Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Issue That Divides Our Times

My post list is littered with drafts of post that I have attempted to write on this topic.  On multiple occasions I have started a post and then abandoned it.  The topic of course, is homosexuality-specifically homosexual marriage (or marriage equality if that is the way you prefer to address the issue).  I always stop because I am aware of my position.  As an ordained pastor, I need to be very mindful about what I post on the internet because it is all public.  I am mindful that everyone has an opinion, and I usually just assume most people disagree with mine.  I have stopped myself, because I had to ask, what fruit does throwing my opinion out there.  If a member of the church reads what I have to say, will it be edifying or will it be divisive?  The answer of course, with this issue anyway, is that it will be divisive.  This is an issue that EVERYONE has a firmly entrenched opinion in, and no matter how eloquently I try to explain why I am right, it is not going to really change any minds or build anyone up in anyway.     

However, this issue is coming to a head and one way or the other will be a watershed moment in our collective history.  I am sure you are all familiar with this symbol by now.
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If you have a facebook account (or twitter account, or instagram account, or you know a computer) then you have seen this equal sign plastered everywhere.  It's ubiquity shows that this issue has gone from a fringe issue to one that occupies the public consciousness.  The popular way to deal with this issue is through simple inaction and delay, but I do not think that will work much longer.  As I said, it is coming to a head.

I will not be offering my opinion on the subject in this blog post, and if I do it right you will not know which way I fall (feel free to try and read between the lines if you like though).  However, I have a couple of observations on the issue that I feel are usually overlooked in the debate (and mostly name calling) that surrounds the issue of marriage right now.

The thing with marriage is that it is a very complex term, and when someone refers to marriage they are using the one word to simultaneously refer to three different institutions.

First, marriage is a religious institution.  I realize people who do not claim any faith get married as well, but for many people marriage is a first, and foremost a religious ceremony and spiritual event.  Often the people who oppose homosexual marriage oppose it from the religious basis.  I do not need to quote chapter and verses the scriptures that reference homosexuality as a sin-we all know they are there.   I am also very well aware that for every single verse, there is an interpretation or rationalization as to why that verse does not truly condemn homosexual marriage as a sin.  Since I am not giving my opinion I will not comment on the legitimacy or fallacy of those interpretations.  I think if the people (especially the people of faith) who are in favor of homosexual marriage are honest, then they have to admit that it is fully possible that someone can honestly come to oppose homosexual marriage on religious grounds.  What I wish we could all agree upon is that some people oppose homosexual marriage out of religious conviction.  That does not mean these people are bigoted or homophobic, it means they are trying to live a faithful life by not comprising their faith based beliefs.  

Second, marriage is a legal institution.  When two people get married they change their legal standing and their legal relationship.  There are certain legal rights and responsibilities that come with agreeing to be bound to another person.  There are hundreds of homosexual couples who live their lives together, like heterosexual married couples, but are denied basic things like family hospital visitation.  Often, when people speak of support of homosexual marriage, they are speaking from this legal perspective.  I think that if the people (especially the people of faith) who oppose homosexual marriage are honest, then they have to admit that this is unfair and that it can even be unjust.  I do question if the current conflict over homosexual marriage has the same weight and significance as the civil rights movement did, but there are clearly some issues of fairness that need to be resolved.

Third, marriage is a social institution.  To be married in our society means something.  People view and understand themselves differently if they are married rather than single.  Society has a certain understanding of what it means to be married, and what marriage is suppose to be like.  The current conflict over marriage is largely about the social institution of marriage, and how we as a society understand marriage.  If the conflict over homosexual marriage was based in the religious institution  then only churches would be having the debate.  If it was only the legal institution of marriage that was being debated, then those on the pro-side would be perfectly happy with civil unions.  However, it seems that ship has sailed.  Those in favor of allowing homosexual marriage do not just want the legal rights, it is now about having social acceptance.  Those opposed to homosexual marriage, oppose how society defines marriage because a change in the social definition will put a more traditional understand of the religious institution of marriage at irreconcilable odds with the larger culture.  

The fight is over the social institution of marriage.  The problem though is those opposed to homosexual marriage argue with understandings of marriage from the religious understanding, while those in favor if it argue from the legal understanding.  This means, that both sides essentially talk past each other.   Both sides feel like they have simultaneously fully articulated their point and been completely ignored by the other side.  This is more than comparing apples and oranges.  It is like one side is using apples the other side oranges, and they are trying to describe a pear.

Because the social institution is what the debate is about, then I think that society should decide.  A lot of people are hoping that the Supreme Court decision on California's proposition eight and DOMA will give momentum to their side.  I hope the supreme court does know such thing.  This is an issue that we the people need to decide on, not a court.     This is happening in 2012 three states voted to allow homosexual marriages.  Of course,  in that same year North Carolina  joined the list of states that added to their state constitution provisions that banned homosexual marriage.  That is why this is the issue that divides our times. With each election more states are going to pick their side, and we are going to keep picking different sides. Right now 29 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as only between a man and woman, while ten states allow same sex marriages.  The  other 11 states (including Indiana) are going to have to go one way or another, because public opinion will demand it one way or the other.

I am very interested in how this develops.  I read every news story related to this issue, because it has PROFOUND implications for the church as an institution   However, since I am not giving my opinion I will not comment on that.  

I am not sure if this post has any real meaning or  really adds anything.  But it has been floating in my head for years at this point and I finally glad to get it out, so thanks for reading (or at least scrolling down to the end and reading this).

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Comic Book Post

The last time  I wrote about comics was a little over a year ago   At that time I had been reading a few issues of the New 52 relaunch for about six months.  Since then I have continued to stick with it, so this post is about what I am currently reading.

In September of 2011, DC comics hit the reset button on their entire universe creating a new jumping on point for people, and it worked. I am one of the new readers they drew in, and I know I am not the only one.  As of right now, I monthly read three titles.   Batgirl continues to be my favorite.  I explain why in my previous post, I liked to.  The story telling in Batgirl continues to be very well done, and Barbara Gordon is very easy to relate to.  She has a certain "everyman" appeal to how she is being written.  This series has me completely hooked, and more than any other I am in it for the long haul.

I also continue to read Batman, because it is Batman.  Batman has continued to be excellent.  I occasionally check in on some comic blogs/news sites and the word "legendary" is getting used a lot with this current run of Batman. For the most part the Batman series has consisted of two long story lines.  The first, the Night of the Owls, but Batman against a new foe, the Court of Owls- the secret controllers of Gotham City.  The second big story line was Death of the Family which was the biggest Joker vs. Batman story ever.

  I have continued to stick with All Star Western as well.  This is a Western(ish) series that places bounty hunter Jonah Hex in a 19th century Gotham City.  I have enjoyed the series, but I feel like the stories keep ending to quickly.  Each story arc has a great set up, an outstanding cliff hanger, and then a super rushed ending.  It has not helped, that for several months the back up story was one that I really did not like or care for.   I think at some point Hex is going to have to leave Gotham, and when he does that might be a good jumping off point for me as well.

One of the main reasons, why I am considering dropping All Star Western is because I want to keep the number of comics I read down to a manageable number.  If I am not careful, I could easily see my monthly "pull list" ballooning.   I read these on the iPad, which has several advantages.  One of the disadvantages though is pressing download and entering a password does not always feel like real money.

There are a couple of series I am considering branching out in.  For the past couple of months, I have been reading Red Panda.  This is a very pulpy hero who uses science to fight against supernatural forces.  The first two issues have been really fun, and they have also only cost 99 cents, which has been a big plus.

I also the past couple of months have checked out Green Arrow again.  Green Arrow is a super hero I like, and who I started reading at the beginning of the New 52 reboot.  However, I dropped the series for a variety of reasons.  The series got a new creative team, who are giving it a strong noir type of feel. I really want to get back into this series, and I like the idea of sticking with the current arc and seeing where it goes.

Last month, I also picked up the new Justice League of America (with the Indiana cover!)
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This was a fantastic first issue, and I really want to read more.  However, I want to keep the total number of series I am reading down to four.

The New 52 reboot was so successful for DC comics that Marvel (the other big comic company) wanted in on it, and has the Marvel Now initiative going on.  This is not quite a reboot like the DC one.  All of the Marvel comics universe contuinity is still present.  However, they coordinated it so that all of their flagship titles are at a good jumping on point, and to show that they re-titled many of them and started them back over at #1.   This was a few months ago, and as a promotion they recently made all of the Marvel Now #1s free for a limited time.  I read them all, and I only really liked a couple of them.  Even though they had series at good jumping on points, I still fell lost in some of them.  This was especially true for FF #1 and New Avengers #1.  I did like Savage Wolverine quite a bit, and the first issue did leave me wanting to read more.

Of the Marvel books, the ones I liked the most were Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Arena
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I liked the Sci-fi super hero take of Guardians of the Galaxy.  Other than Iron Man, who was kind of squeezed in, I was not familiar with many of the characters, but the 24 pages that introduced them made them all seem interesting and left me really wanting to know more about them, and what was going to happen next.

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Avengers Arena is essentially The Hunger Games with super heroes, which sounds like an awesome concept.  Of all the Marvel books this is the one that I would want to read.  Reading the Marvel books is a hard sale for me though.  One of the advantages of the DC comics is that a month after they are released the price drops by $1.  This means that I have been reading the issues one month behind their actual release.  Marvel does not drop prices like that, and many Marvel books cost $3.99 (as opposed to the DC $2.99).  Still, Avengers Arena  is one that I might like to get when the issues get collected into trade paperback form.

I was really big into comic books in middle school and early high school.  My involvement with them this time is much more restrained, but I think I might be in for the long haul.  Connor is really starting to show an interest in comic books.  For example, this evening for a bed time story I "read" him two Batman comics.  That, by the way, was his choice (and it was 100% unprompted).  We have taken two trips together to the comic book store, and he absolutely loves going there and looking around.  Since his birth, one of my small hopes is that comic books is something that Connor and I could share together, and it looks like that might be happening.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mandatory catch up post

I think that it is now an established tradition that in February/March I sort of just disappear from this blog.  I think it has happened more years than not.  

This year it happened for a couple of reasons.  First, February kind of kicked my butt.  I spent the majority of it on crutches, and I also spent it super buys getting ready to be on paternity leave.

Second, Callie was born.
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Since her birth, I have been on paternity leave and it has been a true blessing.  For the past four weeks, I have been home and I have been able to help Abigail with the care of Callie.   This was extremely important the first couple of weeks home from the hospital because Abigail needed some extra assistance, and it was good the next two weeks because Connor did not have preschool because of spring break.  I have a little of anxiety about being away from ministry for so long, but I know that that is anxiousness I need to let go of.   We have a college intern covering youth group, and ministry can survive with out me being present for a few weeks.

I am very thankful that the United Methodist Church is willing to support families by having such a generous leave policy, and I am even more thankful that they did not reserve it just for mothers but extended it to fathers as well.  I am also thankful that Avon UMC has been so supportive in me taking the leave.  I suppose someone somewhere might be upset about it, but I have received nothing but positive affirmation of it.

So far Connor has been the best big brother.  He is always sweet and gentle with Callie.  He is always wanting to hug her, he says "awww" everytime she opens her eyes, and he is quick to share toys with her (as long as he can take them back!)   He does not stress out when she is crying and overall has been a great kid.

Callie is not quite yet sleeping at night like we would like, but she is only one month old so that will come.

Now that Connor is back to pre-school, I feel like there is now a little bit of time to do things like write blog post, which I plan on doing now that I got this one out of the way.