Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Thoughts On Today, 6/26/2013

Part One

I believe in Natural Law. There is no denying the science behind male/female intercourse having the natural potential to produce a child. There is also no denying that sex feels good and that, when part of a stable relationship, it helps strengthen the emotional bond between a couple. Psychologically speaking, when we humans are bound by law as well as by love, we work harder to maintain our couplings, thus creating a more stable environment not only for ourselves, but for our off-spring. Since society is made up of both men and women, this situation also allows children to observe and learn how to deal with both genders, and, if the family has more than one child, it enables them to learn how to deal with their age-related peers on a level more intimate than school or play-dates at the park.

This is, of course, an idyllic example of the nuclear family. I did not mention: fertility issues; single-parenthood (due to death or military service over-seas or abandonment, etc); physical and mental health strictures; the list could go on and on. In a perfect world, these impediments to family life would not exist, but that raises the age-old question of "would we be able to appreciate that perfect world if we never had anything to compare it to?" We humans are always looking for something better*, because we know that while Nature has it's ideals, there are always variances, aberrations, and exceptions that we cannot account for, and must adjust to when we do encounter them. While we would rather not have to deal with these problems, human evolution has presented us with three basic categories of response: fight against it, ignore it, work with it. Any one of these responses can be the right one, depending on the situation; they can also easily be the wrong one, if people fail to recognize the situation properly.

What does all this have to do with today of all days? A lot. Unless you live in a cave, you have heard how the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional, by reason that no federal law can inhibit peoples that individual states have voted to protect. The largest impacts of this ruling are that same-sex marriages that are recognized only in specific states, will now be recognized (for tax and other social benefits) in any state they might choose to move to; and also that  same-sex spouses of federal employees can no longer be denied these tax and social benefits. The other big-ticket SCOTUS decision of the day was regarding CA Prop 8; in which the CA voters voted against allowing same-sex marriages. The proposition was brought before the CA state supreme court and was ruled unconstitutional, and eventually the case went to the federal court, where, today, SCOTUS essentially decided to deny it due to the fact that CA lawmakers refused to defend it. This bothers me because whether or not the elected officials agree with what the people voted on, they have a duty to represent the people who put them in office and they failed to do so.

What all this means, in laymen's speech, is that same-sex-marriage will no longer be ignored on the federal level and California same-sex-couples can again get married. I have no doubt that the number of states voting to legalize same-sex-marriage will explode in the coming months.

Again, what does this have to do with my opening paragraphs? I'm getting there; I promise.

Humans are born with 26 chromosomes, working with their genetic make-up to make them normal human beings. This is the ideal. There are deviances from nature that make this not always how it happens. Children are conceived by a natural father and a natural mother and are raised in a home with both. This is the ideal, but not always how it happens. The human brain produces chemicals that help it maintain an emotional balance. This is the ideal, but again, not how it always happens. Natural human couplings involve one man and one woman. This is the get the picture. For all of those who are not personally affected by these divergences, there are those three basic reactions: fight it, ignore it, work with it; that result. Same-sex marriage is one of the single-most divisive topics of our time, and the coming days and weeks are surely going to see a lot of passionate responses, both for and against the decisions. (I'll ignore those in the middle, for now, since they aren't making any noise about it.**) Both sides feel, with absolute certainty, that they are right.

On the one hand, who are we to fight against the natural order of things? Our nature is what has made us who we are. If we don't work to keep nature in balance, what becomes of us as a species?

On the other hand, since nature allows these differences from the norm, who are we to try to get rid of them?

The logical answer is that we can't treat all differences the same. While there are those who would willingly be rid of all people with Down Syndrome (extra chromosome), the rest of society thinks people like that are sick at heart and need to be more compassionate to those who are different from themselves. The same could be said regarding homosexuality and those affected by it. Then there are things like cancer. I think most people would agree that it would be great if we could completely eradicate cancer, but there are those who view any kind of illness as something that they should just allow to happen, and not interfere with it. What happens when those categories become mixed? For example, maybe there is a man who sees his cancer as something that nature allowed to happen and he should just accept it, but at the same time he thinks that his neighbor, who nature allowed to be gay, should not be allowed to live equally to himself?

The point I hope to have made at this juncture is that no one of us is perfect in our behaviors, where we might be right on one point, we can be horribly wrong on another.

Part Two

Have you noticed how I have kept God and religion completely out of this, so far? That is because I wanted to do my best to examine the issue from a non-religious angle, to hopefully get people to really think about it from different perspectives before I started talking about God and the Catholic Church; both of which are topics that can send people into a frenzy of opinions in as many directions as there are people. I have tried to keep my commentary calm and unbiased and completely secular. That ends, here.

My religion is based largely on natural law. Logic and common sense are the parameters. Most people fail to see this; even many Catholics. Some people believe that our Mother the Church is a harsh and exacting mistress, and to an extent that is accurate, but it is also incomplete. Like any good mother, the Church expects obedience and has seemingly strict measures that we are to live by, but She is also a loving, forgiving, and comforting presence. Her rules are there for our benefit, both corporeal and spiritual. When we fail to do as she asks and we realize that we have erred and we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven. When our lives are not going in a direction that makes it easy to follow her teachings, she offers us strength in the form of the Holy Eucharist, to nourish our spiritual resolve. When all seems lost, we need only gaze upon a Crucifix to be reminded of the sacrifice made by Christ, so that even though our earthly lives are far from perfect, Heaven is waiting for us in the next life. I truly feel sorry for those who do not have the comfort of this faith in their lives; how bleak the everlasting must seem to be for them.

Do I think that everyone should believe as I do? Well, no. I don't. I think it is the ideal way to live, which is why I choose to live the way I do, but just as good is impotent without the comparison of evil, I don't think I would be able to appreciate the Catholic Church as much as I do without having something to compare her to. Do I condemn those who think differently than I do, just because I feel that my beliefs are right? Absolutely not. For one thing, I believe that it is not our place to judge one another. Only in the instance that we see our fellow man diverging from what is right and true to the extent that it endangers others spiritually and/or physically, should we have cause to intervene. We cannot possibly know everything that has brought someone to make the decisions they have made or take the actions they have taken. We cannot know the state of their mind, of their soul; only God can truly know these things, which is why He is the rightful judge, not us. This does not mean that I think everyone else can and should live their lives without moral compasses, however. I just do not believe it is fair to hold others, who do not share my faith, to the same strictures I hold myself to. What does this mean in practice? One example is that while I believe men and women should not engage in "marital" activities before they are married, but unless they are Catholic, I can't exactly say they have to live by rules they are unfamiliar with. And, let's be honest...not even all Catholics make this goal.

So what does the Catholic Church say about gays? That they are people just like the rest of us and should be treated with respect, compassion, and love. How does the Church, whose precepts are based on natural law, and therefore recognizes the rightness of male/female relations, encourage her members who are gay to live their lives? They are encouraged to live their lives as Christians ought, and on the specific topic of sexual relations, they are encouraged to be celibate. Since not even heterosexual Catholics always abide by that rule, we can hardly condemn our homosexual brethren who don't either, Catholic or not. You know, that whole "let he who is without sin cast the first stone", bit.

If you are still reading this (I do appreciate your patience) the main point I am hoping to make, is that none of us is perfect. None of us is without sin. We are each obligated to live our lives morally and ethically. There is a wonderful list of "rules to go by" that can help us with that, too. The Ten Commandments are a pretty good guide to life. Even for those who don't believe in God, the first few can be applied in a slightly different manner. Instead of "I am the lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me", think of it as advice to not get your priorities mixed up; like taking care of your family and doing your best to provide for them, but not to the point that you obsess over money so much that you let your family ties fray. If all people did live by the Commandments, we would have peace on Earth. Imagine that! Most people, religious or not, are familiar with the Ten Commandments, but there were others, too. When asked what the greatest Commandment was, Jesus replied "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind", and then said that we were to love our neighbors as ourselves

The biggest problem, as I see it, is when people fail to remember these greatest of commands. Most particularly, that we are to love one another. This is what I want everyone to remember, that of all God's commands, we are to love Him and love one another. These next days are going to see a lot of strong emotions on both sides of the issue. I just urge everyone to please remember to be kind.

Some footnotes:

*This is where I bring God into the conversation and point out that we all naturally seek Heaven, by seeking something better than what we have here on Earth. As is now clear, I wanted to keep Part One secular, so as not to frighten off anyone who doesn't believe as I do. **I can't help but think also of the angels: 1/3 sided with St. Michael, 1/3 sided with Satan, and 1/3 sat back and watched. The 1/3 who sat back and did nothing were cast out along with the 1/3 who fought against St. Michael and the good angels. Just a reminder that sitting idly by is really not a good option. To quote the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers "Rush", you can choose not to decide, but you still have made a choice. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just Ask

We've all heard the saying "Tell the people you love that you love them, because you never know when they will be taken from you and you won't be able to tell them any more". I think the same should be said for people that you just want to be friends with. Twice now, I have known people in my life that have passed away before I could let them know that I wanted to be their friend. I would see them post on the statuses of mutual friends on Facebook, and when I would see them in person we would always chat pleasantly, and I would often think "I should just send a friend request. We know a lot of the same people, we always say 'hi' when we see each other, I should just add her." And then, before I finally do it, the opportunity is forever lost. 

What held me back? Was I just afraid that they would say no? Maybe. The fear of rejection can be pretty powerful, even over a casual friendship. Maybe I was just too shy? Not likely. I remember when I was very young, probably not even in school yet, and whenever someone new would move in on our street I would go up to the door and ask if they had any kids my age that I could play with. Maybe I was afraid that I would get to know them more and not like what I found, and I would have to deal with that down the road. Possible. Whatever the reason, I don't think it was good enough.

If they didn't accept my friend request, so what? I am a big girl now, and I can handle it. Lord knows I have had my feelings hurt before, and I think I have learned to deal with it pretty well. If I found that I really didn't like them the more that I knew them, well, that's part of life, too. Then again, if I was feeling so strongly that I should add them in the first place, chances are that this wouldn't happen. I am generally a pretty good judge of character and personality, at least I like to think so, so if it even gets to the point of me thinking I would like to be friends, odds are that this problem would never even come up.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I think I need to stop hesitating over that "send friend request" button and just do it. Instead of caving in to my my own insecurities, I should be reaching out and letting people know that I think they are worth knowing. Who knows, maybe someone I reach out to will be at a point in their lives where they just need someone to talk to, and I can offer that, along with a nice cup of tea. And maybe some chocolate.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love thy neighbor, even if they are gay.

Recently, my friend Joe posed a question on his blog "Why are there so many gays who are ex-Catholics?"

Below, I have pasted my response.

 I would have to agree. I grew up in a very Catholic home, yet anything "gay" was never really talked about. There was a guy at my school (a Catholic 1-12), several years ahead of me, that came out after he graduated. People in our circle, not just at home, didn't seem to talk to, or about him after that. It wasn't until after I was married and became friends with a couple of gay men, that I realized how lacking my life had been on the topic. These were nice people, generally good people. I liked them. I almost felt guilty within my extended family for being friends with them, because I thought Catholics didn't do that. I started looking into what the Church teaches about homosexuality, and what science says about it, and how society treats it. 

What I found was that the Church wants us to love our neighbors, gay or straight, as ourselves. Period. I understand the reasons, according to nature and our physiology, why the Church condemns homosexual intercourse; it just isn't how God designed us. We cannot reach our full biological function within those parameters. 

Science taught me that, at least with men, there is a specific point in fetal development where a lack of sufficient testosterone has been shown to be the cause of their homosexuality. It would not be totally unreasonable to argue that, in the case of women, the cause could be linked to too much testosterone. Although, it seems to me that some women have "become gay" after a traumatic experience with a man. I have two female cousins, one from either side of my family, who are gay and who were abused by men very close to them, as children. It seems to me to be a sort of self-preservation, as opposed to something that has always been there. These are the women who tend to still be somewhat "girlie", while their sisters who are "birthers" tend to be more butch; which would go along with the theory of too much testosterone during fetal development. 

What I saw in society made me very, very sad. Because so many of us within the faith would rather just sweep gays under the rug instead of accepting them with loving arms, those gays who need our love the most turn to anyone and anything that will give them some semblance of acceptance. When they do finally find a niche, they often become angry and belligerent, lashing out at the world in any way they can. Just look at most of the people who attend the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco. They do anything they can do to get attention; strange dress, no dress, lewd behavior in public, anything goes. It is just like the child whose parents ignore him, so he misbehaves in order to get their attention. Unfortunately, these very visible souls, who are crying out for true love and affection, cast a shadow over the majority of their peers, who just want to live a quiet life. It is near impossible to get people to see that most gays are nice, quiet, people when that is all we see. 

I think things are getting better for gays, from a secular standpoint, at least. While many have tried to turn Prop 8 into a civil rights issue, which I personally disagree that that is what it is, there have been many problems that I would classify as civil rights issues, that have been addressed; such as employment and housing discrimination, and domestic partnership benefits. I know that I may be scorned for being in favor of those benefits, but since I know that not everyone holds to my religious beliefs and moral standards, I see it as no different than heterosexual couples who cohabitate. If a man and a woman can live together and get the same legal benefits as a married couple, homosexual couples should also be allowed those rights. There was a story a few years ago about a man in Sonoma who had been with his partner for 50 years, and when his partner died, all he had to show for it was a photo album, because the partner's family swooped in and claimed family rights to his estate, and excluded him from everything. This made me so angry and sad, that they could show so little respect for this person. Then there are the many cases of domestic partners not having the right to make medical decisions for each other. There have been so many cases where one partner is in critical condition and doctors need the family's consent to do a procedure, but refuses to accept consent from the one person who probably knows best what the patient's wishes would be. A lot of times there isn't even anyone else to ask, because their families have ostracized them and they are not in contact. 

I know I have been rattling on here; I guess your question struck a nerve. I should probably post this as an entry on my own blog, that has been getting ignored by me.

This is me, doing what I said I should do. This is a topic that has become near and dear to my heart. It really bothers me how so many Christians forget that Jesus didn't say "Love your neighbors, unless they are gay"; He said for us to love each other as ourselves. Period. Today is Valentine's Day, and we are inundated with a commercial form of "love". Let us stop and reflect upon what real love is, and where it comes from.

Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day

In our house, Valentine's Day is every day. Really, we just use it as an excuse to buy chocolate, but it is a mutually beneficial excuse. We both love chocolate, but during the year, we generally don't spring for "the good stuff", since it isn't in our budget. V-Day is when we splurge and go to See's, to pick out specific sweets to savor. We always pick out something for the kids, too, because we want them to grow up knowing that the love between parents and children is just as important as love between their mom and dad. The best way to honor St. Valentine, is to show our children what a healthy, Christian marriage is about.