The Way of Love


San Francisco Catholic teachers have been girding their loins for battle against their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who wishes to “include morality clauses in their handbook and labor contract” in “which a teacher could face punishment or dismissal for ‘escorting a woman into an abortion clinic, handing out contraception to students,'” or supporting gay marriage.  The Archbishop hopes to control his employees lives both inside and outside of the classroom with this approach.  Certainly the Archbishop has this prerogative, though the legality of making the morality clause a part of the employees actual contract might be questionable.

Legalities aside, though, the central question for me is how can we evaluate this morality clause in light of radical Christianity?  That is, if we go back to the root (radical) of what Christians believe Jesus wants from us –  to love God and our neighbor — how does this morality clause hold up?

First, it should be acknowledged that each of the three issues listed above are different.  For instance, one could argue that regardless of Church teaching, handing out contraception and/or fomenting an abortion for a child could be prohibited on the grounds that it would interfere inappropriately in the agency of the parents.  If nothing else, such a prohibition might save the archdiocese from many lawsuits properly filed by parents incensed that a teacher would circumvent their parental authority.  But this prohibition could hold up despite church teachings, not because of it.

The issue of gay marriage, however, stands in contrast to those two issues and is where Cordileone and his Club stands on very weak ground, indeed.  Nicholas Senz, a conservative Catholic blogger and student of theology, represents the thinking involved in this Club of Cordileone that serves as the sodden Terra non firma upon which the Church’s decidedly Un-Christian view of gay marriage rests.  And there are two problems with this worldview.

First, Senz writes that “[there] are some actions that are not good for human beings to do and that do not lead to their flourishing and fulfillment; and when we see others doing such actions [being gay], it is precisely our love for them, our desire for their fulfillment, that causes us to disapprove of those actions.”

This thinking is the jumping off point for the first problem with the church hierarchy so transfixed and confused by all things sexual: The problem is this — there is no evidence that homosexual “acts” are “not good for human beings.” In fact, plenty of evidence exists that gay men and women, freed to unite in love, actually do flourish!  And the converse is true as well — that gay men and women oppressed by a prohibition from uniting in love suffer.  Therefore, there is no reason to disapprove of these “actions.”  In fact, one could argue that disapproving of these actions is immoral.

Sadly, however, church doctrine has obstinately held fast to ridiculous human made beliefs about sexuality that have led to great pain and suffering. Human made suffering of humans — precisely what God and Jesus teach us to fight against.

To defend these decidedly anti-Christian views towards human love and sexuality, the Club of Cordileone employs a false dichotomy to invalidate those of us who believe in love as Jesus taught.  Senz describes us thus:

“These are the sort who see Catholic identity as a tribal designation as opposed to being rooted in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ through his Church and holding to certain beliefs about him”

And so this is where the second problem begins.  Senz, and the old school Church hierarchy, represented by people like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, describes an immoral zero-sum world that does not actually exist.

What does exist is the fact that those of us who are Catholic and celebrate the love of two consenting humans — regardless of their gender — do both.  We belong to a community (tribe) of love and we are radically aligned with what Jesus wants for us all.

Senz concludes his essay by saying to us that “This is not the Catholic faith, and it is not heading that way.”  But the truth is that, albeit slowly and inexorably, this is actually where the Church is headed — finally.  We are headed on the path of love laid by Jesus.

The State of Marriage


Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about “whether same-sex couples enjoy a constitutional right to marry.”

There are many specious arguments being used in an attempt to convince the justices that gays and lesbians should be denied the rights accorded by the state for their unions — or marriages as we commonly refer to them.

The most specious of these arguments is the old Procreation Rationale — that marriage is meant for procreation.  The Procreation Rationale relative to “marriage” when it comes to the state is ridiculous, though, for a number of reasons.  For instance, for most of human history the protection of procreation was paramount to the survival of the species.  That is, if we did not reproduce, the species would die out.  From an evolutionary point of view, it made sense that humans would create a sacrosanct unbreakable institution to promote procreation — this is what we call marriage.  But with 7 billion humans on the planet, this ancient need for procreation is not necessary anymore.  And neither is the ancient definition of marriage being about procreation between a man and a woman necessary.

The Procreation Rationale is specious, though, mostly because the state — being a utilitarian entity —  does not, nor should it, care why people get married, except inasmuch as it is a legal contract between two consenting adults.

Indeed, the whole concept of the state recognizing marriages completely annihilates any romantic, sexual, biological, or theological understanding of this human relationship. The State is robotic, mechanistic, and most importantly, utilitarian — The State does not even care of you love each other. Marriage to the state is simply a legal agreement between two consenting adults which grants exclusive rights and privileges offered by the state to that couple. The state has an interest in this coupling which is why it offers these exclusive benefits. It stands to reason that if the state benefits from heterosexuals marrying, then it benefits from gays and lesbians marrying.

For people who want something more — endorsement that the marriage is sanctioned by God, for instance — he or she must go beyond the state, to the church, which stands separate from the state. A couple can do both, for sure, but only needs to be recognized by the state to take advantage of the benefits of state sanctioned marriage; and that should not be denied to our gay and lesbian neighbors by the state. Nor does granting them what is legally and constitutionally due to them have any affect on anyone else’s marriage.

Defriending my Father


Dad and Me

You may think I got in a fight with my Dad, by that title.  Maybe you think I’m immature or thin-skinned  or just ridiculous for even considering “defriending” my Dad on the Facebook.  What kind of petty son does something like that?

But, you see, it’s none of the above.  I’ve actually never gotten into a fight with my Dad (and I never ever will.  Ever).  I don’t think he’s ever even hurt my feelings (and I can guarantee you that he never, ever ever will).  And the stupid Facebook came into existence so far into both our lives that even the idea of interacting on the Facebook is silly, besides.  And no, even if one of us did get mad, or hurt the feelings of the other, we’d never stoop so low (nor waste our time) “defriending” on the FB.

No, the reason I’m considering defriending is because my Dad is dead.  While today mark’s his birthday — which the Facebook so painfully reminded me of — he died on February 14th, 2014.   I have thought sometimes about why he even still has a presence on social media, especially on the FB.  I have tried hard to just be open minded about it — it’s a way of remembering him; it’s a good way to go back and see pictures and stuff; it’s a way for others to keep him in mind.  But I never went back to his FB page.  Except for today.

I think the reality actually is that we are so afraid of death and “disappearing” that we can’t bring ourselves to make a choice, of our own volition, to acknowledge that — though every moment is a miracle — nothing lasts forever and when we blink out, that is it.  Defriending is a vote in favor of this reprehensible plan that has us all living, struggling to be “happy”, making friends, becoming devoted — only to see it all torn away at various random painful moments and then asked to carry on until we, ourselves, are just torn away form this Earthly plane.

I think, though, that the best way of managing this charade is to do two things — first, let’s all just agree that everymomentisamiracle; and, second, take action which acknowledges that it all goes away — all.  You.  Me.  Sun.  Earth.  In other words, defriend the dead if the account cannot be deactivated — but by all means deactivate the account upon the person’s passing — or if absolutely necessary leave it up for one year at most during a classical grieving period.  But wear black that whole year, too, then.

Take care to remember those who have gone on.  But don’t linger in fear and inaction during this short time while the Earth still holds you in it’s capricious beautiful grasp.  Be not afraid of that nightfall that will consume each one of us.  For everymomentisamiracle, but only if your moments are not consumed by fear and delusion.

The Unwatched Leviathan


From an article in the Washington Post today about the Ferguson, MO police:  “A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents.”  And how many more of our police departments are like this?

I’m constantly torn between wanting to support the police and not being able to because they can’t seem to be trusted.  I have friends who are police.  I have thought about being a policeperson myself.  When I talk to individual policepeople I feel great empathy for them.  I feel respect for their work.  I validate the courage it takes to be out there among the craziest, the most violent, the most unpredictable, the reprehensible.

And then there are findings such as Eric Holder’s recently regarding Ferguson, MO in which he states ““Seen in this context, amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,”

In other words, no shit the place exploded when regular humans are systematically and constantly treated like cockroaches in a city like Ferguson.  Of course people ignored the actual evidence — the evidence that exonerates the police officer who defended himself in the shooting — to make the point that the crime, the violence against African Americans has been and is happening ALL THE TIME in Ferguson, MO.

And how many more places?  I venture to guess a lot more.  Like maybe just about everywhere.  Because really, how do we know until something explodes in a community and the federal government starts looking under rocks?  We certainly do not have any systematic way to police our police.

And yet we should.  There is no way we should be able to feel comfortable in our society with a police force that is not policed for biased and harmful practices.

We may require a Leviathan, but we don’t have to let it smolder as a monster right beneath our eyes.

Accept the Invitation


Going out in the rain that night was not something I wanted to do.  Even before I went looking for my shoes (still wet from last night’s run), I could hear the wind trying to tear down the cedar trees out back.  Kodiak, my 25 pound cat, was hunkered down in my favorite chair and the two dogs had sought refuge in the den.  The rest of the mammals in my house, my wife and kids, had all gone to bed, too.  I couldn’t help but think that this was the loneliness of the long distance runner I once read about.

It would have been so easy to join the warm and slumbering bodies and gently fall asleep to the storm’s noises outside.  Noises softened by the warm walls holding the heat inside my house.  Why I didn’t do so, is a mystery, but then so is why we run at all.

As I stepped outside the house and drew my hat further down my face, the wind picked up in one huge gust and threw the door back at me.  “Really,” I thought, “the elements really are against me tonight.”…..Or were they?

MyBrynners running first steps into that cold dark run were not fun.  But as my body warmed to the task at hand, a brisk 4 miler, I began to reflect on my surroundings.  Sure, the wind and the rain and the cold and the dark could be considered enemies.  These most wintry of elements bring dread to even the most fanatical of us.

But that night, the elements gave me something else.  Something which has stuck with me longer than the bad weather and darkness ever will.  Those very things which conspired to turn me back to the hearth instead handed me an invitation to discover my own courage, which I gratefully accepted…

To this day, I believe accepting that invitation has made all the difference.