Sunday, May 26, 2013

Some random thoughts on organized religion on this Sunday

Let me begin with a disclaimer: this post is nothing more than my own random thoughts and whole lot of rambling. Nothing I say here is based on anything more than my own experiences and colored by my own biases. I generally try not to make sweeping generalizations, but sometimes I fail. This post may be one of those failures.

Sundays for my husband and me are so different now that our children are grown and off living their own lives. We have ceased dragging ourselves to weekly Catholic Mass and now we spend our Sundays relaxing, reflecting, and spending time with our family.

I hate to admit this (no, not really), but I get so much more out of my Sundays now than I did sitting in the pews of the Catholic Church those final years. It had become harder and harder to take the Catholic Church's moral authority seriously when just about every day there were breaking news stories about yet another pedophile scandal in another part of the country or world, leaving behind yet another broken child with scars that would haunt him for life, and yet another family trying to make sense of the betrayal of a Church they loved and trusted.

I have already written about the cracks in my faith. The pedophile scandal and cover-up should have been enough, but it wasn't. The Church's medieval stand on women's issues should have been enough, but it wasn't. The Church's rigid stand on keeping women out of the ranks of its exclusive good-old-boys club should have been enough, but it wasn't. We continued to teeter on the edge of for several more years.

It shames me terribly to admit that it took learning we had a gay son and realizing the extent of the Catholic Church's cruel homophobia that finally pushed us to make the decision we should have made years earlier.

Walking into the Church office and asking the secretary to remove any trace of us from their rolls was one of the most liberating moments in my life. Telling them why we were walking away was even more magnificent, but I shall forever regret not doing it sooner.  

We finally realized we didn't need any organized religion to tell us how to think, how to be decent, or how to be moral human beings. But that is not true for every Catholic who has decided to leave the church. I have come to realized that there are still many people who believe they need organized religion.  My estranged brother is one of them.

Like me, my brother was a cradle-Catholic, saturated from infancy in Catholic dogma, rituals, and prayers, educated in Catholic schools, and remaining within its rigid ideological boundaries until he was old enough to realize that the Catholic Church did not meet his needs. And his needs were many.

My estranged brother is what many would call the black sheep of the family, successfully estranging himself at different points in his life from all 4 of his siblings. He began young honing his bullying skills and is a master at it as an adult, he has never been there for our mother but always expected her to be there for him, he is blowhard and a misogynist, and his life is always swirling in a self-created turmoil. A relationship with him will suck the energy right out of you and leave you feeling spent.

My estrangement happened much later in life than it did with my other siblings. For me, it was a slow devolution. Yes, I found him annoying (in a pesky gnat kind of way) but tolerable as a young boy and early adolescent, a lot less tolerable as he grew into his teens and early adulthood and started drinking, and a completely 100% intolerable, blowhard bully when he quit drinking, "found God", and became a right-wing fundamentalist Christian.

It brings me no joy to admit any of this.

This brother has always viewed himself as the victim of an unfair world, never willing to admit that he was simply the victim of his own bad decisions. His life is littered with badly strained or completely failed relationships on both professional and personal levels. His marriage is tumultuous and loveless, his business partnerships are failed, and yet, in his eyes it is everyone else's fault. He is the victim.

He is completely incapable of introspection. Completely incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. Completely incapable of uttering an apology. Completely incapable of feeling anyone else's pain. Utterly devoid of empathy.

Years ago this brother went through an especially bad period in his life. I was there for him as everything around him was falling apart. And it was all due to his own horrible decisions and selfish behavior, though to this day he would argue that point vehemently. But still, I was there for him. I listened to him scream and cry over his failed relationship with his long-time girlfriend who had finally walked away. I was there for him when he had to navigate the legal system and pay his dues for drinking and driving (more than once). I was there for him as his life on every level was melting down. But he still could not see that he was his own worst enemy. He only became more convinced that everyone in the world was conspiring against him. And as frustrated as I was with his inability to take any responsibility for his actions, I was still there for him.

In the end he needed more than I or anyone else could give him. So he turned to the Catholic Church for council and came away disappointed and pissed because he did not get from them what he needed, validation that he was indeed a victim of bad girlfriends, hateful siblings, crooked cops, etc. You name it - he suffered from it. They saw right through him and he doesn't like feeling so naked.

He was furious. How could they not have seen how cruel life had been to him? Those priests even had the nerve to tell him he needed to do some serious soul searching. How dare them?  Well that was it. He was done with the Catholic Church. And he walked away and never looked back as well.

So we both have left the church, but for hugely different reasons. Me because I found I could not align myself with so many of the Catholic Church's beliefs, nor could I forgive the church for the pedophile scandal and the way they chose [not] to handle it or the way they continue to deeply wound the lgbt community and women. And him because the Church actually dared to hold him accountable for his own selfish, despicable behavior.

So where did my brother go next? A right-wing, fundamentalist, mega-church. They were more than happy to give my brother what he so craved: legitimacy, validation, and his very own bully pulpit to preach unto others what he never practiced himself. And what was the price of this sudden elevation from dregs to righteousness? Mutter a few words about accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and voila, he was saved. He was empowered. And he was now an uber-intolerable, holier-than-thou jerk. And best of all --- he could go out preach morality, pass judgement on others, and condemn everyone who did not see things his way. He actually had a direct line to Jesus and could tell you stuff like "All Jews and Catholics are going to hell" and "All gays are abominations", and all kinds of other jeesus-y stuff like that.

He was on top of the world now. His right-wing, fundamentalist church gave him what the Catholic church wouldn't.

Broad-brush, anecdotally-based, sweeping generalization based on my opinion only begins here:  These right-wing churches have done a lot of harm to society by doing this. Yes, very damaged people should have as much chance at redemption as everyone else. But forgiveness and redemption should come with a price tag of at least acknowledging wrongdoings and asking forgiveness. By giving a free pass to people like my brother, these churches are not creating Christian soldiers, they are creating monsters. Noxious, intolerable, hateful, hurtful monsters who use their unearned sanctimony and a bunch of cherry-picked, 3rd grade interpretations of bible passages as weapons to hurt and maim others while building up their own savaged self esteems.

Nothing about my brother has changed. He is still a selfish, damaged soul who will never, ever take responsibility for the hurt he causes others. He will start every sentence with I and end it with me, and he will always be a victim. But now he has the weight of a right-wing fundamentalist mega-church to validate it all for him.

And the scariest part of it all is, I can't help but think there are a whole lot more people out there who are just like him.

Ending my estrangement - Part 1
Ending my estrangement - Part 2
Ending my estrangement - Part 3 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Some advice for Tony Perkins: Get over it!

Well it is not the complete victory I had hoped for, but the Boy Scouts of America's decision to end its ugly policy of denying openly gay youths to participate in its organization sure has got hateful little Tony's panties in a twist.

But as the mother of two Eagle Scouts, one of them gay, I am going to celebrate this partial win and hope the BSA finishes the job of doing the right thing by allowing openly gay adults (18 and older) to volunteer, mentor, and be an active part of shaping the next generation of young men. Because until they do, their message to our gay children remains a muddled ugly message: We will turn you into fine upstanding, moral adults, but the moment you blow those 18 candles out, we don't want any part of you because you scare the sh*t out of little Tony Perkins and his ilk.

And as for Tony Perkins, he can continue to make a flaming fool out of himself by conflating our gay loved ones with predators and pedophiles, but I'd urge him to stop the vile, hateful rhetoric that has harmed so many of our gay children and get some help. He has some serious issues and does indeed protesteth waaaay too much:


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Taking control of the argument - it is all in the way we use words

Words can be powerful weapons.

Right-wing, anti-gay Christians have known this for a very long time and have gotten quite good at using words to inflict major damage to a person or group of persons they dislike or want to villainize.

How have they done it? By taking advantage of our willingness to let them set the foundation upon which the rest of the discussion is based. And in fact they have even provided the vocabulary with which we have these conversations. They pick those words and phrases very carefully and use them over and over again until they finally start seeping beyond the church walls and into everyday discussions by ordinary people.

These words and phrases sound innocent enough to the lay ear, but have subliminal messages that titilate the die-hard believers while duping the unsuspecting.

The 2 words that I believe fall into this category are gay lifestyle. You almost never hear an anti-gay "good" Christian making their point on why they believe gays are evil without hearing those 2 words sprinkled in. And they have been extremely successful at weaving that phrase into everyday conversation. So successful that I even hear them used at PFLAG meetings where 99% of the people attending are gay or straight allies.

How did this happen?? Well it happened because we have dropped the ball. We underestimated the power of words. And we certainly have not done a good job of stopping people in their tracks when they use those words and educating them to the damage those 2 words inflict.

So the other day when I saw those 2 words used in a letter to the editor, written by someone who actually had good intentions and was making a point in favor of the glbt community, I knew I needed to speak up. And I did. Here is my letter in response to his, which did get published:
When reading “Gay rights in U.S. ultimately about freedom” (Opinions, Wednesday), I couldn’t help but cringe when I got to the phrase “moral legitimacy of the gay lifestyle.”
I believe the writer had good intentions, but by using that phrase, he also exposes why so many “conscientious Christians” fight to deny rights and dignity to gay people.
The phrase “gay lifestyle” perpetuates the myth that gay people choose to be gay, thereby providing moral cover for those who want to deny gay people equality under the guise of religious freedom.
But for anyone who believes sexual orientation is as immutable as eye color, denying gays the same rights straight people enjoy comes off as discriminatory and mean-spirited, which is why so many of these churches work so hard to keep this myth alive.
As a mother of a gay son and a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) facilitator, I can tell you I do not believe our sexual orientation is a choice; I certainly have no memory of consciously choosing to be straight.
And having watched someone I love so dearly agonize over the realization that he is gay and cannot change it makes that phrase, “gay lifestyle,” all the more ugly and hurtful.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dear Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council

I see you are uploading bunches of videos of people who have strong opinions on whether gay children or leaders should be allowed in the Boy Scouts. But funny thing about all those videos on your website, they all express the very same view. Gay children and leaders are evil, weak, predatory and would spell the end of the Boy Scouts as we know it. Straight children and leaders - are physically strong, morally straight and Godly thus keeping the Boy Scouts clean and pure.

As the mother of 3 children, 2 of them boys who joined the BSA in the first grade and stayed with it until they both achieved Eagle, I am very disappointed that you do not have anyone in any of those videos who represents the feelings of my family and the many, many like mine.

Why don't the opinions of our families count Tony? After all, you call your organization "The Family Research Council" and yet, you seem to be only interested in the opinion of families like the one in this video:

What Tony, did one of the "Fruits of my Womb" (no pun intended), disqualify my family from ever being considered to make a clip for your "Family" organization?

Now I know the family in the above clip beats our family all to hell what-with its Quiver Full of 10 to my 3. But good Lord Tony, the amount of ignorance and hate being vomited out of the mouths of those parents is downright terrifying and should be grounds for some birth control or at the very least disqualification for ever speaking on behalf of any family.

These parents are horrible, hateful role models and yet, you Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, an organization that pretends to advocate for families, chose these people to represent your organization?

And I am sure you know Tony, that with 7 of their 10 children being boys, they have a statistically significant chance that one of their beloved sons might be gay. My heart breaks at the thought that one of those children could be struggling right now with their sexual orientation as mom and dad sit their in all their glorious faux sanctimony and spew all that ugliness. If nothing else, that is child abuse to be pounding into their psyches such ugly homophobia. I don't pray often Tony, but I pray for those poor children.

And what a hoot listening to manly daddy making the argument that you gotta be "physically strong" to walk so many miles to achieve the hiking merit badge, insinuating that those wimpy gays can't possibly keep up. Well daddy beefcakes, I have news for you, my gay son walked circles around most of the leaders and kids in his troop when they hiked 50 miles in Yosemite for 3 days. He sports his hiking merit badge with pride.

Well Tony, I don't know why I get so worked up. I have known for years what you are really all about and it ain't families. You earned that "Hate Group" rating from the Southern Poverty Law Center quite honestly. Probably the only honest thing you have ever done in your life.


Be still my heart - First my beloved Minnesota and now maybe one day Arizona?

Great news Via the Rocky Mountain Poll:

After years of beating the drums against same-sex marriage, opponents of the idea in Arizona appear to be losing their grip on public attitudes toward the issue. By a ratio of 55 percent to 35percent, Arizonans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

Majorities in the following groups appear to have locked arms in support of such unions: women (60%), Hispanics (75%),liberals (67%), moderates (64%), registered Independents (64%), Democrats (70%), and voters under 55 years of age (60%).

A plurality of voters over 54 years of age also favor allowing such unions (46%); while 40 percent remain in opposition.Finally, opposition to same-sex marriage divides Republican voters, with 53 percent opposedbut 36 percent now in favor. Similarly, while 51 percent of political conservatives are opposed, 41percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

This news is possibly even more jolting than the magnificent news coming out of Minnesota. Why? Because Minnesota has always been a wonderful progressive state, whereas Arizona -- well -- it is a wonderful state as well, but governed by lunatics and moral scolds who think they have the right to legislate their twisted sense of right and wrong into Arizona laws.

So to Cathi Herrod, one of our more notorious morality scolds, let me just say:

You've dedicated your life to inflicting pain on families like mine, but your days of calling the shots in this state are numbered. One day your life's work of hate and nastiness will be overturned and you shall go down as one of Arizona's top haters. And something tells me that day is coming soon.  And I say good riddance.

And one more message to someone else who played a big role in getting an anti-gay-marriage ban passed in this state and that is former Arizona State legislator with FIVE FAILED MARRIAGES under her own self-righteous belt, Karen Johnson. Your legacy can only get worse lady. I hope you lay in bed at night and think of what a complete idiot you looked like when talking about the "Sanctity of Marriage" when trying to justify your vote.

May history, Cathi and Karen, spare none of the ugly details of your hateful legacies.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Minnesota state senate passes gay marriage bill - let the weddings begin!

This makes state #12 to make Marriage Equality the law. 

This is such wonderful news. Thank you dear sweet Minnesota. I knew you could do it!!

Unfortunately not everyone is happy:

Related: Dear Minnesota


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Watching the Catholic Church lose its battle to halt Marriage Equality and getting more ugly with each defeat

The Catholic Church has made no secret of the fact that they condemn anything that might humanize or grant dignity and rights to the GLBT community. And in fact the more progress that is made on gay rights, the more shill, ugly, and hurtful the Catholic Church becomes on this subject.

I cannot help but think that the day is fast approaching when the only people left sitting in the pews of their big beautiful churches will be those who welcome the Catholic Church's convenient religious cover that allows them to be bigots.

Does not the Church realize that GLBT people have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and extended family? The anti-gay ugliness that emanates from the rank and file of the Church wounds wide swaths of their congregations. Many walk away and those that remain cannot help but look to the Church's hierarchy with a lot less respect.

With the impending vote in the Minnesota state senate next week and the very real possibility that gay marriage will become legal there, I am reminded of the controversial anti-gay marriage DVDs Minnesota Catholic Bishops sent out to all their parishes in 2010. Could that decision have been a miscalculation that has caused festering wounds? Maybe, but I can guarantee one thing for sure, Catholics who are gay or who have friends or family who are gay certainly have not forgotten the pain those nasty DVDs caused. So it will be interesting to see how the Minnesota Catholic Church handles a victorious outcome for the pro-gay-marriage forces.

Hopefully they will do a better job than the Rhode Island Bishops did when Gay Marriage passed there making it the 10th state to enjoy a big win:

That was a brief honeymoon, Rhode Island. Just hours before becoming the 10th state to approve marriage equality, the slim, pocket-sized state — which also happens to be the nation’s most Catholic — received a stern warning from the Bishop of Providence.
In a seriously buzzkill message, Bishop Thomas Tobin issued a pastoral letter to his brothers and sisters in the Ocean State suggesting they might want to decline invitations once same-sex marriage becomes official in August. “It is important to affirm the teaching of the Church, based on God’s word, that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357),” he writes, “and always sinful. And because ‘same-sex marriages’ are clearly contrary to God’s plan for the human family, and therefore objectively sinful, Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.”
Well, if anybody would be an authority on significant scandal, I’d bet it’d be a Roman Catholic priest. 
Good going Bishop Thomas Tobin. You basically gave Rhode Island Catholics a choice: their gay child or the church.

Well I made my choice years ago and it was a no-brainer.  


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Minnesota marriage equality - you betcha!

Dear Minnesota House,

Thank you for making me miss MN so much more. Your vote of 75-59 - was a great way to remind the country what Minnesota Nice is all about. And to the right wingers who thought they were hot stuff when they got an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot a while back --- thank you for your nasty efforts, people got to see your hate in action and decided they wanted NO part of it. So file that effort under pushback is a bitch, you sanctimonious right-wing frauds.

Oh and BTW: The Senate is expected to vote on — and pass — the bill on Monday, and Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the bill if it passes. Via Andrew Sullivan 

This post is dedicated to Jeff, Lori and Andrew Wilfahrt.


Coming back online very very slowly

Hello. Remember me? Yes, I know, I dropped off the face of the world wide web --- and I needed to --- there was a lot going on in my life and honestly, I didn't have the energy or brain space to blog. But slowly, and with some prodding from some beloved readers, I am ready to dip my toes back into the waters. I cannot guarantee faithful daily blogging, but rest assured, I will try to be more attentive.

Oh, and just so you know. I did not stop being an advocate and activist during my blogging hiatus. I was busy facilitating PFLAG meetings, writing letters to the editor, coming out to the last of our straggler friends and acquaintances we'd missed on our first round of coming out, speaking in front of church congregations about PFLAG and my son, and being on panels discussing glbtq issues at certain Arizona universities, etc.

So here is what has been going on in my life since we last talked.

My mom:

As longtime readers know, back in 2007 my mother fell and sustained a pretty bad brain injury - a subdural hematoma - to be exact. I blogged about it when it happened.

Well that fall changed my mom's life. And mine too. Her husband died while she was up here in Scottsdale going through the 8 months or so of physical and cognitive therapy. She completely lost her sense of smell, her short term memory, and eventually the ability to drive and live alone. Confusion and dementia started creeping in. And for much of that time, I was in denial, not really seeing that it was time to make some really tough decisions. Finally I realized that my mom needed me to step in and make some big changes, which was actually the catalyst for dropping out of the blogging world. I just couldn't handle it all and still be fair to my family.

So with the help of some of my more supportive brothers, we sold my mom's house, moved her into assisted living, and helped her make the transition to her new life. She has done pretty darn well. I am very proud of her. And life has gotten significantly easier for me now that I know my mom is safe and happy.

My kids:

Our oldest son is getting married to his long-time girlfriend whom he met in the Peace Corps back in 2007. I blogged about him and the Peace Corps here and here. Our middle son (yes, the gay one) will be his best man. We could not be happier about this wedding and welcoming our new daughter-in-law into the family.

Our middle son (yes that one) is still plugging away at getting all his pilot ratings with the hopes that one day he will be hired by a commercial airline. It is something he has wanted to do since he was a little boy (see picture below). He has also been in a very happy long-term relationship since about 2009. We could not be happier about this relationship and welcoming his boyfriend into our family.

Our daughter graduated from college about a year ago and just got accepted into medical school here in Arizona. She will move back here from Seattle, where she has lived the past 5 years, in June. We are so proud of her and absolutely thrilled she has chosen the medical school here in Arizona and will be living close by.

And on a sad note. Our beloved little doggie and beloved family member of the past almost 17 years, Maggie, passed away 2 weeks ago tomorrow. Our hearts ache. We miss her so much. She enriched our lives in ways that only dog owners can understand. I am having a tough time right now, but I know eventually that hole she has left in our lives will eventually be filled with good memories that make me smile again.

And finally, to lighten up the mood for the conclusion of this post, how about this (sorry about the ad, just click on the skip ad button):

Bye for now. Love you all.