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I anticipate that the UMC will sanction same-sex marriages at their general conference in either 2016 or 2020. The reconciling movement for full inclusion within the UMC is becoming increasingly more influential than the evangelical caucuses every year. The Frank Schaefer saga, and the push to defrock other UMC pastors that perform same-sex ceremonies, I believe is more out of desperation than because it represents a prevailing view. I think even as pastors and bishops push back against the reconciling movement for full inclusion, there is increasingly an acceptance that the change is going to happen. It's a shame it hasn't happened yet, because the UMC was historically on the edge of social progress, as denominations go--John Wesley himself authorized women to preach back in 1761 when it was unthinkable in other denominations. From what I know, I expect the Mormons and Catholics will be the last hold-outs.

LeonardCohen  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Queer Christianity

I am neither religious nor gay, but I am very interested in religious studies, and what you describe sounds very similar to me to what I have read regarding liberation theology. While liberation theology is most known as a theology of and for the poor and oppressed, it also is intimately concerned with social systems of inclusion and exclusion in the context of the Christian faith. For example, the concept of purity and impurity in relation to people, what it means to be created in the image of God, and the relationship between Christians and the social underclasses of different societies and cultures. Historically and internationally, there are clear similarities with LGBT persons and the very poor in terms of social labeling and status. Tomes are written on God's relationship to those rejected by society. In a time long ago, when I was a religious Catholic, my favorite verse was always Matthew 25:31-46, in which God intimately identifies with the poor and mistreated. It still brings joy to my heart to see a Jesuit as Pope in Rome.

Fox News is a platform that reaches almost everyone in the United States. They need to be responsible for who they bring on and what the effects of what they say. Saying we’re not responsible for what our guests and contributors say is such a cop out. That reasoning might work for Reddit, but Fox News as a platform provides legitimacy to the views it espouses to those who find the network credible. If they had any sense of responsibility they would fact-check what is said on the air, no matter who says it, and issue prompt clarifications when a guest or contributor says something misleading. As someone who listens to NPR, I cannot tell you how often I have heard them interrupt a conversation to issue a correction or clarification for something that had been said earlier in the program. If Fox News is going to adopt the attitude of anything goes on our network, then it is impossible to trust anything said on the channel. If they are not going to differentiate between conspiracy theories and legitimate allegations, nothing they say can be trusted. To someone who watches their network, their guests and contributors ARE the newscasters. Fox cannot have it both ways: if you bring these crack pots onto your channel, you cannot complain that they siphon off the credibility of the network—this is who you chose to represent you. If you look like a tabloid, sound like a tabloid, and read like a tabloid, it is perfectly fair for people to call you a tabloid. Have a sense of responsibility.

LeonardCohen  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Someone to Hate

An interesting and thought-provoking piece. I have an impression that being critical of culture has become an acceptable front for other types prejudice; based on my anecdotal experience, those who say "I don’t have a problem with X-people, I have a problem with their culture for Y-reasons" quickly devolve into more overt and specific racial prejudice ("X-people don’t value education, they lack parenting skills, they are lazy, etc., ad nauseam"). Now, I have associated being critical of another group’s culture as just being a politically expedient cover for the traditional prejudices. When I have lived in different cultures, I have always come away with the impression that the differences were ultimately trivial. We make a very big deal of the differences instead of focusing on the similarities. The in-group and out-group dynamic, I think, is so obvious in war. Tenfold more Afghani civilians died during Operation Enduring Freedom than US civilians on 9/11, but to sympathize with the Afghani civilians aloud in the United States almost sounds anti-American. I think the forward march of globalization and the internationalization of commerce will continue to make progress in breaking down barriers, to the extent that the public participates in it. It only takes one person of a certain background to be a solidified member of a person’s in-group before other people of that background become human, and their thoughts and interests begin to matter.

As an aside, I would love to hear your thoughts on the implications of the illusion of free will. I heard the Sam Harris lecture on free will being an illusion, and I found his arguments convincing, but he did not talk through much of what he perceived to be the implications, except to say we should feel neither pride nor shame, and that retributive justice makes little sense.

I agree with the intent of the piece: that those of us who strongly support LGBT rights should not attempt to "out" LGBT opponents who are "closeted," to use the vernacular. I hope my comment will not be controversial, as I do not mean it to be. I don’t think someone can be "outted" as gay, because I don’t agree with the gay/straight binary, at least in the context of identifying other people. I do not identify as gay or bisexual, although I have had what would be called sexual relationships with other men when I was younger. I considered it, and still do, as a kind of experimentation. I identify as straight to the extent I must identify with a sexual orientation, because I am at present exclusively interested in romantic relationships with women. I think "gay" is something a person can identify themselves with, but not a label that can be thrust onto someone, even if they have sex with people of the same gender. Coming from this reasoning, if you will indulge me, it is not really possible to "out" someone as gay. If someone says they are straight, they are saying that they are interested in romantic relationships with the opposite sex; if someone says they are gay, with the same sex. It’s not a biological absolute. Put under the right circumstances, who is to say what we would and would not be capable of? I will identify someone as gay if they identify themselves as gay, and I will identify someone as straight if they identify themselves as straight, regardless of other factors. The labeling of public figures of something they don’t profess to be to me seems somewhat backwards. Sexuality is complex. Attempting to "out" someone—public or privately—is to me both regrettable and senseless.

Propensities towards homosexuality and alcoholism are a complete and utter false equivalence, and an obvious one at that. Alcoholism, by its definition, is a problem. Alcoholism is a serious disease that impacts the quality of the life of its sufferers and those around them. Homosexuality is a neutral characteristic or idiosyncrasy, without necessarily having any negative implications. Cannot the detractors see that they are on the wrong side of progress? Society will accept gay marriage as it accepted interracial marriage, and in a time not long from now, people will wonder why it was ever debated at all.

It’s very much a shame that global climate change has broken down along the political fault lines, because unlike other political issues, it affects us all, seriously so—it should be an issue that brings people together. My belief is that it is a part of a larger problem in the United States, of a cultural of anti-intellectualism, for lack of a more specific term. There is a significant portion of Americans who regard academics, scientists and other topical experts with scorn and distrust. I hear many Americans talk about the ivory towers as being in opposition to the real world (or worse, the church), and a kind of animosity towards higher education and its denizens that troubles me deeply. If so many Americans hold a deep distrust of our nation’s experts and academics, what hope do we have? The political characterization of academia and expertise as a liberal threat prevents even many mainstream Republicans from trusting the scientific literature or consensus.

I'm so sorry to hear that! What an awful person. I went to a couple tOSU football games, and I always liked the fact that there were opposing team's fans right there in the student sections, and we all joined arms together and it was a lighthearted, convivial atmosphere. Granted, we usually won the game, so maybe that was why the tOSU fans we're happy to entertain opposing team's fans. I'm so sorry to hear of your experience! That's horrible! The Ohio State University is such a big university, and it has all kinds of people. That's a real outrage. I don't know why everyone calls it The Ohio State University, I just learned real quick from attending there that people there will correct you, so now it has become a force of habit.

It's so interesting what changes texting and IM'ing has introduced to our language. I have many friends who include an "lol" in every text and every message, as a kind of signifier of approval, in place of a period. So much so in fact, that if I get a text from certain friends without an "lol," I perceive it as being serious, or even significant. It's like people are subconsciously compensating for the fact that text cannot communicate tone, but still want to communicate their approval or happiness. If "lol" has been reduced to mild approval, it makes sense that there has to be a stronger indicator for real cheer. I have one friend who always uses the expression "ha" which I never liked at all. No matter how often she includes "ha" in a text, I cannot help but think of Nelson from the Simpsons, which I'm sure is not what she is going for. "Hahaha" sounds sarcastic to me, but I've learned that I don't get this stuff anymore, and just to learn and go along with whatever the young people are doing.

I sympathize with you. At least with the Browns, they don't get any one's hopes up. I went to The Ohio State University for graduate school, and when they went 24 straight wins in 2012/2013, they became a popular team to hate. Not to complain about winning, but as a rule, the teams that are hot are the ones that get talked about. Some other alums even said they were glad when tOSU finally lost, because the nationwide trash-talking would die down. Not with the Browns! No one ever bothers trash-talking the proverbial losers. I just get sympathetic shoulder pats.

I am a bit obsessed with Cohen. I have been for many years. I remember the first time I was exposed to his music: it was at a coffeehouse, and a guitarist played a cover of "Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye." I went out and bought Songs of Leonard Cohen, listened to it, and then went back and bought every album of his the store had. Cohen's music is so rich with allusions and poetic ambiguity, that I don’t think Cohen himself could give an exhaustive explanation. Rather, it has many nuances and is more thematic than it is a cohesive narrative, so I think it is better understood like a poem than a story.

If you aren’t familiar with them, the passages most obviously alluded to are David playing the lyre (1 Samuel 16), David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and Samson and Delilah (Judges 16), among others. In verse one ("I've heard there was a secret chord..."), I believe Cohen uses the symbolism of King David to refer to himself and his creative process, and he is addressing the listener directly: Cohen is the baffled King David. He is describing the structure of the song itself. In verse two ("Your faith was strong but you needed proof..."), I believe Cohen is now addressing himself, in a kind of introspective and self-critical monologue, in which he alludes directly to himself as David and then as Samson. Both are references to sensuality and brokenness in romantic relationships (one of Cohen's favorite themes), especially in the last line of the second verse.

The third and fourth verses ("Baby I've been here before..." and "There was a time when you let me know...") are focused on this theme of broken romance and the ambivalence of love. I believe the verses starting with "It's not a cry you can hear at night…" are referring to someone in love, and Cohen is dispensing the poetic notions of it, as he both praises and laments it, drawing parallels to a troubled faith. I love the fourth verse. Cohen directly confronts these themes, and provides a kind of definitive opinion: "There's a blaze of light in every word / it doesn't matter which you heard / The holy or the broken Hallelujah." The duality of the experience of love—suffering and ecstasy—are both the authentic experiences of the human condition—we are most human when we suffer as well as when we are blissful on account of love. The final verse, in my opinion, is again putting love back on a pedestal, although it is a more authentic love—it is praised despite the suffering it creates, so central is it to the human condition.

I feel like I've only scratched the surface, and a more literary mind could better interpret and express it than myself, but those are my thoughts. If you know Cohen, you know he is all about religious allusions and frequently embodying scriptural figures, as well as his ambivalent and intense views on romance and sensuality. It is truly a beautiful song, one of my favorites. (Just as a point of trivia, the song was met to a very cool reception, until Bob Dylan popularized it by performing it live, long before there were any covers.)

Yes. Sports are meant to bring us as a culture together, and to be entertaining. It defeats the whole purpose of going to a game for the fans to be miserable and belligerent, and it's a real shame that Philadelphians can't even take their kids to a professional sports game, for fear of what they might be exposed to.

I'm a Browns fan. Nine out of the last ten seasons they've won six games or less. I don't even dream about the Superbowl--I'm still eagerly waiting for the day that I see them win a playoff game. It's humbling. Every win is cause for great celebration.

From living in the Philadelphia area, I have an irrational dislike of all the Philadelphia sports teams because of their fans (exception being the Philadelphia Union fans: they’re fine). Philadelphia sports fans are the most disloyal, riotous, and disrespectful fans I have ever seen in my life, or could even conceive of in my imagination. People joke about the fans throwing snowballs and D-batteries, fans cheering when opposing players get injured, the fans booing their own players (including at the most inappropriate times, like their draft signing), there being a judge and jail in Veterans Stadium (don’t know if there is one in Lincoln Financial Field or not), and the sports commentators mocking Andy Reid after his son died, but there are many worse incidents that don’t get on ESPN, probably because they are in too bad of taste to even mention on a national program. I stopped even going to live sports when I lived in Philadelphia, because it is such a toxic environment.