Thursday, July 2, 2015

WTF Alabama: No Moore

The Alabama Supreme Court on Monday issued an order delaying gay marriage for 25 days, although most Alabama counties have ignored the state order and continued to issue the same-sex marriage licenses.
John Carroll, a former federal judge and now a law professor at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, explained the reasoning behind the order and suggested those counties who ignore it are on safe ground.
"Did the Alabama Supreme Court have to do this? The answer is 'no,''' said Carroll. "Were they within their rights? I guess.  
"But there is a period of time, by rule, before the decision is final." 
While the U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling Friday legalizing gay marriage has almost no chance of being changed, it is not technically the law of the land for 25 days after the ruling.
When the U.S. Supreme Court issues an order, there is a 25-day period for appeals before the court's "mandate" is issued to the appeals court that sent the case to the high court. That mandate establishes the opinion is now the law.
Citing that short window of appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court on Monday issued the order telling the state's probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Meanwhile, some counties, such as Marshall, Franklin and Colbert, had stopped issuing all marriage licenses today. And just before the court order, the association of county commissioners issued a statement urging all county probate judges to issue same-sex marriages, per the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Friday, the same group had advised counties not to issue same-sex licenses.
It's too soon to tell what effect the state order will have or if it will be challenged, but the courthouse in Madison County continued on Monday to issue marriage licenses to couples, same-sex or not.
Madison County Probate Judge Tommy Ragland said he sent the Alabama Supreme Court order to the county attorney's office today and after it was reviewed, he was told there was nothing preventing the office from continuing to issue marriage licenses.
"We forwarded that to (county attorney) Jeff Rich," said Ragland. "He didn't' tell us to do anything different, and so we're issuing them."
A Birmingham attorney working to untangle the issue this afternoon said the state high court's order doesn't matter.
"The Alabama Supreme Court did not direct probate judges to delay compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision," said Birmingham area attorney Heather Fann. "This order has no practical effect. U.S. District Court Judge (Ginny) Granade already ordered Alabama's probate judges to stop enforcing the marriage ban as soon as the Supreme Court rule, and that is binding immediately."
The Alabama Judiciary under the direction of Chief Justice Roy Moore have decided that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is merely an opinion but not the law of the land. Alabama is merely trying to stall the inevitable, but they are in actuality acting like spoiled brats. The probate judges are the only officials in Alabama who “may” issue marriage licenses. I put may in quotations because that is what Alabama's Constitution says. In fact, Alabama law says that probate judges "may" issue marriage licenses, and several Monday morning were using that one word to cease issuing licenses altogether. ALA CODE § 30-1-9 states:
No marriage shall be solemnized without a license. Marriage licenses may be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties. The license is an authority to anyone qualified to solemnize marriage to join together in matrimony the persons therein named.
If certain probate judges are basing this decision on the traditional heterosexual marriage then they have a bit of a problem. If tradition trumps the law, then tradition has it that Alabama probate judges issue marriage licenses. It's been that way for over 100 years, that is since the ratification of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama. However, these judges are not following Alabama legal precedent but their own interpretation of the Christian Bible. However, Alabama grants no fault divorces which is in direct violation of the words of Jesus who says divorce is only acceptable in the case of adultery. Alabama also allows for people to marry again after divorce. Jesus says that this is still adultery as long as the divorced spouse still lives. And where is this in the Bible?
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. - Matthew 5:32
However, if you want the part about marriage it's in Matthew 19, where he addresses marriage and divorce (this happens to be where the “one woman, one man” argument comes from):
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." - Matthew 19:3-9
The Bible should have great influence on our lives, but it is the Spirit of the Word that should guide our leaders. It is the center of all moral philosophy that we are equal and that we should love and respect one another. The probate judges of Alabama who are refusing to issue marriage licenses are not following the Spirit of the Word, but their own bigoted hatred for the LGBT community. A few are also trying to get a name for themselves to run for higher office. However, considering that our highest court has ruled, they should follow Romans 13:1-5:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. - Romans 13:1-5
If Alabama officials refuse to do their job, or a significant part of it, then they should be dismissed. Each probate judge who refuses to follow the law, should be removed from office by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Chief Justice has the power to remove from office any probate judge who refuses to act (ALA CODE § 12-13-37). These judges are refusing to act in accordance with the law. They are doing this on several levels, since the Alabama Code - Section 12-13-36 states that the:
The probate judge shall keep his office at the courthouse, and, unless otherwise provided by a local law, the office of the probate judge shall be kept open for transaction of business on every day, except Sundays and legal holidays, from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.
If you happen to live in Alabama, please let me know if your probate office is open on Saturday. My county’s probate office is only open four and a half days a week, as are most county courthouses in the area, this is in direct violation of Alabama Code - Section 12-13-36. So if a few probate judges want to split hairs with the law and use the word “may” to decide not to issue marriage licenses at all, an inconvenience to those in that county, then let's split hairs. All Alabama probate judges not “kept open for transaction of business on every day, except Sundays and legal holidays, from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.” Should be removed from office by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court pursuant to Alabama Code – Section 12-13-37. The greater problem is that the person who should be removing them from office is the Chief instigator of these shenanigans, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Therefore, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Lambda Legal, and the Human Rights campaign should file complaints against Chief Justice Moore for failure to perform his duties and responsibilities pursuant to Alabama Code - Section 12-2-30.
It is time for the state of Alabama to comply with the law. I am tired of my state being made to play the part of the fool for the United States because our state’s elected officials are clowns who care more about posturing for cameras than for carrying out their duties as officers of the state. The people of Alabama need to wake the fuck up and start electing people who will follow the law not follow it only when it is convenient for them. Pay attention to who you vote for and if someone has been removed from office for misconduct once (Roy Moore) then for God's sake don't elect him to the same position again. If your legislators cannot pass a budget, their one sole fucking duty, then do not vote for them again. If your probate judge refuses to do his job, don't vote for him again. And if any official within the state refuses to carry out the duties of his or her office with dignity and respect for the law, call for them to either resign or be removed from their position. We cannot sit by and watch this happen, we must act and act now!
Needless to say, I'm a tad pissed off at my state.

Dear Lord, please let me get a job, preferably in another state, or better yet, maybe in another country whose officials have a modicum of sense. Amen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Status Update

It's hard to believe that June has already come and gone.  I've spent most of the month sending out job applications, but so far, I have had now luck.  I'm going to keep trying though.  Another thing that I have been doing is writing.  Nearly everyday, I write something.  I wrote my blog posts everyday, but I've written a few blog posts in advance.  I'm working on a new series for my Sunday blog.  I wanted to look more closely at 1 Corinthians 13.  It's often called the love chapter, and since last Friday, the LGBT of America have a lot of love to celebrate.
I also had phenomenal sex with my boyfriend on Monday night.  It was a kind of going away, because he will be gone nearly the whole month of July.  It looks like my right hand (or hopefully another wet dream or two) will be keeping me busy and somewhat satiated until he gets back.
In addition to writing and filling out job applications, I have also,started volunteering at a museum.  Most museums want someone with some experience in a museum and the volunteer work that I will be doing will let me see all the various workings of the museum.  It is a state run museum and since the legislature of Alabama seems to enjoy cutting their budget,  they rely on a large number of volunteers and part time employees.  Also, on the museum front, I am looking into an online museum studies certificate program that is offered by one of America's top universities.  It looks like a good program and it will add to my credentials.  Though it's the least expensive of the programs like this one, it still isn't terribly cheap, but I think I have found a way to afford it.
I am looking more into museum work.  Five years teaching middle and high school is enough.  God bless the people who make that a lifelong career.  The only teaching I want to do from here on out is college teaching whether it's full time or as an adjunct.  This doesn't mean that I am absolutely ruling out middle and high school, desperation drove me to that job and desperation may drive me to take a job like it just at a different school.
So that's the update from here.  As the motto of the New York Times states this is "All the News That’s Fit to Print."  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sonnets 16 and 17 by Richard Barnfield

Sonnet 16By Richard Barnfield
Long have I long’d to see my love again,
    Still have I wished, but never could obtain it;
    Rather than all the world (if I might gain it)
Would I desire my love’s sweet precious gain.
Yet in my soul I see him every day,
    See him, and see his still stern countenance,
    But (ah) what is of long continuance,
Where majesty and beauty bears the sway?
Sometimes, when I imagine that I see him,
    (As love is full of foolish fantasies)
    Weening to kiss his lips, as my love’s fees,
I feel but air: nothing but air to bee him.
    Thus with Ixion*, kiss I clouds in vain:
    Thus with Ixion, feel I endless pain.
Sonnet 17
By Richard Barnfield

Cherry-lipped Adonis in his snowy shape,
    Might not compare with his pure ivory white,
    On whose faire front a poet’s pen may write,
Whose roseate red excels the crimson grape,
His love-enticing delicate soft limbs,
    Are rarely framed to entrap poor gazing eyes:
    His cheeks, the lily and carnation dyes,
With lovely tincture which Apollo’s dims.
His lips ripe strawberries in nectar wet,
    His mouth a Hive, his tongue a honeycomb,
    Where Muses (like bees) make their mansion.
His teeth pure pearl in blushing coral set.
    Oh how can such a body sin-procuring,
    Be slow to love, and quick to hate, enduring? 
Richard Barnfield was born in Staffordshire, England. In his youth, Barnfield was deeply influenced by Virgil’s work and the 1591 publication of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, which popularized the sonnet sequence. Best known for his poem “As it fell upon a day,” Barnfield is the only Elizabethan male poet apart from Shakespeare—whom he admired—to address love poems to a man.
Little is known about Barnfield’s life and career, but it is thought that his maternal aunt raised him and his sister after his mother died during childbirth. In 1592 he graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford. At the age of 21 he published his first two books, The Affectionate Shepherd (1594) and Cynthia (1595), both addressed to “Ganymede.” Originally published anonymously, The Affectionate Shepherd expands upon Virgil’s second eclogue, and its homoerotic themes made Barnfield’s poems controversial for his time.
*  Ixion, in Greek legend, son either of the god Ares or of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths in Thessaly. He murdered his father-in-law and could find no one to purify him until Zeus did so and admitted him as a guest to Olympus. Ixion abused his pardon by trying to seduce Zeus’s wife, Hera. Zeus substituted for her a cloud, by which Ixion became the father of Centaurus, who fathered the Centaurs by the mares of Mount Pelion. Zeus, to punish him, bound him on a fiery wheel, which rolled unceasingly through the air or, according to the more common tradition, in the underworld.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quotes from the Obergefell v. Hodges Opinions

As a historian, I often wonder how certain events and people will be remembered in history. As Obergefell v. Hodges made its way through the Supreme Court this term, I began to ask myself: how will historians look back at the Roberts Court? The Marshal Court (three three previous Courts of Jay, Rutledge, and Ellsworth heard few cases) is known for establishing judicial review and establishing the court as a equal branch of the federal government.  The Taney Court is best remembered for the Dred Scott case. The Reconstruction Era Courts developed the doctrine of substantive due process based on the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The White and Taft Courts extended due process and the Bill of Rights to the states. The New Deal Courts upheld and strengthened the power of the federal government. The Warren Court was probably the most influential since the Marshall Court, establishing numerous rulings on equal protection and equality during the era of the Civil Rights Movement. The Burger Court gave us one of the most controversial cases, Roe v. Wade, while the Rehnquist Court gave us Lawrence v. Texas and expanded due process. The Roberts Court will probably go down in history as the Kennedy Court. Kennedy seems to be the swing vote on the court as Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito usually vote as a block for conservative issues, while Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan usual vote as a block on more liberal issues. Therefore, Kennedy is the moderate who makes the real decisions in the courts. Decisions tend to go as Kennedy goes.
In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy once again was the most important vote and laid out Americans' right to marry. But the court was deeply divided, and I think that will be what the Roberts court will be mostly remembered for. In a 5-4 landmark decision Friday, the nation's highest court deemed same-sex marriage a constitutionally guaranteed right, effectively nullifying all state laws that bar gay and lesbian unions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy crafted the court's majority opinion, but the final ruling was hardly unanimous, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito all authoring individual dissents. Here are some of the most important quotes from the major opinion and dissents in Obergefell v. Hodges:
"Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations."

"As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. ... Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples."

"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
"Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. ... Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept."

"If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."
In Roberts’ dissent, he says that the five justices who voted in favor of marriage equality are making laws instead of interpreting them. However, we all know that as Justice Kennedy so eloquently wrote, “The nature of injustice is that we may not see it in our own times.” All of the important civil rights cases have been decided because there was an injustice that the states or congress refused to address. It has often been the duty of the Supreme Court to I force the principles of due process and equal protection under the law. I disagree with Roberts, the Constitution had everything to do with the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
"The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. ... It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court."

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
Scalia consistently belittles Kennedy’s majority opinion on its prose, but if one were to read Scalia’s eight page dissent, you would see that Scalia makes a mockery of his position. His dissent is not based on legal precedent but one childish rant replete with name calling. Scalia should hide his head in a bag because he demeans the prestige of the court as he whines like a toddler who did not get his way.
"The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a 'liberty' that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect."
Thomas is merely a hypocrite.  Obergefell v. Hodges does for same sex couples what Loving v. Virginia did for interracial couples. If the Court did not have the right to make decisions about marriage equality, then Thomas would not be a the lone African-American on the Supreme Court Justice but a Virginia prison inmate for his marriage to Virginia Thomas, a white woman. Thomas needs to understand that he can't have his cake and eat it too.
"Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed. A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means."
Alito misses a major point of what the judiciary of the a United States is there for, to protect the citizens of the United States. When legislators fail to protect citizens and make arbitrary and bigoted laws, it takes the judiciary to step in and correct those wrongs. Justice is the conscience of the United States. It is what makes us a land where “all men are created equal.” We are not a nation where some men are created equal and the legislative bodies of this country can create second class citizens of others.
I think the fundamental problem is that the conservative members of the Court do not understand what the purpose of the Court is, which is to provide equal justice for all. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hypocrisy and the Nones

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:10
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Matthew 23:13
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Ephesians 5:11
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."
John 8:7
There is a crisis of faith in the world today. It's not because of liberals, the LGBT, sexual promiscuity, science, drug use, or any of the myriad of things that religious conservatives claim is at the heart of every problem in the world. The greatest problem religious leaders face is their own hatefulness,a me what often turns out to be hypocrisy. I think this tactic of evangelicals is one that is fueled with hatred and fear, two things that I do not believe Jesus would have ever approved of using, but that of something Satan would wholeheartedly approve.
Before I go any further, I want to briefly discuss the concept of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches. The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, who is inconsistent or phony. Jesus’ teaching on Hypocrisy does not exclude this notion but is far richer. The Biblical understanding enunciated by Jesus is rooted in the original meaning of the Greek word ὑποκριταί (hypokritai) which means “stage actors.” At one level it is easy to see how this word has come to mean some one who is phony. For what they claim to be, they really are not, they are just acting a role. But when no one is looking (i.e. the audience is gone) they revert to their true self, which is some one quite different. But Jesus in his teaching here develops the understanding far more richly that shows how sad and poignant hypocrisy is, what its origin is and how it can be overcome.
In effect Jesus describes hypocrisy as the sad state of a person who reduces himself to being an actor on a stage, because he does not know God the Father. There are many people who live their life in a desperate search for human approval and applause. They discern their dignity and worth, not from God, (who is in effect a stranger to them), but from what other human beings think of them. They are willing to adapt themselves often in dramatic ways to win approval. They are willing to play many roles and wear many masks to give the audience what they want. They are like actors on a stage, who seek applause or perhaps laughter and approval. Most politicians fall into this category. Notice the way Jesus describes the heart of hypocrisy:
Jesus said to his disciples: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” ( Matthew 6:1) Jesus goes on to say that they blow a trumpet so that others will see them giving alms, they pray ostentatiously so that others may see they are praying, and they alter their appearance so that others may see they are fasting.
There are many examples of people Jesus would call a hypocrite. I doubt mp that very many of us could pass His test, but there are those who are in the limelight who are outward examples of hypocrisy. The Duggars are the latest example, but far from being the only example, of people who have held themselves up as a model of Christianity: wearing their religion on their sleeves, being politically active, and professing deeply conservative, anti-LGBT, patriarchal, and anti-science views. Some members of the family have adopted a particularly evangelical bent to their faith, telling other Christians: if you aren’t as conservative as us, you’re not real Christians. 
"Real Christians" like the Duggars would like to think they're doing God's work. But if they're judged by the fruits of their tree, as the Bible teaches, they've actually driven Americans away from churches. And new research indicates that their entrenched, anti-LGBT positions are part of why Americans are abandoning the faith in record numbers — and not coming back, but it's not just their anti-LGBT positions, it's their intolerance of anyone who disagrees with their brand of hatred. However, this is not something new, and numbers have been declining since the 1950s.
When the Pew Research Center released its latest religion in America survey results, it highlighted a trend that has been ongoing for years: people are leaving organized religion in droves. In response, churches have been attempting to combat this declining attendance, with attempts to “jazz up” services that range from engaging youth pastors, rebranding efforts, building activity centers (I know of one church that put in a bowling alley, while several others have put in coffee bars), and anything else they can think of to get Millennials back — apparently to no avail. The number of people who identify with any religious denomination keeps shrinking.
There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults (those identifying as agnostic, atheist, or “nothing in particular”) in the U.S., according to Pew. In light of this group’s “none of the above” attitude toward existing organized religion, the group is sometimes referred to as the “Nones.”
The Nones are more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to Pew’s latest survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S., and growing faster than any other group. The Nones are more likely to be young, white, and educated, although growth is occurring across almost every demographic.
But the Nones also tend to be one of the most solidly Democratic and pro-LGBT demographics as well. This isn’t coincidental; prior studies from the Public Religion Research Institute have shown that up to a third of Millennial Nones left traditional faith communities because of religious intolerance, especially toward LGBT people.
You would think that because Mainline (Non-Evangelical) Protestants tend to be more accepting of LGBT Christians, that their numbers would be growing, however membership in these churches have fallen faster than for any other group in the Pew survey, by virtually any measure. Some, particularly those in evangelical denominations, blame the declining attendance on the liberalization of these churches, saying they have watered down Christianity into moral relativism, with no clear delineation of right and wrong. Some sociologists hold that demographics, such as differences in birth rates, are the real reason why the ranks of mainline Protestants are declining faster than evangelicals.
Others point to a groundbreaking 2010 study by Putnam and Campbell, which argues there is a strong link between Millennial disenchantment with Christianity and the rise of evangelical conservatism in the 1980s and ‘90s. That study hypothesizes that Millennials have come of age in an environment where being Christian means being conservative (and Republican). More socially progressive Millennials — which is most of them — view the choice before them as an ultimatum of sorts: identifying with one’s political identity, or their religious identity. When it comes down to brass tacks, Millennials are apt to change the latter, given how little effort it takes to drop out of organized religion. In short, when there is a conflict between religious and political identity, the path of least resistance involves giving up the religious one. I tend to think that with twenty-four hour news channels comes more sensationalism that points to the hypocrisy of those who profess their beliefs in Christianity but yet have secret lives that are in direct violation of what they profess as right and wrong. The hypocrisy turns people away from Christianity.
The solution, from Putnam and Cambell’s perspective, would be to sever the link between religion and politics. But recent polling indicates that 57 percent of Republicans want to see Christianity as the official religion of the United States. Additionally, greater religious involvement in government is a core tenet for many evangelicals. But given the shrinking number of mainline Protestants compared to the sizable and growing membership of the evangelical community, the researchers’ solution seems a slim chance of becoming reality.
Sadly, the LGBT community is less likely to be religious than the American population as a whole, according to a recent Gallup poll. Given the scarcity of LGBT-affirming faiths, how often LGBT people have been mistreated by the faith communities they were born in to, and the link between anti-LGBT religions and politics, this reality is unsurprising. But that hasn’t stopped national organizations like The National LGBTQ Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign from having dedicated religious outreach campaigns. These organizations see such efforts as essential to their missions. Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, describes religious outreach as one of the group’s top priorities in fighting for LGBT equality:
“There's sort of two pieces of this work. Number one, and first and foremost, is changing hearts and minds. You change hearts and minds by building bridges and by having a conversation with business leaders, with faith and religious leaders, with community leaders, and also with elected officials at the community level and at the state level.”
These religious outreach efforts have several purposes. According to a National LGBTQ Task Force Report on inclusive religious organizing, “Pro-LGBTQQIA faith-based leaders and leadership structures bring significant resources to the fight — the ability to speak with moral authority to large numbers and through a variety of communication vehicles.”
The ability to have religious leaders testify in favor of pro-LGBT legislation significantly alters the perception that LGBT issues are purely religious or moral, according to the report. It also allows for greater reach into communities where people of color suffer the most from the confluence of multiple forms of discrimination and oppression.
Unfortunately, the influence of LGBT-affirming churches is waning as their membership declines. Relatedly, research shows that increased Internet access — especially when used to access progressive media sources like Right Wing Watch and ThinkProgress — helps tighten the spiral of religious de-identification by consistently pointing out the link between conservative religions and politics.
“For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally,” wrote Allen Downey, a computer science professor at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering who studied the impact of web access on religious identification. The Internet also provides LGBT Christians, like myself who find that in rural America LGBT inclusive churches are basically nonexistent, with a place to interact with other LGBT Christians. It's one of the reasons for my blog, to reach out to other like-minded individuals.
No matter how the demographics are sliced, the decline in denominational identification is accelerating. So is the decline in church attendance. It seems likely that this trend will continue for years, if not decades. While the end result is uncertain, current shifts in religious messaging imply that a segment of conservative religions will hold on to a core constituency for a long time to come, even without moving toward greater acceptance. A contrarian social outlook (no matter how unpopular) will always have adherents: just look at interracial marriage, which has been legal across the U.S. for more than 50 years. But approximately one in six Americans is still opposed to interracial marriage, according to the Pew survey.
Right-wing pundits who support the church maintaining its anti-LGBT stance have seized onto the fact that evangelical groups are holding on to members better than denominations that affirm LGBT people, yet they don't seem to realize that their own intolerance is what is driving people away from all churches.
In an August op-ed for the Federalist, Daily Caller reporter Alex Griswold sardonically concluded that the fastest way to “Shrink Your Church in One Easy Step” is to become LGBT-affirming. “A number of Christian denominations have already taken significant steps towards liberalizing their stances on homosexuality and marriage, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is hardly a cure for membership woes,” wrote Griswold. “On the contrary, every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.”
This observation is factually correct, but it misses the bigger picture. Conservative faiths are holding steady while moderate progressive ones are shrinking, but Pew’s research indicates that it’s actually conservative faiths that are making all of Christianity toxic to moderate and progressive Millennials.
LGBT rights aren’t the only social issue where conservative theology drives younger moderates and progressives away. As prominent atheist blogger Hemant Mehta noted at CNN, those conservative faiths are “antigay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education and anti-doubt, to name a few of the most common criticisms.”
Churches that dig in their heels on anti-LGBT positions might hear more about how that issue is driving away new members, but that’s because public opinion on LGBT people has shifted faster than any of the other issues the church is refusing to evolve upon.
As proof, look no further than a 2007 study by the Barna Group, which found that the most common word used by Millennials to describe Christianity was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about key Christian qualities. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. The next most common negative descriptors were “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics,” according to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters.
Whether the rise of the Nones — and the concurrent decline of moderate religions — ultimately speeds up or slows down efforts to secure legal protections for LGBT people as a whole remains to be seen. What we do know is that is that the rise of the Nones and the increasing acceptance of LGBT people are strongly linked.
And neither is likely to be undone.
A friend of mine who read an early draft of this post, brought up an important point and one that I find the saddest of all about the Nones. While the LGBT and the Nones may be turned away from religion by anti-gay religious organizations and the conservative right wing, each individual has his own choice/free will to choose his faith, religion, and God. All of the blame cannot be put onto these hypocrites - but each individual who turns away from God is ultimately the one who holds the blame and will be accountable for his or her own decisions. God will not give those individuals who turned away from Him a free pass because they were driven away by fanaticism and hypocrisy. The reality of this breaks my heart, which is why I am a primitive restorationist (the core idea of the churches of Christ that we should return to the original church Christ established), who believes we should return to what Christ taught about love and faith in God’s grace.
In the wake of the Surpeme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, we have seen many evangelicals speak out against marriage equality now that it has become the law of the land.  I think more clergy should follow what Episcopal Bishop Robert Wright said in a statement on the Supreme Court decision:
"Today the nation's highest court has concluded that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.
In the days ahead, whatever your position, I ask you to keep close to your heart and lips the words of scripture, that "God is love." Christ's church is trans-political, above all earthly partisanship.
Therefore, if love has won even a small victory today, then let us rejoice."
It's been a very historic week for LGBT Americans, but we must still remember on this, the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, that our struggle for equality is far from over.  We cannot rest on our laurels, but we must persevere and continue our fight until no one will fear being able to come out and stop hiding who the are.

Source: This post is largely adapted from an article from The Advocate, “How The Nonreligious 'Nones' Are Driving LGBT Equality in the U.S.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Moment of Zen: "It is so ordered" #LoveWins

Moment of Zen: Wet Dreams

OMG, did I have a sweet dream about 24 hours ago. I can't believe this but I had a wet dream. I thought only teenagers had those, but it was so intense.
I dreamed that I had come back from dinner and there was my roommate/boyfriend/whatever, and I just went up to him and grabbed his crotch and said, I want dessert.
He was wearing jeans and he flipped over and showed me his ass, and I began to bite and eat his ass through his jeans. By this time, I am rock hard.
I begin to pull down his jeans licking and nibbling as I go, high on his scent and just as I got his jeans halfway down his ass, almost at the exact moment in the picture above, I came.
The smells, the feelings, everything seemed so real.  I assumed it was just a dream, but when I woke, I felt a wetness and realized that I really had cum in my shorts just as I had in my dream.
It was an amazing experience.  I've only ever experienced a wet dream once or twice in my life before this one.  I can't decide if I should be embarrassed or just enjoy the experience.