Thursday, July 31, 2008


WHERE THE CHURCH GETS IT TERRIBLY WRONG

In spite of dramatic shifts in cultural patterns, the church goes on pretending that the wedding ceremony, which it calls a sacred rite, a sacrament, is a signal to the couple being married that they can now sleep together, they can “do it.” In the not-too-distant past, whether or not a couple waited until after the wedding ceremony to consummate their marriage was beside the point. The church “blessed” the marriage whether or not they had already consummated their union. Nobody asked. Nobody told. The bride and groom, the minister, and the attending guests all pretended that the white gown ensured that the bride was “pure,” and even if the groom, as men will do, had slept around, at least she had not yet had sexual experience. So churches and congregations developed a firmly fixed attitude about marriage, that it was primarily about sex. If you are married, you can “do it.” If you are not married, it’s a sin.

The policy of the United Methodist church regarding same-gender marriage is a good example of confusion about weddings and what they mean. Many people who have long ago given up participation in “church” in any regular, meaningful way still want to have their weddings in church; and it’s as easy to arrange as buying bread if the couple asking for the church’s participation and blessing are a man and a woman.

After the California Supreme Court ruled recently that marriage is a civil right in the State of California whatever the gender of Party A and Party B, a couple of people who have been a family for at least twenty years of domestic partnership, decided to get married. Besides being long-time domestic partners, they have been long-time members of First United Methodist Church in San Diego. FUMCSD is the one perched like a cathedral above Interstate 8 in Mission Valley. The couple, Party A and Party B, have long been considered “family” by clergy and lay members. In a colorful, dignified Church Directory their photograph appears in the “Family” division of the book. For years they have given freely of their time and their money to the church. They have never been known to cause trouble in the community or in the church. They are an ideal couple. As far as I know, there has never been any wonderment or any talk about how, when, and under what circumstances they “do it.” It hasn’t been an issue.

Now that they want to be married it is an issue. Party A telephoned the senior pastor to tell him the good news. He and Party B were getting married... and guess what? “We’d like to have our wedding in the church we love, and we’d like you to perform the ceremony.” Silence. Then the bad news came like a rock thrown onto tender tissue. “I’m sorry,” the Pastor said, “You can’t be married in the church, and none of the clergy will be allowed to participate no matter where the wedding takes place.”

Reeling from that bit of bad news, Party A asked for the next best thing. The church has a great social hall. He asked, “May we have our reception in Linder Hall?”

The pastor said that he was sorry, but that they wouldn't be allowed to use any part of the church campus. "It’s not my decision. The Book of Discipline forbids it," he said. Why? Because somebody a long time ago misunderstood. A whole bunch of somebodys misunderstood. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they thought being married was about sex, which would make being family about sex. Wrong.

A favorite response of fundamentalist Christians, the church people who insist that the Bible is the absolute, word-for-word, out of the mouth of the Head Person of the Trinity Himself truth about everything, is that “marriage is for a man and a woman.” Another version, “marriage is between a man and a woman,” is probably closer to actual fact if “between” is the significant word. Presently, 57 percent of marriages in America end in divorce. In the Bible the brief mention of sex between persons of the same gender, “a man may not sleep with a man as with a woman,” is found in what is called “The Levitical Code.” It is sometimes called “The Holiness Code.” The code developed as a way of ensuring the long-term survival and welfare of a small group of nomadic desert people.

Almost everything in tribal codes and rules was about property or about the propagation, health, and safety of the tribe. Then as now, relationships between persons were complicated, and it was necessary to anticipate all the kinds of interpersonal relations that could be harmful to the group. Tribal people had no permanent land, so it was necessary for them to include in their codes the definition of property and its distribution in the tribe, everything from tents to camels to cooking pots to women. Because practically everything was about property, marriage was a matter of property. Looking back thousands of years before the time of Abraham and Moses, we can guess that their ancestors probably existed together without having a formal marriage arrangement. When the earliest people mentioned in the Bible began to make codes, the codes addressed basic issues. It was important to know specifically which of possibly many sons was to inherit the tents, and sheep and camels. It became necessary to have some kind of business arrangement, which marriage most surely was in earliest times, to make clear which of the several, perhaps many, women with whom a man might have intercourse was to be the one to bear the son who would inherit property and responsibility. The contract of marriage, the wedding enacted as a public ceremony, was a transfer of property. The ownership of the woman was the issue. She had belonged to her father, and from the time of the ceremony she was henceforth the property of her husband. In some of the stories and myths from the period there are indications that sometimes the wife didn’t leave her father’s group; the husband came to her there, often or not often, for sexual intercourse with the hope of producing a son who would inherit his property. Sometimes the wife joined his little wandering group which included lesser wives and concubines and slaves; sometimes she did not. Legally under the code, he might have sexual intercourse with any number of women. The point is this: Marriage was not primarily about sex; it was about property. The stories of Jacob and Essau, recently included in the Lectionary, were powerful reminders of the great importance of family relationships and property.

Sexual intercourse! What did all those rules dealing with that activity have to do with the welfare of the tribe. That’s simple enough. Because a man, the husband, might wander in and out of his father-in-law’s group to be with his wife, it was apparently necessary to remind him that he could not have sexual relations with his wife’s sisters, with her mother, nor with any of her daughters, which, of course, were presumed to be his daughters. They were all women. They were property. But decisions had to be made about sexual relations with them. In the first place, the sisters and mother of his wife belonged to another man, his father-in-law, or in the case of his wife’s married sisters to his brothers-in-law. It would have been a grave offense to have used them sexually. The offense and the penalty had to be made clear in the Code.

There was another purpose for sexual intercourse that had to be considered in the Code. Obviously the sex drive in humans, as it is in other animals, is powerful. Because it was presumed that sexual encounters could be initiated only by the man, the Code addressed the matter of whom a man might consider “lawful” sexual partners. The Code’s property laws were specific and clear about the matter of sexual relations with women who were in-laws and women who belonged to other men. The Code allowed, even encouraged, the man to have sex with females who were his own property (concubines and slaves) because children from those encounters gave him more property and ensured the stability of the population of the tribe. Diseases were wicked and could wipe many people out quickly. The more children, the more people, the better.

It made sense to include specific rules in the code regarding sexual relations between men. It’s not surprising that the Code forbade the practice of men being with men to relieve their sexual tensions, obviously a common practice or it wouldn’t have been mentioned. The powerful sex drive had to be directed toward reproduction, producing more people in a scarcely populated world. Man to man sex or masturbation, “spilling the seed upon the ground,” didn’t meet that criterion, so both practices were banned. There is nothing in historical records or in literature to indicate that homosexuality is a modern phenomenon. We may excuse those early leaders of a primitive tribe in their critically under-populated world for including in their code a prohibition against men sleeping with men instead of with women. Sex with a man wasn’t going to help with the population problem. The world no longer has that particular worry. With a rapidly growing population that is now over six billion people, the world today has exactly the opposite problem. The church in the twenty-first century knows better; so it cannot be excused for doggedly holding onto a four-thousand-year-old prohibition that no longer makes sense.

The Code also addressed sexual relations between people of different tribes. The Leviticus Code, as does the Code of Hammurabi, emphasizes the importance of keeping the tribe distinct from other tribal groups. Until relatively recently, civil laws forbidding sexual relations, hence marriage, between people of different races were common in many countries of the world, including the United States. Those civil laws, made with a polite nod to the church, were based on the Leviticus Code. We are now officially enlightened. We no longer have provisions in the law that make it illegal for Party A and Party B in a marriage to be of different races or ethnic groups. Civil law has finally been adjusted to allow people from different races who love each other to marry.

In the matter of “allowing” same gender marriage, people are more reluctant and slower; but we’re getting there. Civil governments are finally, slowly catching up. The United Methodist church and other fundamentalist (our church leaders have chosen to be in that larger Christian tribe) groups aren’t willing to affirm the love relationships between two people of the same gender. The church allows them to be listed among the families in the directory, and the church allows them to contribute time and money; but marriage is obviously going too far. Pity.

It’s a paradox. Church leaders are charged with the responsibility of setting the standard and the example of what is right and just behavior; yet they are being directed to take a stand behind a policy which most of them know is flawed, perhaps even evil because it does harm. That stand ultimately weakens the church rather than strengthens it. One of California’s Bishops has reminded clergy that there are “consequences” for disobeying denominational policy. It isn’t clear if a “consequence” would be loss of a specific job or perhaps revocation of credentials; or maybe the consequence the Bishop has in mind is that powerful, influential church members might stop contributing their money and their time.

What’s a minister to do? Preach and teach. A good start would be to remind people that marriage is much less about sex than it is about family. When two people marry they form a family. The officiant at a same-gender marriage is surely not thinking he is giving the couple permission to engage in sexual activity. That is also not what traditional, opposite gender marriage does. If the wedding takes place in a church, privileged guests participate in the legal formation of a family which has the blessing of the state as well as of the church. Already First United Methodist Church has affirmed the family status of Party A and Party B by including them in the Family section of the church directory. The church has welcomed their participation by accepting their gifts of time and of money. It is unbearably cruel for the church, in spite of all its language of acceptance, to deny same gender couples the right to participate in the important sacrament of marriage. In the case of my friend, Party A, and his partner, Party B, they have chosen to respond to that cruelty by abandoning the church altogether.

The next larger Church General Conference (perhaps not the exact title) will take place in 2012. While leaders continue to insist that the church is “inclusive,” they will have four more years in which they inflict humiliation and pain on some of the very people they say they include in church fellowship. For enlightened people who stay with the church, it will be four more years of embarrassment that their church continues to be wrong in this important matter. The church's motto, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors," will continue to be a hollow promise.

Monday, July 28, 2008

________________________
I have asked my good friend Taylor Hill, a retired Presbyterian preacher, if I may use something he wrote to me recently. The subject of our e-mail conversation was “preaching.”

“It is amazing how irrelevant preachers can be.  I am listening again to my favorite mentor of preaching, Fred Craddock, who quotes Dr. Don Browning, Professor Emeritus of Chicago Divinity School.  Browning’s definition of a sermon, or preaching, is engaging the congregation in a conversation with the text.  He sees preaching as a three way conversation:  that between the preacher and the congregation (getting to know them, weddings, baptisms, funerals, and just listening), a conversation between the preacher and the text, which takes many hours of study, and finally, during the sermon itself, enabling the congregation to have a conversation with the text.  It is a lot of hard work but it keeps us honest and I believe that is what we are called to do as preachers.”
________________________

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kaunos Second Century Church in Turkey
ABOUT RELIGION AND THE CHURCH
A CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF

--from the Union Tribune Special Report, July 13, 2008

“If you think paying $4.50 a gqllon for gasoline is too much, think again. A growing chorus of economists and market analysts warns that prices could hit $7 a gallon by 2010. Some say prices could shoot to $12 to $15 a gallon by 2013.”
--Dean Calbreath, Staff Writer

“Some people are already going into debt month by month, and now if their expenses were to increase substantially and they’re paying twice as much for their gas, something will have to give.”
--Dean Baker, Economist
Center for Economic Policy and Research

“This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

--T.S. Eliot
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I thought we were going to talk about religion... and the church. What does the price of gasoline have to do with the church?

MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE WHO WARM THE PEWS ARE AWARE, AND DEFINITELY MORE THAN ANYBODY HAS SAID IN ANY OF THE SERMONS I’VE HEARD LATELY. A RECENT SUNDAY MORNING SERMON WAS A CONGLOMERATION OF TEXTS, IMAGES, AND IDEAS. LISTENERS WERE ASKED TO PICTURE JACOB BEING BORN HOLDING ONTO THE HEAL OF HIS TWIN ESAU. THE CONGREGATION WAS REMINDED THAT JACOB TRADED A BOWL OF SOUP FOR HIS BROTHER’S BIRTHRIGHT. ESAU WAS THE FIRST BORN BY ONLY A FEW SECONDS. TRADITION DICTATED THAT THE BIRTHRIGHT WAS HIS EVEN IF HE WAS BORN ONLY MINUTES BEFORE HIS BROTHER. BOTH OF THESE STORIES COULD BE THE BASIS FOR MEANINGFUL SERMONS.

I still don’t see what any of that has to do with the price of gasoline.

WHAT I’M TRYING TO GET AT IS THAT THE TWO STORIES PRESENTED POWERFUL IMAGES, BUT IN THE SERMON THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF ANYTHING; THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STORIES WASN’T CLEAR. FAILING TO MAKE CLEAR THE IMPLICATIONS OF THESE OLD TESTAMENT STORIES, THE PREACHER MOVED ON TO ANOTHER STRIKING IMAGE, THIS TIME THE STORY FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT. A FARMER IS PLANTING HIS SEEDS IN SPRINGTIME. HE WALKS AROUND SCATTERING SEEDS FIRST ON A WORN PATH TOO HARD FOR THEM TO TAKE ROOT AND THEN HE FLINGS THE SEEDS AMONG ROCKS AND THORNS. FINALLY THE SOWER SCATTERS THE REMAINING SEEDS ONTO GOOD SOIL WHERE THEY CAN TAKE ROOT AND GROW INTO A CROP THAT CAN BE HARVESTED.

You obviously didn’t get the preacher’s point... What’s yours?

MAYBE THE PREACHER’S INTENTION WAS TO LET EACH CONGREGANT PICK ONE OF THE THREE STORIES AND BUILD HIS OWN SERMON. INSTANT SERMON: JUST ADD WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BELIEVE AND MIX WITH YOUR OLD IDEAS AND PREJUDICES. ACTUALLY HE DID MENTION SCARCITY SOMEWHERE IN THERE, AND FOR A MINUTE I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BECOME A SIGNIFICANT IDEA... I THINK IT WAS IN RELATION TO THE STORY OF ESAU SELLING HIS BIRTHRIGHT. I ADMIT THAT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A STRETCH FOR HIM TO HAVE MENTIONED THE RISING COST OF GASOLINE.

Will you get to the point!

WHAT’S MY POINT? IT’S THIS: THE PEOPLE WHO COME TO CHURCH IN 2008 NEED MORE THAN FAMILIAR DISCONNECTED STORIES AND IMAGES. OF COURSE, THE STORIES HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT IN THE PAST; THEY ARE IMPORTANT NOW AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE IMPORTANT. THEY CAN BE USEFUL IN CONSTRUCTING A VISION STATEMENT FOR THE CHURCH IN THIS TIME OF CHANGE. THE NEXT FIVE YEARS ARE CERTAIN TO BE A DEFINING TIME FOR THE CHURCH. AMERICAN CULTURE AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE QUICKLY AND DRAMATICALLY. IF GASOLINE IS INDEED $14-A-GALLON JUST FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, EVERYTHING ELSE OUR CONSUMER SOCIETY CONSUMES WILL HAVE GONE UP IN PRICE AS WELL. PERSONAL AND CIVIL SERVICES WILL COST MORE. IT’S SIGNIFICANT THAT WE CALL WHAT HAPPENS IN CHURCH ON SUNDAY MORNING BY THE NAME OF “SERVICE.” SUNDAY SERVICES COME AT A PRICE. THAT PRICE IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. INEVITABLY, THE SERVICE WILL CHANGE.

You make it sound as if the world as we know it is coming to an end. Millions of people in the world have already been coping with shortages for a long time. Millions go to bed hungry every night. You’ve often expressed concern about the flood of homeless people spreading into our part of the world. The streets of San Diego are full of them. Vacant spaces aren’t vacant any more. These aren’t new conditions. The big world outside our little paradise has had millions of people in it who have been homeless for a long time. China and India didn’t grow to make up almost half the world’s population overnight. We’ve seen this time coming. Scarcity of food and shelter has been a way of life even for some Americans for a long time. Churches and schools have been going on with their programs with these conditions all around them. The church has managed to survive in past times of change. So what’s different this time. Why is this the end?

I PREFER TO THINK OF IT AS A BEGINNING. IN THE BEGINNING AN INSTITUTION LIKE THE CHURCH HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO REINVENT ITSELF. A BEGINNING IS A PERFECT TIME TO RETHINK EVERYTHING, TO DEVELOP A VISION STATEMENT THAT IS RELEVANT TO NEW CONDITIONS.

Churches and other institutions have been playing the vision development game for a long time, too. There’s nothing new in that.

TO HAVE VISION IS TO BE ABLE TO SEE. ANOTHER DEFINITION IS TO BE ABLE TO THINK ABOUT AND TO PLAN THE FUTURE WITH IMAGINATION AND WISDOM. OUR CULTURE IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. DOESN’T IT MAKE SENSE TO TRY TO LOOK AHEAD, TO HAVE VISION, TO PLAN THE FUTURE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. SHOULDN'T THE CHURCH TAKE THE LEAD IN TRYING TO SEE WHAT THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO BECOME AND WHAT OUR CULTURE WILL BECOME AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THESE DRAMATIC CHANGES?

You keep using the word “culture.” What do you mean by culture anyway?

THE SHORTEST AND CLEAREST DEFINITION OF “CULTURE” IS THIS: CULTURE IS THE WAY PEOPLE LIVE.

The way people live is always changing. It was changing even before we approached this new developing energy crisis. Many people have been living in a new place called cyber space for several years now. The Internet has changed and is continuing to change dramatically the way we all live. Cyber space is not theoretical. It’s real. Some people spend a lot of real time there. As a matter of fact, it’s the place where you and I are having this conversation. It’s not a park bench or a coffee shop, but it’s real. But let’s get back to the church and the price of gasoline.

O.K. LET’S TRY AGAIN. I THINK THE CHURCH WILL FIND ITSELF WITHOUT SOME OF THE RESOURCES IT HAS HAD IN THE PAST. IT’S A MATTER OF TIME AND MONEY. THE CHURCH AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT NEEDS BOTH. BOTH RESOURCES ARE LIKELY TO BECOME SCARCE. PEOPLE WHO HAVE SUPPORTED THE CHURCH MAY FIND THEMSELVES WITHOUT AS MUCH DISCRETIONARY TIME AND AS MUCH DISCRETIONARY INCOME AS THEY HAVE HAD IN THE PAST. AT FOURTEEN DOLLARS A GALLON FOR GASOLINE, A TRIP TO THE CHURCH WILL COST THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS IT COSTS NOW. IT’S MY GUESS THAT PEOPLE WON’T SPEND AS MUCH OF THEIR DISCRETIONARY TIME AT CHURCH AS THEY HAVE IN THE PAST. BECAUSE OTHER COSTS OF LIVING WILL INCREASE, PEOPLE MAY FIND THEY HAVE LESS DISCRETIONARY MONEY; AND BECAUSE THEY WILL BE SPENDING LESS TIME AT THE CHURCH, THEY MAY CHOOSE WAYS OF SPENDING DISCRETIONARY MONEY OTHER THAN GIVING IT TO THE CHURCH.

Maybe a little review of the history of the church would be useful. Christianity was born into a world in which religion was already well established. Most people in the ancient world believed there was a world that exists parallel to the world of humans, a world where gods and other supernatural beings lived and could, if they chose to do so, change conditions and events in the world of man. They believed in the existence of a power, or of powers, that controlled human destiny. For hundreds of years before the first century A.D. everybody except a few philosophers believed these supernatural powers were invisible, superhuman, and eternal. They believed the supernatural powers had to be worshiped and placated by prayer, ritual and sacrifice. The earth was thought to be the center of the universe. Around it the sun and moon and stars were thought to revolve. Somewhere above the earth was heaven and below it was an abode of departed spirits or of the powers of wickedness. The “laws of nature” had not yet been conceived, and people believed that everything that happens in nature was the work of invisible powers of good and evil. The powers of good and evil were entities, personalities, who could use the forces of nature to bless and favor or to damn and destroy. For early humans the world was a place visited by innumerable spirits, righteous and malevolent, who touched human lives in all its aspects. These spirits were thought to be able to enter into and control human beings for good and evil, so it was reasonable to be suspicious of everybody, even neighbors and family members.

NOW IT’S MY TURN TO ASK, “WHAT ARE YOU GETTING AT?” WHAT HAS EARLY HISTORY GOT TO DO WITH THE COMING CRISIS?

Of course, we know much more today about the universe and the way the natural world works, but people who attend church on Sunday mornings are often being addressed from the pulpit as if they know little more about why and how things happen in the natural world than did people who lived three thousand years ago. For early human beings coping with a natural world which they thought to be managed by spirits who mostly cared very little for their long-term welfare left them with a profound sense of unworthiness, of dissatisfaction with the conditions of life that characterized the mass of mankind as they knew it. It was out of these conditions that religions were born. The Christian church was born in such a world. The foundation religions on which Christianity was built came out of such a world. To a great extent, the church in all its permutations over the centuries has continued to reflect the ancient, primitive world. Despite what we now know about natural laws, even today many devout church people order their lives around notions based in a belief that there are powers of good and evil that must be placated by worship, prayer and ritual. They apparently believe that there are certain things they must do in order to keep the supernatural powers on their side. They ask the church to assist them in performing the necessary magic. If they are unsuccessful in getting the world to order itself according to their magical thinking, they expect bad things to happen.

WELL, BAD THINGS DO HAPPEN. THAT’S PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITION. IT’S HOW WE RESPOND TO THE BAD THINGS THAT MAKES US NOBLE OR NOT. WE DO INDEED NEED SOMETHING FROM THE CHURCH, AND WHAT WE NEED HAS BEEN IN SHORT SUPPLY FOR QUITE A WHILE. WE NEED VISION, NOT THE APOCALYPTIC KIND THAT SOME PEOPLE GET FROM THE BOOK OF “REVELATION.”

I agree, and so did the writer of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish. Without vision the Christian church may not survive. Without reasoned prophetic vision, perhaps the church shouldn’t survive. It will only get in the way. We need to be able to see as clearly as possible what American culture will look like in the future, and we need to gain a sense of what the church should look like in order to be relevant to that future time. That’s vision. The history of the Christian church is a story of survival, of change and survival in spite of or because of changes in the way people live.

WE'VE GOT MORE TO TALK ABOUT ON THIS SUBJECT. I'LL SEE YOU ANOTHER DAY.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today I had difficulty deciding which of a couple of photographs to choose for my photo du jour. Both photographs have good stories that go with them, so I decided to use this one of Dave and his new car for the BLOG. The story that goes with this photograph should be told.

Dave drove his new car to our regular Wednesday morning meeting for coffee. In an earlier BLOG I wrote about the marriage of Dave and his partner Clyde. He told me that he hadn’t received his new license plates, and he proudly showed me how he had written “Just Married” in the spot where the license plate will go. We went into the shop for coffee, had a nice hour-long discussion at an outside table, and then he left for work.

A couple minutes after Dave had left the table, he came running back... big smile... holding a note from a yellow steno pad. The note said simply, “CONGRATULATIONS.” The page had been folded around an ARCO gift card worth $50. The note wasn’t signed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My very good friend, Bob Smith, sent me the following paragraph in response to the Conversation With Myself Blog entry (You'll see why E. E. Cummings poem came immediately to mind):

I too don't get it! The blog about marriage is very good, "A Conversation..." and the straight/crooked thing is so on target. What the Hell!!! We're born, grow up, explore ourselves, date, touch and get touched, get married or not, make career choices, live our lives to the best of our abilities, live in our heads, the lucky ones in our hearts, love one and more than one, partner(v), divorce, partner(v) again, laugh, cry, dance, read, write, talk on the phone, email, blog, recite pledges, honor them or not, try to live resolutely, get sidetracked, get back on track, walk the straight and narrow sometimes usually an hour at a time, most times not, help others, get in their way too, go our own way, walk alone, walk with others, fight, make up, make up some more just for the fun of it, tickle and get tickled, have friends over, cook and eat great food, enjoy preludes, uncork wine and empty the bottle, get crazy good crazy, guard pools, swim in them, celebrate the night and the mornings and the afternoons, it's life we live and if we're fortunate (& smart) we live it together with people we love passionately. What else is there? Who needs to write rules? It has nothing to do with "rights" it's what it is...life and love!
anyone lived in a pretty how town
 
by E. E. Cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Senator Obama spoke to LA RASA yesterday at the Convention Center in San Diego. Today it was Senator McCain’s turn. What a circus! Both days the demonstrations outside the center were dominated by a cluster of unattractive people alternately lining up near the front door, huddling together for news cameras, and marching around waving American flags while ranting about what is wrong with America that nobody but God can fix. With ugly scowls and vicious language they cursed America for drinking wine and eating cheese and watching ball games and sports tournaments while America goes to hell. It was interesting that that they screamed only what they see as wrong with America. They offered no constructive suggestions. I think I already said they are ugly, ugly Americans. Even scowling, ugly Americans with nothing positive to say about anybody are fortune to live in a country where free speech is guaranteed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Wedding Day
David Miles and David Higgins
Sunday 29 June 2008
Tony Freeman, officiating


CEREMONY

Tony to All
Dear Family and Friends, we are gathered here today to recognize and celebrate the union of two lives. We have come so that David and David, who already have been sharing their lives together for many years, may be legally united in marriage. This hallowed tradition is not to be entered into lightly, but with certainty, mutual respect, and a sense of reverence and richest happiness.

Tony to David and David
David and David, as you know I am performing this Wedding today. But, only by a mutual commitment to love each other, to work towards creating an atmosphere of care, consideration, and respect, and by a willingness to face the tensions and anxieties that underlie human life, can you continue to make your united lives thrive.
Your love for one another and your willingness to accept each other’s strong points and weaknesses with understanding and respect already has built the foundation for your already strong long-term partnership. Continue to respect your individual outlooks. Share your thoughts, experiences and dreams with one another. Cherish the intimacy and understanding that comes with the passage of time. As you enter this marriage your belief is that it symbolizes to you both a partnership between equal individuals with common goals, hopes, and dreams that will continue to give your lives special meaning and fulfillment.
Today, as there is a long history behind you of a joyful and full life together, there is also a vast unknown future stretching out before you. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. But it is a great tribute to your faith in each other that you are willing to face these uncertainties together. May the love with which you celebrate today with joined hearts and hands never fail, but grow deeper and surer with every year you spend together.

Tony to Guests
We gather today at an historic moment for California and a hopeful time for the country. Friends and family who are here today bear witness to both. Change is coming; change brought us here today. What better way to mark new beginnings than with this celebration.
It would be na├»ve to ignore the significance of today’s event. We are here to witness the marriage of David and David, who you already know as loving partners, but for whom this simple and traditional expression of commitment has been unavailable - until now.
Today as we celebrate this union we celebrate a political landmark and social victory, but we also celebrate our friends and family. David and David have specifically asked me to acknowledge that those of you present today are here for a reason – you are the family and friends who have supported them, loved them, embraced them and helped define their relationship as meaningful even before our laws did.
Look around, be proud; appreciate yourselves for your courage and forward thinking and the example you set by the lives you lead. Take with you today a renewed sense of what the power of love means and how it can truly transform lives and change the world we live in.

Reading (Jerral Miles)

To My Friend (author unknown)
I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but also for what you are making of me. I love you because you have done more than any creed could have done to make me good, and more than any fate could have done to make me happy. You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign. You have done it by being yourself. Perhaps that is what being a friend means, after all.


Excerpt from The Bridge Across Forever (Richard Bach)
A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.


Vows [Tony to David and David]
David Jerral, take David’s hand and repeat this vow to him after me:
I David, Jerral take you David Robert, / to be my partner in life. / As I always have I will cherish our friendship and love / today, / tomorrow, / and forever. / I will trust you / and honor you. / I will love you faithfully / through the best / and the worst, / through the difficult / and the easy / with good dogs and bad dogs. / Whatever may come / I will always be there. / As I have given you my hand to hold, / so I continue to give you my life to keep. / So help me God.

David Robert, take David’s hand and repeat this vow to him after me:
I David Robert, take you David Jerral, / to be my partner in life. / As I always have I will cherish our friendship and love / today, / tomorrow, / and forever. / I will trust you / and honor you. / I will love you faithfully / through the best / and the worst, / through the difficult / and the easy / with good dogs and bad dogs. / Whatever may come / I will always be there. / As I have given you my hand to hold, / so I continue to give you my life to keep. / So help me God.


Proclamation [Tony]
Now that David and David, by these solemn vows, have affirmed their relationship publicly and legally, I pronounce that these two are partners in marriage!
You may now kiss.
Go in peace and may God bless.

Tony to All
Please join us now for a champagne toast before the food is served. David and David will be pouring and passing out glasses of champagne.

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ANOTHER CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF...

from Labor Law Talk Web site: www.laborlawtalk.com/showthread.php?t=6231

"Overall "official" divorce rate is approximately 57% ... those figures
are manipulated by excluding high divorce rate states like California
from the statistics, so the real national divorce rate is more likely in
the 65 to 75 % range . Why get married when there is a two-thirds chance that marriage will end in divorce?"

WITH THE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF MANY WEDDINGS PLANNED BETWEEN NOW AND THE FIRST TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER, I’VE BEEN WANTING TO TALK ABOUT SAME GENDER MARRIAGES THAT ARE BEING ESTABLISHED IN CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH. I WAS “WEDDING COMMISSIONER” FOR DAVE ANDREWS AND CLYDE YOSHIDA IN JUNE. OF COURSE, I ENJOYED THE WEDDING OF MY SON DAVID AND HIS PARTNER, ALSO DAVID, ON THE SAME DAY. BOTH COUPLES HAD LIVED TOGETHER AS DOMESTIC PARTNERS FOR A LONG TIME BEFORE THEY WERE MARRIED. SINCE JUNE 29 THEY ARE LIVING TOGETHER AS SPOUSES. THEY ARE LAWFULLY MARRIED. THE BIG QUESTION IS THIS: “IN WHAT WAYS DO THEY NOW AS LAWFULLY MARRIED COUPLES ENDANGER THE MARRIAGES OF HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES ANY MORE THAN DID THEIR COMMITTED RELATIONSHIPS AS DOMESTIC PARTNERS? THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA HAS SANCTIONED REGISTERED DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS FOR SEVERAL YEARS. I'M NOT AWARE OF ANY HARM THAT HAS COME TO OPPOSITE GENDER MARRIAGES BECAUSE OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS OF PERSONS OF THE SAME GENDER. WHERE IS THE NEW DANGER?

Whether or not couples of the same gender are allowed to be married, marriages of straight couples are obviously very fragile. More than fifty percent of them end in divorce. If over half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, it’s a pretty safe bet than many of those couples who stay together don’t consider their marriages to be happy. Many would probably describe their marriages as satisfactory relationships but not particularly happy ones. Everybody knows couples who stay married even if they are no longer happy. Divorce is inconvenient and usually complicated. The fact that two people of the same gender have been living together in the same city or the same neighborhood probably has nothing at all to do with the stability of the marriages of straight people.

THIS IS A BIT OF AN ASIDE, BUT I MUST SAY THAT I DON’T LIKE THE TERM “STRAIGHT” TO IDENTIFY PERSONS AS HETEROSEXUAL. THE TERM IMPLIES THAT HOMOSEXUALS ARE “CROOKED.” I THINK I’LL TRY TO STOP USING “STRAIGHT” IN THE CONTEXT OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS.

O.K., but what does that have to do with same gender marriages and whether or not they threaten the institution of marriage as it has been defined by state and federal laws? You have a habit of moving off the subject into hair splitting tangents.

RIGHT. IT’S WAS JUST AN ASIDE; SO LET’S GET BACK TO THE ISSUE. WHY SHOULD A WOMAN WHO LIVES IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD OBJECT TO MY SON’S MARRIAGE? ALL OF HER CHILDREN ARE MARRIED. WE CELEBRATED WITH HER THE MARRIAGES OF HER CHILDREN. HOW DOES MY SON’S MARRIAGE TO A GOOD, HONORABLE MAN THREATEN OR DENIGRATE OR WEAKEN THE BONDS OF MARRIAGE THAT HOLD HER CHILDREN’S MARRIAGES TOGETHER? I DON’T GET IT.

You’re not being honest, or perhaps you’re being coy., Of course you get it. You're suspicious when people say they are simply interested in preserving traditional values in our society by insisting that laws be enacted to bring everybody into line with their own private belief systems. For more than a century religious groups infiltrated into a major political party provided the “reasons” for keeping women from voting and for disallowing marriage between people of different races. They also provided the arguments used to justify separate drinking fountains for “colored” and “white” people. I remember seeing those separate drinking fountains and separate restrooms in the South when I was a boy. People who deny civil rights to any citizen are bigots. Don’t try to make it nice. Bigotry isn’t nice. Bigots hurt people. Bigotry hurts people. It’s the result of blind but willful ignorance.

MAYBE WE’VE STRAYED FROM THE SUBJECT. YOU’RE PAINTING WITH A BROAD BRUSH. WE ARE TALKING HERE ABOUT A SPECIFIC CIVIL INSTITUTION THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO ESTABLISH WHILE OTHERS ARE DENIED THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO. WHAT CONCEIVABLY COULD BE THE DANGER IN ALLOWING SAME GENDER COUPLES TO ESTABLISH MARRIAGES? PERHAPS WE SHOULD REDEFINE MARRIAGE, MAKE A NEW MEANING FOR THE WORD. WE COULD RESERVE “MARRIAGE” FOR USE IN RELIGIOUS CONTEXTS; LET THE PHRASE “DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP” BE THE TERM WE USE TO DESCRIBE CIVIL UNIONS OF ALL COUPLES WHO ARE MARRIED WITHOUT BLESSING OR ANY INVOLVEMENT BY A CHURCH OR A REPRESENTATIVE OF A CHURCH. PERHAPS “MARRIAGE” SHOULD NO LONGER BE USED TO DESCRIBE THE CIVIL RELATIONSHIP EVEN OF PERSONS OF OPPOSITE SEX. THEY WOULD BE DOMESTIC PARTNERS IF THEIR UNION IS NOT ESTABLISHED BY A CHURCH. LET THE CHURCH HAVE "MARRIAGE" FOR ITS EXCLUSIVE ECCLESIASTICAL USE. UNDER SUCH A SYSTEM WE WOULD NEVER USE THE WORD “MARRIAGE” TO DESCRIBE A COUPLE OF OPPOSITE GENDER OR SAME SEX WHO WISH TO LIVE TOGETHER IN DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP. A LEGAL PRECIDENT HAS ALREADY BEEN ESTABLISHED. DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP IS THE ONLY DESIGNATION ALLOWED FOR UNIONS OF SAME SEX COUPLES IN MOST STATES, AND BEFORE JUNE OF THIS YEAR IT WAS THE ONLY DESIGNATION ALLOWED SAME SEX COUPLES IN CALIFORNIA.

You’re suggesting that the word “marriage” to be stricken from all legal civil documents? I get it. The principal argument for keeping same gender couples from “marriage” seems to be based on religious scriptures. You’re saying the word “marriage,” like the word “sacrament,” could be limited strictly to religious contexts. You're saying states should discontinue altogether their use of “marriage” and substitute “domestic partnership” for both same gender and opposite gender couples in all legal documents referring to civil unions that we have traditionally called “marriages,” Maybe that would satisfy bigots.

I DOUBT IT. I MADE THE ARGUMENT, AND NOW I’M BACKING OUT. ANY COUPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO SO SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO USE "MARRIAGE" TO DESCRIBE THEIR LEGAL, CIVIL RELATIONSHIP. COMPROMISING WITH BIGOTS DOESN'T SOLVE PROBLEMS. BIGOTS ARE NEVER SATISFIED BY COMPROMISE. IGNORANCE IS DISPELLED ONLY BY ENLIGHTENMENT, AND ENLIGHTENMENT CAN’T BE FORCED. CHANGING THE USE OF THE WORD “MARRIAGE” FROM SECULAR TO EXCLUSIVELY RELIGIOUS USES WOULD SURELY NOT SATISFY BIGOTS. BIGOTS WHO WANT TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AREN’T SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND OR TO BE ENLIGHTENED. A NATION OF LAWS IS ESTABLISHED, OR CONSTITUTED, UNDER A SECULAR CONSTITUTION NOT UNDER A SET OF RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES. IN MOST ISLAMIC COUNTRIES SHARIA, OR ISLAMIC LAW, INFLUENCES THE LEGAL CODE. I DON'T KNOW ANY AMERICANS WHO WANT SHARIA LAW AS A BASIS OF LAW IN THE UNITED STATES. IT MAKES NO SENSE TO INSIST THAT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BE THE BASIS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. LET’S HOPE THE MAJORITY OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ARE NOT BIGOTS.David Miles and David Higgins

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

CLICK ON AN IMAGE TO SEE IT BIGGERLIZ RESPESS has a yard full of beautiful flowers, none more spectacular than this Gloriosa lily. These images of the lily seem appropriate for Independence Day. No fireworks display in San Diego on the Fourth of July will be more spectacular than this flower.