Saturday, June 25, 2011

Open Forum

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Something momentous happened yesterday evening.

People cried tears of joy. And, others wept tears of defeat. And some were overwhelmed with hope. And some felt kicked in the stomach by despair. And some were elated while others were angry.

To be honest, I think I felt a little bit of all of that, except the anger. One thing I don’t feel is angry.

All day, thoughts and emotions clamored around inside me as I tried to think of some way to respond to this ground-breaking legislation, but the more I thought about it, the less appropriate it seemed for me to say anything at all. Instead, I thought about all those things I was feeling and how so many people were feeling such different things, and I thought…I wish there were a place for all the disparate thoughts and feelings to come together and find a place of dialogue, for us all to have a voice at this moment in time.

So, I’m opening up the forum. Please share your voice in the comments section of this post. I feel blessed so often by the diversity of my readership, and I want to open provide a place for dialogue.

What are your thoughts? What are your feelings?

Please, let’s keep this as a safe haven for all. Be respectful. Every voice is precious.

53 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I keep coming back to a quote by CS Lewis:
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason. " from the essay "God int the Duck"

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  3. When I die and I find out exactly what is a sin and what is not, I hope God judges me on his more important commandments - Loving your neighbor as you would want to be loved yourself; my ability to love, show kindness, forgiveness and humility towards other no matter what their personal choices are.

    If it is a sin, it is a sin between two mutually consenting adults and therefore does not really affect my life and I'd rather support a "sin" done out of a desire to show love than anything else.

    If we as a society put the time and money put towards this debate toward other issues just think of what we could accomplish. We could have more safe havens for victims of abuse; better support and security for single mothers so that keeping their babies or pregnancy is always the best choice; we could have more and better programs for those prone to gambling, debt, excesses of any kind, violence, drug and physical abuse.

    In a world where people still abuse children, the elderly and themselves; where people choose money in their pockets over the safety and health of a community; where people fill their houses with useless things and claim not to have a cent to give charity; where war and hunger still plague millions, why is this the most important issue?

    Jesus invited every kind of sinner to his table, he protected and stood up for the tax collectors, the deceitful, the adulterers (you have to be married to be an adulterer, btw and some people will define adultery as little as a passing thought that Brad Pitt is cute) and the whoremongers (those who seek out sex in exchange for money) and if we truly wish to stand by his example so should we.

    If you believe it is a sin than you have the freedom to attend church and surround yourself in communities that believe the same, you have the power to control what your children learn and who they interact with and if you are drawn to those ideas you should do so, but you should also remember that you can quote all those Bible verses about sin, but don't ignore that it says God will judge, not people; people are called to love.

    But whether or not I believe it is a sin or not will never change my opinion about the person and my desire to love them as my neighbor. If these friends of mine are upstanding members of the community, loyal and caring to their families and neighbors, not given to excess and violence, give to charity and are loyal and monogamous in their relationships who they choose to have those relationships with is but a drop of water in the ocean.

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  4. Passionate and insightful thoughts, Molly. Thanks.

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  5. As is fairly obvious from a few of the posts on my blog, I do not agree with same sex marriage. I think it runs counter to what we are taught in the Bible and I do not approve of the laws being passed.

    However, that being said, I feel a mixture of sadness not just over the law being passed, but over the intensifying nature of the debate. I see personal hatred toward others growing in this debate and that makes me sad because Christ would not have us approach people with hatred. I may think that same sex marriage is a sin,but as a Christian, I am commanded to love my neighbors. And all of my neighbors are sinners - just like me. I think it's because of this that my mood on this issue is a little somber, but not angry.

    And I love the CS Lewis quote Gina B. posted. He is the source of so many good quotes!

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  6. Hi, generally I'm a lurker, but I wanted to express first my admiration for your open-mindedness, Bethany; second, my joy and relief that such a law was passed. In my country (Italy) homophobia is rampant, too many people get beaten and/or harassed just because they simply "look" different or because they dare to do what hetero couples do, like holding hands or exchange a kiss on the street.
    As Molly said, humankind can do horrible things and I am convinced that homosexuality is not among those.
    We are all equals and no one should be deemed a second class citizen and be deprived of fundamental rights. Gay marriage doesn't infringe on the importance of marriage in general, it is just another step toward civil equality.
    I hope I haven't offended you or your readers, best regards
    Elena

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  7. I would be very sad indeed if the God I believe in does not encourage and foster love. And that the law is finally giving consenting adults the ability to form loving, legal families is a beautiful thing.

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  8. There is no such thing as same-sex marriage. Marriage was created by God as one man and one woman. It would be like calling my cat a dog--you can buy all the dog food and dog treats you want, he'll still meow and purr.

    Along with that, the government has no right to control marriage. Even in the God-ordained theocracy of Israel, no mention was made of registering or recording marriages, and the only laws passed around it were restricting marriages of close relatives.

    Not every government-sanctioned marriage is a true one in the eyes of God, and similarly, a marriage not sanctioned by the government can be a true one in the eyes of God.

    That being said, the government does grant certain legal benefits to people whom they deem to be married. If they wish to grant these benefits to people living in a homosexual relationship, it's no business of mine.

    Besides, we don't live in a theocracy. What is the reasoning for stopping same-sex marriage that is not tied in with Christian beliefs?

    --S

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  9. Yikes, some of those comments do not seem very Christ like. I firmly believe that God is forgiving and who people choose to fall in love with is not always by choice. I feel that people in same sex relationships have to take that up with God. And why should we as "Christians" pass judgement towards others. It is in no way shape or form affecting you or hurting you. Why shouldn't they be allowed to love? Why can't they marry someone they fall inlove with. You may not agree with it, but accept it. I am proud to live in a state that allows people of all genders to marry. Sorry if this stirs up too many issues. Coming from a Church going straight married Catholic.
    ~Meghan

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  10. First off, I just want to thank everyone for talking so candidly about the issue without resorting to attacking or belittling homosexuals themselves.

    The thing that keeps coming up again and again (and something that I dwell on myself) is the whole concept of the government's role in defining and upholding marriage. Regardless of the issue of sexual orientation, I can't help but come back time and again to this issue. Why DOES our government have the right to define marriage--and why should it?

    I'm genuinely curious to hear your thoughts. Keep them coming!

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  11. Well, since you asked...

    I don't actually think its possible for two women or two men to be married. What I mean is, regardless of what they call it, it's not a marriage. A marriage must be consumated through intercourse in order to be valid (both civil and canon laws recognize that) and people of the same gender are incapable of intercourse. They have genital play, but sexual intercourse is not possible for them. That's at the bare minimum.
    They might love each other, they might build a life together, they can call it whatever they want, but they're not married.

    It's really not much different from opposite sex people who marry with the intention of never having children, or of not staying married for life, or of cheating. None of those marriages would be valid either.

    But of course, with the widespread use of contraception, and the legalization of no-fault divorce, the def. of civil marriage is a sham and a shell of what marriage (as an institution of the natural law) is: the faithful, fruitful, free, total, and lifelong union of one man and one woman for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. That's what marriage IS.

    People can shack up, and change partners like socks, and make all kinds of arrangements. It doesn't make them marriages. Not in any real sense.

    It's not about gay people. The whole same-sex marriage thing is just one piece in a huge puzzle of cultural confusion and upheaval.

    Personally, I think the government ought to stop being involved in marriage. Anyone who gets married civilly has a civil union. Anyone who wants the legal protections gets a civil union.
    Only churches (or other houses of worship) may marry people.

    In other words, as long as no one ever tries to make the Church validate something that can never be valid, I don't actually care a whole lot. I'm more concerned with the 1 million children who are killed in the womb each year.

    Just my 2c. :)

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  12. What I'm curious about is how some Catholic people/groups are so concerned when the Catholic Church doesn't recognize civil marriage anyway...it seems inconsistent to say that marriage is defined by the church and then be upset when the state does what it wants. It's an entirely different issue for Protestants. At many Protestant weddings I've been to, signing the marriage certificate/license is part of the celebration, and at that moment it's seen as "official" not when the vows are exchanged. I'm straddling the fence between Catholic/Protestant, so I was wondering what your thoughts were, Bethany.

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  13. I think that the question "Why is the government involved with marriage at all?" is essential before deciding whether same-sex "marriage" should have legal standing, because the answer may apply to marriage only or may make sense for more. Yes, morally speaking, homosexual actions are wrong (and that's worthy of its own discussion and explanation), but that's not a legal argument. It's also wrong not to worship God, but we shouldn't make that law!

    Not all marriages have children, but all children have parents. Children overwhelmingly do best when raised by their married biological parents. Yes, adoption is a truly wonderful way to make the best of a bad situation, but it's not the norm or the ideal but what must be turned to in the exceptions when parents fail/die. By "do best" I'm referring to observations about criminality, unwed teen pregnancy, drug abuse, poverty, poor health, etc. that are dramatically more common in incomplete family situations.

    Does the government have an interest in its citizens being healthy, self-sufficient non-criminals? Well, yeah, absolutely. Promoting social stability isn't something I'd consider necessarily essential to governance, but I can see why legal support for marriage has a strong rationale. This rationale precludes same-sex arrangements, which are inherently incapable of procreating themselves.

    So, as far as I can see (and naturally I don't claim to be the last word on the subject), either the state should support marriage or get out of the relationship business entirely. Which one is more prudent would depend upon the culture. In ancient Israel, I suspect that marriage was highly valued, and the ideal situation of state non-interference could have worked. In the current-day United States, it's a mixture, but overall marriage is declining and broken families abound.

    Another total redefinition that comes with this legislation is parenthood. "Mother" and "father" have biological meanings that come from nature. Again, these acquire additional meanings when making the best of a bad situation via adoption, but even such exceptions do so to imitate the norm. The government is supposed to recognize parentage but not determine it because government is not above nature. However, in same-sex "marriages," the government places itself above nature by routinely assigning parenthood. This aspect is the most deeply disturbing to me, though I didn't initially see or understand the radical nature of it.

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  14. I, too, am very glad that people here are not denigrating people with same-sex attraction. Defining marriage is not about sinful hatred or unequal treatment of homosexual people! As New York Archbishop Dolan said recently, “This isn’t gay rights; it has nothing to do with it. If a [heterosexual] wanted the state Legislature to accommodate his desire to have his relationship with two women declared a marriage, we’d be against it. We’re not talking about anti-anybody; we’re talking about pro-marriage. You don’t redefine marriage — a given — just to accommodate people’s lifestyle.”

    @Gina: As a Catholic, I wonder that too, sometimes. There are some who blow things out of proportion, which bugs me, but I guess that comes in every group of humans. However, the worry isn't that we'd have to recognize same-sex "marriages" in the Church or anything along those lines. It's analogous to why the Church can oppose no-fault divorce legislation even though divorce is impossible for a sacramental marriage. It has no effect on the Sacrament, but that doesn't mean She can't point out that it harms society.

    My semi-educated understanding of teaching on the politics of same-sex "marriage" is due to the harm this both does and reflects about a culture. It places those who understand that homosexual sex acts are morally wrong in defiance of legal and social norms, i.e., Catholics as well as other Christians will be seen as even nuttier & it will be that much harder to be understood, teach our children, and all that. It also reflects a complete lack of understanding of what sex is and what it is for, indicating that society is in deep doodoo. Plus, there's the concern - some of it already coming true in other nations - that legalizing same-sex unions harms society by making marriage less (not more) common. So it's both out of concern for Christians in particular and humankind in general that the Church speaks out against same-sex "marriage." It isn't based on the state determining anything about the Sacrament - that simply never enters into the equation, as you rightly observe.

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  15. Oh, and some specific examples of people being marginalized due to same-sex "marriage" laws include employees who voice support for traditional marriage being fired, adoption clinics for married couples being shut down, and children in government schools being taught mandatory anti-Christian moral propaganda. These are only things that are already happening. Speculation might reveal further possibilities to be realized. In a nutshell, same-sex "marriage" impositions generally threaten religious freedom, a value the Church speaks out for in all parts of the world, whether that means people choose Catholicism or not.

    Sorry to write so much!

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  16. Wow! Things really heated up while I was wiling away my evening novel-reading :) Again, HUGE thanks for staying on topic and keeping things civil. I love y'all!

    Gina - So, personally, I'm going to "out" myself as one of those folks who is actually for the gov't just getting out of the whole marriage business. I actually requested that the officiant at our wedding not say anything about "the authority vested in [him] by the State of California" because I don't believe that the Sacrament of Marriage has anything to do with California or any other national or political entity. I support, in principal, the idea of a gay "civil marriage," because I don't think the government should be able to tell two legal, consenting adults who they can live with, build a family with, sleep with, request to visit them in the hospital when they are dying, etc., etc.

    So, why is the Catholic Church against the civil unions/marriage for same sex couples? Amelia laid a lot of it out on the table. The USCCB (conference of bishops) has the obligation to uphold God's moral and natural law in their teachings. It is their job to protect their flock, whether or not (as the CS Lewis quote talks about) every member of that flock SEES the protection as such. That is their moral duty. The flock includes not just the practicing, adhering faithful, but all Christians--gay and straight--and the children born to Christians. As Amelia pointed out, the legalization of same sex unions may end up having a profound impact on the legal standing of the relationship between biological parents and children. That said, many of the issues that have already arisen with the denigration of heterosexual marriage in our culture has already started that slippery slop a'slidin', so you'd be hard pressed to "blame" gay marriage for anything, truly. But, it will certainly add fuel to flames.

    As others have said, too, the Catholic Church has an obligation to speak the truth to the world. Marriage, in God's order, is exactly what Amelia so succinctly stated above. So, when the Church says it opposes gay marriage, what it's actually saying is, "We are unable to honestly even call a union between two people of the same sex a marriage because that's just not what it IS." Now, as has been said, a whole lot of heterosexual unions are also simply not what the Church knows marriage to BE, so it's sort of six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    As others have said, gay marriage is just a drop in the ocean. The real issue, I believe is that we are living in a culture of death that no longer understands the dignity, worth, and purpose of human life. Now, I will also say, on a positive note that, in a huge way, our culture is embracing the potential of humanity. It may look selfish when someone says, "This is who I am, and this is how I think I can best live out my life as ME," but to look at it another way, this is a brand of honesty that past civilizations have discouraged and even repressed completely. But, Scripture tells us that seeking truth will set us free. I think that our government should protect our freedom to seek that truth, but it is up to God alone to reveal it in His own good time to each seeking soul.

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  17. Really people, you're really going to say the most defining aspect of marriage is sex? So if a straight married couple looses the ability to have sex are they no longer married? Do they have to divorce? Are they not to be considered married when they can't have sex due to distance? Are they not considered married during the woman's period or right after childbirth? When couples get old enough and they loose interest in sex are they no longer consider to be married? Should couples no longer be consider married after a woman reaches menopause? Should her husband ditch her and get a younger wife who can breed? Should we test every man and woman for fertility before we allow them to marry so that we don't run the risk of letting them get married if they can't procreate?

    If marriages main foundation is the ability to have sex, that's a pretty weak foundation. (I want to clarify that I'm only talking about the physical ability to have sex - not the openness to children, etc.)

    Really, the majority of children do better in homes where they're raised by biological married parents? So if my husband dies, I can't let my new husband show my children he loves and cares for them by "adopting" them as his own? Since we found out after having our son that our chances of conceiving again are slim to none should we abandon any thoughts of expanding our family through adoption because we apparently will never be able to raise those adopted kids right? Should we just leave all the orphans all over the world to fend for themselves since adoption isn't an "ideal"? So we shouldn't have the power to take kids away from negligent or abusive parents as long as they're the biological parents and married. Should we keep women in abusive marriages on the off chance "it's better for the kids"? While we're at it let's enforce some more of those sections of Deuteronomy and Leviticus and make rape victims have to marry the assailants because by your logic the kids produced by such a union will "do better" if their biological parents are married.

    Yes, many of the situation I gave are exaggerations, but only by a small degree and let me explain why I've used such examples.

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  18. I work in a neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit in a major U.S. hospital and I see hundreds of kids and babies I'd gladly see in a loving, supportive same-sex parent household than to be sent home with their biological parents who are the reason they're there after near drowning from neglect, massive bodily injury from abuse and being treated for drug addictions and preventable premature birth and birth defects within their first days of life. Everyday we watch children go to homes and biological parents who are clearly unfit and can do nothing about it because someone used the logic that adoption isn't what's best for the child, because someone convinced a woman to stay in an abusive marriage because "that's whats best" and "eventually it will get better if you stick it out" and yet as a society we seem more concerned with the gender of those raising these children than we are with the quality of those raising these children.

    I'm sorry to rail on that particular soap box, but the "for the children" excuse is rather weak in my eyes in relation to my experience.

    Thank you Bethany for your reply above, while we might not agree 100% on the issue I appreciate your ability to explain your views on the issue. Though I support the issue I do not want to see religious institutions plagued with lawsuits because of their decisions to uphold their definitions of marriage. I love the freedom of religion in this country and fully support your church, my church and any church to stand firmly in their definitions of marriage as long as neither uses it as a reasons to preach hatred or exclusivity. I applaud you for allowing us an open forum on your blog, it in itself was a bold move and I look forward to continuing to read your posts on normal or controversial topics.

    I love your comment about the potential of humanity for so many reasons, but for now I'll cut this long comment short.

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  19. Bethany, you are brave to start this forum! Anyway, you wrote I don't think the government should be able to tell two legal, consenting adults who they can live with, build a family with, sleep with.

    Since you were asking why the government should be involved in marriage at all...my concern is that without them, we can't say for sure whether or not someone is consenting or an adult. I'd be afraid that without some sort of standards, a person could technically force someone to marry them, marry a person within their own family, marry someone who is already married, marry a minor, etc.

    And for that matter, if the government isn't involved, then whose to say it should be two consenting adults, why not three? I'm just thinking out loud here. Most people wouldn't marry two spouses or a relative, but would everyone in the country follow that norm?

    I got married in a Protestant church, and then had the marriage convalidated by the Catholic Church, so I'm all for church marriage. But I'd be nervous if the government bowed out of marriage completely and just said, leave it up to your conscience. Because without the government, how could we be sure that the people involved really were adults, consenting and not related? At least filling out a marriage license provides some baseline information that could get flagged later if something's off. Just my two cents.

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  20. Oh, Maryann, I agree completely! That's why I think that the gov't should be in charge of establishing civil unions. Just call it what it is: a civil contract of a couple uniting to form a household/family/life, and leave marriage up to the church.

    I'm perfectly willing to say I might be wrong on this. Smarter people than I have gotten our laws to the place they're at. But, that's how I feel.

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  21. Anyway, on an emotional level, my response to Christians being upset about this is: Why does it matter if this just affects the legal definition of marriage and not a church's definition? On a personal level, I knew several homosexuals in my old career (creative field) and they were just regular people in monogamous couples who loved each other, had jobs, went to movies, grew gardens, paid taxes, just like any other couple. So I ask myself, why can't they get married to the person they love?

    And yet on a spiritual level, I am glad that the Catholic Church, with all its flaws, says we can't decide things emotionally, we have to decide them based on scripture and tradition. But if someone isn't Christian, why should any Christian church tell them who they should marry?

    When I posed this question to my husband, he said that if homosexual marriage is legal, and a church says that you can't get married in our church, then down the line that church could be charged with discrimination and potentially lose its nonprofit/church status. The action could be used to make churches classified as bigoted, which then gets into other legal hot water. I'm sure I'm oversimplifying, because it's a paraphrase of things he read and then told me, but that was the gist of it.

    And yet, back to the emotional level, I've known gay couples, who I am to say they can't get married in a legal ceremony? My Church says they can't, and I'm all right with that, but if it were up to me, the decision would be much harder to make.

    This topic tears me up inside, to be honest. Thanks for airing it out and getting people's thoughts.

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  22. Oh, I see now what you are saying. But what if someone were in a cult that practices polygamy and marrying underage girls, would they be protected if they circumvented a civil union and said, well, this is our religious marriage ceremony and the government need not be involved? (scratching head...I really don't know the answer on this)

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  23. Okay, I need to go back to read all responses, but couldn't wait to weigh in a bit. Marriage in its earliest times was never about sex, it was never about love. It wasn't until 1563 that the Council of Trent decreed that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses. That is when marriage took on a new role. So please don't say God created marriage--that's our word and our definition. I wouldn't be so bold as to know what God calls it. I know the Church calls it the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I'm with all who say "render under Casear that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's." Goverments have their "marriage" and that is defined separate from the church; those who have the religious celebration give it deeper meaning, and that is a sacrament. This was a rushed posting so call me on any inaccuracies.

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  25. I am proud to live in a country that will allow gay people to marry. I have been hoping since the first time this bill came up, that it would pass. I agree with previous posters, that many of the comments on here are not very "Christian". God put us all on this earth, and loves us equally. Dont you think that He would want us all to have someone to love? To spend our lives with, and be happy with?
    Personally, I dont believe that being gay is a choice, it is how someone is born. Why would anyone choose to be gay? To have to be judged everyday, have hateful remarks thrown at them everyday? Have to pretend not to be who they really are, because many are too afraid of the consequences from people who are small minded, to be afraid of them. Have to have the government ALLOW them to marry?
    I would be curious to see how many people on this blog would feel if their child grew up and announced he/she were gay. Would you tell them that they are an abomination? That they will be judged by the Lord and perish?
    As for the whole "marriage debate" by Catholics, I don't think that there will be too many Catholic weddings in this country. The Church has the right to not marry anyone, Gay or Straight.
    I wish that the people who are "preaching" about how gay marriage is wrong and an abomination, will look a little harder and realize that WE are no one to judge. Only HE can.
    I have a VERY dear friend who is gay, and cannot WAIT to attend his wedding!!!

    From a straight, married, Catholic

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  26. "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:11-12

    "“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7 1:5

    "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?" Romans 2 1:3

    "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;" 1 Corinthians 13

    Sorry I must be looking in the wrong Bible... where does it say "we are to judge all spiritual things"?

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  27. Molly - Thank you for those quotes. I was just going to pull a few of them out myself. I do love the Book of James ;-) Hence my son's name.

    Deanna - I do agree with you about teaching our children God's law, but I that's not exactly what we're discussing here with the issue of legality. I don't believe any commenters have argued that parents should not pass on their understanding of God's moral order to their children. What has been discussed is whether the government should have the right to impose that moral order on our nation's citizens, to what purpose and what degree.

    Maryann - I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful comments. These are all things I have wrestled with myself, and I really don't have an answer. It's one of the reasons I started this post. I wanted to give others a voice, but I also wanted a safe place where I could really hear those voices and come to a more honest and solid perspective of my own. So, thanks for being open.

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  28. Right on, mollymakesdo.

    I'm going to throw a few things out into the forum, in no particular order. Contemplate or dismiss them as you will.

    First of all, Bethany, I absolutely agree, the government should only give out civil unions--to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Churches, which are already heavily protected under the law, may perform marriages as they see fit. But the rights of all citizens must also be protected under the law with no bias towards any one faith-based belief--truly, that is the ideal role of our government--to stay out of personal lives and beliefs but ensure that everyone has a right to have their own (and hopefully coexist reasonably amicably and respectfully in the process). The two really have nothing to do with each other, and yet ironically in a country set apart by its historic separation of church and state (to protect BOTH entities from abuse and ensure freedom for all), many people in the government and at large seem to forget this tenet. They have a very muddled view of where and in what capacity the government, which has historically been filled with representatives almost exclusively Christian backgrounds, should be influenced by those representatives' faiths. It's not at all surprising that this is all so murky, (as this has gone on for decades, if not centuries in this young country of ours) and that people are confused, frustrated, and up in arms on both sides.

    However, here are some of the realities (whether you agree with them or not):

    1. There is an explicit separation of church and state and places of worship are protected under law to govern themselves (tax-free, I might add) and believe what they wish. The first amendment rigorously defends the church's rights, but not exclusively the church's rights. Everyone's rights. Let's please not forget that.

    2. The Fourteenth Amendment clearly states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Regardless of whether you agree with their lifestyle choices, American GLBT's are American Citizens, plain and simple. They are tax-paying, law abiding citizens who are currently being treated as second-class citizens in most states by being denied the right to life and liberty--that is, to their own lives and their freedom to execute them as they see fit, so long as they don't break any laws. And that, frankly, is where the government NEEDS to step in. Again, I am a proponent of universal civil unions for any couple, simply because it affords them the basic human rights and civil protections that everyone should have, regardless of whether your church supports or condones them.

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  29. 3. Thank you, Anonymous, for citing the Council of Trent, as there seems to be a grievous lack of historical perspective within this forum. I would go on to add that for several centuries onward, commoners and poor people in most Christian countries were not allowed to be married, again, thus denying them certain rights that would have upset the social strata at the time. As I very much doubt that we all descend directly from Dukes, I believe we should be rather thankful that the attitude towards marriage changed over time to what it should be: as something that is a human right for those believers who wish to commit themselves to eachother in the eyes of God and the Church.

    4. I would like to clarify a few statements about homosexuality, as some have wrongly identified with passages from the Bible. Hebrews 13:4 states: "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (KJV) Let's get back to basics and define a few of these words: "whoremongers" refers to both those who buy and trade sex for money, and "adulterers" are people already married by the church who have sex outside the marriage bed. In no way does this statement pertain to the GLBT community, since, as you said, their marriages, however sanctioned by New York State, are not recognized by the church, and therefore cannot be even identified as adulterers, and the vast, vast majority of the GLBT community are not sex workers or those seeking them (the majority of "whoremongers" (what a terrible term) are straight, and the sex workers are usually in some sort of slavery-like condition. The vast majority of those exploiting them are similarly straight and abusing their power and wealth to hurt others). And yes, I firmly believe these people should and shall be judged. By GOD.

    5. It is very unchristian, never mind very pompous, arrogant, and unfortunate of anyone to presume that they have the God-sanctioned right to judge anyone else on this earth. I gather God would be rather put off with anyone thinking they've got the right to haul off and usurp that divine duty. The Christian's main duty is to love, to show humility and kindness and be a living example of Christ's love to all. The judging is left to God simply because we are not divine enough to be able to comprehend any other soul's relationship with God, never mind discern what God makes of that person. To think otherwise is frankly blasphemy, and negates in a large part the faith that God has a plan and vision for all people, regardless of whether we understand it (or even agree) or not.

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  30. 6. In case anyone wants to drop Sodom and Gomorrah in my lap as a quote against homosexuality, I suggest they go back and read the original Aramaic. The terms used to describe the Sodomites, when put in proper historical context, actually refer to PEDOPHILES (Older people who molest or rape young children and youths, which is indeed abominable--no one is disputing this). The term is in the masculine tense, which thus suggests pedophiles being primarily identified as men abusing the young against their will (which, of course, goes along with the story). It was not a term originally used to describe homosexuals, and it only took on that connotation many centuries and translations later, after the Greek and into Latin, and then only formally re-identified as referring to homosexuality by the Church in later centuries, when culturally-speaking, homosexuality was considered far more of a sin than in Christ's own heyday. Please, try to remember that although the Bible contains the Word of God, it was passed down through many languages, cultures, time periods, and human hands, who undoubtedly did the best they could to honor the text, but like any other mortal sinning human out there, were influenced to some extent or another by the environment and precedent set before them. The Bible has many important passages that are very clear (particularly about love), but given the above stated history, the Bible ought to be treated with reverence as a historical document as well--to be studied very carefully in context, to be contemplated seriously, and certainly not swallowed literally in one blind gulp of "faith". I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the Catholic faith, or how Catholic doctrine over the ages has shaped believers' official views on matters religious or otherwise, but very likely they too ought to be examined (and by examined I do not mean dismissed by any means) within a historical context, before praying to God and finding how these rules apply to you, your faith and your life. God gave us free will and good minds, and I fully expect that He expects each of us to use these gifts to the best of our abilities and knowledge to comprehend and execute His will as we understand it while we are here on Earth.

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  31. Finally: I stand for Gay Marriage insofar as it affords all people the right to marry the person they love and receive the same rights and responsibilities afforded to heterosexual couples by the government. I also stand for the thorough separation of church and state, because I believe it is better for all institutions involved. I believe that until the government decides to deal strictly with civil unions and let marriage be a religious sacrament left to the Church's discretion, New York State was completely right to err on the side of civil rights for all. I fervently hope that other states will do the same, because it is my belief that preserving and defending your fellow man's (or woman's) civil rights IS the Christian thing to do. The rest (whether to afford them a religious ceremony, or believe their marriage is valid in the eyes of God) is simply up to the particular Church, and the judging to God. I believe in your right to believe something totally different than what I do, and while it makes me sick that some people who are so GROSSLY undereducated about the realities of who GLBT people are, what human and civil rights are, and what God's and Jesus' message of love, compassion and tolerance are all about STILL use their (rather loud and unseemly) voices to incite fear and instill misinformation in God's holy name---I also believe in their right to do that. The constitution is indeed a wonderful thing--it similarly gives me the right to try to explain to you in a compassionate, loving, and Christian way that I hope you stop being so ignorant about the Bible you profess to know inside and out, let God mete out His justice however He deems appropriate, and start loving the neighbors that Jesus so clearly told us to love as ourselves, but that you are seemingly bent on vilifying, flat out lying about (or buying into lies you've been fed), and refusing to properly get to know for yourself.

    Deanna and Molly, I will not deign to specifically remark upon your incredibly inflammatory, insulting, and frankly ludicrous remarks about the GLBT community, other than that I wish you the peace of God's love upon you, and everyone participating in this debate.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, Beth, but the subject certainly bears such
    worth.

    In Peace,

    S.E. Bancroft

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  32. Hey there, S.E. ;-) wondered if you'd be chiming in from across the Pond. Btw, let's Skype when you get home!

    Just wanted to toss out there that the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality is considered very much within the historical contexts (we Catholics are history addicts, don't you know). I really don't see the stance against homosexual sex ever changing--for many of the same reasons that I don't see the Church's stance against birth control changing; and yes, the Church considers them to be comparable--but that said, the Church's stance on homosexuality itself is that it is NOT a sin to BE gay! And, that I hold with fully, and I'm so proud that our faith has progressed to publicly acknowledge that all people, regardless of sexuality--which may be entirely God-given--have inherent dignity and worth and are deserving of respect, love, and compassion.

    Anyway, 'night from my end. Keep up the great discussion, folks!

    Bethany

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  33. I don't quite know what you mean by "considered within the historical contexts." It is directly due to the Catholic Church's backwards assertions that sexual expression is only good insofar as the end goal is procreation (thanks Aquinas) that homosexuality became a taboo in western culture. That is to say, Catholicism forcefully suppressed a perfectly legitimate sexual expression simply because it did not fit into their understanding of what the aims of sexual expression should be.

    And I'm afraid that the Catholic stance on homosexuality is worse than considering it a sin. BEING a homosexual is not inherently sinful, but acting on it is. That's like me saying you are sinful for acting on your natural impulse to eat. or drink. or sing. saying that members of the LGBTQIA community have been given a particular obstacle in the path to sanctity is pejorative and downright offensive.

    And for the record folks, the bible mentions homosexuality about 4 times for certain, 6 if you include passages that don't actually pertain to homosexuality as we know it, but get lumped in by fundamentalists and conservatives anyway. Even so - that's SIX times. How many times does the bible tell us to love our enemies? feed the hungry? stand up for the marginalized and oppressed? If God was so concerned with homosexuality, don't you think he would've been a little more intentional when inspiring the biblical authors to make sure it was included?

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  34. OH - also!

    Sorry to disappoint you all, but it turns out David was married to Jonathan. (you know, the famous womanizer-poet-king?).

    Jonathan makes a covenant with David (right before they both strip naked and swap clothes...and right before David moves into Saul's household, never to see his family again...much the way a woman loses her family when she moves into her husband's house...). The word used in the original hebrew translated as "covenant" is used in only two situations in the bible: as a word for the contract between God and a human, or else to describe a marriage.

    Not only that, but Jonathan loved David more than his own life. And David thought the love of Jonathan was greater than the love of a woman.

    So seems to me there's already precedence for Same Sex Marriage in the Bible - and in the Old Testament no less!

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  35. Anonymous - First of all, I'd ask that you please refrain from calling the Church's teachings "backwards." I understand that this is a hot button issue, but let's attempt to stick to facts and not start name-slinging.

    I really appreciate your thoughts in the 2nd paragraph, though. Yes, I understand that this is offensive, but that is the teaching of the Church. In the same way that my father's struggle with depression that led to his suicide was considered a "burden." It isn't a sin to be depressed, but it is a sin to take life. Sexual attraction isn't a sin, but YES, the Church teaches that it is a sin to have sex outside of certain parameters: within a sacramental marriage, open to life, etc. Personally, I don't believe that this is backwards, and I think it's exactly this sort of thing that needs to be discussed because people who adhere to orthodox faiths often do not wish to be offensive. How do we express the truths of our faith, though, without being seen as offensive? How can we dialogue without offending--and being offended in return when our beliefs are dismissed and we are insulted because of them? How do we open this dialogue up to helpful and respectful ends?

    Thoughts?

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  36. Okay, and I'm sorry- but however you want to interpret the passages about David & Jonathan, Scripture never says that they were married. It DOES say that David was married to many different women, but there is nothing about him marrying Jonathan. Take whatever other liberties you like, but it simply isn't there.

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  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  38. Sorry I've got to jump back in and defend myself since I'm both Molly/Mollymakesdo on this forum - not an attempt to mislead, rather I just wasn't originally paying attention to how I was longed into the comments sections.

    S.E. I'm sorry if you interpreted my first post as inflammatory... the language I was using was vague, but only because I was trying to keep myself from saying exactly what I would in a normal situation to someone like "deanna" at Bethany's request to keep things civil and I shudder to think that what I wrote is considered in the same league as the vitriol from "deanna". In my attempt to keep things civil, politically correct and non-inflammatory for civilities sake, I wasn't specific enough in my own views and I can now see where misinterpretation would occur.

    Please allow me clarify, I personally do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, not even close, which is why I choose to say "IF I were to find out God considered it to be a sin". Personally I too believe the Bible is a complex text full of paradox and truth, meant to be studied with equal amounts of faith and historical context - I've been pointing out those exact facts about Sodom/Gomorrah and that verse in Hebrews(please look at my first post as I point out exactly what you did, just not as well) since I was in middle school(BTW thank you for giving me new information on the history of marriage, I intend to further expand my knowledge on those pieces of history).

    I believe that gay and lesbian couples should have the rights to marry (and all the legal and societal benefits there in )and raise a family and I only wish that I get to see the day when such families are welcomed, completely welcomed into every religious temple, cathedral and synagogue.

    I don't believe that marriage should be based on how a couples sexual relations are preformed and how "productive" those relations are, I believe that marriage as a sacrament is based on something much deeper that the paltry physical, something able to be shared by any combination of gender pairings.

    I believe, as I stayed in one of my "mollymakesdo" posts, that it is not the gender of the parents that is important, but rather the quality of the people - though I do believe that children will always do better in healthy, supportive and loving two parent households no matter what combination of genders, biological or non-biological that includes.

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  39. While I completely support the fight for gender/marriage equality I do believe that certain political figures on all sides of the arena are using it as a way to detract from other issues - as an example just about everyone on the street could tell you presidential candidate x, y and z's stance on gay marriage and who they support because of it, but would falter at explaining their stances on issues like economy, education and foreign policy. My true desire is to see it one day as a "non-issue", something accepted and supported in society at large so that we can focus our collective energies on other issues. - this is tricky to explain still, please let me know if I can clarify further.

    My third to last and second to last paragraph in my "molly" post was meant to be directed at Deanna's viewpoints - for those who firmly and vocally believe that is a sin and are Christian to remember some of the more important (IMHO) aspects of the Christian faith as I too believe that as Christians our first and most important commandment is to love God and each other and I don't believe you can do so while throwing around vocabulary like "abomination".

    As I told one of my best friends last weekend, a young woman whom I count myself lucky to know and was one of the first she came out to in high school, who is fighting a valiant fight in Washington with the Log Cabin Republicans - I look forward to the day when I can shower her and her wife with too many wine glasses, fondue sets and monogrammed bath towels in the state of her choice and I hope one day she and her soulmate get to enjoy the pure joy of parenthood and I hope to be a part of her family the way she, and others, are a part of mine. I'm thrilled that I'm able to say that New York is almost as cool as Iowa, my home state.

    I truly, truly hope this clarifies my comments, I should have stood firmer and proclaimed my beliefs from the begins, and I hope that you no longer see me in line with "Deanna" - please let me know if I can clarify anything else.

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  40. Bethany - I like your clarification about homosexuality, sex and the Catholic Church and I wish more Catholics could explain the Churches stance on the issue so well - perhaps you could speak for the Bishops the next time they speak on the issue ;).
    Could you share a little more on this? If the attraction to someone of the same sex is not a sin/crime/etc. in the eyes of the Church, but rather it is the act of sex outside of the sacrament of orthodox/traditionally defined marriage that is the root of the problem, do gay and lesbian Catholic have any option other than celibacy in the eyes of the Church?
    (I'm choosing to omit the argument about openness to life at this time, as that is it's own topic what with IVF, donors and adoption being seen as valid options for the infertile straight couple, because I want to focus any answers on the sex and celibacy side of the issue for the moment).
    As a "Catholic Light" (i.e. relatively new Episcopalian from being raised Methodist and marrying a Cradle Catholic) I continue to follow your blog because of the insights it gives me into how the everyday Catholic sees and celebrates their faith.

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  41. "I don't believe that marriage should be based on how a couples sexual relations are preformed and how "productive" those relations are, I believe that marriage as a sacrament is based on something much deeper that the paltry physical, something able to be shared by any combination of gender pairings."

    Absolutely right on, Molly/Mollymakesdo. I'm completely on board with everything you've just posted and likewise wish it were a non-issue. But I also believe that while it is important to be respectful in a forum such as this one, even in the face of those I find to be utterly disrespectful, it is important to make your position clear and not let pleasantries get in the way of fully expressing your views. Otherwise, honest and open debate gets a bit muddled. I did not mean to lump you in with Deanna; to be honest, I stayed up all night composing that piece, and at that point was a bit tired. I shouldn't have included you at the end, although in a way I'm glad it inspired you to clarify your views for everyone.

    Beth-by history I suppose I am reaching back a bit further, historically, when I talk about the definition and cultural attitudes towards homosexuality, than the Roman Catholic church. Having studied the very early formation of Christianity, I tend to steer things earlier than the break between Rome and Byzantium, so I apologise if that caused any confusion. Personally I think it's good to trace everything back to its origins, but if the stance of the Catholic church is that homosexuality itself is not a sin but acting on it is, then that is what it is. That said, I completely agree with Anonymous' response, that it is, as they said, "...saying that members of the LGBTQIA community have been given a particular obstacle in the path to sanctity is pejorative and downright offensive." But again, that is the Catholic view on things, and while I hope in the future more thought and prayer will lead to a more inclusive Catholic church, devoid of exceptions to any of its followers' ability to be good Catholics while still being wholly human in their pursuit and expressions of love, that's up to the Church to sort out however it deems fit. Also, I likewise applaud you for offering up such a great forum, and it is clear that although there is a wide spectrum of belief on this issue, most people are very open to listening and learning from each other, which is truly a blessing. Keep up the dialogue, folks!
    -S.E.

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  42. Deanna-the post I wrote was not meant to leave you quaking in your boots, although the fact that you felt the need to post as much suggests otherwise; that there is indeed some aspect of fear on your end. Whether that fear is of homosexuality or something else, I do hope you find peace, and find that there's no need to wave your beliefs or judgments like a flaming sword. Religion is not meant to be used as a weapon against anyone. As for judgment, you are absolutely right that in certain instances, we are allowed to judge, which has helped shape a morally and ethically just society in the past (although I personally don't believe society needs to be shaped by any specific religion in order to be just and morally sound, but I digress). That said, judgment should be meted out with kindness, a sense of humility, and compassion for human frailty, if indeed your hope is to turn minds and hearts towards God, rather than violently attack and condemn people. Judgment need not be cruel and vicious, never mind ungracious and unfounded. You may believe whatever you like but I would like to remind you that this forum requests that all discussion be respectful. I have found many of your comments about the LGBT community to be deeply offensive, and while that initially angers me, ultimately I am saddened and disappointed to see that your Christian values of love and compassion seem to only extend to those whom you deem worthy of it, and that judgment for you seems to have become a tool to destroy and demean others. If one's faith is expressed in such a manner then I'm afraid there's much reason for anyone who subscribes to this selective Christianity to be "shaking in their boots", and certainly not because of me. I imagine it must be tremendously difficult to judge people and live the life of a good Christian if you are only doing it from your comfort zone, and slinging stones from behind a facade of faith. God does not discriminate against His children, no matter how they sin; though He may wish for them to find different paths, His love is whole and universal and unconditional. As Christians we are called upon to do the same, which can at times be difficult, but nonetheless is a vital part of our faith. I hope that in the future, your heart might be opened--perhaps as a result of this blog's dialogue--to receive lessons and truths about Christian love and faith through meeting and meaningful dialogue between yourself and members of the GLBT community. You may not change your mind about how the church stands on issues of homosexuality, but perhaps you may begin to see them also as children of God, struggling along as you do, towards whatever path God has laid for them. And perhaps with dialogue, there may be less fear and less hatred--which is good for everyone, and I think what God intended when He put us all, each unique and precious, onto this earth, to commune with Him, and each other.

    In peace,

    S.E.

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  43. Deanna- I'm sorry, but I needed to delete some of the content in an above post relating to sexual intercourse. I have to say that I found this section not only out of line in it's attack on the gay community but very offensive in its wording, and I do have younger readers. Unfortunately, I cannot edit comments, only delete them in entirety, so I was forced to remove the entire comment, something I do not like to do. Hope you understand my decision. God bless.

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  44. Actually, a large number of Hebrew Bible scholars agree that Jonathan and David were married. The words translated as the words we think of as relating to marriage used to describe David's wives are the exact same words used to discuss Jonathan's relationship with David. They were just translated differently by heternormative translators. If you actually read the story you can see that they are far mor than "just friends" - you can get that without having training in Exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. Just look at the scholarly work on it.

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  45. Finding out how to comment anonymously.

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  46. 2 Timothy 4:3 "For the time will come when men (mankind) will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." NIV

    Truly that time is come.

    ps Not exactly on the forum subject but many of the other comments aren't either. However, this
    speaks to the lack of adherance to the word of God in these passionate core dumps.

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  47. Anonymous Posters - Thank you all for your thoughts and contributions. However, while I allow anonymous postings and understand your wish to remain anonymous, could you please identify yourself in some way (initials, pseudonym, etc.) by signing the bottom of your comments in the future. Then, other readers and I will be able to identify you more clearly if/when responding to your comments.

    Thanks very much!

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  48. Deanna, I am sorry that you felt compelled to remove your other posts. I thought that your contribution really showed an important side of this debate, and I hope that it was not my decision to remove the single comment that pushed you toward that decision. Peace to you, sister.

    To everyone else - While I understand that what Deanna had to say might have seemed inflammatory to many of you, I would ask that everyone please refrain from singling her out. No one deserves to be insulted for voicing their thoughts and feelings, especially when they were invited by me to do so. Let's keep the debate going, but let's keep to the issues at hand and refrain from personal attacks. Thank you.

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  49. Bethany, I respect that.

    2 Timothy 4:3 posted by HGM

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  50. It has been so interesting reading all the comments and I really appreciate the underlying idea of the role of government in our lives. We do not live in a theocracy and even though the government at times tries to legislate morality, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit doing a work in someones life that truly changes them. There are plenty of good "moral" people out there, but it comes back to this- we are all sinners who have fallen short of God's glory. I do not see one sin sending someone to hell more than another one. Sin is what we are born with and sin is what separates us from God. I believe the bible speaks plainly on same sex relations and it cannot be denied, but it also speaks plainly on lust, greed, backbiting, murder, adultery and fornication. We serve a holy God and those who are his children should strive to live holy. Those who do not know him as of yet, we should show the love of Christ to them and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

    Thanks for the forum
    Shana

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  51. This is tough no matter what :(. It is understandable to honor the sacrament of marriage and procreation. If that were the case, then it would be easier to just agree to disagree and move on.

    But it isn't that simple. The fact that homosexuality is causing so much reaction frankly reveals that there is unresolved strife in gender issues, body issues and gender roles. The LGBT community is unfortunately the ultimate lightning rod and punching bag for these issues. It is done subconsciously. The irony is that from personal experience and observation, the most anti-gay people are usually the ones that struggle with their sexuality and gender identity themselves. Why else are the 'ex-gay' and reparative therapy programs keep popping and reviving even though they deserve to be have the same status as fossils? It doesn't help that most people are so self-involved that they step back and see that just because they experience something doesn't mean everyone else will share that.

    I know most of Christianity wants to uphold the "traditional" marriage. However, speaking as an ecumenical Protestant(Methodist/Wesleyan), I know from observation that the most anti-gay Christians I hear fron are from Protestant denominations of Reformed, Southern Baptist and "Evangelical" varieties unfortunately. They aren't the "nasty" Westboro types by the way or the typical gay pride protestors. Most of them are like you and me. They are the ones that advocate that being attacted to the same gender/sex is a choice as well as the idea that LGBT people are demon possessed (I'm not making this up). Even tho Catholics seemed more "conservative" on the issue based on the news reports, from stories I heard, lay Catholics seem to most understanding with gay people because of pro-life/diginty views along with seeing that being gay itself is not a sin. Only having same-sex sexual relationship is.

    Until the hetrosexual community becomes more honest with sexual identity struggles and really push forward for gender reconciliation and forgiveness, we will unfortunately have people in our Church that are anti-gay and willing to persecute the LGBT. Also, we will end up taking our own self-hatred out on others, thinking if I'm not happy, no one deserves to be happy.

    Always love your blog. I have always lurk around.

    -X. V.

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  52. *doesn't help that most people are so self-involved that they can't step back

    -X.V.

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Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.