on water that’s already somewhat higher than it would have been in the past because of sea level rise. It’s – it’s a monster. 'Frankenstorm,' frankly, is not only a catchy name; in many ways, it’s the right name for it. This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc. The governor of Connecticut said yesterday, "The last time we saw anything like this was never." And I think that’s about right.

Amy Goodman: There certainly was a lack of discussion, to put it mildly, in the presidential debates around the issue of climate change. . . . I don’t think it was raised at all in the three debates.

Bill McKibben: How do you think Mitt Romney is feeling this morning for having the one mention he’s made the whole time? His big laugh line at the Republican convention was how silly it was for Obama to be talking about slowing the rise of the oceans. I’d say that’s – wins pretty much every prize for ironic right now.

There has been a pervading climate silence. We’re doing our best to break that. Yesterday afternoon, there was a demonstration in Times Square, a sort of giant dot to connect the dots with all the other climate trouble around the world. Overnight, continuing in Boston, there’s a week-long vigil outside Government Center to try and get the Senate candidates there to address the issue of climate change.

It’s incredibly important that we not only – I mean, first priority is obviously people’s safety and assisting relief efforts in every possible way, but it’s also really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, when we’ve seen the warmest month, July, of any month in a year in U.S. history, in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude. If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it.

Amy Goodman: What do you think has to happen now? You have been traveling the world, warning people, working with organizations around the issue of climate change. Do you feel like the kind of organizing you’re doing has an effect? I mean, you see these three presidential debates. Tens of millions of people watch them. They sort of define the discourse in this country. And yet, not raised in any – it’s not only the candidates don’t raise them, the reporters who are the moderators of these debates don’t raise the issue.

Bill McKibben: Look, we’re up against the most powerful and richest industry on earth, and the status quo is their friend, and they want nothing to change. And until we’re able to force them to the table, as it were, very little will happen in Washington or elsewhere. That’s why we launched this huge tour, beginning the night after the election, not coincidentally, in Seattle and continuing around the country. You can find out about it at math.350.org. But the point is that we really finally need to have this reckoning. Either the fossil fuel industry keeps pouring carbon into the atmosphere and we keep seeing this kind of event, or we take some action.

Here’s the thing always to remember: the crazy changes that we’re seeing now, the – you know, the fact that we broke the Arctic this summer, the fact that the oceans are 30 percent more acid, that’s all happened when you raise the temperature of the earth one degree. The same scientists who told us that was going to happen are confident that the temperature will go up four degrees, maybe five, unless we get off coal and gas and oil very quickly. And to do that, you know, it’s nice to talk to Washington, but in certain ways Washington has turned into customer service for the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to take on that industry directly.

Not time today. Time today is to take care of people all up and down the East Coast, to work in the relief efforts, to get the message out as this storm heads north. We in Vermont, knowing from last year, from last year’s superstorm, Irene, have a pretty good idea of just how traumatic this is going to be. So the short-term effort is all about people. But the slightly longer-term effort is to make sure that we’re not creating a world where this kind of thing happens over and over and over again.

Amy Goodman: Bill, you mentioned that the storm is made up of elements both natural and unnatural. What do you mean by that?

Bill McKibben: Well, look, I mean, global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes. We’ve always had hurricanes. Hurricanes are caused when a wave, a tropical wave, comes off the coast of Africa and moves on to warm water and the wind shear is low enough to let it form a circulation, and so on and so forth. But we’re producing conditions like record warm temperatures in seawater that make it easier for this sort of thing to get, in this case, you know, up the Atlantic with a head of steam. We’re making – we’re raising the sea levels. And when that happens, it means that whatever storm surge comes in comes in from a higher level than it would have before. We’re seeing – and there are meteorologists, although I don’t think this is well studied enough yet to really say it conclusively, there are people saying that things like the huge amount of open water in the Arctic have been changing patterns, of big wind current patterns, across the continent that may be contributing to these blocking pressure areas and things that we’re seeing. But, to me, that, at this point, is still mostly speculation.

What really is different is that there is more moisture and more energy in this narrow envelope of atmosphere. And that energy expresses itself in all kind of ways. That’s why we get these record rainfalls now, time after time. I mean, last year, it was Irene and then Lee directly after that. This year, this storm, they’re saying, could be a thousand-year rainfall event across the mid-Atlantic. I think that means more rain than you’d expect to see in a thousand years. But I could pretty much – I’d be willing to bet that it won’t be long before we see another one of them, because we’re changing the odds. By changing the earth, we change the odds.

And one thing for all of us to remember today, even as we deal with the horror on the East Coast, is that this is exactly the kind of horror people have been dealing with all over the world. Twenty million people were dislocated by flood in Pakistan two years ago. There are people with kind of existential fears about whether their nations will survive the rise of sea level. We’re seeing horrific drought not just in the Midwest, but in much of the rest of the world. This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened on earth, climate change, and our response has to be the same kind of magnitude.

To read Amy Goodman;s interview with Bill McKibben in its entirety, click here.

Above: Boats rest on Broadway Avenue after they were washed ashore from a boatyard in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. (Reuters/Steve Nesius)

Above: Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Aguacate, Cuba, Thursday October 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Above: A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

Above: A row of houses stands in floodwaters at Grassy Sound in North Wildwood, New Jersey, as Hurricane Sandy pounds the East Coast. (AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City, Dale Gerhard)

Above: Heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy causes the Croix de Mission River to swell to levels that threaten to flood the homes along its bank in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – October 25, 2012. (Reuters/Swoan Parker)

Above: Sea water floods the Ground Zero construction site, Monday, October 29, 2012, in New York. Sandy continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

Above: Floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy rush into the Port Authority Trans-Hudson's (PATH) Hoboken, New Jersey station through an elevator shaft in this video frame grab from the NY/NJ Port Authority twitter feed, October 29, 2012. (Reuters/NY/NJ Port Authority/Twitter)

Above: This image from video provided by Dani Hart shows what appears to be a transformer exploding in lower Manhattan as seen from a building rooftop from the Navy Yard in Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in New York City. Much of New York was plunged into darkness Monday by the superstorm that overflowed the city's historic waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels, and cut power to nearly one million people. (AP Photo/Dani Hart)

Above: The darkened skyline of lower Manhattan after a power outage from Hurricane Sandy can be seen from Exchange Park, New Jersey. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

Above: Leveled homes in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, New York. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Above: Streets are flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Monday, October 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Above: A rescue worker carries a boy on his back as emergency personnel rescue residents from flood waters brought on by Hurricane Sandy in Little Ferry, New Jersey. October 30, 2012.(Reuters)

Above: A 168-foot water tanker, the John B. Caddell, sits on the shore Tuesday morning, October 30, 2012 where it ran aground on Front Street in the Stapleton neighborhood of New York's Staten Island as a result of Superstorm Sandy. (Sean Sweeney / AP)

Related Off-site Links:
Other Side of Sandy: Caribbean DevastationRT.com (October 31, 2012).
Atlantic Coast Wakes Up to the NightmareTruthDig.com (October 30, 2012).
Yes, Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy – George Lakoff (CommonDreams.org, October 30, 2012).
We Are All from New Orleans Now: Climate Change, Hurricanes and the Fate of America's Coastal Cities – Mike Tidwell (The Nation, October 30, 2012).
The Climate Elephant in the Room – Tom Weis (The Huffington Post, October 30, 2012).
Climate and Clarity – Rebecca Solnit (TomDispatch.com, October 29, 2012).
Sandy Teaches a Lesson – Eugene Robinson (TruthDig.com, October 30, 2012).
An Oyster in the Storm – Paul Greenberg (New York Times, October 30, 2012).
Hurricane Sandy Pushing Obama, Romney to Break Silence on Climate ChangeCommonDreams.org (October 30, 2012).
Watching Sandy, Ignoring Climate Change – Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker, October 29, 2012).
Watchdog: Storm Released 'Staggering' Amount of Pollution into Hudson RiverCommonDreams.org (October 30, 2012).
New York Subway System May Take Weeks to Recover From Storm – Angela Greiling Keane, Jeff Plungis and Alan Levin (Bloomberg.com, October 30, 2012).
Bones, Caskets Unearthed by Sandy – Kevin Dolak (Yahoo! News, October 31, 2012).
Ten Fake Photos of Hurricane SandyYahoo! News (October 30, 2012).
The Real Election 2012 October Surprise: Hurricane Sandy – Tracy Bloom (TruthDig.com, October 30, 2012).
Why Hurricane Sandy Might Cost Obama the Popular Vote – But Not the Presidency – Jeff Greenfield (Yahoo! News, October 30, 2012).

11/3/12 Update: Occupy Wall Street Leading Massive, Volunteer-Powered Recovery Efforts in New YorkDaily Kos (November 2, 2012).

Image 1: New York Cat.
Image 4: AP Photo/Charles Sykes.
Image 5: AP Photo/John Minchillo.
Image 6: Reuters/Lucas Jackson.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Love as Exploring Vulnerability

In thinking about what I wanted to share today, I had the realization that it correlates with the contents of a number of past posts. Collectively, these previous posts comprise an anthology of insights into what it means to love another within that special type of relationship whereby on multiple levels – emotional, spiritual, physical – communion (common union) is shared.

Looking back, I see that some of these writings are my own (see, for instance, here and here). Elsewhere, it was the wisdom of others that I felt compelled to share (see, for example, here and here). Some are academic, others poetic. Some are firmly grounded in Roman Catholicism, others go deeper into humanity's shared spiritual heritage.

I've decided to assign the tag "A Gay Man's Guide to Love and Loving" to all of these posts, as I believe they all offer, in one way or another, insights, inspiration, and advice on how to build and maintain a healthy intimate relationship. Of course, such insights, inspiration, and advice are not limited to gay men. So why direct this series specifically to them?

I can offer two reasons. First, this blog focuses on my journey as a gay man, one who recognizes the value of integrating (in a balanced and healthy way) spirituality and sexuality. I attempt to live this "way" of integration, believing that it is one of many pathways to that fullness of life that Jesus invites us to embody.

Second, from my observation, many gay men have difficulty in experiencing and embodying this type of healthy integration and thus experiencing and embodying that special type of relationship described above. Why is this? Well, no matter what you may hear to the contrary from certain elements of society, including the Roman Catholic clerical caste, it's not because being a gay man predisposes one to a life of selfishness and thus failed relationships. Rather, it's because of these types of hopeless and negative messages that many gay men – especially those of a certain age – struggle to live lives of integration and wholeness. (I say "certain age" because, by and large, it's not those of the younger generations who are attracted to groups like Courage.)

Having said all of that, it would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the negative impact of aspects of the gay male subculture on the ability of gay men to live integrated lives. I'm thinking in particular of the limiting role models presented by this subculture, one that is often fixated on superficial things. Related to this is the fact that, like so much of Western society, this subculture is unquestioning of consumerist capitalism. Accordingly, it is notoriously prone to objectifying seemingly everything – including the male body.

All the more reason, then, for the need to share insights of spiritual wisdom, and thus illuminate sorely needed guideposts along the road to love. I start – or rather continue – such sharing and illuminating with the following by Phillip Gowins, excerpted from his book Practical Sufism: A Guide to the Spiritual Path. As you'll see, the insights Gowins shares concerning the "key" of vulnerability are applicable to both the spiritual path and the road to human intimacy and love. I see this as just another helpful reminder of the sacred call to integrate spirituality and sexuality, and of the sacred love that envelops and infuses all things.

. . . Vulnerability is the key to trust. And trust is the key to love. . . . [O]ften the greatest barrier to feeling comfortable with another person, or the greatest barrier to any kind of interpersonal communication, is the unwillingness to be vulnerable.

. . . Being vulnerable is the key to spirituality. You do not progress just by knowing. You progress by surrendering all or at least a portion of your knowledge. In doing so, you create a sort of vacuum, a vulnerability that God can crown by filling you with a divinely inspired curiosity and awareness. Maybe God sees it like this: by being vulnerable, on a personal level you have created an accommodation in yourself, enabling someone else to participate in your experience. Such accommodations open us to higher levels of accommodation.

Do unto others, and eventually God does unto you.

Meditation is a state of emotional and spiritual vulnerability. In meditating, you open yourself to whatever (or whomever – the Beloved?) comes along. You accommodate yourself to the possibility of responding to God's intentions on this world's stage. (Just do not assume that that is what you are doing!) Meditation has many purposes, but the one I am talking about here is that of creating a vulnerability to the spirit of the Beloved – and, on this personal level, the approach of the Beloved is really about your own soul's coming closer.

I have not heard it for a while, but is that old soul-mate business still making the rounds? When I hear that phrase I always think, "What, only one?" As if this whole wide universe there were only one soul that resonates perfectly with yours! I believe it is not the idea of having a soul mate, but the idea of being rescued, that appeals to us. Rescued from what? For one thing, from the annoying need to be vulnerable and therefore risk the even more annoying experience of being humiliated.

Love is not about finding a soul mate. If it seems to be at the beginning, the feeling starts to dissipate the moment you and your soul mate discover how different your toothpaste habits are. Rather, love is about exploring vulnerability, about exploring degrees of acceptance of and resistance to each other. On the spiritual level, it is about continuously reaching for deeper and deeper levels of trust in God.

. . . Vulnerability can be periodic; think of being totally vulnerable as an ideal state, not one you have to be in every moment. Our psyches are delicate; regard vulnerability as a flower that opens up, then closes to collect itself for a time.

– Phillip Gowins

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Somewhere In Between
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
"More Lovely Than the Dawn": God as Divine Lover
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Liberated to Be Together
Intrinsically Sexual
Getting It Right
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Making Love, Giving Life
Sons of the Church: A Discussion Guide
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
Thoughts on Celibacy
Beyond Limited Ideas of "Real" Gay Sex
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Photo of the Day

Image: "Ziggy" by Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – April 4, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pet Sounds

For 'music night' this evening at The Wild Reed I share a song from the year of my birth: Petula Clark’s 1965 recording of “What Now, My Love?

The original French version of this song, "Et Maintenant" ("And Now") was written in 1961 by composer Gilbert Bécaud and lyricist Pierre Delanoë. English language lyrics and the title were written by Carl Sigman. Over the years the song has been recorded by many artists – Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Elvis Presley, Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Mathis, Judy Garland, Engelbert Humperdinck . . . the list goes on! But I think Petula Clark’s version definitely ranks up there with the very best. For one thing, the orchestration is rich and lush (with a swelling of strings at 2:55 that never fails to move me!) Plus, Petula gives a truly beautiful vocal performance.

I had this recording once on an LP – a Petula Clark “greatest hits” album that I got my parents to buy for me when I was in fifth grade. I’ve never been able to find this particular song on CD, however; so I'm glad, then, to have found it on YouTube. As you'll see, it’s accompanied by some great images of Pet through the years. Enjoy! . . .

. . . What now, my love,
now that it’s over?
I feel the world
closing in on me.

Here come the stars,
tumbling around me.
There’s the sky
where the sea should be.

What now, my love,
now that you’ve gone? . . .

Recommended Off-site Link:
Petula Clark's Official Website

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Rockin' with Wanda
Ever Faithfull
Time of the Tigress
Two from Helen
“I've Been Changed, Yes, Really Changed . . .”
Dionne Warwick: “Being Human is What It's All About”
Scaling the Heights
“The Wonder You Bring . . .”
Remembering Dusty
The Empty Beach

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

When [our daughter] Ana finally revealed the secret she'd been carrying, she was just transformed. When she was able to name her loving feelings for another woman, she was just filled with energy; there was brightness in her eyes. She felt like she was home. And boy, how could I say no to that, to say no and turn that light off?

– Greg Seivert
Quoted in Baird Helgeson's article,
"Marriage Amendment: Soul-Searching Over a Future as Catholics"
Star Tribune
October 24, 2012

Recommended Off-site Links:
A Catholic Q&A on the 'Marriage Amendment' – Michael Bayly and Florence Steichen (Sensus Fidelium, August 7, 2012).
Why Catholics Can Vote 'No' – Bob Pierson, OSB (Sensus Fidelium, June 11, 2012).
More Commitment, and Stronger Marriages, Are What We Need – John Berns (MPR News, October 24, 2012).
The Deep Roots of the Marriage Debate – Sasha Aslanian (MPR News, October 24, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Raising of Lazarus and the Gay Experience of Coming Out
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness
A Girl Named Sara: "A Person of the Resurrection"
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Jim David on the "Actual Benefits of Same-Sex Marriage"
The Gifts of Homosexuality
In the Footsteps of Spring

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Eye of the Storm . . .

. . . a Tree of Living Flame

Recently I've been spending late afternoons at the office of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, distributing our "Another Catholic Voting No" yard signs. Believe it or not, our office is housed in a Baptist Church in South Minneapolis. It's a very progressive Baptist Church, however, as the photo at right attests.

I've lost count of the number of people who have come by for a yard sign in the past couple of months. I do know that all have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to take home and share in their neighborhood and, in some cases, their out-state town or city, the message of our signs. It's a message that's very simple: It proclaims that a self-identified Catholic, drawing upon key aspects of their Catholic faith, has chosen to vote their conscience in a particular way on the 'marriage amendment.' And their conscience – informed, in part, by the presence of God discerned and celebrated in the lives and relationships of their gay and lesbian loved ones – tells them to vote 'no.'

Above: A September 19, 2012 Associated Press photo by Jim Mone.
The caption reads: "In this photo, Michael Bayly, right, director of Catholics
for Marriage Equality MN, hands a yard sign to Ted Fisher, of Bloomington, Minn.,
as Sue Kmetz, left, of Minneapolis, prepares to leave with her sign supporting
Catholics who oppose the Minnesota marriage amendment which will be decided
in the November general election. The group said they have handed out more than
a thousand yard signs, buttons and stickers that read,
'Another Catholic Voting No.'"

Difficult times

In the midst of the 'marriage amendment battle,' as the media like to call it, it can be difficult being a self-identified Catholic. This is not because Catholics are predominately in favor of denying civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Far from it. Of all the Christian denominations, Catholics are actually the most supportive of civil rights for LGBT people – including civil marriage rights. (In her October 8 National Catholic Reporter column, Jamie L. Manson examines one reason for this support)

No, it's not the Catholic people's stance on marriage equality that makes it difficult for many to identify as Catholic these days in Minnesota. Rather, it's the anti-marriage equality rhetoric and activism of those who comprise the church's clerical leadership, or caste, as I prefer to call it. I see absolutely nothing of the compassion, justice-making, or radical inclusivity of Jesus in this rhetoric and activism. Quite the opposite. The words and actions of Archbishop Nienstedt and various spokespeople of the Minnesota Catholic Conference are insensitive, mean-spirited, and exclusionary. The image of LGBT people, relationships, and families that such words and actions convey is rooted in demeaning caricatures, erroneous distortions, and deliberate fear-mongering. Such things are causing unnecessary divisiveness and pain in families, society, and the church.

The hurtful rhetoric and divisive tactics championed by those opposed to marriage equality seem to be increasing daily – as is the determination of many to resist and challenge such damaging words and actions. As I noted previously, I don't like thinking of all of this as a "fight" or "battle," though I accept that this is exactly how it can feel to many people – myself included at times. Yet I don't want to fight. I don't want my actions dictated by feelings of anger, hurt, and grief. And I don't want to see anyone – not even Archbishop Nienstedt – as my enemy.

Beacons of hope, encouragement and invitation

I've come to think of the pro-'marriage amendment' efforts as comprising a great storm of negativity – one that's wreaking havoc on the emotional and spiritual well-being of many. In the midst of this storm, I see groups like Catholics for Marriage Equality MN as pockets of reason, compassion, and calm; as places where those battered by the stinging winds of this storm can find refuge and the strength to breath deeply and say quietly yet firmly, "No!" No to the forces of havoc and harm; no to the forces that seek to limit and exclude.

On most weekday afternoons, the C4ME-MN office serves as such a place of refuge. And I like to think that all the love, peace and courage we foster and share within our walls gets to be carried out and shared each and every time someone takes home with them one of our "Another Catholic Voting No" yard signs. I don't actually see these signs as political statements. After all, they don't actually tell anyone how to vote. Rather, I see them as little beacons of hope, encouragement, and invitation, shining in ever-increasing numbers throughout the metro area and beyond.

A living flame

On the grounds of the church in which we have our office, there is a little tree. Currently, its leaves are a beautiful glowing-red color. Often when there's a lull in the distributing of yard signs, I go out and just sit with the beauty of this tree. In doing so, I experience God's loving and transforming presence.

It's become for me a symbol of hope, this tree of living flame. It reminds me that the church is a living body; that it too can and does change. And I'm reminded that I'm also not only capable of growth and change, but that I'm called daily to undertake such a sacred journey. That's what I've come to understand life and the spiritual path as being all about: journey, struggle, transformation.

This beautiful tree is rapidly losing its leaves – an inevitable change at this time of year. Watching this transformation makes me mindful of changes in my own life, and the need to be more intentional in setting aside time for prayer and reflection so as to most lovingly and authentically respond to these changes. I've come to realize that all this 'marriage equality'-work, as important as it is, has kept me too busy, too outwardly-focused. Perhaps this was necessary, given the specifics of the situation. I don't know. What I do know, however, is that I can't wait for this whole amendment issue to be done with. It really has taken a lot out of me this past year-and-a-half. As a result, I'm feeling the need for inner replenishment and balance in my life.

People often ask me how I think the 'marriage amendment' vote will turn out. I honestly don't know. Of course, I hope and pray that both it and the "voter photo ID amendment' will be defeated. I'm well aware that living in liberal South Minneapolis is akin to living in a bubble. When one sees daily the hundreds of official "Vote No" signs that dot the metro area, one can be lulled into a false sense of security about the outcome of the vote. It's a very different story in the outer suburbs, of course; not to mention rural Minnesota. Yet I remain hopeful, in large part because of the observations and insights shared in Rose Arce and Carol Costell's recent CNN story on how this year's Election Day may reveal a significant shift on the issue of same-sex marriage. Following is an excerpt from this particular article.

"The biggest difference going into this election as opposed to the last election is that a majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry, we have a president of the United States that supports the freedom to marry, we have six states and the District of Columbia where gay people can share in the freedom to marry," says Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, a group supporting the right of gays to marry.

A CNN/ORC poll in June found that a majority of Americans support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, reflecting a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past two decades.

The number of Americans who say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, meanwhile, has jumped from 49% in 2010 to 60% today, the first time in CNN polling that a majority of Americans have said that. In the 1990s, most Americans said they did not know anyone close to them who was gay.

Drew Tagliabue, the executive director of the New York City chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, says ties with gay people have prompted non-gays to support gay rights causes in increasing numbers.

"When you come at something and you know someone who is gay, it takes the fear out of the issue and makes it clear that it's just a simple matter of equality," he says.

The November votes come as courts are moving to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the biggest obstacles to gay rights supporters. The divisive act, passed in 1996, bars federal recognition of marriages between people of the same sex and says states cannot be forced to recognize them. On Thursday, a federal appeals court in New York became the nation's second to strike down the law, saying that it violates the Constitution's equal protection clause. A federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May. The appellate court decisions mean the next step is likely to be a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A time of prayer, discernment, and nurturance

In two weeks we'll know the result. And then? Well, obviously, much will depend on the outcome of the vote. For me personally, regardless of the result, I'll be taking a short break and visiting friends in Chicago. Then it will be back to the Twin Cities for the winter and my part-time job with a Minneapolis-based meals-on-wheels program. For CPCSM, the group I work with and which initiated Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, it will be a time of envisioning future directions and plans. My role with the organization is one of a number of important questions about which I intend to prayerfully discern in the months ahead. Indeed, I'm thinking that the approaching winter will be for me a season of discernment. What is it I am called to do with my life? How am I called to use my gifts and talents? At the moment the answers to these questions are a mystery to me. I just know that I feel as though I'm at a crossroads, and that I want to take this seriously and respond prayerfully and mindfully.

One book I've been reading that I've found helpful is Phillip Gowins' Practical Sufism: A Guide to the Spiritual Path. Take for instance the following by Gowins on prayer and commitment.

Merely engaging with God has a profound effect. When you ask the divine a question, the very asking changes you. What I mean is that if you ask God what to do . . . or if you simply ask God to create the conditions within your being that will allow the love stream to flow, you will be different. . . . Commitment can be seen as allowing beauty to enter our lives; as allowing the desire for intimate spiritual expression to come forward and become itself, as the acknowledgement of our capacity for evoking the divine being within ourselves. . . . [T]rue commitment [is] nurturing within yourself the kernel of truth and purity that is what you already are.

Praying, discerning, nurturing . . . all things that I hope to do in the weeks and months ahead. To help facilitate such steps on the journey I've promised myself to spend time with those who nurture my spirit – good friends of both the two-legged and four-legged kind! Connection with such friends is important because working this past year-and-a-half on the issue of marriage equality within the context of the incredibly divisive 'marriage amendment,' has meant having to deal with opponents whose words and actions have been quite toxic. I feel I need to cleanse myself of all this toxicity.

Another step I've taken is to finally set up my little prayer altar in what's now my not-so-new home in Minneapolis. Over the past week, my housemate Tim and I have been making the spare bedroom into a meditation room. Our prayer styles are very different. As a result of his interest in and exploration of Buddhism, Tim prefers to focus on a blank wall, while I have my colorful little altar with all kinds of special objects – candles, rocks, icons, and feathers. We completed preparing the room last night, and I spent time this morning, the morning of my 47th birthday, sitting before my prayer altar in meditation and prayer.

I recently found a prayer that I wrote about ten years ago. As you'll see, given all that I've shared in this post, this prayer is very appropriate. Obviously, it must have been appropriate to my life when I wrote it a decade ago. In fact, I think I know myself well enough to say that this prayer will always be appropriate for me! I close this post by sharing this prayer.

Great Spirit,

I pray for balance.
I pray for wisdom and strength
to avoid self-absorption as the result of spending
too much time focusing inwardly.
I pray for the wisdom and strength
to avoid burn-out as the result of expending
too much of myself outwardly.

Most importantly, I pray for the strength
to cultivate a relationship with you;
to spend quiet time open to your presence within and beyond me;
to create quiet space for your Spirit of discernment
to rise and surface in my consciousness.

I pray for balance,
Great Spirit.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Into the Fray
"There Must Be Balance . . ."
Quote of the Day – November 16, 2011
Seeking Balance
The Soul of a Dancer
In the Garden of Spirituality – Hazrat Inayat Khan
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
As the Last Walls Dissolve, Everything is Possible
The Living Tree

See also my previous birthday posts:
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
No Matter What

Images: Michael Bayly and Jim Mone.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Something to Think About . . .

Recommended Off-site Links:
This Presidential Election Show is Lame, But the Outcome Could Be Dramatic – Gary Younge (The Guardian, October 21, 2012).
The Lethal Debate: Questions About Killing – Tom Junod (Esquire, October 22, 2012).
Obama and Romney Concur on War, Assassination and Reaction – Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site, October 23, 2012).
Obama Wins a Failed Foreign Policy DebateCommonDreams.org (October 23, 2012).
The Silence on Climate Change at the Debates – Chris Hayes (CommonDreams.org, October 22, 2012).
Why the Chill on Climate Change? – Eugene Robinson (TruthDig.com, October 21, 2012).
With 60,000 Dead, Mexicans Wonder Why Drug War Doesn't Rate in Presidential Debate – Sara Miller Llana (Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 2012).
What Was Missing in Debates? The Words 'Gay' and 'Lesbian' – Lucas Grindley (The Advocate, October 22, 2012).
The Next America – Richard Reeves (TruthDig.com, October 21, 2012).

Image: Source.


Do you remember the character of Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers series of comedy films?

She was the "attack and defense specialist" for Dr. Evil and the mother of their son Scott Evil. She was also hilariously known for screaming out her German-accented orders: "Bring in the FemBOTS!", "Fire the laSAR!", "Open the TANK!"

Particular emphasis was always placed on the last syllable, so that it was shouted the loudest. In one scene, when her adult son tells her how he'd always been told he'd been a test tube baby, she responds: "Lies. ALL LIES!".

Frau Farbissina's screaming of this particular phrase came to mind recently when I saw the latest ad from Minnesota for Marriage – the main group supporting a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

There are all types of lies, of course: bald-faced lies, 'little white lies,' lies of omission, twisted or convoluted lies. What they all have in common is the intent to mislead. The latest ad from Minnesota for Marriage is constructed of convoluted lies – lies that mislead by purposely complicating and confusing the issue. In this specific case, unnecessary and irrelevant information is assigned to an unrelated statement grounded in fact.

"When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere," the ad declares, "it has not been live and let live. People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences."

The reality of civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in certain U.S. states is a fact. Yet the so-called "consequences" cited by Minnesota for Marriage are irrelevant to this fact.

Two Minnesota media outlets, WCCO and Minnesota Public Radio News, have examined the claims made by Minnesota for Marriage, and found them "misleading" and "deceptive." Polite ways, I'd contend, of saying "Lies, ALL LIES!"

Here's what MPR News has to say about the various "consequences" of same-sex marriage cited by Minnesota for Marriage.

"Small businesses fined."

Minnesota for Marriage is referring to the Wildflower Inn in Vermont, where gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Lesbian couple Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley wanted to get married there, but were told the inn would not host same-sex ceremonies.

Baker and Linsley sued, claiming the inn violated the state's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prevents hotels from discriminating against patrons based on their sexual orientation. Ultimately, the inn had to pay the Vermont Human Rights Commission $10,000 and put $20,000 in a charitable trust.

University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson specializes in sexual orientation and law, and said that the suit could have been brought regardless of whether or not same-sex marriage is legal. Johnson also said there have been no similar cases in Vermont since same-sex marriage was legalized.

"It's not as if small businesses up and down the state are being fined," Johnson said.

"Individuals fired"

The ad refers to a Toronto-based sports broadcaster Damian Goddard who was fired a day after he tweeted about a hockey-player's support of same-sex marriage.

According to ESPN, Goddard wrote that he "completely and whole-heartedly" backed another hockey agent's "support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage."

Goddard's employer said that it already planned to let him go, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

"Charities closed down"

This claim involves the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which is still open.

The group decided to shut down its public adoption program after Washington D.C. made same-sex marriage legal because it felt it could not comply with the new law, which requires religious groups that serve the general public [and receive government funding] to recognize same-sex marriages, without compromising its religious beliefs, according to the Archdiocese.

The D.C. Catholic Charities continues a private adoption program using its own money.

"Churches sued."

In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, a married gay couple is suing the Diocese of Worcester for dropping a real estate deal.

The couple said the Diocese backed out because it was worried gay marriages would be held on the property. The church says the deal fell through because of concerns about the couple's finances.

But as in Vermont, the Massachusetts couple could sue regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal there because they are claiming Diocese violated a general Massachusetts law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, said real Massachusetts estate lawyer Richard Vetstein.

"Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day."

Earlier this year, [MPR] said a similar claim is misleading.

Some Massachusetts schools are teaching kids about same-sex marriage in their diversity curriculum, which is part of a statewide curriculum framework created in 1993. But the state doesn't mandate certain lessons or books be taught, and there is no statewide requirement that schools teach about same-sex marriage.

Rather, curriculum decisions are made by individual schools, and some have incorporated same-sex marriage into their diversity lessons, including the Lexington School district, which was involved in a 2006 lawsuit brought by several parents. A federal court ultimately rejected the case.

10/30/12 UPDATES:
Marriage Amendment Supporters Make False Claims About Catholic CharitiesTheColu.mn (October 23, 2012).
Minnesota for Marriage Ad Borrows Dubious Claims from Other States' Campaigns – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, October 25, 2012).
Will Minnesota TV Stations Reject False Minnesota for Marriage Ads? – Andy Birkey (TheColu.mn, October 26, 2012).
Checking the Latest Ad in the Minnesota Marriage DebateKARE 11 News (October 26, 2012).
David Parker, the Man Behind Frank Schubert's Deceptive Multi-State Anti-Equality Ad – Scott Wooledge (HuffPost Gay Voices, October 30, 2012).

Recommended Off-site Links:
Telling the Truth: Fact Checking the Marriage Amendment – Minnesotans United for All Families (October 2012).
Marriage Amendment Ad Misleads – Catharine Richert (Minnesota Public Radio, October 19, 2012).
Reality Check: Amendment Ad Makes Questionable Claims – Pat Kessler (WCCO, October 18, 2012).
Before Banning Gay Marriage, Criminalizing Homosexuality Was Family Council’s Cause Celebre – Andy Birkey (The Minnesota Independent, October 4, 2012).
Marriage Amendment Supporters Apologize for Hitler References – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, October 22, 2012).
Addressing the Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage Offered by the Catholic Bishops of Washington StateThe Progressive Catholic Voice (September 6, 2012).
Catholic Bishops Use Freedom of Religion to Justify HomophobiaEideard (December 29, 2011).
Religious Persecution? – Bob Felton (Civil Commotion, December 29, 2011).
How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions – Rev. Emily C. Heath (HuffPost Religion, September 5, 2012).
What is "Marriage Itself"? – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 30, 2011).
Catholic Q&A on the Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment' – Michael Bayly and Florence Steichen (Sensus Fidelium, August 7, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society
Quote of the Day – September 6, 2012
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry 'Victim'
Persecuted 'Enemies of the State'? Or Just Sore Losers?
What Part of Jesus' Invitation to "Be Not Afraid" Don't the Bishops Get?
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions

Image: Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jim David on the "Actual Benefits of Same-Sex Marriage"

Although comedian and writer Jim David's recent HuffPost commentary is directed to the folks at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), it could just as easily be addressed to members of the Roman Catholic clerical caste. After all, both groups speak disparagingly and erroneously of gay people and relationships, and both are funding and partaking in anti-marriage equality activism, including working to pass a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would deny civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

David begins his commentary by identifying what he calls "the problem" with anti-gay groups like NOM and the Catholic hierarchy.

Using the evidence of my own life and millions of others, I am operating within the assumption that being gay is a normal and natural part of human sexuality and has been since the beginning of time. The problem with NOM and other anti-gay outfits is that their assumption is that homosexuality itself is wrong, so same-sex marriage, or any kind of legal recognition of gay relationships, is therefore wrong, as well. To them, same sex-marriage not only offers nothing to society but is as dangerous as incest and pedophilia.

He then outlines a number of ways that same-sex marriage can actually benefit society as a whole. Following are three of these ways, illustrated by some very powerful experiences from David's own life.

1) Same-sex marriage creates healthy relationships that stabilize society.

My husband and I met in March 1988, so we've been together for close to 25 years. Before I met him I was an absolute wreck. I'm going to spare you the details, but suffice it to say I was alone and living a personal life that was a shameful secret. It was the height of the HIV crisis, so the stigma of being gay had gotten worse, and it was still difficult to be out. My self-esteem was at rock bottom, and I was struggling with various addictions. I desperately needed companionship, if only for a few hours, so rather than spend every night alone, I frequently went out and had sex with men I had just met. I drank and smoked too much, did drugs and was generally a big mess, because I thought I would spend my life alone. There was no talk of marriage (and hardly dating) in those days. My budding relationship with the man who would become my husband immediately stabilized my life, kept me off the streets, increased my self-esteem, reduced my addictions and gave me hope for my future. I immediately became a better member of society, worked harder, was of more use to my profession and, because we were monogamous, didn't catch HIV and give it to someone else. In every way, our lives are better and we are more productive members of society because of our marriage.

2) Same-sex marriage stabilizes families.

Before I was in a relationship, I was not out to my Christian parents, and I moved farther and farther away from them so that I could live my life as comfortably as possible. I didn't come out because I had nothing to show for it; I just continued to live a secret life that I hated and endured my mother's incessant questions about who I was seeing. After my partner and I committed to each other, I was at last able to live my life openly and share the love of my life with family. It made us closer, not further apart. My partner became a family member, and his family became the in-laws. Both our families were strengthened and stabilized by our relationship. As time has gone on, we have helped members of our family with various family things. Our marriage ceremony earlier this year brought both sides of our families together in a way that they hadn't been before. This is true of every same-sex marriage I've personally witnessed, and I've been to a lot of weddings in the last year and have met lots of family members. Thank God few in our families were members of a NOM-like organization, which promotes only paranoid bigotry and encourages people to miss some really cool weddings.

3) Same-sex marriage creates a stable environment for children.

Yeah, yeah, same-sex couples can't create children. But they have no problem raising them. As far as the myth that children are best served by a mother and a father, we all know a lot of really screwed-up people who came from a mother and a father. The adoption and foster-care agencies of the world are jam-packed with babies discarded by mothers and fathers. A same-sex couple I know recently adopted a son who was thrown into foster care like a piece of trash, abandoned by every heterosexual parent he had. The child was a wreck when he arrived, and now he's a happy boy in the second grade, on the softball team, with a quality of life he did not know before age five. This scenario has been repeated thousands of times in thousands of other same-sex families. The only problem that children of same-sex couples routinely report is dealing with the bigotry of children whose parents believe the lies told by organizations like NOM.

To read Jim David's commentary in its entirety, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Hierarchy, NOM Responsible for 60 Percent of Anti-Gay Marriage Funding in Ballot StatesLGBTQNation.com (October 18, 2012).
Knights of Columbus’ Financial Opposition to Marriage Equality Revealed – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, October 19, 2012).
U.S. Marriage Act Is Unfair to Gays, Appeals Court Rules – John Schwartz (New York Times, October 18, 2012).
Reality Check: Pro-Amendment Ad Makes Questionable Claims – Pat Kessler (WCCO, October 18, 2012).
Marriage Amendment Ad Misleads – Catharine Richert (Minnesota Public Radio, October 19, 2012).
Church-Going Latino Catholics Favor Same-Sex Marriage: The Surprise of the Centrist Catholic Commentariat – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, October 19, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
Simple Answers to NOM's Complicated Lies
NOM's Minnesota Battle Plan
Dale Carpenter on the "Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
From Northern Minnesota, Two Excellent Rebuttals to the "Convoluted Logic" of the Bishops' Pro-Amendment Argument
The Changing Face of "Traditional Marriage"
Dr. Erik Steele and the "Naked Truth on Same-Sex Marriage"
The Same People
A Pediatric Physician's Helpful Perspective on Same-Sex Parenting
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
It Is Not Good to Be Alone
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"