They ruined all our best names like Bruce, and Lance, and Julian.

Today I finished Marva Dawn’s chapter on homosexuality in her book Sexual Character (or read my review). I like her explanation because she makes a strong case for homosexuality as a sin, but then backs that up with a stronger argument for why and how the church should support homosexuals. If you’re going to tell homosexual people that they’re living in sin, you need to help them out of that situation. Dawn argues that a homosexual should be able to live a celibate lifestyle with the support of a close Christian community. She deals with personal experience by noting that although this seems like an unfair position for the church to put homosexuals in, no human lives a temptation-free existence. When critics ask if it’s fair for a homosexual to be denied any possibility for sexual fulfillment, Dawn humbly asks if it’s fair for her to be denied the full use of her legs, eyes, and ears.

Difficult questions and difficult answers. But at least it’s a discussion of the real issues. I feel like so much of the debate over Bishop Gene Robinson has been two different arguments. One side declares loudly that homosexuality is wrong, while the other asks why you can’t just accept homosexuality. It seems like neither side really listens. I would have expected the Episcopal Convention to deeply scrutinize the biblical texts and come up with a biblical solution. Sadly, I’m not so sure if that happened.

Whee, I’m a pop sensation!

Lately I’ve stumbled across an oddly appealing kind of music that’s completely new to me, mainly because it’s totally radio unfriendly. It’s a genre I would describe of as anti-pop; it’s full of orchestral arrangements, odd mixes of instruments, and completely atypical song structures. Sometimes there’s singing, sometimes there’s not, sometimes there’s a chorus, sometimes there’s not. There’s a lot of distortion and just plain weirdness.

I think the music revolution that we’re just beginning to experience will most help bands like this. Thanks to their radio unfriendliness, bands like this usually don’t have a chance at mainstream success (and they probably don’t want mainstream success, or they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing).

All of three of the anti-pop bands that I’ve heard of (I’m sure there’s more out there, I’m just uninformed and unwilling to sample new songs on a 28.8 connection) I discovered through the Internet. One was mentioned in a friend’s blog. Another had a funky animated video linked on a web site. And the third appeared in a VW/Apple TV commercial, and I discovered the band’s name not in the commercial, but by e-mailing a friend who was able to freeze-frame the commercial online and decipher the band’s name. Not only did I first hear about all three of these bands through the Internet, but I was able to further explore all three bands online. This is the musical revolution. I’ve yet to buy any of these albums (mainly because I’m poor and unemployed), but I’m very tempted.

I mentioned Lemon Jelly back in April, and they’re still intriguing me. Their music has also been used in a VW commercial. Lost Horizons is their latest album.

Flaming Lips is the next band I heard of, thanks to a friend’s iPod list. It seemed a little too funky for me, but still very intriguing. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is their latest album, and with a title like that you know it’s funky.

The Polyphonic Spree is the band I heard about today. They’re the band behind the song “Section 9: Light & Day” that plays during the VW/Apple “Pods Unite” commercial. This band is so anti-pop they consist of 22 members and perform in white robes. Their latest album is Beginning Stages Of… .

And did I mention that all three of these bands have amazing websites? Funky, whacked, and crazy — but beautiful. I’m sure other anti-pop bands are out there (VW’s “Pods Unite” site hosts a number of mp3s that my connection is too slow to bother downloading), just waiting for you to get lost. Welcome to the music revolution.

Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream?

Apparently some folks in North Carolina aren’t too happy about Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, a book that focuses on the impossibility of surviving on low-income wages. The University of North Carolina chose the book as required reading for all incoming freshmen, which seems like a safe choice, given last year’s book (a collection of readings from the Koran). Yet a group of students going by Committee for a Better Carolina is calling Ehrenreich’s book a “classic Marxist rant” and a work of “intellectual pornography with no redeeming characteristics.” But as Ehrenreich responds, perhaps the Committee for a Better Carolina should realize just how much better they need to be: “60 percent of North Carolina families with children do not earn enough to meet basic, bare-bone needs. Nationwide, when last measured in 2000, 29 percent of families were in the same straits, giving North Carolina twice the level of economic misery as the country as a whole.” Ouch. (link via

I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals fa-laming.

And the gay debate rages. Today I read a few bits and pieces by Andrew Sullivan, a columnist and blogger who happens to be a homosexual. He had some interesting thoughts in his Time magazine piece, and his blog is hitting nails left and right. It’s a bit overwhelming, leaving me wondering just how far I want to click.

But the few slices I’ve been reading have been proving my earlier point about getting to know a person in relation to a fiery issue. In addition to being gay, Sullivan is Catholic. If you thought it was rough being Episcopalian right now, try being a gay Catholic. One of Sullivan’s arguments is for basic civil rights for gay couples. Here I find myself wondering, why not? There’s a difference between the church’s sacramental institution of marriage, and a legally recognized marriage. Why do we wish hardship on a man because of what we perceive as sin in his life? Especially a sin that doesn’t harm us in any way. We’re not talking about giving health benefits to the spouses of murderers or rapists here.

Sullivan also has me thinking about the surprise summer TV hit, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” a Bravo show that NBC re-aired to rave reviews. If you’re still living behind plastic sheeting and duck tape, it’s a reality show where five gay men give a straight guy a total life makeover to help him win the girl. The liberals are cheering for sexual equality on TV, the conservatives are tearing for good old days when they only had to complain about heterosexual sex jokes. I’ve seen less than five minutes of the show, but I’m confused why homosexuals are championing a show that reinforces gay stereotypes. I would think a real triumph would be getting a character on national TV that isn’t flamboyantly gay, just regularly gay.

A few days ago I made the comment that I lean towards God’s initial design for sex, that doesn’t seem to leave room for homosexuality. It’s the old “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” argument. It’s the same argument that says marriage is for procreation, that is has to serve a productive purpose; therefore same-sex marriage doesn’t fit the plan.

I’ve been reading Marva Dawn’s Sexual Character (read my review), and she’s raising some issues that really sink that boat. Despite what society likes to think today, life isn’t all about having sex and making babies. What about infertile couples? Marriage still means something to them, despite the inability to bear children. What about paralyzed or otherwise handicapped couples? Marriage still means something to them, despite the inability to bear children or even have sex. There’s a marital relationship that is both unproductive and unsexual, by society’s standards. Yet I think you’d be hard pressed to say the marriage is invalid.

There is diversity within humanity, and I think sometimes we need to understand that. Christians don’t usually like the word tolerance, because we’re told we don’t have it, but quite frankly they’re right. We need to get it, simply to deal with our own.

Sounds like that gopher I caught in me lawn mower

I finally got that weed whacker I was whining about for so long. Sucked it up and bought a Black & Decker cordless job (kind of like this, but with a smaller 9-inch cutting radius). I decided I didn’t want to mess with a polluting gas-powered one, and I didn’t want to have to fight with a 100-foot extension cord in my oddly shaped yard, so I went cordless. I figure I don’t have to worry about the dog chewing my cord apart, and I can restrict the pollution to the power plant rather than my yard. Hmm… maybe someone needs to invent the hybrid weed whacker.

What’s the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to do something with you?

I also watched a few movies this weekend. I should probably be writing about these in another location, but I feel like that section is doomed. I’ve been meaning to start an official movie review section, but I just haven’t had the time. Unemployment is a lot busier than you’d think.

Anyway, I saw Daredevil, Agent Cody Banks and Drumline. A week or two ago I watched Death to Smoochie and Max. I also caught Holes at the cheap theater. Let’s give a quick run down:

Daredevil — A darkly intriguing comic-turned-movie, reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Batman, only more interesting because the super hero is blind. The special effects showing us how Daredevil “sees” were amazing. The story line had more redemption than I expected, thanks to the Daredevil’s trips to the confessional. Plus the soundtrack kicked ass (it launched Evanescence into the spotlight) and the DVD is packed with extras. The weakest part of the movie is everyone’s ability to make Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style leaps, despite the fact that no one has those superpowers.

Agent Cody Banks — Do I admit I watched this movie? Too late. I like Frankie Muniz (at least in Malcolm in the Middle) and we were up for something light. I can say it didn’t suck. I think a 10-year-old boy would have liked it. It was basically James Bond as a teenager, minus the martinis and accent. Unfortunately they didn’t have the good sense to play it as a James Bond spoof. They could have gone over the top with goofball villains and it would have been great. Instead the villains are just as goofball except we’re supposed to be scared, and Agent Banks has the same suave lines, only slightly milder for the pre-teen crowd (“What’s my next mission?” “I think you were going to kiss me.”).

Drumline — I expected a Disney movie about high school drummers, and this wasn’t anywhere close. A Brooklyn boy gets a drumming scholarship at a Southern school, but has to lose his pride to be a part of the band. The movie felt short on plot for as long as it was, but the rhythms were righteous.

Death to Smoochie — It’s billed as Robin Williams comedy about the seedy underbelly of children’s television, but it’s really an Ed Norton flick. He totally makes the movie as an idealistic, hippie children’s entertainer, the man behind Smoochie the Rhino. It’s darkly disturbing and fun to watch for anyone’s who’s dreamed of hiring a hitman to off Barney.

Max — An arty film about Hitler’s formative years. John Cusack plays a Jewish artist who lost his arm in World War I and survives in post-war Germany as an art dealer supported by his wealthy in-laws. He stumbles across the young Adolf Hitler, and their common war experience unites them. Hitler is torn between propaganda and his art. At times he almost seems human, which is probably the movie’s biggest fault: its fear of being too sympathetic to Hitler. It’s a dark, thinking movie — but what else did you expect for Hitler’s formative years?

Holes — Convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, a youth detention center that doesn’t live up to its title. Sentenced to dig a hole a day in order to build character, Stanley struggles to get along with the other delinquents and the obsessed warden. It’s a quirky story of redemption and overcoming the unfairness of life, a movie you can watch with your whole family – if you have to. Or you can do one better and read the book.

Let us say the Lord’s prayer 40 times

“I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks long a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom.” (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, as quoted in Deeper Walk Vol. 1)

He didn’t turn you gay, did he?

Well, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church confirmed the gay bishop. There was a one day hiccup in the process (in the form of some lame allegations), but now it’s over. Now the real fun begins. Everyone has to figure out what this means for them, and how disastrous this might be for the church.

I’m still unsure of what to think of the whole thing. On one hand, I think the loving acceptance displayed by the church is important. But on the other hand, if homosexuality is a sin (and as I’ve said before, I’m still debating that one) then letting a church leader knowingly and willingly continue in that sin is not a good thing.

I wish the debate on homosexuality were easier. I wish the Bible were easier to understand and we couldn’t justify all sorts of things by reading it in a certain context. I suppose if that were the case it wouldn’t be what it is. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if you ignored all of church history and could somehow look at the Bible with fresh eyes and start the church all over again. What would it look like? Would we have the fancy robes and incense? Would stained glass be important? Would there be pews? Or a step farther, would there even be a church building? Would men be able to have long hair? Would women be able to cut their hair short? Would women even be able to speak in church? Would there be a rash of end times fiction? Let’s hope not.

Yet church history is important. There’s a certain arrogance in ignoring everything those who have gone before you have learned and assuming you can figure it out all by yourself. Yet corruption still exists and reform is necessary.

I have my doubts about homosexuality. When I look at God’s original design, a man and a woman, and the symbolism that exists there and between Christ and the church, it seems odd that homosexuality would be acceptable. At the same time, marriage is not a requirement of the faithful. Paul lived a single, celibate life. It seems that Christ has overturned the old expectations and brought us to something new, where simple living arrangements are not as important as they were in the Old Testament. There’s something more important now.

I think when it comes down to it the homosexual debate makes me so uncomfortable because that is when Christians often tend to display their infamous qualities of hatred, judgment, and condemnation. We seem unable to separate religious beliefs from societal beliefs, simply in the form of tolerance, which is what this nation was founded on (of course the Puritans were never very good at tolerance).

I had this debate with coworkers when the pledge of allegiance debate was raging. In a civil society you have to make compromises to get along with everyone. You can’t acknowledge one religion to the exclusion of others in a public setting. Some of my coworkers disagreed to a degree that I was baffled. When I presented them with the shoe on the other foot argument (one nation under Buddah), they said that was terrible, yet one nation under God was still acceptable because that was right. I fear Christians have a reputation for always assuming they are right. There’s nothing wrong with thinking you’re right, but when someone else thinks you’re wrong, you have to find a way to live together. And a simple majority rules works fine when you’re in the majority, but when you’re the minority, it’s not so fun. America was founded by minority religious groups who wanted their freedom. Now they’ve become the majority and are abusing the power they once feared.

Sex is a very complicated thing. I said before that I think this is a personal issue, and that’s because you have to deal with it on a personal level. When you hear a person’s story of their struggle with homosexuality, it becomes much harder to judge them. There are many other sexual issues that Christians shy away from, and I think it cripples our approach to the world. What about transgender issues? Sex changes and people born with no sex? These things happen, and you can’t simply explain them away as someone’s perverted sexual problem.

Life is complicated, and I am rambling beyond control.

At the Exhibit Hall of the Episcopal General Convention, one booth was handing out condoms. As you would expect, outrage ensued. What is the Christian fear with condoms? They are a legitimate means of birth control and disease prevention. Granted many people use them outside of a committed marital relationship, but does that condemn the condom itself? If someone is lost and knows nothing of Jesus Christ, why are we down on them for using a condom? They’re being responsible and not spreading diseases around and at least taking some measure of protection to ensure that they’re not bring a child into that potentially unstable relationship. Sure, they’re sinning. But so what? Sinful people sin. We can’t expect abstinence from someone who has no moral grounding for abstinence.

Passing out condoms in church. Is this what we have to get upset about? Sheesh. At the least, it’s showing compassion on the unsaved person who’s going to have sex anyway. At the most, it’s promoting responsible birth control choices within the church. Our puritanical, uptight roots keep us from talking about anything, and thus a condom becomes shunned. And we wander why teens get pregnant, why abortions happen, and why sex is rampant.

This is what happens when you save up your thoughts for a week.