Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Broken for You

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about brokenness. I am now a black belt in Taekwondo. I absolutely love it. Growing up, I was never athletic although I did letter in HS Track. At any rate, Taekwondo is great for me because it's an individual sport and I have a trainer telling me what to do and when and for how long. It's really a win-win for me. Plus it's a little bit social but not too much. At any rate on Wednesday, while doing side-snap kicks, I came down on the outer edge of my right foot and just rolled out. For a split second, all my body weight was transferred to that part of my body. My first thought was embarrassment because I didn't want to cry or pass out in front of the group. After getting it X-rayed the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kang, said that I had a "total ligament rupture" (ligaments ripped from the ankle bone) and a "virgin fracture" (a teeny bit of bone came with the ligaments). I have to wear this brace for a month and no TKD for 6 months. Walked with crutches for a couple of days and now I'm trying to go without. Keeping it elevated and all that.
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

Let's Be Literal!

Here is an excerpt of a rant from a fellow Kansan with regards to the recent amendment that Kansas passed and the Biblical rational against homosexuality. He tends to take an "all or nothing" approach to the Bible. I tend to be more middle-of-the-road.

"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.
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.
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

My Wedding Toast

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

Reading Lolita In Tehran In Seoul

For the past two years I've belonged to a book club made up of faculty members here at Seoul Foreign School (www.sfs.or.kr). The last book is Reading Lolita in Tehran. There are some good parts in it but the part that struck me most was what I can't share in the group on Tuesday so I'll share it here.
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

Jacob and Esau revisited

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being the best man at my younger brother's wedding. He asked me an interesting question driving to the wedding site (www.powellgardens.org) We had been talking about how he was feeling and his thoughts on this important day and then he surprised me by asking how _I_ was feeling about this all. Our situations are somewhat similar- both of our relationships started August 2002. We've both been through ups and downs. We've both taken major trips (albeit his was to Philly and we went to Cebu but I digress). Both of us intend to spend a lifetime with the person we've found. The only difference is that his marriage will be recognized universally and mine will not.

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

Former KS US Representative Bill Roy

It's nice to hear someone from the clergy AND from Kansas not echo Rev. Fred Phelps!
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