Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Danny and Paul

Many of you may recognize Danny from his year on MTV's "The Real World: New Orleans." I remember watching a few episodes of TRW the season Danny was on. At the time I was deep in the closet, struggling with the conflict between my heart's desires and my childhood religious convictions. At the time I had been involved in ex-gay therapy for a few years. At the time I didn't know a single out gay person. I had heard all kinds of stereotypes about gay folks being promiscuous and addicted and diseased and miserable, but I had never met one.

Though a far cry from actually knowing a gay person, TRW gave me the opportunity to at least peer into a gay guy's life. It wasn't perfect. And of course it was overly glamorous and dramatic due to the MTV production. But I remember being totally engrossed in Danny's character. He wasn't miserable. He didn't seem to be promiscuous. In fact, he was quite loyal to his boyfriend, Paul, a closeted guy in the military at the time. I never saw the episode where Paul came to visit and his face was blurred the whole time, but I did see episodes where other TRW characters asked Danny questions about his relationship with Paul.

I remember the stories Danny told were fond and sweet. They weren't perfect by any means--their whole relationship was kept in the dark in Paul's life so that he could continue his job in the military. But they certainly weren't miserable or promiscuous or monsters trying to prey on young children and destroy the American familyTM.

Of course as a conflicted, closeted, Evangelical gay guy, I was completely afraid of being caught watching Danny on TRW. At the time, I happened to be a residence hall director director at my Evangelical Christian college in Texas. I remember I would use my keys to let myself into an unused room in a dorm that had a television. There I would sit nervously and watch TRW episode alone... and then tell no one about it.

Danny's not a "real" person in my life--I only knew him through a few episodes on a "reality TV" show. But even in that superficial setting, his story impacted me in a powerful way. His life challenged my assumptions, it provided a living example that what I was being taught from the Evangelical pulpits and the ex-gay ministries didn't apply to all gay people. In a small but significant way, Danny's life and his relationship with Paul challenged my convictions.

I just came across this video on YouTube: it's an interview with Danny and Paul several years after Danny's season on TRW had aired. Yup, they're still together. Together they tell a sweet story that really warms my heart.



I'm so glad Danny and Paul took the risk of putting their stories out there. Thanks, guys.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Graduate Student Gunmen

You may have already seen photos of this guy. His name was Stephen Kazmierczak. He was a respected graduate student in sociology at my school. Professor of Social Work Janet Carter-Black, who advised Stephen's research, described him as "engaging, motivated, responsible."

The photo on the left is from his university ID card. My own ID card has a very similar photo taken against the same mute blue background.

Stephen is now dead. He shot himself yesterday after opening fire yesterday in a geology class at his undergraduate alma mater, Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois. He murdered seven students and wounded at least a dozen others before he took his own life.

As you may imagine, this news has shocked and horrified our campus. Everyone is wondering why. So far the search for motive has turned up empty-handed. Unlike the shooter in last year's Virginia Tech massacre, so far no one on our campus who interacted with Stephen has had anything but praise to say of him. We know that he had been on psychoactive medication that he had recently stopped taking, but that's all.

This afternoon I came across an article on NPR detailing the shooting deaths on college campuses in the few decades. I was stunned to learn how many of them were committed by graduate students. It makes me wonder whether the stresses and pressures of graduate life somehow contributed to Stephen's insane decision to storm into that classroom carrying three handguns and a shotgun.
Jan. 16, 2002: Graduate student Peter Odighizuwa, 42, recently dismissed from Virginia's Appalachian School of Law, returns to campus and kills the dean, a professor and a student before being tackled by students. The attack also wounds three female students.

Aug. 28, 2000: James Easton Kelly, 36, a University of Arkansas graduate student recently dropped from a doctoral program after a decade of study, and John Locke, 67, the English professor overseeing his coursework, are shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide.

Aug. 15, 1996: Frederick Martin Davidson, 36, a graduate engineering student at San Diego State, is defending his thesis before a faculty committee when he pulls out a handgun and kills three professors.

Nov. 1, 1991: Gang Lu, 28, a graduate student in physics from China, reportedly upset because he was passed over for an academic honor, opens fire in two buildings on the University of Iowa campus. Five University of Iowa employees are killed, including four members of the Physics Department; two other people are wounded. The student fatally shoots himself.
Now, I'm not saying graduate school makes killers. But it has been shown that graduate school correlates strongly with feelings of being overwhelmed. I wonder if graduate school correlates more strongly with homicidal tendency than does the general population.

Hat tip: NPR

Adding to the Noise

The Christian alternative rock group Switchfoot released a song on its Beautiful Letdown disc titled "If We're Adding to the Noise Turn off this Song." To be honest, I don't like the sound of the song, but I do appreciate the message in the lyrics.

Conservative Anglicans in Britain released a book last week to coincide with the General Synod. The new book, God, Gays, and the Church, sadly "adds to the noise" of the current religious culture war by repackaging several old, tired anti-gay arguments, theories, and twisted "research" that I've heard so many times before.

When I first heard about the book's release, I felt sad. But when I read excerpts from the book yesterday, my sadness dissolved into anger. This book contains some stunningly incorrect claims that make me want to scream.
Homosexuals are promiscuous because when given the choice, homosexuals overwhelmingly choose to be promiscuous.
Gay churches survive as places where worshippers can go to sleep it off and cleanse their consciences after a Saturday night spent cruising for sex at the bars.
Gentle reader, do you know what a “bug chaser” is? A bug chaser is a young gay man who wants to contract HIV so that he will never grow old.
And, gentle reader, [the porn section of a gay bookshop] is where most of them will spend the rest of their lives, until God or AIDS, drugs or alcohol, suicide or a lonely old age, intervenes.
Here is the terrifying fact: If we as a nation and as a Church allow ourselves to be taken in by the scam of monogamous same-sex couples, we will... be giving our blessing to the suicide of Western civilization.
This is absolutely disgusting.

And all in the name of God.

Stuff like this makes me want to have nothing to do with churches or religion. I can easily identify with those gay folks who have lost their faith due to the savage, ignorant, homophobic mindset of many Christians.

Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch

Misty Irons on Gay "Lust"

Remember ridiculously cool Christian blogger Misty Irons? She recently posted a thoughtful entry on her blog analyzing why mainstream Christians are unable or unwilling to consider that gay couples may actually be bound by love. Misty chastises those Christians who dismiss gay affection as nothing more than "lust".
To say so is to characterize their homosexual feelings as fundamentally sordid and self-serving. It leaves no room for any of the feelings or impulses that belong to the higher order of human sexual experience such as emotional and spiritual bonding, mutual respect and admiration, the urge to give oneself to another, the desire to sacrifice oneself for another, or the conviction that you have found a "soul mate."

To say that homosexual people are all about the baser impulses of sexual attraction, minus any of the nobler feelings, is essentially saying they are less human than the rest of us. In other words, it is saying they are incapable of human love. (emphasis mine)
Mrs. Irons goes on to write that mainstream Christians' negative reaction to gay folks "would seem more justified if homosexuality were about people who are of a fundamentally lower moral quality. " Contemplating that gay people actually experience love--not lust--for one another presents too great a challenge for such Christians.
to say that there are people who are capable of the exact same kind of sexual attraction as everyone else, except that they find themselves attracted to people of the same sex for reasons even they can't explain, is a more disturbing idea. It turns a part of your universe upside down.

How can something as sacred and sublime as love take on this orientation? How could God allow this to happen? What is he doing? What does it mean? Why am I feeling so freaked out by it?

As much as Christians like to talk about "the homosexual agenda" and their righteous anger over "perversion," at its root this is really about the deep issues regarding our own personal faith, isn't it? As Christians we know we're not supposed to despise people. Everyone knows that. So we look for reasons to justify our uncomfortable feelings instead of just admitting we have them. Maybe that's why we make up stuff about how homosexuality is "lust" and "sex addiction" instead of just listening to what gay people have been telling us plainly about themselves until they are sick of saying it. Believing the made-up stuff is easier than having to accept the truth of the matter, than having to confront our own fears and phobias and doubts and questionings of God. We want to believe this is about "them" when it is really about us.
Another excellent example of how Mrs. Irons really "gets it." She gives me hope that understanding and reconciliation between gays and Christians is a possibility.

Thanks, Misty.

Yes We Can

The frontman for The Blackeyed Peas has teamed up with a number of artists to put together this really cool music video based on an inspiring speech by Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Check it out; it's pretty awesome.



I know that an Obama administration couldn't actually achieve all of the possibilities mentioned in this speech/music video, but you gotta admit there is a beautiful poetry to the Obama message.

Hat tip: my friend K

"Phags" for Phelps

You gotta check out this website: Phags for Phelps. It's based on the idea that the anti-gay vitriol spewed by Fred Phelps and his family is actually helping the cause of gay rights in America.
Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church family just might be the most important GLBT activists since Stonewall. Why? Quite simply, because they give homophobes a bad name. Unlike stealth homophobes, the Phelps clan don't hide their repugnance under a bushel. Every time they appear on the nation's television screens, they show millions of Americans just how ugly unadulterated bigotry is.

Stealth homophobes across America have been able to hide for too long behind cuddly phrases like: "love the sinner, hate the sin," and "separate but equal," and "tolerance." GLBT Americans are tired of being "tolerated." We want to be respected and embraced as true equals, not "loved" as "sinners."

GLBT rights have come a long way over the last four decades since Stonewall. And on these last miles toward equality, it's time to root out those who walk with us and those who are simply patronizing us. The Phelps Clan and their message of hate are exactly the polarizing stimulus necessary to separate the wheat from those who chafe us. (emphasis mine)
The site includes some compelling quotes from Nate Phelps, the estranged son of crazy-man Fred Phelps.
I have always contended that what my father is doing has been more helpful than hurtful to the GLBT cause. I have also been outspoken about the hypocrisy displayed by people only showing outrage for funeral protests when it's directed toward a group other than gays... I'd much prefer to have the in your face, truthful hatred of my family toward gays than the equivocating, hair-splitting justifications of so many in the mainstream who mask their prejudice with cute little sayings like "love the sinner, hate the sin" while they behave with hatred and prejudice by even defining it as sin. (emphasis mine)
Cool.

hat tip: Bible-Belt Blogger

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Funny Presidential Videos

The Onion on John Edwards




The Daily Show on Mike Huckabee

A Sign I Don't Understand

This message has been on the billboard of the B.A.S.I.C. (Brothers And Sisters In Christ) ministry center on my campus for several weeks. I just don't get it.


Is it a joke? Do they mean it to be taken at face value? Surely not, as such a statement would win them immediate disapproval on this campus.

What am I missing here? Does anyone know what they're trying to say?

Hat tip: Bryce

Monday, February 11, 2008

He That Pisseth Against the Wall

You're not going to believe this exegesis by Steven L. Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Pastor Anderson expounds on masculinity in the Bible based on the phrase "him that pisseth against the wall" that appears six times in the King James Version of the Old Testament, including the following passage.
Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall [1 Kings 14:10]
Before you watch the video of Pastor Anderson's sermon, here is some information from the church's website that may help you understand the context of his message.
Don't expect anything contemporary or liberal. We are an old-fashioned, independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, separated Baptist church and not ashamed to say so.

We believe that the King James Bible is the word of God without error.




Excerpt
400 years ago, pastors used to stand up and preach that a man needs to be a man! Not a "male." Not "the males." It's because the editors of the NIV pee sitting down. It's because the editors of the New King James all pee sitting down. I'm gonna tell you one thing: I'm not gonna pee sitting down. (emphasis his)
The essays page from the church's website includes links to some interesting articles by the pastor, including
and, of course, an essay on gay people
which contains the following gems.
According to the Bible, every one of is us born with a sin nature; we have a natural tendency to sin. However, a normal man is not even tempted with homosexuality at all. The thought of homosexuality to a normal man is disgusting and repulsive.

God is showing us what the queers are about. They desire to pervert others through rape and molestation.

A common misconception is that homosexuals are only attracted to and only prey on men. It is clearly seen in the Bible that homosexuals are perverted in other ways and are always bisexual.
It should be pointed out that Pastor Anderson, in keeping with the doctrines outlined above, never attended college.

Hat tips: my fiancé, Liquidrider

Friday, February 8, 2008

Technique Could Allow Lesbians to "Father", Gays to "Mother" Their Own Children

Wow.
British scientists are ready to turn female bone marrow into sperm, cutting men out of the process of creating life. The breakthrough paves the way for lesbian couples to have children that are biologically their own. Gay men could follow suit by using the technique to make eggs from male bone marrow.

Researchers at Newcastle upon Tyne University say their technique will help lead to new treatments for infertility. But critics warn that it sidelines men and raises the prospect of babies being born through entirely artificial means.

The research centres around stem cells - the body's 'mother' cells which can turn into any other type of cell. According to New Scientist magazine, the scientists want to take stem cells from a woman donor's bone marrow and transform them into sperm through the use of special chemicals and vitamins.

Newcastle professor Karim Nayernia has applied for permission to carry out the work and is ready to start the experiments within two months. The biologist, who pioneered the technique with mice, believes early- stage 'female sperm' could be produced inside two years. Mature sperm capable of fertilising eggs might take three more years.


Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Dobson Finally Endorses Huckabee

Left with a choice between McCain (whom he has vowed he will never support) and Mike Huckabee, James Dobson has finally endorsed the presidential campaign of the former Arkansas governor. But I wouldn't go as far as saying Dobson hearts Huckabee. Rather, his endorsement yesterday seemed rather half-hearted.
I am endorsing Gov. Mike Huckabee for President of the United States today. My decision comes in the wake of my statement on Super Tuesday that I could not vote for Sen. John McCain, even if he goes on to win the Republican nomination. His record on the institution of the family and other conservative issues makes his candidacy a matter of conscience and concern for me.

That left two pro-family candidates whom I could support, but I was reluctant to choose between them. However, the decision by Gov. Mitt Romney to put his campaign "on hold" changes the political landscape. The remaining candidate for whom I could vote is Gov. Huckabee. His unwavering positions on the social issues, notably the institution of marriage, the importance of faith and the sanctity of human life, resonate deeply with me and with many others. That is why I will support Gov. Huckabee through the remaining primaries, and will vote for him in the general election if he should get the nomination. Obviously, the governor faces an uphill struggle, given the delegates already committed to Sen. McCain. Nevertheless, I believe he is our best remaining choice for President of the United States. (emphasis mine, of course)
Hat tip: Right Wing Watch

Steven Colbert Interviews HRC President

Steven Colbert has inaugurated a new series titled "Better Know a Lobbyist." The first two episodes of this series are interviews with Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. Hilarious.

Part One: in which Joe meets Steven's challenge of explaining why gays should have equal rights in 10 words or less with one of the words being "appletini".





Part Two: check out Joe's face when Steven describes how wonderful vaginas are.





Hat tip: Good As You

Mitt Romney, Ted Haggard Drop Out

I'm sure by now everyone has heard the news that Mitt Romney has resigned his bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.

What you may not have heard is that Ted Haggard, the Colorado Springs megachurch pastor who resigned amid a sex and drugs scandal two years ago, has left the "Spiritual Restoration" process set up by his former church and Focus on the Family. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:
New Life Church said Tuesday that former pastor Ted Haggard has prematurely ended a "spiritual restoration" process begun when he was fired for sexual misconduct.

New Life said in a written statement that "the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and (New Life) maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry."

Haggard and his family moved to Phoenix last year. As part of a severance package that paid Haggard through 2007, he agreed to leave Colorado Springs and not talk about the scandal publicly. But Haggard made public an e-mail asking for financial support, drawing a rebuke from the restoration team.

He had agreed shortly after his dismissal to the restoration process, which was expected to include counseling and prayer and last five years or longer.
As someone who spent a full five years in sexual reorientation therapy, I feel quite a bit of sympathy for Haggard as he struggles to find congruence between his orientation and his religious convictions. I wonder how he is doing, how his marriage is doing, how his family is doing.

Hat tips: Good As You, Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Current Primary Delegate Totals






Interesting... I couldn't be more pleased with the present Republican delegate count, but I'm a bit disappointed that Clinton is leading Obama on the Democratic side. It's hardly a wide gap, though. Three more Democratic primaries this weekend, plus three more next Tuesday ("Potomac Tuesday": Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia); I'm hoping Obama is in the lead by this time next week.

hat tip: NPR

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dobson anti-hearts McCain

Dr. James Dobson, leader of evangelical ministry Focus on the Family and conservative political activist, has recently expressed his utter disgust with the way the Republican primary is going. John McCain's star appears to be on the rise, much to Dobson's frustration. Today conservative radio pundit Laura Ingraham read an exclusive statement Dobson wrote.

Just how frustrated is Dobson? Check out what he had to say. (audio from Laura's program is provided through the youtube link; a transcript of Dobson's statement is given below)



I'm deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language. I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party.

McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001 and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.

But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on the virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. (emphasis mine)

These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I'm affiliated. They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country.

Hat tip: Right Wing Watch

"A Vote for Romney is a Vote for Satan"

This website is absolutely hilarious--even moreso because its creator is being absolutely serious. Check out the "Judas Gallery" featuring prominent Christian leaders who have endorsed Mitt Romney and in so doing, according to the website's creator, have promoted Satan's agenda.

Just to set the record straight, I oppose Mitt Romney, but my opinion has absolutely nothing to do with his faith.

hat tip: Right Wing Watch

Voter Intimidation?

This Super Tuesday morning, I walked the four blocks from my apartment to the Urbana Municipal Building to cast my vote in the Illinois primary. For the first time in many years, Illinois is holding an open primary this year, meaning independent voters (like me!) are allowed to vote for candidates of the major parties. You only get to vote in one party's primary, however. So when I walked into the polling station this morning, I was asked aloud to state the party in whose primary I wanted to vote.

Now, because this is Illinois, the Democratic candidate I like the most--Barack Obama--is expected to win the Democratic primary by a landslide. Shoot, we elected him as senator in a landslide back in 2004: 70% of the vote (actually, I'm surprised he wasn't elected by a larger percentage of the vote, given that he was running against complete nutjob Alan Keyes).

So anyway, the Democratic guy I want to win is gonna win my State, and win big. So I decided to vote in the Republican primary. Why? Because I really like John McCain and really despise the other major players: Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Before I even reached the polling station this morning, I decided I would vote Republican to "do my part" to prevent Romney and Huckabee from ever having a chance to run screw the country.

But here's the deal: asking for a Republican primary ballot in my liberal, Democrat-dominated city is like shouting "Beelzebub!" in a church service. All heads turned, and if they hadn't turned when I said "Republican" to the first election judge at the table (a Democrat), they turned after he loudly repeated "Republican." I immediately felt uncomfortable. The other election judges laughed that "oh, you're one of that dying breed" and pointed to the meager stack of completed paperwork for folks who had voted Republican today (22 deep at the time--how do I know? they told me the tally out loud) compared to the much larger stack of paperwork for those who had completed Democratic ballots (122 deep--also counted out loud for me).

I did get a quiet, affirmative smile from the one Republican election judge for my precinct--which was weird, considering the fact that she and I probably agree on very few issues! But the other judges continued to joke and laugh as I moved down the table, completing the paperwork, confirming my registration in the precinct, verifying my address and signature against those they have on file, and finally putting a Republican ballot into a privacy folder and handing it to me.

At the end of the room were six voting booths with cloth curtains and one without a curtain. All the curtained booths were occupied at the time. One of the Democratic election judges--a really old lady with a really squeaky voice--squeaked: "you can use that unconcealed booth, son, if you feel comfortable."

Well, no, actually. I didn't feel comfortable at all. "I'll just wait for one of the other booths, thanks."

Once I emerged from the booth, another Democratic election judge demonstrated how I should feed my ballot into the optical scanner/ballot box. I recognized him as a University librarian. I was sad when he said he recognized me as well.

Okay: I'm not at all concerned that my vote was tampered with or not counted or whatever... but I had a decidedly unpleasant experience voting this morning--the first unpleasant experience I've had in the ten years that I've been a voter. I don't think it was a big deal--but I do think it was far more unpleasant than it had to be. Even though I'm not a Republican--I'm much closer to being a Democrat than a Republican--I felt that I was loudly identified as a Republican to everyone in the room, a room where being a Republican was pariah. The laughs and jokes made me wonder what that librarian will think of me the next time I see him in the library.

Definitely unpleasant. Harassment? Naw. Voter intimidation? Maybe.

I am contemplating contacting the County Clerk (the elected official that oversees voting here in Champaign County) to discuss. Maybe the Clerk will be able to insert some additional bit of election judge training before the real deal--the November election.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday Eve

On this Eve of Super Tuesday, NPR has released a poll with uncanny results. It seems the poll results reflect almost exactly my thoughts on the candidates. How so?

Asked whether they would vote for a nameless Democratic candidate versus a nameless Republican candidate, the average American said they would vote for a Democrat.

BUT once you start specifying names, things changed a bit. Especially if the Republican's name is John McCain.

  • Hillary vs. Romney? The average American chose Hillary.
  • Obama vs. Romney? The average American chose Obama.
  • Hillary vs. McCain? The average American chose McCain.
  • Obama vs. McCain? The average American chose McCain... but just barely (by a margin of 1%).

Actually, given a choice between Obama and McCain, I think I might choose Obama, but it would be a just barely decision. I'm stunned that, perhaps for the first and only time in my life, the American public agrees with me on something. Weird!

I will vote in the Illinois primary first thing tomorrow morning; I'm rather excited about casting my ballot.

Hat tip: NPR

Also, check out my friend Burke's picks for the primaries. His state, California, also votes tomorrow.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Planned Parenthood Worse than Nazis, the KKK

Or so says Evangelical megachurch pastor Rod Parsley. I thought this piece fits nicely into the theme of eugenics that was recently brought up in the comments on a post about intelligent design.

In an animated, almost cartoonish video, Parsley alleges that Planned Parenthood is specifically trying to kill African-American babies in some twisted eugenics plan. To his credit, Parsley correctly notes that Margaret Sanger, the woman whose activism in the first half of the 1900s eventually birthed Planned Parenthood, was an advocate of eugenics. Parsley calls Margaret Sanger "Lady McDeath," but he fails to mention that at the time eugenics was endorsed in the early 1900s by a number of prominent figures--from Alexander Graham Bell to Woodrow Wilson--and that sterilization was required by law for people with various mental illnesses and hereditary diseases in more than thirty States.

At any rate, Planned Parenthood is apparently trying to sterilize the African-American community. What should concerned citizens like you do about it?
So please: go to your phone, go to rodparsley.com, or write out your check and put it in the mail to me right now.


hat tip: Right Wing Watch