My Gay Agenda

Tuesday's election was historic not because of who was or was not elected president — however important that contest may have been — but because it showed that our nation has crossed a threshold in accepting LGBTQ people as equals. I am thrilled. Consider the results:

Voters approved of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Washington, and Maine. Maine had rejected it just a few years ago. Minnesota voters said no to a measure that would have amended its state constitution to define “marriage” as heterosexual unions between a man and a woman.

Religious Freedom, Becket Style

The Fortnight for Freedom is almost over, praised be its patron saint Thomas More, whose devotion to religious freedom did not stop him as Chancellor of England from burning half a dozen Protestant heretics at the stake. Next up is the Obama Administration's decision on its proposed rulemaking for exempting religious organizations from having to cover contraceptive services for their female members.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, recently named President-elect Barack Obama’s new White House Chief of Staff, has a reputation as a hard-nosed political operator who won’t take no for an answer-he’s nicknamed “Rahmbo” for his aggressive style. But Emanuel’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago, describes the 48-year-old as a devout, down-to-earth family man, capable of juggling religion and politics, ambition and humility, and his deep love of Israel with the best interests of the United States. (Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
Q: Rahm Emanuel and his family have worshiped with you for about eight years. What can you say about them? A: They’re just a wonderful family.

Cara Ungar-Gutierrez

PORTLAND, Ore.-Cara Ungar-Gutierrez grew up in New York City in a Jewish home. Her family kept kosher, attended synagogue and observed the Sabbath. Her parents taught her the value of study, inquiry and following her conscience. Now 38, she’s a member of Congregation Havurah Shalom in Portland, and while she no longer keeps kosher, she attends Sabbath services and revels in lively discussions of Scripture. In 2004, she married Rafael Gutierrez, and the couple has a son, Enzo, whose birth almost three years ago prompted a life-changing decision: His mother chose not to circumcise him, which she knew threatened to tear her family apart.

Mark Brown

Mark Brown was always in good shape. A former college football player turned pastor, the Canton, Ohio, native pumped iron and ran miles on his treadmill. In 2003, on the way to a funeral, his SUV was rear-ended, and his back was badly injured. Unable to exercise, Brown ballooned from 193 pounds to more than 230. The accident, he later realized, was God giving him “a spanking in the backside with a 2000-pound paddle.”

Their names are lost to history, but their stories endure

Lot’s wife and daughters. The two thieves crucified with Jesus. The three wise men. Despite being iconic figures with well-known stories, they all have one thing in common-they are unnamed in the Bible. Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are riddled with infamous people who went nameless-in some cases forever and in other cases for decades or centuries before being named in post-biblical texts.

A year later, Falwell sons assume father’s mantle

LYNCHBURG, Va.-Nearly a year after his father’s death, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell walks up and down the stage of Thomas Road Baptist Church with a series of briefcases behind him like the set for NBC’s “Deal or No Deal.” There’s no pulpit in sight; Falwell prefers visuals to reach his growing flock. The night before, his older brother, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of nearby Liberty University, hosted a picnic and fireworks for graduating seniors at his farm 30 miles from campus. Nearly a year after their larger-than-life father died at age 73, the brothers Falwell have each inherited one of his dual roles of pastor and educator-and each is doing it from the perspective of the next generation. “Literally, it’s like God split him right down the middle and gave certain parts of his skills and abilities to Jerry and others to me,” said Jonathan, 41, who assumed his father’s pulpit at Thomas Road Baptist Church a month after his father’s death May 15, 2007.

NEWS SIDEBAR:  Ancient Bethlehem being spruced up for new millennium

c. 1998 Religion News Service
BETHLEHEM, West Bank_ In the past, the pilgrims would come for just a few hours to take a quick peek at the Church of the Nativity revered as the site of Jesus’ birth before climbing back into their buses to return to hotels in Jerusalem. Now, Palestinians are hoping that a $150-million investment in millennial renovations, funded largely by the international community, will persuade pilgrims to linger in the city for at least a day or two. In addition, $50 million is being spent on a 17-month calendar of concerts, nature and historical tours, and religious events designed to enhance Bethlehem’s image as a world-class tourism destination year-round, and not only at Christmas. Dozens of renovation projects on roads, sewers and sidewalks have the city ringing with the noise of bulldozers and stone construction.

NEWS SIDEBAR:  The quotable Kathleen Norris

c. 1998 Religion News Service

UNDATED _ In”Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith”(Riverhead), writer Kathleen Norris gives a fresh spin to some ancient Christian terms.

Prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine. Doubt
Perhaps my most important breakthrough with regard to belief came when I learned to be as consciously skeptical and questioning of my disbelief and my doubts as I was of my burgeoning faith. Legalism
Christians have been adept, and remarkably inventive, at interpreting God’s commandments to cover just about anything they don’t approve of. The effect, of course, is to make the surpassingly large God of the scriptures into a petty Cosmic Patrolman.

NEWS SIDEBAR:  Mining the gold in the dark side

c. 1997 Religion News Service
UNDATED _ In their book”Romancing the Shadow: Illuminating the Dark Side of the Soul”(Ballantine), psychotherapists Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf tell how to heighten self-awareness of the personal shadow. Often, said Zweig, we can see our shadow reflected in psychological”projections”_ strong reactions to people we interact with. A person may meet someone for the first time and be repulsed by their aggression, or find their helplessness or confusion offensive. Such exaggerated responses to someone else, Zweig said, may be a clue that”there’s some disowned part of ourself that’s being activated.”