Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gay Marriage - We have the right, just not the acceptance

It was suggested in the comment section of this blog entry:
http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/sexandgender/2203/religion_largely_absent_in_proposition_8_trial/?comments=view&cID=6131#c6131
that we might consider accepting the term "civil unions" instead of "marriage" as queer people, as long as we have all of the same rights, in order to mollify the opponents who just can't seem to get over this.


Rachel Maddow has recently pointed out on her show that the idea of gay marriage used to be considered a conservative initiative among gay activists.  Heck, I remember even twenty years ago people debating whether assimilation was a good thing.  Screw the straight society, we'll do our own thing.  Why should we fight to be accepted?  Why give them that much power?


I agree with that, to be honest.  However, that's me.  And at the same time, I'm kind of a mellow person nowadays.  I don't have as much fire as I did when I was 21, just out of the closet, and newly angry about all that I was learning about gay history.  By fire, I mean, "energy to fight."  Yeah, I'm still angry, and obviously I still speak out as much as ever.  But I'm also focused on other, more enriching things in my life. Vocation.  Spirituality.  Personal happiness.  Connecting with others.  Wouldn't mind a bit of romance either.


Because I've pretty much decided to coexist with the  filthy masses, I want the already existent right for us to get married to be recognized legally.  Every law which says we cannot get married is as unconstitutional as the Jim Crow laws, the laws against interracial marriage, and those enforcing racial segregation.  It's already there.  The fight is not to obtain equal rights.  We must fight to get the institutions to do what they are supposed to do when we exercise those rights.  It's not that we don't have the right to marriage; it's that the courts won't sign off on them.  It's not that we don't have the right to sign up to be in the military; it's that they won't let us in the door if we admit who we are.


I know we're "supposed" to be friends, but frankly, we have enemies right now.  They've been given power through the institutions of power-granting which exist in our country.  At the very least, we can disobey them.  Their behaviors are unconstitutional.  The sickening irony is that we have to go to the courts, which are part of a society behaving unconstitutionally.


What do I mean by disobedience?


We get married and a queer minister signs off on it. We submit it to the state.  No matter what they do or say, we claim spousal status on our tax forms.  Whenever we have to declare single or married, we declare "married," on any form whatsoever.


Does this have the potential to threaten our livelihoods, to get us jailed and harassed by the law?  Yes.  They would do this to us unconstitutionally.  We bring this to the courts over and over until they buckle or get responsible judges.


Who am I to even advocate such things?  I am nobody.  I don't even really advocate them.  If you did it and were to suffer because of it, and I advocated it, I would feel guilty.  That's my personality.  So no, I'm not advocating.  I wish to preserve my own happiness.  It's something I might be willing to do if I met someone and fell in love and he agreed to take such actions with me.  If you choose to do it, it's because you choose to do it.


Self-responsibility is the only way to live anyway, right?


I do think the current methods of fighting for gay marriage and other recognitions are fine too.  They are safer and will eventually be effective, if what we currently see happening continues.


Anyway, here is the response I posted to the idea that we accept "civil unions" instead of marriage, in order to mollify the masses:


I appreciate your desire to be find a win-win, but I for one cannot get past the "separate but equal" thing. Most of us were raised in a culture - overtly or not - which repeatly emphasized (still does actually) what a huge deal marriage is to the community. When you get married, there are kudos galore; it's akin to getting pregnant, and beyond the public congratulations of something much harder, like graduating. So basically we grow up being taught that marriage is THE thing, that we'll find that "right boy" or "right girl" someday, and we'll get the rings and the fancy outfits and the cake and the dancing and the toasts and gifts and the weeping mothers and proud fathers. Then we figure out we're gay, and we slowly understand that no, we don't get that. We have to settle for civil unions. Goodie.

See, I'm not willing to sacrifice our equality to mollify anyone. I don't necessarily want a big wedding with all the trimmings, unless I find that "right guy" someday who DOES want it. With or without the trimmings, I DO want it to be called a marriage.

Peace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sharing vs. Debate on Haiti, Gays in Christianity, and Everything Else

Candace Chellew-Hodge writes about some Christians' discussion of whether they should the love the sinner but hate the "sin," or if they are really called to just hate both.

That's one of those discussions I've been in before. To be honest, I'm a bit bored with it. Maybe that's because I'm leaning away from being part of the aspects of religion which focus on limitations, rigidity, dogmatism. More on that in a later blog post.

Then there is Pat Robertson's much-decried statements that Haiti's earthquake was the result of an historic pact-with-the-devil which has curse that nation for many many years. Anthea Butler discusses this using points that lead me to believe that Robertson's comments connect to an outdated colonial rich-white-man's superiority delusion, and ultimately a (possibly subconscious) racism.

It's getting exhausting trying to meet people point-for-point when, frankly, the points repeat with every debate. I prefer discussion to debate.

Yes, the distinction is subtle. They may even be synonyms. I use them as different terms for convenience of communication. When I think "debate" I think of two people, each with a thesis. The goal is for each to present the best arguments for their position, to be convincing, to win. I'm not sure what you win, maybe an ego boost or admiration in the eyes of viewers. Unless my debts get paid off from this sort of debate, I just find them frustrating and energy-sucking.

A discussion, in my own use of the term here, is one wherein both parties (or more than two) are engaged in a thoughtful, honest, open mulling-of-the-issues, preferably with open-mindedness thrown in. "I have to admit that it is hard for me to discuss abortion because I have had a traumatic experience with it in the past." That's the kind of honesty that's great to have in a discussion. In a debate the retort would be something like, "then all of your arguments are suspect," or "let's use your traumatic experience to turn it around to prove my point." In a discussion, the response would be empathy, or at least a deepening engagement with the topic at hand and, even better, between the people involved.

I'm not advocating anti-logic. "I don't see how that's logical" is still a proper thing to say when someone says something. For me the defining characteristic of a good discussion is that there is no longer a final goal of "winning."

With someone going on about how different it is to hate the "sin" but not the "sinner," is there really a point in pursuing it, trying to convince him or her that it is difficult to love someone when you truly "hate" something about that person? Maybe, but one must listen first, encourage that person to really get into why they feel that way. But it's exhausting to try when it just boils down to Bible quoting and talking points. If it doesn't get down to the nitty gritty personal aspects of why someone feels the way they do, that energy is expended for little reason but to build one's rhetorical skills.

The example of Pat Robertson and his Haitian devil comment is trickier. This is based on a colonial idea of the "primitive" (in today's terms, "Third World") person, the "savage," who is not enlightened by the "one true religion," and of course proper old-European social class stratification. Vodon ("Voodoo") isn't devil-worship. It's not a religion I know much about, but the idea that it's satanic is coming from the imposition of a certain kind of Christian worldview that is pretty much irrelevant to those who do not share that worldview. It ultimately boils down to who is right and who is wrong, once again. I'm "right" because I'm "white" and my ancestors were European. Goodie. Again, while it's fun and enlightening to have a discussion about the complex issues that Robertson has raised, I don't see much fruit coming from actually debating the guy, or those who agree with him.

Bishop Spong wrote this in October of 2009: "I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.... Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy." (The short manifesto is worth reading in its entirety.) That's where I am now on all religious debate. I'm willing to discuss (by my own definition which I described above), but if I'm asked which religion is best, or most true, or most dangerous, I'm not going to answer definitively. I will share my experience, knowledge, interpretations, even instincts, but I'm not going to try to prove me right or prove you wrong. I'm not going to waste time answering every talking point. If I make an assertion, and you ask me to defend it, I will do my best to explain why I feel that way or from where comes my conclusion. But the minute it becomes about winning a debate, I will ideally pull out. I don't care if I'm accused of something unsubstantiated, like "typical liberal can't take a debate." I've been called a "typical liberal" many times, for this reason, even if my accuser only knows one thing about me (like my stance on the war, for example). Whatever. I'd love to engage with you on why you feel the way you feel, and why I feel the way I feel. But that means listening, sharing, asking, nodding, being very present to the experience of you and me being who we are, connected as humans. Can we do that? If not, then it's time to move on, because, to steal from Spong, it's "no longer worthy of my time or energy."

No offense, but I've spent too much time playing these games. I want a boyfriend, a life's vocation, a purpose. I want to connect and mingle, not bash my head against yours.

Peace and all good

Friday, January 8, 2010

The continuing irrelevance the big music labels

In response to:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8444854.stm
and
http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2006-01-04-music-sales-main_x.htm

Getting close to the death of the big record labels, or at least the significant (and overdue) downfall of its influence on the state of the music industry, which they have abused for the past ten years or so, but not put more long-term commitment into bands that don't become megastars with their debut album, and other problems like that. If debut album sales were the only factor in label support historically, we would not have seen the rise of great bands like R.E.M. and U2, for example.

Downloads are more environmentally friendly too, though the physical product issue could be partially solved if they committed to using recycled or sustainable materials in their packaging. There would still be the carbon-releasing problems associated with shipping, of course, but I don't know how significant that really is, since the mail is being delivered regardless.

Putting those environmental issues aside, I consider this to be fair pay-back to these companies, which frankly earned their downfall. I'd like to see (ideally) the "illegal" downloads calm down and purchases increase, but maybe music shouldn't be about making millions in profits anyway. Great music is more accessible than ever because of the internet. One can discover new artists by following links in blogs, Youtube pages, Myspace, and elsewhere. The relevance of the big mega-labels is dissipating, and this is a good thing. Let them be the suppliers of the overproduced emotionless autotuned forgettable pop American Idol offshoots and copycats. But let us refrain from mourning that they are beginning to lose their ability to speak for the masses, let alone the music connoisseurs. They have their niche, and don't deserve our attention any longer.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 - Best Albums by Men (According to Andrew)

When I try to fit so many albums on a list, ranking starts to reach a level of absurdity.

I had about 130 or so that I chose to listen to, and I added a couple here and there as I explored...I did have to sample a lot. But I listened to enough to know what to do. But it did get to the point where it was obvious that five or six albums in a row were of equal quality...so basically, if it's on this list, I recommend it.

I disqualified "Dark Was the Night" for myself even though it is excellent...it's a compilation of various modern indie bands as part of the Red Hot series of albums which benefit AIDS groups. It's simply too hard to know how to rank it, but I DO recommend it.

Why is this list so much longer than my women's list? Put simply, there are simply more male-created artists that I am drawn to. Note though that my number 2 album is really a team effort, men and women together making music. And Matt & Kim...one of each!

Another one I missed: the live Tom Waits album, Glitter and Doom Live. I was leaving out live albums, but I noticed as I was digging up video links that the Steve Vai album was of course live. Obviously Tom Waits never really does wrong, so if I had caught the mistake earlier, I would have removed Steve's album. Anyway, both are excellent as far as live albums go.


1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (the Fall Be Kind EP is fantastic too, but I'll restrict to one release)



2. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love


3. Baroness - Blue Record


4. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle


5. Mastodon - Crack the Skye


6. U2 - No Line on the Horizon


7. The Red Chord - Fed Through the Teeth Machine


8. Mos Def - The Ecstatic


9. Sonic Youth - The Eternal


10. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg


11. Pete Doherty - Grace/Wasteland


12. Gomez - A New Tide


13. Torche - Healer/Across the Shields EP


14. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)


15. Piano Magic - Ovations


16. Matt & Kim - Grand


17. Mumford & Sons - Mumford & Sons


18. Orthodox - Sentencia
I cannot find a musical sample for you, but you can read about this Spanish Doom/Jazz band here: http://www.thesirenssound.com/2009/09/22/orthodox-sentencia/

19. Flaming Lips - Embryonic


20. Yosh - Fistful of Lies


21. Morrissey - Years of Refusal


22. Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe


23. Mowgli - 93


24. Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio


25. NOFX - Coaster


26. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix


27. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk


28. Jay-Z The Blueprint 3


29. The Joint Chiefs of Math - You Are Here

(I wish there was a better video for these guys, so listen here: http://www.myspace.com/thejointchiefsofmath)

30. Causa Sui - Summer Sessions vol. 2 and 3 (not sure how to break these up...they are equally good...and volume 1 came out in 2008, and now they have all three out there as a set.)


31. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug


32. The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love


33. The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You


34. Midlake - The Courage of Others


35. El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez - Cryptomnesia


36. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Is this the creepiest video ever?

37. Mr. Scruff - Ninja Tuna


38. Mexican Institute of Sound - Soy Sauce


39. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come


40. Steve Vai - Where the Wild Things Are


41. Megadeth - Endgame


42. Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream


43. Moby - Wait For Me


44. Other Lives - Other Lives


45. Marduk - Wormwood


46. Tom Russell - Blood and Candle Smoke


47. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young


48. For Against - Never Been
Check it out here: http://www.myspace.com/foragainst

49. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Somehow I messed up...this should have been on my women's list. Well, enjoy it and don't complain ;-)

50. Snoop Dogg - Malice in Wonderland


51. The Who Boys - Now That's What I Call the Who Boys!
Couldn't find videos, but you can download the album for free on their website: http://www.zen8003.zen.co.uk/twic/index.html

52. Jay Brannan In Living Cover


53. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life


54. The Barcode Experiment - Yellow Ball, Glass Wall

Not the best video! Check 'em out here: http://www.myspace.com/thebarcodeexperiment

55. Bear in Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth


56. Brakes - Touchdown


57. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free


58. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications


59. Girls - Album


60. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names


61. Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall


62. Ryan Leslie - Transition


63. Napalm Death - Time Waits for No Slave


64. Gallows - Grey Britain


65. Titãs - Sacos Plásticos


66. Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane


67. Eels - Hombre Lobo


68. Mama Rosin - Black Robert


69. Phish - Joy


70. Meat Puppets - Sewn Together


71. Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx


72. Loney, Dear - Dear John


73. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Road (score)


74. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport


75. M. Ward - Hold Time


76. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm


77. Mudvayne - Mudvayne


78. Nox Arcana - Blackthorn Asylum


79. Isis - Wavering Radiant


80. Son O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
You can hear one of the songs here: http://www.myspace.com/southernlordrecordings

81. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs


82. Aerosol - Airborne


83. Vomit Heat - The Melody Haunts My Reverie EP
http://www.myspace.com/vomitheat

84. With Abandon - Maturation EP


85. Woodpigeon - Die Stadt Muzikanten


86. The Swell Season - Strict Joy


87. Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy


88. Converge - Axe to Fall


89. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains


90. Drake - So Far Gone


91. The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die!


92. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pin Points and Gin Joints


93. The Lytics - The Lytics

One I should have probably ranked higher.

94. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers


95. Candlemass - Death Magic Doom


96. Calamar Audio - Squid Fluid
http://www.myspace.com/calamaraudio

97. Brutal Truth - Evolution Through Revolution


98. Boris - Japanese Heavy Rock Hits (EP)


99. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Pains of Being Pure at Heart


100. Mark Vidler - Tension (EP)
http://www.myspace.com/markvidlerGHP
http://www.gohomeproductions.co.uk/

101. Lamb of God - Wrath


102. The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore


103. Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment


104. Bad Lieutenant - Never Cry Another Tear


105. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer of Fear


106. Coalesce - OX


107. W.A.S.P. - Babylon


108. Hatebreed - Hatebreed


109. The Leisure Society - The Sleeper

I guess this is a re-release. I don't know much about it...

110. Bibio - Abrasion


111. Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions


112. Crystal Method - Divided By Night


113. The Mars Volta - Octahedron


114. Anaal Nathrakh - In the Constellation of the Black Widow


115. My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire


116. Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health


117. Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy: The Experience


118. Revocation - Existence is Futile


119. Atlas Sound - Logos


120. Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest


121. The Positives - Person L


122. Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Letting Up Despite Great Faults


123. Holopaw - Oh, Glory, Oh, Wilderness.


124. Amorphis - Skyforger

The search for God, the search for spiritual community

My friend Peter Turiansky asked me this question:

> Andrew,
>
> You have spent a good part of your adult life seeking a deity and a faith community that meet certain criteria that have been established by, well,
> yourself. Does it not occur to you that any such god would be one of your own making, and not a real one at all?

I answered thusly:

The search for the community is not the same thing as the search for
God. Truly, I search for a community that shares my understanding of
God, rather than a community to tell me that God something different
than I already experience God as being.

The real question that applies to my own search is: how do we know the
"truth"? Do we need to be told by a traditional or dogmatic (etc.)
religious path, or do we need to find out for ourselves? When I
resist/leave a church, it is usually because the dictated
understanding of God does not compute. Rather than creating God, I
feel I am constantly discovering God, and because that has been
happening (for me) at such a personal level,it is increasingly obvious
to me that theologically I cannot be stuffed into a pre-existing box.

The appeal to Episcopalianism was the openness in terms of individual
interpretation. It seems to me that this is the case among Mennonites
as well, though as I said, there is much I do not know.

This actually addresses your previous question about me being a
closeted atheist. I might as well address that here!

I cannot find the article I mentioned..but it differentiated between
different kinds of belief, and I'm probably not being 100% faithful to
what that writer said, but that isn't really important:

1. Absolute certainty that there is a God, and "I" know that God.
--Strong Theism
2. Absolute certainty that there is a God, but I don't know that God.
--Seeker with Theism (not the right term)
3. It's possible that there is a God, but I don't believe there is.
(Atheistic agnosticism)
4. It's possible that there is a God, and I believe there is.
(Theistic agnosticism)
5. I know for certain that there is no God. (Strong Atheism)
6. We cannot know either way, period. (Strong Agnosticism)

Something like that.

I fit number 4. My understanding of God is very non-specific. I
believe there is a God...and that God may be a neutral energetic force
of creation, or a loving energy, or a potentially personal God, or
whatever.

I believe in afterlife, that science is the study of creation and is
therefore true theology, that scriptures are highly questionable but
potentially inspirational.
Some meandering thoughts anyway. I'm sure I'm leaving a lot still
muddled, but this is God we're discussing, after all.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christian Elitism

A post by Seanna at the Liberal Faith blog triggered me to consolidate some of my thoughts on this.

The practice of shunning is an accepted practice in the Jehovah's Witness religious world. It's kind of like excommunication, but they won't even hang out with you in this case.

Having witnessed an actual shunning on a JW chat page several years ago, I can't say I find it to be a very savory act.

Moreover, I don't see it as a very Jesus-inspired practice.

Among the more conservative, evangelical Christians, I've seen it in different ways.

See Amy Grant's experience. She released some songs which garnered crossover attention ("Baby Baby" for one) and she was decried as a sell-out. As far as I can tell, "Baby Baby" wasn't non-Christian or anti-Christian or even necessarily a-Christian. It just didn't spell it out.

Be exactly like us to be part of us. Otherwise you aren't really one of us.

Jesus welcomed everyone to follow him. To be a fisher of men does not seem to require perfect conformity.

To be fair, a Christian must somehow deal with this. (Matthew 5:48)

Even there, however one is to intepret "be" and "perfect" and "be perfect," I don't see Jesus saying "be perfect or get out."

Christian exclusiveness is Christian elitism and it is a contradiction in terms.

I'm scratching the surface here, I realize. There are many ways in which religions require some kind of strict adherence in order to take part.

How Jesusy is this, really?

Friday, January 1, 2010

I guess I could do New Year's Resolutions for 2010

1. If I could achieve a whole week as a pure vegan I would be happy. I made it three weeks once, and that was during Thanksgiving even, so that means I can do it, right?

2. This year I want to reach peace and completeness with where I am in my life. Meaning, what I do every day, or what I don't do. Whether on a career path or in school, I want a sense of inner peace and acceptance about it. Even if I decide that this is no longer a focus of mine, and my focus is more on building relationships and my job is just a means to "be in the world," I want that same sense of inner peace and acceptance. I don't have a conscious grasp on specifics, but my intent is kerneling. Time to fully blossom, I think.

3. The only resolution I made last year was to read 100 short stories over the course of the year. I didn't come close. I finished reading less than ten books too. I did not fulfill any self-promises about writing either. So this year, no resolutions like that. I do want to read more, though. It's fun.

4. I would like to be comfortable in my physical space. I want to make the space itself important.

5. I want to make my body a focus of respect and compassion.

Fun rejected resolutions because of their specificity:

1. write a poem a day
2. write a book
3. exercise six days a week without fail
4. get engaged
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