Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Dark Knight

Apparently I was one of the few people on earth who did not see this movie until it just came out on DVD. I found it fascinating and troubling. One especially thoughtful review I found was "Batman's War on Terror" by Benjamin Kerstein writing in Azure. Read it all, but for a taste, this is its remarkable conclusion:
In this sense, The Dark Knight is a perfect mirror of the society which is watching it: a society so divided on the issues of terror and how to fight it that, for the first time in decades, an American mainstream no longer exists. Perhaps this is why the film has struck such a responsive chord with audiences: The ambivalence it expresses is the same ambivalence with which most Americans—consciously or unconsciously—regard their current predicament. Americans want to defeat terrorism, but they want to defeat it without upsetting the basic ideals of a free society. They want terror to be fought by any means necessary, but without any of the attendant horrors and compromises of war. And The Dark Knight may well be correct in positing that the only possible resolution of such a dilemma is not to resolve it at all, but to live in a society based, in some manner, on a lie. Because society, in order to be society, needs the lie. It is a noble lie, perhaps, but a lie all the same. The alternative, the film seems to say, is to become a society of Harvey Dents or, worse still, Jokers. It is, ironically, not a particularly happy or optimistic message, but it is one which a great many Americans appear ready, and even strangely gratified, to hear.

Lord have mercy

The Holy Land Experience.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Prayer request

Prayers requested for Martha.

Martha was scheduled to serve as eucharistic minister at the 5:00 p.m. early mass for Christmas Eve. She was not there - not so unusual for people to forget but unusual for her. We tried calling around to see if anyone knew if she decided to go out of town to visit family or if anyone knew anything. One of her daughters came to midnight mass, and when asked about her mother, she shook her head and went off to go check up on her.

Martha fell in her home on Sunday afternoon and had been lying on the floor with a chair on top of her, unable to reach a phone or otherwise call for help. She was badly bruised and dehydrated but does not appear to have broken any bones. She is lucid and in the hospital in critical care at the moment, but she is not sure exactly what happened. She may have had a stroke. The rector has visited her twice and says she seems weaker today than yesterday. Please add Martha to your prayers. Hold her up to the light.

(photo © Lukasz Jernas for

Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt R.I.P.

Listen to Eartha talk about "Santa Baby" ("No one owns me but me") and other thoughts in this NPR radio tribute from this morning's news. Go to the same link for a written biography, as well. I suspect her speaking up about the Vietnam War at a White House would entitle her at least a posthumous "Brick of the Day" award from Mad Priest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Press clipping

Well, our midnight mass on Christmas Eve made the front page of the local newspaper, December 25, 2008 edition. Kind of nice given that most of the reporting of religious news and holidays around here invariably focuses on the Roman Catholics (the vast majority of the religious of the local residents here with the many people of Italian, German, and Polish descent). Nothing against the Romans, but it's nice to be noticed for a change.

Il est né le Divin Enfant

Adrian Worsfold has some excellent reflections on "A Meaning of Christmas" - the divinity of the Universal Baby. I often find the emphasis on the baby in Christmas somewhat puzzling and, at times, a bit cloying, especially when our church music includes lullabies and bouncy, childlike melodies. This video, featuring a decent recording of one of my favorite Christmas songs along with sentimental pictures, reflects something of the schizophrenic feelings I sometimes have, torn between the hope and wonder (in the music) and all the kitsch (in the pictures). Anyway, Adrian did a fine job of giving a cross-cultural perspective which, for me at least, restores a bit of sanity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In the bleak midwinter

Once in Royal David's City

Monday, December 22, 2008

I pray God, rid me of God

I've been mulling some time over Father Terry's latest essay on "Christians as Atheists" as well as the videos and Peter Rollins' websites he points to. It hits home in many respects, especially this from Ikon's Evangelism Project:
An analysis of human interaction over history teaches us that there are two dangerous temptations each of us face when confronted by a stranger, i.e. by one who thinks and acts in a way that is foreign to our cultural or religious practices. The first is a desire to transform that stranger into our own image, endeavouring to eclipse and replace their cultural and religious practices with our own. The second is to exclude and reject the stranger entirely, viewing them as a threat which must be guarded against. In one the stranger is rendered into a clone while in the other they are made into an enemy.
But even more compelling is the testimony of someone who is living this out, Kirstin, who continues to write more deeply each day at Barefoot and Laughing. Here is a small bit from a recent post, "Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now":
God is not a personified image in my head anymore, at all. I realized that, sometime yesterday. God is, simply, love, interwoven into every fiber of the universe’s being. In what appears as a sterile concrete jungle, flowers. In the last places you'd think to look, grace.

[Which makes "Father" even harder to say, and more ridiculous, when God is "Ground."]
Taken in its full context of what Kirstin has experienced to reach that realization, I suspect that her words reflect the answer to Peter Rollins's prayer: "I pray God, rid me of God." It's not an -ism, an ontological or theological view, it's living in and with God, who has no name, no face, no image but nevertheless who can be found everywhere, among the homeless, the hungry, the forgotten; among friends and enemies; in the darkness, shadowy streets, and blazing light; and in sickness and in health.

Rediscovering Narnia

Watching the snow in the stillness of the middle of the night reminded me of the first time I entered the world of Narnia. It was not until I was well into middle age and decided to pick up the books not long after I was confirmed as an Episcopalian. I knew C.S. Lewis as a literary critic and I had read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters (which left me cold) a few years earlier at the suggestion of the Lutheran pastor who was trying to help me get past my cold feet about affirming the creeds and renouncing Satan at my son's baptism. But I had yet to read anything from the religious side of C.S. Lewis that I felt compelling. I wondered if I delved into the fantasy world of Narnia whether I would find something of what drew both its author and myself back to religion in later life.

Fortunately, once I entered that world I pretty much put all thoughts of religion behind. I loved the look and feel and smell of the wardrobe, its warm darkness and fur coats, and the forest and the clearing, where everything was dark and still with the dim glow of the gaslight on the snow. That quiet moment of wonder in the still night, the pause before the faun spoke, was something that could only be truly experienced reading the words on the page.

I was intrigued when I read about Laura Miller's desire to examine what it was about Narnia that captured her so as a child, something she felt was spoiled when she later discovered all the Christian elements that C.S. Lewis had quite consciously interjected into the tale. I had gone to Narnia for those elements yet, while I could scarcely not see them the way she first did, they fell to the wayside for me, so much so, that when I got to the crucial scenes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I wept in part because the "real" version in the Bible and the Tradition was not nearly as good.

I had not thought much about it since. In recent years I have wondered in moments of both self-criticism and disillusionment whether it was the magical elements of Catholicism and later Anglo-Catholicism that drew me "back" to Church, which made Christianity somehow more accessible and acceptable to me, despite my strong antipathy towards the Jesus-Man, the Son, and my inability to imagine God in any form but the Father's loving arms. I haven't been sure what to make of all that psychologically, but I have suspected that if the eucharistic magic were gone, there would not be much left for me, who in the depths of my heart and mind has always been a hard-core skeptic, as well as a mystical seeker.

Laura Miller has brought me back to my first encounter with Narnia and the thoughts and feelings it inspired. I realize now it has not so much been the Father/Son aspect of Christianity that I have often found so off-putting, but rather, despite all the words and images about the Incarnation, Christianity has never given me a God I could touch and feel, only clerics and conflict, stone buildings and pretty music, at its heart lifeless and empty. Father Terry often writes about the story of the boy caught in a thunderstorm who wants a god with a skin on. I wonder if what the child in me has always wanted most is a god with fur on.

Anyway, this is what Laura Miler wrote and quoted from C.S. Lewis that made me recall what it was like to dig into and be enveloped by that fur, to have a god who let not just the children but the girls come close and be the ones who best knew and were touched by him:
Unlike the God I was raised to worship, he [Aslan] is a god you can touch, and a god to asks to be touched in his darkest hour. "Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that," he says to Lucy and Susan as he goes to his execution at the stone table. After he has been killed, the weeping girls come to kiss "his cold face" and stroke "his beautiful fur," in a far more raw and tangible evocation of grief than anything in the New Testament. Then, after Aslan has been resurrected, the girls climb onto his "warm, golden back," bury their hands in his mane, and go for a breathless cross-country ride through a Narnia you can almost taste, thanks to one of Lewis's most exhilarating descriptions:

"Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that; and then take away the heavy noise of the hoofs and the jingle of the bits and imagine instead the almost noiseless padding of the great paws. Then imagine instead of the black or gray or chestnut back of the horse the soft roughness of golden fur, and the mane flying back in the wind. And then imagine you are going about twice as fast as the fastest racehorse. But this is a mount that doesn't need to be buided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating, threading his way with perfect skill between tree trunks, jumping over brush and briar and the smaller streams, wading the larger, swimming the largest of all. And you are riding not on a road nor in the part nor even on the downs, but right across Narnia, in spring, down solemn avenues of beech and across sunny glades of oak, through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees, past roaring waterfalls and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, and across the shoulders of heathery mountains and along giddy ridges and down, down, down again into wild valleys and into acres of blue flowers."
Laura Miller, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia (New York: Little, Brown and Company 2008) at pp. 34-35.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Skeptic's Adventure in Narnia

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventure in Narnia
by Laura Miller (Little, Brown & Company 2008)

I just got this book for Christmas. I've only just begun, but already I love it, even though I never read Narnia as a child and only read a few volumes late in adulthood. This is a book for for those who fell head over heels in love with books and the worlds where they transported us, and then... kept reading and reading, sometimes in spite of rather than what we learned later about reading critically and thinking about where an author was leading us.

The entire introduction is marvelous in itself, but here is an excerpt from an excerpt:
There is yet another reason to devote the kind of attention to the Chronicles that critics ordinarily reserve for the works of writers like Flaubert or F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it may be the most persuasive of all. In An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis floats the idea that we can determine how good a book is by how it is read. This was an offbeat notion at a time when most critics judged a book by how it was written, and it would become an irrelevant one a few years later, when deciding how “good” a book was would seem immaterial to most academics. But Lewis — who was, above all else, a passionate, omnivorous and generous reader — thought that this might be the best way to appreciate a book’s worth, especially since he regarded the literary mandarins of his day as slaves to pernicious intellectual fads.

A hater of progress, newfanglement and vulgarity, Lewis was not a notably tolerant man, but reading brought out the populist in him. He worked out a set of criteria for identifying truly “literary” readers; their ranks include people who re-read books, those who savor what they read for more than just the plot, and those for whom the first encounter with a favorite book is an “experience so momentous that only experiences of love, religion, or bereavement can furnish a standard of comparison. Their whole consciousness is changed. They have become what they were not before.”
Nothing on this list dictates what type of book the literary reader ought to prefer; it is the quality of the attention brought to it that matters. There is an uncharacteristic radicalism to Lewis’s further suggestion that if we can find “even one reader to whom the cheap little book with its double columns and the lurid daub on its cover had been a lifelong delight, who had read and reread it, who would notice, and object, if a single word were changed, then, however little we could see in it ourselves and however it was despised by our friends and colleagues, we should not dare to put it beyond the pale.”

He is, among other things, describing the way certain children read certain books, with a fervor that can inspire mystification and awe in their adult counterparts. Such experiences can’t be merely ephemeral, meaningless, but they often seem entirely inaccessible when we look back on them years later. This, at least, is what Clive James felt upon returning to Professor Challenger, and so he was forced to dismiss the whole situation as merely comical. Still, how could he have failed to be formed as a man and as a reader by Doyle’s adventure yarns? We would not expect any other overwhelming emotional experience from his childhood to have left him untouched. Today, James is a gifted, witty critic. Perhaps there is more to Professor Challenger than meets the eye.
The relationship between book and reader is intimate, at best a kind of love affair, and first loves are famously tenacious. A first love teaches you how to be with another human being by choice, rather than out of the imperative of blood ties. If we are lucky, our first love shows us how to negotiate the paradox of entering into a union with someone who remains fundamentally unknowable. First love is a momentous step in our emotional education, and in many ways, it shapes us forever.
From an excerpt printed here. More about the book from the author at Laura Miller and another excerpt, "Talking to the Animals" printed at Salon.

Dialogue and Deliberation

HowardW, a brilliant jazz musician, dear friend, and one of the most clear-sighted, patient, compassionate human beings I have ever met, once regularly took on the right-wing ideologues at Thom Hartmann's online forums. I often marveled at how he not only always kept his cool but also could actually get some of the most troll-like posters to talk out of the box. I knew it took more than just playing "nice" or being open to those with whom he disagreed. However, it took me a long time before I actually asked how he did it.

That was when Howard told me about David Bohm and Dialogue. He sent me a number of links, which provided me with an introduction to the subject. I cannot say that I ever got into it as deeply as I would have liked, let alone learned the discipline and applied it, but it seems like now is a good time to examine it more carefully. For anyone else who may be interested, listed below are some of the links that are still active.

But first, let me highlight one of the authors Howard recommended, Richard Moore, he wrote Escaping the Matrix — How we the people can change the world. Here are a few quotes from the Moore's website about the book:
Our Harmonization Imperative

Our societies and political systems are characterized by competition and struggle among cultural factions and political parties. When we try to change this system by forming adversarial political movements we are playing into this game – a game rigged so that elites always win. If we really want to change the system, we need to learn how to come together as humans, moving beyond the ideological structures that have been created to divide us from one another. We are all in this together, and a better world for one is a better world for all. It’s not about winning, nor really even about agreement: it’s about working together in pursuit of our common interests.

The dynamics of harmonization

Our usual models of discussion and deliberation reflect the adversarial nature of our society generally. We argue for our position over the other position: one side wins, the other loses, or we settle for a compromise – and the underlying conflicts remain unresolved. Harmonization is about a different kind of dialog, based on respectful listening, and aimed at developing solutions that take into account everyone’s concerns. This kind of dialog can be readily facilitated in any group of people, and it is an ancient human tradition, capable of transforming conflict into creative synergy. We the People are capable of working together wisely and harmoniously.”

Here are also some of Moore's reflections on how he came upon the ideas of for the book:
My studies and dialogs since 1998 have been devoted to this question. I've considered election reform, media reform, public education, personal transformation, political movements, revolutionary movements, third parties, and indeed I've looked at every way social change has been brought about throughout history. None of those have ever achieved the goal because they have always led to some form, new or old, of hierarchical rule by elites. As long as people are divided into factions, interest groups, or political parties, we will be controlled by the mechanism of divide-and-rule. (Before so-called `democracy' and so-called `socialism' came along, we were simply ruled by force under kings and emperors).

By this process of elimination, I came to the conclusion that we must, somehow, learn how to come together and find inclusive consensus at the grassroots level. I was inspired by Carolyn Chute, who said, "There is no left and right, only up and down. All the fat cats at the top having a good time, and the rest of us down here struggling to survive." In my email, I began using the signature, "We are all in this together." But I didn't know any means by which "the rest of us at the bottom" could find our common identity and purpose. How could the fundamentalist sit down with the tree-hugger? (so to speak) ….”

And then, fortuitously, I found myself in a meeting which, like many meetings, fell apart in misunderstanding, debate, frustration, etc. Someone stepped forward and began facilitating. Within seconds she enabled a new space to come into existence, a space where we were able to really listen to one another, a space where the people-as-fellow-humans were primary and the dialog an experience of shared discovery. I then began studying the technology of facilitation and the results achieved by facilitated processes, much of that being in the corporate context, and some in the social or activist context. It turns out that the technology works, and the results on-the-ground have been amazing. . . .

Here are the links to other resources:
About Dialogue at

“Dialogue, a Proposal” by David Bohm, Donald Factor, and Peter Garrett

“For Truth, Try Dialogue” by David Bohm

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

The Dialogue Group at

Selected Websites on Dialogue
Also these groups and online forums at
The World Cafe

Civic Reflection

EveryDay Democracy

Public Conversations Project

National Issues Forum

Three Cups of Tea

I haven't followed Thom Hartmann for a long time, but once upon a time I read his early book, The Prophet's Way. It's a book that is difficult to describe, one which I had a heck of a time finding until I discovered it on the "New Age" shelf at my local Barnes & Noble. Nevertheless, a reviewer, Jay Fikes, quoted in Amazon, managed to sum it up pretty well: "Thom Hartmann exposes many of the ugly truths hiding beneath the surface of contemporary ‘civilization.’ Hartmann’s book masterfully combines autobiography, science, and Christian spirituality and shows us how to rehabilitate our world with acts of compassion rooted in spiritual humility and faith in the Creator of all creatures and cultures. Easy to read, hard to practice."

One can debate whether Hartmann's career has since lived up to the ideals he set forth in that book, but in light of both his personal testimony and conversations I've had with people who worked with him and others at Salem children's projects throughout the world, I think his perspective on the following is well worth considering:
Three Cups of Tea for Rick Warren
By Thom Hartmann

Rick Warren is providing the invocation for the presidential inauguration. As a pastor whose books have been read by tens of millions of Americans and whose voice is respected by an equal or larger number, he has tremendous influence and power. And as an open homophobe who aggressively works to wound gay people in this country (as well as pretty much anybody else who doesn’t believe with his own particular and peculiar recently-invented version of Christian theology) he should be the guy with the bull’s-eye on his back for the progressive movement.

But consider that metaphor for a moment. In Pakistan there are entire regions filled with people who not only hate gays but hate Americans as well, regardless of religion. We've tried bombing them (as the Soviets did, and the British before them). Three consecutive Western empires have tried threatening them, starving them, poisoning them, infiltrating them, and overpowering them - all without success.

And then Greg Mortenson came to one of their villages, had three cups of tea with them (a metaphor for hospitality - they nursed him back to health after a mountain climbing injury - and the title of his best-selling book), and now in dozens of these formerly Taliban-controlled villages the people are rejecting the Taliban, embracing modernity, and openly proclaiming themselves as our friends.

His "weapon" for this conversion? He built schools for their children, particularly their previously-banned-from-school girls.

We pushed the Palestinians on the West Bank to have open and democratic elections, assuming that because they were using the tool of our culture (the secret ballot) they’d vote in people reflecting the values of our culture. Instead, they voted in Hamas, a group that is openly hostile to us and our allies. Hamas’ “weapon” for winning the hearts and minds of the Palestinians? They supported schools, hospitals, and fed and clothed people.

You’d think that we’d have learned from these experiences - particularly those of us who call ourselves “progressives” - that you get your desired results faster when you embrace, engage, and nurture your “enemies” than when you physically or rhetorically bomb them.

Barack Obama has learned that lesson, and is applying it in inviting Rick Warren to perform the invocation for his inauguration. In doing so, he is reaching out a hand to those who today are - out of fear and ignorance - pushing away gays the same way their intellectual ancestors pushed away African Americans when anti-miscegenation laws were supported by most of these same “fundamentalist” Christian churches in the 1950s and 1960s.

Joseph Lowry, who is providing the other bookend to the inauguration with the benediction, is the other side of the balance Obama is bringing to this inauguration. Lowry has said, for example, “The same folks who are against progress for black folks are the folks who are against progress for women and gays and farmers and young people and peace activists. We have to understand it’s one struggle. This is ONE AMERICA, and the sooner we learn that the more effective our world will be.”

And the more effective we will be at changing the hearts and minds of people like Rich Warren and his followers. This is a tremendous first step, and I congratulation Barack Obama on his wisdom, walking metaphorically in Greg Mortenson’s shoes to eventually bring the enemies of America’s true values of love and tolerance over to our side.

Rick Warren - Opportunity for Learning?

The prevailing narrative that has been spun on the Rick Warren controversy goes something like this: Rick Warren has marketed himself as a "moderate" conservative evangelical Christian whose "purpose-driven" ministry focuses on poverty and AIDs rather than engaging in the culture wars -- until he recently decided to campaign for Prop. 8. This proved that he was homophobic just like the rest of the religious right, a wolf in sheep's clothing, who needed to be exposed for who and what he really is. And, wouldn't you know it, he went on television and finally made it perfectly clear that he not only is a homophobe but that he, like his brethern, have nothing but contempt for those whom he likens to pedophiles and those who commit bestiality. Therefore, he must be condemned, repudiated, and removed from the public stage. Every effort must be made to exert political pressure on Obama and anyone else who might naively think that it is o.k. to pal around with the likes of Rick Warren. Good liberals and progressives are like conservatives -- they must put walls around themselves and do whatever it takes to keep their base angry, upset, and ready to demonize and scorn the Enemy.

I haven't checked but I'm sure there is a counter-narrative to this going on at places like Faux News. Something like, see, the fascist liberals are at it again, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Which will mean that the liberals will counter the counter by saying, see, you cannot build bridges to these people, it's a waste of time and effort, because no Warren supporters would ever want to cooperate with the Obama administration on anything, and it is a travesty to hold out the olive branch to them all for the price of this terrible insult to gays and lesbians who are tired of being told they are no better than dogs, which is what people like Orombi and Akinola say -- the ones that Warren pals around with over in Africa.

This is politics as usual. And yes, the implication of what Warren has said about homosexual conduct and gay marriage is awful. But unlike most of his ilk, he came out and talked about it at considerable length. Rather than simply hide between the usual scriptural verses and talking points, he talked about sexuality in general, his own urges, desires, and temptations, and how he related all that to homosexuality.

Is it ugly for gays and lesbians to listen to? Yes, I'm sure it is. But in the desire to both condemn and escape from this kind of talk, something valuable is being lost -- the understanding that might be gained by listening to it carefully, thinking it through, and using that knowledge to try to combat that kind of thinking. For one thing, Rick Warren did not use the words "incest" or "pedophilia" or "bestiality" -- he talked about brothers and sisters and an old man and a young person. Of course, he meant the same thing, and it could have been pure cunning and guile, but I'm not so sure about the latter. This is a guy who has long said publicly that heterosexual promiscuity and infidelity are much more important religious and social issues than homosexuality and, until recently, he hasn't been actively involved in campaigning against homosexuals. The fact that he was so open with his talk suggests to me that, for better or for worse, he really means what he says about looking at sexual sin as all being pretty much the same, focusing as much, if not more, on heterosexual sin than what he considers unnatural behavior by a small group of people.

Does this make him a nice guy, a better person, more reasonable, open to change, etc? No -- or at least I make no such assumptions. What I see is someone who was given enough verbal rope that he, in effect, hung himself with it. But maybe, just maybe if more attention is paid to those words, those who oppose the ideas behind them can get more traction for trying to eradicate them from not only those who utter them but those who do not.

While GLBT folks may have heard and focused on the words that, quite naturally, give them great offense, I must say that as hetero I found pretty bizarre his talk about his "natural" urges to have sex with "every beautiful woman I meet" and resisting internet porn. While it was not exactly surprising, I think it pays to listen closely when people like Warren reveal the extent to which they are (pardon the expression) pretty screwed up in their thinking about sexuality in general -- the whole, sex with Da Wife is good; everything else with anyone else is bad. I suspect that it is no coincidence that some of the guys at Viagaraville have their own stories of heterosexual excess in their youth (sometimes aggravated by alcohol or drug abuse), from which they believe that their strict, menacing, Calvinistic god has saved them and will save everyone else who will take his wrath and judgment seriously.

People have long talked about the "ick" factor with respect to homosexuality. I suppose that those terribly afflicted with cannot be budged from their views. But I've long wondered if what propels the anti-gay marriage laws is really fear and prejudice arising from heterosexual views of homosexuality based entirely on a conviction that homosexual orientation is not only all about sex (i.e. erotic biological urges) but it also is about impulses for the wild and naughty, no different from impulses and urges they have experienced (and sometimes even acted upon) that have been destructive to themselves and/or others. In a culture where there is much fear of "anything goes," it is not difficult for some people, especially when bombarded with misinformation and anti-gay propaganda, to at least question, if not believe, that letting persons of the same gender marry (gay or otherwise) is going to undermine sexual morality and social structures. It's not logical in terms of reason, but on an emotional level it apparently has a big appeal.

Someone like Rick Warren may reveal by both his words and his laughter that he is deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality. But, at least until now, it may have been true that he held no particular animus towards homosexual persons and was willing to allow people of the same gender to join together and live in Civil Unions for what legal protections they might afford. I know full well that that is not good enough, that such supposedly benign or neutral or "moderate" views only act to give cover to deep prejudice and fear that can erupt in hate at any time. But, I still think that it pays to not only understand where these folks are coming from but also to try to speak their language and to start engaging in dialogue based on shared values and goals.

For a long time "straight" culture has benefited from the gadfly role of gay culture -- its deliberate upending of conventional norms, its wit, its satire, its humor, and scathing criticism. I'm not going to presume to tell GLBTs how to be, as either citizens of the world or political constituents in the U.S. or elsewhere. But I would like to suggest that one avenue of advocacy for full equality is for gays and heteros to tackle together the confounding issues of human sexuality from a perspective that recognizes that persons of various sexual orientations face many of the same human problems with respect to coming to terms with their sexuality and learning to live with it in peace with oneself and others.

I don't know about Rick Warren personally, but his words convey an attitude towards sexuality that is no more healthy for heterosexuals than it is homosexuals. People have sexual urges, some stronger than others. People in hetero marriages can and do engage in all sorts of sexual behaviors (with various body parts, as well) out of boredom, self-gratification, pleasure, and assertion of power. Sex poses the same temptations towards evil or good for just about all of us. Someday I hope we can all get to that understanding and simply deal with it. But until then, it seems to me that we've got to start talking about all of it more openly and honestly. While I wouldn't want to submit Rick Warren as the poster child for such talk, I would like to suggest that the occasion of this latest controversy might be used to get such conversations going, to talk through some of the things Warren said with all sorts of people, not just try to silence him. Some people can be reached, sooner or later, one by one, step by step. But if they are continually shunned and shunted aside, I do not see what hope there is that progress will be made.