Random thoughts from Convention

Went to the dinner on Friday night. There was a cool jazz musician who played a bunch of stuff, then the after dinner entertainment was a dance troupe of Chinese origin. Now, which of these activities seems not to fit:

1) Lion dance
2) Peacock dance
3) Sing along to The Carpenters' "Top of the World"
4) Martial arts demonstration

Yes, that was what they did, and yes, the third part was really quite surreal. The rest was pretty cool, apart from the excessive banging on what appeared to be a frying pan. The banging was really penetrating and I was really sad the Advil container was sitting on the back seat of my car, ten minutes walk away.

Of the actual convention business there wasn't anything too momentous. The Bishop's address was more direct and candid this year than previously, which was refreshing. I especially liked his acknowledgement about being stubborn on insisting we go ahead and bring in a Bishop Suffragan, even though the budgetary situation looks pretty dire (20% shortfall on congregational giving.) The last two or three years have not been kind to him, what with his divorce and numerous injuries - he had lost focus on leadership, so it was good to see that back.

Probably the most intense moment was a nasty unprovoked personal attack from some delegate from Blaine (actually two, on separate occasions) who called on the Bishop to apologize as called for in the Windsor Report which the attacker claimed to have read thoroughly. However, the Windsor Report only calls for regret from the bishops who were actually at Gene Robinson's consecration, and our bishop was not. He would have been there had it not been for illness, but technicality or not, he doesn't fall under the guidelines of the Windsor Report. The bishop gave the guy his full two minutes both times and bore the criticism with good grace. After the second tirade, a brief rebuttal was made by another delegate which prompted a standing ovation for the bishop.

The bishop also mentioned that two parishes have announced their intent to leave the diocese and become part of the Brazilian diocese of Recife. We all knew this, of course. I got a chance to talk to a parishioner from one of those churches who was an objector to the leaving. Apparently the vote at St Stephens in Oak Harbor (Navy base town, so very conservative) was 70-8 to leave. Interesting that the turnout was so low. Apparently a lot of moderate folk left as the temperature of the rhetoric heated up. Tough situation for those who are now essentially without a church home.

The last thing I stuck around for was a presentation by Karen Ward and the Church of the Apostles, the only mainline emerging congregation I know of. They had a well put together video maybe 10 minutes long on what they've been up to and where they are headed. More on that at Karen's blog, and I'll write more later.

Other than that it was mostly business as usual. There was a resolution to "explore" the Earth Charter which seemed harmless until you realize that it's an extremely political document that has ramifications far beyond being kind to the ozone layer, whales and the rain forest.


Plumbing - Don't Try to Faucet

There's nothing quite like a good dose of home improvement to blow away the over-analytical philosophy blues. On the other hand, there's nothing I hate more than plumbing. Plumbing is eveil bcause the damage done by leaking water is pervasive and leaks are hard to find and tough to fix. Sure, electricity can KILL you, but wiring is easy.

Unfortunately, one of our bathroom faucets needs replacing and therefore the one that sits next to it does, too. This is because the cheap and nasty items installed by the builder are not exactly what I would choose, so I'm not going to replace one piece of crap with another just so it matches. And then I wanted to put a nice one in the powder room, so that's three.

But then that doubles the work. And with most home projects, you learn a whole bunch quickkly to get the job done then you never have to do it again for seven years or so, which is just long enough to forget everything. For this project though, I found this website. Very cool. It even tells you that when you get to the really annoying part (trying to unscrew the unscrewable) that you should probably just take a reciprocating saw to it and hack it off. Woohoo! Power tools! Plus no guilt. Not only that, with three to do I'll get great learning reinforcement.

Oh well, back to installation of all the new stuff...

The Thin End of the Wedge

In all kinds of arguments, both institutional, political and personal, have you ever noticed how quickly positions gravitate to extremes? When asked why compromise isn't possible, spokespeople inevitably cite the slippery slope or thin end of the wedge argument. These are, of course, derivatives of the "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" saying.

But really, life would be so much easier if people would just judge each case on its merits, not worrying about what might happen if the chain of dominos falls.

For example, take a look at (picks hot button political topic at random) abortion - the most radical opponents think that even allowing it in cases of rape or other equally barbaric situations is wrong. Give in on that and pretty soon "those people" will want more and more concessions and we know where that ends up.

The most radical proponents figure that even if the baby is abseiling its way out of the uterus with equipment provided by REI it's still fair game for early euthanasia - just in case it's inconvenient to somebody somewhere.

Try to pick a position in the middle and both sides throw rocks at you. Which is why the extremists get to fight the battles and common sense goes out of the window.

While we're on volatile topics, I often have really interesting conversations with my carpool buddy on our 45 minute drives. Because we've been driving together for about 5 years we can talk about stuff we disagree on without getting all wound up about it. The other day we were talking about liberal and conservative positions on life and death and ended up pondering the following opposite points of view.

Conservative - save unborn babies, execute murderers.
Liberal - execute unborn babies, save murderers.

Hmm, which one of those looks wacked?


Happy Birthday to Me...

...when I wake up in the morning. Yeah, you heard it here first. And my wife is out of town for the week :(

Well, at least I got an iPod (busy loading as I type - 29GB down, 5GB to go).

On the other hand my back hurts from moving boxes of stuff in an office move last week. And the day I get an iPod, Apple launches the iPod Photo and the special iPod U2 Vertigo edition.

On the other hand the Red Sox won game 3, although I'd be sad to see St Louis get bounced out in four straight. And there's a birthday present treasure hunt tomorrow when I open my wife's card.

On the other hand I have to go to work and I appear to be allergic to some nasty crap in the new office building, which has sat idle for two years collecting dust and all kinds of biomedical hazards.

OK, I'll stop now...


Through Different Eyes

I wandered across this blog a while ago and must thank her for this Margaret Cho link.

MC is an interesting case. She's female (well, duh!) She's a "person of color". She's gay. [Note: correction thanks to Karen. Margaret Cho isn't gay. Her sexuality is complex as evidenced by her biogrpahy. She is, however, extremely supportive of the gay community.] If she could just see her way to getting permanently disabled she'd win the diversity lottery. Anyway, for those of you too lazy to click the link, here's the religious reference part:

All the busy-body “Christian” people—when they’re not preparing for the Rapture—are trying to make gay people miserable. I don’t see why our lives affect theirs in the least. They point to us as evidence of Satan in the world. Don’t they realize that Satan is intolerance, that every time they practice injustice, another demon gets his wings?

The Pope recently castigated the media for making gays look normal. Yeah, he’s a real good judge of normal. With the gold dress, and the matching gold hat, living up in the Vatican with 500 men, surrounded by the finest antiques in the world. You go, girl!

But it is the religious right who are fucking scary, because they’re out of control. Even the Satanists are saying, “Wow, you guys are being really mean.”

That, my friends, is how the secular world sees Christians. And while they may understand that not every Christian is part of the religious right, the rest of us are pretty invisible, relatively speaking.

Fine print: Thinking Margaret Cho has a point about some things does not imply agreement with all of Margaret Cho's politics. This post not endorsed by Satanists for Kerry (well, not yet). Your mileage may vary. Two and a quarter pounds of jam weigh about a kilogram. OK, I'll stop now.

Hymns Ancient and Ancienter

Our contemporary band provided the music for the main service this morning. We do it about once every six weeks or so, on no particular schedule. It's a huge amount of fun, although fun isn't exactly the word. It's partly the privilege of leading the worship service for a couple of hundred people, part creativity of picking out songs, part teamwork pulling together ten people or so to create music and part tension of wanting to get it "right".

In the weeks in between I find myself increasingly frustrated by the music most of the time when it's mostly organ and choir. That's OK some of the time, but the musical choices are very limited. Flipping through the 1980 Hymnal (Episcopal) there are very few dates of authorship beyond 1900. The vast majority of the words and music come from the 19th century with a fair amount before that and precious little after. For every great hymn (Immortal, Invisible; Love Divine) there are twenty nobody has ever heard of and can't sing. Also, take out Ralph Vaughan Williams and you've taken out more than half the great melodies. Then take out all the German melodies and there's nothing left.

How did we get into this position? Did God quit inspiring musicians when Queen Victoria died? It's a good thing he didn't stop inspiring engineers or we would never have had cars and airplanes. In fact that's a good way to think about it - church music is basically Amish.

For our contemporary music we mostly draw from the evangelical CCM industry which brings its own problems. The theology is quite different from that of the Episcopal church, so we eliminate some songs on those grounds. Then there's quite a lot that's just crap, too, so that's another whole chunk (probably the biggest one actually). Even the good stuff is mostly "I" material - there are very few good corporate "we" songs. Still, with a careful blend of the best of those, some excellent (but obscure) Episcopal songs and a few home grown songs we get by.

Oh well, today totally rocked. Our mandolin virtuoso was on fire, and that makes a whole lot of things better.


Stupid Misogynist Church Tricks

I subscribe to a worship leader mailing list. I'd say 99% of the posts are from evangelical/fundamentalists so I'm presuming that the general readership is similar. The message linked to the title is, unfortunately, all too common in evangelical circles. (Quick summary: Married female singer on worship team going through marital glitch. Some gossip rats her out. She is kicked off the worship team. Marriage gets worse. Husband stops coming to church. Woman won't be allowed back onto worship team without husband's permission. Husband doesn't give a rip, not being a church member. Woman leaves church looking for less abusive environment.)

The source of the problem is, as usual in husband/wife relations, the Apostle Paul. Well, before you get your hackles up, it's selective interpretation that's the real problem. Let's start here:

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Pretty clear, no? I once found a bible study guide on marriage that featured this passage prominently. What it didn't have, amazingly enough, is the verses immediately following:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

As usual, the language gets all convoluted and Paul continues writing, mixing up the husband/wife and Christ/church metaphor, but you get the drift.

At the very least, this is at least as demanding a reciprocal requirement as Eph 5:22-24, yet it seldom seems to be encouraged. In fact, loving your wife as Christ loved (why not "loves"?) the Church. Pretty tall order. The two sections combined paint a picture of a very mutually sacrificial relationship, the like of which is rarely seen.

Being involved in youth work as I am, I am also very interested in the chapter following:

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise 3 that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.

Again, oft-quoted and enforced in various ways. But hey, what's that coming up right behind?

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Just so we're all sure, exasperate means: "to excite the anger of, ENRAGE, to cause irritation or annoyance to". Now how often do parents get that admonition? I guess there are several interpretations of the second half of verse 4, but the context seems to imply "train them by example", a version of the golden rule - treat your children as you would like to be treated. Ha, fat chance you'll ever hear anyhting like that from, say, James Dobson.

If you're interested in just how badly spiritual abuse of women and children can go, check out Renee Altson's book Stumbling Toward Faith.

Meanwhile I pray that Patti finds her way in the world free of stupid misogynist church tricks.



Sox win! Sox win!

As I drove into the church parking lot tonight to help run youth group Johnny Damon hit a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 6-0 early in game 7.

We had an insanely fun youth group meeting where I forgot all about the game, trusting that the Lord would continue to smite the Canaanites, sorry, I mean Yankees while I was otherwise occupied.

And yea indded, the Lord was faithful, and the Canaanites^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Yankees were smitten and stayed smitten the entire evening, even unto death.

Buh-bye George, Joe, Arod, Derek, Gary, Hideki, Mariano...

Watching the post-game interviews when I got home was awesome.

Having seen Terry Francona (the Israelite, I mean Boston, manager) mature as a player in the early 80s while living in Montreal watching him play for the sadly defunct Expos, I was chuffed to little mintballs(tm) to see him handle pulling off the single most impossible feat in the history of baseball.

It's not about me, it's about the team.


And now we have yet another game 7 tomorrow.

This may be the best baseball post-season ever for me. I just pray the World Series won't be a letdown, whoever is in it. History is full of great league championship seies and less than stellar World Series.

Still, this is great stuff right now.

And why is live sports better than movies, plays, ballet or opera? Because nobody knows the outcome, and the script is being written as we go.

Really, you couldn't write this stuff if you tried.


The Windsor Change (or As The Anglican World Turns)

Anastasia asked where I stand on this whole Windsor report/Anglican schism deal. Ask a 2 cent question, here's the 5 cent answer.

The short answer is in the middle. This isn't a particularly comfortable place to be.

As I wrote before, my views have changed considerably over the past 15 years or so regarding the role of gays and lesbians in the church. On the other hand I also believe that the liberal arm of the Episcopal Church has acted heavy handedly over the past 30 years or so, and that they can't really be surprised that the rest of the world is pissed at them.

I see some curious parallels with the Iraq war (stay with me here.)

a) ECUSA liberals saw a need, even a mandate, to be fair to the gay community in the church.
b) George Bush saw a need to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein.

Both are noble goals.

a) ECUSA discovered that the rest of the Anglican Communion would not approve the ordination of gays (especially to the Episcopate) and would drag out the process as long as possible.
b) George Bush knew the UN would not approve unilateral military action and would drag out the process of intervention as long as possible.

Both were frustrated by the rest of the world "not getting it".

Both acted precipitately because they wanted what they wanted NOW rather than do the hard work of building consensus.

So interestingly, liberals would generally approve of the former and abhor the latter, while conservatives would do the reverse. I see it as a case of both parties seeing the end justifying the means, and both are wrong, and now both are having to deal with the consequences.

Sticking just with the ECUSA theme now, I do believe that if gay people are to be allowed full participation in the church then it should be just that - full participation. The critical piece is in determining whether being homosexual and acting on it, even in a monogamous way, is a sin. If it is, then unrepentant sinning cannot be condoned in leaders. But what if it isn't?...

And here is the crux of the matter - Biblical interpretation. To the literalists and traditionalists, there is no turning away from millennia of condemnation of homosexuality in any form. The increasing acceptance of it in Western society today is to them simply an indication of the moral decay of the world, rather than a new revelation about human sexuality.

However, to those open to the possibility of continuing revelation from God, and a more contextual, less literal view of scripture, the possibility of a monogamous, loving, same sex relationship not being sinful is real.

I find myself leaning to the latter camp. I'm not a literalist and I refuse to believe that God revealed truth to us 2,000 years ago and then stopped. The work of the Holy Spirit continues within us today, and God's purpose (I believe) is not to help us keep following the old rules like some kind of robot operating system.

In the Anglican church we believe that God gave us brains for a reason and to reason, which is manifested in Richard Hooker's model of the three legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason.

Face it - the people of New Testament times still thought the earth was flat, that it was at the center of the universe and everything revolved around it. We've burned people at the stake for saying it ain't so. We have learned and unlearned an incredible amount about the universe, the physical world, our bodies and our minds in 2,000 years. Ideas of how the world works have been overturned numerous times.

Is it so hard to believe that while there are some fundamental (in the true sense of the word) truths to the spiritual life revealed in the bible, there was and is still just as much to discover in the spiritual realm as the physical?


Much Ado About Something

So today was the big day in the Episcopal Church with Archbishop Eames’ Lambeth Commission on Communion Windsor Report being published. With the big debate between “orthodox” Anglicans on the one hand and the “renegade” Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) over the consecration of an openly gay Bishop and parts of the Anglican Church of Canada over blessing same sex unions.

This was meant to be the showdown.

Well, not really. First, it’s an advisory panel, not a judge and jury, and second, in the Anglican Communion a showdown isn’t exactly the Sharks and the Jets. Well, maybe it is, come to think of it, with lots of dancing and a good soundtrack but not much actual blood.

I’m not sure what people expected, but a committee put together to attempt to reconcile two extremes is, by definition, going to end up somewhere in the middle. It is also bound to please neither extreme. Another important thing to bear in mind was that the Commission was not asked to define whether ordaining gay bishops was good, bad or indifferent, merely to explore the impaired nature of communion that occurs when one part of a body acts completely against the desires of another part. So understanding that as a starting point, what did we get?

Here’s what I consider a pretty good summary. But never mind that, here’s my take.

First, ECUSA got slapped on the wrist for ordaining Gene Robinson despite the clear understanding that this would upset a large number of conservative Anglicans around the world. The report calls for an apology, oops, I mean “expression of regret” from all those who participated in the ordination. Pretty much the minimum penalty expected. if they don't apologize then they are expected to do the honorable thing (big in old school Britain) and not participate in broader Anglican affairs.

Second, and very interesting, the conservative US dioceses and parishes that solicited alternative oversight from foreign conservative bishops (notably some ultra conservative Africans), and these alternative oversight bishops themselves were also slapped for crossing the boundaries of polity. I don’t think they were expecting that at all.

Finally, for those conservative dioceses and parishes who have pretty much declared themselves apart from ECUSA, the DEPO (Diocesan Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) model of alternative oversight defined by ECUSA was affirmed as the better model, over the AEO (alternative Episcopal Oversight) model preferred by the breakaway conservative groups. This is not unexpected, as the DEPO model insists the local bishop, no matter how estranged from a parish, remain in the oversight loop and alternative oversight remain as close to home as possible. The latter model is pretty much “anything goes” including flying African bishops.

If all this sounds arcane, convoluted and unfathomable, welcome to the Anglican Communion. It’s our core competency.

And now the reaction begins. Of the major players, first to respond was ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. To be honest I didn’t think any of the main protagonists would comment in any meaningful way immediately. I expected the usual platitudes thanking the commission for their hard work, yada yada yada. In amongst all that though, Griswold definitely held the ECUSA ground.
“as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry”

“The Report calls our Communion to reconciliation, which does not mean the reduction of differences to a single point of view.”
This is certainly no rolling over and playing dead. Griswold continues:
“Therefore, we regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans.”
This is the new 21st Century non-apology, of course: “I’m sorry you were hurt by what we did” rather than “we’re sorry for doing it”. Does this satisfy the Commission’s call for an expression of regret? While I feel strongly that this kind of apology is usually weaseling out of a real apology, in this case I’m not sure it’s inappropriate. Apparently his detractors call him Obi-Wan ("These are not the gay bishops you are looking for...") Which is interesting, because wouldn't that make Bishop Duncan Darth Vader?

Next to chip in was the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada, perpetrators of the same sex union liturgies. Much like Griswold, Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster, is sorry they were misunderstood. He is also quick to point out that the interfering bishops were slapped upside the head too. And is that a blithe "in your face!" invitation to peruse the New Westminster website featuring the same sex union liturgies that are the bone of contention?

Last to weigh in was the conservative Bishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion Network. Typical of his extremist rhetoric is the statement,
“We must not allow a desire to hold the church family together to allow us to maintain the fatal disease that grips ECUSA and by association, the Anglican Communion.”
It seems to me that Griswold and Ingham are more willing to continue in dialogue without retreating from the position they are in. For Duncan, the ACN and his former organization the AAC (an unhappy divorce, by all accounts), nothing short of total victory will suffice and dialogue isn’t really on their agenda.

All in all an interesting day with a long journey in front of us.


Wacky Fundamentalist Fun

Having participated in a few comment wars with the likes of Chris P on Adam Cleaveland's Pomomusings blog, I was tempted to check out Chris P's blog itself to see what makes him tick (or maybe it's tock, or some weirder sound). I have to say that it isn't easy. He's prone to excessive verbiage and I get bored before I can figure out what his point is (if indeed he does have one, unlike Ellen Degeneres.)

In among all the wacky fundie diatribes, Chris P posted a link to the following story about Nestle where, apparently Nestle is using candy to peddle lesbianism (or vice versa) in a deceitful socially destructive television campaign. . Suffice it to say that the story ends with the sentence:

"Nestle is a leader in elite social engineering designed to breed a slave race."

Um, yeah.

Really, you just couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

In other news I can hardly wait to check out Team America. Irreverent puppet humor inspired by the immortal Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds (not the recent pathetic facsimile)? Yeah, I'm all over that...


I'm at a place called vertigo...

Wow, I was one of the 37,000 people who downloaded the new U2 single Vertigo from iTunes last week.

Music is strange - you'd think that the upbeat pop single genre would have run out of ideas by now, but here's U2 with another killer song. There's nothing amazingly innovative about it, but it just lends itself to repeat playings galore. I just have to listen to the chunky guitar intro and Bono's count out of 11, 12, 13, 14 in Spanish to get the spine tingle. And I don't think I can ever get tired of the Edge's guitar work. Dang, I might have to really work on the POD to get that tone down ;)

And how many #1 pop songs reference the temptation of Jesus?

I can hardly wait for the new album.

once doce trece catorce
(Turn it up loud, captain!)

Lights go down
It's dark
The jungle is your head
Can't rule your heart
I'm feeling so much stronger
Than I thought
Your eyes are wide
And though your soul
It can't be bought
Your mind can wander

Hello, Hello (Hola!)
I'm at a place called vertigo (Donde está?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know
Except you give me something
I can feel, feel

The night is full of holes
As bullets rip the sky
Of ink with gold
They twinkle as the boys
Play rock and roll
They know that they can't dance
At least they know

I can stand the beat
I'm asking for the check
The girl with crimson nails
Has Jesus 'round her neck
Swinging to the music
Swinging to the music

Hello, Hello (Hola!)
I'm at a place called Vertigo (Donde está?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know
But you give me something
I can feel, feel

(Check it)
(Shots fall)
(She'll make it)

All this, all this can be yours
All of this, all of this can be yours
All this, all of this can be yours
Just give me what I want
And no one gets hurt

Hello, Hello (Hola!)
We're at a place called Vertigo (Donde está?)
Lights go down and all I know
Is that you give me something
I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how
How to kneel, kneel

But wait! There's more...

Hmm, interesting discussion. Thanks for all the comments either pro or con. You've all been gentlemen, ladies and scholars.

While I appreciate the proposed reading material I doubt I'm going to shell out $39 for a book that (like most of an argumentative nature) merely reinforces the viewpoints of those who agree and causes those who disagree to look for holes. I read the reviews of Gagnon's book on Amazon and found a couple of balanced ones (the 5 star rave reviews I tend to dismiss as the aforementioned reinforcing views.)

And really, I have no intention of making this a life crusade or getting an MA in gay theology or anything. It just happens to be a peripheral issue in my life that has caused me to reexamine some long held culturally inherited views.

I also find myself in an odd place. On the one hand, I have clearly distanced myself from the traditional, conservative view on homosexuality, so whenever the subject comes up I get blasted by those people (many of whom are close friends so this can be tricky and risky to discuss at all). On the other hand, I'm no gay activist either, and find much in overt modern gay culture that's pretty repugnant.

In many ways I'm in No Man's Land (no pun intended). Being in the middle is a pretty good place to get shot at by both sides.

C'est la vie...


Serious stuff

One of the things about my Christian faith that has changed over the years is my attitude on what might be termed the "homosexual question". Being in the Episcopal Church this issue has been thrust upon us over the last twenty to thirty years as the gay community has sought legitimacy in the church. Most mainline denominations have been dealing with the issue through this time, but the Episcopal Church above all has been in the forefront.

I am one of the few people I know who has switched sides on this debate and it hasn't been easy. Let me start with where I started...

In the beginning I had no clue about gay people. I never consciously knew any growing up and never really thought about it except for the occasional appearance of a character on a TV show or movie. I guess John Inman's character on the 1970's britcom Are You Being Served was typical of my view - good for comic relief and way over the top, but not really real.

If I had a "position" on homosexuality in my early years it would be that, as an engineer and designer, people were obviously made with an "insert Tab A in Slot B" design and "inserting Tab A into Slot C" was something you could do, but was never really the original plan. Much like you can hammer a nail with a wrench, but it's not really the optimum tool, so to speak, and you are likely to get less than optimum results. I wasn't a churchgoer or particularly a Christian at this point so religious values weren't really of any importance to me in considering this.

Things began to change for me in the mid-1980s. First, I was now involved in the church, and secondly, the AIDS crisis was starting to bite. Also, after the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in the 1970s, the gay community was now clamoring for open acceptance (it was pretty obvious that there were already, in fact, gay priests here and there, they were just closeted to various degrees.)

Here's where my engineer view really showed up. Not only is Tab A not designed for Slot C, there are some natural consequences for stupid behavior. I wasn't at all sympathetic to the plight of AIDS victims. This wasn't because I thought it was some kind of divine retribution, but rather a simple case of the natural consequences of stupid behavior. If someone chooses to run across interstate highways, dodging cars at least for a while, I'm less than sympathetic when they finally get hit. In much the same way the hedonistic gay society of the seventies and eighties was a train wreck waiting to happen. Whether it was merely hepatitis B or C or something new, nastier and lethal like AIDS, having sex with multiple anonymous partners several nights a week is beyond stupid. As my mom used to say, "if you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don't come running to me!"

So that was the eighties.

As we moved into the nineties other things came into play. I had been a volunteer youth leader for several years at this point, and I had finally come into contact with a few gay kids. I had a literally life changing experience as a counselor at a camp in 1992. There was a gay kid in my small group and during the week he came out to the group and described some of the experiences that had hurt him. It was late at night after an emotional day, including a healing service. As he spoke, the group was frozen. I was burning and I felt God tell me that I had a choice. I could choose to dismiss this issue or deal with it. As I think about it now, it was a "What Would Jesus Do?" moment. Everything in my mind screamed to avoid or dodge the issue, but instead my body made me walk around the circle and hug him. It wasn't a token hug, either. We hugged for a few minutes, and one by one the rest of the group joined us.

Somehow, that encounter put a human face on what had been up to that point a merely theoretical exercise and I would never be the same again. I was still of the opinion that homosexuality was technically wrong, but the picture wasn't quite as sharp any more.

After that I felt like I needed to know more, so I bought a book on counseling homosexuals which I naturally got from my local Christian bookstore. This, I figured, was my ticket to being able to deal with any of these situations again.

Funny thing was, the arguments put forth in the book were crap. They were strained and they didn't ring true. There are only seven references to homosexuality in the entire bible, and none of them address a long term relationship between two consenting adults of the same sex. Sodom and Gomorrah - well I can agree that homosexual gang rape is probably wrong. As for the Leviticus purity laws - well there's that whole shellfish/poly-cotton/kill the homosexual vibe going on...

Paul? Well, there's enough vagueness in the wording and interpretation to drive a bus through. I'm willing to bet the homosexuality he refers to is the kind of pederasty common in Greek society where young boys were pretty much fair game. Again, none of this really relates to a mutual long term monogamous relationship between consenting adults of the same sex.

Around this time I was less inclined to think of alternate interpretations as heretical and sought something out and stumbled across What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Not only was this an interesting counterpoint, the author isn't so full of his own blowhard self-righteousness.

A short time later I decided to get an MBA. One of the options in Seattle for a somewhat similar program is the Graduate Management program at Antioch University Seattle. It's really pretty far out liberal but a friend of mine had been there and enjoyed the, um, opposite viewpoints from his own. I gave it a shot too. I had gay and lesbian classmates and the most superb marketing professor who just happened to be a lesbian. This was a pretty intense program and spending time at close quarters with these folks was again life changing. Where the youth encounter had been a pivotal moment this was a long term learning experience. I'd like to think that they also learned something about me and my often conservative viewpoint that surprised them pleasantly. The key thing here is that all of these new gay friends were in long term stable committed relationships, and that for the most part they just wanted to live a happy quiet life with their partners.

Another turning point was reading Bruce Bawer's A Place at the Table. Hey, here's an articulate gay conservative! Not only that he describes very articulately how he ostracized himself from the church when he discovered he was gay because he had been brought up to believe that being gay was antithetical to being a person of God. It took him ten years to find his way back.

As time wore on the gay issue advanced in the Episcopal Church (not always by fair means on either side), culminating in August 2003 in the election of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. After all the openly gay priests who had been ordained over the years the massive reaction in the Episcopal Church caught me a bit by surprise, but I guess for a lot of people it was just the final straw. It's really too bad - a lot of friends left my own church, but I just don't get why they're so upset about who the bishop is 3000 miles away.

But don't get the idea that I'm just sappily PFLAG pro-gay. The gay community has many different facets and some of them are pretty ugly. However, none are any uglier than the worst excesses of hetero society, so I'm just not up for singling out gays.

Take promiscuity - please!

In hetero society it's absolutely venerated. I've been a fan of Friends and Seinfeld since the beginning, but there's no doubt they promoted a hedonistic anything goes mentality in the 1990s. Throw in Sex and the City, the OC and whatever other sleazy crap Fox is showing these days and hetero society has nothing to be proud of relative to the gay community.

I guess that's kind of the short version of the long story - I may choose to flesh this out (ha!) a bit more later.


Biggles, the cutest guy cat in the world...

Biggles (short for Captain James E. Bigglesworth, I presume the same Bigglesworth that Dr. Evil's cat is named for in the Austin Powers movies, but I grew up with Capt. W. E. Johns, so there...) is about 18 months old. He and his sister Hilary (named after Sir Edmund Hilary) are seriously cute. And fun. We have Kitty racetrack, Kitty massage, Kitty wrestling - they're a two cat barrel of laughs. But Biggles is my guy, so he's the best.


Karen (of Raw Faith fame) wrote me about having watched What the Bleep Do We Know (read my comments on Doug Pagitt's blog Heh, well I did say you can get some benefit from those movies - just be aware that it has a strange history. Nowhere in any of the publicity or on the movie's website does it mention the allegiances of the crew. I'm not sure if they credit JZ Knight herself in the movie (Roger Ebert didn't know it was her until someone told him afterwards). JZ has a big place about 50 miles south of here, so she's um, well known around these parts.

This led me to ponder on how nice I want to be on blogs. I think it's always more tempting for me to comment on a post or issue that I am critical of, so a natural tendency would be to come across as some sarcastic know it all. Wait, that IS me, darn...

However, I am a bit leery of being overly critical in commenting on blogs - but as you may have noticed, sometimes I can't help myself ;) Which is why I like Karen and Maggi Dawn and a few others who aren't afraid to tell it like it is when necessary, even if you risk alienating people once in a while, or getting branded as a hothead.

Speaking of straight shooters (one of my patented segues...), just in case you've never stumbled across her, you have to check out Heather Armstrong at dooce.com. Funny stuff.

Right now I'm packing for a weekend away with 100 teenagers in a church 3 hours drive away. I get to just focus on leading music this weekend, though, so that will be cool. We're doing a cool alt-worshippy type service tonight based on Rite I Evening Prayer - it'll be interesting to see how that pans out.

I managed to put off bottling 5 gallons of beer (Widmer Hefeweizen recipe - very yummy) and some of the moving furniture ready for new carpet on Monday. Meh -they'll still be here when I get back on Sunday.


Massive Amounts of Hot Air Expelled

Not sure whether I'm writing about Mt St Helens or the Vice Presidential debate. I have to say though, as excruciating as debates can be, they're nothing compared to the endless repetitive drivel coming out of the local volcano watching news reporters. Man, if there had been this much coverage back in 1980 we could have wiped out 90% of the perfectly coiffed generic TV news reporters right then and there. The industry would never have recovered.

Highlight of the day was when a reporter asked the geological survey guys if they were going to drop any more people in the crater with monitoring equipment. "Wanna volunteer?" was the reply. Naturally the chucklehead declined. What all the gawkers don't realize is that their cars are at risk too - get an engine full of fine volcanic dust and kiss it goodbye. If the mountain really blows it will take thousands of gawkers with it. In 20 years we'll be visiting Gawker's Ridge, complete with the rusting hulks of many 2001 Toyota Corollas.

As for the debates - more potayto potahto crap. I mean really, is anyone forming an opinion based on any of this twaddle?

And speaking of twaddle (nice segue, you can tell it's been a while since I posted can't you?) I was somewhat intrigued by the title of the movie "What the @#$!@ Do We Know", but it turned out not to be the new Chris Rock movie, but rather a pretentious infomercial for JZ Knight's Ramtha organization thinly disguised as a pseudo-scientific, pseudo-intellectual story about quantum physics, a speech impaired woman (Marlee Matlin) and some cartoon thingies. Much like Fritjof Capra's pretentious vanity movie "Mindwalk", this will sucker in a lot of people who can't even spell "quantum".

However, I am very sad that it looks like I'll miss seeing Garden State in theaters - just no free time and it'll be gone soon. Director, actor and Scrubs star Zach Braff's blog is hilarious (and insanely well trafficked). Oh well, at least it'll be out on DVD no later than Dec 28.

Speaking of DVDs ( I can do this forever you know) I watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off at the weekend. Awesome movie. I'd forgotten how much fun that was. And the main star is... anyone?... and the year it came out was... anyone?... Heh.

And the Star Wars trilogy on DVD arrived last week. If you've never noticed it, you have to watch the scene where the stormtroopers break into the control room where C3PO and R2D2 are hanging out. On the right of the screen a stormtrooper is too tall for the angled doorway and bangs his head as he comes through. It's over in a flash, but hellishly funny.

Two busy nights coming up, and a weekend away in Vancouver, so not so much time for blogging (or even reading) the next few days.

C'est la vie.


Biker Gang!

It's a bit old, but here are the world's three cutest nieces (twins flanking older sister).


After a very busy week with my wife away on business and with an incipient cold/whatever, tonight was time to kick back and watch the Seattle Mariners play baseball. It was a special night because Seattle mariner right fielder and leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki was gunning for the all time season record for base hits. The record was set way back in 1920 by a guy called George Sisler.

ichiro's pursuit of the record only really came into focus after the All-Star game when he just started hitting the crap out of the ball, averaging way over .400 in July and August. With three games left in the season he needed one to tie and two to break the record. This was after failing to tie the record in four at bats in Oakland the day before.

Predictably and yet amazingly, he tied the record in his first at bat. The, making a defensive play in right field he almost castrated himself chasing a foul nall into the stands. He jumped up on the padding around the seats, lost his footing and fell awkwardly. Fortunately he must be made of sterner stuff than mere mortals and all was well for his next AB, when he just pounded a ball up the middel to break the record.

What's really remarkable about Ichiro is that he ahs totally thrown the major leagues for a loop. He doesn't hit like anyone else. I've never seen anyone with that hitting style in the last 25 years (my entire life in North American). Ancient baseball pundits haven't either, which extends the timeframe of uniqueness. If Ichiro has any parallels in MLB at all, it probably dates back to 1920 or before, in other words, the year Sisler set the curent record.

Just to emphasize the point, the top 10 numbers in hits per season were all set on or before 1930, except for one player in 2001. That player was (oh, please, don't tell me you haven't guessed already) Ichiro Suzuki, in his first year in the major leagues. All but two of the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame.

Suzuki is just coming up to 31 (on October 22, just 5 days before my birthday - except I'm not going to be 31) and has spent four years in the US. He has the most hits in four consecutive seasons ever, in his only four seasons in the US.

The statistics are impressive, but perhaps the most impressive thing about him is his dedication to excellence and his own unique way of doing it.

Also, how far have we come from the days of World War 2 when a Japanese player can be so idolized (or at least appreciated) by a large segment of American society?

Add to this the impending retirement of latino Mariners icon Edgar Martinez (who also had a nice game with the bat in an 8-3 win), and it was really quite the cosmopolitan night at the ballpark.

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