Tag Archive: Catholic church

A Marriage of Equals

My dad really offended me the other day by circulating an article he had found online called, “How the Left has sabotaged marriage.” His fairly progressive Lutheran church has been holding a lecture series on their evolving position on gay marriage and Christianity. I don’t know if the article my father found was part of that series, I know that I felt alienated regardless.

Having a safe place for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people to worship might be a game changer, yet most traditional churches tolerate alternative sexual orientations, but don’t really go to the extra effort to welcome us into their fold. There’s something especially empowering about a group of people coming together to worship a God of their understanding, whatever religion that is. Unfortunately, traditional churches still have not made a place at the table for those in the minority.

I can’t really go to my local parish and feel welcome, and that’s a shame. I find myself casting about, looking at other religions to see what might fit, but not finding any religion particularly open-minded. Having a place to belong, and knowing you belong there, is life enhancing, yet it’s not something I truly experience.

And now, of course, it’s the political season. I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter, but even Saturday Night Live made fun of the Left for its glacially slowly evolving position on gay marriage. Kate McKinnon, playing Hillary, went for a drink at a bar where the real Hillary Clinton was working as a bartender named Val. Val tried to bring up, “Oh, you’ve really helped out gay rights,” and Kate’s character kept insisting, almost to the point of absurdity, “But I could have done more.”

The democratic position is practically the only tenable position for a gay man to hold unless he’s so wholly self loathing that he likes being relegated to second-class citizenship status. Aside from transgendered icon Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican party rarely embraces the LGBT community.

I look forward to the day when I can get married in a traditional, not entirely alternative, wedding service, but I’m not sure that will happen in my lifetime. Still, we’ve come miles and miles since Stonewall, and the fight has changed from the basic right of being seen at a bar in public to the right to marry and spend your life with one person.


The Man Who Invented Christmas

My cousin and I just went to the Goodman Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” originally written as a novel by Charles Dickens. The highly imaginative production featured colorblind casting, meaning that an actor’s ethnicity would not figure into his or her consideration for a role, and in fact, Bob Cratchit’s wife and the Ghost of Christmas Present were played by black women. To me, this further universalized the story, and heightened its appeal, not only to people of all ages, but to people of all colors as well.

After getting home from the theater, I picked up a little book my aunt gave me last Christmas, called “The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits,” by Les Standiford. Kind of a long title for a short, small tome, but it really heightened my appreciation for the holiday season.

The book starts with a quote from Walt Whitman: “Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself.” That’s the very lesson “A Christmas Carol” teaches. Ebenezer Scrooge is a pitiless miser, not giving in generosity to anyone else or even himself, but, after being visited by his old, seven years dead business partner Marley, and three ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge has an epiphany and changes his whole manner of dealing with the world around him.

Charles Dickens, author of “A Christmas Carol,” grew up in poverty, and it informed his very being. As the book, “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, points out, “All art grows out of its makers loss, it has been said—and if that is so, Dickens’s loss of his childhood was to become the world’s great gain.”

Dickens became a literary superstar, yet remained afraid of becoming impoverished. He wrote feverishly, in monthly installments in literary magazines, publishing one chapter each month. Like my first creative writing instructor once told our class, “There’s nothing like a deadline to inspire creativity.” Despite Dickens’s fears, he remained resolute that Christmas should be inviolate, and held in our hearts all year long. Dickens once told the world, “The more a man learns, the better, gentler, kinder man he must become.”

And in “A Christmas Carol” Scrooge’s nephew Fred tells his uncle, “I have always thought of Christmas time as. . . the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. “[Christmas] has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it.”

Many have said, many times over, that we don’t know Christ’s actual birthday, and many feel he was actually born sometime in April. According to these people, the Catholic Church wanted to draw in as many nonbelievers as possible, and Pagans celebrated the winter solstice when the day was shortest, December 21st or 22nd, depending on the year. These individuals believe that December 25th was coopted to represent Jesus Christ’s birthday since the shortest day of the year, representing the death of the old and the birth of the new, embodied in Christians that change that Christ brought to the world.

In addition, plants and trees which remain green yearlong held special meaning for many. Pagans believed that evergreens would keep away evil spirits, ghosts, and even illness, and so Germany introduced the Christmas tree to the holiday celebration, and Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Prince Albert, popularized the decorating of the Christmas tree in England.

Charles Dickens grew up in this era, and especially loved the Christmas season. He wrote his book to celebrate goodwill among men, and peace to all. Many of his books moralize more explicitly about the need to care about others, but “A Christmas Carol” continues to touch people deeply in the way few other books have. The strength of this little book is that it makes people feel more than think, and the way they feel has changed the way many conduct their lives. It’s quite a legacy.

I guess the lesson during this 2012 Christmas season is that our thoughts and actions matter, and that we must show generosity in spirit to our fellow men, especially the less fortunate. As Tiny Tim says at the end of A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, Every One.”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Lately, protest movements have come under fire as superfluous and ineffective in stirring up the masses.  It’s more popular these days to become a radical whether your position makes sense or not.  The general public these days seems less and less interested in radicalism.  Two movements in particular strike me as creating a backlash as to what the causes purport to support:  the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street as well as the archly conservative Republican Tea Party movement.

If you really want to be Radical, stand up for what you truly believe, even if it doesn’t support the status quo, to a position without feeling the need to take to the streets or shout the loudest in order to register your opinions.  Below are a couple ways to stand firm in your opinions without becoming didactic.

  1. If you happen to be gay, go to church anyway, and if you really want to challenge yourself, attend mass at a Catholic church.
  2. Sign up for a marathon or half marathon, and raise money to support the cause of your choice.  The point is to continue to challenge yourself physically, if you are able.  If not, find other ways to challenge yourself.
  3. Leave a bad, completely broken marriage.   Take a leap of faith, and trust that the net will appear.
  4. Pursue your passions, no matter that the odds may indeed be against you.
  5. Keep in contact or attempt to reconnect with those teachers, mentors, and friends who have most affected you.
  6. Leave behind and let go of hurts that have limited you.  Remember the adage:  I have no interest in returning to the past because I’ve already been there.
  7. Love your parents unconditionally; on the flip side, love and support your children unconditionally as well.
  8. Set limits without preaching, all the while showing love through patience.
  9. Read books and limit the amount of mindless television you watch.
  10. Find idols to influence the way you walk with integrity, dignity, and grace through your life.  Make your time on earth matter.
  11. Quit drinking, even if virtually all your friends disagree with your decision.
  12. Turn your liabilities into assets.
  13. Wait for the right person to come along rather than settling for what’s convenient.
  14. Challenge yourself to go somewhere new instead of following familiar paths.  Take a different route on your daily walk.  Go to see a show or an exhibit.

Please let me know the innumerable radical thoughts and ideas I have missed.  As Robert Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Equally Blessed?

Around the mid-1980’s a Chicago priest named Rev. Pat Lee started ministering to those impacted by AIDS or HIV.  At that point it was unclear what caused the virus.  Some believed the virus had mutated from being an opportunistic infection into being a virus like the common cold, spread through the air, and there was much fear about how to deal with the disease so priests who went ahead and were inclusive to the gay community were heros in their time.

Recently, however, a new issue has sparked debate.  The gay pride parade was slated to go past Mount Carmel Catholic church in Chicago, but the priest of that church protested, saying that people were not going to be able to go to church that Sunday.  A compromise was reached so that the church would not be affected.  What was not mentioned is that the Chicago marathon was allowed to go by that very church on a Sunday, and no mention was made as to the inconvenience to Mount Carmel.  In the midst of negotiations to move or reschedule the parade, Cardinal Francis George blatantly displayed his prejudice against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, saying, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan.”  I didn’t realize that the cardinal even knew such a hip word, morph, especially when his views of the LGBT community are so dated.  Cardinal George continued, “The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation movement people–who is the enemy?  The Catholic church.”

The message is clear:  sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rocking the boat.  Such inflammatory words are blatantly exclusive, not inclusive.  I have heard many times that God doesn’t make mistakes, even when it comes to gay individuals so I am confused by the cardinal’s comments.  I have heard that the official opinion of the Catholic church is that gay people must be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity.  Something is radically off here.

I myself did my undergrad degree in English at St. John’s University, a Catholic, Benedictine university.  Cardinal George makes me want to quit the Catholic church altogether.