Monday, December 26, 2005
One perk of getting this job was that it came with an apartment nearby. My school is across from Olympic Park, which is a really amazing park. Out of my classroom window I can see this gigantic thumb sticking up in the air, encouraging me to keep trying to teach this confusing language to kids who see me for only 40 minutes that day.
This would be all be ideal if I were able to walk 5 minutes to my apartment after I finish work. However, because the apartment the school furnished me with is a studio (meaning a room with a bed and a bathroom), AnTaek and I have chosen to live in a two-bedroom that his niece vacated when she got married. It's a great place, rent-free. The only problem is that our home is in the Hongik University area in northeast Seoul and my job (see previous paragraph) is in southwest Seoul.
This requires me to make two 45-minute trips each day on the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit (in otherwords, the subway). Because I am a planner (and a Virgo) I have carefully worked out the most efficient system which I will now reveal to you at the risk of exposing my crazy side.
As I start my day, I walk to the Hongik University subway stop. I won't go into the traffic light patterns but suffice to say there are methods. Once I get to the actual subway, I use my traffic card to get through the turnstiles. The card saves valuable time because you don't have to buy a ticket and I always keep a balance on the card so I don't have add money to it at the last minute. There are 10 cars, each with four doors. I head for the last car, next to last door (Car 10-3). This is key because when I arrive at Jamsil for my transfer from Green Line #2 to Pink Line #8, I will be lined up perfectly with the stairs to the other line!
As I enter the subway car, I instantly look for any seat on the end. This means you only have to sit next to one other person and you have more room to put your arm out the other side or lean up against it. If I can't find this immediately, I look for a seat next to someone in that seat so when they get off, I can just scoot on over and be set in the prime seat. If all seats are full, then it's a crap shoot. I usually stand in the middle and look for body language that says they are leaving at the next stop. When I see this I position myself to take their seat.
Subway seats in Seoul are heated which is WONDERFUL. As soon as I sit down, I get out what I'm reading at the moment. Books are best because you don't need much arm space. I've given up reading newspapers because you really need to hold your arms out or refold a bijillion times. After reading for a bit, I usually enjoy a nap. I love sleeping on the subway. I'm always jolted awake just a bit when it stops and the doors open. I crack open my eyes to check on my stop and gauge when I'm getting close to my transfer at Jamsil.
My favorite part of the ride is when we cross the Han River one stop before Jamsil. The view is so refreshing! This is an amazing city of 10 million and I am privileged to be a part of it!
When I get out at Jamsil I walk quickly down the stairs and down the long hallway. One interesting thing about Korea is that we walk on the left hand side here, as opposed to the right hand side like we do in North America. They drive on the right hand side just like we do but when it comes to walking, it's on the left for some reason!
If I hear the bell that sounds when the subway is approaching, I usually jog/run to catch the train on Line 8. If I have time, I stand where the 3rd door of car 4 will stop. (In Korea the doors actually line up everytime in the exact same place. These places are marked with numbers and places to line stand if you are entering and where to leave a space for those getting off the train.) When I get on, I don't sit down as I'm only going one stop to the Mongchontoseong station. When the train stops, I'm right in line for the stairs and it's a quick 3 minute walk straight to my school across from the Oympic Park!
When I come home at night, it's basically the same thing reversed. I get on at the front of the Line 8 train on the way back so I'm lined up with the stairs at Jamsil that I bound up (two at a time). I dash down the other hall to Line 2 where I get in at the 2nd door of car number 2. (appropriately marked 2-2). I see the great view again, this time at night! After 20 stops, I get out at Hongik University again and I'm lined up at the stairs that are closest to our exit #1 which is nearest to our apartment.
I'm so thankful that Seoul has this great system! It's fast (I never wait more than 5-8 minutes for the trains, usually it's much less.), efficient, clean and pretty quiet. And best of all, it's CHEAP! For a 45 minute trip, I only pay 1,100 won which is equivalent to $1.08 US or $1.26 Canadian. This system makes it possible for me to work there and come home to a hot meal, lovingly prepared by my equally hot boyfriend! Life is good!
Sunday, December 18, 2005
I know many people in this crazy world have to know answers to questions like this mystery. They argue, fight and spend enormous amounts of energy over Christmas. Or whether God created the earth. Or whether God created a gay person. I truly don't understand how these things are possible, but for me, I don't need that understanding to believe that they actually happened.
In some small way I suppose I'm still that kid I was at Christmastime in Kansas, assemblying those angel candles and then stepping back to watch in awe over the music, magic and mystery of heaven on earth.
Merry Christmas to all my family and friends out there. You are my treasures.
Friday, November 25, 2005
What do these countries have in common?
Philippines, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haiti, Bangladesh, Turkey, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Mozambique, Panama, and Mongolia?
Struggling Economies? Nope.
Repressive governments? Nah.
Places on my next round-the-world trip? Hardly!
Give up? All of these countries have had WOMEN presidents or prime ministers!
But wait! That's not all! There's more!
Lithuania, Finland, New Zealand, Germany, France, Britain, Iceland, Malta, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and Latvia!
South Korea almost had a woman prime minister and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi would have become prime minister had the current military government accepted the election results where her party won 82% of the vote despite her house arrest. Liberia's President-Elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will become president next year in January.
Excuse me. Does anyone see anything wrong here?
WHERE IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?
My parents have recently become fans of the television show "Commander In Chief." In this flight of fancy, my country is actually being lead by a woman, played by Geena Davis. With my trademark snort of contempt (copyright pending) I wondered out loud whether I would actually see a US female head-of-state in my lifetime. My mother tried to defend the "land of the free and the home of the brave" by saying we have far more women in power than most countries. Somehow after reading the list above, that pride seems to fall a little short.
This leads me to wonder then-are we as Americans afraid of powerful women? Or do we just dislike them? Women candidates initially are stereotyped as domestic issue oriented, specifically more interested in education and social issues than foreign policy. However it seems to me that if an American woman is smart and confident about her abilities (i.e. Hillary Rodham Clinton), people write her off as a "feminist." Do we only like women who are humble and not opinionated? This is tragic. We have so many capable and talented women in the U.S. that, despite their talents, routinely earn less and are promoted less. There are the few exceptions, like Oprah and Martha Stewart but these influential ladies are too smart to get involved in politics.
Earlier this year a friend of a friend loaned me a microwave. On the side was a magnet that stated "All My Heroes Are Women." It caused me to think about all the women in my life that have been my heroes. Women who have inspired me, encouraged me and saved me. If it wasn't for the women in my life, my life would be vastly different than it is now. It was a woman who taught me to love reading, a woman that taught me music, a woman who taught me compassion and a woman who taught me to face my inner fears. I have shared bitter tears and riotous laughter with women. With women I studied and gained my education and it has been my privilege to teach side by side with women in the trenches of education. Finally it was with women that I shared my secret hopes and dreams.
It seems to me that if my life could be so enriched by women in my life, that the United States could only benefit as well from a woman in charge. A recent Newsweek article agrees: "Studies show that women are better at creating and keeping the peace in post-conflict societies because women are-generally-less violent than their male counterparts."
The same Newsweek article states:
Swanee Hunt, head of The Initiative for Inclusive Security, a multimillion-dollar nonprofit supporting the work of women in conflict zones, says: "During the [Bosnian] war, I asked the prime minister of Bosnia, Haris Silajdzic, "If half of the people around the table at the very beginning had been women, would there have been a war?" And he said, "No. Women think long and hard before they send their children out to kill other peoples' children".
"Men are stubborn," says Monica McWilliams, a signatory to the Northern Ireland's Good Friday agreement in 1998. "Women are more comfortable seeking compromise. They see it as a strength, not a weakness."
It should go without saying that in praising women, I'm not demeaning men at all, far from it. I just feel it is high time that not only should women have "a place at the table", but rather that we would all benefit by placing her at the head of that table. It's not about feminism, it's about humanism.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
This got me thinking about all the layers of meaning the rainbow holds for me. The most obvious to most probably would be rainbow as a symbol of gay pride and identity. Since 1978, when the rainbow was used as a pride flag in San Franscico, the rainbow has been used on bars and in districts to let people know that these are places that gay people can be themselves without fear. And of course there is the merchandising and crass commericalism. One year for AnTaek's birthday I did a whole theme of rainbows with the bag and all that was within: a wristband, belt, candles, necklace and T-shirt. I think he wore the belt once!
All the overkill of rainbow use has led some to proclaim they are "SO over the rainbow" which refers to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the cult classic movie "The Wizard of Oz." Sung by Judy Garland, this song expresses a desire for another world that's better than the one we currently inhabit. Garland, called "Elvis for homosexuals," had legions of gay fans, so much so that the catchphrase "Friend of Dorothy" was coined to refer to gay people at a very closeted time in our nation's history. And it's no wonder that this song became a gay anthem.
For me, the song never had anything to do with that. Whenever I hear "Over the Rainbow" I feel a sense of longing for my home. Like Dorothy, after seeing fabulous places and meeting amazing people, I always feel drawn back to Kansas. Kansans have embraced the movie, adopting the slogan, "Kansas-Land of Ahs" and even have a museum (and of course merchandise to go with it!).
And as for the rainbow, I'm always reminded of a book marker I got when I was a kid, as a reward for helping out with Vacation Bible School (the first of my many teaching experiences). It said "The Rainbow is a Promise" which refers to the covenant God made with Noah to never again destroy life on our planet through water (Genesis 9:12-17). To me the book marker's meaning was less global and more personal. Whenever I saw a rainbow, it was God's promise to me. No matter what storms asail my life, this symbol of hope promises to provide for me and keep me safe.
So whether it be a symbol of pride, a desire for a better life, a longing for home, a promise of security or all these things, today I thank God for the miracle of the rainbow!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I shared this dream and the Korean interpretation with my brother and he of course "saw my bet and raised it" with one of his own dreams. He dreamed that our father had actually died and that he was having to cope with taking care of the details and wondering how he would manage without Dad's advice and counsel. I hope that when this does happen that I'll be able to help out and that my brother won't have so much of the burden. In Korean culture, this dream is interpreted to mean that you want to get closer to that person. I guess that makes sense.
Most dreams I just feel are a conglomeration of things I've thought or experienced throughout the day and my subconscious is just trying to put them all together. Most dream interpretation in my culture is seen in the same light that we view our daily horoscopes: entertaining but not something to be taken too seriously. However some dreams come to us so vividly and clearly that you have to wonder: is there a message here and if so, from whom?
Many characters in the Bible had messages from God communicated to them in dreams. Joseph son of Jacob would be the obvious one to start with. I always wondered about just how clever he really was. I mean if you had a dream that so obviously had to do with your brothers, would you go and tell them about it? Doesn't seem like the smartest move ever does it? However Joseph does state ""Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams," (Gen. 40:8) which tends to lead credence to the argument that our dreams are messages from God.
Other Old Testament characters such as Laban, Daniel, and King Solomon all had dreams which determined a certain course for their lives and gave them divine guidance. In the New Testament, Joseph, father of Jesus, had three pivotal dreams, one to keep his betrothal to Mary, one to flee to Egypt and one to return to Palestine again. Both Peter and Paul received important messages through dreams that changed the course of the Christian faith (Peter's dream made it possible for Christians to do away with Jewish dietary laws, namely pork and seafood. Paul's dreams led him to take the message of Christ to the Gentiles, changing the Christian church from a Jewish off-shoot to a "world" religion.). Message-filled dreams weren't limited to people from the Jewish culture either. Pilate's wife is recorded as having a dream regarding the trial of Jesus.
However the Bible also cautions us about holding too much stock into dreams and their interpretation. Three passages warn about false prophets who claim to receive revelations through dreams (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Jeremiah 23:25-32;27:9;29:8; Zechariah 10:2).
In my humble opinion, the "jury's still out" with regards to dreams and their importance. Part of me wants to believe that they serve an important purpose and many times when I had a sense of deja vu, I felt like I was experiencing something I had previously dreamed. I kept a dream journal for a long time just in case I had something like that happen again and then I could go back and find that occurance but I was unsuccessful.
Perhaps someday I will figure it out one way or the other. Until then I'll keep on dreaming!
Monday, October 31, 2005
Let me take this moment to reiterate two facts:
1) There were NO weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (source: CIA)
2) There was NO link between Iraq and the 9/11 attack on the US. (source: 9/11 Commission)
In both regards the American people have been either LIED to or extremely MISLED by our government leaders. We owe the families of everyone involved much more than a crappy apology but no one's even been given that!
And in closing one more number. ZERO (as in 0, none, nil, nada): the number of funerals Bush has attended as well as the number of casket photos the media has been allowed to publish (despite something called the Freedom of Press in the First Ammendment of our Bill of Rights).
How many roads must a man walk down, Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail, Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly, Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
How many times must a man look up, Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have, Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows, That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
How many years can a mountain exist, Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist, Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head,Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
I've just returned from a trip to Sydney, Australia. Among the many things we did was tour the Blue Mountains where we did alot of hiking. One thing I was impressed with was seeing the gum trees that were charred and seemingly destroyed by fire but upon looking up to their tops, their leaves gave evidence to the life within. Our host, Gregory told us that this is pretty common and pointed out other examples where you could actually see THROUGH holes in the tree and yet, it was still alive.
This reminded me of the burning bush in Exodus that God spoke to Moses through. It also reminded me of a recent devotional that I had read. In Toronto, I purchased this book called "The Word Is Out" by Chris Glasser. It has daily Bible meditations for lesbian and gay men. The one scripture that really stuck with me is the following from Isaiah 43:1-2.
Recently a friend of mine has been turning to prayer to see if it makes a difference in her life. I've cautioned her that, as this scripture above states, the difference that prayer makes is not necessarily reflected in an easier life. (In fact I'm leery of "Health & Wealth" Christians. These people believe that if one has God's blessing, then things go easier for you in the form of health and wealth. To these Christians, I recommend reading and re-reading the Book of Job until they get the point.) The difference that prayer makes is that it gives us the fortitude to be unconsumed by the fire of our hard trials. We will not be overwhelmed. We will not be burned. We will not be hurt. God is with us.
43:1 Israel, the Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid,I will save
you. I have called you by name, you are mine.
43:2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. The Good News Translation
Another friend of mine recommended this excellent book called "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. The author survived five years in German concentration camps and set about trying to determine why some people survived and some did not. His conclusion was this: that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. (This is in contrast to Freudian psychotheraphy that states sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life.) Those in the camps that survived, believed they had a greater purpose and that their life had meaning. Many found solace in prayer.
I used to think prayer was pointless. I still have doubts about how effectively we mere mortals can change an outcome of a situation that is already part of a greater plan (predestined). However now I can see the connection between this practice and reaffirming my Christian faith.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst...a spark that creates extraordinary results. -Wade Boggs, Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Speech, July 31, 2005
Your attitude, almost always determines your altitude in life. -Zig Ziglar
Learn to embrace change and you'll recognize that life is in constant motion and every change happens for a reason. When you see boundaries as opportunities, the world becomes a limitless place and your life becomes a journey of change that always finds its way.
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying
"I will try again tomorrow." -Mary Anne Radmacher
Sunday, October 02, 2005
During WWII a man died and his two friends desperately wanted to give him a decent burial. They found a cemetery in a nearby village. It happened to be a Roman Catholic cemetery and the dead man had been a Protestant. When the two friends found the priest in charge of the burial grounds, they requested permission to bury their friend, but the priest refused because the man had not been a Catholic. When the priest saw their disappointment, he explained that they could bury their friend immediately outside the fence. This was done.
Later, they returned to visit the grave, but couldn't find it. Their search led them back to the priest and, of course, they asked him what had happened to the grave. The priest told them that during the night he was unable to sleep. So he got up and moved the fence to include the dead soldier.
As a pastor's kid, growing up in the small town of Beloit, Kansas I recall visiting the town cemetary often. The Protestant cemetary was adjacent to the Catholic one. One day, I noticed along the fence of the Catholic cemetary there were little metal markers with names on them. These names were made with those label making tapes. Anyway I was told that these were the babies that died without getting baptized. Because of this (although most Protestants believe babies are born without sin), these babies could not enter heaven but were in Limbo or Purgatory. Hence why they were buried along the sides of the cemetary, by the fence.
It occurs to me that we are in the position to move the metaphorical fence that keeps out people that should be included in our churches. The Church was founded to include all of God's children and who are we to exclude those on the fringes?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
When I came out to my mother in the summer of 2003, one of the first things she suggested was reparative/conversion therapy. My response was that I didn't believe anything about me needed to be repaired, that God created me gay and I wasn't going to go against that. I also reminded her that this line of action would require my consent which I would never willingly give.
Many kids that come out to their parents are encouraged/forced to go to camps or retreats that will convert or repair them. My mom gave me this book that gave all these stories of people who "broke free" from homosexuality (as well as drug, alcohol, sex, emotional, physical abuse). This book was put together by Exodus International which also has a youth site. Another group is called "Love Won Out" which is an outgrowth of division's Focus on the Family. They have camps all over the US as well as in remote locations of Jamaica and Mexico. Outside observers have found that at least two-thirds of those in such groups give up within two years, and that over 75% of ex-gay organizations fail within five years.
There are several professional groups that say these efforts which are well-intended, are actually harmful. A few of these many groups are:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Psychiatric Association
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Social Workers
My mother has said that these national organizations aren't reputable anymore because they have been "infiltrated" by "pro-gay forces." So I guess it's a matter of whom you think is the most unbiased and balanced, groups of medical professionals or religious organizations.
Speaking of which, there are actually many religious groups that are against this as well. There's also a really great organization called "Whosoever" that supports those who come out of these camps and retreats.
In the gay/lesbian Bible study/discussion group that I was a member of in Korea, we had several members who had gone through one form or another of reparative/conversion therapy. Many of their stories made me very sad. People would "cast out their demons" in front of the congregation or told them if they only "had enough faith" that they would be able to overcome their struggles with homosexuality.
This line of thinking reminds me of two events in my life. One was when a faith healer came to our church and tried to heal me of the common cold when I was six years old. I remember feeling really bad about my faith when I wasn't healed. Maybe God was unhappy with me? Didn't He love me enough to heal me? Did I not pray hard enough?
The other event was in college when I witnessed the deacons of the church surrounding a friend of my parents who had a crippling progressive disease that kept him in a wheelchair and made him blind. I tried to understand why God would chose not to heal him, despite all of our earnest prayers. Didn't he care?
What I've come to believe after these two events is that of course God has a reason when He chooses not to give healing. Perhaps they can be a stronger witness with their difference than if God took it away. Perhaps, in the case of Joni Erickson Tada or Christopher Reeve, this difference is inspiring to others and makes them that much more special than before. I do believe God has the ability to cause healing and has done so on many occasions. Although it is hard not to question God's purpose for human suffering but I feel, at the end of the day, that is what we must do.
In the case of my sexuality, I believe God knew what He was doing when He created me and that if He wanted me to be straight, then He would have done so. Furthermore, I don't feel like I'm called to lead a life of loneliness, lovelessness or hopelessness. (I feel reparative therapy would result in those things.) This life is a gift from God and He calls me to live life and live it more abundantly. I truly hope that my life brings God glory and pleasure and trust that God sees this desire in me and is honoured by it.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
A nice thing was that my brother called me when I was in a taxi on the way to my apartment and then my friend Natalie called and invited me to join her and her friends for a drink on Queen Street West. Both gave me the welcome and affirming feeling that I was important and that I mattered. I'm so thankful for my family and friends! Yay!
Then I got into my apartment I started opening my mail and the very first piece of mail I opened was a form letter from the First Baptist Church of Oxford, Kansas (pop. 1,221). It was a letter that stated that they "accept all sinners into our congregation, but we do not 'welcome and affirm'. We welcome and love sinners but refuse to affirm their sin." They were all upset because the executive minister of our region's denomination had said that he didn't believe homosexuality was a sin. Plus they drafted a statement that "God ordained marriage to be the union of one man and one woman."
First of all, I'm saddened that with all the people dead or dying in the South as a result of Hurricane Katrina plus the US and Iraqi people dying in the war, that these small minded people from a small minded town spend time and energy AND MONEY to try to cause trouble amongst American Baptists in Kansas. Also if they were TRULY concerned with "defending marriage" what actions have they taken to prevent poverty, domestic violence, and divorce? What are they doing to help out the struggling single parents out there? Is it because these issues aren't as titilating?
Second of all, I kind of feel like this issue of same-sex marriage is a product of something that society already created, not gay people pushing for "special rights." If you look at what marriage meant in the time of Jesus, it was for the following reasons: 1) property exchange 2) reproduction and as an afterthought 3) romantic love. There was a bride price that was paid when two people were married. If the families were poor, they looked at who would help as a business partner in the work of the spouse. When the Industrial Revolution happened, there was less a need for people to be of the same social class. Marriage was no longer a gain or a loss in property. In addition, birth control and family planning became more common. Procreation stopped becoming a reason to get married. So romantic love was left as a primary reason for matrimony. When marriage became defined that way (note that God allowed these changes to occur and civilization did not end as we know it) gay people suddenly qualified whereas they previously they did not. We aren't "redefining marriage," rather, it's already been defined.
Thirdly, I agree with what Philip Yancy said in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" Why is the Church, which should be a place were all can go to find love and acceptance in the spirit of Jesus Christ, avoided by the people who need it most? Many unfortunately see the Church as a place of condemnation and of ungrace. Who enjoys going to a party you feel unwelcome at? Who seeks out an environment where you leave feeling even worse about yourself than you did going in? And finally to use a cliche- What would Jesus do?
Let me be clear though. I have no problems with First Baptist of Oxford excluding me from their church (which is exactly what they are doing when they say they wouldn't welcome me and my partner of 3 years to pray and worship with them unless we changed what God intended us to be). They have a right to their opinion and I would much rather worship where I'm wanted and welcomed. What does sadden me is that they are so unwilling to extend God's grace to allow someone to have an opinion that is different than their own.
Where's the "welcome" in that?
Friday, September 02, 2005
I've also been interested in different views on this travesty.
First, I've read a great suggestion to pull our troops out of Iraq and redeploy them in the South to help our own citizens out. (Hmmm. Isn't this what we actually are paying taxes to the military for? To help us out? Oh wait, I went and got all naive all of a sudden! Sorry!) This would really improve the US military's image after the Iraqi torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison camps. (Also check out this Dear President Bush letter that has the same idea!)
I've also read that many gay humanitarian groups have pitched in with all available resources to help out. The Rainbow World Fund has called for the LGBT community to join in supporting America's Second Harvest, a national food-rescue operation that is working to help at least 10 food banks hit by the hurricane.
"Hunger does not discriminate against human populations, and neither does America's Second Harvest," Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for ASH, told the PlanetOut Network. "The funds that we are raising will help us transport food to the impacted areas, including New Orleans, help us secure additional warehouse space to accommodate an increase in demand and assist our food banks in resuming or maintaining full operations."
And finally we have Repent America who has hijacked the whole event to Hurricane Katrina to stop Southern Decadence, an annual gay event in New Orleans. Sort of reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Genesis. (Click on the title above for the article. It must be read to be believed.)
Which brings me to the question that I'm wondering today- Is my God from the Old or New Testament? In otherwords, is God the vengeful, jealous, angry God that smites people with lightning from above? Governing our world by fear? Or is God one of grace, love and forgiveness who allows free will but also helps mold us into the plan He has for us? One that would even sacrifice His own Son own our behalf?
Monday, August 22, 2005
I came across this scripture passage when I first moved to Korea. I could really identify with Abraham moving to a foreign land where he had no family. Being gay, I also could identify with the frustration of Sarah being unable to have children. And yet things worked out for both of these people because they acted on faith. Faith that God would come through and do what He promised he would do. I'm amazed at how long they waited and even when Sarah made mistakes and doubted God's providence, the story had a happy ending.
Currently I'm attempting to put together a computer corner hutch from IKEA. I don't have a computer but my boyfriend does. The irony here is that I have no idea when this computer hutch will actually be used for that purpose. The computer itself is in storage here and I'm unable to claim all that stuff because I have no legal status here in Canada. I hoped that AnTaek would be able to claim all these things when he came here on a student visa but he was turned down two days ago because he misunderstood a question on the application. So of course we are trying to appeal that but it doesn't look good. Of course with all the difficulties we're questioning why I even came to Canada in the first place. I personally had faith that this was where God wanted us to be. And to top it off, first thing this morning I got a phone call from a principal I had a terrific interview with saying that they went another way and I did not get the job. This month we are also "celebrating" our 3 years of being together. So it indeed is a whopper of a Monday.
My question therefore is posed at the top. When is it faith? And when is it sheer stupidity? At times the line seems to be a fine one.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Also this weekend my parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary a week early. My brother and I got them a package tour of Parkville, MO (link above). I'm sad that the whole family will be there except for me. Living abroad for the past 4 years I've guess they've gotten used to me not being there for family events. During the year we usually get together for Easter, Mother's Day, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus other weekends when it works out. Now that my grandma has moved next door to my parents, we have often had more extended family come to visit than usual. In addition, my brother got married recently and I really find the company of my sister-in-law enjoyable.
The longer and longer I stayed in a culture that highly values being part of a family, I kept seeing a mirror being held up to me. Also the past three years of dating a Korean from a large family (9 kids), I kept getting this sense that my place was closer to my family and how that was an important part of my identity. However I also felt my place was with my boyfriend as well (this month marks three years of dating) and so there was conflict. Moving to Canada was supposed to be this compromise. I could be close to my partner as well as accessible to my family. I really felt (and still feel) that God has lead us here.
So I want to thank God for my family and ask his leading in the future.
Here's a part of the song Swan Dive from Ani DiFranco (lyrical godess) that has become my theme song in the past couple of weeks:
cuz they can call me crazy if i fail
all the chance that i need
and they can call me brilliant
if i succeed
gravity is nothing to me, moving at the speed of sound
i'm just going to get my feet wet
until i drown
For this song in its entirety go here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/anidifranco/swandive.html
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Unfortunately this discrimination typical of the past is still in the present. For the last 15 years, any man who has been with another man since 1977 - even ONCE- has been permanently banned from donating blood. At the time this ban was imposed (1990), there was a high prevalence of AIDS in the gay male population. Even though this disease is now growing faster among the young heterosexual population, the American Red Cross denies this discrimination to be unfair. Therefore, donors who disclose having engaged in risky heterosexual behavior are only deferred from donating for a year, not for a lifetime.
I clearly remember the first and only time I donated blood. I was university at the time and my very good friend, Amy, was volunteering to help them out. I was very happy that I would be able to save a life by giving blood. As I was laying there, squeezing the red ball and my life-force draining out of me, I started to hear the ever-increasing loud lub-dub of my heart beat. I remember looking at her across the room and when our eyes met, she knew something was very wrong. She said "Do you need help?" I nodded my head. She then said "Well...ASK for help then!" I said weakly "h..help?" She got some people over and they asked me a bunch of questions, one which was "Are you going to vomit?" I truthfully hadn't considered it until it was suggested! Then I did! Of course then my blood was tainted and all that was for nothing. I felt really bad and never did go back.
I've always felt somewhat guilty though. The Red Cross keeps saying how desperate they are for blood donations. However it estimated that there are 62,300 gay men who want to donate blood, but are prohibited from doing so by the current law. HIV screening is the most accurate today than it has ever been and the American Red Cross conducts really extensive testing.
As a Christian, blood is a very pivotal part of my religion. We believe that through Jesus Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross, that our sins are, in a sense "washed with His blood." To commemorate this, often we re-enact the Last Supper that Christ had with his disciples. In this ceremony, we refer to the wine (grape juice if you are a Baptist!) as the Blood of Christ and bread (sometimes it's unleavened, ie without yeast, sometimes it's regular bread. In my church we used cut-up cooked pie crusts.) as the Body of Christ. If one is Catholic, one believes that this ACTUALLY changes to blood and flesh. I personally find that one a little hard to swallow (pun intended). For most Protestants, Baptists especially, this is just a metaphor, a symbol of that time. After all, the actual event was based on the Jewish seder during Passover and had no connotations of cannibalism.
Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus did not discriminate when He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. In a sense, his blood donation didn't see gender, race, income level or even sexual orientation. The Bible says that"No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends"(John 15:13). And although it wouldn't kill me to give blood, I would at least be allowed to have the opportunity to follow His example.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Today I went with my parents to St. Clair Baptist Church here in Toronto. It was pretty cool. The majority of the congregation were Jamacian and the pastor was from Nigeria. On the downside the service lasted two hours and there was alot of shouting. I might go there again but would like to check out some of the gay-friendly churches in the area plus the goregous Catholic church down the street!
I was mediating during the service on the phrase "I AM." Of course God comes to my mind first of all. I AM. In Exodus 3:14, God identified himself as "I AM," when talking to Moses from the burning bush. Also Jesus made many a "I Am" statements in the New Testament, for example, "I Am the good Shepherd" (John 10:11, 14), or "Before Abraham was I Am" (John 8:58).
Then I thought about that famous quote from René Descartes: "I think, therefore I am." My existence, my very being comes from my ability to think.
As a man, I often identify myself by what I do professionally as a career. In this case "I am an elementary school teacher." I've noticed women are more likely to identify themselves by relationships. For example "I am the mother of Billy." or "I am Bob's wife."
Finally being a Baptist, I think of the tried and true, call-to-altar hymn, "Just As I Am" that Billy Graham uses alot in his Crusades. This is a beautiful idea. It's like those "Come as You Are" parties where people are just called up spontaneously and come in the clothes (or lack thereof!) they had on. You don't brush your hair or put in your contacts when you approach God. You don't have to iron your good pair of khakis or worry that you have no clean collared shirts. If you have a pimple growing on your forehead, don't bother with trying to comb your hair over it. You don't have to be anyone but just who you ARE.
To me the lyrics of this song mean that I don't have to be anything more or less than the creation that God intended me to be. When I think of all the energy and effort I still make to make my parents and others proud of me or respect me, a wave of exhaustion just rushes over me. With God and me, it's like a really great friend I can just call up and not have to censor what I say or think two steps ahead to divert the direction the discussion will go.
Simply put, God loves me, JUST AS I AM.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
One thing that struck me was how important his school's drama program was for him. He was drinking heavily and smoking pot and not really involved in school. Often a theatre group is where gays and lesbians find acceptance and belonging. I suppose one reason is because we have already had experience acting in everyday life. I remember one Christmas form letter my mom sent out that said "This is the first time Daniel has been involved in drama outside of the home." I got such a kick out of that!
Today I was looking at high school yearbooks and reading old notes. At that time, I was painfully insecure and theatre, forensics and debate were all ways which helped me build my self-confidence. I wasn't athletic but thank goodness for the music and theatre departments! I would love to find my theatre teacher from my hometown and tell her THANK YOU for giving me a chance in that first play "Adaptation." She was so great and had to put up with alot from us. I also had an AWESOME high school debate coach who helped me learn to formulate my ideas on my feet. I am deeply thankful to still have her in my life as a friend. I also wish I could thank my drama professor in university (also gay unbeknownst to me) who stopped me outside and encouraged me to audition for a small part in the musical "Big River." Even a couple of years ago, a co-worker talked me into doing two British pantomimes for charity benefiting the North Korean tuberulosis victims. Prancing up and down the stage in full drag was sort of my joke on this Christian school as a whole, where I wasn't allowed to be out.
Each of the above people saw something worthwhile in me that I didn't see in myself. Each of them maybe even saw that I was doing a desperate act of my own making, just trying to get through the day without being harrassed or noticed. Each of them gave me confidence to value myself and know that all productions, be they on stage or in life, have a shelf-life and then one moves on to a new role. To each of them, I owe a debt for keeping me sane, busy and out of trouble!
It's my hope that now I've moved to Toronto that I won't need drama in my life anymore. I can be in a relationship, work at a job and even be a father if I want. I can just be me. And that feels really good!
Many times this week, it seems that I've pondered issues of self revelation. One situation has to do with a friend's family member who is terminal. The second situation had to do with another friend's help in finding an apartment. In both situations certain subjects were avoided out of regard for the feelings of another.
There seem to be two schools of thought here. One extreme would be the traditional WASP family where real feelings and emotions are never brought to the forefront but always just under the surface. On the other end of the spectrum would be the stereotypical "let everything hang out" family where everything is held up to the light, examined and painfully disected. Should you put your feelings out on the table as soon as possible? Or is it sometimes for the best to let some things go unsaid? And if you choose to let things slide for the sake of peace and harmony, at what point do you "stop being nice and start being real?" (to trivally quote from "The Real World")
For the longest time I didn't discuss my struggle with homosexuality with my parents because I didn't want to hurt them. However, over time, I realized that by not having that conversation, I was hurting them in another way altogether. Yes, coming out was unpleasant and it will be a day I'll remember for probably the rest of my life. It is my hope on that day, my parents saw me for the person I really am, not the person they wanted me to be.
Another day where self revelation was ultimately a good thing was when my dad and I took at trip to Oklahoma together, just the two of us. On the way down, my dad brought up some painful things that I had always wanted to discuss but never had because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. After the dust had settled, we emerged seeing each other with more respect and love. Our relationship grew.
There is always the possibility of our lives being cut short and we will miss have that conversation that we never could bring ourselves to have. That seems really tragic to me. So I guess question is this: are we avoiding being cruel to be kind or could our kindness unintentionally be cruel?
Friday, July 01, 2005
This difference was apparent even in a casual conversation I had today with a local. We were discussing the prison release of Karla Homalka, who helped her husband rape and murder several young women. She is asking the Canadian government to make her release date private. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that she was fearing a vigilante execution as soon as she stepped out of prison (ie Jack Ruby vrs. Lee Harvey Oswald). However, my Canadian companion denied that this is a foregone conclusion here. Apparently despite hard-feelings, no Canadian feels their lives are worth giving up just to off a criminal like Homalka. In the States, there would be no shortage of volunteers.
On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to thank those in the Canadian House of Commons for putting their political careers at risk to approve a bill extending marriage to same-sex couples. When this bill passes the Senate, Canada will join Belgium, Netherlands and Spain in giving full benefits and privileges to all, regardless of who they love (And no, I don't believe this opens the door to polygamy or legalized pedophilla and bestiality. People who throw this argument on the table are just grasping for straws.).
I find it humbling that people care about something that only affects a small minority. Issues like education and health care have much more wide reaching benefits. However when Prime Minister Paul Martin made the following comment, it struck me: the rights of a minority should be the concern of everyone. "The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority."
So on this day of celebration I would like to say thank you Paul Martin. Thank you Parliment members. Thank you Canada!
Friday, June 17, 2005
John C. Danforth is an Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri.
Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers
It would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.
It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.
People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.
Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.
But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.
When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.
When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.
We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.
For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.
In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.
By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.
For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Things I WILL miss about Korea: (in no particular order)
1. Catchy K-pop music in the streets
2. Norebang (private karaoke rooms)
3. Poodles with dyed colored ears!
4. Plethora of neon signs
5. Color-changing bull's eye targets in bathroom urinals, "etiquette" buttons in the stalls.
6. Fun underwear stores
7. Cheap Korean liquor (soju, sansechun, baeksayju)
8. no comercials in the middle of the TV shows
9. quirky tea and coffee shops
10. FREE delivery! Dry cleaning, water, groceries, furniture, even coffee-amazing!
11. Great service even without the incentive of tips (tipping is not a custom here)
12. The dancing girls for business openings with matching outfits, kickin' it under a balloon arch!
13. The Han River in Seoul- with the bridges, lights, boats and the fountain. ahhh!
Things I WON'T miss about Korea:
1. Hawking (spitting loogees) in the street
2. Super spicy or bizarre food that do bad things to my system
3. TV that's way behind the current season (in the US)
4. Smelly drunk adjushis (old men)
5. Only three kinds of paper bills (1,000 5,000 and 10,000 bills)
6. Difficulty in phoning back home (time zones, bad connections, stupid phone cards)
Monday, June 06, 2005
First of all, there's the Church. If it can be proved (and a growing body of scientific evidence supports this), then the Church has no argument to stand on. Gay people are creations of God as much as the rest of us with glasses, double-joints, dominant left-hands, premature balding, red-hair or color-blindedness. None of these things are "bad" so to speak and who would think of making a moral judgment based on having these traits? Just one thing about you that makes you slightly different than the rest. However if the Church admits they were actually WRONG about their rejection of homosexuality being God-given, this would lead one to wonder if they are as infallible as they would have us believe. In otherwords, don't hold your breath!
Secondly, if all it took to change a fly is changing one gene, how far are we from a cure for homosexuality in humans? Many years back, I got involved in a fun conversation topic-"If there was a cure-all pill, would you take it?" To be honest, I said "yes" emphatically and immediately. My life was confusing and complicated. I wanted desperately to fit in, no matter what the cost or who I hurt. Now however I'd like to think my answer has matured. What would be the point in changing what God has predetermined? To make family/friends/society more comfortable around me? To make me a "better" person? And what about my relationship of 3-years? How often does someone find an amazing person who loves you, warts and all? (Sidebar: I've always thought the ultimate metaphor for God is love, be it romantic,brotherly, filial.)
The fact of the matter is, I guess I'm pretty resigned to being gay by this point. In fact the Bible commands us to give thanks and praise to God for all things. And I honestly don't know who I would be if I had a surgery and woke up the next day straight. Would I still be me? How much is this part of my identity now?
I feel like it would be something akin to having all memories of Kansas removed from my brain and waking up the next day from California. Or nowhere in particular. I would be less somehow if I wasn't from Kansas. That's what makes me, me!
So that brings me back full circle to when I first read this pesky fruit fly article.
"Well DUH" -and Next!
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Walking around, being so visibly hurt, seemed to draw people to me with expressions concern. Things were said such as "What did you DO do yourself?" as if I had gotten a tattoo or something. And I have to wonder if this brokenness is what draws people to Christ. There must be something about suffering. Or being imperfect (which is paradoxical isn't it?). Being less than.
I would have to say the last minister I really connected with was an Episcopal woman in a wheelchair. Somehow her being both a minority in her profession as well as a physically challenged person drew me to her. I felt that here was someone God had put into my life to talk about my struggles about being a Christian, loving God and yet being gay at the same time.
Since that time, I've often had occasion to visit with other people and be quite frank about being gay and Christian. People who tend to be disenfranchised with the Church will seem to want to engage me in conversation about my faith and how I see God. They will even share their own background and pain and how they also feel outside the Body of Christ. Many times they express a wish or desire to be closer to God but no idea how to go about that. Ironically being "out" as a gay Christian has allowed me to "witness" more than being just a Christian or just a gay man.
And maybe that's the reason God has chosen not to heal me.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
"The people who sponsored this Amendment made most of their argument based on 1 passage in Leviticus that says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is an abomination”. Now I agree, that Leviticus does indeed say this. However if we hold this one passage in the Bible as truth, we must hold everything in the Bible as truth, so in reality the new Amendment passed by Kansans, as defined by the Bible should read like this:
*Marriage in the Kansas shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women.
*Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives.
*A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed by public stoning.
*Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden.
*Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce.
*If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law.
This is supported by passages from:
If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning.
• DEUTERONOMY 22:22
If a married person has sex with someone else’s husband or wife, the Bible commands that both adulterers be stoned to death.
• MARK 10:1-12
Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced.
• LEVITICUS 18:19
The Bible forbids a married couple from having sexual intercourse during a woman’s period. If they disobey, both shall be executed.
• MARK 12:18-27
If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir.
• DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12
If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.
It is easy to see based on the information provided by the backers of this Amendment where some would get the belief that it is wrong to be gay. However, the backers neglected to mention that Leviticus also prohibits: Round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shellfish, getting your fortune told, and even playing with the skin of a pig. (There goes football!)"
Monday, May 09, 2005
I was so honored to be the best man at my brother's wedding! Many people really liked my toast, despite the fact it was delivered with a very sore throat! Here it is again! Enjoy!
Good evening ladies and gentlemen-
On behalf of our family, we would like to welcome you and thank you all for joining us in this very special day. We are all very happy for David and we can’t be happier that Miranda is now part of our family. I always said it would take a very special person to fit into our family and Miranda, you’re a perfect fit!
I feel like I should say a few words about the groom as I’ve known him longer than most of you here, with the exception of course, of our parents. David has always been in my life. At first he was pretty useless and I distinctly remember losing sleep the first night he was came home. When he got older, he was able to do more, such as throw a rock at my head and stalk me relentlessly wanting to play Star Wars Action Figures. On my part, besides giving blood in return, I was able to give him wise and brotherly advice, such as "Stay out of my room dork and don’t touch my stuff or you’ll be sorry!" I do remember a turning point when my mother sat me down and explained how much he looked up to me and really liked me and from that point on, he was a little less annoying. Now I am his number one fan and anyone who knows me for over a minute has heard ad nauseum about my only brother, the talented artist, political genius, jazz musician and courtroom attorney.
What some of you might not know that I’m also well acquainted with the bride. Growing up in the small fishpond of Beloit, Kansas it was impossible not to notice someone so energetic and fun. A friend to everyone and loved by all, Miranda just happened to be in the Triangle Booster 4-H group that David and I joined in elementary school. She is the reason I know the words to "Aardvarks Are Our Friends" (to the tune of "Yankee Doodle") and the ever popular Christmas classic, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." She and I became good friends in high school band and were both drum majors, in community orchestra and Student Council. She was even nice enough to agree be my date for not only Homecoming but also Senior Prom. Being with Miranda, makes life a lot more fun and I, for one, am really looking forward to future family functions!
Now, I would like to think I had a hand in bringing these two love-birds together. You see, it was me who wrote all the Beloitian ex-pats living in Kansas City to tell them Miranda Boettcher was moving there. And my brother David was nice enough to take Miranda out and about and show her around. Later that summer when I was home on a visit, my dear brother asked my advice on whether he should take this friendship to a more serious level. Would it bother me? Typically my only concern was of course, for myself. What if it all went horribly wrong and I would lose one of my good friends? Well I’m very pleased my fears were never realized and here we are today celebrating their union.
I have read somewhere that the best man is supposed to end his speech with some advice for the happy couple. My advice to Miranda can be summed up in one word, two syllables "ear-plugs." Daytime, nighttime, whenever you feel they’re needed! As for my baby brother David- "Stay out of her room dork and don’t even think of touching her stuff!.... Or you’ll be sorry!" Now let’s raise our glasses- To David and Miranda! (toast!)
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Toward the end of this book, one of the young women in the book group starts to discuss her bitterness after a visit with her husband to Syria. "What shocked her most were her sensations in the streets of Damascus, where she had walked freely, hand in hand with Hamid, wearing a T-shirt and jeans. She described the feel of the wind and the sun on her hair and her skin-it was always the same sensation that was so startling....When she returned home, she felt angry because of what she could have been. She was angry for the years she had missed, for her lost portion of the sun and wind, for the walks she had not taken with Hamid. The thing about it, she said with wonder, was that walking with him like that had suddenly transformed him into a stranger. This was a new context for their relationship;she had become a stranger even to herself. Was this the same Mitra, she asked herself, this woman in jeans and a tangerine T-shirt walking in the sun with a good-looking young man by her side? Who was this woman and could she learn to incorporate her into her life if she were to move to Canada? 'I can't live with this constant fear,' said Mitra, 'with having to worry all the time about how way I dress or walk. Things that come naturally to me are considered sinful, so how am I supposed to act?'"
Reading the above I was surprised with how much I identified with Mitra,a Muslim woman on the other side of the globe. Last month, my boyfriend and I spent a chilly spring break in Toronto and we were both struck by how different things were there in attitude and atmosphere. Granted, neither of us would be thrown in jail or beheaded for holding hands in either Korea nor Kansas. But suffice to say, there would be severe repercussions. Hate crimes happen all the time and most are either not reported to the police or recognized by the authorities as such. Coming back to Korea there are so many times, I look at him and I just want to simply hold hands and yet can't because of that fear. I've grown so much personally these last four years in Korea that I have to wonder "Who will I become after a four years in Ontario?"
Friday, May 06, 2005
One of the major reasons my boyfriend and I are moving to Canada is because they value diversity in word AND deed. Being from another race, religion or sexual orientation is not a barrier in Canada but a great advantage. To this end, Canada is on the cusp of joining the countries of Netherlands and Belgium in recognizing same sex marriage (http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/05/04/same-sex050504.html). Other countries of Denmark, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden -- offer similar legal status to civil unions. Poland, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Israel and New Zealand also are close to approval of marriage equality. While it is disappointing that the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" is neither, it's not surprising, given how slow it was to abolish Biblically-defended slavery and racial discrimination, not to mention offering women's suffrage. Neither am I surprised that my homestate of Kansas just redundantly voted in a constitutional discriminatory ammendment. (Go here for a story of a brave soul from Atwood, KS who finally had enough! http://6news.ljworld.com/section/gaymarriage/story/201783).
What saddens me the most however is much like the dilema of Esau and Jacob. Jacob took the birthright and also the blessing of his father and yet he was the younger, not the older brother. Now although I don't begrudge my younger brother any of his well-deserved happiness, the parallels still remain. The heritage (birthright) will pass through him, not me. My father (minister in the American Baptist churches) is allowed to bless his wedding, not mine. I have to be honest and admit that I'm a little envious. My boyfriend and I both very much want a wedding where we commit to each other in front of our family, friends and more importantly, God. And we will have that someday. Thanks to the good folks in Canada, the government will also treat us the same as everyone else. Now if everyone could be Christ-like in their demeanor, what a wonderful world it would be!
Sunday, May 01, 2005
From The Topeka Capital-Journal:
The driving forces to amend the Kansas Constitution to prohibit gay
marriages -- and, gratuitously, gay civil unions -- are Christian
pastors and many of their followers.
For example, Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, found his House vote
"It is the right thing to do on the truth that was spoken (in the Bible)," he said.
Consistent with the times in which we live, Bible interpretation must
be addressed first.
Recognizing I am no more (or less) qualified to deal with this subject
than any Christian layman, I am turning to the opinions of the Rev.
Craig Sweeney, an Episcopal priest (also husband of our eldest daughter
and father of three of Jane's and my grandchildren) that were published
in an open forum in the Winfield Courier.
"People refer to homosexuality as being against God's will, based on
seven disconnected verses in the Bible. As a seminary trained priest I
know that each of those seven verses can be honestly challenged, based
on the modern interpretation of ancient languages, cultural knowledge of
the times when they were written, and the personal backgrounds of the
inspired, but fully human authors.
"The real issue is that many Christians are quick to seize on an
obscure verse in Leviticus about same-gender sex, while they are content
to ignore Jesus' own words on divorce. Even the most conservative
Christians ignore many of the 612 rules and a myriad other teachings in
the Old Testament each day.
"This picking and choosing is what I call 'selective literalism' and I
don't understand it. Each person is free to make choices about biblical
authority, but I don't understand why their choice of what is sin and
what isn't should bind me or anyone else. What gives them that right and
authority? Paul tells us that if we want to be under the law, we have to
be 100 percent -- I doubt if any of us want to live that way today."
Father Craig continues, "Since I revere Scripture even though it is
confusing and contradictory, I look to the overall message there from
God, especially from Jesus.
"That message is the great commandment: love God with all you've got
and love your neighbor as yourself. On the night before he died, Jesus
did not warn his disciples to follow the rules of the Old Testament. He
gave them a new commandment: break bread together in his memory, and
love each other.
"Since Jesus is God in human flesh, all Scripture is to be judged by
this. Jesus reached out to welcome all people that the Hebrew society
had cast out. Today Jesus would reach out to love and include gays and
lesbians. The only people Jesus criticized were those 'rule-sticklers'
-- the Scribes and the Pharisees. He calls them hypocrites."
Father Craig also discusses that many people believe gays and lesbians
choose that lifestyle and refutes it with accepted medical and
scientific evidence. And then he turns to the critical question, "What
is marriage anyway?"
He praises the modern concept of marriage and deplores its shattered
status among heterosexual couples today. He points out marriage is a
contract between two people to share their lives and assets. And, that
in the Episcopal Church, "we do not create marriage -- we believe God
has done that before the couple shows up. What we do is pronounce God's
blessing on the marriage."
And then something I hadn't even thought about. "Marriage is not a
'God-given' institution; the church didn't get involved in marriage at
all until the Middle Ages." And then "solely to protect the distribution
of property through the male lineage. It did women no good, since they
were property being sold off to men and had no property rights."
He concludes, "Allowing gays to contract together for a shared life and
shared assets has nothing whatsoever to do with our country's shameful
divorce rate, the broken homes of heterosexual families and the anguish
of single motherhood.
"If some churches do not want to pronounce God's blessings on these
relationships -- fine. But passing a constitutional amendment to enforce
the religious beliefs of some conservative Christians is a terrible
thing to do."
Bill Roy, a retired physician, is a former member of the U.S. House of
Representatives. He lives in Topeka.
Copyright 2005 CJOnline / The Topeka Capital-Journal / Morris Communications
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Dear Rev. Johnston,
I am writing you in the early hours of the morning because I cannot sleep. I have awakened three times feeling the Lord calling me—or rather convicting me—of my silence and ordering me to write to you. I know better than to ignore the Lord. He will pester my conscience until I do His will. So, here I am writing you against my human judgment and need for sleep.
I will not use my full name, because I do not know what you would do with it. I am an attorney in the KC Metro area who serves mostly Hispanics and Spanish-speakers—again, in an answer to God’s calling in my life. I was baptized at age 9 and have been a good Baptist since that time. I am an active member of my church and attend regularly with my fiancee of two years. In May, we will be married by my father, a Baptist minister of at least 30 years.
Standing by my side as best man will be my brother, an excellent grade school teacher currently teaching at an English-language non-denominational Christian international school overseas. He has always been there for me when I needed him, has been by biggest cheerleader throughout my college years at a Baptist college and throughout law school. He continues to give me moral support and encouragement from overseas as I volunteer for other issues of God’s calling in my life—continuing education for high-school dropouts, creating middle-income housing in blighted neighborhoods in the urban core, volunteering for a free “Ask-A-Lawyer” day for an interfaith organization that provides temporary housing and job placement assistance to the homeless, and organizing congregations across the KC Metro area on issues of racial and economic segregation and social justice.
My brother was baptized at age 12 or 13 by my father, as was I. While he taught in Kansas for several years in a low-income school district, he taught Sunday School and played piano for his church nearly every Sunday. While overseas, he continues to be active in a Christian support and accountability group as he continues his walk with Christ. My brother is also gay.
My brother revealed this to me over e-mail while I was in law school because he was afraid of what my reaction would be over the phone or in person. And honestly, I used every—and I mean EVERY—argument and authority in the Bible, in law, and in philosophy to convince him not to be gay. If there was any logical or Biblical argument that could have changed his mind, I would have already discovered it.
His revelation was a shock to me at first. I was at first somewhat angry—why was he “doing” this to me and my family? I thought this kind of thing could ruin my father’s reputation, would break my mother’s heart, might make it more difficult for me to attract a good Christian woman to marry, and threatened to shatter the close family unity we had. For two years, I held his secret to myself, which required deflecting inquiries by my mother and reporting back to my brother whether or not the folks were getting suspicious. It was a very heavy burden to bear.
After two years of arguing with and praying about my brother, for whatever reason, I Christ gave me His peace that passes understanding over the matter. None of my theological opinions had changed, but my fears had subsided. And I was frankly tired of dancing around the white elephant in the room with my folks. The right thing for my brother to do was to tell them himself when he came back on vacation one summer. I knew that my family would need my support on all sides, so I insisted on being there.
My brother told my parents separately, and the differences in their reaction were compelling. My mother was understandably upset. She stated that this is not what she and my father had taught us—which is true. She also tried to convince my brother to change; I believe she suggested going to “treatment” and then marrying a “recovering” lesbian so the two would keep each other accountable. In retrospect, I cannot imagine a more dismal and depressing life for my brother, as such a partnership would be based only on trying to “kick this homosexual thing,” and not on love, respect, friendship, common beliefs and common goals—all the things that bind my fiancee and I together in addition to God-given physical attraction. Nevertheless, my mother’s response only made my brother more defensive and more combative. It was an angry and somewhat hurtful confrontation, but as I told my brother, not all that surprising. My mother gave me the argumentative and combative side that serves me so well in court. That’s just how she is, God love her.
My father’s reaction was completely different. Now working as a hospice chaplain, he simply smiled and told my brother that he loved him and had wondered for some time when my brother was going to tell him. My brother cried and I think I cried too. The experience was amazingly like experiencing and realizing the grace of Jesus for the first time. In the same way, here was my father telling my brother—sure, I know you are not perfect, but you are my son, and I love you anyway, unconditionally. My father’s reaction, just like my mother’s, was not all that surprising. My father gave me the ability to listen, to empathize, to have compassion, and to see people as God sees them—as God’s children who are loved despite all their flaws. That ability has served me well in my law practice and serves my very well in my relationship with my fiancee. That’s just how he is, God love him.
So, that’s how it happened, and it’s been over a year since my brother told my parents. I was afraid that it would fracture and destroy my family. Thanks be to God, it did not. I was afraid that it would ruin my father’s reputation. Obviously, it really never could have. I was afraid that it would break my mother’s heart. She’s still not happy about it, and continues to collect materials about treatment and individuals who say they were “cured” of homosexuality, but she still loves my brother very much. I was afraid that it would keep me from finding a good Christian wife. Of course, it did not.
Let me be clear. I still have mixed feelings and beliefs about homosexuality. I don’t believe it is God’s will for anybody to chose homosexuality, but I’m not entirely convinced anymore that it is a choice for most. I haven’t really decided whether my brother was born gay or chose to have a relationship with a man, but I don’t think there is any choice in the matter for him now. He is in a monogamous relationship with his partner (also a Christian) of about two years and has never really shown any doubt or any signs that he would or even could ever change. He continues his walk with Christ as best he knows how, assured that God knows he is not perfect, but loves him anyway unconditionally. Far from being deviant or tortured as some would portray individuals in his situation, he is very happy, very loving and he is very much true to himself and God being gay. Having known my brother all my life, and now that time has passed from the initial shock, I find that it’s not all that surprising. That’s just the way he is, God love him. And I do believe that God loves him. And I love him very much just as he is
I have read over the last several months of your role in the political effort to pass an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to further ban gay marriage, which—as I learned in law school—is already illegal in Kansas. I saw you prominently featured on the cover of The Pitch Weekly with the headline—in reference to the infamous protests of Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka—“Ministers Hate Fags Too.” I read the latest article in the 9/21/04 issue of the Kansas City Star regarding your organization of a series of “pastor policy briefings” intended to encourage pastors to get involved in the political process. So, I figure you are exactly the person qualified to answer some of the questions that have been nagging me for months:
First, of the two very different reactions of my parents above, which was the more Christ-like? My father’s approach did not condone homosexuality in any way, but it certainly was loving and has bound our family together. I am convinced that my mother’s approach, although well intentioned, would have left my brother trapped in a miserable and loveless marriage, which would eventually have been doomed to failure after many years and possibly a few children. At some point, my brother would not be able to continue being someone he simply is not.
Second, if my brother and his partner move to Canada, (which is, in fact, exactly what they plan to do) and if they decide to get married as a same-sex couple there, how will that marriage harm my upcoming marriage? My fiancee and I will still love each other and be committed to each other just as much. My brother, in fact, would be living the Christian example of marriage that my parents gave us as best he can. He would probably be an example for other homosexuals to commit to a single, life-long, monogamous partner, rather than the reckless irresponsible existence which many feel is their only option at this point.
Third, what empirical basis do you have for the assertion that allowing same-sex marriage or unions would destroy the institution of the family? I would agree that no-fault divorce has seriously harmed the institution of the family in America. I would agree that absentee fathers are a great cause to the decline of the American family, and a cause towards almost every social ill that plagues America today. I would agree that raising children in poverty, crime, and racial segregation has weakened families all across the nation. The harm that these three phenomenons have inflicted upon the family in America is well documented and undisputed. Yet, I have not seen you nor your allies organize for a change in the law or the state constitution to ban no-fault divorce, absentee fathers, or raising children in poverty, etc. Why not? And why are you not pushing to elect candidates who are committed to fight against these very real threats to the family? Don’t you care? Aren’t these issues important enough? These issues have been destroying our families and our society for decades now. More than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce now, and that has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.
Fourth, what are you doing to communicate that even though you find homosexuality to be sinful and morally reprehensible, that there is no justification for hate and violence against homosexuals? Frankly, this is a real concern for my brother, and it is one of the reasons I think he may never return to teach in Kansas. And that’s just wrong. He’s a great teacher (and no, he doesn’t “teach homosexuality” in the classroom or anywhere else) and he should be teaching children in Kansas, not overseas or in Canada. Will not your campaign embolden non-Christians who would do evil against homosexuals by giving them some kind of moral justification for hate-crimes?
Fifth, have you ever met an openly homosexual Christian? Do you know any or are you friends with any? Are you willing to meet with any and ask them honest questions about their belief or their life?
Sixth, what are you doing to counter the perception that Christians are simply hateful people? I am sure that it is not news to you that many non-Christians have that kind of perception of our faith when they hear or see pastors like yourself or Fred Phelps so vehemently oppose homosexuality.
Seventh, what are you doing to protect your church and others against losing their 501(c)(3) status? It is clear—not subtle at all—which candidates you support and you are using the Church as your podium. Also, as you well know, demographic studies show that Protestant Christians now only comprise 50 percent of the American population, and within a few years, will cease to be the dominant religious group in America. How do you avoid the perception that rather than caring about the well-being of the nation, the political efforts by Rev. Jerry Falwell and others like yourself is really about power, i.e. trying to institutionalize into law the power Protestant Christians have had in our society over the last 225 years? I don’t have to tell you, Reverend, that that is the perception, and it is the single largest contributor to the Church’s increasing difficulty to reach and witness to non-believers. Frankly, my brother, as an openly gay Christian, has been an unlikely witness to many foreign non-believers simply because of who he is.
Rev. Johnston, I know you are a busy man, and you probably have no desire to be side-tracked by one semi-anonymous letter. However, I would appreciate a response to these questions when you get a chance. Being the son of a preacher, I also know that letters like these can be great material for a sermon. That’s your prerogative, I suppose, and for that reason, I am not including my full name. I have heard even other pastors trashed—and I mean trashed—on local Christian talk radio because they supported a moderate Republican candidate instead of the pro-life Republican candidate. I’m not saying you would attack my character instead of respectfully addressing the religious and policy questions I have raised, but we both know some people who wear a cross on their lapel unfortunately would have no problem doing so.
I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time and consideration of this letter.
In Christ’s Peace and Love,