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I Love You Just the Way You Are June 26, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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This last time I let my blogging slide, I did so before answering the last couple of questions from what I can only assume is an ardent and faithful readership. I saved Gary’s question for last, not because I didn’t want to answer it, but because it requires the most thought. I felt it was a thoughtful topic for discussion, and deserved a thoughtful response. Also, I confess that I’m a bit of a coward.

You see, a few years ago on its Facebook page, the Catholic News Service ran a news item about a Catholic university that was planning on offering a class on gay marriage. I honestly think that’s how ham-handedly they worded it, too. And the crux of the article was about the local Bishop getting his knickers in a knot over it. It was “an inappropriate thing to teach in a Catholic institution.” I made the crucial mistake of reading the comments. I know, I know. And the die-hard, militant, EWTN Catholics were out-fucking-raged and siding with the Bishop. A few voices supported the university, as did I. Call me a pinko-commie-liberal if you must, but to me, Catholic or not, universities are institutions of higher learning. You’re supposed to think and question things. I said that gay marriage (seriously, it’s just marriage–it’s neither gay nor straight) is the law in my state and is spreading. Marriage equality will happen, and quickly, and discussing federal lawmaking decisions in a university classrooms seems perfectly appropriate.

Well, one of the other posters took offense, and because the idea of locking my Facebook page down was new to me, I had my profile available for anyone to see, and she saw that I had “catechist” on my list of “shit that keeps me off the streets.” She used that information to send an e-mail to my Bishop’s office, and one afternoon I got a call from the head of religious instruction at the diocese accusing me of…well, I’m not sure what. Because when I figured out that this woman was calling me out on the carpet based on an e-mail from some woman from Michigan (yeah, Internet sleuthing works both ways, sweetie) questioning my ability to teach religious education at my Parish, I freaked the fuck out. I started shooting back, and I went OFF. She never read the article. She never read my intelligent and thoughtful comment. She did not know the woman’s name. She didn’t even have the e-mail handy.

I managed to not say “What the actual fuck is wrong with you?” on the phone. And when I hung up, there was no further mention of my ability to teach religious education in my Parish. Nor was my comment or phone conversation ever reported to either my Parish’s director of religious ed, or my priest. But I realized that internet comments could get my ass into trouble, so I’ve locked down my Facebook page, and now I try to avoid commenting on things that could upset my personal apple cart.

Plus, I’m just not political to begin with.

In matters of politics and faith, I’ve found it’s best to not delve into controversial issues where those things are concerned. Because someone is always going to take offense.

But Gary said, “Ok, lets touch on the two topics you said you wouldn’t discuss; a devout (?) Catholic with multiple gay friends. I honestly believe folks who have strong opinions one way or another on this never have to face the reality of having strong faith and friendship loyalty.”

I have an answer, but it’s something that, should word get around, might keep me from participating in the life of my Parish. I love to sing, and I’ve tried to avoid saying anything that would keep me from being asked to leave that ministry. And I’ve stayed quiet on the topic in public, not because I don’t support my gay friends, but because I have something to lose by speaking out.

Then, this happened.

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If you’re on The Facebook, you’ve seen it around. It’s the symbol for support of marriage equality. Lots of my friends changed their profile pictures on the day the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against the Defense of Marriage Act, which attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

After much soul-searching, I changed my profile picture, too. And in my head the whole time was the knowledge that just one person making a phone call could make it so that the one thing I still love about Church is taken from me.

And the hypocrisy of that hit me like a banjo to the face.

Marriage equality is a no-brainer to me. There has yet to be so much as a single argument made against it that makes a lick of sense. Come to that, I don’t understand homophobia. The most succinct description of how I feel about it is this quote:

I hate the word ‘homophobia.’ It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.

It’s attributed to Morgan Freeman, but he didn’t originate it. But the long and short of it is, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to lose something that matters very much to me–singing with the choir and being a cantor. But I got to thinking about what it means for me to call myself a disciple of Christ. Jesus said a lot of things, and the thing that sticks with me the most is when he says in the Gospel of Matthew, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” What matters is how we treat each other.

And I also know that as a Christian, I have to be able to love without counting the cost. Loving the way Jesus taught means it’s sometimes not convenient, or popular, and you might be called on to make sacrifices for that love.

I support marriage equality because I believe it is the right thing to do. It is the just thing to do. Maybe homosexuality is sinful…though I doubt it. If God made all things for good, there’s got to be a good reason for it. I suspect it’s to teach us lessons on tolerance and small-mindedness. I mean, you think we’d have learned our lesson about discriminating based on other factors like skin color, nationality, or gender, but it seems we’re not done learning. But that’s just my theory. I could be wrong.

I guess it’s more accurate to say that I’m not a devout Catholic. My faith is complicated. It’s more accurate for me to say that I follow Christ, but I believe his Church sometimes gets it wrong, with tragic results. History has shown this to be true, and will continue to show it for as long as there is a Church, because the Church is human, and we humans are prone to fucking things up in epic proportion.

I love the faith tradition of the Church. I appreciate that it traces back to Christ himself. I believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but if I have to some day set that aside over a difference of belief, I can. I’d rather not. I draw strength from that nourishment, and it lets me put my big girl panties on and love the way Jesus himself taught us to. That love is hard, man. Damned hard, and as disciples, we need all the help we can get. Jesus knew that.

I think there is room for interpretation and investigation and that we always have a chance to make things right. At the end of the day, I put my faith in God, first and foremost. I pray, and I follow his gentle guidance. I’d rather risk sinning in the eyes of the Church and love my gay friends with all my heart, then to condemn them for being made in His own image.

Love one another as I have loved you. It’s a tall order.

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St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Barry White February 14, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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Today is St. Valentine’s Day! In honor of the day, I answer the question, “How does St. Valentine tie into this Hallmark Corporate Sponsored ‘holiday’?”

But I’m gonna tell it Badass Saints style. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

Badass Saint ValentineFebruary 14

Badass Saint Valentine
February 14

 

I know what you’re wondering: how did a third-century martyr come to be remembered by cheap boxes of drugstore chocolates, sappy cards covered in glitter hearts, and bouquets of flowers from the gas station?

St. Valentine’s life is a mystery, most likely because he died in Rome in 269 (well played, God) and was not known for any heroic or super-saintly deeds. In fact, much of his history is thought to be bits of the lives of three different dudes all muddled together like some sort of hagiographical mix-tape. In fact, so little is actually known that in 1969, the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the calendar of observed feasts, though he remains venerated as a Saint.

Val was a bishop back in the happenin’ town of Rome, and he—as so many Badass Saints did—fell out of favor with the Emperor. Claudius wasn’t a fan of Christians to begin with, but Claudius was also a soldier, and like so many rulers before and since, he felt a burning duty to involve himself in the sex lives of his troops. Claudius believed that unmarried men made better soldiers, so he forbade his men to marry. And he did it at a time when violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could get you disemboweled and your own dick fed to you on a stick.

Here he is in prison performing what appears to be a gay marriage between soldiers. (Gonna get another call from the Bishop about that little crack. You just wait and see...)

Here he is in prison performing what appears to be a gay marriage between soldiers. (Gonna get another call from the Bishop about that little crack. You just wait and see…)

Even back then, people were not going to stand for being kept from marrying the person they love, so they found ways to defy the emperor, and Bishop Valentine became the go-to guy for marrying soldiers on the sly. Of course when you’re the go-to guy for anything, word gets out, and Valentine pretty much had his dick handed to him for defying the Emperor on matters of love, marriage, and soldiering. He was beaten with clubs and rocks, and when that didn’t kill him (Badass!), he was finally beheaded. Suddenly, having to celebrate the day with a box of candy doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s all about perspective, man.

So that’s how St. Valentine became associated with love and marriage, though the two were never officially linked in any way until Geoffrey Chaucer got creative with his quill and connected the dots, and introduced him as a patron of courtly love. Literally, the dude made it up, and folks seemed to like it, so the tradition of showering one’s beloved with gifts on this day can be blamed on the premiere poet of the Middle Ages. Yes, Chaucer was both the Father of English Literature and the inventor of the Hallmark Holiday.

That's him. Chaucer. Sitting there with his quill just making shit up as he goes along. *snorts* Writers...

That’s him. Chaucer. Sitting there with his quill just making shit up as he goes along. *snorts* Writers…

As a side note, there’s some flimsy evidence that we celebrate St. Valentine as the Patron of Love simply because his feast day was celebrated the day before the pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia, though that theory has been generally dismissed by scholars who study such things. And even though the Church has a long and storied tradition of playing fast and loose with pagan rites and rituals, in this case there’s no real connection between Lupercalia and the modern tradition of getting down with a box of wine and a Barry White album.

Badass.

St. Valentine’s official feast day, though no longer celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, is on February 14, and he is the patron Saint of engaged couples, bee keepers, love, happy marriages, and the plague and is invoked against epilepsy.