Monday, August 20, 2012

Baptism and LGBTQ People

From my blog entry on

There are rituals in faith communities that stand out, because of their power to claim us, mark us, and let the world know who and whose we are. It may be a ritual as simple as standing up and singing a national anthem at a minor-league baseball game, hand over heart, realizing we’re collectively citizens of the United States of America. At graduation or a high school athletic event we sing the theme song of our alma mater, with the school mascot leading us in the singing of the song. Or it is a public official taking an oath of office, swearing to protect and defend whatever state or country that they are representing. In a community of faith, rituals define us, enabling participants to know who the community’s members worship or venerate, and reminding us of the borders and boundaries of our beliefs.
As a Presbyterian minister (Presbyterian Church USA), I believe that one of the rituals that first defines us and what we believe is baptism. It is a rite of initiation, a tangible or physical, visible sign of what some theologians call “grace,” that has already been given to the believer, whether the believer is a child or an adult. Along with the pouring of water upon the brow of a child or adult, or the total immersion of a person in a pool of water, there are words uttered that remind the one being baptized who and whose they are. This is preceded or followed by words of the community of faith, in which a community vows to take care of and accept the one being baptized as a vital member of the beloved community.
The power of this ritual was not lost on me recently during a young infant’s baptism. The young boy had no idea of what was being said to him or his parents and grandparents. The minister made the sign of the cross upon his brow with a wet hand while uttering the words, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The words the young minister spoke were equally powerful, about this infant being protected by the congregation, about how he would be raised in the faith of the congregation, and always be accepted as a member of the body of Christ through his dying days. The unconditional love being shared with this infant was breathtaking in its all-around inclusiveness. Nothing could separate this child from the love of God as demonstrated by this and other communities of faith. Nothing.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are Dads Necessary?

Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously observed that the mother’s role in a family is biologically based, while the father’s role is a biological necessity. Afterward, our role is a social creation at best, and a social accident at worst. While the father serves a vital role in terms of conception, from that point forward the father is, well, regulated to the sidelines of raising a child. Some people in religious communities and of certain political persuasions would like to define the contemporary nuclear family as a mom and dad and child (or two), but historians and cultural anthropologists disagree.
In some ways, I can appreciate and relate to Mead’s dry observation and straightforwardness. Many dads in contemporary modern society witness the way that young infants and toddlers respond to the voice and the mere presence of the biological mom. Those of us who were or are stay-at-home dads are green with envy for such a natural bond. The bond between my children and me was not born of nature per se, but constructed through intentionally spending more time and creating more experiences together. Given that I was a more stay-at-home dad in my children’s early years (the luxury of having a flexible schedule while working in higher education), our parent-child relationship was a bit more unique and stronger than others. But I didn’t have a lot of other stay-at-home narratives that gave me examples of ways I could be a dad who stayed at home. As for stories of being a dad who is gay and in the closet while staying at home, those tales were yet to be written. Those stories fit into a book of “fairy tales,” (tongue firmly in cheek), that would begin with the introduction of “Once upon a time…”
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Scouts and LGBTQ Families

From my blog posting on
During my young childhood, the group that had my nearly undivided attention (besides church) was my Cub Scout troop, hosted by the United Methodist Church we attended.
I happily donned my royal blue uniform, with all its cloth badges and appliqu├ęs, and yellow kerchief. But the Cub Scouts was not just a solo experience: it was a family affair. My Mom was a dutiful Pack Mom, hosting our pack when it was her turn to provide activities, freshly baked cookies, and milk. My Mom and Dad proudly watched our Cub Scout pack march in neighborhood parades, and supported our civic projects. My Dad took an active interest in helping me with my balsa-wood airplanes and race cars, and was delighted to lead our group of Webelos in my last year of Cub Scouts.
We learned to tie knots, and picked up other skills that we would find helpful on camping trips. While I was smitten with the world of Scouts early on, when I was thirteen years old I chose to become a Civil Air Patrol cadet instead of a Boy Scout because of my love of flying.
Much has changed since I left the Cub Scouts and became a parent. As a parent, I would have enjoyed participating with my daughter if she were to have become a Girl Scout, and with my son were he to have chosen to become a Boy Scout. While the Girl Scouts are open and accepting of young Scouts who are lesbian and their lesbian moms, the Boy Scouts’ story has been a different one. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America could bar any activity by gay Scouts or LGBTQ parents because the Scouts are a private organization. On July 17, 2012, after a secretive two-year review of their policy toward gay Scouts and LGBTQ parents, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed its policy to exclude gays from joining or being leaders.
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