Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Who can you trust?

This is from 365Gay on August 29th:
Barney Frank (D-Mass) one of only two openly gay members of Congress says that Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig should resist calls for his resignation.

"What he did, it’s hypocritical, but it’s not an abuse of his office in the sense that he was taking money for corrupt votes," Frank told the Associated Press.
"I think people should resign when they have clearly done the job in a way that is dishonest."

Frank went on to tell the AP: "It’s one thing to say that someone can’t be trusted to vote without being corrupt, it’s another to say that he can’t be trusted to go to the bathroom by himself."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beauties on the Beach

I saw two beautiful young men on the beach yesterday. I first saw them when they arrived at Two Mile Hollow Beach in East Hampton a little while after our arrival there, as they spread their blanket and stretched out about a hundred feet away. We go to Two Mile Hollow because it’s the gay beach, and the “scenery” is often very attractive. Our neighbors were outstanding examples. They couldn’t have been more than 20; one was fair, the other dark. I was particularly taken with him. He had movie star looks and a solid muscular body, which he showed off nicely in his low-riding surfer pants tightly covering his firm, round rear.
After a while, they got up and went into the fairly high waves. They tussled briefly and then played a game. One would step into the cupped hands of the other who would then flip him backwards and high into the cresting wave. After watching them play awhile, I fell asleep. When I awoke, it was time to go. The young beauties were now back on their blanket. As we passed, I saw that they were entwined in each others’ arms, fondling, and stroking, and kissing. This sight gave me great pleasure, and I smiled broadly when we were close to them. I think they saw me smiling at them. I hope so.
Why does this scene stay with me? It was sexually arousing certainly, but more than that, I sensed that I was seeing two lovers who were confident enough that they were in a safe and welcoming place to express their feelings openly. They probably knew they were on the gay beach and open displays of affection were fine. It made me happy that at least in one place – this sunny open beach – they could go where their feelings led them. For a moment, the beach was a bit of the Kingdom, where love reigned even for gay men in love.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum: an Anti-Government Film

We saw “The Bourne Ultimatum” last night. It’s a very entertaining, fast-and-furious thriller continuing the saga of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), a CIA agent who, having lost his memory, is desperately trying to recover it. His quest for his past is the driving force of this and all the Bourne movies. He is searching and on the run, not from standard-issue bad guys, but our own CIA, which is out to eliminate him, because he knows too much, is finding out too much, and will expose the agency’s criminal behavior.
The whole movie is an exciting chase with Bourne outwitting his pursuers at every turn. In his ability to survive the murderous campaign against him, he is essentially a supernatural character, a messiah saving us from our government.
I don’t remember another popular entertainment that so effectively showed the evil that is expressed in a secret, lawless government. Last summer’s James Bond epic, “Casino Royale,” in contrast, made no political statement. Indeed, James Bond always does the government’s bidding without a murmur. In “The Bourne Ultimatum,” Bourne realizes that he was duped into volunteering to serve his country and to “save American lives,” as his erstwhile mentor reminds him. Of course, instead, he has killed many people, each of whom, he says, he remembers. His memory is a grisly “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that torments him.
His volunteering is clearly meant to be emblematic of the trust shown by all the hapless souls now dead or still fighting our secret, lawless, futile wars. They, unlike Bourne, were not indestructible messiahs. For their trusting volunteering, they have achieved no “victory,” and for those who’ve died, we cling to the hope that they are in “the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22).
In the movies, we can relax and let Bourne be our messiah; in life, we should realize that we have work to do if our world is not to be destroyed by war and lawlessness. If we ask what we should do to help avert catastrophe, we can remember the rich man who, not finding himself in the bosom of Abraham, wanted Abraham to warn his brothers that living a heedless life like his would result in the torment of Hades. Abraham’s answer is good advice for us: “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” (Luke 16:29) I would add: Do what they urge us to do.
Unfortunately, Luke’s story does not end on a happy note. Abraham continues, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (v 31)
Our Messiah has come to us from the dead, we don’t listen to him, and so we’re on our own. Given our predicament, we need the luck of Bourne. Alas, I fear that’s only in the movies.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Naming the Dead

René Girard has described scapegoating sacrifice as, “a phenomenon that unbeknownst to us generates all human cultures and still warps our human vision in favor of all sorts of exclusions.” “Unbeknownst to us:” This is the key to the universal practice of scapegoating, in which a person or group is killed, while surrounded by the aura of the divine, to solve internal conflicts by uniting against the chosen victim. As S. Mark Heim points out in his book, “Saved from Sacrifice,” violence is done but, if the scapegoating is successful, none is perceived. Sacred killing does not register as killing because it is seen as a divine command, and, as in magic, our eyes are directed elsewhere at the moment of death, so scapegoating is “Unbeknownst to us.” The view and the voice of the victim are hidden from us.
Heim points out that, in contrast, in the Bible we come to hear the objections of the sacrificed. The voices of the victims are heard in the Psalms, the book of Job, the Prophets, and, of course, in the narratives of Jesus’ Passion, where redemptive violence is a sinful human construct for peacemaking, not a divine institution.
In her column, “Naming the dead,” in the July 24, 2007 issue of the “Christian Century,” Barbara Brown Taylor writes that she first encountered naming the war dead in church at a California monastery. She writes that our current war is “a touchy subject;” “to name the dead might be construed as a political statement; and “to say these names out loud, in the presence of God and God’s people, is not a matter of being for or against the war.”
However, naming the war dead is to make our scapegoats, those we would sacrifice for national unity, visible. Unlike Brown, I believe that once the dead are named, we must wrestle with the sacrifice of their deaths. We must wrestle with the politics of the war, whether we are for it and believe that the war deaths are justified or against it and believe that these deaths are a waste.
However we come down politically, it is telling that the Bush administration has worked hard to keep the war and the war dead invisible, thus lending credence to the idea that the war would be hard to justify if the costs and the deaths were made widely known. For example, the $456 billion that the war has cost so far has, until recently, been “off-budget” and thus effectively hidden. And, in his column in the “New York Times” on August 5, 2007, Frank Rich reminds us: “Mr. Bush created the template by doing everything possible to keep the sacrifice of American armed forces in Iraq off-camera, forbidding photos of coffins and skipping military funerals. That set the stage for the ensuing demonization of Ted Koppel, whose decision to salute the fallen by reading a list of their names in the spotlight of “Nightline” was branded unpatriotic by the right’s vigilantes.”
The crucifixion of Jesus was a political event undertaken, as Mark has it, “to satisfy the crowd.” However, with the resurrection, Jesus’ scapegoating became visible, and now he offers us “peace not as the world gives.” To receive this peace, we must renounce war and killing in war as a way to peace. As a start toward receiving Jesus’ peace, we must continue to make the war’s scapegoats, American, Iraqi, and Afghan, visible by naming them. As we become more aware of the deaths perpetrated in our name, we should be spurred to undertake the political work to end our wars and the scapegoating they entail.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Swedes on the March

Here is a news item of interest. If the Swedes can support gay people, why can’t others?

Church Leaders Join Stockholm Gay Pride March

by Newscenter Staff

Posted: August 5, 2007 - 11:00 am ET
(Stockholm) Swedish political and church leaders marched in Stockholm's LGBT pride parade Saturday, drawing large cheers and applause from thousands of people lining the streets of the capital.
About 30 members of the Swedish Lutheran Church, including the deans of the cathedrals of Stockholm and Uppsala. The Church is the largest denomination in the country.
In a statement the church said it wanted to "break the masses' big silence" regarding gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.
Representatives of the governing coalition and major opposition parties in Parliament also marched. The group included three cabinet ministers.
On Friday, Fredrik Reinfeldt became the first serving Swedish Prime Minister to take part in pride festivities when he toured a downtown park where pre-pride activities were taking place.
Close to 50,000 people marched in the parade while about a half-million people lined streets.
Prior to the march police and health officials advised people to bring plenty of drinking water to the parade as temperatures climbed into the 90s.
Earlier this year an international study of attitudes towards gays found Sweden the most the most welcoming country for gays.
Early next year it is expected Parliament will approve a same-sex marriage bill.
Sweden already has civil partnerships under a law enacted in 1995 that gives most of the rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples who register. But the country's LGBT community and moderate politicians have stepped up lobbying to have the law amended to permit gays and lesbians to marry.
A parliamentary committee studying the issue last year called civil partnerships outdated and has recommended Parliament allow same-sex marriage. It also would allow gay couples to marry in churches.
The Swedish Lutheran Church has said once the bill is approved it will conduct same-sex marriages in its churches.
© 2007