Sex, Gender and the Sacred

The road to the sacred runs through the carnal. Not only the Bible but Life itself reveals that sexuality is more spiritual than biological. The erotic is God's poetry of love calling us out of ourselves to awareness of beauty and to an expansive creativity and giving of ourselves. We go to God through one another, via loving, not apart from one another. --Paschal.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

NJ becomes 3rd state to approve civil unions.

December 21, 2006
N.J. Governor Signs Civil Unions Bill

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey's governor signed legislation Thursday giving gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage allowed under state law -- but not the title.

When the law goes into effect Feb. 19, New Jersey will become the third state offering civil unions to gay couples and the fifth allowing gay couples some version of marriage.

Connecticut and Vermont also offer civil unions for gay couples, while Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry, and California has domestic partnerships that bring full marriage rights under state law.

''We must recognize that many gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are in committed relationships and deserve the same benefits and rights as every other family in this state,'' Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in signing the legislation.

The Legislature passed the civil unions bill on Dec. 14 in response to a state Supreme Court order that gay couples be granted the same rights as married couples. The court in October gave lawmakers six months to act but left it to them to decide whether to call the unions ''marriage'' or something else.

Gay couples welcomed the new law, but argue not calling it ''marriage'' creates a different, inferior institution. Even some same-sex couples who attended the bill signing remained lukewarm about the law.

''It's a step forward, but it's not true equality,'' said Veronica Hoff, 52, of Mount Laurel, as she stood with her partner.

The civil unions law grants gay couples adoption, inheritance, hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights and the right not to testify against a partner in state court.

They won't, however, be entitled to the same benefits as married couples in the eyes of the federal government because of 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Gay partners won't be able to collect deceased partners' Social Security benefits, for example, said family lawyer Felice T. Londa, who represents many same-sex couples.

Social conservative groups and some lawmakers opposed the measure, saying it brings gay relationships too close to marriage, but it easily passed the Legislature.

''It's same-sex marriage without the title,'' said John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage. ''It uproots the cardinal values of our culture.''

He said opponents would push for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex unions in New Jersey, no matter what they're called.

''Let the voters decide that marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman,'' Tomicki said.

Democrats who control the Legislature have said they have no plans to consider such a proposal.


Associated Press Writer Chris Newmarker contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Utterly Humbled by Mystery. Richard Rohr. NPR

I believe in mystery and multiplicity. To religious believers this may sound almost pagan. But I don't think so. My very belief and experience of a loving and endlessly creative God has led me to trust in both.

I've had the good fortune of teaching and preaching across much of the globe, while also struggling to make sense of my experience in my own tiny world. This life journey has led me to love mystery and not feel the need to change it or make it un-mysterious. This has put me at odds with many other believers I know who seem to need explanations for everything.

Religious belief has made me comfortable with ambiguity. "Hints and guesses," as T.S. Eliot would say. I often spend the season of Lent in a hermitage, where I live alone for the whole 40 days. The more I am alone with the Alone, the more I surrender to ambivalence, to happy contradictions and seeming inconsistencies in myself and almost everything else, including God. Paradoxes don't scare me anymore.

When I was young, I couldn't tolerate such ambiguity. My education had trained me to have a lust for answers and explanations. Now, at age 63, it's all quite different. I no longer believe this is a quid pro quo universe -- I've counseled too many prisoners, worked with too many failed marriages, faced my own dilemmas too many times and been loved gratuitously after too many failures.

Whenever I think there's a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say "only" or "always," someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like "principles of uncertainty" and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of "faith"! How strange that the very word "faith" has come to mean its exact opposite.

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.