Last week, District Two Councilwoman and now notorious homosexual Aja Edwards* posted the following to the Moms of New Braunfels Facebook page: "Hi moms! I'm in the beginning stages of working on some programs and resources for LGBT youth in NB. If you are a mom of a child who is out or the mom of a child who might be struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, please PM or comment here. I'm looking to use these parents and kids as a research panel to see what kinds of programs might be needed. Thanks!"
Uh oh. For those of you that might not know, LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender - you know, the next foregone conclusion in civil rights. Reaction was mixed, but one respondent got the attention of the community at large pretty quick. I'm not going to mention her name or that of her Facebook page, as I'm currently practicing something called "impulse control", but here's her quote: "Anyone else have a problem with this? Get out of city council if you want to promote LGBT issues in NB. Agree? for (sic) Disagree?"
“Get out of city council if you want to promote LGBT issues in NB." Well. That certainly perked my ears up. I immediately began thinking about what other charitable causes someone might advocate that could disqualify that someone from holding elected office. I couldn't think of any, because that's a really dumb premise.
Then I thought about what Judge Dib Waldrip wrote to the Houston-owned Herald-Zeitung when the Boy Scouts started to allow the gay to join their merry band of campers. Not even I called for Waldrip's head on a stick for that one*, although a case could be made that the random homo might be at a disadvantage in his courtroom. My advice to gays: dial down the fabulous a few notches when appearing before Dib, and don't be upset about it. It's a huge leg up to know a judge's opinion on things before having to go before one. Gotta use that edge. (Tip: Judge Boyer is a total mark for Star Trek.)
Anyway, the gist of that issue was that Dib now considers the title of Eagle Scout diminished because openly gay boys (you know, sissies) are now in the running to earn it. Fair enough. The Scouts (despite their obsession with rope and knots) are a traditional faith-based organization, and frankly, traditional religion is, in general, not so homo friendly. They don't have to be, as everyone has a right to associate with whom they choose, arguments and lawsuits about public accommodations notwithstanding. The Christian churches (and Jewish and possibly Islamic organizations) that are ok with the gay, while very nice and all, aren't paying attention to their own holy books. Those books are pretty clear on the issue.
The animus is ancient. Middle Eastern goat herders did not dig on the gay. They just had a real problem with it for some reason, and even today people refer back to those guys for moral instruction on all manner of issues. It's tough being of the homo, and has been for a good long while. Maybe we should give the gays a break and let them hold office. After all, you're not going to find many gay politicians that don't advocate for homo youth. That would be like expecting a Jew to accept your invitation to come over for ham sandwiches. Kinda. Which reminds me, Edwards is also a Jew. Oh snap. There goes the neighborhood.
There was another comment made later in the conversation, by another respondent, about Edwards' fitness to hold office. This one made my blood run cold. Not because it's anti-gay, but because there are people who base their votes on things like who's snuggling with whom and how rather than where the tax money goes: "She was married with step children and after becoming elected she's divorced and gay... Seems as shady as any politician. I believe change starts in small government such as city council, well I don't want someone representing the city when she can vote and truly represent who she truly is." I mean, that's a new level of stupid. But it does explain A LOT.
Gods forbid that woman discover that Edwards was married to a non-white. There was a time that would keep one from holding office as well. District Two might have pre-empted this whole thing had enough of the right people been paying attention.
For the record, the person that made the "divorced and gay" comment also vowed to be at every City Council meeting from that point on, but failed to appear on Monday night. We know because we waited for her. Perhaps her investigation into the sexual history of her new landscape architect/office furniture saleslady/oil change guy ran overtime. Can't be too careful with whom one does business with, after all.
I bristle at all manner of tribalism, but it's a fact that this is how humanity behaves and we've got to live with it - see the first episode of this season's The Walking Dead for an example of where viewing others as the "not us" gets everybody, eventually. (Seriously, it's real good. Not much Carl.) I hate the idea that gay youth need special support, but they do, and the reason is that there is a good portion of society that's on a mission to marginalize them. If they weren't treated as a separate tribe, they wouldn't act like one. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I will say this. When I was a kid, the gays were way more interesting. The amount of nonsense the average gay had to put up with 30 years ago meant that only the most brazen and slightly crazed of the bunch would dare let on that they weren't just like everyone else. They had the money and energy the rest of the citizenry spent on kids, and as a class those people made some great art. They wrote plays and painted paintings or at the very least enjoyed the heck out of them. Those queers had bravado.
Today, being gay is considered damn near normal in much of the civilized world, and your average homo is as mundane as the rest of us. I know dozens of gay men. A disturbing number of them go to bed at 9pm, just like I do. It may seem as if gay culture has been tamed, but that's not really the case. The boring majority simply made their existence known, having been there the whole time, silently enduring a ridiculous judgment.
Homos have been cast out, as it were. Gay pride parades and musical theater and excellent taste in fabrics didn't pop up out of a vacuum. When just getting up in the morning is an act of defiance against a good portion of the populace, the boldest of an affected tribe will raise a flag to let you know that while they've been separated, they won't be ignored. We really should expect that by now, what with women's suffrage and whatnot. How many times does a culture need to learn the same lesson?
Here's an experiment for you - start telling people the color of their skin makes them inherently different from each other and see how long it takes before it becomes a problem for everybody.
Ok, now do it with eye color. Or hat color. Or weight. It's easy to create and drive a meaningless wedge. We're all different from one another in thousands of definable ways, so it hardly requires any thought whatsoever. A feeling of inadequacy that needs to be projected onto somebody else will do just fine. Those that choose that path should keep in mind that sooner or later they're going to find somebody they love or respect on the other side of an unnecessary gulf. And that's going to make for a bad day indeed - choosing between conscience and ideology is a tough gig. If you ask me, it's best to integrate them ahead of time. That requires a good deal of effort and moral courage, however.
Before I close this out, let me throw this one into the mix: The gay kids who buy into the marginalization that too many are selling - and almost any teenager will - become automatic prey for society's creeps. These older, trusted "friends" (most often male authority figures) move in where they see a weakness, and exploit it until maybe the law catches up with them. Factor in the gay teen suicide rate, and then tell us that someone who wants to help isn't fit to hold public office. Perhaps it's you, Madam Two-Shoes, who isn't fit to provide moral instruction. (At least to us guys - see 1 Timothy 2:12)
*Edwards is also a top-notch Realtor. She got me multiple offers on my house in the first 24 hours of listing. It would be foolhardy to trade her in for a hetero agent.
**I would've totally called Dib out on that, but I had a case pending before him and I wasn't going to screw it up to serve the bloodlust of my readers.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in an online radio broadcast with former New Braunfels Mayoral candidate Jason Dias. The show is called 1cityunderGod, and we talked at some length about my agnosticism. The discussion was great and perhaps useful to people that don't really understand that midpoint between theism and atheism, but there was one topic that we really didn't have enough time to discuss, and I thought I would use this column to address it.
The evangelical aspect of Christianity is a key element for most people of faith, but bringing "the good news" to people is no easy task. The task is made even more difficult when Christians encounter people who are resistant to the very idea of a God. Jason was interested in my ideas on how Christians might reach people not inclined to religion or even openly hostile to it. I do have a few ideas, but they aren't part of traditional evangelism.
I grew up in a religious environment, an evangelical one as well. Jehovah's Witnesses are nothing if not evangelical. But, Witnesses do more than just go door to door. A key aspect of their faith is that they offer their own lives as "witness" to the glory of God. This isn't easy; people are fallible, but every Witness is expected to make their lives an example to others to every extent that they can. Much of the craziness we hear about Witnesses is directly related to their attempts to both live their lives as an example to "the world" (think of the distinction between worldly and spiritual things) while staying apart from "the world." Witnesses are prohibited from celebrating most holidays we recognize, they don't take blood transfusions, they don't drink in excess or smoke or engage in extramarital sex of any kind. All these things are prohibited to them, and transgression can result in the Witness version of excommunication: disfellowship, where they are no longer recognized by or associated with the Church or its members.
This treatment is not punishment for sins, we're all sinners; it's designed to ensure that the Church itself is not shamed by its members. Even with these restrictions, you can find a great many people who claim to have had bad experiences with the Witnesses. I can't speak to any of those claims. I wasn't there to see them. Though I don't have any reason to doubt these claims, I can say that my experiences with the Witnesses have been wholly positive. Bad experiences do more than just embarrass the Church; they run a very real risk of driving people away from the arms of God.
My point here is not to chastise evangelical Christians for allowing sinners in their midst but to remind them that the experience Christians have had with their church may not be the experience of others they speak with. This is important to remember because it's difficult to have a productive discussion if the two parties involved are not in agreement with regards to the terms. If you consider religion a positive force in your life and the world, and the person you're talking to considers it the opposite, you are unlike to agree on much said in the discussion afterward.
So, how does one go about solving this problem? Well, it probably isn't going to be solved by talking. In this respect, the Witnesses have the right idea: actions speak much louder than words.
It saddens me when I see government programs that offer outreach to seniors, youth or the poor, not because they don't do good (though this is often the case) but instead because they shouldn't be something the government does. If we indeed do have a responsibility to our fellow man, then that responsibility is one based in religious, not secular, thought, and the responsibility is individual, not collective. Can the government really implement something like the Meals on Wheels program better than a local church could?
Serving the elderly, mentoring the young, and helping the afflicted should be the province of the church. Doing these things are truly evangelical opportunities. A local church can provide the organizing structure, and the flock can provide the money and manpower. Seek out seniors who need help and feed them, help them with daily chores, clean their house, fix their porch, or just talk to them. Offer tutoring and mentoring for children, hold small carnivals or family picnics where all are invited, or create a lending library for children's books at the church. Design food programs for the homeless, take collections to stave off collection agencies for someone who has lost their job, or create a food bank.
It's not necessary to use these ideas to preach. In fact, it might be counterproductive. The actions themselves are enough to provide the evangelism. The idea is to replace any negative perceptions of religion with positive ones. This will happen naturally when people associate only positive experiences in their life with the church. It's not much of a short-term plan. Results may not be obvious for a generation, but I doubt God has a problem with taking a long-term perspective on things.
When I say "don't preach," I don't mean that you should leave God out of things entirely. You don't have to talk with someone to reach them, though. There are other ways to achieve that goal. We all have our own troubles, but it's important to offer a good "witness" to your faith. Be cheerful. Pray when you need to, and don't be afraid to let others see you do so. Don't tell people that your faith is the most important part of your life; show them. Act in a respectful manner; be friendly and outgoing, and never condemn. Allow people to wonder if their life might be better with God in it than without.
One last note, There is a good deal of government money out there available for the tasks I describe above. Someone knowledgeable in grant writing could fund a project, or several of them, much better than probably any church could on donations alone. Don't take the money. If the government funds what you do, you are an agent of the government, not God. There is no free lunch in this. If you can't find the cash to do what you want, go back to the drawing board. Don't blame the congregation; don't blame the world; ask if you (I speak only to individuals prompted to act on my words now) are doing enough.
If you're doing everything you can and still can't make things happen, think smaller or seek out new ideas. There are a books available that discuss guerilla marketing techniques that might easily be applied to entrepreneurial ventures designed to charitable purposes. The ideas don't need to be designed to make a profit, but they do need to be clearly affiliated with the church you hope to represent, and always remember that you are a "witness" for your faith. Take it seriously; it's an awesome responsibility if you stop to think about it.
You can read more from Kelly Colby at yourfirstshrug.blogspot.com.