Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Want To Converse On Religion? CONTACT ARIANNA and HuffPost Religion

Arianna Huffington February 24, 2010 03:18 PM

I've always been fascinated by religion.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my family's summer holidays on the island of Corfu. August 15 is when all of Greece pays homage to the Virgin Mary. I remember going to church on that day every year, and sitting quietly among widows in black kerchiefs and younger women smelling of summer wool and candle smoke. I would watch, enthralled, as deep faith and memories moved them to tears of grief and hope. And, in my childish way, I shared their love for her.

I believe that we are all hardwired for the sacred, that the instinct for spirituality is part of our collective DNA. I wrote about this instinct 15 years ago, and called it the fourth instinct, the one beyond survival, sex, and power. It propels us to find meaning and transcend our everyday preoccupations.

For some, it involves organized religion. For others, it's a personal spiritual quest. Seventy percent of Americans belong to a religious organization and 40 percent attend services once a week.

Yet, despite the central role religion plays in American life, all too often, when talking about it, we end up talking at each other instead of with each other. This is a shame -- especially at a time like this, when the economic struggle in so many people's lives has led to a deeper questioning of our values and priorities. Whether you are a believer or not, this is an essential conversation to have...which is why I'm delighted to announce that we are launching HuffPost Religion -- a section featuring a wide-ranging discussion about religion, spirituality, and the ways they influence our lives.

Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news -- in this case about all things religion-related -- served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently -- and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.

HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.

So, among other things, you can expect discussions about the relationship between religion and science; the role religion can play in overcoming personal obstacles and attaining a sense of well-being; the ways religion is portrayed in pop culture; how religious commitments influence politicians and key domestic policy debates; and the effect of religion on foreign policy issues and international relations.

The bloggers who will be posting on HuffPost Religion will be a great mix of religious heavyweights and up-and-coming voices in the field. Today's thought-provoking lineup includes Rev. Jim Wallis on the spiritual crisis of the recession; Deepak Chopra on the continued importance of spirituality; Eboo Patel on the crucial importance of interfaith relations; Sister Joan Chittister on the future of the Roman Catholic Church; Rabbi Or Rose on the role of religion when it comes to the environment; Dr. Eddie Glaude on the declining power of the Black Church; Sharon Salzberg on Buddhism's "middle way"; Brian McLaren on 'new Evangelicals'; and Steven Barrie Anthony on technology and spirituality.

"Ask your soul!" pleads Herman Hesse in My Belief. "Your soul will not blame you for having cared too little about politics, for having exerted yourself too little, hated your enemies too little, or too little fortified your frontiers. But she will perhaps blame you for so often having feared and fled from her demands, for never having had time to give her..."

So give a little time over to explore these questions and concerns that are at the heart of HuffPost Religion. And let us know what you think. The conversation starts now


Attn: CFE members and supporters. It's happening again. A beauty queen speaking out -- this time quoting her intrepretation the Bible -- against Marriage Equality. Now is the time for us to take back the Bible. Speak out loudly and as often as you can to counter her message.

From Hollie McKay - - February 23, 2010

Miss Beverly Hills Lauren Ashley Opposes Same Sex Marriage

Former Miss California Carrie Prejean isn't the only beauty queen open to expressing her objection to same-sex marriage. Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley is also speaking out in support of traditional nuptials.

Carrie Prejean isn't the only beauty queen open to expressing her objection to same-sex marriage.

Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley is also speaking out in support of traditional nuptials.

"The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, 'If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.' The Bible is pretty black and white," Ashley told Pop Tarts.

"I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that's a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life."

Ashley, 23, will be representing Beverly Hills in the Miss California pageant in November. Her statements mirror former Miss California Carrie Prejean's answer to a question about same-sex marriage in last year's Miss USA pageant. At the time, Prejean said her answer opposing same sex marriage cost her the title.

SLIDESHOW: Former Miss California Carrie Prejean.

But with the Miss California Pageant still months away, and Ashley already echoing the views that got Prejean in trouble last year, is she concerned that she may ruin her chances of taking home the tiara?

"That isn't really the issue. I have a lot of friends that are gay, and ... I have a lot of friends who have different views, and we share our views together," she said. "There's no hate between me and anyone."

And according to the Miss California's state director, Keith Lewis, a contestant's personal opinion should have no bearing on the result.

"The Miss California USA system has always had a place for an individual's thoughts and opinions when it comes to all sides of political issues," Lewis told Pop Tarts. "It is an organization which empowers women, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs."

And while Ashley has yet to meet Carrie Prejean, she is certainly a big fan.

"She is definitely a beautiful person and I love that she stood up for what she believes in. I think that's gorgeous," Ashley said. "Perez Hilton definitely overreacted a little bit. He took it personally, and I'm sure that she loves him just as much as she loves everyone else."

Ashley owns her own personal training company in Beverly Hills. And even though she parties with Paris Hilton, she tries to steer clear of doing anything too naughty. She said she plans to remain a virgin until her wedding night.

"I don't drink alcohol and I don't smoke weed or cigarettes. My definition of partying is a little different," she said. "I feel like my body is the Temple of God and it's my temple so it's really good to treat it well. I also feel like sex was made for marriage. You really show your future husband or wife respect and you build a lot of trust before you get married. You don't have sex with other people, so that should definitely build trust, because you waited."

Pop Tarts has also exclusively learned that Lewis, who was pitted against Prejean in last year's gay marriage brouhaha, is writing a tell-all book under the working title "The Man Behind the Tiara."

"It is a gay man's journey through overcoming his own homophobia," Lewis said. "I was from a Southern Baptist upbringing, I was from Carrie's camp. This whole thing made me realize that I had a deep-seated guilt about who I was. Strangely enough, Carrie Prejean made me comfortable with being gay."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Latino LGBT Community Forum

Free, Saturday, February 27th, 10 am

Highland Park Cultural Center
104 N. Ave. 56, Los Angeles 90042

The Latino Equality Alliance, an alliance of LGBT Latino community organizations, is partnering with the U. S. Census Bureau, MALDEF, and other Latino ally organizations in hosting the Latino LGBT Community Forum. The bilingual community forum will provide an opportunity for LGBT individuals, friends and family members to discuss the recent developments of the LGBT civil rights movement, what's happened since Prop. 8 passed, and what we can do now to further our movement.

We will also learn more about the new Census Bureau policy to officially count married and unmarried LGBT couples. This is in response to a recent policy change by the Obama Administration. The Census designates Latinos, and now LGBT Latinos, as “hard to count” populations. As such, we are working to assure the most accurate count possible by disseminating information about the new LGBT policy, how the Census form should be filled out to assure that LGBT couples are counted and encourage participation.

Your input is important as we develop our action plans to overcome homophobia, misconceptions and myths about the LGBT community. Please join us for this special event. A light breakfast and lunch will be provided at no charge. We will also offer free "Snapshot of America" Census campaign photos for Latina/o LGBT couples and families.

Please RSVP by email to:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

60 Members of Congress Call for LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform

Sixty Members of Congress, led by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), have issued a letter calling on President Obama and Congressional leaders to pass legislation which would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrant families. The statement, which comes from members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, urges passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and for inclusion of “LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform.” Under current immigration law, lesbian and gay Americans are unable to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States, resulting in many such families living separately, or facing imminent separation, from their loved ones.

“No one,” the letter insists, “should be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.”

“Passage of immigration reform will require every family standing with their neighbors and loved ones to work for change,” said Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law. “The LGBT Equality Caucus’s letter signals that our champions in Congress, and the LGBT community, are ready to work for passage of reform that includes all families, including LGBT families. There are more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational families counting on us to get this work done. “

The letter – spearheaded by Congresswoman Baldwin and Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) – comes as Congress is expected to turn its attention to comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the near future. According to an analysis of U.S. census data, more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational couples would benefit from an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform bill. Nearly half of those families, data show, are raising young children who face the possibility of being separated from one of their parents.

“Recognizing how important familes have been to our national development, the central mission of our immigration system has always been to reunify families.,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “In order to be true to that core value, comprehensive immigration reform must fix our system to include LGBT families. Failure to do so would leave us with a flawed system that continues to tear apart families, contrary to our legal and constitutional traditions.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the lead House sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would also end discrimination against LGBT binational families, agreed.

“We must take the government out of the business of singling out LGBT families for discriminatory treatment and live up to our democratic ideal of equality under the law,” Nadler said. “I join my colleagues in calling on Congress and the White House to include the Uniting American Families Act, which I have introduced in every Congress since 2000, in any immigration reform legislation, and end discrimination against binational LGBT families.”

“There is simply no place for discrimination in America,” Congresswoman Baldwin added. “As we tackle comprehensive immigration reform, it’s imperative that we end discriminatory laws that hurt couples, their children and extended families, and their communities and employers.”

Immigration Equality has also significantly increased its legislative work on the issue, recently announcing the formation of a 501(c)4 Action Fund, to significant increase its lobbying work, and an expanded Washington, D.C. office.

“This is the moment,” Tiven said. “Introduction of comprehensive immigration reform legislation provides a unique opportunity to win a critical victory for LGBT families, and all families. We will work, non-stop, with our allies in the LGBT Equality Caucus, and the immigration rights movement, to do just that.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Have Faith in Love

February 8, 2010
Op-Ed Contributor
New York Times

Beverly Hills, Calif.

THE election, two months ago, of the Rev. Mary Glasspool, a priest who has been in a committed relationship with another woman for more than 20 years, as a suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has brought added turmoil to the Episcopal Church in the United States and to the worldwide Anglican Communion. There has been sporadic schism since the regular ordination of women as priests in 1977 and especially since the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. He is the first openly gay bishop in the history of those Christian bishops — Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Greek and Russian Orthodox among them — who trace their succession back to the apostles.

In protest, several dozen parishes have aligned themselves with conservative Anglican bishops in Africa, and the Roman Catholic Church has offered to take in disaffected Episcopalians. In 2008, the leadership of the Anglican Communion, to which the American church belongs, tried to keep things together by urging the Americans not to elect other openly gay people as bishops until the Communion could establish more common ground. The Los Angeles electors’ choice of a gay woman as bishop has pushed the denominational envelope to the point of tearing.
The Glasspool election and its ensuing uproar make me realize how much has changed since 1976, when my father, who came to the Los Angeles diocese as a priest in 1947, died. About the biggest controversy within the church during most of his ministry was over proposed revisions to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

At that time, marriage was strictly Adam and Eve. Gays were closeted, whether they were in the congregation or the male-only priesthood. Until 1971, when women were first ordained as deacons, the highest post a woman could attain was member of the vestry, the elected group that manages parish business. But even that was uncommon; usually the highest ranking woman in the parish was the leader of the altar guild, which arranges the flowers in the church, sets up the Eucharistic vessels and washes and irons the linens used in the service. Women could not be priests because — according to the reasoning that had held for two millenniums — none of the apostles was a woman. This made as much sense as saying that, as none of the apostles was a scholar, scholars could not be priests, or that because all the apostles were Jews, only Jews could be ordained.

In 1977, I interviewed one of the controversial new priests, the Rev. Carol Anderson, for an Esquire article, and thought she was simply marvelous. Twelve years later, as either coincidence or a wave of the hand of God, she arrived as the new rector of my now nominal parish, All Saints’ in Beverly Hills, and we have become great friends. Oh, and now the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

These changes did not come until I was in my 30s. I had always been deeply devout, an altar boy from age 6, a regular at church camp and then on its summer staff, and the vice president and then the president of our diocese’s Episcopal Young Churchmen. I attended Hobart College, in Geneva, N.Y., which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, my tuition paid in part by a clergy scholarship. Until well into my 20s, I gave regular consideration to becoming a priest myself.

I had a good model in my father, a man of immense humor who understood the frailties of humanity and who annually challenged his faith by reading agnostics from Thomas Huxley to George Bernard Shaw. He was a solid defender of Anglican orthodoxy and the guidance of the New Testament, but he also believed that every bit of Christian teaching could be summed up in three words: God is love. “The miracles,” he once told me, “are window dressing.”

Love. Treat others as you would have them treat you. If you feel you are a child of God, then honor your common and equal status with others as children of God. Except (and there are always exceptions with sibling rivalry) if they are women and therefore not qualified to perform the holiest sacraments of the church. Except if two members of the same sex engage in long, committed and faithful love; God may be love, but this love is ungodly.

Just look, some vigilant Christians say, at the “clear teaching” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (“Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”); in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 (“The law is laid down ... for the unholy and profane ... for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”); and especially in Romans 1:26b-27 (“Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”)

I know that this will offend some Christians, but the notion that Scripture is perfectly clear is wishful thinking, as a recent white paper prepared by the All Saints’ clergy demonstrates. The writers of the four Gospels don’t agree on even so simple a thing as which people were present at Christ’s empty tomb. Considering that, over the centuries, the Bible has been translated into and out of multiple languages, it only makes sense to consider the context of what’s written rather than believe that every word is literal divine revelation. In rebuttal to the notion of a clear teaching of Scripture, the evangelical author and speaker Tony Campolo has said that “sodomites” is a word of dubious translation. “Nobody knows what the word means,” he said. “Interestingly enough, up until the 14th century it was translated as masturbation.”

Timothy’s reference to sodomites, for its part, is in the context of boys who were castrated to maintain their feminine and childlike characteristics and then exploited for sex — a far cry from two consenting adults of the same sex consummating their committed love.

Today, there is much reference to the supposed Christian teaching that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman, but it was not until the 12th century that marriage became a sacrament in the Western church.

Sex, though, has always been a particularly Christian problem. Orthodox Jews are commanded to marry, but the early Christians found celibacy a high calling. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wished all Christians could stay single and celibate, as he had. He knew, however, that not everyone could and so he adds, “But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

Less quoted than Paul’s advice that it is better to marry than to be engulfed by desire is what he says earlier in the passage: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.” One having one kind of gift and another a different kind is a pretty good definition of humanity in all our variety, and to me this passage expands the heart of what it means when two people, gay or straight, commit themselves to each other in the sight of a God who understands human differences.

A central tenet of Christianity is that all of us are born into sin. Then, as we grow older, we decide that some of our equals sin more than others, and in far worse ways than we do ourselves. We divine the word of God to mean that the acts we don’t like of others — what they eat, how they pray, whom they fall in love with — are an abomination in his sight, as if we can presume to decide in our own way what pleases God, and therefore what acts should be excluded and whom we can judge and damn in his name.

Exclusion always seems to become part of some people’s faith, though often over time what was excluded becomes accepted, only to be replaced by another ban: People of one denomination can’t marry those in another; people of one color cannot marry those of another.

Among my father’s parishioners in the 1950s were two men in their late 40s who came every Sunday to the 7:30 a.m. communion service and who shared a house. My parents referred to them as “confirmed bachelors,” code words for the love that dare not speak its name. They were kind and gentle men, who to even a 10-year-old obviously had some sort of special and personal bond. I am certain that they were in a loving and committed relationship that the church would then not recognize or bless, but as long as the fiction of their just being two people who happened to live together was maintained, they would continue to be accepted and valued members of the congregation. Which, of course, was well meaning but also hypocritical. Now, a multitude of parishes across the country would openly welcome the couple.

My own faith has eroded over the years, though my father’s belief in the supremacy of love still guides me. And so I can’t help but wonder, how can Christians not recognize and honor love that binds two people, any two people, together unto themselves? And if a priest has fulfilled her sacred duties with the distinction that persuades those to whom she would minister to elect her their bishop, and has led an open life of committed love that honors the essence of their God, why should her choice of a partner matter?

Eric Lax is the author of the forthcoming “Faith, Interrupted: A Spiritual Journey.”

Friday, February 5, 2010


Thursday, February 4, 2010 10:30 a.m.

California Faith for Equality was a sponsor of the American Prayer Hour Interfaith gathering In Glendale, California- part of national movement - one of 17 gatherings across the country. The Glendale event was organized by Dave Ferguson, Church Relations Director of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship and Leif Lind, Church Administrator of Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church is an open and affirming congregation.

[Rev. Sandie Richards; Rev. Keith Banwart, Jr.; Rev. Art Cribbs; Dave Ferguson; Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater; Lief Lind]

CFE spokesperson, the Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs delivered the homily. Cribbs called for "justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." He challenged all to live into our "ubuntu" selves, the "I am in you and you in me" so that we are all one.

The service was both interfaith and multicultural, with prayers offered in five languages including intercessor. Pictured below is Vivan Varela from All Saints Church in Pasadena, who added a Spanish prayer to those in Portuguese, French and Hebrew.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater delivered the blessing.

The service included the following litany -- written for the American Prayer Hour by the Reverend Lesley Brogan, Atlanta GA.

God of all places, of this room and the other rooms across the country where we gather to pray this morning, inspire us. When we hear of the hatred for sisters and brothers in Uganda, we also feel hatred; we become hateful ourselves. When we hear of the devastation of lives of sisters and brothers because of wars, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, we lose our trust. When we hear of the suffering of sisters and brothers in Darfur, we lose our faith. We know that we have become a culture of “us versus them,” spending our hours and energies naming and blaming. In places of hatred where walls are built to separate us one from another, guide us so that we might turn toward each other and not turn away.
ALL: Guide us to a new place where our faith builds bridges and creates places for healing.

God of all time and this morning, stir us up, we pray. In this time when voices are silenced and agendas are created behind closed doors, open our hearts and minds so that more seats are placed at the tables of change and transformation. In places where lines are drawn in the sand dividing neighborhoods and countries, awaken us in a new way.
ALL: Awaken us to a time of hope and openness of heart.

God of all people and of your sons and daughters here this morning, gather us in, we pray. Where there is great suffering from hunger and thirst, come. Where sisters and brothers have no place to lay their heads, come. Where jobs have been lost and dreams have vanished, come. Be present, God, in Haiti, in the United States of America, in Uganda. In places of violence, addiction, illness and injury, come God of us all, come.
ALL: Come and re-shape your children to love so that we might live into your image.
Holy One, renew us. During this season of shortened hours of daylight, we are sometimes tempted to hibernate. Remind us that although the night may seem long, your light is ever again preparing to burst onto our horizons emboldening us and giving us strength for your service. Guide us. Awaken us, O God. Re-shape us so that we might live into your restoration, your justice, your shalom.
All: God of faith, hope and love we hunger for you – this is the place, this is the time, fill us with Your courage, peace, and love. Use us, we pray. Amen.

California Faith for Equality was proud to have participated in this memorable and important service.