Friday, August 31, 2007

Super O.K.

In several ways, from this adult's perspective, the movie lives up to its name.
The language is beyond coarse, the plot predictable, the overall image of teens and twenty somethings(not to say cops) alcohol sodden and depressing, and in far too many places, I was actually bored.

But, there was also something sweet about the best friendship of the two lead male characters, who unabashedly proclaim their love for each other in the end, and condoms were featured as expected behavior, a long way from last decade's American Pie.

This movie is a good wake up call to parents to not allow your teens to go to unchaperoned parties unless you don't care about their engaging in alcohol, drugs, or sex. It would provide a long series of teachable moments if you take your 13 - 16 year old and get them to promise you a half hour to talk about it afterwards. And yes, it is laugh aloud funny in places if you can put your adult discomfort aside. I'm guessing my Facebook readers will love it.

Frankly though after a week about thinking about Larry Craig and bathroom behavior, it was just a bit too much male bonding for me. I think I'm ready for a Labor Day weekend of estrogen and chick lit.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not the Hokey-Pokey but Close

Some of you reported being surprised by by discomfort or lack of knowledge of gay bathroom cruising techniques. I must have been absent the time that was covered in the hundreds of hours of sexuality courses and workshops I've taken over the years.

But, I was curious to understand how frequent this behavior is and the code that is used. I also wanted to use all of this news as a "teachable moment" with my 14 year old son.

So, for those of you who are ignorant, this is what one of my sexologist colleagues shared with me:

The most common way this happens is the interested/cruising party moves his foot in a subtle way. The party being approached (if they are interested) will mimic the move. Interested then makes a foot move that is move overt. Approached mimics. Then Interested makes an exaggerated movement (like a REALLY BIG and repetitive tappping of the foot) and Approached mimics again. Interested then usually moves his foot right to the "line" between the stalls and if Approached moves his over and touches Interested's foot a contact has been made. [note from Rev. Debra: I can't help but hear "You put your left foot in, you take your left foot out..."]

The reported gesture of Craig running his fingers along the bottom of the stall is NOT something that comes early in this "dance." It usually would come in place of or after the feet touch.

I know this still happens and again, public rest rooms in rest stops, public parks, etc. are the most common places. It is less common behavior today than it was before it was safe for gay people to be out. It is probably most common these days among relatively closeted guys.

So, now you know. My colleague also told me that the proper response is "not interested, no thank you." When I shared that with my son, he told me if some guy's foot came into his stall, I'd have to forgive him for not using such polite language.

Casting the First Stone....

The Senator Craig story has gone from an article in a little know Capitol Hill publication to dominating the news cycle. Calls for his resignation are coming in from every quarter, and today he stepped down from his major committee assignments.

Now, this may surprise some of my readers, but I don't think he should be forced to resign. I've heard some Republicans say that his conduct was unbecoming of a Senator; well, yes, but why aren't these seem leaders calling for Senator Vitter's resignation or at least an ethics committee investigation? Oh, that's right, all he did was use a female escort service on a regular basis.

It's that double standard -- it's okay for Republican men to engage in extramarital sex as long as it's with a woman (I can't help but think of Rudy Guiliani who announced he was divorcing his wife and seeing another woman at a press conference to his wife's surprise) but soliciting a possible sex act from another man means a call for your resignation? Surely using escorts is unbecoming conduct, and in both cases, I wonder about the judgement of a public elected figure taking the risk to engage in the behavior. If Craig had solicited sex from a woman in the airport bar would anyone have cared?

I don't believe that Senator Craig acted ethically or morally, but with all those Republicans asking him to resign, I can't help but think about Jesus suggesting that he who was without sin should pick up the first stone. If you recall, they all went home.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hypocrisy Redux

The opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, of all places, are urging progressive leaders to show compassion for Senator Craig. Really, this is what it said in part:

"...we'd like to step back and, without drawing any conclusions about Craig beyond what is on the public record, make a case more generally for liberal compassion toward closeted homosexual politicians who oppose gay rights.

The liberal view of homosexuality is based on two claims: an empirical one and a moral one. The empirical claim is that sexual orientation is inborn, a trait over which one has no control. The moral claim is that homosexuality is no better or worse than heterosexuality; that a gay relationship, like a traditional marriage, can be an expression of true love and a source of deep fulfillment. Out of these claims flows the conclusion that opposition to gay rights is akin to racism: an unwarranted prejudice against people for a trait over which they have no control.

For the sake of argument, suppose this liberal view is true. What does it imply about the closeted homosexual who takes antigay positions? To our mind, the implication is that he is a deeply tragic figure, an abject victim of society's prejudices, which he has internalized and turned against himself. "Outing" him seems an act of gratuitous cruelty, not to mention hypocrisy if one also claims to believe in the right to privacy.

According to the Statesman, the blogger who "outed" Craig did so in order to "nail a hypocritical Republican foe of gay rights." But there is nothing hypocritical about someone who is homosexual, believes homosexuality is wrong, and keeps his homosexuality under wraps. To the contrary, he is acting consistent with his beliefs. If he has furtive encounters in men's rooms, that is an act of weakness, not hypocrisy.

Now, I don't support "outing" people for their private, consensual sexual behavior, but the reason any of us outside of Idaho are talking about this is because Senator Craig was arrested for and pleaded guilty to lewd public behavior. And the hypocrisy is NOT the act in the bathroom or anything else he has done sexually, but the fact that he has consistently opposed rights for gay people. According to one news report I read he has a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition. Scott over at RHrealitycheck did a good job of addressing this.

But, I do feel compassion for Senator Craig and his family. Because in the world that I am working for he would be able to affirm his sexual orientation whatever it is, have meaningful intimate relationships, and engage in moral, ethical sexual behavior. The values he espoused about sexuality would be the values he lived.

I do not believe that I should judge private adult consensual behavior, but when it invades public spaces or when that person is a public figure actively working against the very behaviors that he engages in, then I think we have the right to weigh in. Yes, I expect that many of us are experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (gotta love that word, now someone needs to teach me how to pronounce it), but I also spoke out against Bill Clinton having sex with his twenty something intern.

As I have written here many times, the hallmarks of an ethical, moral sexual relationship are that it is consensual, nonexploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected -- and that ethic applies to straights and gays, married and single people, teenagers and the elderly. I fail to see how anonymous sex in a public bathroom could ever meet all of those criteria, regardless of the sex of the participants.

Compassion for how hurting this family and those close to it must be? Absolutely. But a pass for voting to exclude gay and lesbian from the same rights as heterosexuals because of his own self loathing? I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This just in...

Despite having pled guilty and paid the fine, now that the story has broken nationally, apparently Senator Craig is now proclaiming his innocence.

This just reported by the Associated Press:

BOISE, Idaho - Under fire from leaders of his own party, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig on Tuesday the only thing he had done wrong was to plead guilty after a police complaint of lewd conduct in a men's room. He declared, "I am not gay. I never have been gay."

"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport," he said at a news conference with his wife, Suzanne, at his side.

They why walk out of the bathroom after the police officer told him to stop? and why plead guilty and pay the fine? And how do you explain taping the foot of the man in the next stall and reaching under it with your hand three times? (I'm having a hard time picturing this as accidental behavior...I mean really, have you ever touched the foot of someone in the stall next to you by mistake -- and the only time I've put my hand under a stall is to pass someone toilet paper who didn't have any in their's.)

And I don't know if Senator Craig is gay or no. Perhaps he is bisexual. Perhaps he cruises women in public places as well. What I do know is that it certainly seems that now in addition to being a hypocrite, he's a liar. My heart goes out to his wife, Suzanne, who surely must think he did something wrong in that bathroom.

I'll have more to say to the folks who in today's comments think I'm backing away from my support of gay issues in tomorrow's blog. In a word though, it's not the act that concerns me -- it's the hypocrisy.

Yet, Another One....

That's Senator Larry Craig from Idaho; it's a picture from his web site.

Yesterday, Roll Call, the Congressional magazine, reported that back in June, the Senator was arrested for indecent behavior in a men's room at a Minnesota airport. (Why hasn't this been reported until now?) For those of you, like me, who may be unaware of the intricacies of such male bonding rituals, read the description of the incident at Roll Call. It's not for the squeamish; in fact, I'm surprised that the editors of staid Roll Call printed it. It was a bit too much sex education even for me at this early hour.

Once again, I'm left wondering, "What was he thinking?" And in what twin universe could this be moral behavior? And, how must his wife and children be feeling? And what kind of internalized self loathing and cultural homophobia drives someone in his position to take this kind of risk rather than seeking a mature, ethical sexual relationship with someone of the same sex?

And no surprise, when I looked up his voting record at HRC this morning, Senator Craig has voted for anti-gay measures, most recently in 2006 for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Maybe we can count on him now for YES votes on ENDA and Hate Crimes Legislation. He did resign yesterday as chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Idaho.

In a world where sexual difference was affirmed as part of God's blessing, maybe, just maybe, these incidents wouldn't happen.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Which Neighbor Do We Need to Love?

My friends at Faith in America alerted me to what's happened in the past month since Rev. Reggie Longcrier from Hickory, North Carolina (is that a great last name for preacher!) asked the Democratic candidates at the CNN/You Tube debates about full inclusion of GLBT persons.

Here's an excerpt from Faith in America's newsletter:

Longcrier's statement that prompted the fundamentalist pastors to publicly deride him read as follows: "Diversity is an important factor in the church's success and gay and lesbian members are accepted and their sexual orientation affirmed," Longcrier stated in an article that was published following his CNN/YouTube debate in Charleston, S.C. on July 23. "God created them as they are, and God loves what he made, period."

Those words prompted Pastor Kathy Johnson of the Greater Shekinah Church in Hickory, N.C. to respond with these words: "While Rev. Longcrier's ministry has done much good in this community, I personally see his intolerance and acceptance of homosexuality as a grave evil." Hickory pastor Dr. Casey Smith wrote these words: "As for homosexuality, it is a vile and damnable sin which the Lord says is an abomination. Any so-called preacher who professes to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while defiling the Word of God, is a most dangerous deceiver."

Of course, what Dr. Smith doesn't seem to know is that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality (at least not recorded in the Gospels.) And what Rev. Johnson seems to have forgotten, is Jesus' call to love our neighbors as ourselves in so many places in the Gospels. In her theology, are gay people outside of the definition of neighbor?

Next week, the Religious Institute is publishing a new guide, "A Time to Seek: Faith Communities and Sexual and Gender Diversity." It outlines what science knows about sexual orientation and gender identity and includes a presentation of what the Bible says and doesn't say. Ordering information will be available on our web site right after Labor Day.

For Rev. Longcrier's eloquent response to his critics, visit Faith in America.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cooking, Cleaning, Sewing, and Godliness

Now, I took home ec in junior high school. I learned to boil water, make brownies, set a table correctly, and for three years in a row, I sewed a skirt that was unwearable. By the third year, my mother would only buy the fabric at a 5 and 10 because she knew I wouldn't wear my creation. Boys took "shop" while we learned to trace patterns and use an iron.

Now, both of my children went to that very same junior high school (now reconfigured as a middle school) and they both took woodworking and a cooking class. It seemed like progress to me, and Alyssa's towel rack from 10 years ago is still in use in our kitchen.

It turns out that the Southern Baptist Association has decided to reinvigorate the tradition by offering a homemaking major for women ONLY at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here's the description taken directly from their web site:

Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. The College at Southwestern endeavors to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture. This is accomplished through instruction in homemaking skills, developing insights into home and family while continuing to equip women to understand and engage the culture of today. The BA in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking provides a solid foundation for life. The woman who completes this degree and concentration will be:

Prepared spiritually – Through significant study of Scripture and theology, each woman will be prepared to be an evangelist and apologist focused upon reaching women, children and families for Christ.

Challenged intellectually – Intensive instruction in the history of Western ideas will challenge each woman to be familiar with the influential people of our past and to give a response from a biblical worldview.

Equipped practically–With four areas of focus, the homemaking concentration student will be equipped

To nurture and care for the family.

In the area of nutrition and food preparation.

By developing a skill in clothing and textile design.

Through practical experiences for skill development for the most important job a woman may have: the nurture and care of the family.

Unfortunately what she won't be prepared for is EMPLOYMENT outside of the home...nor will her male partner be allowed to take classes so that he learns any of the above. The spokesperson for the seminary on the Today Show this morning said that part of the reason for the program is to reduce the number of divorces among Southern Baptists.

It is true that the Bible belt has the highest percentages of divorces; it's here in the liberal Northeast that it's the lowest. Like the teenage abstinence pledging programs created by the Southern Baptists, I'm guessing that this one isn't going to achieve its goal either. But it is going to leave a lot of women unprepared for the day that their husbands leave them, come out, or die.

Surely Godly women need to be better prepared for the 21st century.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


That's the cover to the right.

I'm wondering if I have a copy in the attic. I first picked up OBOS at a women's health conference in 1972, and it was indeed my 18 year old introduction into a new way of thinking about my body and my sexuality. It is one of the few books that I can honestly say changed my life.

I was very proud when I was asked to contribute a small piece to the 2007 edition on religion and sexuality, and even prouder when my daughter was selected as one of their summer interns last year. It was indeed a feminist mother's dream.

Looking through the online copy brought me back to my teenage self and memories of the joys of discovery. Take a look. To my age mate readers, I'd love to post your memories of OBOS. To my younger facebook readers, what books have helped you understand your sexuality?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Good News About Today's Teens...Just Not New News

You may have seen the story today about the new MTV/AP poll on what makes young people ages 13 - 24 happy.

There's actually very little new news in this poll, but it helps dispell once again the myth that teenagers are largely troubled, conflicted, and unhappy with their lives -- or engaging in lots of risk taking behaviors.

In fact, as my new book, "What Every 21st Century Parent Needs To Know" (due out next spring), will report, today's teenagers are less likely to take risks with alcohol, sex, and drugs than teenagers 15 years ago.

The press release says that "being sexually active leads to less happiness among 13 - 17 year olds" but more happiness in the moment for 18 - 24 year olds. Conservative sites are already reporting that "virgins are happier." Well, not quite, when you actually read the research report.

Actually, what the poll found was that almost three quarters of the teens they surveyed haven't had sex in the past week, and almost half (45% to be exact) said the question on their sex life didn't apply to them (I'm not sure though that means they were or weren't virgins or how sexually experienced they were.) I didn't find a question asking if they were virgins and how it affected their feelings of happiness; let me know if you do. Almost half of teens do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend, although 30% of teens who did said that the relationship made them VERY happy. Less than 1% of teens said that "sex" (not defined, I'm guessing teens thought it only meant intercourse) was what made them most happy; 20% of teens said time with their family and 15% said time with their friends. That's good news for all of us who are parenting teens today.

Religion is important to a signficant number of teens. Here's what the report found:

Religion and spirituality are an integral part of happiness for most American young people. 44 percent say that religion and spirituality are either a very important or the single most important thing in their lives, with more than one in ten reporting the latter. And those for whom religion and spirituality play a bigger role in life tend to be happier. 80 percent of those who say spirituality is the most important thing in life say they are happy with life in general, compared with 60 percent of those who say that spirituality is not an important part of life at all.

As they taught me in public health school, it's always a bad idea to confuse correlation with causation. Might happier teens be more likely to attend a religious service? Or younger teens who are happier be more likely to delay having sexual intercourse?

These type of polls don't answer these questions, and we should be careful about using them this way. But, this portrait does paint a positive picture of today's teens (just like the photo above) and as a parent and a minister, that's the really good news.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Good from BOR...

Yesterday, I posted about becoming an expert on SheSource as a result of my appearance on O'Reilly.

Today, the UU World magazine, the online magazine of my denomination, posted a feature on me and my ministry, leading with -- yes, you're right -- my appearance on O'Reilly. If you've been wondering about my background and journey to ministry, the article does a nice job of reviewing my career path.

So, Bill, thank you...and when are you coming to visit a sex education program?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good News from Odd Places

As my regular readers know, I was on The O'Reilly Factor in early July, not without a little trepidation on my part.

A number of good things happened because of that appearance. After I got over the initial hate mail, I met a lot of people who support our work and ministry. The UU World contacted me about doing a feature on me. Several hundred new people are now reading my blog on a regular basis.

And She Source and the White House project invited me to be part of their expert panel, to promote women's voices to the media. I've been complaining about the scarcity of progressive women religious leaders on television and radio, and they've come forward to help the Religious Institute with this! Check out my new profile at and tell them if you have other names to suggest!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Bad News for the Abstinence-Only Folks

How many studies does it take to prove a program isn't working?

Oh, I wish that was the start of a joke.

This week, the British Medical Journal published an article reviewing 13 abstinence-only-until-marriage programs with data on almost 16,000 students.

No surprise to me or my readers -- their conclusions are the same as other peer reviewed studies. NO program affected the incidence of unprotected vaginal intercourse, the number of partners, condom use or sexual initiation -- and one program actually increased STDS, pregnancies, and sexual frequency.

You can read it yourself at

But, am I optimistic that this data is going to convince the abstinence-only proponents in Congress to end the multiple million dollar program any time soon? Probably not. But perhaps it will at least help with the requirement that future programs be both medically accurate and based on effectiveness.

Truth telling should always win out.

I'm pleased to tell you that the Religious Institute is quoted in an article on Sex Education in today's New York Times. So far this month, we've been quoted in USA Today, the Washington Post, the NY Times, the Miami Herald, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and so on. Help us get our voice out -- consider donating to support our media efforts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leaving for Family

I tried to find a picture of Karl Rove's family on "Google Images", but there weren't any, at least in the first 10 pages of photos.

You know, that Karl Rove resigned yesterday to spend more time with his family...of course. Not because of continuing controversies around Valerie Plame, the dismissed US attorneys, the plummeting esteem of the administration, and so on, but because after 35 years working for Mr. Bush, he realized he had neglected his family and it was time to come home. Oh, and that he had to make up his mind by Labor Day. For resigning members of the Bush administration, family is like the "dog ate my homework" excuse.

So, let's pretend for a minute that he did resign for family reasons. Mr. Rove, I think you are probably going to be very disappointed. See, your son in college most likely doesn't want you more involved in his life, and if you are fantasizing oh even weekly visits, I'm guessing they aren't going to happen. And most of the wives I know of workaholic men who retire complain mightily about their husbands now hanging around the house. As one woman said to me, "For better or worse...just not for lunch."

There is no question that many of us struggle to balance our work and our's just we don't use our families as a convenient excuse to quit, as so many in the Bush administration seem to do.

On the other hand, Rove will be gone in three weeks. Let's hope others aren't far behind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Restraint, Discipline, and Chastity

A friend and colleague, who happens to be an out ELCA minister, sent me the final text of the resolution that passed the General Assembly by 100 votes this weekend.

It reads:

Resolution passed on August 11th:

RESOLVED, that in an effort to continue as a church in moral deliberation without further strife and pain to its members, the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those congregations and persons who call into the rostered ministry otherwise-qualified candidates who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship;

and be it further RESOLVED, that the Churchwide Assembly prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.

She writes that this was a stopgap measure as the church debates its "final policy" on these matters. Commenters on Sunday's blog offer their own viewpoint about what happened, and I hope you'll take the time to read them.

For now, can someone tell me what "chaste" means in an adult, mutual, committed relationship, and are heterosexual ministers held to this same standard? Does it mean a relationship with no sexual contact -- or just one where you don't get too excited by it? Either way, it seems like too much to ask of adult partners.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One small step....

On Saturday, the General Assembly of the ELCA voted to ask its bishops to practice restraint in removing lesbian and gay clergy from churches -- and to send the issue to the committee that will release a major report on human sexuality in 2009.

Well, I guess it's a start. Certainly, it's a lot better than voting to remove them. But, it's a long way from affirming that sexual difference is part of God's blessing to us and that loving a same sex partner does not exclude one from God's service in the ministry.

Here's the excerpt for Goodsoil. Go there for more details about what happensed

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) decided to encourage its bishops to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in the discipline of rostered ministers in committed same-gender relationships. While the assembly deferred outright elimination of its policy that prohibits LGBT ministers from living in loving, lifelong family relations with their life partner, asked the church to prepare for such decision at its next assembly in 2009.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America said,
Today this church moved one giant step from the punitive rejection of partnered LGBT ministers to the willing tolerance of them. We see this decision as interim. Full inclusion and acceptance is still down the road, but the dam of discrimination has been broken. This is a great day for LGBT clergy who will walk into their pulpits tomorrow knowing perhaps for the first time that this church values their gifts for ministry more than the policy that would exclude them. The church is on the road to acceptance. The end of exclusion is in sight. With this decision the voting members signaled a desire for policy change, but the need for two more years to bring more of the church along.

You can't be just a little pregnant. I don't think you can be just a little welcoming and inclusive. But, let's pray that Emily is right: it's a new day and a new beginning.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Inch by Inch

My cable system doesn't get LOGO, the gay cable station, so I wasn't able to watch the HRC sponsored debate with the leading Democratic candidates, but I did read about it.

To my mind, the most important thing about the debate is that it happened at all. Ten years ago, when Ellen DiGeneris coming out made the cover of TIME magazine, it would have been unthinkable that the leading Democratic candidates would have participated in such a forum. Of course, it's still unthinkable that the Republican candidates would.

From what I've gleaned, Senators Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are all for legal rights, but none is willing to embrace the idea of marriage equality. I'm going to send all three campaigns a copy of our "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality" so that perhaps they can quickly understand why marriage is so important. Yes, I know that Dennis Kucinich and Senator Gravel support marriage equality, but I think it is critical this year to have a candidate who might actually win. (Maybe I'm just too old...I did vote for John Anderson back in 1980.)

As the debate went on, the ELCA continued to debate whether non-celibate ministers could retain their ordinations...and apparently continued to do so all of today as well. You'd never know that from the official ELCA web site which has NO news about any of this, but Goodsoil does. I'll post as soon as I know something. Regardless of the outcome, the fact that the ELCA is seriously engaging the issue is progress as well.

We're not there yet, but surely progress is being seems like every day.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Will the Truth Set Them Free?

Last night, at 6:30 p.m. in Chicago, these 82 Lutheran ministers put their careers on the line by announcing at the ELCA General Assembly that they are gay or lesbian and in loving, committed relationships.

And on Friday, the ELCA General Assembly will in essence vote if they are to lose their jobs. Actually, according to Lutherans Concerned, a couple of hundred ministers and seminarians have been removed because they are in same sex relationships in the past two years.

Many of them tell their stories in a new publication called "A Place Within My Walls" that you can download at My heart hurt as I read the stories of these courageous ministers who have decided that they can be silent no more.

Several years ago, the ELCA voted to ordain lesbian and gay ministers IF they agreed to be celibate. It's hard for me to understand the rationale behind this type of decision: if sexuality is part of God's gift to us, if sexual diversity is part of God's blessing, if God calls us to be in communion in others, surely God rejoices when we find loving partners to journey with in life. How can this church teach "where there is love, the sacred is in our midst" yet deny it to their gay and lesbian ministers?

The Bible also calls us to truth telling: know the truth and the truth will make us free.
These 82 ministers spoke truth to power last night. We'll know on Friday if the ELCA votes for that freedom.

Please pray for them today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Faith Leaders For....

Yesterday, I participated in a conference call by the Edwards campaign for faith leaders. The call focused on Senator Edwards commitment to the poor, and other moral issues, from the war in Iraq, the environment, and yes, sexual justice issues, were never mentioned. There were only a few minutes on the call for questions, and it didn't seem the time to bring up anything new into the mix.

Religious leaders are being courted heavily by the campaigns for their endorsement. It's as if we are right up there with rock stars, hollywood celebrities, and people with deep pockets. Last week, Bishop Gene Robinson came out for Senator Obama to much press attention.

Frankly, I'm not ready to endorse anyone (a viable pro-choice, pro-sexuality education, pro-marriage equality candidate who is also against the War and committed to domestic issues like health care has yet to emerge) -- and I'm not sure it is appropriate for well known religious leaders to do so. The Interfaith Alliance scolded Bishop Robinson for his endorsement. Sure, each of us an individuals can endorse candidates, but the fact is, that as the head of a religious institution or in my case, an organization, it's a bit disingenuous to say, "Now I'm just talking for myself here" and not expect people to see the institution behind us.

I also wonder how sincere this effort to develop "Faith Leaders for Candidate X" really is -- or for that matter, whether we shouldn't be skeptical about how often candidate's faith is coming into the campaign. I actually applauded Mitt Romney for refusing to get into a discussion of Mormonism last week on the air. Perhaps we all need to be reminded about Article VI of the Constitution: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust."

Tell me what you think.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Do You Know How to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse?

The Sunday Review of Books featured an ad for yet another new book for children on "stranger danger" called "You're NOT my Daddy."

I inwardly groaned, thinking about the scared but earnest parents who would buy it and feel that they had protected their children from sexual abuse. But, what if it is their daddy -- or their step-daddy, their uncle, their coach, their teacher, their babysitter, their Sunday School teacher? Because, in 9 in 10 cases, people who sexually abuse children are well known to the child.

I am passionate about protecting children from sexual abuse. I know so many adults -- both friends and clients - - whose lives have been scarred from acts they endured as children. The statistics say 1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men...but in private conversations it seems so much higher.

That's why I wrote the books "Balancing Acts" and "A Time to Heal", to help congregations prevent abuse and consider the possibility of how to safely minister to an offender. I am pleased to tell you that there is now an online course on these issues, developed in conjunction with the UUA and the New England Adolescent Research Institute, and it is FREE. I am grateful to Joan Tabachnick, my co-author of the course, and NEARI for making this happen. I hope you'll let clergy and lay leaders in YOUR congregation know about this new resource and encourage them to take the course. It will be a valuable resource if you wanted to know more about healthy childhood sexual development, the signs of potential abuse, people with history of sex offenses, and what YOU can do to protect children.

The new course was featured in an AP story in newspapers across the country this weekend. You can read it at I'm hoping that the publicity means that more congregations will start looking at what they can do.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Better Week in Washington, D.C.

The Child Health Bill should be a no-brainer and should unify conservatives and progressives in making sure that all children receive health care coverage. Surely we can all agree that every child has a right to the medical care and preventive services they need.

But, not surprisingly riders of all sorts have been attached to these bills. The good news though, according to NARAL, is that the Senate yesterday narrowly defeated (50 - 49) an anti-choice rider to the bill, that would have extended coverage to embryos and fetuses but not pregnant women.

And the House voted to change the authorization for a part of the abstinence-only-until-marriage program so that, according to SIECUS, programs must now:

*contain medically and scientifically accurate information;

*give states the flexibility to use funds for more comprehensive programs which discuss abstinence, but may also include information on birth control;

*require funded programs to have been proven effective at decreasing teen pregnancy, STD, and HIV/AIDS rates.

Of course, both of these now how to go to the other side to work out a compromise on the final bill.

Let's hope and pray that wisdom and care will prevail.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Change, Change, Change

We went to see "Menopause The Musical" last night for my birthday. It seemed like a fitting way to spend my 53rd birthday. My partner, ever the good guy, was one of three men in the audience.

It was fun, in a depressing sort of way. Songs from the 60's and 70's had their words altered to talk about the symptoms of menopause, from "Change, change, change, change of life" to ditties about hot flashes, night sweats, menopausal rage, mood swings, and so on. I couldn't decide if I'm one of the lucky group of women with only minimal perimenopausal symptoms or if the next five years portend a new kind of hell.

Fortunately, the musical ended on an upnote, affirming women's sexuality and "I've Got A New Attitude." I'd prefer to see the next decade as an opportunity for growth, adventure, and change in all the good uses of the word.

You may remember that last year for my birthday I went to see the "Dixie Chicks." I've promised myself that next year I won't follow this trajectory with something like "Grey Gardens."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


A reporter called me yesterday to do a profile of me and the Religious Institute for her magazine.

At the end of the phone call, she asked me if I was glad that I had become a minister.

I was flooded with feelings of gratitude and caught my breath. "I am so glad," I answered. "I am so grateful for the work I get to do, the people I get to meet, the places I get to go, the lives I am privileged to share, the opportunties that have emerged through my ministry."

Today is my birthday, and it seems like a good time to say "Thank you". Thank you to my spouse, my children, my family, my friends, my colleagues, and to all of you who care to find out what I think. Thank you to God for my life, my health, my ministry, and for the love that supports and sustains me.

I am blessed and grateful...and very glad.