26 June, 2015

Sackcloth and ashes

For many of my friends, GLBT individuals and cisgendered / heterosexual allies alike, today is a joyous affirmation of equality and dignity under the law. After reading through the court's momentous decision and four impassioned dissents, however, i must confess i don't feel like celebrating. My thoughts are instead with those for whom the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is proof positive of America's decline.

For starters, the left's scorn of the four dissents is palpable in comments like "your tears are delicious." Such sentiments are as toxic to our civic discourse as the fearful rhetoric used to impel voters to pass the laws today's ruling overturned. As tempting as it is to go all argle-bargle and impugn the dissents, particularly Justice Scalia's (see #AskTheNearestHippie), demonizing dissenters is disturbing. But i digress. What bothers me most is the rush to proclaim, whether in "showy profundities" or shrill disapproval, what marriage is and is not.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," Justice Kennedy writes in his concluding paragraph. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

Can embody. Can become. Marriage, whether civil or religious, is not a magic bullet. Marriage can be an utter hell, should the participants therein not act in the best interest of their union. It is, like anything in life, what we make of it, not to be taken lightly. Does marriage make our nation stronger? Not if it's a bad marriage. Does today's ruling render marriage meaningless? One could make the cynical argument that secular straight folks, Vegas wedding chapels, seventh marriages and shotgun weddings long since have. I would argue that it is in the love and actions of married individuals that marriage finds its meaning: We as a society collectively derive meaning from the sum of individual meanings, religious teachings and cultural experiences of marriage writ large. I stand with Evangelical left leader Tony Campolo when he writes that "the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth," and believe that if indeed gays and lesbians wish to claim the rights, responsibilities and "transcendent purposes" of marriage, we must diligently aspire to those purposes, and demonstrate dignity to those who would deny it.

But to the subject of America's decline. Yeah, America's in decline. America is still exceptional, just not in all the positive ways we used to be: highest incarceration rate in the world, for example.

I'm turned inside out tonight. It was surreal to see the White House lit up in a rainbow. And something about the decadence with which that postdiluvian gesture was displayed throughout media and social media made my stomach churn. What started the churn was a shorthand reference to Proverbs 16:18. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride was everywhere, and nobody was talking about the TPP, TTIP or TiSA -- leftwing-conspiracy theorists are probably loving that -- or about this morning's trio of terror attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia. Nothing wakes up an atheist like adhan. (I know from experience.)

Nature offered no respite from rainbows. As i waited for a bus, a massive and intense bow spread across the pueblo's sky. It remained there for more than half an hour.

Christians, and it's the ones of you who are upset be today's ruling i'm talking to here: You know those bold displays of homosexual conceit (and of LGBT dignity being affirmed by a world sometimes more Christlike than you)? Those you are responsible for. Pride, in the sense of that thing gay people resort to to keep from feeling less-than-human, is the offspring of shame promoted by body negativity and sex negativity (again, speaking from experience), and you've had a big hand in that. You created the need for all those rainbows by promoting a morality that pushes LGBT people to the margins rather than welcoming them, sexual orientation and all, as God's beautiful handiwork. Morality does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.

While some of y'all are celebrating marriage equality and some of y'all are flipping your lid, a great many people don't have the economic luxury to notice. But a few people on the other side of the world (who are as unhinged on Divine Revelation as you and even more keen on the afterlife) did notice, and they saw the White House lit up like a great big rainbow target. So sure, have a great time celebrating Pride and have a great time greasing the wheels of the Republican reaction machine and have fun bitching about unelected judges and lamenting as disastrous America's decision to affirm in secular civil legal tradition, on civil legal precedent, the right of all consenting adults to marry the partner of their choice. 

The rainbow has a very specific meaning in the tradition i come from: God's symbol of his promise never again to destroy the world with a flood. Education and good sense do not permit me to read as literal that story, but meaning transcends the literal. The rainbow to me represents a promise of grace: the promise that God will never again destroy the Creation. "He" is leaving that up to us. The question is, do we destroy ourselves through the consequences of our choices? You can blame natural disasters like drought or the Houston flooding on homosexuality if you want, or you can realize that, among the things that *are* true and which you *should* be flipping your Christian lid about, is the utter waste our society is laying to the planet. Who needs fire from heaven when we're adding this much CO2 to the atmosphere?! Denial doth not the consequences of complicity in capitalism's crimes against creation absolve. And you may discover, if you happen to be even the slightest bit wrong on that bit about every word of your Book being literally, infallibly true as translated and taken wildly out of its historical context (which is a pretty reasonable possibility), that Jesus is not in fact going to reappear to make you magically transform into a heavenly being, and that if we continue to mindlessly soil our nest you are just as frelled as all of us, and just as much to blame.

So can we stop fighting about what other people do in their bedrooms and start talking about whether or not your God would approve of the violence we're doing to each other with guns and greed and words, and of the damage we're doing to the planet via our fossil energy habit? And whether maybe those things actually matter more in the scheme of Luke 10:27 than whether or not consenting adults are allowed to marry? Can you apply your sense of Divine Wrath to things that actually piss God off as per Matthew 25? And can we all try to live by Jesus' actual teachings? Please and thank you!

Meanwhile, in Mosul, comeuppance for George W. Bush's immoral, illegal invasion of Iraq is brewing.

Once more, in case it didn't sink in the first time. Morality, as described by Christ in the gospels, does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.

24 June, 2015

A dispatch from the kitchen

Since rather abruptly becoming former employee of a now-defunct website, the past few months have been a rough ride, prompting a good bit of introspection. I've also had a bit of time on my hands, and while i rather firmly believe time is more valuable than money it is, like money, something to invest. For several years i've attempted with fits and starts to take up bodybuilding, and while too often i've let life changes knock me off that horse, the progress i've seen since October of last year has spurred me to use some of the extra time to invest in developing more bulletproof habits of diet and athleticism.

Michael Matthews' book "The Shredded Chef" has been an inspiration, but i've never been one to follow recipes much. They always call for something i don't have. I'd rather use my senses and what's on special, and on occasion the results are worth sharing. With a bundle of soba noodles from the pantry, bottom round steak on special, and tuscan kale from the co-op, i turned to the kitchen garden for sungold and yellow pear tomatoes, basil, and green onions. A block of parmesan left behind by recently departed tenants provided the perfect finish.

You can't see the soba under there but, a buckwheat product that should be in every lifter's pantry, they're adding a little extra protein punch. With one bundle of noodles, 8 oz. of steak, about 2 cups tuscan kale, a handful of bell pepper, a dozen cherry tomatoes, and grated parmesan on top (the green onions and basil are negligible from a macro perspective), the two-serving recipe adds up to about 950 calories, 23g fat, 88g carbohydrates, and a whopping 93g of protein. Hard to beat those macros for bulking.

It also helps, being between jobs, to really savor life and the simple gifts it brings - to appreciate what i've learned of food from family and friends over the years, and how growing your own food, even just a few cherry tomatoes, nourishes both body and spirit. And food so good it seems amiss not to say grace.