Ducks, Lies, and the Truth about God’s LGBT Children

“An untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker.” That’s one definition of lie provided by Merriam-Webster. I do not know if Laire Lightner believes what she says, but I do now that it is a lie.  Ms. Lightner, it seems, is “the driving force” behind an online petition to have Duck Dynasty personality Phil Robertson reinstated. Mr. Robertson was recently removed from that program for his comments denigrating LGBT people in an interview (perversely entitled, “The Gospel According to Phil”) with GQ magazine.

LaireLighter

Laire Lightner (with her husband) is leading the charge to reinstate ousted, anti-gay Phil Roberston (Photo: John Osborne / Naples Daily News)

In today’s edition of the Naples Daily News (Naples, FL), Ms. Lightner is quoted as follows:  “Homosexuals and Christians have different values, but I will fight to make sure their rights are protected.”

While the second part of her statement is laudable, the first part is blatantly a lie. It is a longstanding canard of fundamentalists and Biblical literalists to claim that Christianity condemns homosexuality, that one cannot be both gay and a disciple of Jesus. Thankfully, the facts of history — as well as the lived experience of thousands, perhaps millions — of LGBT Christians undercuts that assertion on its face. As a gay man and a Christian, I am just one example of someone who is gay by Nature and Christian by Grace — and both Nature and Grace are authored by God.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Ms. Lightner “studied divinity at Liberty University,” the fundamentalist school in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell. Having only studied divinity for two years, perhaps Ms. Lightner would be open to continuing her education by learning about LGBT Christians and then reconsidering her statement.

Christmas quickly approaches. This Feast of the Incarnation celebrates our belief that, by taking on human flesh, God reminds us in Jesus that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. As an early Christmas gift, here are some resources for Ms. Lightner — and all those who hold that same false belief — to begin that education.

First Time, now The Advocate — quite the year for Francis!

TIME-Cover-Pope FrancisTheAdvocate-Pope FrancisFor Pope Francis to be named Person of the Year by Time magazine … that’s understandable. After all, Pope Francis has captured the hearts (and, with his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the minds) of countless millions around the world — Catholics and non-Catholics alike. But to be named Person of the Year by The Advocate, a leading magazine covering “Gay News, LGBT Rights, Politics and Entertainment”?  Now that’s progress!

Pilgrims, Lincoln, and Francis — Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Homily for Thanksgiving Day / Thursday, November 27, 2013

LincolnThanksgivingProclamationThanksgiving Day is that quintessential American holiday – as close as we come in the US to an exercise of civic religion. The observance of a special day for giving thanks for some perceived blessing – be it an observance by the settlers of Jamestown in 1610, or the celebration of thanks offered by Pedro Menedez de Aviles here in our own state of Florida in 1565, or be it that celebration about which most of us were taught, the one in 1621 observed by the settlers of Plimouth Plantation and the native Wampanoags of what is now Massachusetts – such celebrations have been a part of our national and cultural history for centuries.  During America’s first decades as a nation, there were various declarations of specials days of thanksgiving. As was typical, they were usually written with broad references to God or The Almighty or The Divine – Deist perhaps, but certainly not Christian, as some today would claim. Those early proclamations lead finally to the 1863 declaration by Abraham Lincoln which made the last Thursday of November an official federal holiday.

Students of history will note that this declaration of Thanksgiving was made during an unusual time, right in the middle of the Civil War – and it’s noteworthy that Lincoln called upon his fellow citizens to do not just one, but two things on that Thursday. The first is what you’d expect. In the proclamation’s words, Lincoln called upon Americans “to offer up such the ascriptions justly due to Him [to God] for such singular deliverances and blessings…” – translated simply, to give thanks.  The second was a little more sobering, a little more self-reflective, and a little more oriented toward being a call to social action. Again, in the proclamation’s words, Lincoln called upon Americans “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,” to commend to God’s tender care all those who were suffering in one way or another due to the ravages of war, “our lamentable civil strife.”

PopeFrancis-smilingAs tempted as I am to offer my own thoughts on what might be some 2013 examples of America’s “national perverseness and disobedience,” let me simply remind us that Lincoln’s declaration was two-pronged. It called not only for thanksgiving for blessings received, but also corrective action for our national failures and shortcomings. Certainly we all have many blessings for which we are grateful. To varying degrees, we all have so very, very much. We have roofs over our heads, more food than we could ever eat and more clothes than we could ever reasonably wear. We are blessed with jobs, or retirement security; and most importantly we are blessed with family and friends who love us and sustain is in times of sadness as well as joy. And so while we gather her on this day to give thanks to God for these blessings, the challenge of Lincoln – and more importantly, the challenge of the Gospel – is for us not to stand idly by when we have so very much and when so many millions – so many hundreds of millions – have so very little.

AbandonedHouseIn his Apostolic Exhortation published earlier this week, Pope Francis speaks about the Joy of Evangelization (Evangelii Gaudium).  I suspect you’ve read or heard the news coverage of this very important document. Some have called it a “tour de force,” perhaps representing a sea change for the Church.  In a long section devoted entirely to what Francis calls “The Inclusion of the Poor in Society,” he states that those of us who have so much should not only be concerned with the most basic needs of those living in poverty. He challenges us to go further.  Francis writes:

“Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity.’ This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.”

To some, those words no doubt, are challenging. Regardless of where one stands on the issues that the Pope addresses – regardless of where one stands politically or economically or socially – if reading or hearing his words is challenging, the Pope has done his job.  As we gather around this Eucharistic Table of thanksgiving this morning, let us do our best to follow in the footsteps of the one man – the outsider, the Samaritan – who recognized that his healing was not of his own making, but that his healing – like all things was a gift from God, giving thanks where thanks is always due.

Guns and America’s “Callous Attitude”

GunViolenceThe story about three “bored” teens in Oklahoma who murdered a college student from Australia simply “for the fun of it” sends chills up the spine of any human with a conscience. It is an undeniable reality about the human condition that some people with evil intent commit evil acts. As Americans, instead of doing what we can to minimize the possibility that those with such intent are able to carry out such acts, we actually create the environment that makes those acts more possible. With our increasingly lax gun laws and our decreasing respect (at both ends of the political spectrum) for all human life, is such callous disregard in people so young any surprise?

I doubt the words of this Australian leader will have their intended effect, but they’re worth repeating:

Former Australia [sic] deputy prime minister Tim Fischer criticized the National Rifle Association and asked Australians to avoid the U.S. as a way to force its Congress to act on gun control.

“Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice,” Fischer told the Herald Sun. “I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers (but) it’s a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA. There is a gun for almost every American.”

Dolan is Disingenuous re: LGBT People and “Defense of Marriage”

NYC archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan

NYC archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan

“We gotta be – we gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”  These words from NY Cardinal Timothy Dolan sound friendly and encouraging. They sound as if they echo his earlier statements in the same interview with George Stephanopolous recognizing even gay people are created in God’s “image and likeness” and that he (Dolan) loves gay people too.  All well and good! But if Dolan and other Catholic leaders claim that their “defense of marriage” is not an “attack on gay people,” then why did we never hear about bishops “defending marriage” until the issue of public recognition of same-sex unions and civil marriage became a viable reality in the US? Why is it that the high divorce rate among heterosexual Catholic couples wasn’t enough to spur the bishops to “defend marriage”?  Why is it that the economic pressures on the American family practically demanding that both parents work outside the home — leaving so many children to essentially raise themselves — didn’t cause the bishops to speak out and “defend marriage”?

Dolan’s Irish joviality and good-natured humor make him a darling of the media. We want to believe him and take what he says as true. Facts and history, however, tell a different tale.  The truth is that the Church’s “defense of marriage” is a direct response to the recognition by the majority of Americans and people of good will around that world of a truth that the bishops will one day regret not recognizing sooner.  That truth is this:  all persons, including God’s LGBT sons and daughters, are created in the divine image and likeness; and by this very fact, every human person has the right to live his or her natural and God-given sexuality as he/she understands that gift to be.

Until Cardinal Dolan and other Catholic leaders own the truth that their so-called “defense of marriage” is nothing but an “attack on gay people” and that their words and actions don’t mesh — not until then will LGBT Catholics be truly welcomed in the religious home that is ours and that we refuse to give up.