The professional pundits had more than enough analysis of how the respective 2012 political conventions went. Obviously we hosted the Republicans here in Tampa, and it would have been fine with me if they’d stayed home. I will write more about all that later this week. It was a disaster for downtown Tampa businesses, and the security was simply over the top.
I started attending a Sunday School class at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church a few years ago because a retired minister was teaching sessions on several Methodist related topics in which I was interested. I am the youngest person in the class by quite a few years, but found a great group of intelligent and thoughtful people.
In 2008 I took a resolution to the Administrative Council of the church asking that they adopt a non-discrimination statement. It included all the categories in the United Methodist Social Principles, and that includes sexual orientation. Well you would have thought I’d ask them to torture their mothers’. It was surprisingly ugly. I have, as have most gay people, been touched by the recent spate of suicides by gay teens. We know a lot of the ugly rhetoric comes from “religious” people and religion. So I believe people of faith have a special obligation to try to tamp down the madness, and to send a message, especially, to young gay people that they are loved and welcome.
So, two Sunday’s ago, I was teaching the class (as I’ve done a number of times), and took a few minutes at the end of the class to deliver the following statement. I have been amazed at the outpouring of concern and support, and a number of them are willing to attend the Council meeting with me in November. I will reintroduce the resolution leaving out the section about trying reasonably to deal only with other organizations with similar statements. The council members previously used this as their primary objection.
I don’t remember exactly when I started attending this class, but I came for lessons by Dick Martin on The History of Methodism and The History of John Wesley, and I sort of found a home here at Palma Ceia. And for better or worse, you’ve been stuck with me since.
Despite being an outsider in a number of ways, you all welcomed me, and even allowed me learn a great deal from you. I feel I’ve developed some friendships in here, and I am grateful to have gotten to know each one of you.
I’m coming today though to do something I’m loathe to do, and that is to impose on that friendship. What I’m going to discuss may make some of you uncomfortable, but I can’t apologize for that because I’m going to be discussing something that literally has life and death consequences.
Back in 2008 I went to the Administrative Council calling on the Church to adopt a statement of non-discrimination. It included a call for the church to try to do business only with other business and organizations with a similar statement. There’s nothing in the statement that is not in the Discipline and Social Principles, but it was met, at that time, with a great deal of hostility. I could go into what I believe that to be based on, but that’s no longer the point.
The point now is, as it has been for many years, that children are dying at their own hand because they are being bullied at school. Now we all know that some amount of that is just part of growing up, and children are bullied for many reasons, but studies make it clear that a primary reason is because they are gay or perceived to be gay or lesbian. And just over the past few weeks, six children have killed themselves, and one young man has had his arm broken.
Here’s some information on these kids. I wanted to put a face on this problem. [download id=”1″]
And lest you think this is not our problem, I want to assure you that there have been and are kids in our youth group who are gay. When Rev. Mac was here, he had approached me to discuss, without divulging any confidences, gay youth and parents who had approached them for help and support. I have also had occasion to run into some of our youth at gay events.
I think these past weeks caused me to reach a tipping point. I was already fed up with the politicians using lies and distortions about my life to score political points, and by religious people raising money and support for their own false bigotries on my back. I launched my own little campaign called “Say it to my face,” in which I do my best to get in touch with some of these people, or someone on their staff, and call them out on their comments. I don’t know if I accomplish much, but it can be fun sometimes, and I feel better.
I’m over 50 now. I experienced some of that bullying growing up, and I’ve experienced discrimination in my religious and professional lives, but there’s not much left that can hurt me. However, my heart has been ripped out by these recent events, and it’s time for some adult leadership, because many of the so-called adults, wrapping themselves in the cloak of a false Christianity need to realize their words have consequences. Their words make a group of people, “the other,” and it’s always easier to hate and violate people not like us. The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of some people, even some who claim to be “Christians,” and the lies that spew forth from some public figures give children a license to verbally abuse, humiliate and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of these straight children—having listened to mom and dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to the family, will destroy society and how gay sex is awful, and gay people are worse than terrorists (all things have been said publicly)–feel justified in physically attacking the gay and lesbian students in their schools. You don’t have to explicitly “encourage children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” gay kids. Encouragement—along with hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we can see the fruits of it.
So I’ve had enough. I can’t change the world, but I can work to change my little corner of the world. Remember, during the Warren study, I said I had figured out my purpose in life…to leave things a little better than I found them.
I am no longer going to sit by and allow bigots to eat at the souls of the gay youth of this community. I am returning to the Administrative Council at their next meeting in November to re-submit this resolution without some of the additional requirements. ([download id=”2″])We at this church need to send the message to our youth, and to the broader community that all are welcome here at this House of God…that everyone, but especially our youth, are loved and respected, and are children of God.
Regardless of how you feel about gay people, you can’t believe it’s OK for children to be bullied to the point they see suicide as their only option. Dr. Warren Throckmorten, a conservative evangelical said it very well:
“As a traditional evangelical, I may have some differences of opinion with my gay friends. However, such ideological differences don’t matter to a middle school child who is afraid to go to school.
There are many such children who need adults to care more about their well being than about religious differences. Adults need to focus on common values of respect and civility and take the culture war off the school campus.”
He goes on to say, “It seems to me that people of faith should lead the way in providing safe and respectful environments for all. To do this, you have to be there and you have to name the problem to solve it.”
If you remember when we concluded our study of the Social Principles I asked you all to stand, and reminded you of how Martin Luther famously said, “Here I stand Lord, I can do no other.” Well here I stand, imposing on our friendship, because I’m asking you to stand with me…to ensure the children and youth of this church know this is a safe place for them…a place where they are loved and respected and supported for who they are, and where the teaching of Jesus is that all are welcome in his house.
Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I am asking you to be a friend to these kids, and speak up. I am asking you to join me at that Administrative Council meeting on November 29, and I am asking you to discuss this with your friends, and invite them to join us there.
I do not apologize if it makes you feel uncomfortable because children are dying, and I cannot, as a Christian, continue to stand by silently.
And as Forest Gump famously said, “And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
I also provided a sheet with a photo and brief bio of the teens who recently committed suicide.
From yesterday, we’ve got a “pig” traffic tie up out in Pasco County, and today we’ve got rain, rain, and more rain, and do you know what one calls 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?
That’s right, yesterday morning during rush hour there was a big traffic backup at a big intersection over in Pasco County. Apparently there was a dead pig in the middle of the intersection blocking things up. I have been unable to get any more information about this one.
Yesterday and today we’ve had a ton of rain, and while it’s quiet now, the radar seems to show that we are going to get more. I’ve had to pump water out of the pool a couple times. We’ve needed some rain, but be careful what you wish for. We really got it, and it has come in downpours when it rains. I had to drive up to the north side of town to run some errands, and that meant making my way through several areas where the streets get very flooded.
In Tarpon Springs a police officer has resigned amid allegations that he slashed the tires on a homeless person’s bicycles. Apparently he was mad because the homeless addressed several times with racial epithets (reportedly the “n” word) over and over after he arrested the homeless person on a trespassing charge.
Tampa Tribune File Photo
So, the answer to the lawyer question above (What does one call 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?) is “a good start.” A couple of months ago a thug named Richard McTearwas arrested for allegedly throwing his teenage girlfriend’s baby on the concrete floor in her apartment, the tossing the baby from a car window out on the interstate. The baby died. Bedwell, the baby’s mother, is herself receiving services from DCF. She had problems with McTear, and had the Sheriff’s Department close a case against him, and DCF lower their concern level after she promised to seek a court order to keep McTear away. She didn’t, so now she is, big surprise, suing everyone in sight, including DCF and Sheriff’s Office.
But her money-grubbing attorney’s are also suing…wait for it…the apartment managers where she lived, because they supposedly didn’t provide enough security to keep this from happening.
I have prepared a resolution on social justice to be introduced at the next meeting of the Administrative Board of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church here in Tampa. It will create an inclusive statement of non-discrimination. However, it goes a bit further. In an on-line conversation I had with a new acquaintance, he made a statement that caught my interest. He said, “People don’t have to pay a price for discrimination against gay people.” I believe this is a true statement. You can’t really change how people feel, but you can change how they behave in public through laws and through action. People who make racists statements pay a price. If they are business owner, they may be boycotted by people who don’t beleive in racism. At work, they may be ostricized, and it can affect their potential opportunities. But for the most part, people don’t pay a price for discriminating against homosexuals. My resolution requires the church to put its money where its mouth is.
I decided that a statement saying we won’t discriminate would be a nice feel good thing, but this resolution goes further and requires that we provide support of time, resources, money and facilities, only to other organizations that have a comparable statement of non-discrimination. I think this makes it a stronger resolution because it calls for a form of direct action on our part.
TITLE: A Statement of Commitment to Justice for All People and a Call to Action for Palma Ceia United Methodist Church
SUBJECT: Equal Opportunity for all persons
REFERENCES: United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161 and ¶162
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: There are no direct financial implications arising to Palma Ceia United Methodist Church associated with this resolution.
Inasmuch as Palma Ceia United Methodist Church has always been a church providing open hearts, open minds and open doors, it is appropriate that Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt a public statement of that commitment consistent with Biblical teaching and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This includes a call to action to put into practice our belief that people are free and secure only when all of society creates a social climate which believes in equal protection of and equal opportunity for all people. Especially as Methodists, “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals…”1 As Plato said, “Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those affected.”
Whereas, Christians have been called from the earliest days of Old Testament teaching to be Just to all, as in Micah 6:8 when the Prophet tells the people, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?,” and;
Whereas, the Father of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote in his, “Explanatory Notes on The Bible,” for this verse, “He – God hath already told you in his word, with what you ought to come before him. To do justly – To render to every one their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods or name; in all your dealings with men carry a chancery in your own breasts, and do according to equity. To love mercy – To be kind, merciful and compassionate to all, not using severity towards any. Walk humbly with thy God – Keep up a constant fellowship with God, by humble, holy faith,” and;
Whereas, as described in John Gill’s Exposition of The Entire Bible, “to do justice” or “judgment”; means to exercise public judgment and justice, as a king, among his subjects; to do private and personal justice between man and man; to hurt no man’s person, property, and character, and;
Whereas, Justice is doing what is right. It is living by the Golden Rule and making decisions that are good for everyone. It is building relationships in the marketplace, the neighborhood or the family upon goodness, truth, mercy and compassion. It is living above the culture’s values. Justice is the recognition, according to Tom Ehrich, that life matters, how we treat others matters and the choices we make here and now matter. Our decisions reveal our character and make the world better or worse. Pursuing justice makes it better, and;
Whereas, Justice is also making sure that everyone has a seat at the table, a tenant of Methodism from its earliest roots as the first item of the 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church says, “For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life,” and; Continue reading »
While I posted movie reviews (Date Movie, The Pink Panther), there has not been much else posted lately. I had a pretty bad couple of days related to work and my profession at the end of last week. I have also been busy with work, and the social calendar has been pretty full.
My best friend Jeff had some best friends down visiting from his hometown. We met them a year ago when they were down visiting. Jim and Glenda are a fun couple, and we ate dinner at Jeff’s a couple of times. Man, can Glenda cook.
Friday night, while Lay was working, I went to see Date Movie with Mike and Jeff.
It was also the last weekend for the State Fair here in Tampa. Saturday we took Lay’s nephews. The weather got to 80 or so Saturday, but we managed to go early enough to miss the worst of the crowd, and the weather was still pleasant. However, by the time we left it was packed, and I forgot a hat, so now my face is blistered. Everyone was tired, but, as you might expect, the boys said they weren’t.
Later that night, Lay and I went to see The Pink Panther. I was expecting it to be pretty good, as I think Steve Martin was the right guy to play Peter Sellers’ role. Lay wasn’t sure he’d like it, but he did.
Sunday we went to a friend’s birthday party in the afternoon, and then stopped Jeff’s for a final cookou with Jim and Glenda.
So it was a busy weekend, and because of the concerns that surfaced last week, I didn’t sleep much. I’m pretty worn out now, and hope I can sleep good tonight.
Tampa, WeatherComments Off on Sunday Afternoon Update — Wilma
It is amazingly quiet here today. As of 4PM there is no wind, and while it has been overcast all day, we have yet to have even a drop of rain.
The NOAA forecast track is, as you might expect, beginning to narrow, (and here is a cool animated tracking map on MSNBC) hand has been moved more to the south with landfall right at Naples. However, the main wind field comes off the eye like a giant egg shape with the widest end going out to the northeast. That is going to bring sustained tropical storm force winds through Tampa. The NOAA forecast models still seem to have some disagreement on the forward speed of the storm. Landfall looks like it will happen around 7AM or 8AM tomorrow, and will probably be a category two storm (although some of the NOAA models say there’s a chance it will minimally be a category 3 storm). Most forecasts say we’ll start seeing increased winds during the late evening and continuing through noon tomorrow.
I had put everything away earlier this week, and we have water, food and gas for the generator. I’m going out in a few minutes to gas up the car. That will serve as a "reserve" gas tank for the generator. I’ll pull the generator out later. It is very heavy and cumbersome, so you would not want to be wrestling with that during a downpour. I have a tarp to cover it, and will use one of those bungee straps to hold it on.
Otherwise, it is a very quiet afternoon. Along with a stop at the gas station, I’m going to make a run to the grocery store. We’ve had so much warning, I’m hoping it won’t be a zoo there. Its not that we need much of anything, but they have Coke products on sell at the Albertson’s.
Lay is napping, and I’m watching the San Diego vs. Philadelphia football game.
UPDATED: 10PM — It finally started raining right at 7PM tonight. It has poured rain several time, and been a steady shower in-between. The latest forecast says the increasing intensity will be there, but it will be slower than first expected, so probably a category 2 on landfall tomorrow morning.
I obviously have not been posting a lot lately. I was traveling for work some this week, and had a very interesting trip I’ll write more about later. I may have plenty of time tomorrow to do some updates to the blog.
In the meantime, I thought I would provide an update on Hurricane Wilma based on the most recent NOAA information. How much impact there is on Tampa remains a bit uncertain. Not unusually, with about two days to go before landfall, the “cone of uncertainty” is still a bit large.
The storm has drifted pretty erratically and slowly for quite some time. Yesterday it moved across Cozumel and then onto the Yucatan Peninsula. The slow movement helped weaken the storm, which is good for us, but very bad for those parts of Mexico. It has now settled into a slow northward drift, and is about to emerge into the Gulf. It will have a chance to re-strengthen then, and a low pressure trough dipping down will bring us some cooler weather later in the week, and pick up Wilma and start accelerating her toward Florida. This will also create shear that will hopefully weaken the storm as it approaches.
Right now, the forecast track brings the storm onshore somewhere in South Florida sometime on Monday. According to the NOAA discussion, the computer models have come into some disagreement, and the track has been moved slightly north. North is not good for us, but it still keeps the center of the storm well to our south. Earlier, the models had the storm coming onshore as a Category 1 or 2. Apparently, less shearing is expected, so now the forecast says a Category 2 or 3 when it comes onshore.
It is also projected that, as the shearing occurs, the wind field of the storm will expand, so we will pretty much be getting tropical storm force winds here in Tampa on Monday. That’s assuming the storm stays pretty much on the current forecast track. We will certainly get rain, but that won’t be bad, as we need some rain. I’m guessing this will probably start sometime tomorrow afternoon. It’s been cloudy most of today, but no rain so far.