Monthly Archives: July 2015

Moment of Zen: Hot Day, Cold Beer


I can’t exactly drink cold beers anymore because they trigger my cluster headaches, but when it’s really hot and humid outside only a few things that can quench my thirst: an ice cold beer, a cold Coca-Cola, or a glass of ice water.  Whereas, water or a Coke work well, I do miss a cold beer on occasion though.


The Little Mermaid

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Last night, I went with my mother to take my niece to see the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Above is a picture of the cast practicing “Under the Sea.” The show was fabulous, the men were ripped, the costumes were gorgeous, the sets fantastic, and the men gorgeous. After taking my niece home and then my mother home, I got home about 1am, and I was exhausted, so this is a short post. This production sold out so fast that they had to extend it a few more weeks. If you are near Montgomery, you really should check it out if you can still get tickets. However, let me just say that if you are ever in the Montgomery area, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is a must. Their productions are always top rate, and I’ve never been disappointed. Disney’s The Little Mermaid was no exception, it was truly fantastic.

While Prince Eric was yummy and Ariel was beautiful, Sebastian and Ursula stole the show. I’d have given the actors names, but I left the program in my car, and it’s late or I’d go get it. I’ll see about adding their names tomorrow.


Cast Down Your Bucket

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The Cotton States and International Exposition Speech was an address on the topic of race relations given by Booker T. Washington on September 18, 1895. The speech laid the foundation for the Atlanta compromise, an agreement between African-American leaders and Southern white leaders in which Southern blacks would work meekly and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process of law. One of the most memorable parts was a parable that Washington used:

A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal,“Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.

“Cast down your bucket where you are” was a phrase that surfaced numerous times throughout Washington’s speech. Generally, the phrase had different meanings for whites and blacks. For whites, Washington seemed to be challenging their common misperceptions of black labor. The North had been experiencing labor troubles in the early 1890s (Homestead Strike, Pullman Strike, etc.) and Washington sought to capitalize on these issues by offering Southern black labor as an alternative, especially since his Tuskegee Institute was in the business of training such workers. For blacks, however, the “Bucket motif” represented a call to personal uplift and diligence, as the South needed them to rebuild following the Civil War.

The speech was often derided by opponents who said it was the cornerstone of Washington’s accommodationist philosophy. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute accomplished its task of training African Americans in trades that allowed them to be seen in a better light by southern whites. Washington’s opponent W.E.B. DuBois wanted to push African American equality through the courts and while ultimately this approach worked, it never really changed the hearts and minds of many whites in America. Washington predicted that this would be the case and so he kept his approach, even though it went out of fashion with many African Americans.

In today’s America, LGBT rights have been gained not through legislation, but through the courts. Those changes, however, would not have been possible without a major change in the hearts and minds of Americans. LGBT Americans have been come more common on television and in the media. “Will & Grace” changed a lot of perceptions about gay men, and Brokeback Mountain showed the plight and the horrors of forcing people to hide who they are. Matthew Shepherd’s death showed us the consequences of what attitudes of hatred toward gays can lead to. These events have helped he LGBT cause but there is still far to go.

Washington’s speech is something I’ve often thought about in the context of the issues I’ve discussed in the last week: moving, disappointment, and deceitful biblical interpretations. You see, for some of us, we have no choice but to cast down our bucket where we are. By staying, we will work in various different ways to change the hearts and minds of those against us, whether we remain closeted or come out. We each have a role to play in making the world a better place. At times, our efforts will lead to disappointments and people we trust will cause us disappointments, but we must persevere. We can not allow setbacks to deter us on our journey to equality. We have marriage equality nationwide, but we need non-discrimination laws nationwide as well.

Lastly, our greatest obstacle is the erroneous use of biblical texts to condemn homosexuality. As long as preachers stand in their pulpits and preach misleading sermons and as long as people use “religious freedom” as an excuse to discriminate, we will not achieve equality. African Americans achieved equality through the courts, but they have yet to achieve full equality in the minds of many Americans. Racism is alive and well, just look at the Charleston shooting. Which has led finally to the downfall of the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of racist heritage. I pray that it will not take the mass death of LGBT Americans before we see the same symbols of hatred in the clobber passages in the Bible that condemn homosexuality. We already see similar instances of religion used to defend hatred in the Middle East areas controlled by ISIS. As long as politicians and ministers spout hatred of homosexuality people will become even more bold in their hatred until they begin to retaliate against the LGBT community. This is why it is so important for us to work in areas where LGBT Americans are least accepted. If we leave these areas, hate wins and if will only grow, but if we stay and they must face us, whether they know our sexuality or not, we have not yet lost the fight.

To my fellow LGBT who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern Christians or evangelical Christians, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it down in making friends in every way of the people of all beliefs by whom we are surrounded.
 We should not have to run and we should be able to cast down our bucket where we are because in areas like the American South the battle has just begun. To paraphrase the immortal retort of Captain John Paul Jones to a request to surrender as he and his crew engaged in a desperate battle with a British frigate off the northern coast of England during the American Revolution: We have not yet begun to fight! 


Contextual Errors

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My preacher began is sermon with a verse from the last book of the Old Testament to begin the points he was going to make. It was the first of many mistakes he made in his sermon.

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Malachi 3:6

The first part of this verse “For I am the LORD, I change not;” is what my preacher used to show that God never changes; however, this is taking the verse out of its context. Malachi writes this to show that God performs his promises, and effectually disposes of the allegation in Malachi 2:17:

Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

Which says that God put no difference between the evil and the good. The great principles of right and wrong never alter; they are as everlasting as he who gave them. God here speaks of himself by his covenant name, which expresses his eternal independent being, “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Whereas, my minister claimed that this meant that God’s commandments never change, it is not what the verse itself means. It is also wholly incorrect to say that the commandments of God have never changed. While I find many things abhorrent from his sermon, as a member of the Churches of Christ, I cannot agree with the concept of a never changing God. For the Churches of Christ believe that the New Testament, or New Covenant brought by Jesus, replaced the church of the Jews in the Old Testament. There are numerous examples of this, and I will use a few glaring examples. First is the Sabbath, the seventh day of the Hebrew calendar week. According to Exodus 20:8 it is commanded by God to be kept as a holy day of rest, as God rested from creation: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” However, as most Christians observe, we keep the first day of the week as holy as opposed to the seventh. In Acts 20:7 we read: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” What was notable about the first day of the week? It was the day when the disciples came together to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The first day of the week was also the day when contributions were collected. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (I Corinthians 16:2).

To make his main point, my preacher then turned to one of the most overused texts against homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22 which states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Considering that this one verse is in a long list of sexual prohibitions of heterosexual sex, it remind me of the Lynn Lavner quote: “The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals, and 362 to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love straight people, just that they need more supervision.” But to be more serious, not many Christians could, would, or do live by the laws of Leviticus, nor ahold we. In Galatians 5:1 Paul states, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Most, if not all, scholars would agree that this relates to the Jewish laws in Leviticus. Leviticus is often used by Christians to attack the LGBT community. Along with Deuteronomy and swathes of Exodus and Numbers, it lays out the Law for the Israelites, and though many do not follow all the laws of the Old Testament. Many are still willing to cite Leviticus for things that they think are sinful, while ignoring it for things they don’t. Yet, and I’m going to apply this particularly to Southerners of the United States who are often the most fervent in their condemnation, many southerners spent the Fourth of July holiday eating barbecue, usually pork, an unclean animal prohibited in the Old Testament. Southerners often use bacon of pork to season our vegetables, find a good soul,food restaurant that doesn’t. You won’t be able to find one. Furthermore, Leviticus forbids eating water dwelling creatures without scales, that would obviously include all shellfish, but it would a,so include catfish (catfish do not have scales), a southern staple. Those are just some of the food related prohibitions found in the Old Testament, there are many others that we would find absolutely abhorrent, yet many Christians still pick a verse here and there to make points that conform to their archaic and erroneous beliefs.

Jesus also spoke out against the use of the laws of the Old Testament. In John 8:3-7:

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And while Jesus doesn’t say what the woman did was not wrong, He did say that those who have sinned (For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]) cannot judge those who have.

And just in case, he didn’t think he’d made his point, he brought out two sets of verses from the New Testament, which he completely took out of context. He first quoted Romans 1: 26-27:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Modern scholars who have studied the contest of this passage view it as an attack on heterosexual persons who were formerly Christians, who reverted to Paganism, and who engaged in ritual sexual behavior as a part of their newly adopted Pagan services. During these rituals, the Pagans were whipped into such a state of sexual frenzy that they went against their basic heterosexual nature and started engaging in sexual behavior with members of the same sex. Paul condemns such behavior. He concludes that Pagan worship will inevitably leads to other negative behavior. Therefore, the passage is not discussing homosexuality, but ritual pagan sexual practices. It is inappropriate to use this verse to condemn homosexuality as it is deceitful and shows ignorance of Paul’s message.

The second set of verses he quoted, was 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, which states:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

I found the use of this passage particularly disturbing because of two reasons. The first is that in the original Greek, homosexuality as translated here is wholly inaccurate. Homosexuality could not have been the word meant by Paul because it was neither a concept or a word in Paul’s time as it is used in modern times. The word was never even used until the nineteenth century. Furthermore in this set of verses, Paul is most likely discussing the Greek practice of pederasty. Pederasty, which is the practice of older men mentoring and loving younger men (often that meant sex to the Romans), continued in Greek areas of the Roman Empire even though it was frowned upon the Romans. Remember that Corinth is a Greek city and pederasty would have been still practiced in this city and as a Greek himself, Paul would be familiar with he practice.

The second thing about my minister’s use of this passage is the way he used it. I’m not sure you noticed or not, but until these last two passages, I followed my preacher’s use of the King James Version of the Bible; however, like him, I switched to a modern translation for these two verses. In my case I used the English Standard Version. This is particularly deceitful when using the verses from 1 Corinthians. The King James Version states:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

You see out of ignorance and the long standing hatred of homosexuals by church leaders who fear for their own loss of power and to continue their own prejudices, modern translators have oversimplified the King James translation of “nor effeminate (malakos), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (arsenokoites)” to simply “nor men who practice homosexuality (malakos).” It is deceitful and an oversimplification. Furthermore, the English standard version omits any translation of arsenokoites. They do not want to admit the actual context, meaning, and complexity of the original words used by Paul, when he wrote his letter in his native Greek. Though I could write a whole post on “malakos” and “arsenokoites,” and whole books have been written, I hope you will take my word here and understand that neither of these words translates to homosexuality. If you do want a more in depth look at the words, check my early posts on the churches of Christ.

The last thing he covered in his sermon was the concept of Hell, that is not the kingdom of God, where unrepentant sinners will go. I’m only going to dwell on this briefly because it hardens back to my first point about God changing his laws. A simple history lesson on the Hebrews would teach you the error in this. In the history of the Hebrew, i.e. Jews, there is no mention nor does there seem to be a concept of Hell in Jewish theology before the Babylonian Exile, when they came into contact with a new religion called Zoroastrianism. This religion is the first that historians know of that introduced a place of punishment in the afterlife.m after the exiled Hebrews were returned to Judah, they incorporated this concept of Hell into the Jewish religion. It was later a major concept of Christianity. This is not said to diminish the concept of Hell but to point out that God’ definition of Hell changed.

I have often gone home after church and studied further the words of my preacher. Occasionally, I have used them and adapted those very sermons for my Sunday posts. I have never found such glaring errors in his sermons before, and so I hope by writing this, you come to understand my profound disappointment in my preacher. He disagreed with a decision of the United States Supreme Court, which is at its heart political even if we agree with its outcome, and brought it to the pulpit because he disagreed with the ruling. Furthermore, contrary to his usual sermons, which are often really Bible studies, he took an anti-intellectual, blasphemous, and ungodly view of the topic and ,are a sermon of it. I had thought better of him than to use word trickery and oversimplification, something that I have never known him to do in the past, and I am extremely disappointed.


Poems of Lies and Deception

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Against Lying
By Isaac Watts

O ’tis a lovely thing for youth
To early walk in wisdom’s way;
To fear a lie, to speak the truth,
That we may trust to all they say!

But liars we can never trust,
Even when they say what is true.

And he who does one fault at first
And lies to hide it, makes it two.
Have we not known, nor heard, nor read
How God does hate deceit and wrong?
How Ananias was struck dead,
Caught with a lie upon his tongue?

So did his wife Sapphira die,
When she came in, and grew so bold
As to confirm that wicked lie,
Which just before her husband told.
The Lord delights in them that speak
The words of truth; but every liar
Must have his portion in the lake
That burns with brimstone and with fire.

Sowing Seeds of Deception
By Raymond A. Foss

Into the soil of our doubts
sowing seeds of deception
in patterns of behavior
in the shifting sands of numbers
moving beneath our feet

Changing the truths, facts
something which should be immutable
new information coming
beyond the last hour

Interpretations written, conveyed
seeking different understanding
nothings known generally
the public unawares

Raising concerns within us
a history of doubt growing
whether there is thought in these
or if innocence prevails
some frustrations almost palpable

When I was looking for a poem for today, I could not choose between the head two. They both fit what I was feeling since church on Sunday. Before I discuss these two poems, I want to say that although I strongly disapprove and disagree with what my preacher said on Sunday about homosexuality, I believe that he is a product of the ignorance that exist in so many Christians. I do not believe that the Bible can be taken completely literally, nor do I believe that you should only believe what others tell you to believe. I think that we must read and study the words and context of the Bible. When taken out of context, the Bible is largely meaningless because you are able to twist the words to what you want them to say. This is one of the cores of historical research: you cannot go into a topic with rigid preconceived beliefs, you must be able to adapt to the direction your research takes you and you must remain objective.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an English pastor, preacher, poet, and hymn writer. Wrote about 600 hymns including his most famous, Joy to the World. Considered the founder of English hymnody, the singing and composition of hymns. “Against Lying” speaks of the innocence of children but that with one lie or deceit, then it is hard to ever trust again. He alludes to the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. It is just a small story, tucked away in the Book of Acts, familiar to many Christians. The couple sold a piece of property and agreed together to keep some of the money for themselves while giving the rest to the Church. Although the passage in Acts 5:1-11 does not explicitly say so, Ananias apparently pretended to be giving it all. For as soon as he laid the money at the apostles’ feet, Peter reproached him for lying to the Holy Spirit and keeping back some of the money, and Ananias fell down dead. Sapphira, arriving later, was questioned by Peter as to the amount of the sale. She, too, apparently lied, for Peter reproached her for agreeing to “put the Spirit of the Lord to the test,” and she fell down dead as well. Then the story concludes with the statement, “Great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” The poem then ends with God delighting in those who speak the truth but casting those who lie will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, i.e. Hell.

Raymond A. Foss was born in 1960 in Westfield, Massachusetts, and the oldest of five children. After moving to Claremont, NH at 16, he attended the University of New Hampshire, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1982 and a Master of Public Administration in 1984. He graduated from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 2004. He started writing poetry while serving on the Barrington, NH School Board in 2000. In “Sowing Seeds of Deception,” Foss speaks of the characteristics of deception. He says that changing the truth, changing facts “which should be immutable,” using interpretations that are false, and by not trying to correct mistakes, then you are deceitful and cannot be trusted. When there is an “innocence” in the deception, meaning that the person did not know better, but have not tried to gain the knowledge to know better, then it cause frustrations. Ignorance may make it a bit more palatable, but I do not feel that it is an excuse, especially when you profess to be an expert on the subject.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that even though I do not agree with my preacher’s perspective, he is a product of evangelical Christianity. They are hard to change and they like hardline interpretations of the Bible, because it makes it easier to understand. However, most evangelical Christians consider themselves Protestant, which means that they rejected being told what to think and believe by the Catholic Church. There was only one interpretation and all others were destroyed through various crusades, so it is the nature of Protestants to question the hardline beliefs of the Bible. Mainline Protestants have done this but evangelical Protestants have forgotten this. It’s difficult to put the Churches of Christ into these two categories though they are usually considered evangelicals because of their rigid stances on biblical issues, but whereas most other Christians would classify them as Protestant, the Churches of Christ declare that they are restorationist not Protestants, (six of one, half dozen of another if you ask me).

I am going to leave you guys with a quote from a recent op-ed piece in the Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger written by Rob Hill, a former Methodist minister and current director of HRC Mississippi (if you are interested in the whole op-ed use this link: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/05/30/hill-methodist-church-law-ends-ministry/28227759/). I believe this fits perfectly into the message that I am trying to get across today:

This isn’t an attack on the church I love, but a response to the erroneous and dangerous biblical interpretation that has met almost every positive social change in American history. It was the Bible many used to justify slavery, to deny women the right to vote, to prop up segregation and deny the most basic of civil rights to African Americans and other racial minorities. And it’s the Bible that many church leaders and many politicians continue to reference in an attempt to perpetuate discrimination against LGBT people in this country and around the world.

Tomorrow’s post will be about what my preacher said Sunday and why I believe it is wrong. I know I usually keep religious posts to Sundays, but this is an important issue that I am trying to work through in my own head and writing about it helps. Also, I love reading your comments and advice.


Disappointment

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I have always said that my church, and my preacher in particular, stayed out of the politics of the world and focused on the love of Christians and how to be a better person, especially in the eyes of God. With the recent SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, I feared that this situation would change, but I had hopes that my preacher would follow the congregations wishes that we do not discuss politics at church. When it was not mentioned the Sunday after the decision, I hoped that I was correct, but it just took him a bit longer to come up with a “proper” response. He claimed at the beginning of his sermon that he was going to be more positive than most Christian commentators. Yet, he used the same old tripe and hypocritical inaccuracies that so many have used in the past.

I will discuss these points in another post, but I will give a summary of what he said. He claimed that God has always remained the same and has never wavered in his commandments. He used the Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians verses often used by those condemning gay people, even though they take them out of context. And one thing that he did that I found particularly loathsome was that while he always uses the King James Version of the Bible in every sermon I’ve ever heard him preach, he used a modern translation that uses the word homosexuality incorrectly. The Bible would have never used the word homosexuality because it wasn’t a word until the 19th century, nor would it have been used because there wasn’t an ancient concept of homosexuality.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by his belief on homosexuality, but he has never mentioned it in the pulpit. I have always felt that it is a political question of those who fear their own loss of their version of moral superiority, but it is not a biblical interpretation of morality. When you must pick and choose verses of the Bible and translations and ignore others that don’t suit your argument, then you are not following the will of God. I have rarely ever left church angry; I usually leave with a sense of peace. However, yesterday, I left church furious, and I felt betrayed.

It seems that far too often people that I have put my faith in have turned untrustworthy. For example, I believed in what my former headmaster had as plans for the school. When others disagreed, I kept my belief that he was making the school a better place. When he said that academics would always come before athletics, I believed him. Then I was fired and replaced with a coach who did not have the credentials I had for teaching history. Now , my minister has caused me to lose my respect of him. When many people spread rumors and insinuations about his fidelity in his marriage and his business ethics, I had always taken up for him, and I never believed the allegations. I still don’t, but I always said that no matter what people believed about him, he has been there for my family and is a truly excellent preacher. He teaches about how to be better people, and he’s always used the Bible to back his beliefs without having to resort to word trickery. Now I have lost my faith and respect for him. I felt like both of these men betrayed me.

I shouldn’t have been as upset as I was, I should have known it was coming, but when it did, it angered me. I always thought better of my preacher than that. I guess I put too much faith in people. Even more of an incentive to get out of this place, but I fear people who disappoint others is everywhere you go.


Faith

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

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
– Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There is only one component of the Christian life that is more important than faith, and that component is love, because without love, we cannot have faith. The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.

Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This passage makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.

God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God blesses those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. First Peter 1:8-9 tells us “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

As LGBT Christians, we know that faith can be very difficult. All people question God’s plans at various times. Why did He allow that tornado to hit? Why would He allow some one to walk into a Church and kill nine people? At every tragedy, we ask why, but we must believe in God’s plan. Look at the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, we are openly discussing racism in this country and symbols of that racism, like the Confederate flag, that many people claim is their heritage. Yes, it is part of their heritage and that heritage is a heritage of hate and disloyalty to their country. However, that discussion is now being had all across America.

To bring this back to LGBT Christians, we wonder why God would allow parents to reject us. Why do so many LGBT youth become homeless? Why is the suicide rate for LGBT higher than any other group in society? Why does God not strike down those who preach hate in His name in the pulpits of churches across the world? But if we believe, if we have faith, then we know that God has a greater purpose. What is that purpose, because it is hard to see at times? I do not know, only God knows, but we should have faith in him.

When we question our faith, we should remember the story of David and Goliath, which is just one of many stories of faith in the Bible, but I use David because of his great love of Jonathan:

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down. . .that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.’”

By faith, we can do incredible things that will ultimately bring glory to God. David was a small boy and Goliath was a giant, but David had faith in God and with that faith he defeated Goliath. When the odds are against is, powers that be they their best to take away our rights, and preachers fill their congregations with hatred for us, we must remember to have faith in God. He will ultimately protect us and keep us safe, but we must have faith. No matter how limited you feel about your abilities to make the world a better place, we can do amazing things through faith and for the glory of God.

I want to leave you today with what Paul wrote to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8


Moment of Zen: America the Beautiful

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!


Move!

  


DISCLAIMER: I am not singling anyone out in this post, nor am I angry at anyone. However, I want to explain why suggestions are not always easy to implement.

Each time I rant about stupid bigoted Alabama politics or something with my family or whatever situation I speak of, someone and generally more than one person, suggests that I move. Moving away from here has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. When I moved to Mississippi for graduate school, I did get away. I lived in Mississippi’s most progressive city, or at least it was progressive in the circles I was in. However, circumstances brought me home and I’ve been trying to get away again since.

I have been working on this for five years, and it’s one of my many failures in life. I can’t seem to make it work, and I can’t just pick up and move. For the past five years, I have been underemployed, and now I am unemployed. All of that means that I was living paycheck to paycheck and now I wonder what will happen when I get paid my last paycheck at the end of this month. Unemployment should kick in, but it will be just enough to pay my current bills (I hope). Moving will take two things, which I currently don’t have: a job elsewhere (or a job at all for that matter) and money.

I am not a risk taker. I really never have been, which means that I am not going to drop everything and move to a new place without a job. I’m not even sure that if I get a job elsewhere I will be able to afford to move, but I will pray that my family will help me get on my feet somewhere else if it’s for a good job. Poverty fucking sucks, and it keeps sucking you in deeper and deeper. I have talked about my money situations before, and I do believe one day it will get better. Right now though, the future is hopeful but also pretty damn scary. So it’s easy to say move away from Alabama, but the reality is not so easy. 

There is also something else to consider when people suggest that someone move away from a less than welcoming environment. Some people have reasons for staying. I have a boyfriend here, and the dynamics of leaving him is not something I want to discuss on this blog, that will remain private. Just know that he wants what is best for me. Also, my family is here, including my niece and nephew. Those are things that would make me very sad to leave behind, but things I could live with. But there are other LGBT individuals who have much stronger reasons to stay. Maybe they take care of a sick family member. Maybe they work for a civil rights organization. Maybe they can’t imagine living anywhere else. There are so many reasons why people would want to stay in Alabama, reasons that outside of this state, people might not understand, but it doesn’t make their reasons less important. Therefore when I rant about issues in Alabama, I am hoping for a better place not just for me, but for the whole LGBT community in Alabama.

Any of us who dealt with bullies as children, or even as adults, know that there are times when you need to run away, but there are also times to take a stand. If we don’t take a stand, then the bigots win. They cannot win. We have to continue fighting, and even if I leave Alabama, I will continue to be interested in Alabama politics and the rights of the LGBT community in Alabama. I still keep up with what happens in Mississippi because I did live there for ten years, and I keep up with Louisiana because I have wonderful friends there.

So my point is, it’s nice to say “move” but the reality is not so easy. It’s more complicated than that.



WTF Alabama: No Moore

   

The Alabama Supreme Court on Monday issued an order delaying gay marriage for 25 days, although most Alabama counties have ignored the state order and continued to issue the same-sex marriage licenses.

John Carroll, a former federal judge and now a law professor at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, explained the reasoning behind the order and suggested those counties who ignore it are on safe ground.

“Did the Alabama Supreme Court have to do this? The answer is ‘no,”’ said Carroll. “Were they within their rights? I guess.  

“But there is a period of time, by rule, before the decision is final.” 

While the U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling Friday legalizing gay marriage has almost no chance of being changed, it is not technically the law of the land for 25 days after the ruling.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issues an order, there is a 25-day period for appeals before the court’s “mandate” is issued to the appeals court that sent the case to the high court. That mandate establishes the opinion is now the law.

Citing that short window of appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court on Monday issued the order telling the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, some counties, such as Marshall, Franklin and Colbert, had stopped issuing all marriage licenses today. And just before the court order, the association of county commissioners issued a statement urging all county probate judges to issue same-sex marriages, per the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday, the same group had advised counties not to issue same-sex licenses.

It’s too soon to tell what effect the state order will have or if it will be challenged, but the courthouse in Madison County continued on Monday to issue marriage licenses to couples, same-sex or not.

Madison County Probate Judge Tommy Ragland said he sent the Alabama Supreme Court order to the county attorney’s office today and after it was reviewed, he was told there was nothing preventing the office from continuing to issue marriage licenses.

“We forwarded that to (county attorney) Jeff Rich,” said Ragland. “He didn’t’ tell us to do anything different, and so we’re issuing them.”

A Birmingham attorney working to untangle the issue this afternoon said the state high court’s order doesn’t matter.

“The Alabama Supreme Court did not direct probate judges to delay compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” said Birmingham area attorney Heather Fann. “This order has no practical effect. U.S. District Court Judge (Ginny) Granade already ordered Alabama’s probate judges to stop enforcing the marriage ban as soon as the Supreme Court rule, and that is binding immediately.”

The Alabama Judiciary under the direction of Chief Justice Roy Moore have decided that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is merely an opinion but not the law of the land. Alabama is merely trying to stall the inevitable, but they are in actuality acting like spoiled brats. The probate judges are the only officials in Alabama who “may” issue marriage licenses. I put may in quotations because that is what Alabama’s Constitution says. In fact, Alabama law says that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses, and several Monday morning were using that one word to cease issuing licenses altogether. ALA CODE § 30-1-9 states:

No marriage shall be solemnized without a license. Marriage licenses may be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties. The license is an authority to anyone qualified to solemnize marriage to join together in matrimony the persons therein named.

If certain probate judges are basing this decision on the traditional heterosexual marriage then they have a bit of a problem. If tradition trumps the law, then tradition has it that Alabama probate judges issue marriage licenses. It’s been that way for over 100 years, that is since the ratification of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama. However, these judges are not following Alabama legal precedent but their own interpretation of the Christian Bible. However, Alabama grants no fault divorces which is in direct violation of the words of Jesus who says divorce is only acceptable in the case of adultery. Alabama also allows for people to marry again after divorce. Jesus says that this is still adultery as long as the divorced spouse still lives. And where is this in the Bible?

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:32

However, if you want the part about marriage it’s in Matthew 19, where he addresses marriage and divorce (this happens to be where the “one woman, one man” argument comes from):

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:3-9

The Bible should have great influence on our lives, but it is the Spirit of the Word that should guide our leaders. It is the center of all moral philosophy that we are equal and that we should love and respect one another. The probate judges of Alabama who are refusing to issue marriage licenses are not following the Spirit of the Word, but their own bigoted hatred for the LGBT community. A few are also trying to get a name for themselves to run for higher office. However, considering that our highest court has ruled, they should follow Romans 13:1-5:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. – Romans 13:1-5

If Alabama officials refuse to do their job, or a significant part of it, then they should be dismissed. Each probate judge who refuses to follow the law, should be removed from office by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Chief Justice has the power to remove from office any probate judge who refuses to act (ALA CODE § 12-13-37). These judges are refusing to act in accordance with the law. They are doing this on several levels, since the Alabama Code – Section 12-13-36 states that the:

The probate judge shall keep his office at the courthouse, and, unless otherwise provided by a local law, the office of the probate judge shall be kept open for transaction of business on every day, except Sundays and legal holidays, from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.

If you happen to live in Alabama, please let me know if your probate office is open on Saturday. My county’s probate office is only open four and a half days a week, as are most county courthouses in the area, this is in direct violation of Alabama Code – Section 12-13-36. So if a few probate judges want to split hairs with the law and use the word “may” to decide not to issue marriage licenses at all, an inconvenience to those in that county, then let’s split hairs. All Alabama probate judges not “kept open for transaction of business on every day, except Sundays and legal holidays, from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.” Should be removed from office by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court pursuant to Alabama Code – Section 12-13-37. The greater problem is that the person who should be removing them from office is the Chief instigator of these shenanigans, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Therefore, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Lambda Legal, and the Human Rights campaign should file complaints against Chief Justice Moore for failure to perform his duties and responsibilities pursuant to Alabama Code – Section 12-2-30.

It is time for the state of Alabama to comply with the law. I am tired of my state being made to play the part of the fool for the United States because our state’s elected officials are clowns who care more about posturing for cameras than for carrying out their duties as officers of the state. The people of Alabama need to wake the fuck up and start electing people who will follow the law not follow it only when it is convenient for them. Pay attention to who you vote for and if someone has been removed from office for misconduct once (Roy Moore) then for God’s sake don’t elect him to the same position again. If your legislators cannot pass a budget, their one sole fucking duty, then do not vote for them again. If your probate judge refuses to do his job, don’t vote for him again. And if any official within the state refuses to carry out the duties of his or her office with dignity and respect for the law, call for them to either resign or be removed from their position. We cannot sit by and watch this happen, we must act and act now!

Needless to say, I’m a tad pissed off at my state.
Dear Lord, please let me get a job, preferably in another state, or better yet, maybe in another country whose officials have a modicum of sense. Amen.