What does life look like post graduation from graduate school? I am about to find out!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change?"

   This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind for some time now so I thought that I would finally put it out there in the universe. It's one that might be slightly controversial but it is something that I have come to believe very strongly.
   Last month, I was privileged and honored to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). For those of you who don't know, this is the denomination's bi-ennial Assembly in which thousands of Presbyterians gather to debate and vote on lots of different issues affecting the church, some of them quite controversial. One of the biggest controversies at this year's Assembly (and the one that led to some of the longest debates) was on the issue of gay marriage. Specifically, whether or not the denomination should approve pastors to marry same-sex couples or change the definition of marriage so that same-sex couples can legally get married within the denomination. Ultimately, the denomination voted to maintain the status quo, meaning that same-sex couples who desire to get married even in states where it's legal will be barred from being married in the Presbyterian Church and pastors who officiate such ceremonies will be subject to legal action, even in states where it is legal. While the votes on these issues were close, indicating that there is hope for change at the next Assembly, what really stuck out to me was the debate on the issue. There was some really hurtful stuff that was said during the debate and I felt quite sad for my denomination that these people were a part of it.
   What I specifically want to devote this blog post to, though, is something that several people said during the debate that really upset me. Several times I heard people say, "I love my gay friends but I don't support their right to (get married, be ordained, adopt children, etc.)" I really wanted to stand up and say that they are a really terrible friend. That's not real love. That's not the kind of friendship that I want to have in my life. A true friend is somebody who loves you unconditionally and supports your right to have everything that they have. A true friend doesn't support oppression of their friends and a friend who does isn't really a friend. Love, real love, is unconditional and unchanging. Someone who really loves and cares about you wants the same things for you that you want, whether that be marriage,  kids, ordination or whatever else.
  It's important to have people in your life that fully support and love you for who you are. You want to be surrounded by people who affirm you and who you are. It's one thing to disapprove of people's choices but being gay isn't a choice. Yes, that's right, I said it. I will say it again. BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE!! It's an essential and beautiful part of who you are and those friends who get that are truly your friends and are the people that you should keep around and be with. Those who don't get that or support that are not really your friends anyway and I would encourage you to re-evaulate their place in your life. I am not advocating completely cutting them out of your life. That's a decision that you have to make for yourself. I am, however, advocating re-evaulating your friendship with them and deciding if being friends with them is worth the energy. When their words and actions reveal what they really think. When they advocate on behalf of policies that want to oppress you. When they give their money to organizations that wish to imprison or kill you. When you feel like you can't be open and honest completely about your life with them. Are these people who you think would want to come to your wedding or your ordination service or your children's baptism? A true friend would and would have a wonderful time during it.
  Yes, I do hear and understand the arguments that being friends with them could change their mind on the issue but here's something that someone told me recently that has really stuck with me regarding this: 'It's not your job to change them." That's not what your purpose in life is. Your purpose is just to be you and be around people who love you, unconditionally, and who want to hear about your latest relationship or your new baby or your wedding plans or what scripture you want read at your ordination service. People who love their gay friends but don't support their right to marry or adopt or get ordained don't really love their gay friends and your friendship with them doesn't benefit anybody. Take a long, hard look at your friendships and decide if the people in your life now are people that you genuinely want to have there and then make decisions that most benefit you in that regard. If that means cutting ties with certain people, then do it and let them know why. Maybe that will be just the catalyst they need to enact a change in their life. If not, well, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that it wasn't you, it was them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eat More Chicken?

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of press coverage over fast food chain Chic-Fil-A and their CEO's comments about how the company supports the biblical definition of marriage and gives money to organizations that work against LGBTQ people and their right to marry and have families. I've seen a lot of posts on Facebook about this topic and have read numerous articles on both sides regarding this issue. I've been hesitant to weigh in on the controversy because I have very mixed feelings about the issue. On the one hand, I believe whole-heartedly in LGBTQ equality and work tirelessly to bring that about. On the other hand, I also Chic-Fil-A's right to freedom of speech and their right to have an opinion that might differ from mine. On the third hand is the fact that I've been a long-time supporter and lover of Chic-Fil-A and their delicious sandwiches. Some of my favorite childhood memories were spent at Chic-Fil-A and it is one of the fast food restaurants that I crave most out here in California. When it finally came to Chicago last year, I was so excited and going there was one of the best days of the entire year! So, as you can see, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum here. This is why I have been so hesitant to weigh in at all. Yet, as today is "Chic-Fil-A Appreciation Day", I felt compelled to at least say something on the topic. I realize that no matter what my thoughts on the matter, there will be some that will disagree. This has become a hot button topic in the culture right now. I get that, I really do. No matter which way I swing, either pro or anti, I am going to push some buttons. Therefore, I am going to do my best to be respectful and civil with my thoughts here.
I just want to start this off by saying: what has happened to civil discourse in this country? What is with our society that we can't even have a civil conversation on the topic of gay marriage or fast food restaurants without it turning into a shouting match or name calling extravaganza? Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a bigot or a fascist or a socialist or whatever other name you might want to call them. There are plenty of good, honest people out there who do not support homosexuality or gay marriage. That doesn't make them bigots. It doesn't even make them evil. It doesn't mean that they aren't beloved children of God either. Do I disagree with their stance: yes, very much so. I will never be able to understand or accept their point of view. It is just one of those issues that we are going to have to disagree on.
I am also left wondering why in the world a fast food chain has to even have an opinion on the issue of gay marriage? How does it affect them or their food personally? As far as I know, chickens don't discriminate or care who eats them or doesn't. Why did Chic-Fil-A even have to weigh in on this at all? Besides, this represents just the CEO's opinion and doesn't necessarily mean that every single employee who works there is anti-gay marriage. That's a generalization. I am sure there are plenty of employees who disagree with the CEO's stance on this issue. I'll be honest and admit that I've never had a bad experience at Chic-Fil-A in my life. They have some of the nicest employees working there and I've never heard of them ever discriminating either in their hiring practices or their customer service. That, in my mind, would be a greater cause for concern for me. Companies that openly practice discrimination in their hiring practices or their service are a much bigger deal (need I mention Cracker Barrel which is infamous for firing openly gay employees or the recent controversy with the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple?) Plus, there are plenty of companies out there that are engaging in far more hateful practices than what Chic-Fil-A is doing. Just look at the Boy Scouts or if you really want to be enraged, check out the Salvation Army and their policies regarding homosexuality. Both organizations are far worse on this issue than Chic-Fil-A is. Plus, we do have the First Amendment in this country which gives the CEO the right to have his own opinion and express it. Yes, we also have the right to disagree and to express our disagreement by boycotting but the fact remains that he does retain the right to say it and to attempt to silence people who disagree with us is a form of censorship which is something I will always rally against.
As for boycotting the company, I'm not entirely for that idea myself. I question the wisdom of boycotting something or someone in general. Is it really going to have an effect on their bottom line or their profits? Probably not. I seriously doubt that their profits will be affected enough for them to go out of business or whatever. Plus, in a time when the economy is terrible and people are having a hard time even finding jobs, do we really want to hurt the employees who work there? If the company does go out of business or have to close some stores, that means more people will be out of work and potentially homeless. Let's think about the collateral damage here. The boycott hurts those people the most, many of whom might actually be supporters of gay marriage. The CEO isn't going to feel the effects of a boycott at all. He's already got his millions of dollars so even if the company goes under, he will be just fine. Meanwhile, thousands of people across the country will join the ranks of the unemployed which hardly seems like the kind of thing we should be supporting right now. Also, I don't think a boycott is going to make the company change their stance either. They seem pretty set on their current stance and I don't think that any type of boycott will change that. I guess I just personally don't see what the point of a boycott would be. However, if boycotting Chic-Fil-A helps you sleep better at night, then by all means do so. That's your right as an American. However, that doesn't give you the right to infringe on other's right to enjoy Chic-Fil-A. It's the same argument used for gay marriage: that just because you don't agree with it doesn't give you the right to refuse others the right to have it. It can be applied here too.
As for the CEO's stance that his company supports the "biblical definition of marriage," I would urge him to re-read his Bible and tell me what specific definition he would be referring to. Is it King Solomon and his hundreds of wives and concubines? Is it the law that says that a woman is property to her husband? Is it the one where a woman must marry the brother of her dead spouse if he dies before they have kids? Which "biblical definition of marriage" is he claiming to uphold here? Does that also mean that he is against divorce as the Bible speaks very clearly about that at length? I don't like when people use the Bible to justify oppression and hatred but it irks me even more when people don't even seem to know what the Bible actually says on a particular issue. The Bible isn't meant to be used as a weapon and people who do that should be ashamed of themselves. That's Christianity at its worst and is the reason why so many people think Christians are bigots and hypocrites. Yes, some are but not all. It's people like Dan Cathy that make the rest of us more moderate or progressive Christians look bad. I just think Mr. Cathy hasn't really studied the Bible enough to know what it really says about this very topic. Jesus Christ never actually said anything about gay marriage and didn't touch on homosexuality at all. Yet, for some reason, it seems to have become the biggest issue in Christianity today. I guess I just don't understand why that is.
I'm also concerned with the issue of mayors of different cities across the country expressing their desire to keep Chic-Fil-A out of their communities. I think that could lead to a very dangerous precedent. After all, what is to stop the mayor of a very conservative town from preventing pro-LGBTQ companies from moving in? Nothing, now that a precedent has been established. I think that companies have the right to open where they want and then the people of that community have the right to decide if they will choose to patronize that business or not. I really don't want to live in a country where the mayor of (insert very conservative city here) can decree that Old Navy can't open a store in their town just because Old Navy happens to support gay pride. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in?
Lastly, I think what this whole controversy best highlights is the issue of consumerism. As consumers, we need to do a better job of informing ourselves on where our money is going every time we buy something. Yes, the money you spend at Chic-Fil-A might be going to support anti-LGBTQ organizations but the money you spend on Hewlett Packard products might be going to support the continued oppression of the Palestinian people. The money you spend at Wal-Mart might be going to support a company that practices unfair hiring and labor practices. You could end up giving money to an organization that supports the war in Iraq or the Mitt Romney campaign or the Obama campaign and how would you even know that? Many people were not aware that Chic-Fil-A gave money to those organizations until their CEO blatantly stated it. That doesn't mean they are the only ones that give money to causes that are antithetical to certain beliefs. As responsible consumers, we have an obligation to make sure that we do the proper amount of research before we buy anything or shop anywhere. Know what your hard-earned money is going to support before you spend it. Ask yourself, did I work hard to make this money so that it can go toward supporting a cause that I do not believe in? If the answer is no, then you have every right to no longer buy that product or shop in that store. At least, though, you will be an informed consumer rather than just another ignorant one.
So, there you have it. My long, convoluted and occasionally rambling thoughts on the issue. Am I planning to boycott Chic-Fil-A? That's one I am still debating. Fortunately, the closest one to me is still a good hour or so away so it is not like I have a moral dilemma everyday over this. Chic-Fil-A literally gets maybe ten dollars of my money every year so whether or not I actually boycott them is really not going to affect them all that much anyway. The only time it will come into play is on my next trip to Texas where there are several Chic-Fil-A's near me. I think I might go in but make sure I wear one of my Gay Pride shirts to show that I still stand in solidarity with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I think that might be the most effective way to get the message across without hurting the employees who work there. They don't deserve to be treated horribly. I urge you to think before you buy. Think about who you are supporting and think about who you are hurting. This is about more than just chicken, it's about civil rights. I support gay marriage but I also support Chic-Fil-A's right to be against gay marriage. As you can see, I'm still heavily conflicted on this issue. I'm not sure which answer is the best here. I would say, listen to your heart and think with your brain. There's no easy solution to this. I just would love to see some more civil dialogue over this issue but sadly, we seem to have passed that a long time ago.