Where Angels Tread, and Politicians Do Not

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell thinks it is okay for single gay and lesbian folks to be eligible to serve as adopting parents. But he draws the line at same-gender couples. They can’t adopt children who need loving homes.

He is not alone in this view, of course. But he is the governor, and he could make a difference. Why is he not doing so?

I do not doubt for a moment his care for the thousands of children seeking stable homes and loving parents.

But his logic? It stinks.

He does not seem to be hiding behind the so-called Marriage Amendment–which is really an anti-marriage amendment, because it forbids same gender couples to marry (or have any rights other than basic contract rights that all people have as a matter of Common Law).

Instead, he just says the current policy is right.

I think he knows the morally right way on this–and the best public policy, too–but he is afraid: political fall-out from his conservative constituency would be huge. Just saying it is okay for single lesbian or gay folks to adopt is a big no-no with many of his supporters.

But he’s not the only one who continues to hide. How does President Obama justify supporting civil unions but not marriage? His logic is no more clean than McDonnell’s even though they are at different points on the continuum of supporting same-gender equality. Obama fears more backlash, not so much from his constituency (although some from more conservative supporters) as from those who simply make a lot of noise on the topic.

Oh, for the days when politicians lead! I am waiting, and have been waiting for quite a while . . . .

It’s More than a Piece of Paper

There seems to be mounting controversy about the claims by some–maybe as many as 25% of Americans, maybe more–that President Obama was not born in the United States, and thus, is not legitimately the President of the United States.

Personally, I have no doubts about his birth, or his legitimacy (in either sense). But if you do, you might want to check out this CNN video report http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/26/ac360-investigation-obama-birther-claims-have-no-merit/?iref=obinsite

Why does this controversy persist, despite overwhelming evidence that Barack Hussein Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Hawaii?

Several crosscurrents seem to be working together. First, there is a strong current of “anti-ness” sweeping the country. Many Americans are panicked. Certainly, given the prolonged economic downturn, this is understandable. Also, after 9/11, the fear of Muslims increased exponentially.

Second, electing the first non-white President is a big deal. Not everyone is comfortable with that, especially when the number of non-white residents is growing more rapidly than the number of white residents. We are becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

All the furor makes me sad. It also causes me to be deeply concerned about our ability as a country to work together.

What really is at issue is not President Obama. He will be president until 2013, or 2017 if he is re-elected. Our nation will not die during his tenure–any more than the nation did under either of the Roosevelts or Lincoln or Reagan or Johnson or even Nixon, all presidents who led us into broad change.

At issue is the legitimacy of our government and our institutions. Can we believe state officials whose job it is to keep these records? Why would they all–including Republicans–lie?

At issue is our ability to accept change, to be open to newcomers, to see our country as a shining city on a hill and not a pit of despair and evil. At issue is our ability to be civil, to not use incendiary words like “socialist” when they are not accurate, and not to caricature our opponents (as so many leaders seem to be doing, on both sides).

Can we remember of what Lincoln reminded us during the Civil War, namely that both sides–Blue and Gray–pray to the same God?

Or is that the issue: some, maybe 25% or more, don’t believe that?

We are in trouble, and it is not ultimately a question of a birth certificate. It goes a lot deeper than a piece of paper. But then, I am always hopeful–unlike Lincoln’s time, few of us (so far) are firing bullets at each other.

Split Pea Soup for Jesus

I am making soup today. Split pea soup.

It is kind of a homely soup to make to serve at church tonight, on Holy Thursday. But I don’t have much time, just getting back from New York last night, and many other things to do today besides making soup. Split pea soup sort of makes itself (after you chop up the celery, carrots, and onions!).

I am feeling a little embarrassed about making this kind of soup for such an important day. I know that this feeling is unreasonable–it is a very good and nutritious soup–and that the feeling harks back to a time in my life when I felt humiliated by my Sunday School teacher.

One year, when my family was really struggling financially, my mother said we would have pea soup for Thanksgiving dinner. I was delighted. I loved her pea soup.

But when we were asked by the teacher what we were having for that special dinner, everyone else mentioned turkey, ham, or roast beef. I said, “Pea soup.” She disbelieved me, told me I was wrong—“your mother is a good woman and would never do that!” I felt really small.

Of course, my mother set her straight (you had to know my mother–she could do that with anybody). She told me not to be bothered by people who try to make others fit their ideas of what is right.

Still, almost 60 years later, I feel it.

But it will be split pea soup tonight–and bread and salad and cheese and dessert and tea. Not bad for getting ready to join Jesus in washing feet.

In fact, maybe it is the perfect meal for such a night. That supper was not about the food–it was about the love of Jesus, especially for those who walked with him every day.  He wants to wash our feet, and for us to wash each other.

It is a homely act of profound love. Like making, and sharing, pea soup.

Spreading the Love Around

More than 25 years ago, when I was in seminary and coming out, I joined the Gay Fathers of Boston. There I met many wonderful men who were struggling, as I was, to make sense of life as a father and a gay man. Many of these men were still legally married to the mothers of their children.

One such man was also a faithful member and leader of his church–the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I remember being surprised that he was part of such a conservative group. It was then that I first heard and began to understand the phrase, “We are everywhere.”

I thought of this yesterday when I saw a front-page story in The New York Times about lesbian and gay students at conservative Christian colleges.

Of course, coming out is an important step in self actualization. It also is a form of testimony, even evangelism, to the wonder and beauty of God. It is a spiritual process, not only in claiming one’s own soul and beauty, but also in testifying to the glory of God.

Taylor Schmitt, center, attends Abilene Christian University

These students are like those involved in the early church, saying to a skeptical and also needy world, “See the power of our God, who causes love to flower even in the most inhospitable places.”

I hope you’ll read the story and feel inspired and grateful as I do. You can find it here http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/us/19gays.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Even%20on%20college%20campuses,%20students%20fight%20for%20gay%20identity&st=cse

And I encourage you to check out Soul Force, a powerful movement headquartered in Lynchburg, VA  (of all places, and that story makes my point all over again!), that is really helping these students claim and live God’s truth. Here is that link http://www.soulforce.org/ Consider making a donation if you can. They do amazing work.

I am just awed every day at how God is at work in the world, helping us to spread the love.

The Best of the World

It is feeling good to be in New York. It used to be my home. At one point in my life, I was sure I would never live anywhere else.

But New York wore me out. I am so grateful to God for calling me to Richmond!

As it happens, I have a growing family in New York. Not only does our new granddaughter live here, but our youngest daughter, Robin, is interviewing for jobs in New York, and most likely will be moving very soon.

So I am being tugged back here. I expect to be visiting frequently.

But as I deal with the incessant, nervous energy of the city, and the dirt, and the lack of green, I can now say, with so many others, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Already, I am figuring out how to get Juna to Richmond. I want her to know the beauty of my home, to revel in the James as much as the Hudson, to giggle in her heart as she sees thousands of dogwoods and redbud in bloom, not to mention the profusion of crepe myrtle, and maybe most of all just to let her soul feel the power and joy of the green everywhere.

I am beginning to think I have the best of the world: living in Richmond and having good reasons to visit New York.

A Miracle Just Beginning

I am in New York on this Monday, and soon to see darling Juna Gorsline Knox again–this time at home with her mommy and daddy!

She is four days old today, and is having her first pediatrician appointment! Already a woman out in the world!

Yes, I am prattling on like a proud grandparent!

And it seems so right to be doing so, to celebrate her new life this week, as we in Holy Week walk with Jesus as he goes all the way through his journey to proclaim new and eternal life for all. It is at moments like the birth of a new child that we are reminded that all life is from God.

Indeed, it is good to remember that our earthly lives are on loan to us, to make of them the best we can. God is like a big investor who has decided to take a chance on our skills of invention–to see what we can make of the raw materials God provides.

Kevin, Juna, and Meg, Day 2

And Meg and Kevin, Juna’s parents, are given the special opportunity to invest the best of themselves in her, along with God, to help her become all that God creates her to be. Jonathan and I, and Mark and Robin (her paternal grandparents), and her aunts and uncles and the rest of her family, are investors, too.

Oh boy, new life is so exciting! And a miracle, still in the making!


I am about to become a grandfather.

Meg, Kevin, and baby girl at 8.5 months

I have wanted to write those words for years, and it looks like my daughter Meg is about to fulfill the dream. I know it is a glorious time of joy for her and her beloved Kevin as well (even as she prepares to face the agonies of giving birth).

As I have allowed myself to feel the joy rising in me, I also read newspaper accounts about the efforts of some in Congress to deny funds to Planned Parenthood. As the debate wore on about what Planned Parenthood did with their funds–including the federal ones–I began to see a connection.

Those who seek to cut the funding focus on abortion, claiming that is pretty much what Planned Parenthood does. But the truth is that no federal money is used by Planned Parenthood for abortions, and they expend enormous sums of money, including federal funds, and time on family planning.

I am glad of their work in that area, and the work of other groups, as well as local and state and federal programs that support responsible family planning. I am grateful my daughter, and her wonderful husband, have access, should they need them, to resources that help them deal responsibly with the momentous decisions about life–their own and their children.

And here is where I become a conservative. I want them to make those decisions–not a court, not a bureaucrat, not a church or leaders of a church.

I know they will be fantastic parents, that this little baby girl is going to be raised with love, care, and wisdom. But I also would have supported any decision they felt they needed to make –including one to abort the fetus.

Does that make me a baby-killer, or a potential one? I don’t think so. Instead, it marks me as a good parent and grandparent. At least, that’s how I see it.

Welcome, baby girl!

The Guns of April

Today is the 150th anniversary of the shelling of Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor–the first guns of the Civil War.

How appropriate then that we should wake up this morning to find a newspaper report telling us that under Virginia law it is legal for people to carry guns in houses of worship–for their self-protection.

I am trying to remember the last time I felt sufficiently in danger for my life, or the lives of others, in church, that a firearm seemed necessary. I sometimes go to synagogue with Jonathan, and I am having a hard time remembering a time when I felt that threatened there either. But it must happen. Why else would this be legal?

I have only been to a Muslim service once–in California, not Virginia–and surely with everyone on their knees, and often their hands and heads on the floor, I felt no danger.  Maybe it is the Buddhists who need this? Or practitioners of Hinduism?

At any rate, I am relieved to know that the next time a preacher gets too wound up for God someone can calm her or him down by brandishing their weapon of choice.

I am sure you feel safer, too.

How About a Little Prayer in Washington?

What is wrong with our government? Or more to the point, what is wrong with our leaders?

I hear some of them say all the time, “We have to live within our means. American families have to do that, and so do we.”

Well, I say to them, and those who oppose them, too: American families don’t have the luxury of just shutting down, of just sitting down and saying, “Its too hard, so we quit.”  Sure, some folks divorce, but they still have to go on with their lives. And if there are children, they really have to keep things going.

What seems to be missing in all this huffing and puffing is simple listening. Our leaders have forgotten how to listen:  to each other, and to the God of their understanding. And too many of them have decided that they, and only they, know what is right. 

I know about this, because there are time when I act like this, too. Or at least I have in the past (don’t ask my husband, he may remember a more recent outbreak). Eventually, I realize I am acting out some childhood scenario. Jonathan usually helps me work through it and so I can move on. And prayer really helps; God always helps me.

Its time for our leaders to do the same. If they need help, the love seat in my office is available. We can pray together.

I think they even have a chapel in the Capitol. It hope it is very full these days.

And if they fail in their basic responsibilities, and the government shuts down, I am sure there are many priests and pastors available for confession. I know I am. And God is always available.

New Life, Renewed Life

As spring rolls along–some days warm, others more nippy–I continue to marvel at the beauty of creation. Is it any wonder that we celebrate Easter, the Sunday of Resurrection, at this time of year?

Of course, the date of Easter is not determined by our calendar, or even our weather–but still, it seems so right. After the dreary tomb of winter, God’s creation is alive!

Lent always used to be a time of heaviness for me, but since my seminary days (can it be 26 years ago this May that I graduated?) I have come to see it as a time of amazing rebirth. Lent is 40 days that are equivalent for me to what I imagine the nine months of pregnancy must be like for a woman (like our daughter, Meg, who will deliver any day now).

Life is kicking inside me. I am making changes, sometimes small ones but still they will have lasting effect. My personal clean-up campaign is not running a sprint, but I am on a marathon to change my ways. And I know God is cheering me on.

New life, renewed life. It is available to us all the time.