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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Additional [More Political] Thoughts About Orlando

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Thoughts from watching the on-going coverage out of Orlando… it is too early to know all the facts, but as they trickle in it seems obvious that (1) this was an act of terrorism committed by an American citizen, self-radicalized and influenced by Isis; (2) this was a hate crime, motivated by religious-based bigotry of the LGBT community; (3) mental illness was a factor; and (4) easy access to assault weapons was also a factor.

As for (1): we need to do more to fight these kind of domestic terrorists within our borders. We need to develop better tools and smarter methods. We continue to always fight the previous battles, often being 1-step behind. That said, there is no way in a free country to fully eliminate the threat, especially with soft targets like a night club, move theater, workplace, mall, or college campus. Individual vigilance, reporting suspicious behavior, and addressing issues of mental illness, guns, etc, will all be helpful. Further, we need to give law enforcement the tools and resources they need. And yes, we need to fight and defeat Isis… though no one should be so naive as to think that will be the end of terrorism, domestic or foreign.

As for (2): While we have come a long way in terms of LGBT rights and acceptance, we have not come far enough. While it may not have made a difference in this case, more work needs to be done to fight housing and labor discrimination, anti-LGBT violence, etc. Furthermore, from a faith perspective, the dangerous rhetoric that comes from the far right on LGBT issues, especially from religious fundamentalists, is dangerous and contributes to a toxic culture that leads to violence, suicide, depression and all other sorts of damaging realities for LGBT people. Good people of faith — especially within more conservative, but not fundamentalist, expressions of faith — need to stand up, come out as ally’s, and end the rhetoric and bigotry; good people of faith must own the sin that has been committed in their names (and by them) against the LGBT community; and especially, pastors and leaders need to step up for what is right and just and good — and condemn all forms of LGBT bigotry while authentically welcoming and loving their LGBT neighbors.

As for (3): we must continue to do more, from a social policy perspective, to deal with mental illness. Too many states have made the most vulnerable bear the burdens of budget cuts and financial pressures. Sadly, at least in our state, due to budget issues, we have actually taken steps backwards since Sandy Hook, not forwards. This is shameful and unacceptable.

As for (4): I have no need to debate, but let me simply pose some questions that I would love someone to actually answer for me…

(a) What is the possible logic for Congress to reject the idea that someone on a terrorist watchlist should not be able to purchase an assault weapon?

(b) What possible legitimate purpose would an AR-15 have for a normal citizen?

(c) What actual harm would be done to everyday citizens if we banned assault rifles?

(d) Why, in the wake of 9-11, were conservatives so willing to trade away their First Amendment rights and Fourth Amendment rights (via the Patriot Act, etc), yet are so knee-jerk opposed to any responsible gun control laws?

(e) We are a strong nation of problem-solvers and creatives… we seriously can’t solve the gun issue? We seriously can’t come up with common-sense gun control laws and enforce them?

(f) When will enough be enough?

We must pray. We must heal. We must come together. But more is needed. And that more comes from our political and faith leaders — both of which have dropped the ball.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired.

I am tired of the violence.

I am tired of the tears.

I am tired of the inaction.

I am tired by the excuses.

I am tired by the handwashing.

I am tired.

Imho,

Ben

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

My Thoughts Post-Orlando Tragedy

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Every terrorist attack or case of mass violence (and I’m sure I buy into the idea that calling an act terrorism makes it different… was Sandy Hook less terrorism/terrifying? To me, it is a distinction without a difference) leads to a collective sense of pain, loss, frustration and sadness.

But when the attack is targeted at a group you identify with, it also leads to a fear that produces anger.

I am more sensitive when I hear of shooting of pastors or at churches; anti-Semitic incidents hurt more than others. Boston and 9/11 struck more because of geographic proximity — I knew people in both that were at “ground zero”.

People who know me know that I’m not a club scene kind of guy. Just not in my DNA. However, I do occasionally go to gay clubs or gay bars. And a few times a year I’ll go to a gay happy hour event or gay networking event. And I have friends who are regulars at gay clubs, gay bars, play on gay softball teams, sing in gay choruses. I have friends who work in these clubs and bars — as dancers, hosts, bartenders. And I’m part of a church that is explicitly and positively supportive of the entire LGBT community. Today, it strikes me that all of those places — places and spaces we go to because they are safe — are potential targets for those who hate us.

All day I have been sadder than usual about today’s tragedy and haven’t been sure why. This one feels more personal and, though I am not a fearful person, makes you think twice about where you go, how you identify, who you date, where you might hold hands or hug or kiss… and that makes me sadder than usual. For myself and all my LGBT friends, brothers and sisters.

It will be tempting in the coming days to use this incident and its anti-gay motivation to divide us even more as Americans. We should not allow it to do so.

We are one community. We can disagree politically and theologically. We can shout and scream and yell and argue. We can be at odds in so many ways… but we are a we. Let’s not let hate divide us anymore.

And on a more personal note… I am a deeply spiritual and religious man who endeavors to follow the way of Jesus every day. To borrow language from today’s sermon, daily I commit to Christ, to His Community and His Cause in the world. I am Jewish by birth and life (still am, always will be!) and Christian by new birth and life (have been for 24 years and will be for eternity). I am also gay.

There are extreme elements within both Judaism and Christianity that reject the LGBT community. At the very extremes, there are those who call for death for LGBT people in the name of God. In both cases, these extremists find justification for their position in a particular interpretation of an ancient text (a text I love!); in both cases, these extremists find justification in the “tradition” of their faith (and who are we to challenge 2000 years of tradition?); in both cases these extremists claim justification in that they once held the majority view within their faith. But let’s be clear: these extremists do not speak for God (nor do I) nor do they represent all Jews or all Christians or the best of what Christianity and Judaism bring to the table.

The same is true of Islam. Fundamentalist Islam, like fundamentalist Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity, is violently anti-gay. But not all Muslims share this view. As there is diversity among Jews and Christians, there is also great diversity within Islam. Our issue is not with religion — Judaism, Christianity, Islam or any other — but with extremism and fundamentalism. Please let us not confuse the issues.

If we wrongly identify our enemy, we will fight the wrong war. Islam is not our enemy. And we must resist the temptation to exchange homophobia for Islamophobia.

Praying for Peace in our World,

Which I believe is only possible by the Prince of Peace,

Imho,

Amen.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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