Not Afraid #Charlie Hebdo

13-political-cartoons-in-response-to-charlie-hebdo-attack-image-6Politicians violate their vows of public trust and then sob in front of the camera, preachers molest children and wail about sin and sorrow, criminals prey on victims in the most violent ways, then cry for their mommy’s when handcuffed, sports figures and celebrities act out and then blame their fame for the transgression, and fanatics commit atrocities in the name of religious beliefs. Journalists struggle to write columns, pundits rage, but no one can skewer the elite, illuminate our darkest behaviors, or touch a nerve like the political cartoonist.

With a dose of genius wit, these mental giants wield writing instruments that sharply define issues and make us laugh or cringe, but always they make us think. Paris is in mourning for the victims of this latest act of brutality, and the rest of the free world stands in solidarity. Once again, a stark reminder of the real war we are waging against radical religious zealots. The most dangerous happen to be Islamic at the present. Their biggest fear is a woman with a book or a journalist with a typewriter, or a cartoonist’s pen. When your position is so weak that you cannot allow free ideas, your ideology is doomed and desperation takes hold. That is why Paris stands with signs reading “Not Afraid” and we must stand with them. Without free thought, we are all to be conquered and fascism will overrun more victims.13-political-cartoons-in-response-to-charlie-hebdo-attack-image-8

In the end, we should consider the power of a little cartoon. My hope is that all individuals on the side of free thought will understand the importance of these moments. We cannot waver or surrender, coddle those who would shut down creativity under the guise of some disgusting perversion of a religion. Any religion. And those who wish to practice their faith peacefully: You must understand the responsibility you hold. Silence equals tacit approval. Ideas and free thought are the lifeblood of humanity. Join us in celebrating the power of the pen, which has always been mightier than the sword.

Write on, folks. Peace~ LM

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Culture Wars and Holiday Gatherings

Unless you’ve been on the Island of Misfit Toys the past week or so, you’ve no doubt seen the stories about Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, who was interviewed by GQ magazine and volunteered a few comments about his biblical interpretations on the subject of lesbians and gays. Now, I wholeheartedly agree that Phil—or anyone else for that matter—has a right to his/her own opinions and beliefs. I also know as a responsible adult that exercising my free speech may have consequences. That’s a fact of life.

 So, what do you do when these culture wars invade your holiday gathering? Most of us want to get along with our family and friends, and edit our conversations accordingly for the sake of peace at the Christmas table. Knowing that there is an ultra-conservative religious wing to our family, Sandy and I talked about the possibility of the subject coming up and agreed to do our best to maintain peace. We had already heard a few of their “well, that’s what the bible says” types of comments in advance to understand the potential pitfalls of the day. We respect their beliefs, however narrow-minded and well, wrong, we believe them to be. Mostly, we coexist in a peaceful way, and we even believed that we’d made strides toward acceptance.

 But here’s where the story changes. A member of the family arrives at the gathering wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Phil’s picture and proclaiming: “Phil is my hero”.  My problem with that is huge. First off, to know that you are coming to a family gathering where you will see relatives who are lesbians and choose to wear that shirt seems confrontational, at the least, and hateful at worst. It made me sad and angry simultaneously. Sad because the message was clear: A man who has recently proclaimed that I am a godless sinner and evil person, because I’m a lesbian is his hero. And here’s the way these things inevitably go: If I react, then I will be the one deemed to have ruined Christmas for the family. Right? Exactly.

This is an all too familiar scenario and it’s always heartbreaking when you think friends or family members really do accept you, only to be confronted with the undisputed truth in their [careless] actions. So, today, I’m pondering the relationship with my extended family and seeing things a little differently. People, here’s the deal: If you tell me that you love and accept me and then wear a shirt proclaiming your support for hateful words against me then, I’m sorry, you are a hypocrite. You can’t have it both ways. Hateful speech is just that. Hateful. Jesus had no tolerance for the religious bigots of his time. I’m challenging those of you who profess to be conservative Christians to stop hiding behind a twisted message of hate and start embracing what Jesus actually DID say and do. Start small. Try respecting the people in your family unit, then maybe branch out from there. I’m betting the world will be a much better place if we all gave it a try.

Peace,

LM

You can read Phil in his own words here:

Read More http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson#ixzz2oawJxTAg

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/when-you-defend-phil-robertson-heres-what-youre-really-defending-2013-12#ixzz2oatvAtkn

Religious defiance, thank God!

I’m a Christian and I’m perplexed. Can somebody please explain to me why folks who profess to believe in the teachings of Jesus are forever bastardizing his message?

Our most recent example of faith-based hypocrisy comes today from a story about a father who loves his son and simply wants to support his son completely. The Reverend Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a minister of the United Methodist Church, was asked by his son to officiate his wedding. What an awesome thing, right? Right! Except that his son was marrying a man. Uh, oh. Dr. Olgletree says that his son’s request inspired him and he readily accepted. Two of the reverend’s children are gay, and he loves and accepts them unconditionally. His daughter previously married her partner in a non-Methodist ceremony. 

Rev. Olgletree conducted the ceremony for his son back in October, and no doubt, it was a joyous family occasion. Then, one of the reverend’s fellow ministers saw the wedding announcement in the newspaper, and apparently felt it his sacred duty to tattle on Rev. Ogletree to the local bishop. Rev. Randall C. Paige and several other ministers object to Rev. Ogletree’s actions, citing violations of canonical law. They say the ceremony “is a chargeable offense under the rules of the church” and that breaking the laws are not the proper way to bring about change.

Really? Umm… Jesus broke the laws of his lifetime by renouncing Old Testament teachings publicly, throwing the money lenders out of the temple, cavorting with known prostitutes, pretty much thumbing his nose at much of the religious doctrine of the day, and the list goes on. Seems like he thought that breaking the law was exactly the way to bring about change at times. Unjust laws meant to demonize or marginalize minority groups are always overturned by acts of civil disobedience, because morally unjust laws cannot and should not stand. So, how is it that these religious scholars would assert that breaking the rules is not the way to affect change? Guess they skipped those parts of the New Testament. The complaining reverends say that Rev. Olgetree’s actions injure the church because they “foster confusion about what the church stands for.” Shouldn’t the church be standing for love, honesty, family, and stuff like that?

The Rev. Olgletree is awe-inspiring. “Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed,” he said. “But if you can’t, you break it.” He challenged Rev. Paige, saying, “Dr. King broke the law, Jesus of Nazareth broke the law…So you mean you should never break the law, no matter how unjust it is?” I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the premise our great country was founded upon, and I hope we never lose that belief in standing up for “right” over “law”. Rules and laws are made in given periods of time, based upon the knowledge folks have to work with. But, we evolve. We grow. We change.

These changes come largely through interacting with people who may be different than ourselves. That’s why I always say that we change hearts and minds one person at a time. The good reverend understands the teachings of Christianity call us to be loving and compassionate toward one another, not judgmental or hateful. When we open our hearts to the lives and love of others, we cannot help but grow. That’s the human experience. The reverend, only wanting to fully participate in his son’s marriage, as any parent would, unwittingly became a symbol of religious defiance. He said, “I actually wasn’t thinking of it as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”

Amen, reverend.

Planting Peace and Shocked Rants

Hi gang. I want to talk about a couple of news items that caught my eye yesterday.

In entertainment news, singer Michelle Schocked decided to end her musical set over the weekend with an anti-gay rant, according to those in attendance at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Ms. Schocked, an alternative/folk singer who had some success in the 80’s and 90’s, has previously danced on the edge of coming out. In 1990, she talked to Outlines, a Chicago gay newspaper, about having her first relationship with a woman.

By 2008, Shocked seemed to struggle with her identity, as quoted in the Dallas Voice: “According to my Bible, which I didn’t write, homosexuality is immoral. But homosexuality is no more less a sin than fornication. And I’m a fornicator with a capital F. I like the sound of being called an honorary lesbian and the comparisons to black disco divas. But right now, I’m a dug-in-the-heels fundamentalist who’s not too happy about it.” In 2012, Shocked has apparently decided to take up the banner of hatred in the name of fundamentalist religion. Over the weekend, she ranted at her show, reportedly telling the audience she feared gay marriage would “destroy the world”, and they could go on Twitter and say, “Michelle Shocked hates fags.” She mostly emptied out the club at that point. Shocked herself Tweeted later, “Truth is leading to painful confrontation.”

I wonder if she was talking about the crowd or her own internalized homophobia? I don’t personally care if she’s gay or straight, but can somebody tell me why every time one of these “converted” born-again Christians speaks, they have to launch into such vile and hateful language? Are they trying to convince themselves or everyone else? I’m going to Tweet to Michelle: Don’t hate yourself, God loves you either way.

In more uplifting news, did you see that the Westboro community in Topeka Kansas has a new Equality House? That’s right, and it’s located right across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, run by the fundamentalist homophobe Fred Phelps. Planting Peace is a diverse charity organization with projects ranging from environmental causes to opening orphanages worldwide that rescue children from the street. Planting Peace has now opened the Equality House in Phelp’s own neighborhood.

Aaron Jackson, one of the group’s founders, said, “I read a story about Josef Miles, a 10-year-old kid who counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church by holding the sign that says ‘God Hates No One,'” Jackson told The Huffington Post “I didn’t know anything about the church or where they were located, but that story kept popping up. And one night I wondered, Where is this church? I got on Google Earth, and I was ‘walking down the road,’ and I did a 360 view. And I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign sitting in the front yard of a house. Right away it hit me, Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the WBC! And immediately I thought: And I’m going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag.”

Today, volunteers are painting the Equality House in rainbow colors. Yes, the sound you hear is the crowd going wild. Phelps is in the business of intimidation and bullying. In my experience the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them. Let’s see how Phelps and his hate-mongering followers handle a neighbor who isn’t going to cower in their presence, or worse, ignore them in the hopes they’ll go away. The sign hanging on the Westboro Baptist Church states the same message Michelle Shocked proclaimed: God Hates Fags.

No. God hates hate. Clearly, these adults are not smarter than a fifth grader.

We shouldn’t be shocked by either of these stories. There will always be people like Phelps who use religion to justify their bigotry and hate, and sadly, their will always be those like Shocked who internalize the twisted message and lash out as a bizarre defense mechanism. I feel sorry for them because hate only breeds hate and what you give always comes back to you. Be the change you wish to see, right? Planting peace. What a concept.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading~
LM

It’s those damned homosexuals again!

Science? Bah! It’s those damned homosexuals again!

Have you seen the latest ultra-conservative preacher’s assertion that the current storm on record—Hurricane Sandy—is our fault? The LGBT community that is. You know the story. These preachers can’t help themselves, every time there is a devastating weather event, it’s because of the gays and lesbians. Now, hurricane Sandy has already plowed through the Caribbean, causing untold damage, and sadly, the deaths of some 69 souls and is bearing down on the east coast of the US. Rather than mobilizing their religious brethren in community efforts for rescue or other assistance to those in harms way, these “men of the cloth” instead use the tragedy once again to stir up their sinister brand of hatred for the LGBT community.

Of course, there is a long history of this false prophecy fear mongering among the hardliners of the religious right. John McTernan is only one of a sad list of so-called Christian leaders who regularly employ such tactics to get attention. There’s Pat Robertson, who has famously asserted that the LGBT community is responsible for Hurricane Katrina. 9/11, according to Jerry Falwell, is the evildoing of our community as well. Fred Phelps has his own special niche blaming the deaths of US service members on our country’s “acceptance” of homosexuality. Presumably, if we were all imprisoned or worse, all casualties of war and every natural disaster would cease. Our military would be invincible, impervious to every bullet or bomb, and never again would we see a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, I guess. Wow.

What about science, you say? Hogwash! Scientific theories regarding climate change and evolution get in the way of the fire and brimstone scare tactics. Better to relegate groups of citizens to the realm of godless heathens, responsible for every ill of humanity than to accept reasoning or scientific theory. These same types of preachers once used race to demonize and blame, but now that’s passé, and besides they can get a lot more fundamentalist churches on their side on the issue of homosexuality. Ahh, now here’s common ground for biblical ultra-fundamentalists, regardless of race.

I realize that these types of preachers have always tried to use images of “vile” human behaviors to justify what they warn is God’s wrath, and many times the message strays into the demonization of a particular group. Jews, blacks, Asians, communists, Muslims, Catholics, gays, and lesbians, have all been targets of the same ideology at different points in history. Of course, forces of nature that we cannot control are events most easily exploited to summon the images of the wrath of a vengeful god, and who better to blame for terrible misfortune than some “other” group? Sadly, it’s a recurring pattern for those who supposedly are God’s messengers to the world, regardless of religious affiliation. I’d like to suggest to these folks that they would better serve their fellow citizens by demonstrating consistent charity and love. Tell your flock how to unite for the good of humanity, especially in times of hardship or natural disaster. If all of these preachers tried it, imagine the good they might actually accomplish.

Thanks for reading~LM

Unchecked Hate Has a Price

After the disturbing news of several more hate crimes against lesbians and gays recently, my friend, Barrett wrote eloquently on her blog about this disturbing hateful trend that seems to be growing in our society. Check out her outstanding words.

I, too, have been deeply impacted by these crimes and it has made me wonder what’s happening. Barrett had a couple of ideas spot on: We should be able to disagree without violence and the hypocrisy and the hatred has to stop. One of the best ways we can do that is to take a stand against hateful rhetoric, wherever we hear it. But too often, our society turns a blind eye when hate and intolerance are broadcast via the airwaves or simply uttered in our presence.

Consider the popular comedian, Daniel Tosh, of Comedy Central. Last month he joked about rape in a standup show. When a woman in the audience objected, was Tosh apologetic? No. He doubled down. He followed with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?”

Seriously, Daniel? Yes, I know, he offered a half-assed Twitter apology. Whatever. Here’s the thing. Daniel’s rape subject matter has a history. Here’s another example of his twisted humor, using his sister in one of his rape jokes. I’m only including his video because you have to hear it to believe it. This guy has issues. Worse, he has a following.

But the thing that makes my blood run cold is that, even with his propensity for this type of cringe-inducing stand-up, he is wildly popular. He should be a pariah, but he’s not. At least he hasn’t been until this last over-the-top rant. The fact that there has been at least some backlash is encouraging, but it’s not nearly enough.

Kids are getting bullied and committing suicide because of their perceived homosexuality or disability. In story after story, not only did other kids join in, but parents, and in some cases teachers, said nothing—or worse fueled the taunting behaviors, through tacit, even active encouragement. Popular pastors are preaching intolerance and hatred. Rush Limbaugh resurrects the old “Feminazi” label and calls a college student a whore for speaking about reproductive rights. Citizens at a political debate boo a gay service member currently serving in Afghanistan. All in plain sight and without any real consequence to the haters. Oh, but the consequence is very real, my friends.

I talk often about the power of touching one person at a time in my life. It’s the best way for me to fight the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that can so easily take over, because it seems so hopeless sometimes. The simplest part is also the hardest because human nature is usually to avoid conflict, and we mostly try to get along with our family and friends. But I suggest to you that we have to speak up. No, not make speeches or wear a t-shirt emblazoned with: I’m a Lesbian! (If you want to, that’s cool, though.) What I’m talking about is refusing to be silent in the face of this misogynist, homophobic, racist intolerance that too often goes unchecked. There are many moments in our daily lives that give us the opportunity to make statements large and small, and every one of them is huge when we do. Whether we boycott companies that bankroll anti-gay measures, calmly tell a male co-worker that his sexist remark is unacceptable, or explain to a child in our life why a cruel joke isn’t funny. It matters.

“Us versus them” is destroying us. Girls are being gang raped, a young lesbian couple is shot, a gay couple savagely beaten, and there was yet another mass shooting last night at a religious temple in Milwaukee. The tragic list goes on, chipping away at our collective spirit. It’s all about the different, the weaker, the other. Somewhere along the way, those who spew intolerance have gained a perverse acceptance, and those who speak for the different have been marginalized, as though they are saying something wrong. That is what we must change. I may be hopelessly naïve, but I believe it’s possible. Hate breeds in ignorance and division from one another enables hate to spread. Divide and conquer is the tactic. Demonize the different. The problem is, that fracturing of our collective whole is what’s taking us all down. Each of us has a role in stopping it.

There’s a saying: We become what we think about. What our society needs is a lot more thinking about our common humanity and a lot less looking for reasons to hate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Peace.

~LM