Monday, December 29, 2008

year in review

My husband Peleg came to church on Sunday and brought a friend of his who is visiting from Israel. He also brought his video camera with him and made a video of my sermon. It's posted here if you want to take a look. The manuscript, as always is posted on

The sermon, titled "Happy Endings" starts with a review of the year just past. Then I go on to notice how except for the end of the year we don't take much time to notice the endings of things. Sometimes things just fade away unnoticed without really giving the important experiences of our lives the respect and honor they deserve. And sometimes experiences linger on too long because we don't know how to bring them to an end.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rev. Ricky's take on Rev. Rick

Obama's choice of Rick Warren for his inaugural invocation disappoints me but doesn't anger me. Obama has said repeatedly, and confirmed in light of the Rick Warren invitation, that he is on the right side of many issues important to me as a gay man. He's for the repeal of the (absurdly) so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." He's for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military. And he's for federal recognition of civil unions (which would be a huge benefit if he can do it). Rick Warren's invitation is a symbolic blow to gay and lesbian rights but it isn't a policy statement.

Although I personally am disgusted by Rick Warren I also understand and support Obama's principle of inclusion. I do feel spiritually called to love my enemies. And what I'm seeking, even in the case of gay rights issues, is not to gain rights by law that aren't actually supported in the hearts of Americans. While I'm willing to leave out the irredeemable bigots who will never get it, I want to engage the basically good but ignorant people and persuade them to change their minds. That won't happen if we demonize folks and leave them out of the conversation.

In response to a colleague who was seeking advice on how to offer pastoral care to gays and lesbians in her congregation I suggested, "I believe the best pastoral care at this point is to express your disappointment without cutting down Obama who we still need to be our hero. And to recognize that civil rights struggles take years and that not only are you supportive now but that you'll continue to be supportive for as long as it takes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

charity begins at the gay religious liberal home

In the middle of a feel-bad editorial in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof Bleeding Heart Tightwads, December 20, 2008 about how liberals don't give as much money to charity as conservatives, Kristof shares these three paragraphs that made me feel a lot better.
Looking away from politics, there’s evidence that one of the most generous groups in America is gays. Researchers believe that is because they are less likely to have rapacious heirs pushing to keep wealth in the family.)

When liberals see the data on giving, they tend to protest that conservatives look good only because they shower dollars on churches — that a fair amount of that money isn’t helping the poor, but simply constructing lavish spires.

It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives.

As a childless, gay, religious liberal I'm quite happy with my level of giving. And quite happy with the level of giving in my mostly-straight church, as well. God bless 'em

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Board Room

Sunday I spent all afternoon in bed and watched two old movies Peleg and I have in our DVD library: Sabrina (the original version with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden) and The Hudsucker Proxy (Coen brothers' film from 1994).

I'm always looking for synchronocities. Both movies extensively feature Boards of Directors. Bogart is the head of his family company (Larrabee Enterprises). Tim Roth becomes the President of Hudsucker Industries. Both Boards look like every other board in the movies: a long polished table, surrounded by men smoking cigars and drinking, both boards completely manipulated by the one man in the room who actually has any power.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

web fiction

I came across two stories on the web last night that made me think about the blurring of fact and fiction and the way we know the difference.

The first story was about the strange circumstances of the suicide of Ronald Opus. The second story was about a pair of twins into extreme body modification. Both stories have been around the web for years. Both stories are false. The Ronald Opus story is on Snopes. The twins' story has the big hint of being published on April Fool's day.

Fiction is almost always presented as true. Nowhere in Moby Dick does Melville announce that he's making it up. Shakespeare's plays, both those based on historical characters and those based on romantic stories, are presented as though they really happened. And yet, even without Snopes, we know that Moby Dick and MacBeth are fiction.

We know this because the genre of novels and plays (and movies also) are assumed to be fiction unless labeled otherwise. But the default assumption for the internet is that what we read is true. We don't expect the internet to tell us stories. But slowly we're beginning to learn to doubt what we read and sites like Snopes have emerged to help us confirm our hunches.

The situation of internet fiction is much like the current status of photography. We had learned to assume that photographs accurately captured reality. Photography was a recording medium, by nature, not a storytelling medium. Now we're beginning to become familiar with photoshop and we're learning to question that assumption. Soon perhaps we'll learn to do that with the Internet as well bringing us to question our assumption that internet journalism for instance is really journalism, or that internet experts really have the facts.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Robert Epstein argues in today's Los Angeles Times that Californian's were correct in constitutionally defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Interestingly his problem is not that same-sex unions shouldn't be legally recognized, rather that there are many other kinds of adult relationships that ought to enjoy state recognition. Money quote.

Let's fight a larger battle, namely to have government catch up to human behavior. That means recognizing the legitimacy of a wide range of consensual, non-exploitative romantic partnerships, each of which should probably have its own distinct label.

While admirably inclusive, his argument makes no sense in several different ways:

Recognizing same-sex marriage does not preclude discussing other kinds of romantic relationships beyond marriage (co-habitation, polygamy) if that's what someone wants to do at a later point. Why not move the argument forward by addressing the issue that's actually on the table?

On the other hand, recognizing same-sex marriage does not automatically lead to recognizing other kinds of romantic relationships if we would prefer not to. The primary benefit to society when couples marry (opposite-sex or same-sex) is that they agree to take responsibility for each other and any progeny relieving the state of that burden. Relationships that can be easily undone (co-habitation) or that confuse the issue of personal responsibility (polygamy) are less desirable for the state and Epstein is wrong to equate them.

And lastly, the issue of what to call these different arrangements comes down to three options: either we call every relationship marriage, or we call every relationship by some other term (civil union, perhaps), or we call each kind of relationship by a different uniquely descriptive word as Epstein suggests. But Epstein's idea is inherently discriminatory. The word marriage itself carries societal benefits that other labels do not convey, even if every legal benefit is included. So if the only other option is to call everything marriage or everything something else why not just call everything by the word that people already use and understand?