Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Have the God

An animated rendition of James Broughton's poem of the same name.

really only bother with the first minute or so......

the rest is just air

check out the

When was the last time YOU were threatened by a lynching?


I have the God (test)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

For the Christians

A Manifesto by John Shelby Spong

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

Our Hero

John Shelby Spong

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a “new church,” claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by “fair-minded” channels that seek to give “both sides” of this issue “equal time.” I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world’s population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

– John Shelby Spong, Retired Episcopal Bishop

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Las Vegas Fourth

We had our "Fiestas Fourth" Parade here in Las Vegas today. Always a favorite around here, the whole town turns out, either lining the the streets or walking/riding in the parade.

The theme was "Tradition, Heritage, Love, Family, and Freedom." Quite a mouthful, though a few less words in Spanish.

I've been always impressed with aspects of this parade which are part anachronism, part racist, part small town precious.

I have pictures of a few choice moments. Firstly come the men dressed up as "Conquistadors," on horseback of course.

Most New Mexican towns have a fiestas celebration at some point in the year. Santa Fe celebrates the bloody subjugation of New Mex by the Spanish Crown and Church during the feast day of La Conquistadora in September. It's a bit like the DAR, only instead of celebrating revolutionaries it is all about inflating aristocracy. All the old Spanish families around Santa Fe put their coats of arms up around the plaza and hoot and hollar about their pride in pretending to not be related to any Indians or gringos despite 400 years of rubbing elbows and god knows what else.

Here in Vegas we are much more practical. We celebrate the racial pride and domination of some fictional Old Spanish Pure Aristocracy
at the same time as US independence from precisely such domination. Why spend money on two celebrations when you can have just one and everyone can have a good time in July? This is one of the most interesting cultural mash-ups I have ever experienced. The Monumental Denial involved to achieve this is one of the hallmarks of this oh so dysfunctional town.

I had hoped that the reason for the shared holiday was because the folks here still resent the failure of the US government to honor the terms of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. While it is true that many people who draw their ancestry to mid nineteenth century land holds granted by the Mexican Government are actively pissed off about the last almost 200 years of Anglo interests and outright thievery. This point of view is held in tandem with staunch US patriotism mixed with racial disdain for all those "other" non-Spanish mixed race Latinos south of the border. And (sadly) has nothing to do with launching Conquistadors after the VFW in the fiestas parade (I only wish it did. I could get behind a serious Fuck You to the fourth of July.).

Truth is, the "tradition" of fiesta was invented by a bunch of white business men in Santa Fe during the early twentieth century as a way to generate tourist money. Admittedly they were riffing on folk traditions of processing through the fields with saints to stimulate the bean crops, so some kind of tradition is indeed involved. It just isn't the kind of tradition most folks around here say it is. Really it is just plain old traditional hootin and hollering to make who ever happens to be in charge at the moment feel "traditional" pride.

I thought photographing the horse's ass was the best way to depict this cultural train wreck.

Next we have the endless royalty floats from all the small towns in northern New Mexico. This is the float from Espanola.

Gentlemen, choose your princess bride here. But you better have the right pedigree, or no touchy no feely.

Lastly I have pictures of the true revolutionaries and patriots in our nation's culture wars. Why have separate gay pride parades when every town in America could be uplifted on the fourth of July through the vehicle of home grown identity politics? This is what keeps me interested in this crazy town.

So, happy Independence day to one and all! Enjoy the noise and fireworks and irony.