Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Brave New World

Before Monday, I had never heard of Jason Collins. I’m not a huge pro sports fan, though I do love college sports, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was not familiar with him. After his announcement, I did some reading about him. In case you are not familiar with the story, NBA player Jason Collins took the sports world by surprise when he came out publicly on Monday, becoming the first openly gay athlete ever in major U.S. professional sports. Collins wrote in a Sports Illustrated op-ed, “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

So far, Collins’ announcement has been received with much support, which is fantastic. One can only hope that this will influence the next generation, who will learn that it is possible – despite all the stereotypes that suggest otherwise – to be a gay man and an athlete, and also that gay men can lead successful, proud, open lives in all sorts of fields, including athletics.

Imagine being a young person who dreams of a sporting career but believes that sports teams are homophobic, unwelcoming places; Collins is proof that this doesn’t have to be the case. We just have to hope that he faces no difficulties due to being openly gay and proud, and that more athletes come out soon too.

Of course there has been some backlash. Rush Limbaugh lamented on Tuesday what he called the lack of “tolerance” for anti-gay reactions to Jason Collins’ coming out. Even though the NBA, the White House and Bill Clinton have praised Collins for his announcement, Limbaugh felt differently, which should come as no big surprise. “Why can’t everyone just put your sexual preferences on Facebook and call it a day? Why do we need to stop everything and have a national day of celebration, or mourning, depending on your point of view… about this?” the radio host wondered on Tuesday. “And this tolerance only goes one way.”

Limbaugh is missing the point, by a long shot. In this day and age, we need publicly out figures to be an encouragement. We need people like Collins to come out, so that others can as well. We need the role models. For a celebrity, it can’t be a subtle coming out. Someday, it won’t be like this, but someone has to begin the process. As tennis player and gay rights activist Billie Jean King has suggested, this news item is great, but it’s also a shame in a way – it would be better if people didn’t need to come out, and if instead everyone were accepted for who they are. We shouldn’t have to defend ourselves, but since the world isn’t yet at that stage, unfortunately we still need people such as Jason Collins.

Collins was extremely brave to come out, especially since he becomes a free agent on July 1 — meaning that he will first have to sign with an NBA team and wait until next season to see if teammates, coaches, opponents and fans will treat him any differently. So the question now is whether any general manager will sign Collins to another deal. With it would flow all the attention and scrutiny that comes with signing this modern gay-rights and sports icon. It would also mean that young athletes around the country would get to watch a publicly gay basketball player on the court on a regular basis.

Brooklyn Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who has called Collins a friend for years, stated, “I think the real response will be once he gets a job….It’s not like he’s under contract next year and guaranteed to go back to a team. I think once that happens, then public opinion or whatever or players’ opinion will start to loom a little larger then. But right now we’ve got the summer to kind of digest what has happened, and I’m pulling for him.” I’m pulling for Collins too.

Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts, the highest-ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay, said he thinks there will be a place in the league for Collins. “He absolutely will receive more opportunities,” Welts said. “A lot more doors will open for Jason than are going to close because of what he did (Monday).” We can certainly hope so.

His coming out has already been an opportunity for me as a teacher. One of my students, the same one I spoke of in an earlier post who came across some evidence that another student was gay, asked me if I had seen the news. I didn’t immediately know what he was talking about, but then he asked me if I had heard about the NBA player who came out. From there we had a very good class discussion about why this was such a momentous event and how brave Collins was to do so. I had just finished teaching the Civil Rights Movement last week (not an easy task when you teach at a majority white private school that was in the center of the civil rights struggle). We had also begun discussing the Vietnam War this week. I was able to bring up the Stonewall Riots, which is not in our textbook, and to discuss the role of the early homophile in attempting to remove the ban on gays in the military, how that had changed as the reality of Vietnam became known, and how we have eventually been able to repeal DADT.

Besides having a great discussion about equal rights, not a single person said anything negative about gay people. Nearly everyone saw Collins’s coming out as a positive thing. Someone did mention something about the locker room situation, but someone else countered with, “He’s the same person they’ve always taken a shower with, what difference should it make.” Truthfully, though I didn’t point this out to the kids, if a guy has been to a gym, then there is a high likelihood that they’ve already showered with a gay man.

I have one last thing to add that I found quite interesting about Jason Collins’s coming out. Collins has gone even further than many others in regard to coming-out statements, because he also noted the importance of his race and religion to him, and his desire to start a family. So besides shattering the idea that professional sports are not queer spaces, he also has helped remind people that gay men can be black, they can be religious Christians, and they can be looking to create nuclear families; gays are from every walk of life, just like straight people, which is one of the most important lessons that people can learn. I think that because a few of my students knowing that a fellow classmate is gay has given them a new perspective. Knowing is different from suspecting, and it puts a real face to LGBT people, and I honestly believe that it is making a difference, just as Collins becoming the first out gay man in a major U.S. professional sport will make a difference.


A Greek Island by Edward Hirsch

A Greek Island 
Traveling over your body I found
The failing olive and the cajoling flute,
Where I knelt down, as if in prayer,
And sucked a moist pit 
From the marl
Of the earth in a sacred cove.
You gave yourself to the god who comes,
The liberator of the loud shout, 
While I fell into a trance, 
Blood on my lips,
And stumbled into a temple on top
Of a hill at the bottom of the sky.
About this Poem:
“The poem takes a phrase (‘C’est l’olive pâmée, et la flûte câline’) from an obscene parody of Albert Mérat by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine (‘Sonnet du trou du cul’) and develops it into an erotic poem.  Now the body of the body becomes a sacred site, a Greek island.”
–Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch is the author of numerous collections of poetry including, The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems(Knopf, 2011). Hirsch is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Sometimes…I Have to Write About Nothing

The only problem with writing a daily blog is that every now and then, I have nothing to write about, or I can’t find anything to share with you guys.  Sometimes, it’s the opposite.  I have what I think are two or three good ideas, and I have to decide which one to use, and then I have to decide if the others can be used another day.  On Tuesdays, I know I can always find a poem; Saturdays, I can usually find a “Moment of Zen;” and on Sundays, I can usually find a Bible verse if nothing else.  Today, is one of those days that I just can’t think of anything to write about.  I’ve checked out the gay news sources, and nothing popped out at me. Nothing else has struck me as interesting either.  I’m sure there is something, but it eludes me right now.

So today, I am writing about nothing, because I can’t think of anything to write about.

Temptation

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, 

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, 

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ 

and 

“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, 

‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”. Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” 

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:1-11
As the passage above shows, Christ faced temptation, though because he was God in flesh, he only faced temptation by Satan, but was not tempted. Temptation is something we all face as Christians, no matter how long we have been following Christ.  There are a few practical things, however, that we can do to grow stronger and smarter in our struggle against sin. We can learn how to avoid temptation by practicing these five steps.

Recognize your tendency toward sin.
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward avoiding temptation, is recognizing our human tendency to be tempted by our own fleshly desires. Temptation is a given, so don’t be surprised by it. Rather, expect to be tempted. Be prepared for it.

Run away from the temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are face to face with temptation, look for the way out that God has promised and then run as fast as you can.

Resist with the Word of truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.

Though it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Word daily, so that eventually you have so much of it inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes. If you are reading through the Bible regularly, you will have the full counsel of God at your disposal.

Refocus with praise.
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worship to the Lord? Praising God takes your focus off of yourself and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praise. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation. May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start.

Repent quickly when you fail.
In several places the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we all fail from time to time. We fail to flee. Notice I didn’t say, repent quickly if you fail. Having a more realistic view—knowing that at times you will fail—should help you to repent quickly when you do. It is not the end of the world when you fail, but it is very dangerous to persist in your sin. Going back to James 1, verse 15 explains that sin “when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The following prayer may also bring some solace when we face temptation:
Dear Lord, 
You know the temptations that I am facing today. But your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear. I ask for your strength to stand up under the temptation whenever I encounter it. Your Word also tells me you will provide a way out of the temptation. Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to walk away when I am tempted, and the clarity to see the way out that you will provide. Thank you, God, that you are a faithful deliverer and that I can count on your help in my time of need. 
Amen

Moment of Zen: Staying in Bed


Knowledge

Acquire knowledge, it enableth its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lighteth the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guideth us to happiness; it sustaineth us in misery, it is an ornament amongst friends, and an armour against enemies.”
― Muhammad, quoted in The Sayings of Muhammad
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
― Marcus Garvey
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
― Kofi Annan
Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.
― Margaret Fuller
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.
― Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson
The end of man is knowledge but there’s one thing he can’t know. He can’t know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can’t know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn’t got and which if he had it would save him.
― Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
A society that fears knowledge is a society that fears itself.
― Bernard Beckett, Genesis



Blue Week

Do you ever have one of those weeks when you just feel down and depressed?  I seem to be having what I call a blue week, a week when nothing seems to go right, you’re in a constant bad mood, and you just feel down and depressed.  There have been a few bright spots, but it’s been two to three bright spots for a hundred dreary spots.  I just feel like the universe is aligned against me this week. The thing is, it’s not just one or two things I can name, but so many different things have happened that all seemed to be bad.  Hopefully, the end of week will be an improvement on the beginning.  Quite honestly, it will have to be, I don’t think I could handle it getting worse. 

I do like the picture above though.  It just seems melancholy and hopeful at the same time.  Plus, I love the colors, the purples, yellows, blues, and browns just blend together perfectly.


First Openly Gay NFL Player?

Alan Gendreau is nothing if not unique. A devout Christian and a Florida native, Gendreau was a superstar kicker for the Middle Tennessee State’s Blue Raiders; he is also openly gay. As an athlete at a Southern college, Gendreau was not only a successul team member, but he also felt accepted by his teammates. Now, he has his sights set on the National Football League (NFL).
Gendreau gave an exclusive interview to OutSports’ Cyd Zeigler about life as an openly gay college athlete and his NFL prospects, revealing that when he came out to his MT team in freshman year, they fully embraced him.
“Everyone just saw him as a football player,” MT holder and team punter Josh Davis told OutSports. “He was just one of the guys. The fact that he proved himself on the field, there was a respect for him.”
The 5-foot, 10-inch kicker, who graduated from MT last year, knows the NFL is a long-shot for him this year. Gendreau is currently a free agent, and only the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers are likely to draft a kicker this year. Still, it isn’t impossible.
“It’s totally legit that he can get into the league,” Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who is also a gay rights advocate, told OutSports. “Place-kicking is all about doing this one specific skill set. And if you can do that, you can make it whether you’ve been out of football for one year or 10 years.”
If he does make it into the NFL, Gendreau would not only be the first gay professional football player, but he would also be the first professional player to enter the league openly gay.
Gay players in sports have been especially controversial lately. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo revealed earlier this month that as many as four current football players are in talks to come out in the near future. Following this statement, the NFL met with gay rights groups to discuss enacting policies to end homophobia and combat discrimination.
The NFL would likely embrace a player like Gendreau, and why not? The first openly gay, male athlete will likely rake in millions in endorsement deals and garner major attention for the team.
“We have seen time and time again that diversity is a benefit,” Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of pro-tolerance nonprofit Athlete Ally, previously told The Huffington Post. “It’s a benefit in corporate America; it’s a benefit in schools; and it’s a benefit in sports. An athletic culture that welcomes and includes LGBT athletes will ultimately draw improved talent and create more unified and respectful team cultures.”
“These ideas are resonating for the sports community at all levels, from the leagues to the players to the corporate sponsors. And perhaps most importantly, they are resonating for fans,” he continued. “Though a player’s decision to come out is intensely personal and something about which only he or she knows best, it is a promising time as the sports community welcomes those decisions and the corporate community incentivizes them.”

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Dreams
by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.



Langston Hughes

James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry.

Silence

Friday was the Day of Silence, which recognizes the struggles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. I am ashamed of myself for bot recognizing this on Friday, but so much was going on last week, that i just passed me by without me noticing.  Though the movement has its roots in the United States, it addresses problems that are not specific to any one country, and it requires a broad solution that transcends borders and cultures. Fortunately, international awareness is increasing in the fight against homophobia. We have seen this from international institutions such as the United Nations all the way to the realm of one traditionally challenging environment for LGBT youth: the realm of sports.

Christopher Doyle wrote an editorial for The Christian Post called “Day of Silence: How Christians  Should Respond.”  Doyle, an “ex-gay” man who is now married with three children, wrote, “With the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in American society, Christians are faced with the dilemma of how to respond. Over the years, I have witnessed a number of reactions from Christians.” These reactions range from Christians keeping their kids out of school for the day or, as Focus on the Family suggests, having a Day of Dialogue.  Held on April 18, this day encourages (according to their Facebook page) Bible-believing students to share ” the truth about God’s deep love for us and what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality.”

The problem faced by Christian and LGBT students is that too often, these competing days become a source of tension between two different worldviews. Instead of focusing on bullying prevention, a shouting match usually ensues about the cause(s) of homosexuality, from both sides, where no one really listens to each other, and everyone loses.  Focus on the Family is merely encouraging “Christian” students to bully LGBT students when they encourage this Day of Dialogue.  Most students are not mature enough to have a civil dialogue (their parents aren’t either, for that matter), and thus it will seem like LGBT students are being bullied, which is the opposite of what the Day of Silence is supposed to mean.

Doyle wrote that, “As a parent of small children, I could not imagine sending them into a school environment that tolerates insults and name-calling towards a group of human beings. Politics aside. Religion aside. Science aside. It’s just plain wrong!”  Doyle writes of being bullied as a kid because of his homosexuality.  I want to quote the rest of his editorial, because in it he offers his solution:
What if your son or daughter experiences same-sex attraction and you don’t know it? What if a nephew or niece, or another relative, is suffering in silence and doesn’t know what to do? Chances are, you are somehow connected to someone who is either struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, or identifies as gay. How would you feel if classmates hurled hateful slurs towards your child and you didn’t even know it?

So what should Christians do? Parents would be wise to instill values of empathy, love, and respect in their children on this day, rather than pretend the event doesn’t exist or protest at home because of philosophical or theological differences. Parents, find a local of Day of Silence event and attend. Listen without judgment, and see beyond the children’s homosexual feelings. Look into their heart. Listen to their story. Understand what they’ve been through, and empathize with their pain.

Straight students, join your fellow LGBT classmates and pretend, for one day, that you have homosexual feelings. Just for one day, walk in their shoes and imagine how it feels to be harassed and insulted because of your gender non-conforming behavior. As you tape your mouth shut, close your eyes and step into the shoes of someone who has been hurt for something they didn’t choose. Remember, no one simply chooses to have same-sex attractions; it is the result of many factors.

It doesn’t mean you have to endorse your classmates’ sexual feelings or behavior – in fact, your willingness to surrender your own judgment and preconceived notions about LGBT people, and love them unconditionally even for one day, may be the greatest sacrifice you could ever make for them. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for all of us?
I added the emphasis above, because it is what I most want to teach my students and what I pray that parents will teach their children, that they will “instill values of empathy, love, and respect in their children.”  Christopher Doyle may have the right idea and he certainly has a unique perspective.  He works with LGBT youth against bullying.  I don’t know a lot about Doyle other than what he writes about himself and that he is the Director of Acception Productions, LLC and the Author/Producer of Acception: Bullying Solutions and Prevention Health Education Curriculum (and Film). I

 wrote last Thursday about the choices we make as LGBT individuals.  One of the choices I wrote about was that of pretending not to be a homosexual and attempting to live a heterosexual life.  That is the choice Doyle made, and though I could not make the same choice, I have to believe that everyone has to make their own choices.  Doyle appears to be using his former homosexual identity to help LGBT youth, not through aversion therapy, but by helping to prevent bullying.


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