Next week we’ll talk about Same-Sex Marriage

I began writing a post in March on Same-Sex Marriage and it’s relation to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I have come back to the post on several occasions only to still be here two months later. I was inspired to write it after watching the movie Selma and I think there are many parallels to be drawn between the two fights for equality. What I have decided to do is break the piece into three posts that will be uploaded next week:

  1. Marriage Equality is the new civil rights campaign
  2. It’s time to get on the bridge
  3. Don’t be a George Wallace

I intend on challenging you to get involved in advocating for the LBGTI community, a much discriminated group. Even in places like New Zealand where Same-Sex Marriage is legal, there is still a battle to be won, especially in the church. We need to make a stand for what is right.

From next Monday I’ll begin posting and aim to have all three up by the end of the week.

As an aside, I realise that some won’t like these posts, but I am actively choosing not to engage in pointless debates or arguments around my thoughts. If you disagree that’s fine, however I’m too old and tired to try to convince anyone who is ardently fixed in their position. If you do want to genuinely and openly converse about anything I have written about I welcome it, but if you want to troll me or my thoughts then I’ll leave you to do that on your own blogs and social media.

As someone who has held these beliefs for a long time I have suffered discrimination (in a very minor way) and exclusion from some Christian groups. To be honest I think I have been somewhat cowardly in not speaking up more publicly until now. I guess there has been a fear that my opinions may effect an income stream or opportunity for me somewhere in the future amongst the Christian community.

However I have decided that I am not going to worry about that any more. I am going to be myself and speak my mind as I see it. If it means I lose people or opportunities then so be it.

I look forward to engaging with you next week.

Big day today for the LGBTI community…and others

I came across an interesting blog today. From the 2000+ comments and 10,000+ shares on Facebook it seems that I am the only person in the world not to have seen it. The blog piece is called An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation and it is written by Dannika Nash, a college student, raised in South Dakota. I have seen South Dakota to as a ‘junior member of the bible belt.”

On that piece there is a link to a spoken word/music video that has caught my attention. Please watch it before you read on.

Now you need to watch it, at least some of it…I know you haven’t so let me quote you a couple of versus from it.

When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

And later in the song…

When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start

I firmly believe to show love to someone, to help them get their freedom and equality we must wish for them the same rights as we have for ourselves. Anything else we are treating them like second class citizens.

Now I don’t want, don’t need and don’t encourage a fight here, or on my Facebook or Twitter, but I can already see what will come from this. All I will encourage you to do is mull over the words in the song, and then in the blog that led me to this post which references the Church, some of the reasons this fight is going on and potentially what will come from it.

My point in writing this isn’t to protect gay people. Things are changing—the world is becoming a safer place for my gay friends. They’re going to get equal rights. I’m writing this because I’m worried about the safety of the Church. The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70% of 23-30 year-olds who were brought up in church leave. I’m going to offer a pretty candid answer, and it’s going to make some people upset, but I care about the Church too much to be quiet. We’re scared of change. We always have been. When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God “set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists. I’m saying this: we cannot keep pitting the church against humanity, or progress. DON’T hear me saying that we can’t fight culture on anything. Lots of things in culture are absolutely contradictory to love and equality, and we should be battling those things. The way culture treats women, or pornography? Get AT that, church. I’ll be right there with you. But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.

Amen sister…’Holy bullshit’…I likes that saying a lot. I feel a t-shirt coming on.

And if nothing else church, please oh please read Dannika’s final thought. From someone as young as she is, wiser words have never been spoken.

Oh, and can we please please PLEASE stop changing our Facebook profile pictures to crosses in a protest against gay marriage? You are taking a symbol of hope and redemption and using it to make a political point. No matter what you think, that has to stop. It’s a misrepresentation of what that symbol means.

If this post annoys you, if you feel like now ‘correcting’ many things in the post…just take a breath, unfollow me and live your life.

Peace

An open letter to the Church in NZ on Same-Sex Marriage

Dear fellow Church members,

This is an open letter about the Same-Sex Marriage debate to the Christians of New Zealand.

I have been a supporter of Marriage Equality for the LGBTI community in New Zealand for several years. To me it’s very simple, every person should have the right to be married to the person they love regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe marriage is a government institution; the church does not own it. Whether religious or not, we all have the same marriage certificates. A person’s faith or religious affiliation makes no difference to the legality or substance of their marriage. So if marriage is a government institution, there can be no discrimination.

I have had countless conversations around this topic in my role as a broadcaster working mostly in current affairs and talk radio. Something that has become blatantly obvious to me is that the position held by many opponents of Same-Sex Marriage, whether they are aware of it or not, has more to do with their opinion on homosexuality itself than with marriage equality. Many opponents of marriage equality come from a religious background, and they default to what they have been taught in churches about homosexuality as the basis for their position.

There seem to be three main lines of thought amongst Church members when it comes to Same-Sex Marriage.

  1. Homosexuality is natural and normal for a small portion of the population, therefore we are discriminating against this people group by not allowing them to marry.
  2. Homosexuality is not natural, and it’s a choice. Therefore there is nothing wrong with keeping a sector of society from marrying as you cannot discriminate against a ‘choice’.
  3. Whether we like it or not, there is already legislation that doesn’t allow discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, so matter what we believe about homosexuality we must make marriage available to the LBGTI community.

For me I find myself firmly in third camp. For me the conversation about the legalisation of ‘gay marriage’ has not one jot to do with religion, religious beliefs or the church. It’s a legal certificate that is issued by the Government, not by the Church, and as a ‘Government institution’ all should be able to benefit from it. In my support of Same-Sex Marriage I don’t even need to go to the first or second point above as they are irrelevant to the question at hand.

I’d like the conversation to be as simple as that…but there has been so much mistruth and exaggeration in the media surrounding this conversation, that I think we need to address it. These are what I believe are the key misconceptions relating to this issue.

But if we give the gays marriage next people will want multiple wives

No country in the world that has legalised Same-Sex Marriage has gone onto legalise Polygamy, and in the countries where polygamy is legal you probably don’t want to be gay as you may literally lose your head for it. However there is a libertarian view where some would say that if three or four consenting adults want to live in that kind of union, then does it really matter? I find it ironic that many who would reject the government’s over-involvement in their lives, and fight for the freedoms they see as important to them, are happy for the government to be involved in other people’s lives and legislate their freedoms away from them, when they disagree with those freedoms.

If we let the gays get married next they’ll want to adopt

I am of the firm opinion that the best place for a child to be is in a loving family with their biological parents under the same roof. In fact I believe that research has shown that when that couple is married it is even better for said child. But to then assert as some are that ‘gay adoption’ would be the worst thing possible for the child, on that point I will depart from many. I think that a loving, stable same-sex couple is going to provide a far better environment for a child than some of the tragic cases that have unfortunately become all too common in the news here in New Zealand. We only have to mention a few names, such as Decelia Witika, James Whakaruru and Nia Glassie to remind ourselves that many of our tragic and deplorable child abuse cases have occurred at the hands of straight parents, step-parents or caregivers. Would a loving and stable same-sex couple have provided a safer home for those children? Absolutely.

The bible is clear, ‘No’ to Gay Marriage

This is where the debate gets heated, as there are many theologians who believe emphatically that the bible teaches against homosexuality and homosexuals. That is not my personal view, and neither is it the theological view of an increasing number of bible scholars. One point that many of my theologian friends agree on, even those who are very conservative on this issue, is that if anything the bible talks about a sexual act, not a sexual orientation. This can be interpreted as the bible saying nothing about homosexuality or same-sex attraction at all, only about specific sexual acts.  Where then does that leave the heterosexual couples who engage in those particular acts? This is a complicated and much fought over area of biblical scholarship, and deserves a post of its own another day. But if, like me, you see marriage as a government institution and therefore as a right for all, then biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality is irrelevant in this conversation.

How dare this PC Government ride rough shot over the voice of New Zealanders!

The majority of polls that have been taken regarding marriage equality have indicated that in 2013 New Zealanders are affirming the move towards Same-Sex Marriage. However there is an old adage that if you live by the poll, you die by the poll. So if you bank your argument on the fact that most New Zealanders support your position this time, what about when they don’t? People tend to use polls when those polls support their argument, and then deride polls and pollsters when they don’t. For the Same-Sex Marriage conversation in my opinion it’s an easy one. Human rights should never be based on mob rule. The government needs to do what is right for that sector of society irrespective of what anyone, even a majority, may think.

The Gays will force ministers to marry even though it’s against their religious beliefs

This was an ill-conceived tactic by the opponents of Same-Sex Marriage. We have been assured since the beginning stages of this legislation that the law would be amended so no one had to perform a ceremony that differed with their religious beliefs. But even more than that, what LBGTI couple, on their special day, would want to force a minister to marry them? As promised, the new draft of the law allowed ministers and marriage celebrants associated with a church to decline to perform Same-Sex ceremonies based on religious beliefs. Non-religious marriage celebrants will not be able to turn couples away because of their sexual orientation, much like they can’t turn a couple away based on their age, their ethnicity or any other discriminatory issue where their ‘personal religious belief’ is not a factor and I think that’s fair enough.

Churches will be forced to hire out their premises.

Now this one is true but in my opinion very misleading and yet another red herring. The reason it’s misleading is that this is current law. If a church hires out its premises to the public, they cannot turn away a gay person or couple who want to hold an event there. Yes obviously there are no marriages happening right now between two men or two women in a church so that would be a new addition to a current law. But if a gay couple came to a church who hired their hall out to the public, and that couple wanted to hold a civil ceremony to declare their love to one another and be legally joined, right now under current law, that church could not discriminate against a gay couple.

One of the unfortunate by-products of these public conversations is that many outside the church now see those inside the church as being the reason their LBGTI brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, or children cannot marry. They see the church, supposed to be the representative of Jesus on earth, as rejecting their family and friends. They often conclude, not unreasonably, that this means Jesus rejects the gay community.

The recurring catch-cry of those in the church in response to the above accusation is, “but you don’t understand Pat, we love the sinner, but we are called to hate the sin.” I am sure most of those in the church have heard that phrase before and I think it is time to set the record straight. The concept of ‘loving the sinner and hating the sin’ is unbiblical, in fact it is the opposite of what we are called to do. Dr. Tony Campolo points out that what we are actually called to do is “love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.” I think he is right. Jesus said of the men who were, by law, allowed to stone the woman caught in adultery to go ahead…so long as none of them had sinned. We are told to not worry about the speck of dust in our neighbour’s eye when we have a plank of wood sticking out of our own.  Just think about that for a second, imagine if that was the filter we ran our lives through. Imagine if we truly loved people around us, end of story, and saved our judging for ourselves.

Finally, I want to encourage my fellow church members not to worry. The concern and near- hysteria that has erupted in response to the Marriage Equality Bill, which looks set to be passed this week, is simply unjustified. If you do not support the LBGTI community’s right to marry that’s your business, but please don’t believe any of the ‘slippery slope’ arguments that have been thrown around. This is not the beginning of the end of civilization and it’s not attack on marriage, not on your marriage nor mine. It’s a bill that redresses an inequality by giving all people the right to marry, a right which should already be guaranteed under current law. In other words it’s a ‘wrong’ that needs to be ‘righted’.

Pat Brittenden is a broadcaster, blogger and commentator and the executive producer and host of elephantTV

Rick Santorum and the ‘All Gay Cruise’…the epitome of irony

Rick Santorum was in Puerto Rico over the weekend campaigning to win some of the 20 delegates there on his way to coming second in the GOP race.

He had a chance to take some time out so took an hour by the pool to relax when this photo was taken of him.

It has been reported that the snap was taken by a patron on an ‘all gay cruise.’

So why is there irony here?

Well if you don’t know, firstly I must warn you that if you are of a sensitive nature then you won’t to know so stop reading now, anyways you may have read a post I did a wee while back saying that no GOP nominee would beat Obama this year, in that post I said of Santorum.

the problem is his name…well maybe not his name…but what his name means

See in 2003 Rick Santorum championed a bill to make sodomy illegal which put him offside with the LGBT community.  One activist within the community, Dan Savage, who had previously been responsible for coining new definitions for words with a sexual reference, challenged Santorum on his campaign and threatened to have his surname defined online by something negative if he didn’t withdraw what Savage saw as homophobic laws.

Santorum declined to back down and the now famous surname was re-defined to mean…well that’s where you can go find the meaning independently if you like…and now the LBGT community are trying to reinvigorate the meaning.

6 months ago if you Googled ‘Santorum’ it was the second result on the page, now it’s dropped off the front page but still comes up in Rick Santorum’s Wikipedia pages which is the top result.

Rick Santorum is still a top target for the LGBT community, and to have him turn up in the middle of a resort hosting a ‘gay only cruise’ is nothing but the height of irony.

What the gay community has started doing in America to candidates whose positions they find offensive is ‘glitter bomb’ them…which is a sit sounds having glitter dumped over you…I guess it’s better than a lamington ah Mayor Len Brown?

 

It’s not about Race or Age or Gender or Religion…it’s about Poverty

For a long time I have had a bit of an untested theory. I’ve come to a place where I don’t think the negative statistics in New Zealand are about race, age, gender or religion.  I think they’re about poverty and the by products of poverty.

Let me back up a little and give you an example of a common ‘talkback’ conversation.

The headline reads something like, “Another baby dies at the hands of its caregivers.” This is what happens on talkback; ‘Owen’ from Nelson phones in as this is his pet topic. Within 60 seconds ‘Owen’ has already told New Zealand to “wait and see…they’ll be native…their whanau will support them…you just wait.” Now sadly ‘Owen’ is right far too often, but is his underlying racist bias accurate? Is being Maori a significant factor in killing your kids? That’s where I think the conversation becomes interesting.

I would put to you that being Maori is not as much of an issue in this as many may think. Let me ask you this question. How many wealthy, well educated Maori (or any race) are killing their kids? The answer is, “Not many…if any!”

So if being Maori means you’re over represented in our sad statistics, why are not wealthy, well educated Maori over represented in this, or any, negative social issue?

Poor Maori over represented…wealthy, educated Maori not…hmmmm.

Just for context, contrary to some commentators child abuse is not an issue exclusive to Maori as I demonstrate in this post on my old blog ironically posted exactly one year ago to the day. In there you can read that former Child Commissioner Ian Hassall says…

“Roughly the same number of Maori and non-Maori children are killed in New Zealand.”

Martyn Bradbury came to  the same conclusion in a post in the middle of last year.

No one is arguing that Maori are not over represented, but my question is, “Why?”

Well lets look at another people group.

How many European/Pakeha/White (whatever word takes your fancy) are in these negative statistics? How many Pakeha lawyers or Doctors kill their kids? Again I think you’ll find the answer is, “Not many…if any!” What about Pakeha in poverty, the underclass, white trash…those guys…how do they feature in the negative statistics? Well coming back to my first point, without having had the research or data in front of me, I have assumed, and many of you would agree, that they would be over represented in those statistics, especially compared to their wealthy, educated Pakeha counterparts. I think that is a fair and safe assumption.

Well it has been an assumption…until now.

Today has seen a longitudinal paper released which has followed over 1,200 people for 30 years. The study looked at children born in Christchurch who grew up in either poor, or rich, families

Those from poor families were more likely to leave school without qualifications, have babies before they were 20, commit crimes, go on welfare and have addiction and other mental health problems in adulthood.

Most of these effects were explained by factors which tended to vary in line with family incomes, such as parents’ education, addictions, criminality and marital conflict and breakup, and the children’s own intelligence.

But study director Professor David Fergusson said the effects of childhood income on later educational and career achievement persisted even after allowing for all other factors

So if you grew up poor, you tended to stay poor. If you were poor you were also a much higher chance of being a part of those negative statistics we were talking about earlier. The key factor here is that this extensive study shows us that the main contributing factor to being a part of negative statistic in society is poverty and the by-products of that poverty. Not race.

It also showed that if you were raised in a poorer family you were also more likely to have mental health issues.

The study asked detailed questions about people’s lives which also enabled the researchers to diagnose whether they had depression, anxiety disorder, drug or alcohol addictions or anti-social behaviour.

On average, those from poor families had slightly more of these disorders than those from rich families.

Here are some of the key findings of the report

Schooling
Almost 40 per cent of those in the poorest fifth of families left school without qualifications, compared with fewer than 10 per cent of those in the richest fifth.

Pregnancy
A third of those from the poor families but fewer than a tenth of those from rich families fell pregnant, or got someone pregnant, before they were 20.

Crime
A third of those from poor families, but only a sixth from rich families, committed a violent or property crime between the ages of 18 and 30.

Welfare
20 per cent of those from poor families, but only 4 per cent from rich families, spent some time on welfare before they were 30.

Income
Those from poor families earned an average of just under $40,000 a year by age 30, while those from rich families averaged $60,000.

I wrote earlier in this post that “being Maori is not as much of an issue in this as many may think” but it does impact these negative statistics, but not because they are Maori… because so many Maori are ‘poor’.

What the mainstream media needs to understand, and needs to address, is that these issues, these negative statistics in our society, issues like crime, mental health issues, physical health issues, low education, addiction, incarceration are issues of poverty and the by products of poverty, are not issues of race, age, gender, religion or anything else.

Why are Maori over represented in these statistics…because they are over represented in ‘being poor.’ If more of them are poor…then more of them come up in the negative statistics.

So do we solve this problem?

Well I firmly believe that we cannot solve any problem until we acknowledge the issue and seeing as mainstream NZ would try to convince us these are issues of race…or religion…or age…then we are doomed to keep this sad cycle of negative social statistics going.

Let’s acknowledge the problem, then maybe together we can find a solution.

Being arrested for using racist taunts…I’m not for it.

In the UK at the moment you can be arrested for using racial insults. Now I find racism abhorrent, the idea that one person believes themselves better than anyone else because of the colour of their skin, or what culture they come from is not only loathsome but ludicrous. Often examples of such cretins who believe in racist theories are plainly at the bottom end of any kind of human ‘ranking system’, which just negates their argument even more, however the idea of being arrested for being a bigoted ignoramus doesn’t sit well with me.

Maybe it comes down to the difference between being a racist, and using a racial slur. Splitting hairs you might say…well I would challenge any person who has not, at some stage, for some reason, put themselves above a person of another race momentarily.  Maybe you’ve rolled you’re eyes when hearing a foreign language at your supermarket and thought, “You’re in NZ now, speak English!” Maybe you’ve been cut off when driving and thought, “Bloody Asian drivers!” Maybe you’ve been extra watchful of a Maori in a public place because, “All Maori are criminals!” Does that make you a racist….or someone who has had a racist thought? Is there any difference?

There are already a couple of examples in English soccer of players being charged with racism, not just by their governing body, but by the police, and the latest example has seen a 20 year old spectator arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence.

Now I could go down the extremely weak “freedom of speech” argument, but as we all know there is not such thing as freedom of speech. My discomfort with the idea of being arrested for being a 20 year old moron, who doesn’t understand the issue at hand, is two fold.

Firstly is will not eliminate racism, to me if this is an issue that English soccer is trying to stamp out it would seem more appropriate and perhaps more effective to then ban that spectator from entering any stadiums in the future (however from what I know of the English soccer fan the stadiums may soon be pretty empty in some parts of the UK).

Secondly, and more importantly, I have a concern as to the precedence this is setting. Bigotry and discrimination comes in all forms, against all areas of life. There are 6 main areas of discrimination, none of which are seen any differently in a court of law. You cannot discriminate against race, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion and disability. Of course there are many more such as ‘height-ism’ but these 6 are the main group, and the most common you would see in a court of law. So if in a court of law, these 6 are seen as equally wrong my question is, “Where to from here?”

If this is the precedence that the UK is setting for racism, what is to follow for discrimination and bigotry against age, religion, gender, disabilities and sexual orientation. I don’t know about you but I’ve heard some pretty crass and shocking things shouted out about people in all those categories of life…do we arrest and charge anybody verbally participating in offensive language to all those individuals as well.

Now I realise this is a fairly defeatist post as I don’t have a solution, I think I am just saying that I don’t think you can ‘arrest’ the racism out of people. But then what can you do?