Monday, March 30, 2009

"The Conservative Voice " of APU Responds to Prop 8

A friend of mine lead me in the direction of a blog called, "The Conservative Voice of Azusa Pacific University: For God and Country."  Their blog post today was titled, "Clause Response: Prop 8" (The Clause is the student newspaper at Azusa Pacific).  I have been hearing responses about Prop 8 at nauseam, but this response was just so uneducated and uninformed that it was quite upsetting.

The author writes:

One of the things that undermines the logic of the anti-prop 8 people is that they don’t actually believe that everyone should be able to marry anyone they want. They don’t believe that if a man loves two women that he should marry them. If they really believe that the government must recognize everyone’s love then a brother should marry a sister and so on. Once the debate rightly turns to how should marriage be defined then the anti-prop 8 group is weakened because of the obvious nature of the social structure of marriage. To redefine the institution that families are built around (marriage) into something that has nothing to do with families is a step in the wrong direction.

The anti-prop 8 people only gain strength when they self-righteously compare themselves to the civil rights movement, something that they have no resemblance to. It should be offensive to most people to compare the idea of preserving the definition marriage to Jim Crow laws and violent racist.

The primarily purpose of marriage is the responsibility of a family. It makes a huge difference in a child’s life if you don’t have a mother or a father. I have no hatred towards homosexuals, I simply do not think my father can offer me what my mother can and vice versa. To compare this to racism truly is offensive to victims of racism.

[...]

Most people in support of prop 8 believe homosexual couples should receive equal protection under the law with civil unions. But people against prop 8 commonly say this is another case of “separate but equal”. This is not the case. The left commonly confuses sameness with equality. Like I said before at the heart of this is the roles of the mother and the father, who have equal roles but not the same roles. This is “separate but equal” as much as we have separate male and female restrooms.

I must have said the words, "Are you kidding me!?" out loud at least a dozen times when I read the post.  I would like to add a small response to their blog, just to get conversation started.

So let us think about this:  considering that we are having to court hearings and constitutional amendments and such around the topic of marriage, it is now clear that marriage is not a religious institution.  Besides if marriage was just a religious institution, then people would not be able to get married at city hall.  Also, when a couple divorces and decides to legally end their marriage, they do not go to their pastor, because obviously their marriage is a legal (or civic) institution.

Now, as a person of color, I have no problem, nor am I offended, by making comparisons between racism and the oppression of LGBTQ people.  I experience discrimination and oppression as a queer individual much in the same way that I experience discrimination as a brown-skinned individual.  Proponents of the proposition are uncomfortable with linking the two because that would mean that if they are anti-gay rights, then that would mean that they are same level as racists.  And who would want to compared to a racist?

My last point:  if you want to make this an issue of religion, that's fine, I can go that route too. I am sorry that you may think otherwise, but I have a religious right to marriage!!  Not only is Prop 8 a violation of my human rights, but it is also a violation of my religious liberties.  My faith in God and my relationship and journey with Jesus affirms same-sex marriage!  And as Americans we uphold that we have the right to religion; many evangelicals will make sure that they are fully exercising that right.  Well, I too exercise that right, because as a Christian, I know that God loves and affirms LGBTQ individuals and celebrates our relationships!

The other posts at this blog are also rather depressing and the arguments are not cogent and are completely bizarre.  But this response goes out to not just this blog post, but to all proponents of Prop 8.  My heart goes out to the proponents though, because just as Christ said, "Father, forgive them, for they not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Unlikely Disciple: Undercover at a Christian College

I came across an article at CampusProgress.org about a student from Brown University, who went undercover at Liberty University to conduct a field study of Christian colleges.  Kevin Roose (the student), then wrote a book about his experiences at Liberty.  Roose talks about Christian education, conservative Christian views on homosexuality, and why the "God divide" is overblown.

The book is "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University;" naturally, I was intrigued by the book, given the topic being discussed. Being a former student of a Christian university, I am very interested in reading about Roose's experiences.  I haven't read the whole book yet, I have only been able to read some excerpts.  My actual book copy was just ordered from Amazon.

An editorial review from Booklist reports:

Brown University student Roose didn’t think of himself as being particularly religious, yet he conceived the novel idea of enrolling at Liberty University, the school Jerry Falwell built, thereby transferring from a school “a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah” to the evangelical equivalent of Notre Dame or Brigham Young. His reasons were logical, though curious. To him, a semester at Liberty was like studying abroad. “Here, right in my time zone, was a culture more foreign to me than any European capital.” He tells his story entertainingly, as a matter of trying to blend in and not draw too much attention to himself. One hardened habit he had to break was cursing; he even bought a Christian self-help book to tame his tongue. Throughout his time at Liberty, he stayed level-headed, nuanced, keenly observant. He meant to find some gray in the black-and-white world of evangelicalism, and he learned a few things. His stint at Liberty hardly changed the world but did alter his way at looking at it. That’s a start.

I think this book is going to be a great read.  I expect that the author is going to be very honest about his feelings and his emotions.  When he arrived at Liberty, many of the students asked him why he left Brown.  He responded that he wanted to know what it was like to go to a Christian college.  And it's true.  After I read the book I hope to compare and contrast his experiences to my own.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This Is What Love In Action Looks Like

June 6, 2009 is the official release date for the DVD of the documentary "This Is What Love In Action Looks Like."  The documentary recalls the story of Zach Stark, a young man whose parents forced him to attend the Love In Action residential program when he was 16 years old (in the summer of 2005).

Below is an extended preview of the documentary:


From the film's official blog:

The documentary chronicles the personal stories of those involved and their relationships with God, the world around them and themselves as this agonizingly divisive and polarizing issue unfolds. It also features an extremely surprising, and highly unlikely friendship that developed over this time period, which no one could have predicted would form.

It follows the events that led up to and sparked this story, the ongoing protests and the events that have continued since, including state investigations into LIA’s practices, a lawsuit filed by LIA against the State of Tennessee, as well as the story of the return of a former teen client of Refuge a year later to speak out against the program in a “one year anniversary protest.”

In the years since it began, with all the media coverage and investigations, Zach had declined to tell his story. Until now. The teenager whose MySpace blogs began it all gives an exclusive interview for the documentary.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Video: Sentence for Being Gay in Iran


This video is very difficult to watch, but it is reality and this is the world we do live in.  In Iran, the sentence for two adults of the same sex that have consensual sexual acts with one another is being thrown off the roof.  The issue of homophobia and violence against LGBTQs is not just an American issue, we need to remind ourselves that this is a global issue.  As global citizens we need to recognize the injustice and inhumanity of this type of treatment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Personal Gay Christian Theme Song

I have written a few times about my wonderful experiences I had while I was in choir at Azusa Pacific University.  Music was the way I was able to process things. It was a way for me to transfer my energy and frustration into something productive and creative.  As I am studying for my final exams I have my iTunes playing in the background.  My study playlist includes not only show tunes (given) but also recordings of the Azusa Pacific Men's Chorale.

As I was listening through some of my favorite songs, I came across the song, "If Any Man Be In Christ."  It was a song I really enjoyed performing.  I actually didn't realize how gendered the song was, it was an adaptation of "If Any One Be In Christ"--changed for to accommodate an all-male choir.  But I began reflecting over the lyrics and started really feeling like this song sums up for me my own journey of being a gay Christian.

All things are made new,
For God has reconciled us
Through faith in Jesus Christ.
Our sins have been forgiven
Now we are children of light.

We are ambassadors
For Christ...
We now implore you,
We now implore in the name of Jesus.

Be reconciled,
Be reconciled to God.

At first I had to reflect on what "sin" it is that God has forgiven me of as a gay Christian.  And then it made sense:  before coming out I was truly bearing false witness to who I was and to God's creation.  I turned my back on God because 1.) I was angry that zie wouldn't "deliver me" from homosexuality, and 2.) I was ashamed that I was unable to change, I thought you couldn't be gay and be a Christian.  God forgave me for turning away and for denying the beauty of hir creation.  And once God forgave me, all things were made new.

As a gay Christian I am an ambassador.  I strive to be a living example of reconciling love and grace.  I implore other Christians in the name of Jesus to practice his teachings of love and grace.  Listen to "If Any Man Be In Christ" below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Queer Bombing

I am not sure if just in the spirit of a newly elected President of the Unites States that inaugural events seem to be exciting now, but today was the Inauguration of the new chancellor of the University of California, Riverside.  The theme chosen for the event was "Living The Promise;" the new Chancellor Timothy White shared what that theme means to him in his vision for the UCR community.

Today a group of students (including myself) decided that this would be an appropriate event to queer bomb.

Queer Bomb --verb-- 1. the collective action of a large group of persons gathering in a public space that is either 1. usually crowded and dominated by heterosexuals and/or heteronormative ideals OR 2. does not usually include queer/LGBT people or ideas for the purpose of increasing Queer Visibilitity, creating a Safer Space for queers in the public sphere through safety in numbers, and/or confronting normative hetero space to recognize, coexist, and converse with Queer persons and Queer presentations and Queer existance.

Example (used in a sentence): "Did you know we are going to queer bomb the bowling alley on friday night? Don't forget to wear your queer bomb t-shirt, it's mandatory!"
Definition provided by UCSB Queer Bombers.

We want Chancellor White to acknowledge and recognize the FULL diversity of the UCR community.  We wore our queer bomb shirts (with that logo on them) to the Inauguration and certainly got a lot of recognition and received many compliments.

The ASUCR (Associated Students) President told us how awesome it was that she could she see and recognize us from the bleachers while she gave her speech from the stage.

Chancellor White also greeted us and took a group picture with us.  He told us he was very proud of our community!  He was a great guy!

We felt this visibility was important, because so often LGBTQ people are left out of the vision for diversity.  We cannot let any communities go unrecognized or unacknowledged.  Putting faces to the topic and issues make them personal.

The events ended with a citrus tasting, which I was quite new to this concept of a "citrus tasting;" I am now a huge fan!

UPDATE:  This photo is actually from the UCR website in their section for the Inauguration.  Now the whole UCR community can see Chancellor White's support for the LGBTQ community on campus.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Memories: Carman and God's Army

I have been off the radar for the past couple of days (and will continue to be for a bit more) due to the end of the academic quarter.  I have been finalizing papers and preparing for an exam that I am most certainly not looking forward to.

Whenever I need a distraction from studying I browse the Internet looking for things that I find nostalgic.  As I was working on a paper for my Evangelical Religion, Culture, and Media in the United States class, I started thinking about the very first Christian concert I went to.  I was around 8 or 9 years old and my mom and I went to the Selland Arena in Fresno, California on a bus with our church to see....CARMAN!  I was the happiest little boy ever!  I remember standing there with my hands raised and eyes fixed upwards towards heaven during the entire concert.

As I look back now, Carman was a very interesting person.  My favorite song was "God's Got An Army."  It's strange how there is so much reference to violence and fighting (even if it is figurative) in contemporary Christian music, even though Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Meeting With United Methodist Bishops

Bishop Weaver, Bishop Arichea, Bishop Dyck, Bishop Carcaño, Bishop Lowery, along with several representative from the Reconciling Ministries Network, and representatives from the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Affirmation, met with a facilitator from Just Peace on  Monday, March 9th at an airport hotel in Chicago to follow up on the conversations begun in Ft. Worth at General Conference after the Reconciling witness on the plenary floor. Bishops Machado and Pennel were unable to attend.

My expectations going into the meeting were to have open, honest, and authentic conversations with active listening.  For everyone to hear one another authentically, in the spirit of all being one in Christ.

We began with lunch in small groups as a way to introduce ourselves to one another and to engage in small group conversations.

Our meeting time with the bishops was for two hours, although two hours was definitely not an adequate amount of time for discussion.

The meeting opened with introductions from Troy Plummer and Bishop Dyck about how we got to this meeting; referencing back to General Conference 2008.

We then went around the room twice for each person to share what their hopes were for the meeting and even in the bigger picture.  I expressed, along with several others, the importance of including young people in this conversation.  Young people are at a different place on issues relating to sexuality.  Furthermore, young people need a church to call home and if the church is constantly condemning people, what home does that leave them?  I also shared that I joined the United Methodist Church because I was hurt by my own church many, many times; I don't want to see myself get hurt again, nor do I want to see other people being hurt by the church.

After a summation of common threads, we broke off into small groups to discuss methods and ways of going forward.  Then we reconvened in our large group to share our ideas and to gather around common themes.  There was a lot of consensus around committing to/having public conversation grounded in our Methodist way of relating to each other and beliefs.

The last part of the meeting was rather awkward and confusing as we attempted to figure out if we were done or if we would all meet again.  There was also confusion on what "public conversation" looked like and how that would be achieved.  There was also confusion and differences among the bishops in terms of their own personal visions, goals, and expectations.

After closing the meeting, the Reconciling advocates gathered to debrief about the meeting.  There was clear dissatisfaction with some of the aspects of the meeting.  I expressed my own confusion and frustration over the differences in ideas over what "public conversation" meant and whether we would meet again with the bishops.

During the awkward closing of the meeting, there was some discussion over the possibility of "widening the table" to include representatives from Good News and Confessing Movement.  For myself and several others, we were very uncomfortable with that idea.  As one person said during our debriefing, if we were having a conversation about how to achieve racial reconciliation, we wouldn't invite the Ku Klux Klan or a white supremacy group to show us how.  That was definitely my own sentiment towards that idea of inviting opposing groups into this discussion about how we are going to bring the church to a point of reconciliation over gender and sexual diversity.

The agenda is definitely left unfinished!  Both sides were encouraged to map out our ideas of how we can implement open and public conversation.  In the end, I felt the the meeting ended unclear and incomplete.  I know we will be working hard to make sure this meeting happens again and to make sure we are moving forward and not just taking one step forward just to stay there or to take steps back.