Monday, July 29, 2013

Memorias I

That One Time I Was Gay

God, I love the digital keyboard! Edits are easy, mistakes fixed with a copy taps of the backspace key or highlighted with a mouse and changed. When I'm writing, my mind moves way faster than my hands, and I'll go back and reread things I wrote and realize I left out letters or even words. With a keyboard, fixing those little oversights is easy. Which why I prefer it so much more than scrawling by hand with pen and paper. Especially pen.

So a little over 5 years ago, one of my good friends (one o' my best, really) got married. He and his wife pretty much are a perfect match. I was one of his roommates at the time and we all got along like gangbusters, in spite of an overwhelming number of "I'm the affair" jokes I made about his future wife.
I'm nearly 100% positive all those jokes were not the reason I wasn't in the wedding party and it had more to do with space in the group and how long other people had been friends and actually deserved to be in the wedding party. Besides, even though I didn't get to stand with the group or sit at the table, they never once treated me like I wasn't part of the group. (Christ, it sounds like I'm whining. I'm not. This is all the set up, that's all)
The happy couple.

Anyway, wedding was gorgeous and so was the reception. They had one of those photos at the church you could sign so that you'll always have a written record of who witnessed the occasion, or something. I'm not sure what the point of those photos are for, but a lot of weddings have em. The picture they chose was pretty silly and reminded me of their dog Bear.
Not Bear, but like Bear.
Bear was a Chow mixed-breed, who was usually fluffy except when they would shave a mohawk  from head to tail across his back. He was pretty fond of looking like he'd swallow your face whole, and he loved nipping at girls' asses. Dirty dog.
Well the photo they decided to take for people to sign looked like they were going to eat each other's face, kind of like this:
True love.
So while most people wrote something sweet and hopeful about their future together, I wrote a silly remark about Bear and told them that I loved them both.

Anyway, at the reception, the alcohol flowed in abundance. I never got quite to the stage of drunk, but I danced around the edges quite a bit. The reception was a lovely party where all the usual speeches, dances, and what-not occurred.
At one point, however, the Best Man walks up to me while I'm smoking a cigarette.
"Mike," he says, "I'm not sure why, but one of the groom's cousins is telling people you're gay."
"Really?" I ask. This seemed like a great opportunity for a bit of fun. I had no idea how this rumor got started but it seemed silly not to mess with people.
Then the Happy Couple approached, concerned. "Hey man," the groom says, "my cousin keeps telling people you're gay. I've tried to assure him you're not, but he's still spreading that around."
Not being The Guy That Starts Fights At Weddings, I told him it's no big deal. Sure, I was curious why he thought I was gay, and wondered if his cousin was making this assumption based on me not being in the wedding party.

Anyway, I let the matter drop and focused on having a good time. I had work that evening, but it would be for only a couple hours and then I'd meet up with everyone at the after-party for more drinking. The reception, you see, was more for close friends and family. The after-party was for all the other good friends that couldn't fit into the reception.
When I got home from work, the party was in full swing. And by full swing I mean FULL SWING. There was much drunken debauchery going on. As I approached, one of the groomsmen was hosing his own vomit down the driveway towards the gutter (long story, but suffice to say, he earned it and rallied like a freakin' champ).

I go inside, drop off my stuff and grab a beer. As I drink my beer, I see on the kitchen counter the picture that everyone signed at the church. So I go over and start looking at what everyone wrote. I quickly saw my signature, where I wrote, just above their heads, "Great imitation of Bear! I love you guys!"

Except that wasn't what I wrote. And suddenly I realized why there was a rumor floating about the wedding that I was gay. Apparently my brain was moving faster than my pen, and I didn't write the word "you".

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oculus de Acu

In 1795, President George Washington ordered Ambassador David Humphreys to negotiate a treaty with the Muslim states along the Barbary Coast, who for the past three centuries had raided the seas as privateers. In 1797, under John Adams' presidency, the Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously ratified by the Senate. Article 11 of the Treaty that was ratified states,
“As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen (Muslims); and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
According to Historian Franklin T. Lambert, Article 11 assured Muslim nations "that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced."

The term "Separation of Church and State" first appeared in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
It's obvious to any student of history that our Founding Fathers came from a variety of beliefs, and they mostly all agreed that America should not have a national religion. President James Madison wrote in 1774 that “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” Almost twenty years later he addressed the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, saying, "Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?"

With our Founders so carefully considering religious freedom while simultaneously protecting against the establishment of religion as a national identity, I'm always a little boggled when I hear (quite often) that America was founded on Christianity or Christian principles.

What boggles my mind even more is that a poll by YouGov and HuffingtonPost came out showing that nearly 1/3 of Americans are in favor of a Constitutional amendment establishing Christianity as the national religion, with a little over 1/3 of Americans in favor of their state establishing Christianity as their state religion.
That's a lot of Americans -- more than 100 million -- who believe that Christianity as part of our national identity is the right way to go.

If that is true (and while a poll is not the most accurate statistic maker it's enough of one to say that it is mostly true) that 1/3 of Americans want the religion - or at least  the principles of Christianity - as part of the national identity, I'm kind of surprised there aren't more Socialists in America.

History clearly shows us that under Capitalism, wealth trends upwards and rewards the greedy which has the tendency to weaken the middle class and marginalize the lower class into some semblance of debt peonage. Christians should be very wary of greed, since Jesus taught that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25).
Additionally, with so many Americans valuing Christianity as having a proper place in government, I'm surprised by the number of Christians who hate the government's social programs. Maybe they hate how those programs make them feel guilty, since they do what Jesus taught that his followers should do: feed the hungry, tend the sick, shelter the homeless, welcome the immigrants, clothe the naked.
"Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:34-36
Is that what they meant when they wanted to see America become a Christian nation? It sure doesn't sound like it.