Posts Tagged ‘religion’

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Tree Sitting

June 16, 2009

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
 
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
 
A tree that looks at God all day,
and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
 
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
 
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
 
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
 
 
Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918

 

I found myself sitting in a tree today.  It’s not like I woke suddenly to discover that I was in the tree; it was a conscious act, I chose to climb the tree.  I’m glad I did.

Life has taken me to some new and exciting places these past few months.  Some of the locations are spiritual, accessible only through meditation, while others have been physical places, some of which I never dreamed I would find myself. 

Reading tarot cards at a Biker festival was a bit of surprise for me.  The whole experience took me out of my normal realm and dropped me in the midst of a community and culture with which I have had little exposure.  On top of being a stranger in a strange land, I was doing a strange thing:  promoting myself as a psychic reader and performing readings using my relatively new tarot deck.  I was amazed at what was coming from within, and from the reactions of the clients who sat down for a reading, I’m guessing my readings were accurate. 

So this morning, I sat down to do some more reading about psychic development, and do some meditation.  It’s one of those sunny, warm, late spring days (solstice is still 5 days away) and I have all the time to sit and read.  Alternating between reading and meditation, and keeping my glass full of iced tea, I took the time to explore my own life, and experiment with some new ideas. 

The experiment is how I ended up in the tree.  All of the reading I’ve been doing about psychic development stresses a connection to the earth.  The earth is a vehicle for both positive and negative energy, and it nourishes the soul.  One of the exercises directed me to ground myself by emptying all my energy into the earth, then allowing myself to be filled again with all of the life-giving energy that the earth has to offer.  It was at that point that I felt I should climb up the tree.  So, I did it. 

Trees are incredibly alive.  I certainly knew that I’d find plenty of insects, birds and the evidence of their presence.  I was not prepared for how fully vibrant and moving it would be to sit in that tree.  It was moving, literally and emotionally.  As I meditated, clearing my mind of all else and concentrating on one particular issue I am having, I could feel the life of the tree.  It swayed, it moved, it vibrated.  I could feel all of that life supporting me, and moving me with it.  I could the strength and vitality of the tree, and witnessed the flexibility of the strong branches.  The thin supple twigs at the far reaches of the tree seemed just as strong as the slowly moving thick trunk.    Through it all, I could feel the spirit of that tree, honoring my own humble meditation, holding me up, giving me strength as I asked the Supreme Being of the universe to help me. 

The spirit of the Green Man blessed me today.  My soul is better for it, my life has been enriched, just because I did some tree sitting.

 

Thank you, Green Man.

Green Man

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Going to Church

January 23, 2009

I went to church last Sunday.  Big deal.  So did millions of other people.  It was a big deal, at least for me.  It has been over 3 weeks since I left my position as music director at a Disciples of Christ Church.  In the past 25 years, I’ve had very few Sundays in which I could experience church services that are outside of my own experience.  I’ve been employed continuously by churches since 1982, with the longest hiatus from music ministry being about 2 months.  One of the problems of being “in charge” of worship is that one rarely sees how others go about it.  This abrupt leave from my music job is the perfect opportunity to visit and make observations at other churches. 

 

The chosen destination for this past Sunday was my husband’s church, one which I’d never attended services at because I was always at the organ of my own church.  We loaded up the kids of our blended family that were with us for the weekend and headed out in the snow to the church in the country.  It’s part of a small, protestant denomination that tends to be traditional and evangelical.  They are awaiting the arrival of their newly hired minister, so it is understandable that this service may not have been a good example of what things are like there on a regular basis.  And that’s a good thing. 

 

The people were friendly and happy to see Scott.  They greeted me warmly and welcomed our children.  We took our bulletins and found a seat, taking a moment to arrange ourselves comfortably.  The organist began the prelude and I immediately got nervous.  I’m a musician, and a good one.  When I hear church musicians who are struggling, I become anxious.  This woman was having such a difficult time with her chosen prelude, that it took me quite some time to determine what she was playing.  It was an old evangelical hymn  Out of the Ivory Palaces. 

 

Which leads me to the next problem I had with the service: the lack of meaningful, timely hymns.  The hymnal, by my estimation, was at least 25% contemporary Christian music, or “praise choruses”  which I’d hardly call contemporary considering that they were at least 25 years old in most cases.  If a song has been around long enough to be included in a hymnal, printed, promoted, and sold to a congregation;  and the congregation uses the hymnal for a significant period of time, it’s difficult to consider the music “contemporary”.   The one “traditional” hymn planned for the morning worship service was an old Holiness Movement song “We’re Marching to Zion”.  It was sung at a slower pace than I’m used to performing it, and the musicians, both pianist and organist, lacked the skills to transpose it into a key in which most congregants could comfortably sing.  Imagine being out of breath and reaching for high notes.

 

When the ushers were called forward, I looked up to see 4 burly men walking forward.  I whispered to Scott  “is there a weight requirement?”  These guys were huge.   I said “what’s the minimum?  225?”  Seriously, I didn’t know if they were ushers or bouncers.  Of course, since this was an important job, handling the money, all of the ushers were required to be in possession of a penis. 

 

fat-preacher

 

The children’s message was delivered by a woman, which is generally thought of as acceptible in these patriarchal churches.  Caring for children is the woman’s domain afterall.  The woman talked about having friends but the point of her little message was lost on me, so I’m pretty sure the kids were as baffled as they looked.

 

We plodded through another pop-ballad hymn which was executed with technical accuracy by the instrumentalists, but with all the musicality of a horse counting to ten with its front hoof.  This song led us into a time of prayer.  I believe that the people who made their prayer requests known are genuinely concerned about those people named.  Some moved beyond the typical illness requests and made mention of current events and nationally known tragedies. In all of these honest, heart-felt concerns, there remained a sense of some unspoken desire, an appeal to magic.  That appeal to magic was reinforced by the prayer leader, who prayed extemporaneously, including all of the requests voiced moments earlier.  I noticed pretty early in her prayer that she had a favorite phrase, which was  “Dear Heavenly Father”.  She said it so much that I wrote it in my bulletin.  She kept saying it, punctuating each paragraph with 2 or 3 repetitions. So many Christians have this habit when praying publicly.  It is as if there is a mystical combination of “Blessed Jesus'” or “Loving Fathers” or even “Hail Marys”  that said in a specific quantity or order that will unlock heaven’s safe full of blessings.  When did prayer become the heavenly Powerball?  Jesus cautioned us of this in Matthew 6:7

 

And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

 

Sadly, the sermon, offered by a visiting minister, did little to hold my attention as a visitor.  I suspect that it was meant to encourage this congregation as they await the arrival of their recently hired Pastor.  The sermon began with the perfunctory joke and apologies for his shortcomings as a speaker.   Those who attend this church regularly may have heard some words of encouragement, but my mind wandered off.    After one more pop-song hymn, the benediction was pronounced and everyone bolted for the door. 

 

Now, I’ve certainly been critical and some would say downright mean with this post.  You might even tell me that the computer glitch that sent my first version of this post out into cyberspace, never to be found again, was a sign from above that I should turn from my wicked ways.  Let me reinforce this sentiment:  these people are good people, their intentions are noble and their desires are honorable.  Unfortunately, they found something that was successful at some point, decided that this is how they would do it from that point on, and mediocrity set in.  Their worship service has most likely morphed slowly to become the dry and irrelevant ritual that we experienced that morning.

 

Traditionally, people in this country have attended church for the spiritual encouragement they receive by participating in worship services.  There was a time when people attended church out of a sense of obligation, regardless of any spiritual or communal benefits that may or may not have been derived from attending.  I’ve heard complaints about the lack of commitment to the church and its programs.   My question, after visiting this church, is “what does this church offer that would encourage people to attend regularly and support their programs?”  In addition, for those who do attend, are their perceived or actual needs, physical and spiritual, being met?  And finally, are the people we meet in this or any other Christian church a reflection of the Christ they strive to emulate?

 

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Mohandas Gandhi

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When You Can’t Prove What is Obviously True

December 31, 2008

It all started with a phone call from the new interim pastor of Paradise Christian Church* (wink and tip of the hat to preacherlady). 

“This is Reggie Dominy.  I’m the new interim pastor here at Paradise Christian.”

“Yes. Good to talk to you.”

“I’ll be selecting the hymns for the worship service from now on.  I guess you’ve been doing that for a while?”

“I’m really uncomfortable with that.”

“Why?  That’s not typically the organist’s job.”

“Well, it’s part of my job description.  I do it well and I’m not comfortable giving it up.” 

And that’s how the battle began.  That phone call lasted more than thirty minutes, and during that time, I found myself making some strong and defensive statements to a stranger who’s face I’d never seen.  I felt attacked, especially when Reggie said that he had to pick the hymns because we needed to change the way we do things since attendance at worship had decreased.  I told him that he was making it sound as if that was my fault; as if my music were the cause of people not attending worship services.  Reggie said he wasn’t saying that, but how else could I read that implication in the context of this conversation?

In the first service over which Reggie presided, there were at least five statements that sent up red flags in my mind.  From our phone conversation, it sounded like Reggie desired to create a solemn, even somber service steeped in traditional worship and laced with long moments of silence and reflection.  Nothing could have been further from the reality of what happened that very first Sunday in November. 

The humor was abundant as well as inappropriate.  Reggie set the tone in the announcements which are made before the organ prelude and the official start of the worship service.  As Thanksgiving was approaching and the Outreach committee was planning on giving food to several needy families, a plea was being made for congregants to donate canned goods.  Reggie’s pitch went like this:

“You know that can of salsa you bought seven years ago and it’s been sitting there on your shelf and you don’t know why you bought it?  Go ahead and bring that in for the food drive.”

It was then followed up with some muttered statement about buying a new can of something to go with it.  The request for food donations was being played for laughs, while the sincere request was downplayed.   Throughout the service we learned a few things.  For instance, it became clear that Reggie loves to eat deviled eggs.  And just in case someone might not have gotten that message, Reggie repeated his declaration of love for deviled eggs in the next four consecutive worship services.  We also learned that he likes to hear jokes, and that we should feel free to tell him Polish jokes and “jew” jokes.  For some reason, as Reggie made that statement, he hesitated, as though there were more kinds of jokes he enjoys, but felt it best to edit himself as this was part of his introductory sermon.  We also learned that there is a proper way to introduce onesself, which, one would know how to do “if you’ve ever been to college.”  What an effective way to discourage the “wrong” kind of people from attending church!

Most telling was the one particular family that Rev. Dr. Dominy made sure to mention in his sermon.  It was the one family in which the husband has a great job, the wife is a SAHM, and the two daughters are involved in dance lessons, baton twirling corps, and kiddie pageants.  They also happen to be the family who left the church in a huff, refusing to return until the full-time minister was either fired or resigned.  Dr. Dominy made sure to say their names, or compliment the beauty of the daughters, or involve the family in most of the services during November. 

On my last Sunday as music director, December 21st, Reggie did something that was at best unethical, and at the worst, creepy in the sense of looking too much like a child molester.  As part of his sermon, he asked the two little girls, both under the age of 12, to come forward and model their new Christmas dresses.  Embarassed, they walked to the chancel, where Reggie had them put their forefingers on their heads and do a ballerina turn for all to see the new outfits.  Then, in spite of smaller children moving back and forth between the sanctuary and the nursery, Dr. Dominy gifted the two “models” with presents, to be opened there in front of everyone. 

The weeks between that initial phone call and my final service were stressful. Communication between Dr. Dominy and myself was archaic.  He would leave handwritten notes, in the most screeching hot pink ink, on the piano.  I asked our secretary why he didn’t use email.  She replied that he wasn’t very computer savvy.  That statement that was refuted in the coming weeks when, during a sermon, Reggie mentioned looking things up on the internet.  It was countered again in a meeting of the church committees in which one member spoke of the email exchange that he and Dr. Dominy had. 

The hymns that Dr. Dominy chose were ancient, plodding tunes with dated language.  Although one of his stated reasons for taking the hymn selections away from me was the need to match the hymn texts to the scriptures, I seldom saw how the two aligned themselves.  Several times within those few weeks that Reggie and I worked in the same building, he repeated hymn choices.  I was left wondering if he selected hymns the way he selected the Psalms for our worship services:  numerically.  On his first Sunday in worship at Paradise Christian Church, Dr. Dominy selected Psalm One for our call to worship.  In subsequent weeks, the Psalms were used, in numerical order, regardless of the sermon topic, and regardless of the scheduled readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

The final straw came on the morning of December 19th.  I received a text message from our secretary asking me to call her asap.  I replied with a request that she email me, as I had students all day (with my teaching position at a public school) and would not have a break to make a phone call until late in the day.  The email arrived quickly, and in it, was a message from Dr. Dominy that said:

Ok  here goes.    Reggie left me a note to ask you if you got a brass ensemble for Christmas Eve.  If you did, please get the name of the group and names of their songs to me on Monday.  If you did not, please contact the band director at local school district.  She has some names of students who might be available or some other musicians in the area.  She can be contacted at local middle school xxx-xxx-xxxx  Her name is middle school music teacher her e-mail address is someteacher@someschool.

I am sending you the bulletin stuff so that you can give me the song titles by Sunday (or Monday morning at the latest)  The ones in pink he would like the brass ensemble to do  and he would like the choir and the brass ensemble to join in on the other carols as well.

Reggie said to contact him if you had any questions or suggestions.  xxx-xxx-xxxx

Thanks Dana

Interesting thing about this email:  I do not recall having a conversation with Reggie in which firm plans were ever made about the Christmas Eve service, let alone such an important detail about hiring or assembling a Brass Ensemble for the service.  At my first opportunity to call, I phoned Dr. Dominy.  In that phone call, I was verbally pushed around.  During a break from ministry, Reggie had been a car salesman, and a good one according to some accounts.  I could tell that I was being manipulated by his words.  He objected to my statements about why it would be impossible to assemble a brass ensemble just five days before the performance.  He interrupted me.  He cut me off.  He dismissed my professional musical advice.  Then I figured out what was going on.  I was being placed in a “catch 22” situation:  fail to assemble the ensemble, and Reggie could claim I’m not doing my job;  get one together in short order with no time to rehearse, no many to pay them, no music to give them, and have a disastrous performance on Christmas Eve and he could say that I didn’t do my job as well as I should have.  For me, given all that I had witnessed in the previous weeks, my only option was to resign.  My plan was to do so immediately, leave them without a musician for Sunday morning as well as Christmas Eve, but friends talked me out that plan. 

I learned that the committee charged with finding this interim pastor had failed to check his references.  They hadn’t bothered to call his former churches and talk to them about his strengths and weaknesses.  After handing in my resignation letter, and feeling crappy for about 24 hours, I decided that I’d look to see what I could find on this guy.   I did a search for “Dr. Reggie Dominy”  on Google and discovered that the guy is pretty computer savvy, contrary to previous claims. 

I also found one particular piece of information that confirms what I suspected from that very first phone conversation.  Reggie seemed to have some contempt for me from the very beginning.  It didn’t make sense that an interim pastor would walk in and start changing things before ever experiencing a worship service in the way that the members were accustomed to worshipping.  Interim pastors usually keep things going, the status quo, until the permanent pastor is hired.  This bit of information explains why he and I could never work together.

In the eight weeks in which both of us, interim pastor and music director, tried to do our duties, there was rarely a moment of kindness, of friendship, even an attempt to understand each other.  Attempts by Reggie to put up a facade of respecting and valuing me, at least in front of the congregation, fell flat.  At one service, Dr. Dominy said that he appreciated the “beautiful competency” that I brought to the services.   Competency?  Well, I must have some adequate skills when it comes to music.  It’s like saying “I love you” to someone and hearing “and I’m fond of you as well.” 

What could make us resist each other like oil and water?  The search results contained a major clue:  a letter to the editor of an online denominational magazine, written by one Dr. Reggie Dominy.   Here are some relevant excerpts:

I have no problem deleting statements from the Barman Confession (ah, another confession) that are editorial additions and weren’t originally there. Make it pure! I do have problems with ignoring cogent statements in the New Testament regarding homosexuality (Romans chapter 1 seems rather clear.) The Scriptures have to be our final authority about the actions and directions of God. What makes an action a sin at the time written but not in the present? More people lie and cheat others than participate in homosexual activity, and we all seem born with that narcissistic trait (this makes it a natural act); maybe the Church should support, or at least condone, lying and cheating.

            I hurt for gays and lesbians who have in the past been wrongly excluded from the Church. I also hurt for those devout Christians who believe the Presbyterian Church has abandoned them in this decision. They feel NO peace, NO unity, NO purity in the General Assembly decisions. Our voted inclusivity feels like exclusivity for many devout Presbyterians. They feel the Scriptures have been ignored. Many will leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Whole churches will leave. We do not now exclude homosexuals from church membership; but our ushering in their ability to be church officers and ministers will usher out other true believers from the whole church.

          There were times in the past when portions of our Presbyterian Church supported slavery. There were times when we excluded folks from the Lord’s Table because they weren’t of our ilk. There were times when we Presbyterians haughtily looked down on those who were not like us in faith and practice. There were times when women could not be ordained. We overcame and grew through those parochial sins.

There’s so much there that I could write about, and perhaps I will examine more of this letter on this blog at some point.  The important thing to notice is that while attempting to sound compassionate, even loving toward the “homosexuals”  it is clear that Dr. Dominy does not like gay and lesbian people.  Nothing else explains his immediate dislike for me, nothing else explains why he felt the need to change my job description, nothing else explains why he created a situation with the purpose to tarnish my integrity with a congregation who felt I was doing a fine job for them. 

Dr. Dominy believes that my orientation is a choice, and as such, is a sin, much like lying and cheating.  For him, the scripture about such things is clear, although, he’s managed to find some grace in the Bible for himself, being a divorced man.  There are many more scriptures concerning divorce, than there are homosexuality.  Reggie hurts for gays and lesbians who feel excluded from the church, but then goes on to reinforce that exclusion.  Homosexuals are welcome to be members in the church, but if they are given positions of authority, church officers and ministers, then true believers will leave the church.  Did you catch that?  Whether Reggie admits it or not, whether he would claim his words as his own or deny them, it’s stated clearly in that letter, gays and lesbians are not true christians. 

My mind goes back to that phone call.  I recall Dr. Reggie’s claim that if he had known I was going to be so opposed to his removal of my job duties, that the phone conversation was going to go so poorly, he would have come to my house and visited with me and my…friend.  He choked on the word “friend.”  I didn’t correct him and say “husband” because I felt like I had said so much that was in direct confrontation that I didn’t need to add to the tension of that phone call.  I can never file charges of discrimination because I resigned voluntarily.  Even if I had been fired, the situation created by Reggie would have appeared to be a legitimate reason to do so.  Discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry is seldom blatant, but at church it is couched in the language of love and compassion, making it all the more painful. 

A final word to my friends at Paradise Christian Church:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said  “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

*all the names have been changed

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1,000 Hits

June 26, 2008

 

That’s right!  This blog has reached 1,000 hits this month!   That’s a new record.

What have I learned?  I’ve learned that the titles of the posts need to be sensational headlines akin to the National Enquirer. 

I’d like to thank my daughter for being the drum major at IUP.  When all those high school drum majors do a search about audition routines, they end up here. 

I’d like to thank a certain Baptist Church whose members are sneaking over to look at my blog after their pastor mentioned me in his sermon last week.  Yes, I am marrying another man; we’re registered at Lowe’s.  Gift cards are acceptible. 

I’d also like to thank Gretchen and Celeste.  God knows there are plenty of people doing searches for “lesbian couples” and they always manage to find my entry about their wedding. 

Thank you, to my readers.  Some of you keep coming back for more, and I appreciate that. 

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God “Rains” Down His Wrath on the Anti-LGBT Crowd

June 18, 2008

I haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s out there and I haven’t looked hard enough.  I even thought about writing it myself.  I had misgivings about it, so I ran it past a friend of mine who just graduated seminary and got ordained.  She confirmed what I thought, and so I chose not to write it.  It would be taking advantage of other people’s misfortunes, even tragedies, and would discredit your reputation, she said.  

It’s the flooding in the mid-west and the article that I’m imagining is one in which a rabid gay activist charges that this disaster is divine retribution for anti-gay hate crimes.   A connection could be made, in much the same way that Christian leaders have blamed gay folks for natural disasters, as well as acts of terrorism. 

Hate crimes against gays and lesbians have doubled in Michigan.  Flooding has occurred in parts of Michigan.  Could there be a connection?  I so wanted to write a ranting blog entry blaming hostile bigoted fundamentalists for causing God’s wrath to literally rain down on Michigan and the mid-west.  I just couldn’t do it, not even as satire.  I couldn’t make myself write that entry because I know that it’s wrong to take advantage of suffering people and use them for political gain.  I would be stooping to the level of those I oppose. 

The odd thing is that although there are a lot of strong, even militant, gay activists writing online, I haven’t seen any of them take this opportunity to swipe at their opponents. No one has jumped at this chance to blame christians who support anti-gay marriage amendments, or conservative political leaders who resist enacting hate crime laws to protect LGBT people.  No one seems to be willing to say that this devastation is God’s response to the intolerance, bigotry, or prejudice that we have allowed in this country. 

Why do you suppose that is? 

Maybe it’s because we understand that a loving God doesn’t send natural disasters as punishment.  Maybe it’s because thinking people know that invoking God’s judgment to support one’s own political agenda is unethical.  Maybe, having been on the receiving end of such treatment, even the most militant of gay activists have enough compassion to bypass this chance to beat up on the fundamentalists and their political cronies.

To all the folks in the mid-west, I wish you well.  I wish you a speedy recovery from this disaster.  I wish you all the assistance that this country can send to you.  By all means, please forgive me if this little blog entry sounds like a way to use your misery for personal gain. 

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Holiday Clean Up

March 21, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post here as I like to have some consistency to this blog.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for the past month or so.  There are several entries I want to write, but I want to do them justice, so I’ll take the time to work on them before I post.  Let’s just use this entry as a catch-all, general update.

 The musical:  Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods went rather well.  We performed the show March 13-16.  The music is difficult, but I had strong singers for most of the parts, and I also had a talented pit orchestra.  The show is a big reason I didn’t get to update as regularly as I’d like.  Rehearsals were up to 4 hours every evening, and more intense as opening night approached.  It’s rewarding to work with a talented group of singers/actors to produce a fine piece of entertainment;  rewarding, in the sense of gratifying emotionally, not monetarily.  Not many community theater productions exist for their ability to generate a profit.

The situation at church:  Things have improved.  I’ve made peace with “C” and while we may disagree on things, I think we both understand each other a little better.  I’ve also given some information to another person who holds the opinion that a person cannot be gay and christian.  He was receptive to the brochure I gave him, and came to me last night to say that he found it interesting, is continuing to study it and looking up scriptures.  He is looking forward to meeting with me for a discussion of the information.  Ah, another chance for me to hone my debating skills! 

I’ve still got a pet peeve about the discussion that took place at an Elders’ meeting.  You may recall that this is what brought about the stress I’ve had at church.  Last evening, for our Maundy Thursday service, half of our Elders and even fewer of our Deacons attended.  This really bothers me, given that they felt they needed to discuss whether my partner should be attending church with me.  At least we’re there!

Pennsylvania Government:  HB1400 which amends the PA Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, is still as far as I know, in committee.  This should be a no-brainer, and as I pointed out in an earlier post, my own State Representative, Deberah Kula, has promised her support of the bill.    

Unfortunately, SB1250 has been voted into the Appropriations Committee, which means this amendment to our state constitution has cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming law.  PA already has a DOMA law on the books.  This amendment would not only prevent same-sex marriages, but would also permanently prevent same-sex couples from participating in civil unions.  Read more at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania

Finally, it is time to wish you, my faithful handful of readers, a Blessed Resurrection Day!  In spite of all the teachings I’ve heard about Christ being all about “love”, it has taken some time to sink in, at least for me.  I believe that Jesus came to teach us a radical new way to love each other, and because his message was such an affront to the religious leaders of his day, the only logical outcome for him was death.  I have great trouble with the idea of substitutionary atonement theories.  I’ve discovered that others do too.  Want to take your head for a spin?  Read this article by S. Mark Heim.  As I write this, on Good Friday (one could ask good for whom?  certainly not Jesus) I am filled with thoughts about the use of the word “Easter” in connection with this celebration.  The word itself has pagan connections, and while I hold nothing against the pagans, I’m not sure Christians should be borrowing so heavily when presenting what is to be the most important event of the church year.  So, once more, let me wish you a Blessed Resurrection Day!

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MRSA Gay USA

January 17, 2008

It looks like it is time for hysteria, histrionics, tongue-clicking, and finger pointing.  What’s it all about this time?  It’s a multi-drug resistant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus MDR-MRSA, for short. 

Oh.  Is that all?  MRSA has left the hospital and invaded our schools and the gym, and anywhere else humans happen to hang out.  What’s with the panic?

 Well, it appears that this particular strain of the bug is hitting the gay community, gay men in particular, pretty hard.  Reuters reports on the study that points the accusatory finger at those bad boys with the fabulous clothes.  The study says that certain geographical communities, and the health services in those communities that serve a relatively high population of homosexual men, are seeing an increase in the number of cases of the MDR-MRSA. 

It seems that the hysteria is premature though.  Numbers may be being twisted.  Careful reading of other reports, like this NPR news story, indicate that the placing of blame may be misleading.  The new strain of the infection is affecting only 20% of gay men who have contacted MRSA:

Among gay men with resistant staph infections, Diep says, about 20 percent in San Francisco and up to 50 percent in Boston “are infected with this more-difficult-to-treat form of USA-300.”

That is 20-50% of the population that has already contacted some form of MRSA has this new MDR-MRSA, and these numbers are from clinics that serve a higher number of gay men than other health clinics.  The CDC states that 12% of clinical MRSA infections are community associated, and that this number varies by geographical location and population.  This report from 2003 is already talking about MRSA moving out of the hospital, into the community, and into certain minority populations.  It also warns that “We should not think of MRSA as either some type of super-staph infection or as a specifically gay health issue.”  according to Kenneth Haller, MD, President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. 

It remains to be seen if the study by Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine is politically driven.  However, it is clear that the religious fundamentalist groups with an agenda against the gay community are already latching onto this.  It won’t take long for more to jump on the bandwagon.  Even in the time it has taken for me to do the research for this article, the “news” articles from conservative and religious-based sources with anti-gay biases increases with each search I perform. 

Sadly, it appears that we are in a DeLorean, travelling back to the 1980’s.  The accusations of a new “gay” epidemic, and calls for quarantining the gay population are being raised once again.  This time, we are educated, strong, and powerful.  We will not let intolerance, bigotry, and homophobia wipe out another generation of gay men.