Linkskrieg (Final pass)

June 14, 2012

(She says that now, but who knows…)

1. Is this the face of God in a mixing bowl?

Ruth Davis walked into her kitchen and noticed the image on the side of the bowl after her son Paul had used it for cleaning the windows.

It appears that after mixing in the bowl for the last 40 years the image of a face has developed in the scratches and she believes it is not a half-baked tale.

I think it looks far more like the Joker.

2. Church softball team can’t play in its league because it’s run by a bisexual minister.

The minster of St. John United Church of Christ says he doesn’t even play for the church softball team, but his team felt pressured to drop out of the league, because other churches didn’t want to associate with them.

The sign outside St. John United Church of Christ says “All are welcome. No exceptions,” and it’s making a statement.

This is the first year of ministry for Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell. In October he became the pastor of St. John U.C.C.

“It’s been a bit of a difficult transition,” said Rev. Darnell.

Christian acceptance only extended if you’re the “right” kind of Christian, I guess. No surprise there.

3. School bans Dirty Cowboy book

“This is right on the edge of what our law in Pennsylvania considers obscenity, absolute obscenity,” said Carl Jarboe, who was at the meeting with his wife Abigail.

Thomas Tshudy, president of the Annville-Cleona School Board, said “reasonable minds can differ” regarding the controversy over the banning of the book.

No vote to reconsider the ban was taken. Tshudy was the only board member to speak on the matter.

The school board voted 8-0 in April to remove the book after parents of a kindergarten student lodged a complaint about it.

Saskatoon Public Library is the only public library in the province with a copy of this book. No idea if any schools have bought it but if you want your own copy, go get one. It’s been up for awards:

2004 Nominated Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Book Awards
2003 Won Golden Kite Awards
2004 Nominated Spur Awards
2007 Nominated Georgia Children’s Picture StoryBook Award

Boo to the Annville-Cleona School Board.

4. Iheartchaos links a livejournal link to Wayback Machine’s archived copy of When Same-Sex Marriage was a Christian Rite.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted w ith their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Worth a read. Reminder also: Tonight Nate Phelps will be at Frances Morrison library talking about the abuse he went through growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church and other challenges he faced on account of being gay. It starts at 7pm, costs only $10 and is worth coming early for. I’m sure it’ll be quite the talk.

5. Phoenix high school baseball team balks over having to face team with a girl in title game

Sultzbach is a freshman at Mesa Preparatory Academy, which had been scheduled to play Our Lady of Sorrows Academy in tonight’s Arizona Charter Athletic Association state championship at Phoenix College.

But Our Lady of Sorrows, a fundamentalist Catholic school in Phoenix that lost twice to Mesa Prep during the regular season, chose to forfeit the championship game rather than play a team fielding a female player.

During Mesa Prep’s two previous games with Our Lady of Sorrows, Paige didn’t play out of respect for the opposing team’s beliefs, but that wasn’t going to be an option this time, Pamela said.

“We respected their school rule … but she took it hard,” Pamela said. “She didn’t like it and neither did her teammates. They went out and played the best they could because they wanted to prove a point.”

It would have been a much better point if her team had said “Fuck you guys. She plays and you learn to deal with the 21st century and equality for women.” OLS had done similar shit with a football team that had girl players, too.

6. Controversial nude statue in Tempe vandalized

On Friday morning, Tonnesen discovered someone had vandalized the statue with green paint.

This was the second incident involving the statue this week. Tonnesen said two days ago someone put a crude burlap apron on the statue to cover it up.

Tonnesen said he received permission from the city to display the statue, but the work of art has rubbed some people the wrong way because it is across the street from a preschool and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church.

In order to please critics, Tonnesen put $1 bills on the “private parts” in somewhat of a bikini shape. On Friday, those areas had been painted green.

Tonnesen said he is glad the statue wasn’t damaged further.


7. Orthodox Jewish spiritual adviser on trial for sex abuse

The rallying around Weberman, who goes on trial this month, and ostracizing of his accuser and her family reflects long-held beliefs in this insular community that problems should be dealt with from within and that elders have far more authority than the young. It also brought to light allegations that the district attorney was too cozy with powerful rabbis, a charge he vehemently denies.

“There are other people that claim misconduct and they can’t come out because they’re going to be re-victimized and ostracized by the community,” said Judy Genut, a friend of the accuser’s family who counsels troubled girls.

But, within the community, Weberman is seen as a good man doing good things and has a lot more support than this girl and her family are getting. I don’t care if they want to have their own secretive organized communities but when it comes to accusations of abuse, secular institutions should get involved and deal with it justly. It’s invasive but still better than covering things up, I’d say.


Nate Phelps will be in Saskatoon on Thursday June 14th

June 11, 2012

Saskatoon Freethinkers/CFI-Saskatoon is having him in to give a talk titled “The Uncomfortable Greyness of Life” at the Frances Morrison Library (311 23 St E) that evening at 7pm.

CFI Saskatoon is excited to announce that we’re bringing Nate Phelps to the city for Pride 2012. This is an official Pride Festival event in collaboration with the Saskatoon Diversity Network.

Nate Phelps, the estranged son of “God Hates Fags” church leader Fred Phelps, tells his story of enduring physical, emotional and psychological abuse as a child raised in the hate-filled theology of the Westboro Baptist Church. He recounts his escape from his father’s home at age 18 and his journey from dogma and hate to reason and acceptance, as an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community.

$10 gets you in, $5 if you’re already a Friend of the Centre. Seating is limited, so be early!

The moral: be careful what you preach because the internet can quote you…

May 3, 2012

…verbatim via video.

Pastor Sean Harris spoke recently at an event in North Carolina meant to promote the ban on same sex marriage. It was recorded for posterity, of course, and he is caught on video suggesting more than a few questionable behaviours parents should be willing to engage in in order to save their children from a sinful gay life. Not surprisingly, the video turned up on at least one site promoting LGBTQ etc. rights. Good as You and Pink News quote it. I’ll pick a bit of it, too:

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.

Pink News reports that Harris later claimed the LGBT community had taken his words out of context and twisted the meaning,

saying he “would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother”.

In a blog post addressed to members of his church he wrote: “I would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother. I misspoke. Hopefully, you understood that I was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God; and therefore, must matter to each of us and especially parents […]

He stands by his belief that God’s avidly against homosexuality but has since retracted his comments and apologized for causing offense.

“I recognize that there are those in the LGBT community who believe that their sexual behavior is not sin. I do not agree with them and this official retraction should not be misunderstood as an apology for the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.”

Alternet ran a short article back in April suggesting that Jesus might have been gay.

Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.

Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today. Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches.

Harris would never buy that, of course. It doesn’t fit in with his specific world view.

The bible isn’t a straightforward book. It’s filled with analogy and metaphor and glaring inaccuracies. It’s not a history book set out to record events as they actually happened. It’s a never-out-of-print relic of a bygone age, the collected stories of people who lived over two thousand years ago and how they thought, believed and ruled themselves. There’s no denying that some of the rules set down back then were socially and culturally valuable and still worth setting into law (laws against theft and murder come to mind). Other things were very time-specific and very detrimental to the rights of all human beings – like slavery and homosexuality as abomination – and are nothing current educated societies should promote as valid now.

But people like Harris still will. At least he apologized for the way he attempted to preach his message. That was good of him. Negative press does wonders.

Christian group attempts to stop stopping school bullies?

June 13, 2011

At least, the kind that use gender and sexuality as a reason to pick on people. The Edmonton Logos Society is a Christian group that is allowed to run a program in a few of the city’s public schools. They’re freaking out about a new policy put forth by the schools regarding sexual minorities and the need to improve their school experience.

All children should be free from bullying and everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, in keeping with Jesus’s teachings, the notice says.

“However, if the policy developed . (it) means that our Logos teachers and principals would no longer be able to express freely in their classrooms that the homosexual lifestyle is not in accord with their Christian beliefs, and that they would be required to ‘affirm’ homosexual lifestyle as acceptable to traditional Christian family values, then we cannot accept this,” the two-page notice says in bold lettering.

So all kids deserve dignity and respect, except those destined for their particular brand of hell?

The alert, sent out in a newsletter and on the Logos website, urges parents to read the draft policy, express their opinions to Edmonton public school officials and trustees, and pray trustees won’t “put teachers and principals in a position where they would be prohibited from freely expressing their Christian beliefs in the classroom. After all, this is what our program is all about.”

Then I think it’d behoove school organizers to try and get that religious group’s program out of public schools. I suppose that’s unlikely to happen, however.

They state on their website that their program “operates under the jurisdiction and authority of the Edmonton Public School Board and is subject to such rules and regulations as the Board shall determine.” So, if the Board has decided that these LGBT kids need more support in a school environment they will have to abide by that decision, no matter how much it might pain them.

They’re also pissed off that the schools wouldn’t let them hand out their discrimination documentation directly to the students like usual. Distributing “politically motivated communications” such as that goes against school policy so they resorted to making parents stand on the sidewalks and hand them out that way.

At the time the article was written, less than 30 families had gone to the board complaining about the policy. School board chairman Dave Colburn is quoted as saying,

“I would hope that, by and large, the Christian community would understand the importance of respecting the dignity, safety and well-being of all of our students,” Colburn said Sunday.

“It seems to me the principles of safety, respect and acceptance of all people and understanding the value of every human being would be a fundamental part of Christianity, and I’d like to think people would consider those values when they respond to the creation of this policy.”

While Christian beliefs remain at odds with this human rights issue, these kinds of of stories are going to keep cropping up. It’s good to see the schools are trying to embrace a more inclusive way of looking at gender but so long as Christian groups have say about what goes on in those buildings, it’s going to be a challenge to carry it out. These groups are intent on keeping a slice of society down by demonizing their existence, in much the same way as early Christians dehumanized blacks. More people need to stand up and criticize these groups and their so-called ethics and morality. They’re not helping as much as they like to claim.

Part 2 for the Break the Silence conference

March 19, 2011

So then in the afternoon, there were a lot of choices as to where to spend time. For my first session I chose to listen to three different people talk about their experiences. Eric is a university student who made the transition from tomboy to lesbian in his teen years to real boy now and reported on how supportive the USSU Pride group at the University of Saskatchewan campus was as he went through this, and continues to be family and support for him and so many others.

Deanne McKenney, a professional educator, talked about the man she once loved who went through the process of becoming a woman and how she herself dealt with that surprise – badly. She shared her mistakes and regrets and very emotional, heartfelt moments from her life as she went from anger, to grieving for the loss of this man she knew, to getting to know the woman she’d become and finally realizing she was still the same person after all. It was quite moving, especially for some nursing students in the audience who realized their education was missing something very essential in terms of how to deal with this end of the medical spectrum. Some of them hope to entice a speaker to a conference they’re prepping so more students can become aware of these issues.

The third one was actually the second to speak but I wanted to write about her last because Sara went through a bullied hell at my old high school, a hell I never imagined it’d ever be there. Mind you, I was there from 1990-92 and was totally clueless. I hung with the church girls and went to bed early. I never knew about parties or drugs or alcohol or gangs or anything else that was going on while I was there. I was so very, very sheltered and ignorant.

I do recall there was an area in the school called Jock Hall, though, where all the cool sporty guys would hang out and tease anyone who looked a bit weird. There was one guy I knew who dealt with that all the time. I don’t know if he ever reported it as harassment though. Probably not. I know other kids were in the habit of taking the long way around to classes and lockers just to avoid them. So the idea of Sara being bullied wasn’t unsurprising, but the extent of it shocked me, from assaults in the hall to swirlies (people actually do that?!) and other shit.

[edit Mar 20/10: looking at what I wrote here, this needs amending. I just meant that bullying is so ubiquitous and it doesn’t take much for a kid to be made a target of it. It’s bad enough to be picked on for hairstyle or weight or physical features or interests (this I know all too well). When it ramps up to the level of insulting one’s identity through race, religion, sexuality, and people still don’t do a hell of a lot about it, then that’s a bigger issue than what’s happening to one kid. PFLAG started an ad campaign in Saskatoon to raise awareness of this issue, and has posters for schools, too.]

It got bad enough that she had to switch schools. She found a lot more acceptance coming out as gay there, and got involved with a Gay Straight Alliance group there. They soon came to the conclusion that it’s not enough to have such a thing at one school; the whole city is in need of it. So they made arrangements for space somewhere in town and just had their first meeting. She never said how many turned up but she was pleased with the number. It’s about time the city’s crappy motto, “Where life makes sense,” edges a bit closer to reality.

Since that talk was titled “It Gets Better,” the Youtube videos that run with similar promises got a mention but one of our Freethinkers attending this session pointed out that it’s not enough to make that promise. It’s not enough to assure kids that things will improve after high school. Things have to improve now. Things need to be getting better now, and the only way that’s going to happen is if support is there from every side, gay, straight, or whatever. They need allies every step of the way.

The other talk I chose was done by Carla Blakely, an ally herself, and a Lutheran pastor. Her focus lately has been on going back to the original translations of the bible to reexamine its interpretations, especially considering the fact that most interpretations have come from a heterosexual male perspective from a time when the notion of “woman” as we have it today didn’t really exist. She shared some alarming medical nonsense people used to have about what women were (misbegotten men) and how reproduction was thought to work (sperm was babies). She showed illustrations from old medical texts where the uterus was considered to be an inverted penis and the fallopian tubes were mislabeled as testicles. They just weren’t making the cognitive leap that women were a completely different gender with different sexual organs. They supposedly didn’t even know there was such a thing as a clitoris until Renaldus Columbus “discovered” the thing in 1559.

Yeah, her talk was really really really interesting.

Anyway, the point she was getting at was that beliefs about humanity and men and women and male and female and theories about the “reality” of Genesis versus the nature of creation mythologies has had a big role to play in where people get the idea that God hates gays and why they’ll embrace that nonsense and fight any attempts to increase the rights of gays and lesbians. She suggested that some of this trouble has lied in the way the original Hebrew was translated, losing its intent through misunderstandings and misinterpretations. She gave an example out of the Greek, too, a Roman soldier asks Jesus to heal his slave. She said in the original Greek that word wasn’t slave, it was “dear one,” suggesting to her that Jesus accepted the nature of same-sex relationships and had no problems with it and translations edited it to be other than intended. She also said she’s run into people who believe the bible’s always been in English. I find that to be quite hilarious.

And that was that for the 14th annual Breaking the Silence On Issues in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity conference.

Well, almost. An achievement award was given out. It’s named after the late Peter Corrin, who I never heard of, but he and his long time partner, Murray, were heavily active in gay rights across Canada and their list of accomplishments is a long one, including the right to adopt and foster children. What also interested me was a situation in Surrey B.C. involving a fight between a teacher and his school district regarding his desire to include three gay-friendly storybooks in his classroom as part of a lesson plan. The school vetoed that idea initially but in 2002, the Supreme Court of Canada

held that a local school board could not impose its religious values by refusing to permit the use of books that sought to promote tolerance of same-sex relationships.

So that was good. Anyway, the recipient of the award this year was the one name I did not write down. I guess I was too busy listening at the time but now I don’t even remember what he said.

This day was so jam packed with education and really could have been set across two days for the amount of stuff they had going on. Other Freethinkers were in attendance and went to some of the other sessions so after I’m done my oath talk and discussion session tomorrow, I hope I can find out what some of them got out of it.

One point that did get brought up on our way out today, the concern that this conference is going to get too religiously leaning. A lot of sessions had to do with how churches are dealing with gay rights and that’s going well and terrible, depending on what church they talk about, or even what parish of what denomination. Some of the speakers were gay and Christian, or at least still retain much of what must have been giving them some solace during their struggles, but I think I can return to the question Shawn was asking here: why stay with a group or community that isn’t going to respect you?

Yeah, some churches are changing, allies are coming out of the woodwork and willing to put their careers on the line for human rights and a good fight and all that but over all, will the stress of this be worth it in the end? Will changing the churches get easier as young people take up the spaces elder (bigoted?) leaders will eventually leave behind? Are they going to make a difference? I heard a few speakers mention other churches aligning themselves with countries like Uganda, which consists of a government that’s on the cusp of making a terrible decision for dealing with homosexuality: death sentences. If any of those churches have their fingers in local political pies, what kind of future policies will they support or kill?

Something that maybe could have gone on the evaluation for suggestions… I wonder if they’ve ever asked GBTL atheists to share stories. There must be some who lost their faith as they embraced their sexuality. There have to be some who realized their religion wasn’t going to allow them the freedom to be themselves, questioned what they’d always been told and came to realize freedom could be easier once free of god-belief. I think it’d be worth getting that word out, if they haven’t yet. [mar 20/10: meant people in and around Saskatoon or further who’d come and speak at something like that.]

So that conference is over.. but re-education has to begin

March 19, 2011

Growing up I must have known people who were gay, but if they were, they were completely and totally mum about it and I remain ignorant of their number to this day. Even into high school, I have no idea how many gay students might have been there. I didn’t know many in university either and even among those people I know now, I don’t make it a habit of asking anyone what kind of people they’d be into. Growing up, I was ignorant of the possibility of my friends being gay. Now for me, I don’t feel like I need to know – not because I don’t want to know, it just feels like a non-issue. Okay, you’re gay. Now where are we going for dinner? I don’t know if I’ve explained what I mean very well… I’m accepting, I’m accommodating, I’m okay with it, you know? Why is this such a big deal?

Because it’s a big deal for a whole lot of other people, that’s why. And that’s why the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education has been putting on this Break the Silence conference for 14 years and will continue to do so. This year was the first I’d ever heard of it, let alone attended.

The first talk today featured Emily Carr and Shawn Sanford Beck who shared their experiences as ministers at a local Anglican church and their Wardens freaking out over Emily’s recent marriage to her same-sex partner. They both wound up resigning voluntarily rather than stay in the hostile environment created by these members of their congregation who wouldn’t accept her as is. Shawn used to bless same sex partners at the church but I think he said he’s now teaching theology on campus and Emily has an even bigger role with the church than she did before, coordinating with their Bishop on youth related projects of some kind. I scribbled pages and pages worth of notes into my little book, some of which I can’t even read now; I was in such a hurry to record key points.

One thing I can read off my notes, what lesson did this congregation learn here? They weren’t all against Emily, but Shawn wondered if their decision to leave let the Anglicans off the hook as far as the need to challenge and change a homophobic atmosphere. Then again, why willingly stay around people who think like that?

The second talk was by Constable Hal Lam who discussed hate and bias crimes in Saskatoon and Canada. He revealed some incredibly appalling and stupid things done here, one to Muslims where people smeared ham all over their cars and another to a Jewish family where high school kids got it into their heads to build a cross, burn it, and leave it on their front lawn. He explained how difficult it is to prosecute for hate crimes, but also how important it is for people to report any and all of them anyway. If prosecutors and judges are aware of a history of complaints about that person, it might suggest that escalation to violence was only a matter of time, and that will play in the victim’s favour when sentencing comes down.

These kinds of events against anyone, be it due to religion, or race, or sexuality, have long lasting, long reaching implications for a person’s feeling of worth, and a community’s sense of safety. He brought up a massive protest in Calgary a few years ago on Anti-Racism Day when an aryan group massed a protest against the first group. He showed a news clip of that, and another of a lesbian couple in Ontario who got assaulted at a school when picking up their kid – by a larger man who’d come to pick up his own kid and didn’t like the look of them. Ontario Court Justice Katrina Mulligan felt Mark Scott’s self-defense story bordered on ridiculous and he was declared guilty.

After that was a “Good News” session to promote Camp Fyrefly, a LGBTQetc event for youth in Saskatchewan and Alberta. PFLAG Canada passed on some news about their movement, including the donation of My Princess Boy to every Catholic elementary school library in the city. I nearly cried reading that book and I don’t even have kids. They also talked about Day of Pink which runs April 13th across the country because discrimination hurts everyone. There’s a rally at the Roxy Theatre for fund raising tonight, actually, starting at 6pm (which is right now as I write). And a student from my home town got up to talk about the Gay Straight Alliance that now exists there thanks to her and some help. Yay for Swift Current. After hearing her story, it’s about damn time, too.

And then it was lunch time. Part 2 to come later.

Saw Marci McDonald speak last night; should’ve read her book first

March 19, 2011

It’s called The Armageddon Factor: the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. A revised paperback edition is coming out later this year with some updates, some of which I think she touched on last night. I think I’ll get myself a copy when it comes out.

Marci’s the keynote speaker for Saskatoon’s 14th annual Breaking the Silence On Issues in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity conference. She’ll be discussing other things regarding her political journalism in a session at the university today, but there are several running at the same time and I’m at a loss for deciding which ones I should sit in on. They’re running two sessions over the afternoon with a choice of 4 talks in each one.

A few sound like they’re geared mostly toward educators, counselors and others who might work with youth. For the ones that interest me, one’s called “Giving Voice to the Trans Community: A Saskatchewan Perspective” which will deal with trans people and their thoughts about the DSM-IV and revisions to the section on Gender Identity Disorder. The other is “Three Different Stories About How It Got Better: Opening a Conversation” where people who’ve dealt with social and personal challenges are willing to talk about those experiences.

In the second session there’s a talk called “Que(e)r(y)ing the Image of God” which gets my vote for most likely to pique my interest. According to my weekend itinerary the talk

“challenges the foundation for the male/female binary which undergirds cumpulsory heterosexuality, the foundation of heterosexism. The queering and querying of the traditional interpretations of traditional myths destabilizes heterosexual hegemony and offers an image of God which is inclusive of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transexuals, and intersexed persons.”

There’s also one about human rights that would be good blog fodder, though, as might “The Hetero-Patriarchal Gaze: A Capitalist Story” which will focus the straight white men that dominate media and corporations. No doubt I’ll find myself wishing I had a time turning device so I could repeat the same hour three times and hear all of them.

I’ll write up a synopsis of the day when I’m done it, I guess. Things kick off at 8:30 am and I see there are three talks filling the morning – one about a couple people exiled from church, another from the police about bias and hate crimes, and something called “Good News: Hope We Can Believe In” which will get us to lunch.

It should be good and informative.