In a perfect world there would be no masters, no slaves, no abuse of the weak by the strong, no cruelty to the handicapped by the well-bodied. And it would not be widely held around the world that men should dominate the women in their lives.
If you have not yet seen Half the Sky, please take the time. I’m talking about the film based on the book by New York Times husband and wife team, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to call attention to the abuse of women around the world. Don’t shy away from it because you think it will be a downer. It is a downer. But it’s also a look at heroes at work, and there is every reason to bypass the despair and focus on the heroes. It’s in two parts. Part I is here. Part II is here. They will only be available online until October 8 and 9 respectively.
There have been other antidotes to the despair that comes from fighting off the non-stop appeals for money for the American election campaign. The Explorer flying six inches over my house, for example. And my favorite niece-person flying into town for a wedding. And then there was the lecture last night by Paul Elie. He is one of the world’s experts on Bach, and his talk included musical performances by Albert Schweizer, Glenn Gould and Yo-Yo Ma – as well as an in-house cellist doing it live. (It was a book promotion – for you Bach fans, check out the book reviews here.)
But the winner of this week’s highly contested upper of the week award, for me, was the news that a new law will go into effect on January 1, 2013 that will prohibit state-licensed therapists from imposing what they like to call “reparative therapy” on gay men and women. Just as a doctor’s first obligation has always been to “do no harm,” we have finally recognized in California that the work of religious organizations to make “ex-gays” out of gays has been a cruel attempt to “fix” something that was never broken in the first place. And the law has finally caught up with common sense.
Not that the religious indoctrinators aren’t fighting back. The Pacific Justice Institute, a group of four lawyers representing right-wing religious organizations, has challenged the law on the grounds that it “tramples on family rights.” I won’t beat that dead horse. The courts will fight it out, and despite all the “God love you” salutations, praying the gay away seems headed for the dustbin of history. What’s not to love about that?
Love that word zeitgeist – the spirit of the times. The current zeitgeist includes a sea change in cultural attitudes toward gay people.
Homophobia in the Western world is clearly rooted in its three patriarchal religions, both in the notion that men should rule over women, and there should be no cross-overs in gendered behavior roles, and in the scriptures themselves. Fortunately, we are also home to the values of humanism, without which the non-democratic churches would still have us in their clutches.
Civil equality has taken what seems like an eternity to roll around. The same forces resisting rights for women and rights for people of color are only now letting go of their need to make lgbt people beg for crumbs from the table. Little by little the barriers are falling. On the right to work, to live wherever one chooses, to adopt children, and to marry and share in the same benefits that are available to straight people.
And it appears the speed is even picking up. Last February, a public policy polling survey found that 50% of Rhode Islanders were in favor of same-sex marriage, and 41% opposed. More recently a WPRI-TV (Providence) poll showed 56% in favor and 36% opposed. Not a fair way of comparing two polls, possibly, but the gap would still seem to be widening.
And it’s worth noting that Rhode Island is about 60% Catholic.
In Maryland, the polls now show 49% in favor, 39% opposed, with over half of African-Americans now voting in favor – a group that had been more opposed than the average.
Alongside these positive stories, to be fair, is an item in today’s paper about another supporter of Prop. 8, the law that took the right to marry away from gays in California - beside the Pacific (ahem) Justice Institute boys, I mean. The Reverend Salvatore Cordileone is assuming office as archbishop of San Francisco. And how is he being welcomed? At a Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Christina Olague announced, “It’s disappointing that the church has assigned a person here who has shown a great deal of hostility to the (lgbt) community.” She described him as “lacking in compassion.” Two other gay supervisors (Olague is bisexual), David Campos, like Olague, a catholic, and Scott Wiener tried to tone down the rhetoric, speaking of common ground and the need to work together.
Imagine having to do his job…
Up at dawn. Mass in the chapel. Scold some women for practicing birth control.
Explain to the parishoners at Holy Redeemer that they are sinners and will not be able to take communion.
Read the reports on the latest child abuse cases. Explain once more that you don’t really have anything against women. They just cannot become priests because Jesus was a man. And of course, that’s logical. You just need to pray about it.
Seek common ground with two gay supervisors who want to work with you and one bisexual who doesn’t.
Explain to some high school kids that your name is not a Mafia name.
And no, the Catholic church is not “just another kind of Mafia, Johnny. Take your seat, please.”
I suspect it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
It was so much easier in the Middle Ages when you were the only guy in town who could read.
And nobody was trying to persuade you that women hold up half the sky.