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I REMEMBER MAMA May 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in About Anne Hollander.
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Roger”s note: I am re-posting this on Mother’s Day, 2014, in honor of my mother, nee Stefana Korabiak Zalepsky, aka Anne Hollander.

 

AnneH.bingo Anne c 1933 Anne, Charlie & Roger 1944 Anne & Charlie 1950s_#F7D8Anne Reseda 1966 Anne & Charlie 50th anniversary

Don’t bother to look her up on Google. The only Google she knew would have been “Barney Google with the Goo Goo Googley Eyes.” Nevertheless, the memory of her magnificent life supersedes my grief at her loss and compels me to express this public remembrance.

She was born on Christmas Day, 1912. When her own mother became permanently incapacitated she had to drop out of the sixth grade at the age of twelve in Newark, New Jersey in order to become the “homemaker” for a tyrannical old-country father and her four brothers, three of them younger. She eloped to Elkton, Maryland (the “Reno of the East” at that time) on New Year’s Eve, 1933 at the age of twenty-one, as much to escape her quasi-feudal home life as for the love of a man whom she had only recently met; but something was right, for her marriage to my father lasted nearly seventy years.

Is it significant that with a fifth grade education she became an active leader and president of the local PTA in Irvington, New Jersey? Does it mean anything that in the “pre-feminist” forties and fifties she taught me to sew and knit and cook? Is there something special about the fact that, when my school project on the Netherlands had the sixth grade boys making wooden figures in Wood Shop and the girls Dutch dolls out of old stockings in Home Ec., she marched into the principal’s office at Augusta Street School to successfully advocate for my wish to make a doll along with the girls? (I slept securely with little Dutch “Jan” into my early adolescence).

I know that I am not the first nor will I be the last person with a desire to publicly eulogize a beloved parent who may not possess any of the standard claims to fame. Call me quixotic, but I honestly believe that my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, merits a posthumous moment of sublime recognition. She was extraordinarily extraordinary despite the absence of a claim in her lifetime even to those iconic fifteen minutes. Beyond what she has meant to myself and my brother, to her four grandchildren (two professors at state universities, the others a freelance journalist and a professional musician) and ten great grandchildren; her grace, her absolute absence of malice, her generosity of spirit, her purity of heart, and a simple and wholesome loving nature sets her apart from anyone else I have ever known. In her last years, despite debilitating chronic illness and a deep feeling of loneliness from being separated from most of her family, scattered around the globe, in assisted living at Garden Creek in San Luis Obispo and finally at the Masonic Village Nursing Home in Pennsylvania, her winning smile and cheerful attitude brought solace and comfort to all those around her, staff as well as fellow patients. She was universally adored, loved and respected. If that is not worthy of some sort of special recognition, I don’t know what is.

It must have been sometime in the late 1940’s that our family spent the day at Coney Island. I have two distinct memories of that day: Nathan’s hot dogs and the Parachute Jump ride. I was fearless in those days, and no amount of bribery or cajolery was able to convince me to pass up the big jump. William Styron in “Sophie’s Choice,” recounts Sophie’s delight in that very same parachute jump ride that is eerily akin to my own, the ride was a relic of the 1939 World’s Fair and 200 feet in high. My memory insists that it was at 500 feet. In any case, there was no question that I would not be allowed to take the big plunge all by myself. The problem was that the male members of the group, my father and my older brother, politely yet firmly begged off. That left my mother, who, concealing the terror that any sane adult would have at such folly, agreed to be my companion for the big dive in the sky.

It began with a slow rise to a height of nearly two football fields (I’m sticking with my version of the height, for, even if my memory is not literally accurate in the mathematical sense, taking into account my age and size, the thing subjectively was higher than the Empire State Building). The first part of the drop was actual, literal free-fall. I cannot remember the formula for acceleration that I later learned in high school Physics, but I can tell you that we were dropping pretty darn fast, and, of course, this being my virgin plunge, I had no idea if or how the free-fall was ever going to somehow abate and thereby prevent an inevitable and fatal crash onto the Boardwalk below. When the cable did catch and we floated to the bottom, I think I had come as close as it is possible to experience death and re-birth. And there, with my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, faithfully, loyally, lovingly – and shaking like a leaf – at my side.

When in 1987 I was considering a major change in my life by moving from Toronto to Ecuador, I consulted with both my daughters, my brother and my parents for their opinion. This involved travel to Pittsburgh and California. In Reseda California, at the home which my parents had purchased in 1955 and where they completed their nearly 70 years of companionship, I spoke of my plans with my father and mother. They had always supported me in any situation, many of them difficult. Thankfully, for only a short time, I became an insufferably aggressive evangelical Christian and nearly drove my parents crazy with my obnoxious if sincere efforts to save them from eternal perdition, Then as an undergraduate I morphed into a student radical and elicited an irate public response from Clark Kerr, renowned President of the University of California, when as a member of the Student Council I vigorously challenged his restrictive policies with respect to on-campus speech, and my parents were certain I was going to be expelled. Finally, I created considerable anxiety for them by violating the Selective Service Act and exiling myself to Canada in 1968 in protest of the Vietnam War, at which time, when the F.B.I. came around enquiring about me, my parents politely told them to get lost. It is worth noting that my father worked in the sensitive aerospace industry at the time.

On that day in late 1987 when I solicited their opinion on my planned move to Ecuador, my father’s face, in spite of his supportive words, showed concern and disappointment about my decision to locate so far from “home.” Perfectly understandable. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat in saying, “Roger, I believe in doing your own thing.” I had never heard this kind of language before from my mother, and my immediate response was, “Mother, you sound like a Hippie.” Again, without missing a beat she came back with, “Roger, I am a Hippie.” She would have been 74 years of age at the time.

For reasons of which I doubt she was ever consciously aware, my mother fostered and nurtured the feminine in me (in counterpoint to my Boy Scout and sports activities, which was my father’s bailiwick), and for this I am forever grateful. Because both of circumstance and the time in which she lived, she never had the chance to fully “march to the tune of her own drummer,” to explore and to bring to realization the greater part of her enormous potential, but she came as close to it as she possibly could, never once whining or complaining; and she passed on that priceless gift to my brother and to me.

I am not unaware that there are millions of women around the world whose heroism is expressed daily through slavish housework, profound personal sacrifice of their own comfort and well-being and constant worrying for the feeding and protection of their children and other family and loved ones. Every one is special, no more or no less than my mother.

But having been privileged to have been her son, naturally, I remember Mama.

My mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania in the first hour of Saturday, April 14, 2007.

250px-Coney_island_parachute_jump_3

 

Anne Hollander: 100 Year Anniversary December 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, Current Posts, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
4 comments

My mother, Anne Korabiak Zalepsky Hollander, was born in Newark, New Jersey on December 25, 1912.  She passed away in Sewickley, Pennsylvania on April 14, 2007.  My mother, born of  Ukrainian immigrants, like so many women of her generation, never had the chance to fully develop her potential.  She was one of those ordinary extraordinary women whose heroism, mostly family oriented, goes largely unrecognized.

Next Tuesday, December 25, 2012, will be the 100th anniversary of her birth.

If you can avoid it, try not to be born on Christmas Day.  No matter how attentive the family — and we never failed to have a cake — it is inevitable that your birthday will be at least partially sacrificed to the mania of holiday celebrations.  That is why I am posting this in her honor well in advance of Christmas Day.

Upon her death, I wrote this eulogy:

June 1928

June 1928

 

Anne with Baby Roger

Anne with Baby Roger

 

Anne in San Luis Obispo

Anne in San Luis Obispo

 

I REMEMBER MAMA

Don’t bother to look her up on Google.  The only Google she knew would have been “Barney Google with the Goo Goo Googley Eyes.”  Nevertheless, the memory of her magnificent life supersedes my grief at her loss and compels me to express this public remembrance.

 

She was born on Christmas Day, 1912.  When her own mother became permanently incapacitated she had to drop out of the sixth grade at the age of twelve in Newark, New Jersey in order to become the “homemaker” for a tyrannical old-country father and her four brothers, three of them younger.  She eloped to Elkton, Maryland (the “Reno of the East” at that time) on New Year’s Eve, 1933 at the age of twenty-one, as much to escape her quasi-feudal home life as for the love of a man whom she had only recently met; but something was right, for her marriage to my father lasted nearly seventy years.

 

Is it significant that with a fifth grade education she became an active leader and president of the local PTA in Irvington, New Jersey?  Does it mean anything that in the “pre-feminist” forties and fifties she taught me to sew and knit and cook?  Is there something special about the fact that, when my school project on the Netherlands had the sixth grade boys making wooden figures in Wood Shop and the girls Dutch dolls out of old stockings in Home Ec., she marched into the principal’s office at Augusta Street School to successfully advocate for my wish to make a doll along with the girls?  (I slept securely with little Dutch “Jan” into my early adolescence).

 

I know that I am not the first nor will I be the last person with a desire to publicly eulogize a beloved parent who may not possess any of the standard claims to fame.  Call me quixotic, but I honestly believe that my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, merits a posthumous moment of sublime recognition.  She was extraordinarily extraordinary despite the absence of a claim in her lifetime even to those iconic fifteen minutes.  Beyond what she has meant to myself and my brother, to her four grandchildren (two professors at state universities, the others a freelance journalist and a professional musician) and ten great grandchildren; her grace, her absolute absence of malice, her generosity of spirit, her purity of heart, and a simple and wholesome loving nature sets her apart from anyone else I have ever known.  In her last years, despite debilitating chronic illness and a deep feeling of loneliness from being separated from most of her family, scattered around the globe, in assisted living at Garden Creek in San Luis Obispo and finally at the Masonic Village Nursing Home in Pennsylvania, her winning smile and cheerful attitude brought solace and comfort to all those around her, staff as well as fellow patients.  She was universally adored, loved and respected.  If that is not worthy of some sort of special recognition, I don’t know what is.

 

It must have been sometime in the late 1940’s that our family spent the day at Coney Island.  I have two distinct memories of that day: Nathan’s hot dogs and the Parachute Jump ride.  I was fearless in those days, and no amount of bribery or cajolery was able to convince me to pass up the big jump.  William Styron in “Sophie’s Choice,” recounts Sophie’s delight in that very same parachute jump ride that is eerily akin to my own, the ride was a relic of the 1939 World’s Fair and 200 feet in high.  My memory insists that it was at 500 feet.  In any case, there was no question that I would not be allowed to take the big plunge all by myself.  The problem was that the male members of the group, my father and my older brother, politely yet firmly begged off.  That left my mother, who, concealing the terror that any sane adult would have at such folly, agreed to be my companion for the big dive in the sky.

 

It began with a slow rise to a height of nearly two football fields (I’m sticking with my version of the height, for, even if my memory is not literally accurate in the mathematical sense, taking into account my age and size, the thing subjectively was higher than the Empire State Building).  The first part of the drop was actual, literal free-fall.  I cannot remember the formula for acceleration that I later learned in high school Physics, but I can tell you that we were dropping pretty darn fast, and, of course, this being my virgin plunge, I had no idea if or how the free-fall was ever going to somehow abate and thereby prevent an inevitable and fatal crash onto the Boardwalk below.  When the cable did catch and we floated to the bottom, I think I had come as close as it is possible to experience death and re-birth.  And there, with my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, faithfully, loyally, lovingly – and shaking like a leaf – at my side.

 

When in 1987 I was considering a major change in my life by moving from Toronto to Ecuador, I consulted with both my daughters, my brother and my parents for their opinion.  This involved travel to Pittsburgh and California.  In Reseda, California, at the home which my parents had purchased in 1955 and where they completed their nearly 70 years of companionship, I spoke of my plans with my father and mother. They had always supported me in any situation, many of them difficult.  Thankfully, for only a short time, I became an insufferably aggressive evangelical Christian and nearly drove my parents crazy with my obnoxious if sincere efforts to save them from eternal perdition,  Then as an undergraduate I morphed into a student radical and elicited an irate public response from Clark Kerr, renowned President of the University of California, when as a member of the Student Council I vigorously challenged his restrictive policies with respect to on-campus speech, and  my parents were certain I was going to be expelled.  Finally, I created considerable anxiety for them by violating the Selective Service Act and exiling myself to Canada in 1968 in protest of the Vietnam War, at which time, when the F.B.I. came around inquiring about me, my parents politely told them to get lost.  It is worth noting that my father worked in the sensitive aerospace industry at the time.

 

On that day in late 1987 when I solicited their opinion on my planned move to Ecuador, my father’s face, in spite of his supportive words, showed concern and disappointment about my decision to locate so far from “home.”  Perfectly understandable.  My mother, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat in saying, “Roger, I believe in doing your own thing.”  I had never heard this kind of language before from my mother, and my immediate response was, “Mother, you sound like a Hippie.”  Again, without missing a beat she came back with, “Roger, I am a Hippie.”  She would have been 74 years of age at the time.

 

For reasons of which I doubt she was ever consciously aware, my mother fostered and nurtured the feminine in me (in counterpoint to my Boy Scout and sports activities, which was my father’s bailiwick), and for this I am forever grateful.  Because both of circumstance and the time in which she lived, she never had the chance to fully “march to the tune of her own drummer,” to explore and to bring to realization the greater part of her enormous potential, but she came as close to it as she possibly could, never once whining or complaining; and she passed on that priceless gift to my brother and to me.

 

I am not unaware that there are millions of women around the world whose heroism is expressed daily through slavish housework, profound personal sacrifice of their own comfort and well-being and constant worrying for the feeding and protection of their children and other family and loved ones.  Every one is special, no more or no less than my mother.

 

But having been privileged to have been her son, naturally, I remember Mama.

 

My mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania in the first hour of Saturday, April 14, 2007.

 

 

 

 

The New York Times vs. Single Mothers August 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Legal Momentum email header
 

The New York Times vs. Single Mothers

For more than 40 years, Legal Momentum has conducted in-depth research and policy advocacy on behalf of women in poverty. Legal Momentum strongly objects to the support expressed by the New York Times for the sexist and misogynistic notion that single mothers cannot and do not raise well-behaved children. This is the patent falsehood expressed in their article, “Obama vs. Poverty” which will be the cover story in the upcoming August 19, 2012 print edition of the Times Sunday Magazine. The article is now available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/magazine/obama-poverty.html?ref=magazine.

The male author of the article quotes a male interview subject as stating, “If you don’t have a father figure in your life, you don’t have discipline and structure, and without structure, you don’t have anything. You have chaos.”

The article then states, “This analysis has support from many of the academics who study [poverty],” yet the author never mentions any contrary points of view – even though many experts disagree strongly.

Half of all U.S. children spend at least some part of their childhood in a single mother family, just as President Obama did. Most of these children are well behaved, do well in school, and grow up to be productive workers, good parents, and upstanding neighbors.

It is true, as the article says, that some children in single mother families, like some children in single father families, and some in coupled parent families, will be permanently scarred by the deep poverty that far too many U.S. children experience.

However, the problem is not single motherhood – it is the flawed social policies that allow child poverty to persist in the U.S. at much higher rates than in other high-income countries. In the U.S., poverty rates among children in single parent families, as well as poverty rates among children in coupled parent families, are much higher than the rates of child poverty in other high-income countries.

Legal Momentum’s Facts About Single Motherhood in the United States –
A Snapshot 2012

Prevalence: Single motherhood is very common. Around half of today’s mothers will spend at least some time as the sole custodial parent. At any one time, almost one quarter of mothers are single mothers.

Income: Half of single mother families have an annual income of less than $25,000. Median income for single mother families is only one-third the median for married couple families. Only one third of single mothers receive any child support, and the average amount these mothers receive is only about $300 a month.

Poverty: Two fifths of single mother families are poor, triple the poverty rate for the rest of the population. The majority of poor children are in single mother families. Child poverty is linked to school dropout; to negative adult outcomes including joblessness and ill health; and to reduced economic output estimated to be about 4% of Gross Domestic Product.

Hardship: Two fifths of single mother families are “food insecure,” one seventh use food pantries, one fifth have no health insurance, one third spend more than half their income on housing. Three quarters of homeless families are single mother families.

Welfare & Food Stamp Receipt: Although two fifths of all single mothers are poor, only one tenth of all single mothers receive cash welfare assistance. Two fifths of single mothers receive Food Stamps.

Compared to Single Mothers in Peer Countries: The single mother poverty rate in the U.S. is far above the average among high-income countries, even though the single mother employment rate in the U.S. is also above the average. Less generous income support programs in the U.S. help explain the exceptionally high poverty rate for single mother families in the U.S.

Characteristics: About 45% of single mothers have never married, about 55% are divorced, separated, or widowed. Half have one child, 30% have two. About two fifths are White, one-third Black, one-quarter Hispanic. One quarter have a college degree, one sixth have not completed high school.

Employment: At any one time, about two thirds of single mothers are also working outside the home, a slightly greater share than the share of married mothers who are also working outside the home. However, only two fifths of single mothers are employed full-time the entire year, and a quarter are jobless the entire year.

For more information, go to Single Mothers on the Legal Momentum website, or contact Timothy Casey, tcasey@legalmomentum.org

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I REMEMBER MAMA May 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays.
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ROGER’S NOTE: I WROTE THIS EULOGY FOR MY MOTHER SHORTLY AFTER HER DEATH IN 2007.  THE TITLE COMES FROM THAT WONDERFUL 1950S TELEVISION SHOW ABOUT THE LIFE OF A NORWEGIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO (DERIVED FROM THE BROADWAY PLAY STARING IRENE DUNN IN THE TITLE ROLE AND WITH A CAST THAT INCLUDED BARBARA BEL GEDDES, EDGAR BERGEN, SIR CEDRIC HARDWICKE AND RUDY VALLEE)  THE TELEVISION VERSION FEATURED PEGGY WOOD, WHO HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS ONE OF THE WARMEST CHARACTERS EVER TO GRACE TELEVISION, IN THE TITLE ROLE.  ALSO IN THE CAST WERE ROBIN MORGAN, THE FUTURE FEMINIST AUTHOR,  AS DAGMAR AND DICK VAN PATTEN AS NELS.  ALONG WITH  MOLLY GOLDBERG, PEGGY WOOD’S MAMA HAD A PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON MY UNDERSTANDING AND APPRECIATION OF WOMENHOOD AND MOTHERHOOD, AS THEY PORTRAYED STRONG INDEPENDENT GOOD HUMORED TOLERANT AND CARING CHARACTERS WHILE AT THE SAME TIME AVOIDING THE SACCHARINE  ESCAPE FROM REALISM THAT CHARACTERIZED THE 1950S.

 

I REMEMBER MAMA

 

Don’t bother to look her up on Google.  The only Google she knew would have been “Barney Google with the Goo Goo Googley Eyes.”  Nevertheless, the memory of her magnificent life supersedes my grief at her loss and compels me to express this public remembrance.

 

She was born on Christmas Day, 1912.  When her own mother became permanently incapacitated she had to drop out of the sixth grade at the age of twelve in Newark, New Jersey in order to become the “homemaker” for a tyrannical old-country father and her four brothers, three of them younger.  She eloped to Elkton, Maryland (the “Reno of the East” at that time) on New Year’s Eve, 1933 at the age of twenty-one, as much to escape her quasi-feudal home life as for the love of a man whom she had only recently met; but something was right, for her marriage to my father lasted nearly seventy years.

 

Is it significant that with a fifth grade education she became an active leader and president of the local PTA in Irvington, New Jersey?  Does it mean anything that in the “pre-feminist” forties and fifties she taught me to sew and knit and cook?  Is there something special about the fact that, when my school project on the Netherlands had the sixth grade boys making wooden figures in Wood Shop and the girls Dutch dolls out of old stockings in Home Ec., she marched into the principal’s office at Augusta Street School to successfully advocate for my wish to make a doll along with the girls?  (I slept securely with little Dutch “Jan” into my early adolescence).

 

I know that I am not the first nor will I be the last person with a desire to publicly eulogize a beloved parent who may not possess any of the standard claims to fame.  Call me quixotic, but I honestly believe that my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, merits a posthumous moment of sublime recognition.  She was extraordinarily extraordinary despite the absence of a claim in her lifetime even to those iconic fifteen minutes.  Beyond what she has meant to myself and my brother, to her four grandchildren (two professors at state universities, the others a freelance journalist and a professional musician) and ten great grandchildren; her grace, her absolute absence of malice, her generosity of spirit, her purity of heart, and a simple and wholesome loving nature sets her apart from anyone else I have ever known.  In her last years, despite debilitating chronic illness and a deep feeling of loneliness from being separated from most of her family, scattered around the globe, in assisted living at Garden Creek in San Luis Obispo and finally at the Masonic Village Nursing Home in Pennsylvania, her winning smile and cheerful attitude brought solace and comfort to all those around her, staff as well as fellow patients.  She was universally adored, loved and respected.  If that is not worthy of some sort of special recognition, I don’t know what is.

 

It must have been sometime in the late 1940’s that our family spent the day at Coney Island.  I have two distinct memories of that day: Nathan’s hot dogs and the Parachute Jump ride.  I was fearless in those days, and no amount of bribery or cajolery was able to convince me to pass up the big jump.  William Styron in “Sophie’s Choice,” recounts Sophie’s delight in that very same parachute jump ride that is eerily akin to my own, the ride was a relic of the 1939 World’s Fair and 200 feet in high.  My memory insists that it was at 500 feet.  In any case, there was no question that I would not be allowed to take the big plunge all by myself.  The problem was that the male members of the group, my father and my older brother, politely yet firmly begged off.  That left my mother, who, concealing the terror that any sane adult would have at such folly, agreed to be my companion for the big dive in the sky.

 

It began with a slow rise to a height of nearly two football fields (I’m sticking with my version of the height, for, even if my memory is not literally accurate in the mathematical sense, taking into account my age and size, the thing subjectively was higher than the Empire State Building).  The first part of the drop was actual, literal free-fall.  I cannot remember the formula for acceleration that I later learned in high school Physics, but I can tell you that we were dropping pretty darn fast, and, of course, this being my virgin plunge, I had no idea if or how the free-fall was ever going to somehow abate and thereby prevent an inevitable and fatal crash onto the Boardwalk below.  When the cable did catch and we floated to the bottom, I think I had come as close as it is possible to experience death and re-birth.  And there, with my mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, faithfully, loyally, lovingly – and shaking like a leaf – at my side.

 

When in 1987 I was considering a major change in my life by moving from Toronto to Ecuador, I consulted with both my daughters, my brother and my parents for their opinion.  This involved travel to Pittsburgh and California.  In Reseda California, at the home which my parents had purchased in 1955 and where they completed their nearly 70 years of companionship, I spoke of my plans with my father and mother. They had always supported me in any situation, many of them difficult.  Thankfully, for only a short time, I became an insufferably aggressive evangelical Christian and nearly drove my parents crazy with my obnoxious if sincere efforts to save them from eternal perdition,  Then as an undergraduate I morphed into a student radical and elicited an irate public response from Clark Kerr, renowned President of the University of California, when as a member of the Student Council I vigorously challenged his restrictive policies with respect to on-campus speech, and  my parents were certain I was going to be expelled.  Finally, I created considerable anxiety for them by violating the Selective Service Act and exiling myself to Canada in 1968 in protest of the Vietnam War, at which time, when the F.B.I. came around enquiring about me, my parents politely told them to get lost.  It is worth noting that my father worked in the sensitive aerospace industry at the time.

 

On that day in late 1987 when I solicited their opinion on my planned move to Ecuador, my father’s face, in spite of his supportive words, showed concern and disappointment about my decision to locate so far from “home.”  Perfectly understandable.  My mother, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat in saying, “Roger, I believe in doing your own thing.”  I had never heard this kind of language before from my mother, and my immediate response was, “Mother, you sound like a Hippie.”  Again, without missing a beat she came back with, “Roger, I am a Hippie.”  She would have been 74 years of age at the time.

 

For reasons of which I doubt she was ever consciously aware, my mother fostered and nurtured the feminine in me (in counterpoint to my Boy Scout and sports activities, which was my father’s bailiwick), and for this I am forever grateful.  Because both of circumstance and the time in which she lived, she never had the chance to fully “march to the tune of her own drummer,” to explore and to bring to realization the greater part of her enormous potential, but she came as close to it as she possibly could, never once whining or complaining; and she passed on that priceless gift to my brother and to me.

 

I am not unaware that there are millions of women around the world whose heroism is expressed daily through slavish housework, profound personal sacrifice of their own comfort and well-being and constant worrying for the feeding and protection of their children and other family and loved ones.  Every one is special, no more or no less than my mother.

 

But having been privileged to have been her son, naturally, I remember Mama.

 

My mother, Anne Korabiak Hollander, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania in the first hour of Saturday, April 14, 2007.

 

 

Gay Marriage: The 21 Century’s Most Successful Pro-Family Policy January 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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 Roger’s note: I tend to avoid commenting on the Alice in Wonderland world of the Republican nomination race; my mind simply refuses to go down the hole.  I am posting this article not because of its discussion of the candidate Santorum (who happens to be a sad example of a human being by any standard), but becuase of its reminding us that, beyond the civil rights issues for same sex couples, the phenomenon of gay and lesbian marriage has a very positive and humanistic impact on the notion of family and its broader importance within society.

By Conor Friedersdorf

Jan 5 2012, 4:14 PM ET 147

Rick Santorum would forbid it and nullify existing unions. So how can he claim to be the most pro-family candidate?
santorumsurge.banner.jpg
There are an estimated 131,729 same-sex married couples in the United States, a Census Bureau figure that would be significantly higher if not for the fact that the vast majority of jurisdictions still prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. Still, more than a quarter of a million gay people are married to one another. And it’s worth explicitly pondering what that means.
For wedded gays and lesbians, it means more financial stability, more emotional stability, better access to health care, hospital visitation rights, and fewer legal burdens in the event of their partner’s death. It means a more formal investment in their relationship, and in many cases, vows uttered before family and friends to strengthen their union. It means emotional fulfillment, and the end of the feeling of being discriminated against by one’s own government, a valuable thing in itself.
And for the one-third of lesbians and one-fifth of gay men who are parents? For them, It means more stability for their children, plus an opportunity for their socialization into what a loving marriage looks like. For society as a whole, it means gay people share in the same method of family formation as their parents, their straight colleagues, and their heterosexual friends. It means that gay culture is more invested than it would otherwise be in the success of marriage as an institution and in the norm of long-term coupling.
Compared to the old status quo, wherein gay couples were everywhere prohibited from marrying, and often made less financially secure, healthy, and happy as a result — wherein the children of gays and lesbians enjoyed less stability — the advance of gay marriage has been the most important and successful pro-family reform of the 21st century, and it’s only going to expand as more jurisdictions permit same-sex unions as younger people vote their conscience.
There are, of course, Americans who are opposed to gay marriage. Barack Obama, for example, turned against equal rights for gays so that he could advance politically. But Obama’s shameful political calculation isn’t going to do anything to prevent states from making gay marriage legal, nor does he threaten the unions that have already been entered into.
Rick Santorum does. The socially conservative presidential candidate, who came in a close second in the Iowa caucuses, sells himself as a family-friendly pol. There is some truth to that. As Ross Douthat put it, he has:

distinguished himself by talking about issues that most Republicans don’t want to touch — the problem of middle-class wage stagnation and the declining social mobility of the poor. Santorum has also framed these issues, correctly, in the context of the crisis in family life that social conservatives have been worrying about for years, making the essential point that absent fathers and broken homes play a greater role in middle America’s struggles than the supposed perfidies of the richest 1 percent. Somewhat disappointingly, Santorum’s specific proposals have focused on reviving manufacturing (and with it, in theory, the solid blue-collar paycheck) rather than targeting family policy directly. But one can doubt his cure and still appreciate his diagnosis.

Douthat later added that “thanks to Rich Lowry’s column on Santorum today, I’m reminded that the former senator has called for tripling the deduction for each dependent child. This falls short of my family-friendly tax policy ideal, but (as Lowry writes) it makes Santorum’s agenda ‘the most pro-family of any on offer from the GOP candidates,’ and my praise should have been more unqualified.”
In fact, the qualification should’ve been different.
Santorum isn’t “pro-family” so much as he is “pro-family for people whose family doesn’t include anyone gay.” He regards marriage as a force for good in the lives of couples who enter into it and their children. He is willing to deny those benefits to gay families, because he believes — without any evidence — that keeping gay marriage illegal will benefit straight unions.
What would he do about the quarter of a million people who’ve already established stable families by entering into same sex marriages? He would destabilize the family lives of those people. He explained that in a recent interview with Chuck Todd, where he touted his preference for a constitutional amendment codifying marriage at the federal level as a relationship between a man and a woman:

SANTORUM: I think marriage has to be one thing for everybody. We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country, you have to have one marriage law…
TODD: What would you do with same-sex couples who got married? Would you make them get divorced?
SANTORUM: Well, their marriage would be invalid. I think if the Constitution says “marriage is this,” then people whose marriage is not consistent with the Constitution… I’d love to think there’s another way of doing it.

I presume everyone reading this post is either married or is close to someone who is married, whether it’s parents or close friends or a boss or teacher or colleague. Think of that married couple. That family. Imagine if they got a letter in the mail informing them that by order of the federal government, their marriage is no longer valid. I submit that a man who would send out letters like that to gay and lesbian married couples does not deserve to be labeled as the candidate with the most pro-family agenda. His desire to invalidate the unions of people who are already married, some of whom have kids — to invalidate existing families by federal mandate — makes him arguably the least pro-family candidate, despite his other pro-family positions.
The more than a quarter of a million families with a gay married couple at their core are not disconnected from American society. They have extended families: brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends who come over every Thanksgiving — and for all these extended families, for everyone who has a gay person in their extended family, Rick Santorum isn’t a pro-family candidate, because he is hostile to their family as it actually exists, and would invalidate it by decree if he could. Are we to regard targeted tax cuts as the more important stance?
Image credit: Reuters

Women’s Liberation Through Submission: An Evangelical Anti-Feminism Is Born January 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Women.
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true-women-2008Weeping at True Woman ’08

Kathyrn Joyce, www.religiondispatches.org, January 11, 2009

 Six thousand evangelical women gather to support biblical womanhood, and hear from theological leaders about the great influence wielded by “a woman on her knees.”

This October, more than 6,000 women gathered in Chicago for the True Woman Conference ’08: a stadium-style event to promote what its proponents call “biblical womanhood,” “complementarianism,” or—most bluntly—“the patriarchy movement.”

Women gathering to support the patriarchy movement? It’s evangelical counterculture at its most contrarian.

The Associated Baptist Press explains the relationship of biblical womanhood to feminism, highlighting an ambitious initiative that arose from the meeting: a signature drive seeking 100,000 women to endorse its “True Woman Manifesto,” which, the ABP writes, aims “at sparking a counterrevolution to the feminist movement of the 1960s.”

To outside observers of the patriarchy movement, the starkness of the calls for gender hierarchy often seem amusingly outdated (not to mention historically misleading: feminist blogs Feministing and Pandagon have deftly dismantled some of the speakers’ Leave it to Beaver idealizations of the 1950s as a time when women were universally protected).

Though only just under 3,000 women have actually signed the document since its unveiling on October 11, the fact that it exists, and the campaign to gather such a large showing of public support, reveals something important about this movement: that its followers don’t view themselves simply as a remnant of polite, churchy women, holding out against a crass culture, but rather as a revolutionary body waging “countercultural” rebellion against what they see as the feminist status quo.

“We are believing God for a movement of reformation and revival in the hearts and homes of Christian women all around this world,” one organizer, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, said at the close of the conference. “I just believe there is a massive women’s movement of true women in those millions of women who are able to capture all kinds of battlefronts for Christ.”

The terms of the manifesto (downloadable here) serve as a good shorthand description of the aims and principles of the submission and patriarchy movement. Signers affirm their belief that women and men were designed to reflect God in “complementary and distinct ways”; that today’s culture has gone astray distinctly because of its egalitarian approach to gender (and that it’s “experiencing the consequences of abandoning God’s design for men and women”); and that while men and women are equally valuable in the eyes of God, here on earth they are relegated to separate spheres at home and in the church.

The “countercultural” attitudes that signers support include the idea that women are called to affirm and encourage godly masculinity, and honor the God-ordained male headship of their husbands and pastors; that wifely submission to male leadership in the home and church reflects Christ’s submission to God, His Father; that “selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ”; and, in a pronatalist turn of phrase that recalls the rhetoric of the Quiverfull conviction, their willingness to “receive children as a blessing from the Lord.”

Finally, in a reference to the importance of woman-to-woman mentoring within the conservative church, they affirmed that “mature Christian women” are obliged to disciple the next generation of Christian wives, training them in matters of submission and headship, in order to provide a legacy of “fruitful femininity.”

The speakers at the conference were the A-list of complementarian celebrities: Pastor John Piper, Christian radio personality Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and antifeminist author Mary Kassian, J. Ligon Duncan III, chairman of the board for the Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW), Susan Hunt, an author and consultant to the Presbyterian Church in America’s Women in the Church Ministry, and others. The conference was organized by DeMoss’ St. Louis-based ministry (and eponymous twice-daily radio program), Revive Our Hearts, a women’s ministry that stresses submission as a militant discipline that will alter the culture.

DeMoss’ fellow speakers shared her faith. Striding to the stage to the soundtrack of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” Mary Kassian riffed on a common biblical womanhood theme: that the queasy unhealthiness of the vintage Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” was representative of feminism’s unhealthy promises to women: appealing to women’s desire for independence, but selling a dangerous product. Kassian’s premise—that feminism took women a “long way” in the wrong direction—echoed that of Mary Pride, submission and headship advocate and author of the homeschooling mother’s cult classic book, The Way Home: Away from Feminism, Back to Reality, published some twenty years earlier.

Pride made the case in the late ’80s for submission as a revolutionary calling, and Kassian’s evocation of Reddy’s old feminist fight song was as deliberate a declaration that the “True Woman” movement was as revolutionary as feminism had been. “I’m praying that God is going to raise up a counterrevolution of women,” she told the crowd, “women who hold the knowledge of our times in one hand and the truth and the clarity and the charity of the Word of God the other; women whose hearts are broken over the gender confusion and the spiritual and emotional and relational carnage of our day and who, like those men of old, know what to do.”

DeMoss has collaborated with a number of her fellow speakers before. In 2002, she edited a compilation of essays on submission and headship entitled Biblical Womanhood in the Home, which drew contributions from Kassian, Hunt, and other complementarian matriarchs, such as Dorothy Kelley Patterson, who with her husband, Paige Patterson, created the homemaking degree and curriculum introduced at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007 and P. Bunny Wilson, author of anti-feminist Christian books such as Liberated Through Submission. In her introduction to the collection, DeMoss wrote of her culture-transforming ambitions:

 

I began to wonder what might happen in our day if even a small number of devoted, intentional women would begin to pray and believe God for a revolution of a different kind—a counterrevolution—within the evangelical world… Unlike most revolutions, this counterrevolution does not require that we march in the streets or send letters to Congress or join yet another organization. It does not require us to leave our homes; in fact, for many women, it calls them back into their homes. It requires only that we humble ourselves, that we learn, affirm, and live out the biblical pattern of womanhood, and that we teach the ways of God to the next generation.

 

To that end, DeMoss has worked with the CBMW, Campus Crusade for Christ’s Family Life, the Moody media empire, Moms In Touch International, and other organizations—pushing not just the familiar list of Christian right demands, but a more subtle, and more thorough, transformation of Christian family life and structure, from which to wage a more effective culture war.

The imperative of such a return to “biblical” gender roles is even farther- reaching though, as Kassian explained. Feminism, she argued, in a paraphrase of the argument in her book The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture, is a multistage process that begins with feminism’s insistence on self-definition and self-determination, and ends with feminism’s declaration that women can interpret and decide for themselves who or what God is: a statement of theological relativity that threatens to undermine biblical literalism completely. In The Feminist Mistake, Kassian explained this slide more thoroughly:

 

Feminism begins with a deconstruction of a Judeo-Christian view of womanhood (the right to name self); progressed to the deconstruction of manhood, gender relationships, family/societal structures, and a Judeo-Christian worldview (the right to name the world); and concluded with the concept of a metaphysical pluralism, self-deification, and the rejection of the Judeo-Christian deity (the right to name God).

 

To the age-old question of “who is God,” Kassian complained, feminism answers, it’s up to you. And this, to Kassian, is a blasphemous statement of authority in and of itself, and even a sign of self-worship. “According to feminism, women decide, and ultimately, that means that they themselves are God.”

This is the charge of complementarian’s biggest advocates. The Southern Baptist seminary where Kassian teaches is also the location of the SBC-affiliated CBMW, the preeminent institution of complementarianism and publisher of the most authoritative book on the subject, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, co-edited by theologians John Piper and Wayne Grudem.

“Wimpy theology makes wimpy women,” Piper told the audience. Reinforcing a common message that biblical womanhood, true womanhood, may look meek, but is actually fierce, Piper, who spreads the complementarian message not just through his writing and affiliation with the CBMW, but also through his church-planting Desiring God ministry, explained, “Wimpy theology does not give a woman a God big enough, strong enough, wise enough, good enough to handle the realities of life in a way that enables her to magnify Him and His Son all the time… Wimpy theology doesn’t have a granite foundation of God’s sovereignty underneath.” Non-wimpy theology gives women both a God strong enough to see them through the worst of life, Piper continued, and also a set of non-negotiable mandates for life. Namely that submission is a wife’s divine calling, and truest form of power. “I distinguish between authority and influence,” he said. “A woman on her knees sways more in this nation than a thousand three-piece suited Wall Street jerks. There is massive power in this room, so I do not take lightly this moment.”

Neither should observers, however laughably retrograde the True Woman prescriptions and manifesto might seem. What a conference of this size means—along with the publicly-declared ambition to gather exponentially more women—is that the biblical womanhood movement is getting organized.

Kathryn Joyce is the author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, a study of conservative Christian women’s movements forthcoming from Beacon Press in Feb. 2009. Her articles have appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Newsweek, and other publications

Gay Marriage: OUR MUTUAL JOY December 12, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
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COVER STORY

Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country’s pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: “The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition.”

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. “Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call “the traditional family” are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews’ precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between “one man and as many women as he could pay for.” Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: “Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn’t God say, “Be fruitful and multiply”? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)

Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).

The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord‘s lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband.” It probably goes without saying that the phrase “gay marriage” does not appear in the Bible at all. 

If the bible doesn’t give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on “Homosexual Practices,” the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, “possibly because it did not result in true physical ‘union’ (by male entry).” The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as “an abomination” (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who “were inflamed with lust for one another” (which he calls “a perversion”) is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book “The Arrogance of Nations,” the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. “Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all,” Elliott says. “He’s talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We’re not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We’re talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God.” In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.

Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as “the man and the woman.” But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.

Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands’ frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th. (In the NEWSWEEK POLL, 55 percent of respondents said that married heterosexuals who have sex with someone other than their spouses are more morally objectionable than a gay couple in a committed sexual relationship.) By the mid-19th century, U.S. courts were siding with wives who were the victims of domestic violence, and by the 1970s most states had gotten rid of their “head and master” laws, which gave husbands the right to decide where a family would live and whether a wife would be able to take a job. Today’s vision of marriage as a union of equal partners, joined in a relationship both romantic and pragmatic, is, by very recent standards, radical, says Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, a History.”

Religious wedding ceremonies have already changed to reflect new conceptions of marriage. Remember when we used to say “man and wife” instead of “husband and wife”? Remember when we stopped using the word “obey”? Even Miss Manners, the voice of tradition and reason, approved in 1997 of that change. “It seems,” she wrote, “that dropping ‘obey’ was a sensible editing of a service that made assumptions about marriage that the society no longer holds.”

We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs. Gay men like to point to the story of passionate King David and his friend Jonathan, with whom he was “one spirit” and whom he “loved as he loved himself.” Conservatives say this is a story about a platonic friendship, but it is also a story about two men who stand up for each other in turbulent times, through violent war and the disapproval of a powerful parent. David rends his clothes at Jonathan’s death and, in grieving, writes a song:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
You were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
More wonderful than that of women.

Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. What Jonathan and David did or did not do in privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imaginations.

In addition to its praise of friendship and its condemnation of divorce, the Bible gives many examples of marriages that defy convention yet benefit the greater community. The Torah discouraged the ancient Hebrews from marrying outside the tribe, yet Moses himself is married to a foreigner, Zipporah. Queen Esther is married to a non-Jew and, according to legend, saves the Jewish people. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, believes that Judaism thrives through diversity and inclusion. “I don’t think Judaism should or ought to want to leave any portion of the human population outside the religious process,” he says. “We should not want to leave [homosexuals] outside the sacred tent.” The marriage of Joseph and Mary is also unorthodox (to say the least), a case of an unconventional arrangement accepted by society for the common good. The boy needed two human parents, after all.

In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ’s all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: “There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, “is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness.”

The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow. Terry Davis is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Conn., and has been presiding over “holy unions” since 1992. “I’m against promiscuity—love ought to be expressed in committed relationships, not through casual sex, and I think the church should recognize the validity of committed same-sex relationships,” he says.

Still, very few Jewish or Christian denominations do officially endorse gay marriage, even in the states where it is legal. The practice varies by region, by church or synagogue, even by cleric. More progressive denominations—the United Church of Christ, for example—have agreed to support gay marriage. Other denominations and dioceses will do “holy union” or “blessing” ceremonies, but shy away from the word “marriage” because it is politically explosive. So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God’s children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married “for their mutual joy,” explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That’s what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: “Being with one another in community is how you love God. That’s what marriage is about.”

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God’s knowledge of our most secret selves: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for “Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad.” Let the priest’s prayer be our own.

With Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood

© 2008

 

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