Monthly Archives: July 2015

Still I Rise

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Still I Rise

Maya Angelou
, 1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

“Still I Rise” was Angelou’s favorite poem. In the poem, she refers to the indomitable spirit of Black people, using repetition and the categorization of injustices against them. It is a theme many of is can relate too, especially the LGBT community. When we are down, we must rise again, because if we don’t then our foes win. She quoted it during interviews and often included it in her public readings. Despite adversity and racism, Angelou expresses her faith that one will overcome and triumph. Scholar Lyman B. Hagen compares “Still I Rise” with spirituals that express hope. As she does in “Phenomenal Woman” and throughout her poetry and autobiographies, Angelou speaks not only for herself, but for her entire gender and race, but what makes her an enduring poet is the universality of what she wrote. Reviewer Ellen Lippmann calls “Still I Rise” a “proud, even defiant statement of behalf of all Black people”. Angelou, during an interview in 1997, stated that she used the poem to help sustain her during hard times, and that many people, both Black and white, used it in the same way. I know that I do.
Some days, it’s difficult to even get out of bed and face the world, but I will persevere and carry on my life. People have remarked that I have taken being unemployed remarkably well, it’s not that I’m taking it well, I’m just good at hiding it, but I keep in mind what many have told me and what has become my mantra, “When God closes one door, he opens another.” I’ve grown fond of another way of saying this too, “Sometimes, good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” May be that’s what’s happening in my life right now. Things seem like they are falling apart, but in reality, better things are coming together. The lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho said, “Close some doors. Not because of pride, incapacity, or arrogance, but simply because they no longer lead somewhere.” I know that my previous teaching job was leading nowhere, and it was time for a change. I just praying that I come out the other side of this better off than before, because “Still I Rise.”


When One Door Closes…

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Alexander Graham Bell has been famously quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Several people have related this quote to me over the past few months since losing my teaching job as words of encouragement. I’ve taken it to heart and I can see the door that is open for me, but I need your help to enter that door, and this is not an easy thing for me to do. I never thought I would be jobless at this stage in my life. I’ve had a distinguished teaching career, and I have worked incredibly hard for everything that I’ve achieved. Yet, back in May, I saw the rug pulled out from under me. I’m now facing a hallway with many doors, and while those doors may scare me, I will persevere.

I’ve tried to open several of the doors and some remain shut, as I send out application after application, so far I have only received rejections. I am either over qualified or under qualified, but there is nothing in the middle. I have a possible job for the fall. It’s substitute teaching, and though I’ve done it before, I’d rather not do it again, but if no other opportunities present themselves, I will become a substitute teacher again. It might be bearable, if I knew I was doing something that would help my career.

When I began college, I was a history major, and I loved educating people and spreading my love for history. I received my BA and MA in history as well as pursued further graduate studies in history (for a variety of reason, some beyond my control, I was unable to finish my doctorate in history). For the past five years I taught world and American history, government, economics, civics, geography, and English to high school and middle school students. Recently, I lost my job to unforeseen circumstances, which has made me reevaluate my life goals. I want to educate people in innovative ways, and with your help, I can achieve this goal in two ways.

First, I love to teach, but I want to take that avenue and change its direction to make it more accessible. Therefore, I would like to focus on museums and the educational opportunities they can provide, but to do that I need to gain some educational credits in museum studies. I am currently volunteering at a museum and archive to gain experience, but the key word there is volunteering. I am doing this at my own expense while currently unemployed, but I hope it shows that I am willing to do what needs to be done to better my situation. If I am unable to secure a community college job or a paying job at a museum, then I would like to pursue a Certificate in Museum Studies. This would add the educational background I need to my studies in history, which have included courses in public history. Because certificate programs are not degree programs, they are ineligible for federal financial aid and the expenses would come out of my pocket. With your help (and if you can’t help but know someone who can), I will not have to cash in my life insurance policy to pay the expense of the program.

Second, many people have encouraged me to become a writer, not just of history but of fiction. I think fiction is a great way to get history to the mass public, as long as a book is well researched. Fiction writing can help change the world, but I need financial support to make that happen. I have already written a good portion of a first draft to a novel, and I have received positive feedback, but it still needs more polishing. I want to get my writing career off the ground, but I need financial support to make that happen, which means I need help covering the expenses associated with printing copies, mailing manuscripts to publishers, and editing. I have a few book ideas, and I want this to become an extra career, or if by some miracle, I’m better at it than I think, a primary career.

I am asking that you help me make this world a better educated world. Allow me to pursue a museum studies program and to explore the world of fiction writing. Your help would be tremendously appreciated. I do not ask this lightly. Some of you have donated through this blog in the past, and I can’t thank you enough. It has always come when it was most needed. I don’t know how you knew that, but each of you is truly amazing.

Also, as you may know, GoFundMe is not anonymous for the person asking for funding. GoFundMe has you use your real name and a real picture of you. This scares me the most, because I’ve always been anonymous with this blog. By giving a link to my GoFundMe site, I am no longer anonymous; however, with no job and it’s doubtful my family would find this blog, I have nothing much to lose at this point. So I’m asking for your help. Please don’t make me lose my anonymity in vain. I know not everyone can contribute, and any amount of your generosity would be greatly appreciated.

http://www.gofundme.com/z837bk


Love

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So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

God does not ask us to choose between compassion and faith in the Bible.

Mainline Christians are increasingly divided over the issue of the acceptance and inclusion of gay persons into the church. The debate itself is usually framed as essentially pitting the Bible, on one hand, against compassion and social justice on the other. Our Christian hearts, runs the (usually impassioned) argument, compel us to grant full moral and legal equality to gay and lesbian people; our Christian faith, comes the (usually impassioned) rebuttal, compels us to cleave, above all, to the word of God.

Compassion for others is the fundamental cornerstone of Christian ethics; the Bible is the bedrock of the Christian faith. What Christian can possibly choose between the two?

The answer is that no Christian is called upon to make that choice. The text of the Bible on one hand, and full equality for gay and lesbian people on the other, is a false dichotomy. God would not ask or expect Christians to ever choose between their compassion and their faith.

Reconciling the Bible with unqualified acceptance and equality for LGBT people does not necessitate discounting, recasting, or deconstructing the Bible. All it takes is reading those passages of the Bible wherein homosexuality is mentioned with the same care that we would any other passage of the book.

We can trust God; we can trust that God is loving.

And we can trust that we can—and that we certainly should—take God, in this matter, as in all things, at his word.

If there is no clearly stated directive in the Bible to marginalize and ostracize gay people, then it is morally indefensible for Christians to continue to do so.

What cannot be denied is that Christians have caused a great deal of pain and suffering to gay persons, by:

  • Banning their participation in the church, thus depriving them of the comforts and spiritual fruits of the church.
  • Banning their participation in the sacrament of marriage, thus depriving them of the comforts and spiritual fruits of marriage.
  • Damaging the bonds between gays and their straight family members, thus weakening the comforts and spiritual fruits of family life for both gays and their families.
  • Using their position within society as spokespersons for God to proclaim that all homosexual relations are disdained by God, thus knowingly contributing to the cruel persecution of a minority population.

Christians do not deny that they have done these things. However, they contend that they have no choice but to do these things, based on what they say is a clear directive about homosexuals delivered to them by God through the Holy Bible. They assert that the Bible defines all homosexual acts as sinful, instructs them to exclude from full participation in the church all non-repentant sinners (including gay people), and morally calls upon them to publicly (or at least resolutely) denounce homosexual acts.

Without an explicit directive from God to exclude and condemn homosexuals, the Christian community’s treatment of gay persons is in clear violation of what Jesus and the New Testament writers pointedly identified as one-half of God’s most important commandment: to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.

The gay community has cried out for justice from Christians, who have a biblically mandated obligation to be just. Because the suffering imposed on gay persons by Christians is so severe, the directive from God to marginalize and ostracize gay people would have to be clear and explicit in the Bible. If there is no such clearly stated directive, then the continued Christian mistreatment of gay and lesbian people is morally indefensible, and must cease.

Heterosexual Christians are being unbiblical by using the clobber passages as justification for applying absolute standards of morality to homosexual “sins” that they themselves are not tempted to commit, while at the same time accepting for themselves a standard of relative morality for those sins listed in the clobber passages that they do routinely commit.

Homosexuality is briefly mentioned in only six or seven of the Bible’s 31,173 verses. (The verses wherein homosexuality is mentioned are commonly known as the “clobber passages,” since they are typically used by Christians to “clobber” LGBT people.) The fact that homosexuality is so rarely mentioned in the Bible should be an indication to us of the lack of importance ascribed it by the authors of the Bible.

While the Bible is nearly silent on homosexuality, a great deal of its content is devoted to how a Christian should behave. Throughout, the New Testament insists upon fairness, equity, love, and the rejection of legalism over compassion. If heterosexual Christians are obligated to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of homosexual acts, how much greater is their obligation to look to the Bible to determine the sinfulness of their behavior toward gay persons, especially in light of the gay community’s call to them for justice?

Some Bible passages pertinent to this concern are:

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. — John 8: 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law — Romans 13:8-10

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you — Colossians 3:11-13

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. — Matthew 23: 23-24

A fundamental tenet of Christianity is that we are all born sinners, that we have no choice but to exist in relationship to our sinful natures. And so Christians accept as inevitable that any given Christian will, for instance, on occasion drink too much, lust, or tell a lie.

As we’ll see below, in the clobber passages Paul also condemns, along with homosexuality, those three specific sins. But Christians don’t think that they are expected to never commit any degree of those sins. They understand that circumstances and normal human weaknesses must be taken into account before condemning any transgression. We all readily understand and accept the moral distinction between drinking socially and being a drunk, between a lustful thought and committing adultery, between telling a flattering white lie and chronically lying.

Even a sin as heinous as murder we do not judge without first taking into account the context in which it occurred. Self-defense, protection of the innocent, during a war—we recognize that there are times when taking the life of another is not only not a sin, but a morally justified and even heroic act.

Christians evaluate the degree of sin, or even whether or not a real sin has occurred, by looking at both the harm caused by the sin, and the intent of the sin’s perpetrator.

They do, that is, for all sins except homosexuality.

Virtually any degree of homosexual “transgression” gets treated by some Christians as an absolute sin deserving absolute punishment. Such Christians draw no moral distinction between the homosexual gang rape in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the orgies to which Paul refers in his letter to the Romans, the wild sexual abandon Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians, and consensual homosexual sex between loving and committed homosexual partners.

Heterosexual Christians are being unfair and hypocritical by using the clobber passages as justification for applying absolute standards of morality (and an absolute penalty) to homosexual “sins” that they themselves are never tempted to commit, while at the same time accepting for themselves a standard of relative morality (and applying no real penalty) for those sins listed in the clobber passages that they do routinely commit.

As there is no demonstrable harm arising from sex within a committed homosexual relationship, and there is significant demonstrable harm arising from the discrimination against and condemnation of gay persons, what possible biblical basis can there be for not recognizing the vast moral differences between sex acts done within the context of a loving committed relationship, and sex acts of any other sort?

Here are a couple of Bible passages that any Christian should bear in mind whenever he or she is called upon (or at least emotionally compelled) to render a moral judgment:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. — Matthew 7:1-2

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. — Luke 6:41-42

The Bible isn’t a rulebook, and Christians cannot lift out of its context any passage from it, and still hope to gain a clear understanding of that passage.

It is important to understand that even the most fundamentalist Christian sects do not take the Bible wholly literally. The New Testament is two thousand years old, the old Testament much older. The Bible’s cultural contexts, along with the translation at hand, is always taken into consideration by any Christian serious about understanding this vast and complex work.

To excerpt any isolated short passage from the Bible, and then claim for that passage absolute authority, is to fail to take the Bible on its own terms. If we wish to follow the word of God, then we must take the entirety of God’s words into account. For example, when the Bible itself identifies some of its words as proverbs, it is bestowing upon those words less moral weight than other words that it identifies as commandments. The Bible itself tells us that some of its contents are songs, some visions, some histories, some dreams, some parables, and some commandments. The Bible itself also instructs Christians that New Testament moral directives supersede Old Testament moral directives. The Bible itself tells us that its moral principles supersede any of its moral “rules.”

The context of any Bible passage is as integral to its meaning as the passage itself. It may be appropriate to give equal weight to each clause within a business contract, each step within a set of mechanical instructions, or each rule within a game rulebook. But the Bible itself tells us that the Bible is not a uniform document, with each passage spelling out something clear and specific, and all passages having equal value. The Bible is not a rulebook for being Christian. We would be foolish to fail to understand that not everything in the Bible is a commandment, and that Christians cannot take a small section of the Bible out of its larger context, and still hope to gain a clear understanding of that section. Isolating a clobber passage from its context, and then claiming a sort of moral helplessness because “it’s in the Bible,” is failing to take the Bible either literally or seriously.

Using the four Old Testament passages to condemn all homosexual acts is not in keeping with any Christian directive from God, nor with the practices of contemporary Christians.

The Bible’s first four references to homosexuality occur in the Old Testament.

While continuing to be spiritually inspired and influenced by the Old Testament, Christians were specifically instructed by Paul not to follow the law of the Old Testament, in such passages as:

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. —Hebrews 7:18-19

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. — Galatians 3:23-25

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another … — Romans 7:4

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. — Romans 6:14

In practice, Christians do not follow the dictates of the Old Testament. If they did, polygamy would be legal, and things like tattoos, wearing mixed fabrics, eating pork, and seeding lawns with a variety of grasses would be forbidden. If Christians followed the dictates of the Old Testament, then today if the parents of a new bride could not, upon her husband’s request, prove that she was a virgin, that bride would have to be stoned to death. Christians would also have to stone to death any Christian guilty of adultery. And the Christian day of worship would be Saturday, not Sunday.

Clearly, Christians no longer cleave to the rules of the Old Testament.

Therefore, the use of the four Old Testament passages to condemn all homosexual acts is not in keeping with any Christian directive from God, nor with the practices of contemporary Christians.

In the clobber passages Paul condemns the coercive, excessive, and predatory same-sex sexual activity practiced by the Romans—and would have condemned the same acts had they been heterosexual in nature.

Because Christians’ understanding and practice of New Testament prescriptions naturally and inevitably evolve along with the society and culture of which they are a part, at any given time in history Christians have always selectively followed the dictates of the New Testament. Whenever a specific biblical injunction is found to be incongruous with contemporary mores, a reshaping of the conception of that injunction is not only widely accepted by Christians, it’s encouraged, as long as the new thinking is understood to be in keeping with overriding timeless biblical moral principles. This is why Christian women no longer feel morally constrained to follow Paul’s directives to leave their hair uncut, to keep their heads covered in church, or to always remain quiet in church. It’s also why the Bible is no longer used to justify the cruel institution of slavery, or to deny women the right to vote.

Just as those thoughts and understandings of the New Testament changed and grew, so today is it becoming increasingly clear to Christians that the three New Testament clobber passages (each of which was written by Paul in letters to or about nascent distant churches), when understood in their historical context, do not constitute a directive from God against LGBT people today.

Here are the three references to homosexuality in the New Testament:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. — 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. —1 Timothy 1:9-10

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. —Romans 1:26-27

During the time in which the New Testament was written, the Roman conquerors of the region frequently and openly engaged in homosexual acts between themselves and boys. Such acts were also common between Roman men and their male slaves. These acts of non-consensual sex were considered normal and socially acceptable. They were, however, morally repulsive to Paul, as today they would be to everyone, gay and straight.

The universally acknowledged authoritative reference on matters of antiquity is the Oxford Classical Dictionary. Here is what the OCD (third edition revised, 2003) says in its section about homosexuality as practiced in the time of Paul:

“… the sexual penetration of male prostitutes or slaves by conventionally masculine elite men, who might purchase slaves expressly for that purpose, was not considered morally problematic.”

This is the societal context in which Paul wrote of homosexual acts, and it is this context that Christians must acknowledge when seeking to understand and interpret the three New Testament clobber passages. Yes, Paul condemned the same-sex sexual activity he saw around him—because it was coercive, without constraint, and between older men and boys. As a moral man, Paul was revolted by these acts, as, certainly, he would have been by the same acts had they been heterosexual in nature.

The Bible’s clobber passages were written about same-sex acts between heterosexual persons, and do not address the subject of homosexual acts between a committed gay couple, because the concept of a person being homosexual did not exist at the time the Bible was written.

It is critical to our reading of the New Testament’s three clobber passages to understand that while Paul would have known about sex acts that took place between persons of the same gender, he would have had no concept whatsoever of homosexual persons. Virtually no one in Paul’s time was “out”; no one lived, or in any way publicly self-identified, as a homosexual. Paul had no reference point for an entire group of people who, as a fundamental, unalterable condition of their existence, were sexually attracted to persons of the same gender, and not sexually attracted to persons of the opposite gender.

Here is the opening of the OCD’s article on homosexuality:

“No Greek or Latin word corresponds to the modern term ‘homosexuality,’ and ancient Mediterranean society did not in practice treat homosexuality as a socially operating category of personal or public life. Sexual relations between persons of the same sex certainly did occur (they are widely attested in ancient sources), but they were not systematically distinguished or conceptualized as such, much less were they thought to represent a single, homogeneous phenomenon in contradistinction to sexual relations between persons of different sexes. … The application of ‘homosexuality’ (and ‘heterosexuality’) in a substantive or normative sense to sexual expression in classical antiquity is not advised.”

We can be confident that Paul was not writing to, or about, gay people, because he simply could not have been, any more than he could have written about smartphones, iPads, or televisions. We do not know what Paul might write or say today about gay people. All we know is that in the New Testament he wrote about promiscuous, predatory, non-consensual same-sex acts between people whom he understood to be heterosexual.

The Bible does condemn homosexual (and heterosexual) sex that is excessive, exploitive, and outside of marriage. It does not, however, address the state of homosexuality itself, much less the subject of homosexual acts between a married gay couple. Christians, therefore, have no Bible-based moral justification to condemn such acts.

Because there was no concept of gay marriage when the Bible was written, the Bible does not, and could not, address the sinfulness of homosexual acts within the context of gay marriage.

The Bible routinely, clearly, and strongly classifies all sex acts outside of the bonds of marriage as sinful. But, because when the Bible was written there was no concept of gay people—let alone, then, of gay marriage—the Bible does not, and could not, address the sinfulness of homosexual acts within the context of marriage.

By denying marriage equality to gay people, Christians are compelling gay couples to sin, because their intimacy must happen outside of marriage, and is therefore, by biblical definition, sinful. Christians, in other words, cause gay people to sin, and then blame the gay people for that sin. By any decent standard of morality that is manifestly and egregiously unfair.

Being personally repelled by homosexual sex doesn’t make homosexual sex a sin.

In addition to the Bible, many Christians cite as evidence of the inherent sinfulness of homosexual acts their own emotional response to such acts. It is understandable that many straight people find homosexual sex repugnant (just as many gay people find heterosexual sex repugnant). It is normal for any one of us to be viscerally repelled by the idea of sex between, or with, people for whom we personally have no sexual attraction. Young people, for example, are often disgusted by the thought of senior citizens having sex. And who isn’t repulsed by the idea of their own parents having sex? (When, rationally speaking, we should rejoice in the fact that they did—at least once!) But it is much too easy for any person to mistake their instinctive reaction against something as a moral reaction to that thing. Outrage isn’t always moral outrage, though the two usually feel the same.

It may feel to a straight Christian that their instinctive negative reaction to homosexual sex arises from the Bible. But all of us necessarily view the Bible through the lens of our own experiences and prejudices, and we must be very careful to ensure that lens does not distort our reading of God’s sacrosanct word.

“The greatest of these is love”

The overriding message of Jesus was love. Jesus modeled love, Jesus preached love, Jesus was love. Christians desiring to do and live the will of Jesus are morally obligated to always err on the side of love. Taken all together, the evidence—the social context in which the Bible was written, the lack of the very concept of gay people in Paul’s time, the inability of gay people to marry, the inequity between how the clobber passages are applied between a majority and a minority population, the injustice of exclusion from God’s church on earth and from human love as the punishment for a state of being over which one has no choice—conclusively shows that choosing to condemn and exclude gay people based on the Bible is the morally incorrect choice. That evidence should instead lead Christians to the most obvious, and most Christian of all positions, stated so beautifully by Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(The text for this lesson is an excerpt from John Shores’ book, UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question.)


Moment of Zen: Reading and Writing

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I have been very busy this past week, but there are two things that have made me very happy this week: reading and writing (two out of three of the 3 R’s isn’t bad, but not arithmetic please).

First, I have been reading Go Set the Watchman by Harper Lee, and whereas there seems to be a lot of unflattering reviews of the book, I find them misplaced.  In fact, I’m not so sure some of the readers even read the book, and if they had, they already made up their mind before they read it that they wouldn’t like it.  I still have about 100 pages to go, but so far I am loving the book, and I think it is an important piece of history.  No matter what you think of the book, it captures the nuances of changes in the South in the 1950s, but more on that when I finish the book.

Also, I have been writing.  A few weeks ago, at the encouragement of friends, I began writing a novel.  I’d tried to write one several years ago, but life got in the way and I never finished it.  However,  this book is one that I have had in my head for a while and thought that it needed to come out.  So I put pen to paper, or more accurately fingers to keyboard, and I began writing.  I will also talk more about that in the future as well.


Sleepy and Tired

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I kept falling asleep as I was writing my post.  Sorry readers.  I will get my act togethr over the weekend.


The Present 


Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

Bil Keane

 
I was staying with my granny last night to give my mother a break, and I had limited internet access at her house.  Therefore, I was having trouble deciding on a topic today, so a quote will have to suffice.

By the way, I’ve begun reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee that came out this week.  I can’t wait to finish it so I can review it.  Is anyone else reading it?


Brad Boney Hit It Out of the Park

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It’s the summer of 1983, and Trent Days is Major League Baseball’s rookie sensation. Born in Alaska to an Inupiat mother, the press have dubbed him the Eskimo Slugger, but a midseason collision at home plate temporarily halts his meteoric rise to the top.

Sent back to Austin to recuperate, Trent visits his favorite record store, Inner Sanctum, where he meets amiable law student Brendan Baxter. A skip in the vinyl of New Order’s “Blue Monday” drives Trent back to Brendan, and their romance takes them into uncharted territory.

As Trent’s feelings move from casual to serious, he’s faced with an impossible dilemma. Does he abandon any hope of a future with Brendan and return to the shadows and secrets of professional sports? Or does he embrace the possibility of real love and leave baseball behind him forever? As he struggles with his decision, Trent embarks on a journey of self-discovery—to figure out who he really is and what matters most.

If you have read Brad Boney’s The Return, then you know how The Eskimo Slugger ends, but don’t let that deter you from reading this book. Boney like Trent Days, the Eskimo Slugger, hits this one out of the park. The way Boney is able to interweave these stories together is truly awe-inspiring. If you have read The Nothingness of Ben and The Return, you know that the end of this book is really the beginning of The Nothingness of Ben. Boney has managed to create this beautiful circular set of books that literally bleeds one into the other so that you want to just keep going round and round the merry-go-round. (If it weren’t for the fact that Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchmen was released yesterday, I would have done just that, but I’ve waited all my life for another book by Harper Lee.)

The backstory is very complex, but not so complex that the average reader is unable to keep up with the nuances of the story. This is Brad Boney at his finest. He had a tremendous talent for weaving several stories together at once, but the reader doesn’t necessarily know that. Then at the end, it all comes together. However, if you love a good puzzle (I won’t call it a mystery), you will love finding all of the pieces within the story and putting them together. I found myself referencing both of the earlier books time and again with the “treasures” that were revealed throughout this book. Without completely giving away all the secrets just know that all three books are inter-related in various ways and little bits of their stories, past and present are slipped in throughout the story.

This being 1983 and thirty years before today’s openness about sex, there are some pretty funny forays into discussions of gay sex. The two main characters explore each other and relatively unexplored aspect to their personalities. Today’s youth doesn’t have the same issues with coming out and being open as young men in the early 1980s, even in a progressive southern city like Austin, Texas. It was a different time period when AIDS was unheard of in the public, and being in the closet was a way of life for many Americans outside of places like New York City and San Francisco. Even though New Orleans had a gay community at the time, it was not as open as today. Boney realizes this as he discusses homosexuality in the early 1980s.

I wish I had a portion of the talent Brad Boney has for story telling. He really is a master, and I highly recommend this book. Boney has a tremendous talent, and he doesn’t disappoint in this third installment of this series that began with The Nothingness of Ben. I highly encourage anyone to read The Nothingness of Ben and The Return before reading this book, or else the ending will not make sense and you’ll be left greatly unsatisfied.

I listened to The Eskimo Slugger as an audiobook, because I just don’t have the time to stop and read, so when I am driving, this is when I get in my “reading.” The Nothingness of Ben and The Return were narrated by Canadian actor Charlie David who did a wonderful job. He gave all of the characters a distinct voice and emotions, and he was an absolute joy to listen to. I was disappointed to see that he did not narrate The Eskimo Slugger. That job went to Michael Ferraluolo who did an excellent job with the book.  I think the continuity would have been great if Charlie David had been the narrator, but Michael Ferraluolo didn’t disappoint with his performance. He has a great voice that is easy to listen to and did a nice job differentiating the characters, though there were a few instances when his character’s accents slipped away. I really got into the emotion of the story and even managed to do a nice job with the female voices.

And yes, Eskimo Slugger is the name of an alcoholic beverage:

1 1/2 oz Bailey’s® Irish cream
1 oz Absolut® vodka
1/2 oz Rumple Minze® peppermint liqueur

Pour all three ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a small old-fashioned or rocks glass, and serve.

I agree with Trent Days in the book, it sounds terribly vile to me too.


First Love

   

First Love

 By Jennifer Franklin

The boy beside me
is not you but he
is familiar in all

the important ways.
I pass through life
finding you over

and over again—
oppress you
with love. And every

surrogate?
Afflicted by my
kindness, they leave

me with my music.
I loved you before
I ever loved you.

 

About This Poem

“This poem was written on a napkin in Brandy’s Piano Bar in New York’s upper east side. Brandy’s is a remnant of old(er) New York where a solo featured pianist and a handful of bartenders take turns playing 80s ballads, Bob Dylan, and standards. We arrived, close to last call on a bitterly cold February night, after a new friend and I filled in on my brother’s Wednesday night trivia team at the Banshee Pub nearby. Just before close, two patrons asked if they could usurp the piano and mic for a three-song set. They were brilliant. Their set happened to be the nostalgia of my childhood jukebox, presented as spontaneous and ironic, but nonetheless sincere and therefore sad.”
Jennifer Franklin
 

Jennifer Franklin is the author of Looming (Elixir Press, 2015). She teaches at The Hudson Valley Writers Center and lives in New York City.


Queer as a $10 Bill?

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You’ve probably all heard the phrase “Queer as a $3 bill,” which was originally “Queer as a Clockwork Orange.” Though originally it was meant as a way to claim something was strange, it has taken on more meaning today as someone who is homosexual. But maybe the phrase would be more accurate as “Queer as a $10 bill.”  Most people think of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton as the face on the $10 bill (which now has a pinkish hue to it), but would he have been better suited for the $3 bill? There’s some evidence in his letters that he may have been bisexual. Come to think if it, if he was bisexual, maybe he belongs on the $2 bill. Sorry, it’s late as I write this, and I can be a bit silly late at night.

Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 and fathered a total of eight children, but some historians believe Hamilton had a romantic relationship with fellow solider and aristocrat John Laurens while both men were aide-de-camps to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Washington’s concern for his male colleagues clearly extended to their personal lives. This was especially true of Hamilton, who he brought with him to Valley Forge, giving Hamilton a cabin to share with his then-lover, John Laurens, to whom Hamilton had written passionate love letters which are discussed below.

Maj. Gen. Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Prussian military genius Washington enlisted to help him strategize at Valley Forge, was a known homosexual (he’d been expelled from the court of Frederick the Great for sodomy) and came to the Continental Army with his young French assistant, Pierre Etienne Duponceau, who was presumed to be his lover and shared a bed with von Steuben at Valley Forge. Since von Steuben’s English was limited, but his French was perfect, Washington assigned his own secretary and one of his aides-de-camp to von Steuben, Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton and Lt. Col. John Laurens, who shared a cabin at Valley Forge at Washington’s bequest. Washington, who had to have known the nature of their relationship due to his own closeness with Hamilton, situated the two together at Valley Forge and then connected them with von Steuben and Duponceau–a gay foursome working directly with the leader of the Continental Army.

The evidence of Hamilton’s and Laurens’ relationship is found in a series letters written by Hamilton to Laurens shortly after Laurens left Washington’s military family for South Carolina, where he worked to recruit African American troops to fight against the British.

In a letter dated April 1779, Hamilton begins:

Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’til you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent of the caprice of others. You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent.

Though most people in the 18th century wrote with a very flowery language that to modern ears may sound gay, but was actually innocent. However, sometimes things are exactly what they appear to be and this doesn’t seem like mere flowery language.

The letter continues:

But as you have done it, and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have artfully instilled into me.

At the time, romantic relationships between members of the same sex were considered taboo, and sodomy was a punishable offense in all 13 colonies and men were subject to imprisonment, castration, and even death. Which raises the question of what sort of “fraud” Hamilton might be referring to.

In another letter, dated September 1779, Hamilton describes himself as a “jealous lover” after Laurens failed to respond to any of his missives:

Like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caresses, my affection was alarmed and my vanity piqued. I had almost resolved to lavish no more of them upon you and to reject you as an inconstant and an ungrateful ____.

At that point, the handwriting becomes illegible, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination what the Founding Father may have written.

Later in the letter, Hamilton talks about his new fiancé, Elizabeth Schuyler, in language that makes her sound more like a beard than a wife:

Next fall completes my doom. I give up my liberty to Miss Schuyler. She is a good hearted girl who I am sure will never play the termagant; though not a genius she has good sense enough to be agreeable, and though not a beauty, she has fine black eyes – is rather handsome and has every other requisite of the exterior to make a lover happy. And believe me, I am lover in earnest, though I do not speak of the perfections of my Mistress in the enthusiasm of Chivalry.

One year later, in a letter dated September 1780, Hamilton again wrote to Laurens about his wife:

In spite of Schuyler’s black eyes, I have still a part for the public and another for you; so your impatience to have me married is misplaced; a strange cure by the way, as if after matrimony I was to be less devoted that I am now. Let me tell you, that I intend to restore the empire of Hymen and that Cupid is to be his prime Minister.

He signed the letter:

Adieu, be happy, and let friendship between us be more than a name.

It’s been reported that after his death, Hamilton’s family crossed out sections of the letters. Their reasons for doing so are unknown, though some speculate it was because the notes contained suggestive language that might have confirmed a romantic relationship between the two men.

Interestingly, in his 2003 essay “Slavery and Liberty in the American Revolution,” historian Gregory D. Massey notes that of all the surviving letters written by Hamilton, the only other ones that show the same level of sentiment are those penned to his wife.

Of course, we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing is for certain: Whatever feelings Hamilton had towards Laurens were unique, as evidenced in a letter he sent to General Greene in 1782 after Laurens was killed in the Battle of the Combahee River:

I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end…. I feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.


Hope

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Faith, hope, and love abide. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown. Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous. Without hope, life loses its meaning and in death there is no hope. The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped, and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed. The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help and are free from fear and anxiety.

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ. Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit. It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead, the promises given to Israel, the redemption of the body and of the whole creation, eternal glory, eternal life and the inheritance of the saints, the return of Christ, transformation into the likeness of Christ, the salvation of God, or simply Christ Himself.

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit, Christ in us, and the resurrection of Christ. Hope is produced by endurance through suffering and is the inspiration behind endurance. Trustworthy promises from God give us hope, and we may boast in this hope and exhibit great boldness in our faith. By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope.

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life, and love springs from hope. Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit. Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory. Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life.

Straight or gay, hope is one of the essential things we all need to hold on to. In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on Earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create her. So he did, using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo gave her musical ability, and Hermes gave her speech. One day, Pandora opened a jar (usually referred to as a box) containing death and all the evils of the world which were then released into the world. She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – hope. Hope springs eternal, and it should always be kept in reserve because we need to have hope.

This last week has been a difficult week for me spiritually. My spirit has been sad and distraught. Last Sunday, I talked about having faith in God, and while that has not wavered, I have learned that I can lose faith in people. When you have a great respect for and trust in someone and they betray your respect and trust and prove unworthy of your faith, it made my ideal of faith waiver. But, I refuse to let it cause my faith in God to waiver. It is as strong as ever, and my faith in God grows stronger with His gift of hope.

I have hope that Christians who teach with ignorance and misunderstanding, while spreading hate, will finally be awakened by God’s light of love. It have hope that religious extremist will see that LGBT Christians often have the greatest faith in God. When evangelicals tell us that God has turned his back on us, hope allows us to have faith that God would never turn His back on us. Hope allows us to believe that there will be a better day coming for all of us, especially in the LGBT community. Not all Christians will accept us as an essential and integral part of Christianity, but there will always be false teachers and those who claim that they a carrying out the will of God under mistaken beliefs and are actually carrying out the wishes of Evil. Hope allows us to look forward to our rightful place in heaven with out King. So I call on all LGBT Christians to not lose their faith and to keep hope alive.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man


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