Friday, June 20, 2008

A Wedding in Berkeley

For a very long time, gay friends of mine and I were obsessively preoccupied with debate over “the M-word.”

Pro-marriage equality gay folk argue the right to marry is a civil one, and the state has extended to clergy the right to perform this state function only to have many of them insist they alone should determine who gets to marry – ignoring the rich history of church and state separation in the United States.

Anti-marriage equality gay folk argue that if we fight this battle too hard we will lose the war. Better, they say, to hold out for the benefits that come with non-marriage contracts in Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions, and not piss off the “Traditional Family” (good Lord, what a misnomer) folk who, to show their pique at having us knock at the door of “traditional marriage,” would bring in millions of dollars to support efforts to pull back those rights so painfully accrued over the past couple decades.

The AME Camp include people like the very articulate Leland Traiman, as well as our best spokesman in Congress, Barney Frank.

I too was in their camp (sort of) right up to the time I went to the California Supreme Court hearing and was persuaded by the brilliance of the lawyers arguing in favor of marriage equality. And by the impression created by several justices themselves. Their pointed questions suggested they understood that justice went beyond the law and that the time had come to give homophobia a legal kick in the teeth. And, as I have written before, my years of teaching Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail in ethics and liberation theory seminars, has left the phrase “justice too long delayed is justice denied” ringing in my ears.

So the head came round. Enough, I thought. It’s time we joined the other nations of the world who have led the way – Holland, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa (and, just this week, Norway) – and who have gone beyond the considerably more numerous countries which, like France and its PACS (domestic partnerships), extend full marriage rights to gays and lesbians under a much drier name.

And then, in the days since May 27, the heart has followed.

On May 27, Karl writes:
And to fill you in on the local scene. Sylvia Shapiro is coming up from Mexico to wed Person A to Person B on or soon after June 17. We are currently thinking of a "small" ceremony at home with a celebratory event later at an outdoor location….

Person B
To fast forward, that small ceremony is now taking place this evening, June 20, and about 40 or 45 people are expected to show up. They tried to keep it small, but couldn’t. One by one people insisted, especially a whole bunch of neighbors, and how do you say no to people who want to witness this moment?

I suspect the “celebratory event” to come will be huge. So many people want in.

Somebody from the Contra Costa Times calls. He wants to do an article.

Jerry calls, “We need your advice on the cake.” So several of us neighbors go over for dinner and a cake tasting. We decide the cakemaker does lemon best, so lemon it is.

I suddenly realize I want to do the flowers. That offer, too, grows like topsy, and next thing we know we’re making multiple visits to the Oakland Flower Market to select the flowers. We all go on Tuesday to look at the choices, I go on Thursday to make the final purchase, and Taku comes home early to do the arrangements. Both of us are ridden with anxiety. Can we do the job right?

On Tuesday, Taku takes the day off and we go with Jerry and Karl to the Alameda Country Clerk-Registrar’s Office to get the licence. Karl (Person A, this time) goes first on the computer – (“There’s no way to enter Germany as my father’s birthplace!”), then Jerry (“No Jerry, your mother’s maiden name – Bongiovanni!”), the clerk is all smiles, and $84 dollars later there is a marriage licence in their hands. Off for Dim Sum.

While we are waiting, this guy comes up to me and asks if I will witness his friends’ wedding, and we get to know two young guys beaming from ear to ear. The friend had come without a picture ID. In the end, the happy bureaucrats decided what the hell, and he got to be their witness after all. Not that I wouldn’t have loved to stand in.

All the while this sense of something terribly exciting is bubbling up inside me, and I find myself wanting to bawl. What is it about weddings? In Europe, ironically, people are falling away in droves from the institution. Here, gays are fighting to get in against people who fear it will somehow make us more like Europe.

It goes on and on. One of the neighbors calls. She needs a picture of Jerry and Karl. I provide one. Another neighbor, turns out, is a professional director of photography and when Jerry and Karl ask him if he would video the event, he launches in with lights and plans the rehearsal. Everybody goes back to scratch. The ceremony should be in front of the fireplace, not the window (passing cars – no good), there should be a cloth on the mantel to break up the single white line, the judge should stand here, not there. This is going to be a class event.

Henry wants to donate his professional services. Jerry insists they at least provide gardening at the matching professional rate, and Henry agrees.

Linda calls from Portland. “I want to do the flowers!” “Too late, I got there first,” I tell her. “OK, then, three cases of champagne.” Jerry talks her down to two.

Amy changes her flight back from LA so she can arrive, golden slippers and all, on time.

Sylvia’s father sends over two carved figures of Confucius types. They will replace the two guys in tuxes they were going to put on the cake. Might as well use venerability along with something borrowed, something blue (we got plenty of old) and something new.

Pants to the tailors for hemming. New shirts and ties. Right down to the socks, in fact.

Bring it on.

Just a few more hours.

My heart’s doing a drum roll.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Bible Test

Are you a bible-believing Christian? Do you believe all we need to know to live a righteous life is to be found in the Bible? And that the Bible is the unerring word of God, every jot and tittle, every chapter and verse? Do you wonder how well you do in living by the Bible?

Take this test and see! Check the “yes” or “no” blank after each question and add up your answers. Yes means “this statement applies to me.” No means it doesn’t.

1. I never eat fatty foods.
(Leviticus 3:17: “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”)
_____ yes _____no

2. I avoid tattoos.
(Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”)
_____ yes _____no

3. I always check when I buy clothes to make sure there is no linen and wool in the same article of clothing.
(Leviticus 19:19: “Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.”)
_____ yes _____no

4. I kill witches.
(Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live..”
_____ yes _____no

5. I kill Hindus and Buddhists.
(Exodus 22:20: “He that sacrificeth unto [any] god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”)

_____ yes _____no

6. I guard the door of my church to make sure blind people, cripples, dwarfs, Asians, people named Cohen, and people with a club foot, birthmarks or jock itch are not allowed in.
(Leviticus 21:16-21: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD”)
_____ yes _____no

7. I also keep out people with crushed testicles or male-to-female transgendered people.
(Deuteronomy 23:1: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”)
_____ yes _____no

8. I also keep out anybody born to parents who were not married, as well as their children, grandchildren, and all their descendants up to and including their great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 23:2: “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.)
_____ yes _____no

9. If I find somebody has worked on Sunday, I kill him.
(Exodus 35:2: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death…”)
_____ yes _____no

10. If I know of any man who used to live with his married brother, and that brother has died, I put pressure on the surviving brother to marry the dead brother’s wife.
(Deuteronomy 25:5: “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.”
_____ yes _____no

11a. (Men only) I don’t shave.
(Leviticus 19:27: “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”)

11b. (Women only) When I menstruate, I live apart from everybody for a week and then kill a couple of pigeons.
(Leviticus 15:19-30:
19 -And if a woman have an issue, [and] her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
20 - And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
21 - And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe [himself] in water, and be unclean until the even.
22 - And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe [himself] in water, and be unclean until the even.
23 - And if it [be] on [her] bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.
24 - And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.
25 - And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she [shall be] unclean.
26 - Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.
27 - And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe [himself] in water, and be unclean until the even.
28 - But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.
29 - And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
30 - And the priest shall offer the one [for] a sin offering, and the other [for] a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.
_____ yes _____no

12. I kill people if I hear them curse their parents.
(Leviticus 20:9: “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”
_____ yes _____no

13. I encourage people living in slavery to accept their lot.
1 Corinthians 7:20-24:
20 - Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
21 - Art thou called [being] a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use [it] rather.
22 - For he that is called in the Lord, [being] a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, [being] free, is Christ's servant.
23 - Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
24 - Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
_____ yes _____no
14. I kill people I know who have committed adultery.
(Leviticus 20:10: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”)
_____ yes _____no

15. I disapprove of male homosexuality.
(Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
_____ yes _____no

16. I base my ideas on marriage on the Bible, following the principle that marriage consists of one man and one or more women. (Gen 4:19, 4:23, 26:34, 28:9, 29:26-30, 30:26, 31:17, 32:22, 36:2, 36:10, 37:2, Ex. 21:10, Judges 8:30, 1 Sam 1:2, 25:43, 27:3, 30:5, 30:18, 2 Sam 2:2, 3:2-5, 1 Chron 3:1-3, 4:5, 8:8, 14:3, 2 Chron 11:21, 13:21, 24:3).
_____ yes _____no

Your Score

Number of YES answers:

(1) You are a 6% biblical Christian.
(2) You are a 12½% biblical Christian.
(3) You are a 19% biblical Christian.
(4) You are a 25% biblical Christian.
(5) You are a 31% biblical Christian.
(6) You are a 37½ % biblical Christian.
(7) You are a 44% biblical Christian.
(8) You are a 50% biblical Christian.
(9) You are a 56% biblical Christian.
(10) You are a 62½% biblical Christian.
(11) You are a 69% biblical Christian.
(12) You are a 75% biblical Christian.
(13) You are an 81% biblical Christian.
(14) You are an 88% biblical Christian.
(15) You are a 94% biblical Christian.
(16) You are a 100% biblical Christian.

How to interpret your score

(Number of "yes" answers)
1-3 - You are a really bad Christian; you risk damnation. Prepare to burn.
4-6 - You are a very poor Christian. Fill yourself with guilt until you are motivated to improve.
7-10 - You are only a half-hearted Christian. Get to work.
11-14 - You are not really serious about your faith. There is much more you can do.
15 – You are almost there. Now buckle down and aim for perfection.
16 – Congratulations. You live your life according to Biblical principles. You have earned the right to tell others what’s wrong with them.