23 March 2009

TIME published a great article that hits at one of the solutions I talked about in my blog post last week regarding abortion. The article promotes a style of sex-education that is balanced, sympathetic to the lived experiences of teenagers, realistic, yet still affirms the essential value of abstinence.

If a solution is ever to be found to the abortion debate, it will be found in part by programs like the one described here.

Map Update


Here's the latest update of the map I've been working on...it's of the Honbaar/Iamhamuhr region, which you can read more about here. I'm almost done with it. It's taken about five weeks to do, an hour here and there at a time. Click for a larger version.

11 March 2009

Abortion


Note: This is from a letter I wrote to a very dear family member who asked me what I thought on the matter. I thank her for giving me the opportunity to clear my thoughts on abortion a bit.

Every abortion that occurs is a tragedy. I want to live in a society where abortion isn’t even considered an option. But sadly, we’re not there yet, and sadder still – our current public debate on abortion is a farce. Both sides of this debate have found themselves bogged down by ideological differences, distracted by high profile but irrelevant legal disputes, and manipulated by political parties and candidates more interested in perpetuating a culture war than they are in making women whole and affirming the dignity of human life.

The “partial birth” abortion controversy is but one element of the sad condition of our current debate. Partial birth abortion – itself a political term invented by a Congressman to frame the debate – is a rarely-used clinical procedure that accounts for a tiny fraction of abortions that occur. Sure it’s gruesome, but so are most other abortion procedures (as if anaesthetizing the fetus and dismembering it in the womb is any better), so you must ask yourself, if you believe that abortion is the legally-sanctioned killing of human life, why is the public debate so focused on peripheral issues, such as clinical procedures and whether or not the Department of Defense should allow abortions to take place in military hospitals?



Imagine if your house was overrun with vermin. Setting mousetraps alone is ineffective. What the house needs is a serious cleaning and perhaps some foundation repair. Our debate has become focused on the mousetraps at the expense of housecleaning. In other words, abortions (even the so-called “elective” abortions) usually don’t happen for no reason. Abortions occur because of a crisis. Even if two of the reasons listed in the chart in that link (“unready” and “can’t afford baby”) sound anodyne, they actually indicate something deeply troubling. Collectively, abortions are an indicator of a much broader social breakdown. What is happening to our women and girls in this country? And why aren’t we talking about this? Instead we are debating parental notification, litmus tests, and activist judges. Abortion is a double tragedy: an enormous amount of human potential is being sacrificed and a social breakdown affecting women in crisis is being ignored. We are fiddling while Rome burns.



I blame our political parties. I don’t think the Republicans in elected office have any desire of overturning Roe v. Wade anytime soon, because as long as abortion is legal, they can nibble away at the edges and rack up enough symbolic victories, so that they will continue to rake in the cash, having duped a lot of well-meaning if na├»ve people that they represent the “party of Life.” Meanwhile, abortions in America still occur in the millions. Sadly, some religious leaders in our country have bought this line, among others regarding evolution, privacy, and domestic arrangements. The result is not that a political party has become holier; on the contrary: religion has become politicized. The mundane treads upon the sacred, and there’s a word for that: blasphemy.


On the other side, Democrats have accepted the argument that abortion is intrinsic to freedom and equality, particularly as it pertains to women. Just as Republican elected officials are retained by those who believe abortion should be outlawed now, Democrats are in the thrall of those who hold true the false choice that restricting abortion (or even working to reduce its incidence within the existing legal framework) would undue all the progress we’ve made in promoting freedom and equality. Although Roe may have set a bad legal precedent (at best, abortion law should be dealt with at the state level, which was the case before Roe), it is premised on important legal assumptions – including the revolutionary idea that what consenting adults do in their bedrooms is no business of the government. It’s that privacy thing. I don’t want the government snooping around my house, and I don’t want them snooping around yours, either.

The right to privacy is an important and meaningful right, especially in the modern age. I don’t want to see it go away, and efforts to repeal Roe cause me worry that we would be back to the bad old days before Griswold v. Connecticut, which essentially affirmed the right of a person to buy birth control without government interference. But although abortion rights are related to privacy through judicial precedent, the right to an abortion is not essential to the right to privacy. Nor is it a legal standard that should be hailed as a benchmark of equality. Abortion is a tragedy, an action for which there is no turning back, and a horrible thing for a woman to go through. Instead of celebrating the "right" she has, we should be concerned about the reasons that brought her to that decision in the first place.

So, as I see it, these are the rough contours of the abortion debate. It is a debate over competing values, life and equality, that frame every public conversation we have on this issue. These values are deeply held by virtually every American -- they're the stuff our political life is made of. But debating which takes precedence is little more than a philosophical game of rock-paper-scissors. Who wins? Who doesn't support equality? Who doesn't support life? How can we build a consensus from two values that are shared but are posed in perfect opposition to one another for the sake a of a constrained and ineffective political debate?

I’m avoiding the philosophical question of whether a fetus is a living human being. While important, it’s a question subject to considerable disagreement, and that ultimately biology or religion is unable to answer to everyone's satisfaction. It is a question for scientists and theologians, not politicians.

The life/equality conflict that frames the abortion debate prevents us from solving the abortion problem. Bringing us full circle to the situation of women in crisis, even if a pro-choice person does not believe that a fetus is alive, he or she surely recognizes that a woman in crisis is indeed a terrible thing. Because of this, reducing abortions will require a grand bargain wherein all parties must agree to change the terms of debate. Conservatives will have to embrace some social reforms and maybe even government intervention to support women in crisis. Liberals will have to accept that the majority of Americans oppose elective abortions, particularly late-term abortions, where sometimes that “partial birth” approach is used. They will also have to accept and embrace certain shared values, such as strong families, responsible fatherhood, and the role of faith in shaping a communal destiny.

On the theological and philosophical question of life, everyone will have to set that aside for the sake of achieving the goal of reduced abortions. I know that sounds ugly, but, prayer and protest aside, what we are seeking is ultimately a political and social solution that will require the establishment of common ground.


So why not just hope for an outright ban, either in the form of an overturn of Roe and subsequent bans on the State level, or in the form of a Right to Life amendment in the Constitution? Setting aside the problems of using the Constitution to codify a moral statement that is subject to considerable controversy, what would a ban accomplish? It would shove the situation underground, to shady doctors, to witches' brews and wire hangers, to pro-choice states, or to foreign countries. Abortions will still occur, and women will still suffer. I suppose the Right to Life crowd would celebrate this as an enormous victory, but I see it as Pontius Pilate saw himself when Jesus Christ was sentenced to death: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it’” (Matthew 27:24).

In order to reduce abortions, to preserve and protect human life and the dignity and well-being of mothers, we must be willing to look at this as a question of politics, social justice, and policy. We need to be willing to support mothers, perhaps even to the extent of encouraging mothers to stay out of the workforce until their children are ready for Kindergarten. We need to be able to provide a better infrastructure to encourage adoption, which could include facilitating in-family adoptions through reduced costs or tax breaks. A mother should not have to worry about financing health care for herself or for her child. Her job and career should be protected while she is pregnant and nursing, if she chooses to go back to work. Day care should be affordable and worthy of the name. To every extent possible, teenage mothers should be protected from shame, ridicule, and abuse, whether from their peers or from their parents. Sex education should place a value on abstinence, long-term planning, and the building of a family. But educators should be realistic enough to acknowledge that kids will have sex, and some of them will get pregnant. And yes – contraception should be available to them through their school counselors. And of course: fathers should be held to account.



These proposals may run counter to the small-government conservatism that is popular among right-to-lifers, but it is nonetheless the path to reducing abortion in this country. I’m going to end with an interesting parallel: Austria, a country where abortion is legal within certain parameters, just as it is here. Our abortion rate is around 20%. Theirs is 3%. What accounts for the difference? I’m guessing it has to do with a strong pro-family culture that encourages women to stay at home with their kids, and supports them in their goal; a Catholic Church that remains a vibrant moral force in the country, support for marriage and other domestic arrangements for those who choose not to marry, and healthy social institutions that provide a safety net for women and children in crisis.

24 February 2009

More Information Than You Ever Wanted to Know on Honoleo

The below is a quick summary I wrote on Honoleo. For more information on my imaginary land, go here, here, or here.

The Modern history of Honoleo begins in 1836, when a prince deposed his father from the Sharkhan Throne and promoted a vision of a democracy across Honoleo. His vision was too soon to be practicable, as the British were busy pursuing control of India and Honoleo at the time, and the country was riven by religious strife and various smaller kingdoms, each vying for control.

Gradually the Free State of Honoleo gained traction, first through the Treaty of Salden and later through the establishment of a constitution that blended aspects of British and American government, ratified in 1840.

At two times in the nation's history (1889-1903 and 1928-1938), the ostensibly democratic governments were overthrown by the elites in the country who were concerned about stability and order, and afraid that the Free State was ill-equipped to deal with a fractious and slow-moving democratic system.

In 1925, Nishar Adimur sent a delegation to the World Congress of the Communist International, an act that enraged many of the traditional elites in Honoleo. The Taesianh followed up by electing one of the members of the delegation, Ason Tanhuri, to succeed Adimur as the nation's Amushara (magistrate) in 1926. While Tanhuri never called himself a Bolshevik, his relationship with communists in Honoleo was too close for the comfort of the military and the nation's political elite. A cabal of (predominantly Christian) businessmen, general officers of the military, leading nationalist academics and politicians deposed Tanhuri. For the remaining ten years, Honoleo was ruled formally by an "emergency committee" called the State Restoration and Development Council, headed by Darius Chaldan. The SRDC reined in inflation, increased employment, and fed a hungry Honolean war machine as the nation withstood an attempted Japanese invasion and later joined the Allies in World War II. The SRDC also attracted all sorts of nationalist, fascist insticts in Honoleo, and embedded state corporatism into Honolean governance for decades. Although the SRDC promulgated a new constitution for a reformulated republic in 1938 (The Federated Commonwealths of Honoleo), the emergency committee remained in force as a shadow government until mounting civil unrest and political pressure led to its dissolution on 10 December 1949. Thus, many liberals celebrate this date as the true birth of Honoleo's democracy.

Honolean politics from 1950 through 1977 was defined by three themes: expansion of the welfare state, strident anticommunism, and Honolean nationalism. What is now known as Northern Honoleo was up until the mid-1930's a series of states, kingdoms, and tribal domains that was united in a Bolshevik-inspired revolution in 1936, giving rise to the Lean People's Republic. The LPR was a radical communist regime that was a persistent threat to the FCH, as both nations shared the nationalist ambition to unite the entire subcontinent under one flag - a dream that had been pursued by Honolean emperors for centuries. Dealing with the LPR was the dominant political issue of this era. It drove the FCH to seek ever closer ties with the United States although it pursued a social-democratic ideology akin to Europe. The FCH became a player in the cold war with the development of a secret nuclear arsenal. A bloody war launched in 1972 and a coup d'etat in the LPR resulted in the LPR's disollution in 1978. Honoleo was formally united on 4 October 1980.

Although communism was defeated in Honoleo in 1978, various chancellors found themselves mired in continuing conflicts throughout the 1980's, especially in Burma, where Honoleo engaged in a dirty war against drugrunners, guerillas, and terrorists in the northwest provinces of their neighbor. To this day, the FCH and Burma struggle to maintain normalcy in their bilateral relations.
The Honoleans were war-weary and threw out a conservative Chancellor, replacing him with the man responsible for bringing the LPR and the FCH together, Dahn Pishen.
Aside from two years in the early 1980's, the leftist Solidarity Union dominated the Honolean Chancery from 1958 to 1992. The more strident democratic socialism of the 1950-1972 era gave way to a more market-oriented, populist politics shared by the left and right in Honoleo. The economy grew significantly in this time, and Honoleo joined the club of the worlds richest nations in 1984. Due to years of political stability and a massive investment in health, education, and infrastructure, the FCH came to enjoy the same economic miracle that played out in Japan and Korea and, later, China.

The Restoration Coalition, the conservative umbrella organization that emerged out of the SRDC ended Solidarity's dominance beginning in the mid 1980's. By 1994, Restoration regained the Chancery. Honoleo's economy soared through the first half of the decade, and was even able to withstand the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Despite that, the 1990's also brought a rise in Islamist terror and a labour crisis that erupted into prolongued episodes of street violence. The late 1990's brought some labour reforms to the FCH, which had some harsh anti-labour laws on the books (a holdover from anticommunist politics that dominated the country for over 60 years). A full suite of labour reforms were not passed until 2003.

Restoration barely won the 2000 Chancery election, and Solidarity was making inroads into the Darsianh (parliament) and Taesianh (Senate) at the time. In 2002, the government committed troops to support the United States in its military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, a move that proved highly unpopular.

In 2004, Honoleans gave the Chancery back to the Solidarity coalition. A bruising primary exposed a deep ideological rift within the Solidarity movement, pitting a strident liberal against a centrist supported by the nation's political elite. The liberal won the primary, and eventually won the national election in an unprecedented first-round ballot. Solidarity's campaign for quality education, inter-religious dialogue, security from terrorism, environmental reforms, and a sovereign foreign policy spoke to the deep-seated concerns of much of the Honolean electorate.

In the next decade, Honoleans will confront the challenges of remaining competitive in a dramatically weakened world economy through education, economic development, and innovation; paying for a growing pensioner population; regional instability and terrorism; integrating a fast-growing and predominantly Muslim immigrant community; and environmental protection.

A note on culture and religion: Culture, religion, and politics go hand in hand in Honoleo. One racial group, the Chaganese, have historically dominated Honoleo's politics, economy, and intelligentsia. The Chaganese descend from the Mughals and Talmids (and ultimately the Persians). The Chaganese are monotheists, generally, and a large minority are Christian. Thus, they benefited the most from British, French, and Portuguese occupations. The Chaganese dominated the other two principle cultures in Honoleo: the eponymous Hon and Lean peoples. The Hon have share an ancestry with Malays and Thais; the Lean are an Indo-Iranian offshoot, as are the Chaganese. There are also major Hindi, Punjabi, and Chinese populations native to Honoleo.

Myriad religions are present in Honoleo. The Chaganese have a native sect, Jahanism, a syncretic, monotheistic faith that is centuries old. Jahanis and Christians dominate much of Honoleo's cultural elite. Hololeo has significant Buddhist and Hindu populations. Honoleo also has the world's largest population of Baha'is.

There are significant numbers of Muslims in Honoleo, and Muslims have emerged as the critical constituency in national elections. Indeed, Muslims have formed the core of Honoleo's small business economy for centuries -- they are the merchant class. Muslims tend to have a disproportionate burden of the nation's low-paying jobs. In the early 20th century, Muslims in the merchant-class tended to segregate themselves from the poorer Muslim congregations. Eventually, an organization called the Society of Reformed Scholars came to dominate the Islam practiced by Honoleo's middle class. The SRS was the first major Islamic group to name women as imams, and came to be a staunch defender of democracy and multiculturalism. This put them at odds with the rest of Honolean Islam, which was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movements throughout central Asia. Iranian and Saudi clerics went so far as to declare the SRS a heresy. Radical Islam has found a voice in Honoleo, especially in poor and distressed areas, as it has elsewhere in Asia.

10 February 2009

Imagination, Part III

Last September, I posted a small piece on this blog about a lifelong hobby of mine: the detailed study of a country called Honoleo (see the map by following the link).

So this last weekend, I finally did something I've wanted to do for a long time...but I have lacked the skills and time to do so: I drew a regional map in Adobe Illustrator, based on sketches and notes I've taken over the years.

Here it is (click for larger version):



This map is of the Honbaar/Iamhamuhr region. Honbaar (population 18 million) is Honoleo's most populous city, and Iamhamuhr is the nation's capital. This roughly 6,000 square mile region is home to over 30 million people, making it one of the world's most populous urban regions. Originally an Amnaean fishing village, Honbaar was seized by the British East India Company in 1737, and the town was redeveloped into a port city -- Lancaster. Renamed Honbaar in 1912 upon its return to the Honolean Republic, it grew and industrialized rapidly. In the last 50 years, Honbaar has become a center of trade, industry and finance in South Asia. It is a prosperous, diverse, and extraordinarily vibrant city. Like many Asian cities, the divide between rich and poor is extreme.

Iamhamuhr (population 5 million) is the second largest city in the region. Unlike Honbaar, which sits on marshy flatlands and an estuary, Iamahmuhr is in the foothills of the Pashan Tazhid Mountains. Traditionally used as a summer retreat by the Honolean emperors, Iamhamuhr was designated Honoleo's political capital (the Imperial capital remains at Saebaan) in 1912, the same year that Honbaar was returned to Honoleo. Iamhamuhr, at least initially, was a master-planned capital city. But it too grew rapidly, spilling over into the surrounding valleys.

Shahansarkhindi and Toru Inkateran are the population centers of the Inkaterani Raj region, in the Commonwealth of Northern Honoleo. Connected to Honbaar by regional trains, they function as suburbs of Honbaar. Due to Northern Honoleo's favorable tax climate, these cities have become centers of Honoleo's manufacturing industry in the last fifteen years, and are home to the largest concentration of automobile manufacturing jobs in the nation. Together, these cities are home to 5 million people.

This is still, of course, a work in progress. I'm still working on the map. I've been surprised at how long it's taken me to do. Rather than creating a fantasy or science fiction world, which has its own constraints but is unbound by our reality, I've found myself trying to create something as plausible as I possibly can. It's been an interesting process. The map is an effort to produce something as realistic as possible. The above image is my first real crack at it after years of thinking about it. I'm happy to share it with you.

17 November 2008

Do the Right Thing

In the wake of Proposition 8's passage in California, lesbian and gay people have certainly had an impact in the public arena. You've seen on the news protests, rallies, and marches staged across the country by those of us who seek to achieve equal rights so that we may enjoy the financial and emotional stability in our relationships that can only come with some form of legal recognition. Some of these protests have been directed at churches and people of faith, while others have focused on our courthouses, city halls, statehouses, and capitols. On Saturday, my partner, my sister, my nephew, and I attended a rally for equality at Salt Lake City Hall. I was proud to see so many people of our generation stand up in solidarity with us as we continue the process of seeking legal recognition for our relationships. For those of you who attended or who have supported us through all this, thank you so much, and we love you and are so grateful for your solidarity.

Our words and actions were peaceful -- sure there was anger, and we are right to be angry, but I think I speak for many of us when I say the mood was hopeful and optimistic, because I feel that justice will prevail in the end. But it will take the work of all of us to make it happen.

Some of the protests have been aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I understand and sympathize with the anger that has been directed at them for their strident support of the proposition, and the near insistence that their members donate time and money to the cause, I do not feel the directing wrath at a religious institution is effective or appropriate. Certainly any violence aimed at a religious group undermines our message of freedom and equality. But there is something we can do -- we can undertake a constructive effort to change the law in this great State, by working in dialogue with the LDS Church. Below is a quote from a recent Equality Utah email:

"Throughout the recent election cycle, the LDS Church has demonstrated its willingness to participate in political issues by asking its members to do all they can do, including donating their means and their time, to support California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution and eliminated gay couples right to marry by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The LDS Church has articulated it is not "anti-gay" but rather pro-marriage and it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights." On November 5th, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose "civil unions or domestic partnerships." In response to these statements, Equality Utah is drafting legislation for the 2009 General Session of the Utah Legislature to address each of the issues mentioned by the LDS Church."


To me, this is the essence of the issue. Robert and I have been together for more than 9 years. In that time, we have bought a home, shared in the expense of a car, dealt with medical emergencies, invested, and experienced all the joys and agonies that any couple, gay or straight, who lives together is bound to experience over time. Yet we have none of the rights that can be obtained with a simple $50 marriage license. We can work with estate attorneys to assemble a series of legal structures that provide a thin approximation of the legal protections afforded by a marriage license, but at great expense -- in some cases $3,000 or more.

I think we need to take the LDS Church and others at their word, and pursue the recognition of equal rights in the State of Utah. Five bills will be presented in the Utah State Legislature this winter that will address the injustices we face, economic and moral. One of these bills will establish a system of civil unions in the State, so that Rob and I and others like us could gain the legal protections we deserve as a couple -- since we face all the health, financial, and legal risks currently.

The LDS Church has indicated that they will not stand in the way of civil unions, and I think the time has come to achieve this in the State of Utah. Even those of you who may be reluctant to allow same-sex marriages can appreciate the fundamental economic and social justice issues we face because we have NO legal recourse. I need your help to make this change in Utah. For those of you who live in our great State, I suggest two things:

1. Sign this on-line petition from Equality Utah:

2. Write your State Representative and Senator. I can help you find them if you don't know. Also write the incoming Speaker of the House, David Clark, the incoming Senate President Mike Waddoups, and Governor Huntsman. Tell them it's time to recognize that equal rights and equal protection under the law do not challenge anyone's values.

Here are their addresses:

Rep. David Clark: 1831 RED MOUNTAIN, SANTA CLARA, UT 84765
Sen. Mike Waddoups: 2868 West. Matterhorn Dr. West Jordan UT 84084
Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.: PO Box 142220 Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Love,

Frank

03 November 2008

Thanks, Your Excellency

Today, Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn had this to say about people who vote for Obama:

"Give consideration to your eternal salvation, because to vote for a person who has expressed a fanatical determination to not only support abortion as it exists now but to remove all limitations on it through the Freedom of Choice Act and to extend it without any recourse, throwing out all the efforts of the citizens over the last thirty five years to place reasonable limits on abortion -- that you, by voting for a person who has expressed his determination to do this to Planned Parenthood, to NARAL, that we are -- you make yourself a participant in the act of abortion. That's gravely wrong, and you mustn't do it because your eternal salvation is tied up with that important choice."


I abhor abortion, and I want desperately to inhabit a society where abortion is seen as unnecessary. I consider myself pro-life, although I distance myself from the abortion debate in this country, because is geared more toward cynically driving elections than actually reducing abortions and improving the lives of women in difficult circumstances.

But what Bishop Finn is saying is beyond the pale: I am a concerned voter in America, who is too young to vote on a single issue. The issues at play in this election effect the health, economic well-being, and security of millions of Americans...myself, my friends and family, my nieces and nephews.

In the past seven years, America has been beset by one catastrophe after another. In this time, our President has fought a war in Iraq, killing and displacing millions and engendering a deep hatred in a new generation of Muslims, while the real fight needed to be fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Worse, the war was planned and prosecuted in the shadows of the executive branch, without appropriate oversight from Congress. We allowed the executive branch to torture, to incarcerate indefinitely without charge, and to wiretap on citizens. We've condoned the politicization of U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice. We made a mockery of FEMA, and the Gulf Coast was permanently scarred in the process. While we were careening toward economic collapse, our President sent us checks in the mail and encouraged us to shop more. That, Your Excellency, is sin.

I want a change, a profound and dramatic change for the better. From the outset, I believe Barack Obama has made a sounder case for better change than has McCain. I totally respect those who believe differently, and I even respect and sympathize with those who vote on the single issue of abortion. They are making a choice based upon the deepest of convictions, although they have been cynically manipulated by their party to turnout in elections because of it. Nevertheless, after what we've gone through in the last several years, to suggest I am teetering on the edge of damnation because I'm voting for a party and a president that supports Roe v. Wade is galling and unconscionable. A Catholic of a bygone era might call Bishop Finn's statement a "reductio ad absurdum."

For a Catholic prelate to instruct his flock to ignore the massive and categorical errors that have taken place in our public life in the past seven years in order to attain salvation is irresponsible, and it tethers the Church too closely to cynical, partisan politics. Shame on him.

I am a Catholic. I am also an American. I am asked to step into a voting booth and make a decision. These decisions never come easily to me, because I take this process seriously and reverently. My decision is made, on balance, because I think it's what's best for the country (not just for me, or for Joe the Plumber, or unborn babies). I will not have my faith and my salvation challenged on those grounds by a bishop in a battleground state.

I love my Church, and I've been in a lovers' quarrel with my Church. I feel marginalized. I can do or say little, publicly, in my Church community for fear that I will be perpetrating "public scandal." I have abided for a decade in hopes that the Church could move to a place where I could have a reasonable conversation about grace, faith, love, sin and redemption. Instead of moving forward, my Church is regressing. A Catholic priest in California, presumably celibate, was relieved of his ministries for speaking out against Proposition 8 and sharing with his congregation that he is gay. How am I, a devout gay Christian, supposed to react? I've asked this question hundreds of times, and I've gotten hundreds of different answers, none of which are sufficient.

A common thread in many of those answers is "sit down, shut up, and pray." Yet I also know the unique blessings and burdens that God has endowed me with, and I know that I need to use them to bring light and peace into the world. That's my job. And while I do pray, I will not sit down and I will not shut up. That is not what God wants of me.

OK so that was quite a tangent, but the point is this: I've spent over a decade trying to understand my unique role in the Body of Christ as a gay Christian. I've also tried to discern my place in the Roman Catholic Church. As if that wasn't enough, some Bishop decides that if I vote for Obama, I'm going to Hell.

Your Excellency, you're NOT helping.