Monday, November 30, 2009

Keep Awake This Holiday Season

I preached yesterday about Advent and its messages. Although UU's don't follow the lectionary, I'm always interested in seeing which texts my Christian colleagues are using. I found yesterday's Mark text ominous, but I liked the ending: "keep awake."

Keep awake is an important message as we go through the next four very busy weeks. I encouraged my congregants to let go of the "should's" this holiday season but instead only do the activities that feed their soul.

Here's an excerpt:

Make a promise to yourself to live intentionally during these next four weeks. To let go of the activities on your to do list that don’t feed your soul, and to do the ones that do. If you don’t like writing holiday cards or baking hundreds of cookies, don’t, even if that’s what you have always done. Decide if you love seeing “The Nutcracker” or if this is the year, you’ll finally stop going. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “White Christmas” with your family because you can’t wait to see them again, or take the afternoon to read a book. If you enjoy the mall, go. If you don’t, shop online or don’t shop at all. Eat the wonderful foods that you enjoy, but skip the fruitcake. Each of us only has a finite number of December seasons left. Keep awake.

May it be so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Valentine

I'm taking a break from all things political, starting this evening. I hope you will too.

Thanksgiving to me is a religious holiday, a spiritual holiday. There is nothing more sacred than giving thanks. Meister Eckhardt, 800 years ago, said that the only prayer we ever real need is "thank you."

And I am so grateful for all my blessings.

I am grateful for my family. And I am so thankful that we will all be together over the next few days.

I am grateful for the chosen family of my heart, those who live near me and those who live far away. You know who you are.

I am grateful for my wonderful colleagues at the Religious Institute and the Christian Community. Kate, Tim, Kayla, Amanda, and Steve, thank you for all you do and all you are.

I am grateful to all who support our work at the Religious Institute.

I am grateful for health -- mine and the health of those I love most in the world.

I am grateful for ministry and the opportunity to serve in the world.

I am grateful to you, my regular readers.

I am grateful for work, education, housing, health care and food -- and acutely aware of how privileged I am to have all of them in a world where so many don't.

I am so blessed and so thankful.

I hope you will take time tomorrow and through the weekend to reflect on all that is good in your life...and to whisper the prayer, "thank you."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Religious Institute Condemns "Manhattan Declaration" As Unjust and Not Faithful

This morning the Religious Institute released the following statement in response to the Manhattan Declaration, a statement endorsed by Catholic Bishops and Religious Right Leaders Opposing Abortion and LGBT rights.

The Manhattan Declaration, endorsed by those who are most conservative in America's religious life, is once again a political call against women’s moral agency and the rights of lesbian and gay persons dressed up in religious language. These religious leaders would have us believe that they would be forced to provide abortions or bless same sex marriages against their religious principles when these rights are available. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Religious leaders across the spectrum support religious freedom, the right of each religion to determine its own rites and practices, and freedom of the pulpit. Mainstream and progressive religious leaders differ though in our belief that no single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on abortion or LGBT equality, nor should government take sides on religious differences. We oppose any attempt to make specific religious doctrine concerning the rights of women and LGBT persons the law for all Americans.

Ten years ago, a multifaith group of religious leaders issued the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, a 500-word call for sexual justice that affirmed full inclusion of women and LGBT persons and a faith based commitment to reproductive rights. Today, the Religious Declaration has been endorsed by more than 3,300 religious leaders, including denomination and seminary presidents, from more than 50 faith traditions. Its positions on reproductive justice and LGBT equality reflect the majority opinions of American citizens, faithful and secular alike. Neither the Manhattan Declaration, nor the handful of Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders who created it, speak for most Christians, much less people of other faiths.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thoughts about Abortion and Health Care Reform After a Day in the Senate

I spent yesterday at the U.S. Senate with more than 100 advocates for reproductive health and health care reform. We heard from Senators Boxer, Dodd, Murray, and others about how the Senate would likely address the Stupak restrictions placed on the House health care bill. It was exciting to see many of the heroes of the reproductive justice movement in one place, and even more exciting to be with a large number of young women who are organizing in their communities.

The Senate health care bill was finally released last night, and it doesn't include any further restrictions on coverage for abortion -- as the President promised. But, let's not forget that neither did the House bill until two weeks ago.

So, now it's your turn. On December 2nd, there will be a national day of action at the U.S. Senate to assure that health care reform is not passed at the expense of women's reproductive rights. You can find out more here.

But, we are also asking you to get your congregations involved. We've posted a "toolkit", jointly developed by many faith-based organizations, on the Stupak amendment at our website. We're happy to be one of the contributors, and hope you'll check it out.

From my perspective, as those of you who have been reading my blogs on health care reform for months know, is that low income women should have access to abortion services as a covered medical service. I want to see the Hyde amendment repealed; yesterday, Senator Boxer promised she would soon introduce such a bill. But, because of my commitment to health care reform, I, like many other pro-choice people, are willing to agree to support health care reform that just doesn't take rights or services away from women who currently have them.

We should ask for and accept nothing less.

I hope you'll get involved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Abortion and Health Care Reform: What Would Solomon Do?

From my Huffington Post article yesterday:

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God grants King Solomon "a wise and discerning mind," so that he would have "discernment in dispensing justice." (1 Kings 3:16-28)

What follows from there is a complex story of two women, mothers of two similarly aged boy children, one of whom has died in the middle of the night. One of the women says her son is alive, and that the other has tricked her by placing the dead child in her arms. The other woman says, "No, the live one is my son, and the dead one is yours." They argue incessantly before the king.

Solomon steps forward and asks for a sword. To find the true mother, he exclaims, "Cut the live child in two, and give half to one and half to the other." The real mother, "overcome with compassion for her son," reveals herself by saying, "Give her the child; only don't kill it." The other, revealing her deception, says, "Cut it in two."

I fear that those of us who support health care reform and reproductive justice for women are being put in the position of the real mother. We know that millions of Americans will benefit from health care reform, but we are being asked by some to sacrifice our own rights in order for a reform bill to pass. Surely that is the position many House Democrats found themselves in last week......

To read the rest, go to

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Stupak

The Religious Institute, along with Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood's Clergy Network, and RCRC, released this joint statement yesterday on the passage of the Stupak Amendment in the health care reform bill. It's also available at our web site, Please help us get the word out! And contact your Senator and the White House to ask that it NOT be included in the final bill. We cannot let women's health care be compromised this way.


Catholics for Choice, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Network, the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Choice, and the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing represent more than ten thousand religious leaders and tens of thousands of people of faith who believe that abortion must be safe, legal, and accessible. We come together to condemn the passage of the Stupak amendment which, if passed by the Senate, will effectively deny coverage for abortion services to women covered by the new federal health care plan. We are appalled that religious leaders intervened to impose their specific religious doctrine into health care reform, not recognizing that women must have the right to apply or reject the principles of their own faith in making the decision as to whether or not abortion is appropriate in their specific circumstances. Further, we decry those who sought to use abortion as a way to scuttle much-needed health care reform. We call on the President and the United States Senate to ensure that the final bill that passes does not include any specific prohibition on the use of federal funds for reproductive health care services. We pray for a renewed commitment to relational and reproductive justice for all.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Angry But Not Surprised About Stupak

I want to be happy that the House passed its version of Health Care Reform. Really. I believe so strongly about making health care a right not a privilege.

But the House version included a last minute amendment -- the Pitt-Stupak amendment -- which if included in the final law, will basically mean that any insurance company who wants to be part of the federal program will not be able to include abortion as a covered service. If passed, it's the greatest restriction on women's access to abortion since the Hyde Amendment passed more than two decades ago.

I feel betrayed. Betrayed by the 64 Democrats who voted for it. Betrayed by Nancy Pelosi who let it be brought to the floor. Betrayed by those in the pro-choice community who asked too early for us to get behind the Capps amendment which would have continued to deny women who needed abortion coverage in the public option but was 'abortion neutral'. We gave up too much ground too soon. And angry that our pro-choice President was willing to go along with trading the rights of women to get anti-choice legislators to go along with it, despite the fact that not a single Republican actually voted yes on health care reform.

I can't say that I'm surprised. I've been writing for more than the past two years about my concern about religious leaders who call themselves progressive but don't support LGBT rights or the rights of women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. I've continually called for sexual justice to be an integral part of a progressive religious agenda. I've been asked far too many times to stop raising these issues, to recognize that they are divisive to a common ground agenda, that reaching out to Catholics and evangelical leaders is more important than working for justice to LGBT persons and women. I can't count how many times I've written here -- and in other articles -- that women's and LGBT's lives shouldn't be traded for political gains.

Some of those so-called progressive folks helped deliver health care reform in the House -- but they did it at the expense of hundreds of thousands of women who will now have even a more difficult time accessing safe abortion services. Removing abortion from covered insurance plans won't keep women from having abortions -- it will just mean that they happen later in pregnancies as women struggle to find the money to pay for them -- or they will resort once again to unsafe procedures.

The bottom line: women's lives got buried under common ground on Saturday night. And to those who said the religious right was dead, I wish it felt better to say, "I told you so."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Abortion and Marriage Equality: I'm Not Ready To Make Nice

Since yesterday morning when I read about Maine, Virginia, and New Jersey, I've kept hearing this lyric from the Dixie Chicks song in my head:

I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down

I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round

It got louder when I read a piece in the New York Times about the Democratic leadership appearing to be ready to agree that health care reform will assure that any "public option is a pro-life option."

It is profoundly unjust when the private moral choices of women and lesbian and gay couples are subject to majority vote and political trading. There can be no common ground when votes are allowed to strip people of their existing rights.

Imagine if people could have voted to overturn civil rights legislation in their states in the 1960's. Imagine if slavery had been put up for referendum in the south. Imagine allowing politicians to decide if organ transplants or do not resuscitate orders could be available for your loved ones. Marriage equality -- or any recognition of the civil rights of a minority group -- should not be eligible for public referendum.

Even victories like in Washington State feel hollow when they are based on "separate but equal."

We can not cede people's rights or lives to common ground. As people of faith committed to sexual justice, we must speak only for the higher ground. People's lives are at stake. Join US.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- 2009 Election Results

Election Day 2009 is over. The results for advocates for sexual justice were very mixed.

The Good: Voters in Washington State affirmed the rights of same sex couples to "everything but" marriage. In Kalamazoo, voters affirmed a gay rights ordinance. Several openly gay candidates were elected to mayoral positions, several in the south. And the ugly Congressional contest in upstate New York resulted in a pro-choice Democrat being elected.

The Bad: Anti-choice candidates defeated pro-choice candidates for Governor in New Jersey and Virgina. This does not bode well for women and girls in those states. One possible silver lining would be if Governor Corzine decides to push for marriage equality in his last months in office.

The Ugly: My heart hurt as I learned about Maine earlier this morning. It's so hard to believe that a majority of Maine voters voted to take the right of marriage AWAY from gay and lesbian people, after it had been approved by the state legislator. I just can't understand how Americans could go and vote for HURTING people's ability to have their commitments recognized, their children to grow up in legal families, and their legal rights to health care, survivor benefits, health insurance, and so on stripped. My heart goes out to my good friends who live in Maine who's rights were trampled on yesterday.

Many of us pray each day, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." It's going to take a few days to forgive voters in some of these states.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Vote on Election Day -- Especially in ME, WA, NJ, & VA

I love Election Day. I love going to the polls, going into the private voting booth, and even the earnest bake sales afterwards. I proudly wear my "I voted" button for weeks after Election Day.

Tomorrow is local election time in Connecticut, and the outcomes are just about certain. Still, I plan to be there.

But, some of you live in states where the outcomes for sexual justice will really matter, and I hope you will for sure go out and vote.

In New Jersey and Virginia, voters have a clear choice between pro-choice and anti-choice candidates for Governors. Those votes will have a large impact on whether women in those states will have access to safe abortions without unnecessary or harmful restrictions.

Voters in Maine and Washington State will either affirm or deny the rights of lesbian and gay people to marriage (Maine) or domestic partnership (Washington), rights already conferred by state legislatures. Pro-marriage equality religious leaders have been active in both states. Let's all pray that there won't be a repeat of Prop 8.

If you don't live in one of those states, I'm guessing you have friends who do. Please consider using Facebook or email to remind them how important their vote will be. And all of us can pray for justice. I know I am.