Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Sex" in the Suburbs

I'm guessing I was the only minister in the theater for the 4 p.m. showing.

The experience of seeing the movie was a little like what most people say about their "first time." Highly anticipated, glad to have done, but a little bit disappointing given all the build up.

Despite all that you've read about the surprise ending (and I won't reveal plot here either), I thought it was completely predictable. And despite the brief glimpses of nude bodies and coital thrusting, the morality of the movie is surprisingly based in monogamy and convention.

What I liked about the movie is what I liked about the series: the strong friendship among the women, the beautiful clothes, shoes, and handbags, and that women over the age of 40 are smart, beautiful, and sexy. And Jennifer Hudson lights up the movie screen.

The suburban multiplex I went to was full of mothers with their late teenage or young adult daughters. We saw one grandmother/mother/daughter combination. There was only one man in his late sixties in the theater. (The men in this movie are almost non-existent; they are there only as background for the women.)

I'd caution parents with teen children under 17 if they want to bring them to the movie. I'd only seen the TBS/CW version of the series, so I was a bit taken back by the moments of explicitness. Decide in advance if you are ready for your child to see nude people simulating sex. There are teachable moments galore. if you don't know where to start, ask your young adult daughter whether she thinks these brilliant, successful women are making good choices in their lives.

At the end of the movie, I turned to my friend and said, "I think I would have prefered another season on TV." Fans of the TV show will want to go -- the rest of you might as well stay home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marriage Equality -- More Signs That Its Time Has Come

Victor Hugo once wrote, "There is no greater power than an idea whose time has come."

In the last twenty four hours, the state of California has announced it will begin marrying same sex couples and the Governor of New York ordered state agencies to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states and countries. This morning, at a meeting we were running on sexuality and seminaries, we took a moment to celebrate these steps towards marriage equality. As religious leaders, we know that where there is love, the sacred is in our midst.

And today, Macy's in LA ran a full page ad in the LA Times, featuring two wedding bands at the top and the words, "First comes love. Then comes marriage. And now it's a milestone every couple in California can celebrate." (Thanks to my colleague Evan Wolfson at Freedom to Marry for passing on the ad.)

Think about that for a moment: a major commercial institution recognized that same sex couples deserve to be married. I keep thinking about my favorite Christmas themed movie, "Miracle on 34th Street." If you remember, after the Santa at Macy's begins refering customers to competitors and people applauded their action, Gimbels adapts the same policy. Soon other major retailers follow. I vaguely remember someone saying, "As Macy goes, so goes Gimbels."

So, Ikea, Nordstrom, Saks, Home Depot, and Target -- are you ready to introduce wedding registries for same sex couples in California? There are a lot of same sex couples who need sheets and towels.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's Playing on Your Tween's IPOD?

There's an interview with me today in the Newark Star Ledger:

It's about a new song by Katy Perry, called "I Kissed A Girl."

Now, I have to admit that I had never heard this song, but I found the lyrics somewhat alarming. Not because it described her kissing another girl, but because she explicitly states that she doesn't know the girl's name, and no concern for her or her feelings.

So, what's a parent to do? My regular readers know my answer: TEACHABLE MOMENT! Ask your tween or your teen if they have heard the song. Check out the lyrics together. Ask what he or she think the message of the song is. Finish this sentence: "In our family, we think:..." To read more about my advice to parents, check out my other web site: Tell me how you handle the lyrics in the songs your kids listen to (and try to remember that your parent probably didn't like, "I can't get no satisfaction" either.)

Speaking of teachable moments: I've got my tickets to see the "Sex in the City" movie on Friday. I'll let you know what I think on Saturday, and if it might be a good movie for young adult daughters and their moms to see together!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gratitude for Five Years of Ministry

This weekend is the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.

I'm not sure how one celebrates this milestone.

With prayer. For sure. By lighting a candle. (I did in my heart during joys and concerns this morning.) By journaling about all that this journey has meant. (Private journaling.) By blogging.

By taking the time for Thank You's. Thank you to my colleagues at the Religious Institute and the Christian Community. Thank you to the donors (big and small) who make my ministry possible. Thank you to the people at the Unitarian Church in Westport. Thank you to the people who have allowed me the privilege to walk with them during counseling sessions, weddings, hospital stays, and funerals -- and the people who have opened their congregations, their seminaries, their schools, and their organizations to hear my message about sexual justice and about sexual healing. Thank you to the progressive colleagues who walk with me and who speak out, and thank you to my immediate family and the friends who are the family of my heart for always believing, even when I have not.

And the deepest gratitude for the spirit of life that calls me to this path and sustains me every day. I am thankful beyond words for the blessings of my ministry and my life.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Beginning of the End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

She certainly doesn't look like someone who would be bad for morale.

She's Air Force Reservist Major Margaret Witt from Spokane, Washington, and yesterday that 9th U.S. Circut Court of Appeals reinstated her, saying that the military cannot automatically discharge people because they are gay. Although they did not rule directly on the "don't ask, don't tell policy", their decision surely is the beginning of its end.

It's time to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity -- in all types of employment, in housing, in relationship and family recognition. As a minister, I affirm that sexual diversity is part of God's blessing. Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court said it shouldn't be a barrier to service.

Bless them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thoughts on Ted Kennedy

When I was sixteen, I spent two weeks in Washington, D.C. on one of those summer programs to introduce politically minded teenagers to the U.S. government. I don't remember much about those weeks (except for the equally politically minded cute boy from New York), but I do remember how moved I was by the presentation to us by the junior Senator from Massachusetts.

I was hooked on Ted Kennedy then. I've been ever since. I supported his brief campaign for President (was that 1980?) and I've been so grateful to him and his office over the years for his unfailingly support for reproductive rights.

And so I feel a sense of grief learning about his cancer this afternoon, a sense of grief that I'm sure millions of Americans share. Cancer has been hitting close in recent months: one of my dear friend's husband is fighting lung cancer; a colleague and friend has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I worked as a chaplain on the oncology floor during CPE. Cancer always seems so hideously unfair, unexpected, and scary beyond words. I volunteered for the oncology floor precisely because it was the floor that scared me the most. I am forever grateful for the lessons I learned there.

None more important than the importance of being grateful for every day that is good -- for the importance of people to love and share life with -- and that when it comes to prognosis, my biostat professor was right: the risk is always 1 and 0.

May we all send healing energies and prayers to Senator Kennedy -- and to all those in our lives who are struggling to heal.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Young @ Heart: Go NOW.

You must go see this movie.

Really. We went to see it last night. I don't recommend movies on my blog often, but this sweet documentary touched my heart and my soul. It's the story of a chorus of people in their 70's, 80's and 90's, who sing cover songs by groups like Crash, Coldplay, and Nirvana.

The music is terrific, but it is the stories of the individuals that inspire. Their message is clear: passion and involvement are the antidotes to growing old (not aging, these people seem to be happily aging.) I'd tell you about the prison scene which at the same moment inspires and hurts the heart, but I really want you to see this movie yourself.

It's a sermon in movie form.

Friday, May 16, 2008

More on California

You might be interested in reading my blog on the Huffington Post today on the California decision:

And for anyone who doesn't quite understand why "Marriage" matters -- or how far we have come in this country -- watch this quick clip of Ellen DeGeneris announcing her plans to marry Portia Rossi this morning on national TV.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

YEAH FOR CALIFORNIA! Marriage Equality in One More State

Just a few hours ago, the California Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to overturn the ban on same sex marriages in California -- effectively making it legal for same sex couples to marry in the state. I've taken a quick look at the decision (it's very long!) and the bottom line seems to be that there is no constitutional reason, in a state that recognized domestic partnerships, to have same sex couples denied the full benefits of marriage, including using the "M" word.

California joins Massachusetts in affirming marriage equality. Connecticut's Supreme Court may do so as well in the coming month.

As our Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality states, "there can be no justification for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender terms of religious values, there is no difference in marriages between a man and a woman, two men, or two women...Where there is love, the sacred is in our midst."

Scripture calls for love and justice in all relationships. Today the Supreme Court of California did so as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Because We Can, Should We? A Religious Viewpoint on ARTs

Yesterday, under the leadership of our Associate Director, Dr. Kate Ott, the Religious Institute held a one day colloquium with religious leaders and activists on Assisted Reproductive Technologies or ART. If that term isn't familiar to you, it means everything from artificial insemination to IVF (invitro fertilization) to surrogacy to some even newer ways for people to have genetically-related children outside of the old fashioned way of penile-vaginal sexual intercourse.

The discussion was intense, invigorating, and mind expanding. I admit to not knowing a great deal about the subject matter: did you know for example that ARTs are successful in producing a child less than half of the time? Did you know that as many as 6 different people can now be involved in producing a new baby? (so much for answering children's "where did I come from" with "when a mommy and daddy love each other"...) Did you know that some wealthy families in the US are now engaging in "reproductive tourism" where they ask women in poor countries to act as surrogates for them? Did you know that there are over 400,000 frozen embryos in the US? Or that in some states, it is illegal for single women or gay and lesbian people to obtain ART's?

The issues are complex, and don't fit neatly into a conservative/progressive framework. We'll be wrestling with them in the coming months, and in the fall will publish a guidebook for clergy on these issues and a new "Open Letter to Religious Leaders." What's clear to me is that the available technology and its commercialization has out paced thoughtful reflection and deliberations on these issues. In the words of one of our participants, Miriam Yeung, "just because we can, should we?" I'd welcome hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I was once again in an airport today, traveling back from a few days off with my spouse.

I was missing being with my children on Mother's Day. I wished the woman who checked us in "Happy Mother's Day." For a moment, we had a sense of woman to woman connection. I smiled "Happy Mother's Day" to the two women TSA agents working as well. It happened again. I wished the woman behind me in line "Happy Mother's Day" and the woman who I bought the newspaper from.

In those exchanges, we recognized something in each other. As mothers, we knew we knew the joys and the sorrows that come from loving another more than our whole being. I knew that they knew; they knew that I knew what someone wrote a long time ago: "that having a child is making the decision to have your heart beat on the outside of your body."

Blessings to all of you who are mothers -- and all of you who are helping nurture new generations in whatever ways. Blessings to the women who nurture and sustain me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

An Evangelical WHAT?

This morning at the National Press Club, a group issued what they called "The Evangelical Manifesto." You can read it here at

It is a call for evangelicals to define clearly who they are, to resist becoming "idiots" for a political party (really, their words, not mine) but to have an appropriate role in the public square. Its most noteworth signer is the President of Fuller Seminary; otherwise, I have to say I didn't recognize the other key names. According to USA Today, Richard Land and James Dobson do not agree with it.

It begins with a clear statement of belief (including a belief that the Bible is the literal word of God) and then raises I think some points of the role of faith in public affairs that I would basically affirm. But, their comments about "cosmopolitan secular liberals" and equating what they terms "assaults on the unborn" (I assume that means abortion) with genocide and slavery, surely tip their hand from otherwise reasoned rhetoric.

I read earlier today on Yahoo news that overall conservatives are happier than liberals. After reading this "Manifesto", one can't help wonder how that could possibly be true.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving, Rest in Peace

I just read that Mildred Loving passed away this weekend.

She's the Loving of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision, that told states it was unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage.

My own children can't believe that there was ever a time in America when people of different races couldn't marry each other.

I hope my grandchildren* won't believe that there was ever a time when people of the same sex couldn't marry.

Loving is what is important.

(*My children are 22 and 15. I don't have grandchildren. Maybe in the next decade...)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Methodists Affirm Anti-Gay Position

I am so saddened by the just voted on decisions at the United Methodist General Assembly. Once again, the UM delegates, by the slimmest of margins, voted to affirm their teaching that homosexuality was incompatible with God's teaching.

Here's a summary of their decisions from the National Religious Roundtable of the NGTLF:

"In deeply paradoxical moves, the voting members of the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, meeting in Fort Worth, TX, decided to uphold language that states that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching; keep in place a ruling that allows pastors to ban lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons from membership even as they turned down all legislation that sought to discriminate against transgender persons, especially transgender pastors; named heterosexism and homophobia as oppression against which the church should work; and called on families and congregations not to reject their LGBT members."

In response, the Reconciling Network released this proclaimation, which said in part:

We are part of God’s living body in today’s world, but our United Methodist Church refuses to accept what God has done, refuses to keep covenant with its own words in the baptismal promise, refuses to honor God’s call to professional ministry, refuses to do no harm, refuses to open its hearts, minds, and doors.

Surely, soon the day will arrive when the churches will acknowledge sexual diversity as part of God's blessing and welcome fully all of God's children. But until that day, we must all continue to speak out for full inclusion.