Thursday, February 18, 2010

Going back to take back Jesus

"Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!"

Hearing this song - let alone singing it - took me way back. I’m talking way, way back. They didn’t even sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the Catholic church when I was a young teenager. They sang it there when I was a little boy, when my parents felt I was old enough to take to Mass. I’m talking my Grandma’s Catholic church.

And this was the second time in recent months that the song was being sung. It was quite a jolt for me, after years of being at home in a silent, universalistic, unprogrammed Quaker meeting and even with me being as Christo-centric as I tend to be.

What was even more jolting was that the song was being sung, full-throated and whole-heartedly, by a room full of GLBTQ folks. Make that a church full of GLBTQ folks. Lead by a very out and very strong lesbian pastor.

I have been visiting - "sojourning," as I announced to my meeting - at a Metropolitan Community Church, and it has been quite eye-opening, to say the very least.

Moving is more like it - powerfully so. I have written several posts here about Jesus and his message of radical love and inclusiveness, of loving the other and even one’s enemies, have been hijacked and distorted by Christian conservatives and fundamentalists to, among other things, oppress the queer community. The M.C.C, a Christian church founded by a gay man to minister to the GLBTQ community, boldly reclaims Jesus and points out his true, original message of love for and to all. Although I see Jesus more as a teacher and model than as a virgin-born, resurrected savior, as posited by the M.C.C, I am deeply inspired by how the church not only takes back the Christ-centered language as its own but also so plainly illustrates how it also specifically affirms same-sex love.

Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the next song on the recent Sunday morning:

"Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me,
For the Bible tells me so!"

Wow! A bunch of gay men and lesbians singing that the Bible tells them that, yes, Jesus loves them. A bunch of queer folks singing "Yes, Jesus Loves Me," which I always thought of as a conservative, Southern Baptist, that-old-time-religion song (we didn’t even sing it at Mass). That’s some powerful stuff. Not only that - it’s power.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Clearing the air

The Los Angeles City Council has recently passed an ordinance limiting the number and location of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. This happened after two or three years of the council dithering and bickering over the issue, during which time - and despite a moratorium - something like 700 dispensaries opened, turning L.A into a pot - er, medicinal marijuana - mecca. A fair number of people, concerned about crime, etc., were not, to say the least, getting a good buzz from this.

I have to say that this mess was caused by Proposition 215, the passage of which made California the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana despite the federal ban. I voted for Prop. 215 and am still all for it in principle. I very much believe that people who are ill, in pain, can’t hold down food, etc. should have easy access to the soothing herb and not fear getting arrested. The problem is that it was written so sloppily, leaving everyone confused if not dazed.

Now, the L.A ordinance is being called one of the toughest, and the med-pot advocates are now the ones grumbling. Among other things, the ordinance dictates
...that there be no more than 70 dispensaries (actually about 150 with the old ones that can stay).
...that a dispensary can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, place of worship and other such "sensitive" sites.
...that the dispensaries have to close at 8 p.m, and that the cannabis can’t be consumed on the premises.

What I’m wondering is, what’s so wrong with there being strict regulations?

Yes, some of the restrictions are a bit too strict and unfair - like the one prohibiting a dispensary from operating across the street or an alley from residential properties. This will make it far more difficult to find a location. But, for the most part, the restrictions make perfect sense.

For example, why would someone who is ill or in pain want to go out and get medicine at 11 at night? It is better to go in the daytime, when it is easier to get around and more help is available.
And why shouldn’t the dispensaries be prohibited, as I believe they will be under the new law, from having names such as "Temple 420" and being decorated with big, neon pot leaves and red, yellow, green and black paint jobs?

Such displays, as well as being open late at night and other things, feeds the argument that medicinal marijuana is being used as a way to get pot for recreational use. Don’t get me started on those doctors in Hawaiian print shirts who sit in empty offices and hand out prescriptions for marijuana to anyone who claims to have a headache or writer’s cramp.

Giving relief to those who are sick or in pain is a very legitimate, very serious business, and it should be seen and done as such. Otherwise, medicinal marijuana will be another Cheech and Chong comedy, and that would be a tragedy.

I have long argued that Claremont should have a medicinal marijuana dispensary. With all its professors and strong community activists, Claremont can show how to do it in the right, serious, caring way. Very sadly, after a smart aleck opened a dispensary without a permit from the city, the City Council, after voting to allow dispensaries, took the opposite tack, reversed its earlier decision and banned dispensaries in Claremont.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Too P.C or not too P.C?

For about a year now, I’ve been puzzling over the case of Matthew Kim, a teacher who a judge just recently ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to fire.

I first learned of Matthew Kim when he was featured in a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about how hard it is to fire teachers. According to what the Times found, the teacher unions have been so careful to ensure that tenured teachers aren’t fired arbitrarily or without sound cause that the appeals process can take years. Mr. Kim was one of dozens of teachers being "housed" during this appeals process, meaning that they can’t work in the classroom but have to show up at an office or perhaps call in from home while still being paid their salary.

As odd as this is, I find the facts in Mr. Kim’s case even odder. One fact is that the primary reason why Mr. Kim was dismissed is that he allegedly touched some of his female students in "inappropriate" ways. The other fact is that Mr. Kim is disabled - he has Cerebral Palsy, uses a wheelchair and has impaired speech - and claims that his movements were involuntary when he touched the girls.

Excuse me, but am I the only one who finds this whole thing ridiculous and downright silly? Or am I being totally uncool and not politically correct bringing this up at all?

For one thing, it is certainly curious that Mr. Kim had involuntary movements only around girls and not around boys.

What I find most puzzling, though - and here I venture deep into political incorrectness - is that the school district had someone this disabled teaching in a grade school classroom.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s fantastic and cool for kids to have a disabled teacher. (Think of all the prejudice it would eliminate.) And I’m all for making accommodations and being P.C. But, even if Mr. Kim had a bunch of aids, isn’t this stretching it a bit too far?

There are certain thing the disabled can’t do. At least, the disability and its severity should be seriously considered. It is a bit like me wanting to be a fireman.

Am just I being un-P.C, or was the school district too P.C?