Saturday, May 13, 2006

"All I know is, I'm not a Marxist." -Karl Marx

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 15% Conservative, 85% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Friday, May 05, 2006

Radical Ideas

The Episcopal diocese of California will be electing a new bishop this weekend, and three of the candidates are openly gay clergy members. The Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) already has one openly gay bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. You might have also seen his name in the news as a result of his stay in an inpatient alcohol treatment facility in February, 2006. The election of Bishop Robinson to head the diocese has led the Anglican Communion (the worldwide organization of various Anglican Churches) to the verge of schism over the issue of homosexuality. Some ECUSA congregations have even put themselves under the leadership of foreign bishops who support a more exclusive vision of Christianity. Those conservatives who insist that Christ’s servants be of a more traditional moral stripe criticize the supporters of an expanded church for espousing an ideology of “radical inclusivity.”

I recently began attending an Episcopal church in my neighborhood. I went back to church because I wanted to do something that would connect me to the community I lived in, provide an opportunity to work for the “common good,” and perhaps teach me some humility and patience. I figured spending time around unselfish do-gooders might teach me a thing or two about seeing the good in everyone around me. This particular church appealed to me because I knew the reputation of the rector, Anne Fowler, as an activist for social justice issues, such as gay marriage and immigrant rights, and because some co-workers of mine attended and were enthusiastic about the people who went there. Nobody talked about the light of Jesus’ love glowing in their hearts or the glorious joy of salvation filling them with love for mankind. I have found it to be a very open, young, interesting and diverse group of people. At least half the people I’ve met are gay couples, many with adopted or biological kids.

Many of the gay men who attend this church were raised Catholic, and the similarity of ritual and liturgy attracted them to the Episcopal Church. They found their comfort in being allowed to practice and participate without any conflict of conscience. No one here talks about “loving the sinner and hating the sin.” If you have faith in Christ, and practice the one commandment He put above all others (“Love each other as you love yourselves”) you are welcome here. I got the sense from some of the young men I’ve met here that the need for this faith is so strong, that they suffered when they were separated from it by the conflict of their nature with their religion. How can anything good come of the constant message that the very impulse to follow Christ’s commandment was a sin?

Now, I realize that there’s a difference between loving your neighbor and “luvin’ your neighbor” (wink wink, nudge, nudge). There are many forms of love, and the love we are all supposed to feel for each other is different from the love Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee have documented for all the world to see. But there is a common element to them. The love we feel in partnership or marriage is the foundation and model for the love we should try to share with everyone. This is supposed to be the basic teaching of all Christianity. This is the “radical inclusivity” Christ brought to the world.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


So, I just read a column in the Washington Post about Crunchy Cons. This is a new category of conservatives who embrace wacky, liberal ideas like eating organic food and, um, well actually, they didn’t seem to embrace any other liberal ideas other than eating organic food. He’s a right-wing writer who happens to like organic broccoli. She’s a stay-at-home mom who bakes pumpkin bread and pretty much disappears into the background in the story. They’re both converted Catholics who don’t like fags and abortion. Sure, they’ll tell you that they don’t have anything against homosexuals. They just think marriage is a sacred institution reserved for people like them. And don’t you dare read a story about two men getting married to their children. Not while they’re so young and easy to indoctrinate with the right (that is, correct) ideas.

Here’s what the story said to me, in essence: We’ve found a life we like; everyone else should live this way, too. And that just about sums up the problem with conservatism. For all the talk about liberals being dogmatic, politically correct, ideologically rigid fascists and “femi-Nazis” who shout down any attempt at dissent, it is always the conservatives that identify orthodoxy and homogeneity as worthwhile social and political goals.

Take, for example, the current debate on immigration. The argument made against the Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner is the key to the conservative idea that assimilation is the correct goal of immigration. “We are happy to let you into our country to do the dirty work we won’t,” they say. “But you’ve got to learn English, speak quietly, and become like us.” But what does being American have to do with leaving behind all previous ethnic, linguistic and cultural connections? If “American” means anything, it is that our strength is in an amalgam of the various cultures that comprise our population.

Again, we see the same thread with the debate over gay marriage. The so-called homosexual agenda and the gay lifestyle are seen as threats to the nice, normal straight white value system. And marriage is an important part of that value system. When gays started to vocally demand access to the privilege of marriage, it caused an uproar. But I don’t think many straight people seriously believe their marriage is any less valid because two people of the same gender can also be married. The conservatives are shaken by the realization that there is no “gay lifestyle.” What shatters the conservative argument is that if they really believe the values they ostensibly promote – equality, personal liberty, self-responsibility – they have to acknowledge that they are keeping company with a much wider spectrum of humanity than they might want to admit.

Conservatives, crunchy or otherwise, are faced with the reality that, for all their talk of fundamental moral values and guiding principles, their ideology boils down to creating a rationale to criticize things that make them uncomfortable. They want to live in a world where everyone is just like them. Sure, they’re open to debate – should we support the war because the world is safer without Sadam, or because if we weren’t fighting the terrorists over there, we’d be fighting them over here? – but don’t go overboard or you’re just one of those relativists with no values.