Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Marriage -- No Adjectives Needed

I am so pleased to be one of the religious leaders selected to be part of the Washington Post's On Faith panel. Organized by Sally Quinn and Jon Meachem, each week we are sent a question to consider answering.

This week's question was, "Should Religions Intermarry?"

The question was sparked because of Methodist Chelsea Clinton's upcoming wedding this weekend to a Jewish man.

You can read my response to the question here. In a nutshell, I said that people bring many differences to marriage, and that people's religion, gender, or sexual orientation don't define what makes a good marriage. I also shared some of what I've learned from being in an interfaith marriage for almost 30 years.

It's not interfaith marriage, interracial marriage, or same sex marriage. It's just marriage -- and it's a lot of work.

What do you think?

And blessings to all of the couples -- including Chelsea and Marc -- getting married this weekend.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation -- Learnings from Greece

I wonder if it's just me, or if most ministers have pieces of sermons writing in their heads, even when they are on vacation...or maybe especially when they are on vacation.

I'm just back from 10 days in Greece with my partner. It was a wonder week, with stops in Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini.

Sexuality and religion were ever present in Greece. There were phallic symbols on walls and monuments in Delos. There were beautiful Greek gods in various stages of undress in every museum, and tiny pictures of multiple ways of sexual partnering on lots of vases and shards. There were the amazing legends of Greek gods and goddesses, often remarkably sharing power. There were the friezes of the Amazon women warriors, making me wish I remembered more of my 10th grade English and history classes.

And in the modern world of today, there were the family beaches where every women except perhaps most of the Americans were comfortable playing in the water topless. There were the single sex bathrooms in every restaurant we visited, men and women sharing the common sinks while waiting for the stall (some times labeled, some times not) to be free. There was an ease of physical affection between men and men and women and women that was unremarkable to the people around them. On the other hand, except for furtive teenage couples in corners at night, there was little PDA by anyone.

There were little churches everywhere. Tiny Mykonos apparently has 365 of them, one of each day of the year. But we never saw anyone actually going to any of them, even on the two Sunday's of our visit. Worry beads were more ubiquitous than crosses.

And then there were the glorious sunsets over the islands. Each night, I felt a deep reverence and a deep gratitude for the blessings of my life -- and a peace for the love that surrounds us all.

Blessings for your time this summer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What A Week -- July 12 - 16th

I'm behind in blogging, as I just returned on Tuesday from a mini-vacation celebrating my dad's 80th birthday, and then had the second part of a root canal procedure. Apologies to my regular readers for falling behind! I am usually still on twitter though, so for quick updates, follow me there at @revdebra

It's been quite a week.

Good news on marriage equality. Argentina passed marriage equality for same sex couples. You have to wonder if they can do it there, why the U.S. can't do it here. The D.C. Court of Appeals decided by a slim margin to uphold marriage equality in the district. Last week, as you probably know, a Massachusetts court said that denying marriage to same sex couples is unconstitutional. That will probably be the basis for a future Supreme Court ruling.

Not so good news on abortion. The President yesterday inexplicably put out a ruling prohibiting abortion coverage for any reason in the new high risk pools being created. Going beyond the requirements of the Hyde amendment, it seems to be away to further mollify the right on reproductive health services for women. For greater analysis, you might want to check out NARAL or PPFA's web sites.

I was pleased however to read the President's new HIV/AIDS strategic plan, released earlier this week. You can read it at I'll close this post with its vision statement:

“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination”

May it be so.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ending Eugenics for Sexual Orientation Before It Begins

You may have seen the article in Newsweek about using medications in utero to decrease the likelihood that a girl fetus will be born a lesbian or reject tightly prescribed female sex roles.

The article behind the article was developed by the Hastings Center and you can read it here:

My reaction to the articles were mixed. Based on my own readings and discussions with scientists over the year, I do think that prenatal hormones and genetics play a role in both sexual orientation and gender identity. I think there is much that will be learned in the future about how much, and I support high quality, carefully reviewed, given consent for research -- apparently not what has been going on according to the Hastings Center.

However, the possibility that such research could be used for genetic engineering is appalling. I believe as a sexologist that sexual diversity is not "abnormal" but expected, and that we should support diversity not try to eliminate it. And as a minister, I believe that sexual and gender diversity is part of the blessing of God's creation. We need to name any attempt to use medications to change sexual orientation as eugenics, and work to oppose it before it even begins.

As our Open Letter on Sexual and Gender Diversity says,

"Loving, just communities embrace everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with holiness and integrity. We celebrate sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches all."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

I have a special fondness for the fourth of July.

My son's birthday is July 6th, and as he was growing up, we gathered as a family on July 4th to watch the fireworks and celebrate his birthday. For many years, he was convinced that the fireworks were there because it was his birthday. (He turns 17 next week and has just returned from a service learning trip in a small town in Costa Rica.)

But, I also love the big meanings behind the holiday: freedom and equality for, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I know, of course, as my colleagues at Tikkun are reminding people in an email this morning that the Declaration of Independence only extended that to white men, that the colonies allowed the slavery of Africans and ignored Native Americans completely, and that women had no rights at all. And, I don't think we should ignore those historical realities. Tikkun has written a lovely reading to share at July 4th picnics that you might use or adapt.

But, it's the promise of those big words that move me and seem to me not only legal but spiritual in nature. I believe to my core that we are all created equally in God's image and that we all have inherent dignity and worth. And I believe that we are all compelled to work to make that birthright a reality to all, regardless of sex, gender, race, class, religion, or geography.

So, Sunday night, we will have our picnic, watch the fireworks, take a moment to be grateful for our lives and our families and friends, and recommit ourselves once again to what we can do to bring about a better world.

Happy Fourth of July.