Friday, October 27, 2006

Pam over at Pam's Houseblend had a nice summary of the ripples spawned by the NJ Supreme Court's decision. Did you know Bush is in favor of civil unions? Me neither.

My favorite part of the post is a quote from Angie Paccione (D-CO) who is running for Congress against that unholy mess Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) who sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment.

"I think that's the ideal environment for children to be raised," Musgrave said, of opposite-sex marriage.

The remark got a smattering of applause but Paccione's response was quick earning her wide clapping and several cheers.

"You want to protect marriage, you know what's a threat to marriage? Divorce is a threat to marriage," she told the crowd of about 1,000

"You know what else is a threat to marriage? Infidelity is a threat to marriage. Domestic violence is a threat to marriage. Losing your job is a threat to marriage. Marriage is not a threat to marriage. I support equality."

"Marriage is not a threat to marriage," kind of sums it up. And if I'm not mistaken, poverty is indeed the biggest threat to marriage. Maybe that's a war progressive and conservative Christians can fight together.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pickin' Meat

Tonight I'm baking a peppered ham for some neighbors who just had a new baby (his name is Ben and he's super cute). I love ham, and I always forget how great it smells when it's baking. I bet if my people had to choose between turkey and ham for Thanksgiving (we usually have both), a family vote would favor the pig. A turkey is generally more elegant. Few un-carved things sit so beautifully on a platter, but judging strictly on taste I really think ham is the way we'd go.

Arkansans, like most people in the south and a lot of people here in the midwest, have adored ham for ages (it is no coincidence that the University of Arkansas has a mythologized pig for a mascot). I don't care for the weird loaf-shaped slabs or the deli cuts (if I want flavorless ham, I'll just eat thin-sliced turkey. It’s healthier.). I like the kind of ham that you can fry up in the morning and make red-eye gravy with. Throw in a few biscuits, eggs, and coffee and I wouldn't have to eat again for the rest of the day.

So how about you? Turkey or ham? If on Thanksgiving Day you had to make such a sad choice, which would it be?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NJ Supreme Court: "You Don't Have to Call them Married, but You Have 180 Days to Give them the Same Rights"

In a 4-3 decision today, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that based on the state's constitution gay couples who choose to so commit to one another should have access to marriage rights. The ruling also said that the State's Legislature has 180 days to decide what it wants to call such unions, giving them the option not to refer to them as "marriages."

So what does this mean for:

People like John and me? Not much if they live in Indiana, but if they live in NJ, a "?" license will allow committed couples full inheritance protections, hospital visitation rights, end of life responsibilities, spousal insurance coverage, everything that is automatically given to NJ's married couples except for the 1,138 federal rights and benefits straight married couples receive.

NJ Churches? The religious right is fond of saying that if gay marriage is allowed they will have to perform gay unions. They won't. Churches, conservative and progressive alike, legally deny people the right to get married in their places of worship all the time. We have mixed-faith (bi-faithful?) couples who come to Broadway to get married because their churches won't perform their unions. If a church, however, is receiving state funds or is acting on behalf of the state in some capacity, then they will probably have to rethink some of their positions or practices. This is what happened with a Catholic adoption organization who decided they would rather shut down than allow kids to be adopted by gay couples.

Democrats? A lot of people think this is bad news for the Democrats this November. In fact, while I'm thrilled with the ruling, the cynical part of me wonders if this was Karl Rove's "October surprise" since the timing (two weeks before the election) of the decision , which wasn't scheduled to come down until after the elections in November, will probably serve as a get out the vote call for the religious right. But then again, that is like Republicans blaming Democrats for the Mark Foley scandal.

Republicans? Maybe not as much as people think. A lot of good people, including many Republicans, want our families to be treated equally, they just believe the word "marriage" is a descriptor of straight relationships. The court gave the legislature a way out of the naming nuttiness. If Republicans want to make an issue of this ruling, they have to dance around the fact that they are saying they don't want 161,000 gay couples with kids treated equally, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of us who don't have kids. Update: Had the NJ court ruled to call gay unions marriages, people like us could go to NJ, get married and then petition to have our marriages recognized in our home states. The court left a way for those challenges to be denied, therefore Reupblicans can't use it as a "see, we told you so, now lets have that federal amendment please" issue."

The "M" word? My friend Jack, who is gay, wiser than me, and has been with his partner for years, once said, "David and I need the rights, but I don't necessarily want the word 'marriage' attached to our relationship." I get his point. Marriage has been used in the past to keep women in the role of property and typically has about a 50-50 chance of success these days. If NJ comes up with terminology that doesn't include "marriage" at least it won't carry that baggage with it. I don't need the word "marriage" attached to our relationship, but I must admit that I don't like the history that "separate but equal" has in our country either.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Broadway Church's Homecoming

I am a member of Broadway Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana--the most non-traditional, traditional church I have ever seen. I first visited Broadway back in 1998 shortly after I came out to the pastor of the church I had been attending. My news prompted the pastor, one of my closest friends, to tell me how much he loved me and that I would no longer be allowed to minister at that church. Having never been comfortable as a bystander at any church, much less one that would discount everything I'd ever done because of something I cannot change, I left.

It was a lonely time for me. I wasn't out to my family or any friends who shared my faith. Most of my friends who accepted me as I was couldn't imagine why I would want to go to church in the first place. Somehow I'd heard a rumor that Broadway welcomed all people. I sat in the back pews for several weeks trying not to talk to anyone, which was almost impossible because at every service the church would recite the following mission statement:
"As followers of Jesus Christ responding to God's love, our mission as the people of Broadway Church is to be multicultural, Christian community than in its ministries seeks, welcomes, and values all people,"
and then, like a stomped-on ant hill, the congregation would disperse and spend the next five minutes hugging everyone in sight, traveling front to back if need be in what a friend of John's once described as an "all skate."

I'd never been in a church that so gleefully welcomed (really welcomed) all people while exuding so much of the Spirit of Christ. It's kind of sad that I'd been conditioned to see these as separate phenomena. Eventually I committed to welcoming folks there as a member myself.

It was clear to me as I looked around this enormous, and ragged in some places, 1927 English Gothic building that Broadway Church had a history. I could sense it in the candlelit darkness of our hushed, holy, almost mystical Christmas Eve services. I would hear snippets of it from members who'd been there forever--how the church has frequently struggled, sometimes clumsily, to be on the forefront of what justice and mercy could mean in this world. How when the denomination had wanted the church to die, the congregation would not be killed. Turns out that Broadway is a living symbol of resurrection power.

I wanted some sort of connection to my church's past. I remembered the church Homecomings from when I was a kid. Typically these were picnics or potlucks. I wondered if something like this would get people back in a way that might help me put more pieces of the puzzle together. Turns out that two long-time Broadway faithfuls, Barb Taylor and Roger Sell (later crowned Broadway Homecoming Queen and King), had the same idea, though maybe for different reasons. They took the ball and ran with it in a way I never would have.

Before it was all over, a weekend was planned that would include turning the church's elegant parlor into a historic archives full of history from wall to wall, reunions of years of Sunday School classes, a dinner and service where people would drive from cross country for three days to reconnect with this place that had touched them in profound ways. Multiple generations returned. Getting ready for the event nearly knocked a few of us off before it even happend, especially floor-buffing and wall-painting miracle workers Randy and Jerry, but it was worth it. The church doesn't look ragged any longer.

During the dinner Saturday night, the Community Room was so jammed with people that tables were placed on one of the stages. That is where I wanted to be, a place where I could look out and see what the present sitting with the past looks like. As I sat at the table, surrounded by amazing friends--current members who are all so different and who still manage to find such joy and fun in one another--I was so grateful for what we'd been given by the people who'd been here before. They weren't perfect, but they left us with such a gift--this church that joins us--a legacy of love, mercy, curiosity, stubborness and creativity to build on. That legacy was recognized in the form of an award given for lifetime service to Margaret Pengilly, a woman whom I fear I will one day hug to death because to be near her is to be close to the heart of God.

Phil Amerson, one of the former pastors and one of our beloved Pastor Mike's mentors remarked that, "If ever there was a place for the "others" of the world, it is Broadway." I wrote that down in my program next to the signatures of all of the people at the tables around me (I had them sign it like a yearbook), shortly before one of the center pieces near us caught fire.

The next day I was with Amy, a photographer friend of mine I'd asked to come take pictures. I escorted her during the service to all of the really cool places from which to shoot and got a birds eye of view of everything. Services at Broadway on most days are pretty traditional and "high." On special occasions, there's lots of choir singing and processing. I love it. On really special days, someone marches down the center aisle with the huge Broadway family Bible over their heads. And Chris, our supreme organist, rocks the joint on our pipe organ. When all of worship is working together like that it takes my breath away. This was one of those days.

The moment that summed the weekend up for me and that makes me cry when I write about it was when relatively new members and our good friends Duane, Todd, and their kids Daniel and Mari lit the altar candles with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Chisler who have been there forever. I can't decide what it was about seeing this that touched me. Maybe it was the past and the future working together. Maybe it was that I see myself in Duane and Todd, and I know I will never hear what I heard from my last church at Broadway. Maybe it is that no matter how glad I was to have people come back, seeing the Chislers reminded me that there were a bunch of hearty, Godly folks who stuck it out and never left. I see us all in a new light now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sen. Barack Obama Considers Presidential Run in 2008

That would be fine by me. I could TOTALLY be into that candidacy. From the Washington Post.

So interesting that this broke today. John and I were having a wonderful youth-group prepared lasagna lunch at church while discussing with friends possible candidates in 2008 and the relative dirth of presidential Democrats who have expressed interest. Someone mentioned Obama's name along with a wish that he'd throw his hat into the ring. Was it Scott's friend Terry, who was visiting from Detroit and who is convinced that all we do at Broadway is eat because there is a lunch everytime he comes to see us? I don't rightly remember, but whoever it was, thanks for asking.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Decorative Slump

I can't manage to get the house decorated for fall. Typically I repot all of the garden containers out front with mums, buy pumpkins and gourds for the buffet, new candles, put out my vintage halloween decorations and the set of 8 alabaster skulls that were once at the bottom of church crucifixes (symbolizing Golgotha I assume). But this year all I've managed to do is put a wreath on the door.

I know part of the problem has been that I've started a new job and gotten a little sick at the same time. All I want to do when I get home is slug around. There also were several weddings and our church Homecoming this past weekend. But I can't really use that as an excuse, because I made an emergency stop with Barb , who was one of the big implementers of the Homecoming, at her house the other night to fish a wayward contact out of the corner of my eye so I could see to drive home. Once my eyesight was back to normal I noticed that her house was spotless and beautifully decorated! When did she find the time?

I did loan out for awhile some of my best decorations to a photographer I used to work for who needed some props. I got them back, but can't manage to find a place for them.

Oddly enough what I have had energy for is designing a new house. We love our current house, which we also designed, and we don't plan to move for awhile, but I still have this house plan rolling around in my head. I'll post it when it gets to a more finished state.

A Prayer for Two Dads: Update

Several of you have asked what happened with our friends who were facing a court hearing that would determine whether or not their adopted daughter, who they have had since her birth in February, would be taken away from them. Here is the original story.

The hearing was suspended at the last minute. I was kind of waiting for resolution before reporting, but the situation is not yet resolved. I spoke with the guys a few weeks ago and they said they were still fighting to keep their daughter who is now nine months old. All three still beam high wattage smiles when I see them and they are very happy even as they wade through some scary and uncertain times. I can't imagine what effect living with this level of uncertainty must have on day to day life, but they are models of perseverance and grace. I asked one of the dads how he deals with the suddenly interested biological father. He said he prays for him.

Well guys, I know several Growering Sense readers who are praying for you, too. Hang in there.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Head to Jesus Camp

Our church had quite the whing ding of a Homecoming this past weekend. It was a total blast, but I need to wait for some friends to send me photos before a blog entry can do it justice (not having a camera is killing me).

After the last reception on Sunday Dave said he was too tired to do anything but sit and stare at something, so we decided to catch a movie. John opted to be the responsible adult and stayed home to do laundry. We saw Jesus Camp, a documentary about kids from the midwest who attend an evangelical church camp in North Dakota called Kids on Fire where they learn to speak in tongues and lay hands in prayer on a cardboard cut-out of George Bush.

Even though it is a documentary, there are some very Waiting for Guffman-ish moments like when the likeable Pastor Becky, who runs Kids on Fire, waves a plastic sickle as she explains how toys make great teaching tools for kids. My favorite Pastor Becky moment though is when she searches for just the right blood-dripping font for the Power Point presentation to accompany one of her sermons to the kids: "I think I've got a bloody font in here somewhere. There it is. That's much better."

The documentary also follows Levi, a pre teen would-be preacher with a rat tail mullet. Naively sure of his knowledge of life (thanks to his mother who tells him science doesn't really prove anything), he's still sweet and articulate. Watching him make his way through the maze of pride that surrounds preachers in his faith community is both touching and full of melancholy. The scariest moments are those where Ted Haggard, head pastor at a 4,000 person strong megachurch in Colorado Springs, blathers on about the indomitable might of "evangelicals" as little Levi hangs on his every word. According to the film, Haggard speaks with G. W. Bush every Monday.

The crowd in the theater alternated between shocked giggles and horrified gasps. For all of the talk about Jesus in this movie, some of the major concerns he had while walking the earth (freeing people to live with love and imagination and dismantling hierarchical oppression imposed by religious leaders), seem pretty absent in the faith of these folks. In fact, the omnipresent language of war and what passes for prayer (mostly yelling at God to overturn a government they don't care for) seem much more in line with the militaristic, but ultimately misguided hopes that some of Christ's disciples had for his earthly kingdom. (It is probably a good idea to remind myself that Jesus still invited them to hang out with him.)

At first I thought this movie would be merely a whacky story of some uber-zealots in North Dakota, but in the end, Jesus Camp's greatest gift is the way it reveals the magnitude of the seething-as-it-smiles element of the religious right in the U.S and the innocents that get sucked into its vortex. Serious stuff it is. But you still have to love watching Pastor Becky's frustration at not being able to spray her hair as high and as spiky as she would like. Even a general in the army of God can have a bad hair day.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lucille's Red Velvet Cake

Karen recently asked for my Red Velvet Cake recipe. I should confess that as is the case with most anything worth eating that I make, the recipe isn't mine.

Lucille Greenfield was a woman who went to the church where I grew up, and this is her recipe. She was famous for this cake and for being most informed about Batesville goings on. She had a police scanner turned on in her house 24/7. When Wednesday night prayer meeting or Sunday church rolled around, Lucille was more than happy to shout out all that needed sharing and then some.

Sometimes Lucille took the trouble to submit her police reports in the form of sympathetic prayer requests. More often than not, however, her enthusiasm for local moral atrocities would eclipse any patience she had with spiritual formalities. In those instances she would resort to blurting out in joyful shock whatever newsworthy burden she happened to be carrying to anyone within earshot not affiliated with the story she had to tell. Sometimes in her excitement that last distinction was ignored. If something really big happened Lucille would forfeit the convenience of a gathered flock altogether, pick up the phone and just call everyone she knew, which thanks to the scanner was pretty much everybody in town.

Lucille moved up to the precinct in the sky some years back, but my sister still bakes a mean version of her Red Velvet Cake. I probably should buy her a scanner one of these days.

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 oz (1/2 bottle) red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon flour (for dusting cake pans)
2 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 box powdered sugar
8 oz. package cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla, scant

Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans. Mix sugar, oil, eggs, cocoa, vinegar, and food coloring. Add buttermilk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Pour into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Icing: I usually double the icing recipe so I don’t have to skimp on frosting and because I like to eat the leftovers on graham crackers.

Combine 1 box powdered sugar with 8 ounce package of cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla. You can also add some chopped nuts if you like.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Come out, come out where ever you are."

Today is National Coming Out Day. I remember being a grad student at Vanderbilt and seeing signs on campus about NCOD and wondering, why do "they" need a day to come out? I was still trying to be straight at the time. Ironically, the fear and loathing I had for who I was answered my own question. At the time, the only "out" people I knew of were the more brave and radical folks. If people with whom I had more in common had been out, I probably would have been more comfortable with myself sooner and come out earlier.

That is why I am all the way out now. I wish I'd had role models with whom I could identify when I was younger. Hopefully I can be that now.

You know, National Coming Out Day isn't just for gay people--we need straight people to come out, too. What do I mean? Well, any time a straight person hides that they have a gay friend or family member when a bashing conversation starts or when a lie or myth about gay people is being spread, that straight person is also a victim of the closet. And sadly, there is never just one victim when someone is in hiding.

Pastor Mike says something when he breaks the bread for communion that seems like a coming out statement--I can't remember it exactly, which is sad since I've heard him say it a thousand times. Maybe if he's reading this he can give me the correct quote, but it goes something like--"Be what you see, Receive what you are." I think it has something to do with being the provision that God provides and receiving the provision that God makes you to be. For some reason, not sure why exactly, I see a connection to coming out.

Quote of the Day

In a Washington Monthly column, Joe Scarborough, Republican and former congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country says he would prefer:

an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America’s checkbook for the next two years.

Hat tip to Pam's Houseblend and Michael Petrelis

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Duane's Fall Food

Duane sent me a recent Fall Food pic in response to an earlier post. I love food pictures. I'm glad Duane sent one because I lost our camera in San Francisco a few months back and haven't been able to post pictures since. John and I started checking out new cameras at Costco today.

Message from Duane:

I read your post on food, but couldn't post a pic...Fall just gets my appetite roaring! (I am convinced we still have the hibernation gene active in our modern, sedentary bodies.)

Daniel and Mari helped me make Daddy a surprise while he was mowing the lawn this afternoon.

I've had Duane's pies before. I'm sure Todd enjoyed his surprise. I would so love it if my "lunch" was a perfect lattice-crusted pie.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Getting The Facts Straight

I shouldn't have to post this, but since John heard a conservative Washington Times correspondant say on NPR(!) that gay people are more likely to molest children (he was referring to the Foley scandal) I think it is a good time to bring up the facts that dispute this myth. John and I first heard the stats below when we were the only gay couple in a foster parenting class. While Foley has some serious problems, research suggests that they are not a function of his sexual orientation. Pedophilia, like rape, seems to be about something other than sex. See below, from the Rainbow Alliance site:

Here are some findings from the scientific peer-reviewed journal, "Pediatrics" published in July of 1994. The study was done by Dr. Carole Jenny of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. The subjects were 269 sexually abused children seen at Denver Children's Hospital over the course of one year.

*1 in 219 girls was molested by a lesbian * 1 out of 50 boys by a gay male.*About 8 in 10 girls were molested by a man who was or had been in a heterosexual relationship with the child's mother or another relative. *3 out of 4 boys were abused by males in heterosexual relationships with female relatives.

2% of the boys in the study were molested by gay males.

98% of the boys in the study were molested by heterosexuals. Of that number, 75% were molested by heterosexual males KNOWN TO THE VICTIMS in an incestuous scenario.

0.05% of the girls in the study were molested by a lesbian.

99.5% of the girls in the study were molested by heterosexuals. Of that number, 80% were molested by heterosexual males KNOWN TO THE VICTIMS in an incestuous scenario.

If you think that study is unique, I invite you to investigate some more references, all of which report parallel numbers.

Groth, A. Nicholas, and H. Jean Birnbaum, 1978 "Adult Sexual Orientation and Attraction to Underage Persons", Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7, 175.

"Suggests that homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia may be mutually exclusive and that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater risk to the underage child than does the adult homosexual male." [p 609]

Newton, David E., 1978 "Homosexual Behavior and Child Molestation: A Review of the Evidence", Adolescence, 13, 29.

"Existing studies provide no reason to believe that anything other than a random connection exists between homosexual behavior and child molestation. The typical offender is a heterosexual male." [p 610]

"Stigma, Prejudice, and violence against Lesbians and Gay Men" (pp. 60-80 in John Gonsiorek and James Weinrich (eds) "Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy" Sage Publications, 1992). Herek says: "Since 1978, no credible new data have been published that contradict the conclusions" [that pedophilia is a crime committed almost exclusively by heterosexuals].

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fall Food

I'm going to resist posting another entry on the media maelstrom surrounding retired Republican congressman Mark Foley even though I'm dying to use the blog title "Focus on the Foley." By the way, I make the "Republican" distinction here only because Fox news has been listing Foley as a Democrat, three times so far--now that's news you can trust. Thanks, but no thanks Fox, the RNC can keep that albatross.

Instead, here is an apple dish for fall that I made last night for John. I think it is a pretty common dish for this region. We both liked it, and it is an easy one pot supper. I like those because I can clean up the kitchen while they cook. You could even cut up most of the ingredients, maybe not the garlic and apples, before work in the a.m. Would love to have recipes for fall dishes that others like to make. I would be happy to post them here.

Polish Sausage, Apples, and Red Cabbage

2 tbs. oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 medium red cabbage, shredded (remove the white core)
4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and sliced
2 1/2 lb. Kielbasa Sausage
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup soup stock
1 tbs. wine vinegar

Heat oil in a 4 qt. kettle and saute onions and garlic for five minutes. Stir cabbage into the mixture and saute five more minutes. Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss into the pot. Stir. Place sausage onto vegetables. Add the bay leaf and sprinkle thyme, mace and black pepper on top of all. Pour in stock and vinegar. Cover pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir to mix spices about half way through cooking.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Yet One More Reason I'm Glad I No Longer Live in Texas

I used to work for the museum where the teacher saw the "nude art." From the NY Times:

But Ms. McGee, 51, a popular art teacher with 28 years in the classroom, is out of a job after leading her fifth-grade classes last April through the Dallas Museum of Art. One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended.

Why would anyone want to teach in a state where these whack jobs have so much power? No offense to my beloved brother-in-law who actually teaches nearby, but not in the same town. Maybe things are different where he is.

The DMA doesn't really have controversial art on display. The objects mentioned in the article were not created for erotic purposes.

But mark my words, the fundy parents who got this teacher fired shouldn't be surprised when the kid they are raising to believe that all images of the human body are erotic becomes sexually neurotic.