Friday, July 31, 2015

A Return to Maycomb

For thus hath the LORD said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
Isaiah 21:6
The above passage from the Book of Isaiah is where the title for Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman comes from. The title itself tells us much about the book. The twenty-first chapter of Isaiah for tells the fall of Babylon because of its wickedness. Babylon had once been a shining city admired by all, but it was filled with wickedness: decadence, liars, manipulators, and all sorts of other evils. For Lee, Babylon symbolizes the South. While the watchman would tell of the fall of Babylon in the Book of Isaiah, the Supreme Court has ruled that the South must change in its decision Brown v. Board of Education. The old South can no longer stand and its old principles of “separate but equal” must end. Thus the South follows the fate of the fall of Babylon. Nothing will ever be the same.
Like Isaiah, who is an outsider in Babylon, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is an outsider to her home in Maycomb, Alabama. The twenty-six year old Scout has been away for eight years, first to college then to New York. When she returns to Maycomb in the summer of 1954 or 1955, at first she thinks Maycomb has changed, but not as drastically as it really has. She merely sees the cosmetic changes of an ice cream parlor where the house she grew up in once stood. Her Aunt Alexandra is the woman of he house, not Calpurnia, the black maid who helped raise her and is now too old to work. As all people who go away and come home again, she thinks she knows more than everyone and is more enlightened, though she feels that her father is as enlightened as she is. Atticus is her idol, as he is for all who ever read To Kill a Mockingbird.
Then her world crashes around her when she discovers that her father is part of Maycomb’s Citizens Council. For those of you unfamiliar with the White Citizen’s Councils of the South, they were social organizations similar to the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, but with the sole purpose of maintaining segregation. They formed throughout the South in the aftermath of the Brown decision. When she sees Atticus and her fiancé Henry sitting idly by listening to a speaker deliver a hate filled speech, she becomes physically ill. She feels betrayed by her father and all she thought she held dear. The first half of the book is introducing us to Maycomb after a decade or so has passed since To Kill a Mockingbird; the second half deals with the fallout of Scout’s discovery.
First let me address the provenance of the book, the official story is that Go Set a Watchman was the original draft of To Kill a Mockingbird submitted to the publisher. According to the story, Lee was told that the editor liked the flashbacks to childhood, and she should rewrite the book and focus only on the childhood. Lee did this and it became To Kill a Mockingbird, while Go Set a Watchman was placed in a safety deposit box and basically forgotten until Lee’s lawyer came across it a year or so ago. Others have speculated that this was a failed sequel, which I do not believe and let me tell you why. First of all, while it may read like a sequel, there are parts of this book in which the passages are nearly identical to those in To Kill a Mockingbird. I can see Lee using passages from a first draft in a rewritten final draft, but I cannot see Lee using passages from a first book in the sequel. That would be far too lazy and completely out of character for Lee. I don't think the question should be “Is this books first draft or a failed sequel?” but should be, “Did Lee's lawyer manipulate the then 88 year old Lee into publishing a book that she had not wanted to be published?” Alice Lee, Harper Lee's longtime lawyer, protector, and and sister, is dead, and her young partner is now Lee's lawyer. Alice, who died in November 2014, wrote in 2011, that Lee "can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence." In February 2015, the State of Alabama, through its Human Resources Department, launched an investigation into whether Lee was competent enough to consent to the publishing of Go Set a Watchman. The investigation found that the claims of coercion and elder abuse were unfounded, and, according to Lee's lawyer, Lee is "happy as hell" with the publication. I not so sure that Lee wasn't coerced or tricked into publishing the book, but we have to hope it wasn't against her wishes. There will always be questions surrounding the publication of Go Set a Watchman, and I doubt we will ever know the truth.image
Second, let me address the nuances and changes of racial attitudes in the book. This has been one of the major criticisms of Go Set a Watchman, that Atticus is a racist in the book but was a champion of black people in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus was a champion of fairness and the law, but there is no doubt he had prejudices. He was a rural white southerner and a product of his times. Remember that Atticus was a legislator during To Kill a Mockingbird. In Alabama in the 1920s, few politicians were elected who were not members of the Klan. I'm not saying it was right, but most of the people in the Klan of the 1920s thought of it as being members of a social club or civic organization, much like the Masons, the Kiwanis, and Civitans. Hugo Black, a Supreme Court justice and champion of civil rights on the bench had been a member of the Klan. Furthermore, most white southerners felt a paternalistic relationship with blacks during the early 20th century, but southerners have always been conservative which means they don't like change to come quickly. Southern men like Atticus Finch would have felt that southern blacks were not ready for full equality or for desegregation. He would have felt they needed more time. One of my pet peeves is for people to place modern beliefs and ideas on their interpretation of the past. We can look back and say something is wrong and backwards by our way of thinking, but we also must put ourselves in their mindset. To Kill a Mockingbird is very frank about racial attitudes of the South, and the good guys are champions for southern blacks, but Go Set a Watchman is a far more complex and insightful book on the realities of race in the 1950s. Not everything is cut and dry like in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman may never be seen as the masterpiece that To Kill a Mockingbird was, but it has a historical significance far greater than its literary significance. Go Set a Watchman allows us to see the nuances of racial attitudes in Alabama in the 1950s. Whether that is how Calpurnia is portrayed, how Atticus is portrayed, or how Jean Louise is portrayed, the realities and subtleties are portrayed quite vividly. In Go Set a Watchman we get an almost firsthand account of what it was like for Harper Lee to return to Alabama after living in New York City. Jean Louise thinks she has become enlightened through her education and her time in New York City, but the big question is: has she? We get to see her real attitude, and we are fortunate to have Uncle Jack Finch guide us through the subtleties of southern racial attitudes. We like things to be in black and white, but in reality they never are. And that's what makes Go Set a Watchman a true masterpiece.
I had planned on discussing the parallels of race in the 1950s to gay rights in the 2010s but I'm not up for writing that right now. Hopefully, that will be a post for next week. In the meantime, go out and buy Go Set a Watchman if you haven't, and give it a chance. I think if you read it objectively and with an open mind, you'll enjoy it as much as I did. I look forward to a day when someone collects the writings of Harper Lee from the newspapers and journals she contributed to as a student at Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. I'm not sure that will be anything soon because of copyright and legal issues, but maybe some day. And there has always been the rumor that there really was a second book, Harper Lee’s great race novel, that Lee has refused to allow anyone to see because she was afraid she could never live up to To Kill a Mockingbird again.

P.S. I personally think she already did live up to it with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I believe she wrote as she had the talent for it and Capote did not. It was well known that Capote, a childhood friend (Dill in TKM and GSW) was jealous of the success of TKM, and I've always suspected that Lee actually wrote most if not all of the book but let Capote put his name on it because she had already decided she wanted out of the limelight.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hunt Is On

About a week ago, a friend of mine told me that he had been watching this great little web series, and he thought I'd like it. The show is called Hunting Season and he described the show as a gay version of Sex and The City. In many ways that is exactly what it is, but it’s also a whole lot more. As he was talking about it, I googled the show to see what it was all about, and I was shocked at what I found. Hunting Season was inspired and largely based on the popular blog “The Great Cock Hunt” by “Alex” and the novel of the same name published by Kensington Books.
Alex chronicled his sex life in the blog “The Great Cock Hunt” from 2005 to 2008. I loved reading the blog and even read the book. I have missed Alex, and once I read that Hunting Season was based on his blog, I couldn't wait to watch the series. I watched all of the first season in one day, almost in one setting, and then watched season two with the friend who introduced me to the series.
The basic premise of the series is that “Hunting Season” tells the story of Alex (played by the engaging and incredibly sexy Ben Baur ), who has been keeping a secret sex blog and enjoying all the benefits of being young and single in New York – where take out, dry cleaning and sex can be at your door in 15 minutes. The series also involves his best friends are Tommy (Mark Sinoway) and TJ (Jake Manabat) – both also grappling with their own ups and downs.
Written and directed by Jon Marcus, Hunting Season started out in 2013 as a censored version airing on LogoTV and an uncensored version available for purchase on Vimeo. The first seasons episodes ran for about 12 minutes each. The second season, which premiered in 2015, has notably abandoned its short web series format for a longer, cable TV –like “half-hour” length, consists of four episodes, and will cost $4.99 each to purchase and $2.99 to rent. Unlike Season 1, there is not a “censored” version. Both seasons have a slick, professional feel, with sharp, snappy dialogue, and grown-up gay sensibilities.
These are characters that may seem a little unlikeable at first but once you start to get under their skin a little it’s fascinating to see what makes them tick – a lot like real life to be honest.
As well as talking a lot about sex, and showing its characters having lots of sex, Hunting Season embraces the bodies of its characters – taking a realistic approach to how the world works and not shying away from full-frontal nudity when it makes sense within the context of the narrative.
I don’t live in New York City, and my life and experiences are a long way from those of these characters, but the questions, the conversations, the doubts, hopes, fears, and aspirations that all form part of these stories have a universality that most gay men will be able to identify with in some way.
Hunting Season is a grown-up gay series for grown-up gay men. Well worth watching. I hope they will have a season 3, and hopefully it will not take two more years.  It needs support though, so please go watch it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Being Unemployed Is So Much Work

For the first time in nearly a week, I was home and able to work on job applications.  For nearly fourteen straight hours, I worked on retooling my résumé and CV to best showcase my skills and crafting different cover letters for each different job.  It's a much longer process than most people realize.

The academic jobs are the easiest because the CV and basic cover letter remain the same with a few changes here and there, but the kicker is the electronic submission of applications. Nearly all colleges use the same system, and those who don't still ask for the same information, but none of the systems talk to each other.  They should have one place to enter the job application information, but no, it has to be made more difficult so with each application you have to enter the same information over and over again.  The thing is, all of that information is already on my CV.  One college was actually smart and had you uploaded your CV first, and the program culled it for information and filled in the blanks.  Then it allowed you to edit it or add anything that was missing.  Sadly, it was the exception to the rule.  Most require you to type in all the information over again.

Then there are the non-academic jobs.  Because the jobs at museums, archives, and historical societies are so different, the cover letters have to be almost completely different.  I may be going about this all wrong, but I've read all the articles I can stand to read on how to create a better résumé, how to tailor your CV, and how to write a cover letter that will grab a potential employers attention and showcase all the skills I have and how they are relavent to the position.  Oh and don't forget the longer the CV the better, but a résumé shouldn't be no more than three pages max, and of course, the cover letter needs to be one page (It can be two but no one's gonna read it if they think it's too long).  All the rules just makes you want to scream.  If someone has any advice on how to make this process less painful, I'm all ears.

Anyway, I have tomorrow mostly at home too, so I'll be continuing to keep churning out applications.  I work all day and at the end of the day, it still seems like not much has been accomplished.  But I will keep plugging away at it, until I've applied for all the jobs for which I'm qualified.  Some of these jobs would put me in some pretty cool places: Richmond, Charleston, Austin, St. Louis, Nashville, Atlanta, Houston, etc.  and y'all already know I'm ready for a move.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Are You Going to Stay?

Are You Going to Stay?
Thomas Meyer

What was it I was going to say?
Slipped away probably because
it needn’t be said. At that edge
almost not knowing but second
guessing the gain, loss, or effect
of an otherwise hesitant remark.
Slant of light on a brass box. The way
a passing thought knots the heart.
There’s nothing, nothing to say.

About This Poem
“Why not take a reflective, little lyric moment, a sort of ‘negative capability’ sigh, and ignite it with a title (question) that demands a yes or no, not a maybe. The result struck me as oddly erotic.”
Thomas Meyer

Thomas Meyer is the author of Essay Stanzas (Song Cave, 2014). He lives in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Today was the absolutely worst day ever
And don't try to convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that 
It's all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be obtained
Only if ones surroundings are good 
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
The reality 
My attitude 
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say that 
Today was a good day

Now read from bottom to top.

Optimism versus pessimism, it's all about perspective, but science has proven that optimism has real benefits to our lives.  “Think happy thoughts” is common wisdom that many people rely on for getting through feelings of depression, and painful or difficult situations. Often, people try to be happy when they're not; hoping that they will become the happy person they're impersonating.

Much of our behavior depends on our attitudes. If our attitudes are negative, we can expect to be vulnerable to addictions and depression, and the resulting lack of focus and concentration may degrade every area of your life. A positive attitude can be developed by monitoring and disciplining your thoughts on a moment-by-moment basis.

If you are like me, however, this is hard.  Yesterday, was actually a bad day for me.  My cluster headache shave come back, and I've only had brief moments without pain for the past week or so.  Furthermore, I'm frustrated with my job hunt.  I'm worried about what I will do when the money runs out.  To say the least, I'm scared, very scared.  I'm also depressed because it looks increasingly like I will end up with a job that once again will it put my education to full use and might not even need me to use it at all.  I worked too hard to let it go to waste.

So yesterday I was feeling very depressed.  Even on antidepressants, there are days like yesterday.  So when my mother called asking me to do something else that would keep me away from putting out more job applications, I got angry, and we had a fight.  I always end up being the one to apologize because as many of us know, mothers are very good at guilting their children.  I admit that I was unfair to my mother.  She has a lot on her mind right now.  

She's getting her mother ready to move into an assisted living home, and she's packing up the house I grew up in because they are finally selling it (they built their other house several years ago as a vacation home but decided to move their full-time).  She also suffers from fibromyalgia.  So I know she's under a lot of stress, and she's on constant pain.  But am I just selfish because I want her to remember that I am unemployed and looking for a job and I need time to be able to look for that job?  Maybe I am, but I already feel like I'm being pulled in a dozen directions when there are other family members who could help, but because I am unemployed and childless, I am the one expected to do it all.

Also, I have a problem with saying no.  I hate to disappoint, and I often care too much what others think of me.  So on most days I “put on a happy face” and “think happy thoughts” even though I feel like I'm dying inside.  I tried very hard to keep a positive outlook on things, but right now, it's looking very bleak.

A friend sent me the words above, and at first, I thought, “Well, they kind of summed up my day.”  But hen I got to the end and red it from the bottom to the top.  The words were the same but the message was the complete opposite.  So, I am going to try to put on a happy face.  I do have wonderful friends who help me when I'm down.  But while I keep a happy face to the public, no one really knows (except those who are reading this), that I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night because I scared of what the future holds.  Yet, I keep praying and hoping at hat God will help alleviate those fears and things will be for the better when all the dust settles and I find a job.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Christian Persecution

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. - 1 Peter 4:16
Lately in the news, we've heard a lot about religious freedoms laws, because people are afraid they will be persecuted for being Christians. The idea that in America that people would be persecuted for being a true Christian who follows a loving God, is preposterous. Sadly, however, Christian persecution in the United States is real. It’s just not what you think.
Christian persecution isn’t about having to offer birth control to women. It’s not about having to serve wedding cakes to gay and lesbian couples. Christian persecution isn’t even having people call you out when you spout homophobic, sexist, or racist opinions, veiled blasphemously as biblical.
Real Christian persecution is having your church burned to the ground because black people worship there.
Real Christian persecution is sitting in a church as a minister misinterprets the Bible to fit his own narrow minded views.
Real Christian persecution is having your church graffitied hatefully because gay and lesbian people can worship there. Real Christian persecution in the United States terrorizes people — often Christians themselves, and more often then not, it is done by people professing to be Christian but persecuting LGBT Christians and LGBT-affirming Christians.
This type of Christian persecution uses hate and violence, because hate always leads to violence, done in the name of God and continuing in the name of God. And Christianity— particularly as it has been historically practiced by white, heterosexual people in the United States—has a very deep, very long history of perpetrating this kind of violence.
The latest victim of such persecution is the Church of Our Redeemer, a Metropolitan Community Church in Augusta, Georgia (MCCOR). It’s an open and affirming church in the midst of a deeply homophobic culture that birthed the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church is a beacon for LGBTQ equality, a home and safe haven for many in the town.
But a neighbor Tuesday morning called the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Rick Sosbe, after noticing a vandal had sought to extinguish the church’s light for equality. Someone had spray-painted “Leviticus 18:22” on doors of the church along with the words “burn” and “lie.” And just an hour away, the KKK, a self-professed Christian organization, is protesting the Confederate battle flag being removed from the South Carolina capitol in the most vile and hateful of ways. Certainly, these two shouldn’t be simply equated with each other, but at their core, both are motivated by hate and by violence toward difference.
Hate, it seems, has become a “Christian” value for some. These Christians use biblical verses out of context to spew their hate and to justify their violence. They may not be as well-organized or as violent as ISIS, but they are no better. Many would love nothing more than to have a Christian version of ISIS in America, yet in the same hate speech they will denounce ISIS without seeing the correlation between the he two.
How in God’s name has Jesus been fashioned into an idol for bigotry? Need we be reminded that almost half of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community are professing Christians? Need we be reminded that the vast majority of Black Americans are Christians? Need we be reminded—yet again—that in the United States, it has almost always been Christians terrorizing Christians?
White Christians have been terrorizing Black Christians for centuries since whites forced African slaves into conversion to Christianity. Heterosexual Christians terrorizing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians for decades and longer. Those categories aren’t mutually exclusive mind you, but it bears remembering that hate crimes in this country have tended to be committed overwhelmingly by Christians, frequently against Christians.
It’s terribly ironic. Christians like Franklin Graham fret and worry about attacks on the Christian faith from Muslims or other vague bogeymen who aren’t white, who aren’t Christians, or who aren’t heterosexual. But the real attack on Christianity is coming from Christians.
As tempting as it is to focus just on this evil and hateful crime in Augusta that’s not the whole story. The MCCOR community is continuing to shine its light in Augusta . Church and community members—even a few passersby—have rallied together to repair the damage, to clean and re-paint. There has been shared joy in the joining together to literally erase the hate, according to folks there.
As always, the whole story can be so much bigger and more generous than an act of hate, and we can be a small part of that. In many ways, MCCOR is a beacon—and a fairly isolated one at that—in Augusta for ministry to and among LGBTQ people. My sister used to live in Augusta, so I know how it is not one of the most welcoming of cities. She and her husband only stayed a couple of years.
May God bless LGBT Christians everywhere and especially MCCOR.
Sources: This is an edited version of a Believe Out Loud post by David Henson who received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He is ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He lives in North Carolina, is a father of two boys, and the husband of a medical resident.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Moment of Zen: Coffee

You sometimes don't realize how much you miss something until it's gone.  I've missed my coffee the past two mornings. I've been with my granny (with limited internet access, only from my phone since she doesn't have internet) for the past few days.  She will soon be moving to an assisted living home but right now she needs around the clock care and my mother needed a rest, so I've been here.  Although no internet is hard enough, having to drink instant coffee is awful.  It honestly doesn't taste like coffee to me, but it's the only thing Granny has since she won't have a coffee maker.  She likes instant coffee for some reason, so I'm desperately ready to get home and be able to have a real cup of coffee tomorrow morning.
PS If you have emailed me in the last few days, I'm thinking of you, but it's hard to email anything more than a short email from my phone.

Friday, July 24, 2015

EEOC Victory

Hopefully you've already heard that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a groundbreaking ruling protecting gays and lesbians from employment discrimination. With this ruling in place, LGBT workers in all 50 states who experience employment discrimination can now file an EEOC complaint. “Allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex,” the commission concluded in a decision dated July 15.

While a few Congressmen have tried to introduce non-discrimination legislation that included the LGBT workers, it has always failed to make much headway. For years, Democratic Senator Al Franken has been trying to pass a bill to protect LGBT students in public schools from discrimination. And for years the bill, known as the Student Nondiscrimination Act, or SENDA, failed to even get voted out of committee. Recently, Franken's legislation was added as amendment #2093 to S1177, aka the "Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” and last week it came up for a vote on the Senate floor.   Senator Lamar Alexander led the charge to vote “no” claiming that it would cause lawsuits.  As someone who was tormented as a child with “faggot” and “queer” while,in school, there needs to be some lawsuits to force teachers and administrators who often do nothing, to stand up for kids in their schools.  This and other bills that have attempted to end discrimination against LGBT individuals in the public sector have increasingly been voted down by Congress.

Because of the issues facing such legislation, it is a huge step when the EEOC rules that all types of discrimination based on sexual orientation are forms of sex discrimination banned by the Civil Rights Act. Previously, the EEOC limited sexual orientation discrimination claims to cases where workers alleged they were victims of sex stereotypes.  The 3-2 EEOC ruling came in a case brought by a federal air traffic control specialist in Miami, who contended he was denied a promotion because he was gay.

So that settles the issue, right? Sadly, that's not necessarily true. Courts give weight to EEOC rulings, because they are the experts in the field, but it’s up to each court to decide whether to apply this ruling to claims by private-sector employees.  SCOTUS does tend to rely on EEOC rulings, but that's no guarantee.

In many states, it’s legal for employers to discriminate against workers — or not hire people in the first place — because of sexual orientation. That’s why gay activists have been pushing for federal legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would make workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity against the law.

The EEOC ruling “is an enormous leap forward and will provide another important tool in the fight against employment discrimination and unemployment experienced by LGBTQ people,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task force.  “We need to further attack the scourge of discrimination in a comprehensive manner — and while LGBTQ people may file employment discrimination cases with the EEOC, we still need more. We must push for legislation that provides clear and strong protections for all LGBTQ people in every area of life — from housing to health care.”

“The fight for basic civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people just took a big step forward,” said American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project director, James Esseks.  “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all across the country now have a place to turn if an employer fires them because of their sexual orientation. This is a significant development because protections for gay and transgender people are almost nonexistent in federal law, and 28 states also lack state-level protections.” 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The 25 Days Have Passed

Finally yesterday two more Alabama counties say they will issue wedding licenses following the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.  Both Houston and Henry counties had refused to issue any licenses because of gay marriage. After the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage nearly a month ago, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore advised Alabama probate judges to wait 25 days to see if the U.S. Supreme Court would allow for a new hearing.  The change in Houston me Henry counties came at the end of a 25-day window in which the U.S. Supreme Court could have reconsidered its decision.  Conservative groups in Alabama are still trying to challenge the ruling and are asking the Alabama Supreme Court to follow anti-slavery precedents from the 1850s and resist gay marriage.

Most Alabama counties already are issuing marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight, though a few have refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, forcing people seeing a marriage license to go to another county.  I personally think those probate judges should have resigned instead of inconveniencing their constituents, but Alabama law (stupidly) says that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses but doesn't say they are required to do so.

“Considering the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act in which Alabamians as well as Houston County residents overwhelmingly voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, it can be reasonably concluded that on the whole, Alabamians and specifically Houston County residents do not support same sex marriage,” Houston County Probate Judge Patrick Davenport said in a statement. “However, after the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling last month and the expiration of the time allowed by law for a rehearing, it is now my legal opinion that same sex marriage is the law of the land and consequently, I am obligated to follow the law.”

The change was very special for two men in Dothan, the county seat of Houston County.  Finally, Keith Ingram and Albert Pigg (pictured above) who had attempted to get a marriage license in Houston County several times in recent months got what they'd been seeking on Wednesday morning. The couple were issued a marriage license at the Houston County Administrative Building just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and were married immediately afterwards in front of the building.

“We’re happy that it’s finally come to this day, that love wins, and we’re full Americans (who) have every right that every other American has,” Ingram said. “I was relieved that we don’t have to take any further steps, that we could finally move on to bigger issues that are affecting our country. This is our day.”

Elli Canterbury, who officiated the wedding, said the moment was particularly emotional for her.  “I’ve known Keith and his family for quite a while, almost eight years already, and I know they’ve had a long struggle to get to where they needed to be here,” Canterbury said. “Thank God (that) Judge Davenport saw the light, and I’m grateful for him that it happened. I can’t really put into words what it means to me to be here for Keith and Albert.”

Ingram and Pigg first attempted to obtain a marriage license on Feb. 9 after a Mobile Federal Judge ruled that the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Since then, they've made numerous requests and attempts.  Until Wednesday, Houston County was among about a dozen Alabama counties not issuing marriage licenses to any couples in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples had the right to get married.

Henry County also announced that marriages licenses will now be issued to all couples. Geneva and Pike counties are not issuing marriage licenses to any couples.

“Love does win eventually,” Pigg said. “It’s just a matter of how hard you fight for your rights to be a true American.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bunch of Clowns

Every time I watch the evening news, which I do nearly every night as I cook supper, I get discouraged, and trust me, I don't need more discouragement after being on the job market.  Yet, I keep watching. Of course the big news for the last few days is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump lead the Republican polls with almost twice the support of his closest rival.  When I think of Trump, I think of a loudmouth, a real estate magnate, and a man who has driven several of his companies into corporate bankruptcy.  The United States has enough problems without Trump causing chaos.  Lindsey Graham called Trump a jackass, which is defined as a “silly, stupid person,” but Graham used the wrong noun to describe Trump.  Trump is not stupid, but he is an asshole, which is defined as a “mean and contemptible person.”  

The reason I say that Trump is not stupid is because, at least right now, his strategy his working.  He is drawing attention away from other Republican candidates, and his face is all over the news.  The Republican presidential race is so packed with fifteen people running, (or is it sixteen now, I can't keep up) that Trump is able to lash out at other Republicans and get in the news.  In fact, he's using what I consider the Fox News strategy:  he's being brash, he's being insulting, he cares little about the truth, and he is playing on people's fears.  Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Carson, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Santorum, and Walker all do the same thing, but aren't as media savvy as Trump.  The others in the pack just aren't “up to snuff” as my granddaddy would say, but Jeb Bush, I think, will let the dust settle and then he'll be back in the running.

The saddest thing about the whole Republican race is that most of these people are just plain mean.  They have few redeeming qualities in my book. And while Trump said this about the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it should be applied to the group seeking the Republican nomination: “Bunch of clowns. Bunch of real clowns." The problem is that this set of clowns is of the Stephen King It variety.  I honestly believe that they would be disastrous to this country, and it greatly saddens me because I see so many people nodding and agreeing with so much that they say.  It is sad to say but it's true, many Americans have a mean streak a mile wide, and they like bullies like Trump.  Trump knows it and he has them eating out of his hands.

"Just as Hillary Clinton's clothing and make-up choices should be absolutely off-limits to anyone of substance discussing American politics, so too should Donald J. Trump's hairstyle. Is it any wonder that a guy like him would surge in the polls when we treat national elections like High School Bullying contests. We've pushed this election into his comfort zone with name calling, intensely personal attacks, and useless spin. It's all he has. We can take it back from him by actually focusing on real issues...something he can't do. Demand substance and model it. Care about what his politics look like, not his hairstyle." #DemandSubstance - Brian Sims

I am so thankful that the readers of this blog are an extremely kind and giving group of people.  You comments and generosity warm my heart on a daily basis.  Why can't more Americans be like y’all?  The United States would be a better place if they were.

Here's a palate cleanser, because politics can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still I Rise

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. 

On the day of Maya Angelou’s death, NPR broadcast Angelou reading this poem.  If you'd like to hear it in her own voice, I am embedding it at the bottom of this post.

"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.”

Monday, July 20, 2015

When One Door Closes...

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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


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.)