Tag Archive | Defense of Marriage Act

Marriage Equality again in Utah

 

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I moved from Utah back to California at the end of June, partly to live in a state where my marriage would be recognized.  The photo above is of our wedding cake.  It has been nice.  No issues come up when I introduce my spouse as my wife.  No one even blinks an eye.  Now, finally, all marriages are recognized in Utah again.  Things have been bad there since the brief window where people married last December after a federal court ruling.  The state officials continued to fight against equality in increasingly nasty ways.  They are still trying to do so, but have to realize at this point that they really are on the wrong side of history.  Blessings to all my Utah friends today.  Your steadfast work in planting the seeds for justice is finally bring the harvest end. Congratulations!  I won’t fly back for the celebrations, but my heart is with you today.

Bouncing Toward Equality

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Marriage equality and my emotions go up and down, up and down, bouncing like a red rubber ball.   It made me think of this song.

THE CYRKLE- “RED RUBBER BALL”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xA0WM9iC-E

They say that justice is a journey, and the arc of the universe bends toward it.  Well, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said that and Martin Luther King repeated it – a lot.  The last several months, however, have been more of a roller coaster.  Judges rule, marriages happen, stays are issued, benefits are given and then taken away.  Adoptions granted and then suspended.  Who says they care about children?  Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Idaho, etc, etc. There are too many states to name where the emotions and lives of GLBT are being batted around like a tether ball.  Waiting to hear from Oregon today.  It is time to untether the rope and let freedom fly free.  Hit it out of the park.  Follow the arc.  May it be so.

 

 

Justice Sometimes Requires a Wrecking Ball

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Sometimes justice requires a wrecking ball.  The walls and structures of oppression need to come down.  Of course those in power want to maintain it.  Of course they are upset when courts don’t rule in their favor.

Utah is like that.  They are grasping at straws as the walls of their carefully constructed culture come crashing down around them.  Young Mormons are leaving the church in droves because of the rigidity of thought.   Thank you, internet, for enlarging their world.

The state’s case against marriage equality is truly bizarre.  It would be funny if real people weren’t being hurt.  If children were not being denied the right to have two legal parents, simply because their parents are of the same gender.  Utah does not allow anyone who is “co-habiting” to adopt.  It doesn’t seem to matter what is best for the children.

From the court case:

*See full news article (here)

“To allow the “difficult policy choice” about marriage rights to be made by “judicial fiat” would not be akin to the “narrow” decision that ended bans on interracial marriage, but instead would unleash “an unprincipled judicial wrecking ball hurtling toward an even more important arena of traditional state authority,” the state said.” 

“That wrecking ball would impose “novel” and “corrosive” principles about marriage and parenting and would undermine state sovereignty, according to the 120-page reply brief the state submitted to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals just minutes before its midnight deadline Friday.”

The arguments and images sound like hyperbole because they are, and they also show just how terrified the Utah state officials are of any change at all that might threaten Utah’s patriarchal theocracy.   They then name the risks of marriage equality:

“Those risks include: fewer and shorter heterosexual marriages; an increase in fatherless and motherless parenting; reduced birth rates and more out-of-wedlock births; less “self-sacrificing” by heterosexual fathers; and increased social strife, the state said.”

Utah’s birth rate could stand to drop a bit, not that marriage equality would help with that.  Those 10 kid families put a real strain on the schools – which our legislature barely funds.  I am really not clear how letting LGBT people get married can do any of the things listed.  And, nothing like trashing all the single moms and dads out there, most of whom are doing fine jobs parenting their kids.

Same gender marriage does threaten the patriarchal norms of Utah, however.  A marriage of equals runs totally counter to the culture here.  It might make heterosexual women think they can challenge the status quo even more, that they can have a real voice in the public square and in their marriages.   Some of those women might even start asking to be admitted to the LDS priesthood.   Oh, that is already an issue.

Racism, sexism, homophobia have got to fall –  even if it requires a “judicial wrecking ball.”

Read an earlier post on Utah’s “Gender Diversity” (here)

Arizona and Texas Too

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The tide is rolling in

Make no mistake

The world is changing

The seas are rising

At long last

The shoreline shrinks

Fear’s last stand

Will not delay

Fate for long

An ocean of love

Is breaking now

Across the land

It’s not too late

To learn to swim

Come on in

The water’s fine

Remember Love

I read this blog post by Myke Johnson this morning.  I needed it.  It was a good reminder.

“A young lesbian woman carried another poster that said, “Your signs are mean but we love you anyway.” No matter what happens next, such love releases an inner power that is indestructible. I think that is part of what Dr. King was talking about. It was visceral and immediate. By tapping the power of love through non-violent action, he felt first hand a new way of being in the world. He fully experienced his own dignity and the dignity of his people. After that, what else could matter? He had been to the mountaintop.”

Sometimes hurt, pain, and especially anger can get in the way of love.  Yesterday was a difficult one for me.  An article was published in our local newspaper about my decision to leave my ministry here in Utah and return to California.  One of my reasons for leaving is the lack of marriage equality in Utah.  Read it (here)  The article was fair , and I have a long and very good relationship with the reporter.

The headline read:

“Activist Ogden gay rights minister fed up with Utah, moves to California,” which set up a certain tone that I do not think accurately reflects my feelings about leaving.  I would have been happier if the words “fed up” were not included.  Tired maybe, sad definitely, but there is much about Utah that I love.  My leaving is about going to a place I will be happier, not escaping a place I hate.   I am not leaving in disgust, I am going home.  I also understand that being able to move is a privilege that is not available to everyone.  Many people have family here that they do not or cannot leave.  Most of our family is in California.   We have no relatives who live in Utah.  Other people stay here because of their jobs.  Ministry however, by its very nature, is a profession where periodic geographic mobility is the norm.   I promised the church I would stay five years, and I will have been here seven by the time I leave.  While some ministers stay longer than that, seven years is by no reasonable measurement a short-term ministry.  I know that I am very lucky to have the option of moving.

There was a video of the interview that was posted by the article, but most people didn’t seem to watch it.  Or maybe they did.  Virtually all of the people who actually know me, who had met me face to face and in person, expressed simple sadness that I was leaving.  They also understood that I was not disparaging the all Mormons by criticizing the actions of its hierarchy. Many faithful LDS people have the same opinions about those actions as I do.

It was people who don’t know me who felt compelled to call me a quitter, to say they were glad I was going, or to make disparaging comments about my weight.   I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I admit that it was painful.  Many of comments were just mean and almost all were anonymous as well.  I’d like to say to them, “Your words are mean, but I love you anyway.”  I, too, have been to the mountaintop.  I know that the Divine Spirit loves us all, just the way we are.  Would that we all could understand that, and treat each other accordingly, to treat everyone with dignity and respect, especially when we disagree.  I hope that my time and work here has served to bring that day just a little bit closer.  If that is at all true, I am well satisfied.

 

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Have a Dream

Video of sermon (here)

Call to worship (here)

Sermon text:

Quoting MLK: “From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Ah, the dream of freedom.  The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had a lot of dreams. He spoke of one of them in his most famous speech given during the march on Washington so many years ago.  That dream was about racial equality.  He was, however, a man of many other dreams, some that came to him in his sleep but many more that came to him from his work with people.

The selection Kaya recited was about peace. It upset people when he started speaking against the war in Viet Nam. “Why can’t he just stick to civil rights?” they said.   King also spoke about economic inequality which got even more people upset.

Talking about the Poor People’s Campaign, he said,

“We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.”

King would have loved the occupy movement and he would be appalled at the ever increasing income inequality that we have not only here in America, but in the world.

Martin Luther King had dreams.  He was an inspirational leader; there is no doubt about that.  He was also a minister and like all ministers, much of his inspiration came from his congregation.  He also happened to have a really big congregation, one that included just about everyone in this country.  He preached love not hate and reached out to his enemies as well as to his friends.

Sometimes his congregation pushed him to do things he was reluctant to do.

One  example was in Birmingham.   This is a story told by Kate Rhode.  Things were not going well there.  People were afraid of the sheriff who was named Bull Conner. He was scary. King was having a hard time recruiting people who were willing to protest.  One night, he asked, “Who will demonstrate with me tomorrow in a brave attempt to end segregation? Who will risk going to jail for the cause?”

No one answered his call and he tried again, “The struggle will be long,” he said.

“We must stand up for our rights as human beings. Who will demonstrate with me, and if necessary, be ready to go to jail for it?”

There was a pause, and then a whole group of people stood up. Someone gasped. All the people who stood up were children.

(Children and youth please stand if you are willing to work for justice)

The adults told them to sit down but they didn’t.

Martin Luther King thanked the children and told them he appreciated the offer but that he couldn’t ask them to go to jail. They still wouldn’t sit down. They wanted to help.

That night, Dr. King talked with a close group of friends about the events of the day. “What are we going to do?” he asked. “The only volunteers we got were children. We can’t have a protest with children!” Everyone nodded, except Jim Bevel. “Wait a minute,” said Jim. “If they want to do it, I say bring on the children.”

“But they are too young!” the others said. Then Jim asked, “Are they too young to go to segregated schools?”

“No.”

“Then they are not too young to want their freedom.”

That night, they decided that any child old enough to join a church was old enough to march.

The children heard about the decision and told their friends. When the time came for the march, a thousand children, teenagers, and college students gathered.

The sheriff arrested them and put them in jail. The next day even more kids showed up—some of their parents and relatives too, and even more the next day and the next day. Soon lots of adults joined in. Finally, a thousand children were locked up together in a “children’s jail.” And there was no more room for anyone else.

Sheriff Connor had done awful things to try and get protesters to turn back. He had turned big police dogs loose and allowed them to bite people. He had turned on fire hoses that were so strong the force of the water could strip the bark off of trees. He had ordered the firefighters to point the hoses at the children and push them down the street. People all over the country and all over the world saw the pictures of the dogs, the fire hoses, and the children, and they were furious.

The white people of Birmingham began to worry. All over the world people were saying bad things about their city. Even worse, everyone was afraid to go downtown to shop because of the dogs and hoses. So they decided they had to change things. A short time later, the black people and white people of Birmingham made a pact to desegregate the city and let everyone go to the same places.

Today when people tell this story, many talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. We should also remember the thousands of brave children and teenagers whose courage helped to defeat Bull Connor and end segregation in Birmingham and the rest of the United States.(The Children’s Crusade by Kate Rhode, in What if Nobody Forgave? and Other Stories, edited by Colleen McDonald (Boston: Skinner House, 2003).

Martin Luther King did not do it alone.

A minister never does anything alone.

Those of you, who are members of this congregation and also on our church email list, got a message from me last Thursday night.

In that message I said that I have decided that I will be leaving Utah and moving back to my home in California at the end of this coming June. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, but it is the right one for my family and for myself.  By the end of June, I will have served as your minister for seven years. They have clearly been some of the best years of my life, and it will be very hard in so many ways to leave you.

So why am I leaving?  There are a lot of reasons, some fairly obvious and others less so.  When you first called me, I promised you five years and it has been seven.  I will be 64 in February and it is time to slow down and think about retirement.

Also, as almost all of you know, Anne and I got married last July in California, even though we delayed our wedding until we could celebrate it on our anniversary.  That made a huge difference to me.

I had never expected to be able to legally marry the love of my life, but when the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA last June it suddenly became real.  We could be married by both God and by our country, at least in some states.  In fact that was how the minister who conducted our ceremony pronounced us married, “By God and by Country.”  It was really hard coming back to Utah and no longer having our relationship recognized.  We’d had a taste of freedom and equality.

You know what I mean; everyone here also got a taste for 18 days in late December and early January.

It was then I began thinking seriously about leaving at the end of June.  We also miss our kids and the good friends we have in California.  It won’t surprise you that I also miss the weather and the much better air quality.

All those reasons are important, but there is another one, that at least makes it easier for me to leave.  UUCO is doing great!  You have strong lay leadership that knows how to do church.  After the end of year appeal results, we are in at least decent shape financially.  You are an awesome church and I know you will continue to do wonderful and amazing things.

And you know what else?  I am no Martin Luther King.  You will easily find someone who will lead you just as well if not better.  Remember, that a congregation creates the ministry and mission of the church.  The minister is simply a guide who tries to keep everything on track.

Next Sunday, your board president, Doris Lang, will talk with you about what happens next.  Basically, you will hire an interim minister who will serve you for a year while you search for a more permanent settled minister.  It is a well-established process within our denomination and it will go very smoothly.

Some of you have asked me what I will be doing after I leave.  I won’t look for another settled ministry.  I will see if I can find an interim position for a year or two, or possibly something part-time.  If nothing else, I will write and do guest preaching, and there will no doubt be some type of social justice work that I will feel the need to do.

OK.  Now you know that I will be leaving at the end of June.  But it is still January, and we have quite a number of months, almost 6, a half of a year, until we have to actually say goodbye.  Let’s just keep doing what we have been doing.  I know I will treasure the rest of our time together.  I hope we use it both wisely and well.

I will end with another King quote:

“And I submit that nothing will be done until people of goodwill put their bodies and their souls in motion. And it will be the kind of soul force brought into being as a result of this confrontation that I believe will make the difference.”

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden knows about that kind of soul force.  You know about the power of love.  You know about dreams.  Keep dreaming and make those dreams real.

Amen and Namaste.

Gender Diversity in Utah – Hah!

It is kind of hard not to fall on the floor laughing when you read Utah’s latest arguments against marriage equality.  (See NY times article.) Utah is promoting gender diversity?  Since when?  Are there suddenly going to be more women in state government?  How about in the LDS priesthood?  No, that would impact on the patriarchy.  They just want gender diversity in marriage and nowhere else where it might actually make a difference.

I think diversity is in general a good thing.  At my church we try to include both men and women in positions of leadership.  We also try to include people of differing sexual orientations and ages .  It is always good to have input from singles and couples, parents and non-parents, people who are abled bodied and people living with a variety of disabilities, immigrants and the native born, the financially comfortable and the struggling.  Bouncing ideas off of people with different life experiences usually leads to better, more thoughtful decisions on an institutional level.  I wish Utah would begin doing that, but I am not holding my breath.

No, they just want to mandate “gender diversity” in the very personal institution of marriage and the family.  They also seem to think that one’s gender defines everything about them, that men always parent one way and women a completely different way.   Don’t they know any families where the woman works and the man stays home with the kids?  Hmm.  Maybe not.  They should talk to some of those folks too.

Do they also really think all same gender couples have identical parenting styles?  My wife and I both identify as female, but if you asked our now adult children if our parenting styles were exactly the same, they would laugh at you.  (Click here to read our daughter’s toast at our recent wedding.)

There have been a number of reputable studies of children raised in same gender households (Click here for a report of a recent one).  While it is not scientific, our three children are all outstanding young adults.  We are very proud of them.  They are well educated, employed, and trying to help make our world a better place.  I am more than a little tired of a state that clearly does not really value children, despite its pretensions of being family-friendly, disparaging my family and my kids.  (Read my post on Utah’s “Gold Standard”)

For the Utah Attorney General to maintain that Utah believes in gender diversity is just a lie if it isn’t a joke.  Maybe if they did, we wouldn’t be having this discussions at all.  Institutions that do have real gender diversity tend to be much more accepting of LGBT people.  (see my post on the ordination of women and GLBT acceptance.)

Utah is a state dominated by a very patriarchal church.  By gender diversity they can only mean that they want to maintain rigid sex roles where the men “bring home the bacon” and the women stay home barefoot and pregnant, obeying  their husbands in all things.  That is the ideal family to them I guess.  They should then be just as concerned about the heterosexual marriages that try and function as equal partnerships.  Maybe that will be their next step.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid if they win.

It would be funny if it weren’t so heartbreaking.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel Truth?

Video of the sermon (click here)

Reading:

The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene Chapter 9

When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her.

But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.

Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things. He questioned them about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?

Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?

Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.

But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well.

That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man, and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said.

And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim and to preach.

Music Video: Macklemore Same Love (Click here)

Sermon text:

No more crying on Sundays is how that music video we just saw ends.

Sorry, but I can’t promise that.  Tears are good, and in times of grief or disappointment letting them flow can be very healing. We cry when are hearts are touched, and Sunday worship should touch our hearts.  It is the same reason people cry at weddings.  I cried at my own wedding celebration a little over a week ago, and I suspect there were not many dry eyes among the 120 or so people who witnessed our vows.

But people also cry in churches because their church is hurting them, telling them that they are somehow less than worthy, less than whole.   They are told that God doesn’t love them just as they are if they are gay.  They may also be told that they are less than worthy if they happen to be female. It is in the Bible after all.

This morning’s sermon title is “The Gospel Truth?” Did you notice the question mark? I gave a version of this sermon a number of years ago, but I think it might be especially useful again just now.  It might help some of you dialogue with or resist anyone who might be beating you about the head and wounding your heart with their literal interpretations of scripture.

The word Gospel comes from the Greek word, euangélion, and means quite literally “good news.”

It did not mean absolute fact, something that can’t be questioned, although the word has taken on that meaning in our language today.  In ancient Greece when a city-state was at war, and soldiers were far away engaged in combat, the people at home worried, just as we do today when our sons and daughters are at risk in foreign lands.  After a battle, a runner raced back home, hopefully to bring the word of victory, to spread the gospel, the good news.  That is the earliest evidence we have of how the word gospel was used.

When the early Christians were writing in Greek, they used the same term with the same meaning because they believed that the message of Jesus, the message of a loving God, of hope for the poor and oppressed, was very good news indeed.

Now we all want good news to be true.  There is nothing so upsetting as to think something wonderful has happened and to find out there was disaster instead.  We found out this last week how quickly things can move from joy to despair.  I really did not think the Supreme Court would put our marriages on hold.  But then again, I am still amazed that Shelby’s decision was implemented for even a few days.

You know that feeling when you have struggled to park in the last tiny spot on a crowded street or parking lot, and then while walking away, you discover a small no parking sign?  We want good news to be true.  We want to park our cars, our lives, someplace good, and not have to move them again.  We don’t want to be required to read the fine print.

So it is with the Bible.  If you read the fine print, if you study it, you find that while it may still be good news, and it certainly contains much wisdom, what it says is not literal fact.  My Old Testament professor in seminary, a delightfully droll Franciscan priest, was fond of saying that the Bible is not history and it is not science, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

The Bible, he said, is a collection of the stories of a people and their struggles to be in right relationship with the divine, with God.  It is full of metaphor and full of inconsistencies.  It wasn’t written down all at one time; and God didn’t dictate it.

Biblical scholars, using modern methods, have determined that the bible is in fact a collection of stories, many of which were originally oral traditions, and most of which were edited and changed over time.

The word Bible actually means library and comes from the name of the town Býblos, a Phoenician port where papyrus was prepared.  And there is not just one Bible, a fact that many Biblical literalists don’t know.  The Hebrew Scriptures are a collection of 24 books in three divisions:  the law (or Torah), the prophets, and the writings.  The Protestant Old Testament contains all the same books, but arranges them differently in order to make a theological point.  The Roman Catholic Old Testament is larger than the protestant version; containing 15 additional books also known as the apocrypha, which means literally “hidden away”.  The Greek Orthodox Church includes even more, and the Ethiopian Church yet again more.

So when someone tells you that they follow what is in the Bible, it would not be at all unreasonable to ask, “Which one?”

The official version of the bible and the books included in it is often referred to as the canon.

Most of the books have also been edited.  Some are clearly combinations of different earlier versions.  The Torah, what Christians call the Pentateuch, is composed of the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scripture:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Scholars have determined that there were originally as many as five separate and distinct written versions of the material in the Torah that were combined at a later time.  They are referred to as the J, D, E, and P versions; P is for priestly and the style is rather dry and formulaic.  The D source is found mainly in Deuteronomy.

J and E refer to two different Hebrew names for God.  Scholars are still arguing about which source came first and the actual number of different sources, but they are in full agreement that the Torah was not written by Moses.

Have you ever wondered why there are two versions of the creation story in Genesis?  Genesis one describes creation as happening in seven days and God creating both man and woman in his image at the same time.  It is in Genesis 2 that God takes a rib from Adam to create Eve.

From the story of the flood to the tales of Abraham and Sarah, from the parting of the Red Seas to the listing of the Ten Commandments, there are both repetitions and differences in what the Bible says.  So if someone tells you they believe what the Bible says, after they tell you which version, you might want to ask, which part of that version?

You also might want to ask them, if they say the Bible is the literal truth, so then do they think men really have one less rib than women.  Did anyone else ever try to count their ribs and those of an opposite gender friend or sibling?  I did.  It was very confusing.   It also wasn’t particularly easy and I don’t remember even getting a firm number.  Pull out an anatomy textbook later, or ask your doctor if you still aren’t sure.  We aren’t going to engage in rib counting this morning here in church, but if you want, you can do that later, in the privacy of your own homes.

The New Testament Bible was created in a similar fashion.  It is a collection of stories and letters about Jesus and the early Church, some of which are repeated and inconsistent with each other.

Most scholars agree that some of the letters attributed to Paul were written earlier than any of the actual Gospels.  They agree that Mark was the first gospel written; at least of the ones included in the canon, and that the authors of Matthew and Luke had access to Mark when they wrote their versions of the life of Jesus.

Many believe that they also had copies of another text, possibly older than Mark, which contained various sayings of Jesus.  That document is referred to as “Q”.

There was much controversy in the early church over what writings should be included.  There was a lot of very diverse material floating around for the first four centuries, as well as different oral traditions.   People argued about what should be included and what should be left out.  Even as late as the protestant reformation Martin Luther argued that the book of James should not be included in the canon.

Some writings were lost for more than a thousand years, but scholars were aware of their existence because of historical records that made reference to them.  Many of these texts were found in modern times.  You may have heard of the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which Catherin read a portion of earlier.  Often referred to as the Gnostic Gospels, more than 52 ancient Christian writings were discovered in 1945 in Egypt.

These writings that are still being studied by scholars, give us a lot of clues about the diversity of Christian belief in the earliest years.

So, when someone tells you women should be silent in church because it says that in the Bible maybe you might want to quote from the Gospel of Mary where Levi calls Peter hot headed because he does not want to believe what Mary is saying.

You might also ask them why Paul felt the need to tell women they should be quiet.  Most likely they were speaking up and he wanted to silence them.

The Gospel Truth really is a question mark.  I haven’t even gone into the whole issue of translations, but it is pretty clear that Jesus didn’t speak King James English.  He didn’t even speak Greek.  Anyone who speaks more than one language well knows that literal translations often result in distorted meanings.

Once while in a fairly impish mood, talking to someone who said that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuals, I quoted from the King James Version, Luke 17:34.  The verse reads, literally:

“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.”

Now, when you interpret that verse literally it is pretty clear that at least half of the gay people go to heaven, isn’t it?

I don’t actually suggest that you leave here today and go out and start arguments with biblical literalists.  But if it interests you, do some reading about biblical scholarship.   If you want some recommendations, let me know.  There are a lot of very good books out there, some very academic and some easier to read and digest.

But what I most want to leave you with today are some questions.  What is your holy text, and what good news does it contain?  Do you find it in scripture; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or perhaps another tradition?  Do you find it in poetry, in nature, in connections with other people?

Each of us must find our own truth.  We find it in our own lives and in the lives of others that we come to know.  We find it in the world around us.  It is helpful to read, to study, and to learn what others believe to be true.  But in the end, we must each make our own peace with the meaning of our own life, and our own peace with whatever we mean when we say the word God. There is some gospel, some good news, however, even if there is not just one “gospel truth.”  We don’t have to do any of this alone.  There are other souls around engaged in similar journeys.  Maybe we can learn from one another.  Maybe we can stop using sacred texts like the Bible to justify our own bias and bigotry.  Maybe love will finally find a way to vanquish hate.

Amen and Blessed Be.  Can we have a hallelujah too?

Our Daughter’s Wedding Toast

By Rebecca Novak  

Hi Everyone.  So not many daughters get the opportunity give a wedding toast for their parents. It’s kind of an unusual situation. It’s like, “when I first met Anne and Theresa…I was in the womb. I remember when they were just two young lovebirds, the vague sound of their voices coming through to my amniotic sac.”

wedding toast becca

I also can’t ruminate on their future together. It’s like “spoiler alert,” 39 years later.. things are pretty good. You still get nervous when the other person drives. You are still in love. You have 3 kids.. and they turned out awesome.

So, I don’t get to do the typical wedding toast. But, instead I do have this really remarkable opportunity to celebrate my moms’ relationship.  I want to talk about what I’ve learned from my witty, opinionated mothers.

Especially with all of the news and debate about marriage equality today, I’ve had lots of time to think about my moms and the impact they have had on me.  Am I all screwed up because I have lesbian moms? Am I confused about who I am? Do I wish I had a dad?

I’ve had to answer those questions a lot. And the answer is no.

My mothers are parents who chose to be together, in spite of real obstacles. These are parents who pushed their children to always be who we are, no matter what other people think. Parents who taught us to advocate for our rights and for the rights of others. Parents who taught us to love who we love, no matter what.

They have taught me so much, but because today is a wedding, I want to talk in particular about I’ve learned from my mothers about love.

Their relationship is pretty amazing. 39 years! And I’m in a very good position to talk about their relationship and commitment to one another. I’ve had a front seat.

(Mom & Mama.. you look worried. You should be. Your kids see it all.)

Some of you might know that last summer, I hiked the John Muir Trail. It’s a backcountry trail that runs 218 miles from Yosemite, over 8 mountain passes to Mt. Whitney, all in the backcountry.  This is something I would never have considered if not for the wonderful summers my mothers spent taking the three of us camping in Yosemite, in Yellowstone, in Glacier national parks. Thank you.

One of the things I was thinking about as I was hiking, was my moms. I had called them from an outpost a week into the hike, and they told me that they had been officially married in California. And I was so upset that they did it without me and without any guests, so I’m glad we’re all here today.

It’s good I had my moms to think about because while the trail was beautiful,  actually hiking it was also the hardest thing I have ever done. My backpack was too heavy, it weighed 45 pounds. I had to clamber up these endless 10 mile inclines, up thousands of ft in elevation, to get to each peak. And then I had to do it all over again. Those climbs were absolutely horrible.

But then, I’d get to the top. And the top was unfailingly the most beautiful place I’d ever been, each peak more breathtaking than the last. There were turquoise alpine lakes, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, the whole world spread out below your feet.

And I realized, this is what I know about love. And I learned it from my moms. It is hard sometimes. It can be horrible. There are endless switchbacks and sometimes you don’t know if they’ll end, you’re not sure if you’ll make it to the top.

But you keep working at it, you put your head down and put one foot in front of the other and you make it to the top. And at the top is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been.

And then you do it all over again.

And, mommy and mama, you’ve been through a lot together. You’ve climbed a lot of long uphills, and I’ve watched you put the work into many of them. You have reached so many glorious peaks. Thank you for your perseverance and your honesty, your commitment and your love.  You’ve taught me that the things that matter, like love, take work.

I want to toast you both —  to the mountains you have yet to climb, the peaks you have yet to reach.  Congratulations, and here’s to 39 more years.

 

Utah and the Vortex of Hate

While many in this country are shivering in the coldest of storms, a polar vortex bringing travel to a halt, we are driving back to Utah from a state where the sun still shines.  I spent the last three weeks in California, the golden state where I was born, the one that in my heart will always be my home.   What a trip, what a journey, and what a swirling of emotions, the last few weeks have been.  With more than a hundred friends and family members, on January 3rd we exchanged our wedding vows and danced late into the night.  Our joy was even deeper thinking that when we got back to Utah our marriage would also be recognized.

The smoggy hateful skies had parted there and the light of love was shining brightly.  We felt the excitement from afar.  We imagined all the weddings I would have done outside the courthouse, and seeing in person the tears of gladness falling down the cheeks of lovers old and young. But there would be time to celebrate, we thought.  Time to officiate at more weddings. It seemed that justice had finally come.

Then, just as our car was almost packed, justice was so quickly snatched away. The vortex of hate blanketed Utah again.

When the court case on Utah’s Amendment 3 was first pending, and the state began to make its case, I wrote a poem called Rage

A few lines were:

“Shall I burn

Down your temples

And set fire to your lies?”

I feel some of that same rage today.   I also feel disappointed that we missed the celebrations, and will return only to share the grief and the pain.  I also know, as Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice.  I hate that the arc is such a long one.  Parker worked to end slavery but racism still thrives more than a hundred years later.  I also know that love, in the end, is so much stronger than hate.  I know that faith can be greater than fear.  I do know that the snow will eventually melt and the sun will shine again.  In the meantime, we will just have to keep each other warm.