Blair to Pope – Use Your Brain, Man!

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has a message for the pope – time to ditch the church’s official homophobia!

“We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith,” Blair told Attitude magazine, a publication targeted at gay people.

During Blair’s premiership, Britain enacted legislation introducing civil partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples legal recognition of their relationships, allowing them the same rights in areas like work, pensions and inheritance as heterosexual couples.

Asked about the pope’s comments on homosexuality — he has in the past suggested that it is as much of a threat to the survival of humanity as climate change — Blair replied that “there is a huge generational difference here.”

“And there’s probably that same fear amongst religious leaders that if you concede ground on an issue like this, because attitudes and thinking evolve over time, where does that end?

“You’d start having to rethink many, many things.”

Blair recently became a Catholic. Hopefully he can have some positive influence in the church!

Let’s Hear it for Vermont!

Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize same-gender marriage. The legislature the governor’s veto by a decisive margin:

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It’s now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

Now, will a warm weather state step up to the plate and do the right thing???

HRC’s Harry Knox Appointed to Faith-Based Advisory Council

This is good news for the whole GLBT community! Harry is faithful and compassionate man.

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, announced today that HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox will join the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an interfaith council of religious and secular leaders and scholars. The council will be comprised of 25 members, each appointed to serve a one-year term.

“I am humbled by the invitation to join President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships,” said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program. “I hope this council will draw upon the richness of our unique perspectives to advise the president on policies that will improve the lives of all the people we have been called to serve. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people.”

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on February 5 to establish the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Led by Joshua Dubois, the office was created to allow religious and community leaders to make policy recommendations to the President’s Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

To learn more about the Religion & Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, visit: www.hrc.org/religion.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Gay Marriage Isn’t New, it’s Tradition

People who argue against same-gender marriage as some new-fangled perversion of marriage don’t know their history very well.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Read the whole article and don’t let the homophobes tell you God doesn’t bless same-gender marriage.

Soap Goes Gay Christian in Britain

Looks like the British soap opera Coronation Street will be getting a lesbian character – but not just any old lesbian character – this one will be a Christian lesbian!

Sophie Webster, a 16-year-old character, may begin the relationship with another girl from her Bible study group, the source told a national newspaper.

The source said: “The show’s bosses want to create a soap representative of society in 2009.

“They are acutely aware that they need more gay characters and that they need to tackle more gay issues.”

This is the latest soap to portray a clash between Christian beliefs and homosexuality in a bid to reflect the reality of modern Britain.

I’m sure they’ll have characters trotting out the “abomination” arguments from the Bible. Wish we could see it here in the states to see how they handle it, but perhaps our cousins across the pond will keep us informed.

Around the ‘Net

Here are some stories you may have missed:

Christian Family Fights Adoption by Gay Couple – what, the gay couple can’t be a “Christian family”? Not when Christianity Today writes the headline, apparently.

E-Harmony sets up a new dating service just for gays and lesbians after a lawsuit – now there’s a new lawsuit, saying that new site equates to “separate but equal.”

Religious reaction (pro and con) to the Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-gender marriage in that state.

In all the excitment over Iowa, you may have missed the news that Sweden legalized same-gender marriage on April Fool’s day – but it’s no joke!

Finally the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the The Presbyterian Church (USA) is working on granting ordination to gay and lesbian clergy, without that ridiculous “celibacy” clause.

Should Liberal Christians Compromise?

The latest Internet brouhaha has been the apparent “rift” between progressive or more centrist Christians and the religious left. In my latest post over at Religion Dispatches I make the case that liberal Christians can stand their ground with compassion – just like that guy Jesus did.

Here’s an excerpt:

Those in the more centrist progressive camp seem quick to sell their liberal souls for a little piece of “common ground” and “political privilege” on issues like abortion—arguing for “abortion reduction” while often sacrificing unfettered abortion rights for women. Or, forsaking their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters altogether as Jim Wallis and other politically privileged “progressive” Christians are doing. What motivates the search for “common ground”? Are those on the religious left really seeking systemic equity or are they simply seeking to “establish a private kingdom of self-service”? It’s a question that needs to be seriously considered.

Read the full article here.

Getting Touchy With the Queen

My, don’t we get odd about personal boundaries! The first African-American First Lady put her arm around the Queen, during last week’s presidential visit to Great Britain, and people went into spasms.

Would the same brouhaha have ensued had Michelle Obama been White? I may be told I’m “making something out of nothing,” but I don’t think so.

Witnesses say Her Majesty initiated the contact. Actually, though Mrs. Obama had her arm around the Queen’s shoulders, the Queen had her hand on Mrs. Obama’s rear end. Can you just imagine the hysteria if the situation had been reversed?

Doubtless the difference in positioning resulted from the fact that one was much taller than the other, but had the Queen been the taller of the two, this would scarcely have sufficed, in the minds of the shriekers, as an excuse.

There’s an easy resolution to this. Buckingham Palace says protocol does not mandate that Her Majesty is untouchable. But we’ve had a couple days of sheer silliness, all the same.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks always feel that we must tread carefully, too. We are forever on guard lest we touch someone in a way that creeps them out — however innocent, on our part, it might be. We must watch what we say, and even how we look at straight people, lest they take it wrong.

Is the flap over the Obama-Windsor embrace “just one of those things” every First Lady must take with the territory? Maybe I’m too touchy, but I don’t think so. Remember the “terrorist fist-bump” panic after the Obamas’ love-tap during the campaign?

I don’t think the media need go out of their way to be politically correct, but thus far there’s been little evidence of oversensitivity on their part. They’re careful, but in their communication, there is still a subtle code.

The unmistakable drift is that a Black First Lady transgressed by getting uppity with the Brits’ precious White Queen.

We’re where the African-American community was fifty years ago. Politicians are still afraid to get too close to us, even rhetorically. President Obama himself sometimes seems to have that problem.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to dine with sinners, or even to touch lepers. Yet the fabulous Pope, in his Prada shoes, cannot bear to so much as utter a kind word about us. And the bishops, surrounded by the innocent young boys they’re now so determined to protect at any cost, throw us to the wolves instead of taking responsibility for the exploitation of children that, for so long, they condoned.

There are at least a few queens who can get as touchy as they want to. But as for us, we’d better mind our manners.

Jesus, Interrupted

If you have a chance, I highly recommend that you pick up Bart Ehrman’s latest book “Jesus, Interrupted.” Ehrman’s last book “Misquoting Jesus” took on the mistakes (intended and not) that biblical scribes have made over the years and how its changed the text of the Bible. Here he takes on the many contradictions found in the text.

Salon has a great new interview with him. Here is an excerpt:

Ehrman’s new book, “Jesus, Interrupted,” will not lead many evangelicals and conservative Christians to invite him to talk to their Bible study groups. Picking up where “Misquoting Jesus” let off, it goes beyond the Bible’s textual problems to look at deeper doctrinal inconsistencies and contradictions. Ehrman points out that Mark and Luke had radically different attitudes toward Jesus’ death: Mark saw him as in doubt and despair on the way to the cross, while Luke saw him as calm. Mark and Paul saw Jesus’ death as offering an atonement for sin, while Luke did not. Matthew believed that Jesus’ followers had to keep the Jewish law to enter the kingdom of Heaven, a view categorically rejected by Paul. The conventional response to this is to try to “harmonize” the Bible by smashing all four Gospels together. But as Ehrman argues, this only creates a bogus “fifth Gospel” that doesn’t exist.

Ehrman’s critique is far from over. He points out that many of the books in the New Testament were not even written by their putative authors: only eight of its 27 books are almost certain to have been written by the people whose names are attached to them. He writes that scholars have tended to avoid the word “forged” because of its negative connotations, but argues convincingly that much of the Bible is, in fact, forged.

Sanctity of Marriage? Not So Much …

A German woman is divorcing her husband – because he’s too clean. No joke:

BERLIN (Reuters) — A German woman has divorced her husband because she was fed up with him cleaning all the time.

German media reported the wife got through 15 years of marriage putting up with the man’s penchant for doing household chores, tidying up and rearranging the furniture.

He can come and clean my house – no strings attached!