Friday, January 27, 2006

It's Not an Agenda, Sir

Last Sunday in church, a 91-year old lady who grew up in Kansas (where she saw Klu Klux Klan meetings at the local blacksmith shop), gave stirring testimony to the congregation. In her long life, she has witnessed terrible discrimination, and also incredible growth in understanding. She has lived long enough to see civil rights for women and racial minorities, and now she is witnessing the dawn of civil rights for sexual minorities. Her grandson is gay. She loves him utterly, and she knows he did not "choose" to be gay anymore than she "chooses" to be white. She implored us to be wise and compassionate, to love as Jesus loves and to welcome all in the family of God.

Now, for something completely different, read the article below, in which two OALC men are quoted.
Gay alliance can't be denied, B.G. warned
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By MARGARET ELLIS for the Columbian

If students want one, there's nothing the Battle Ground School Board can do to keep a Gay-Straight Alliance club out of Battle Ground High School.

In an hourlong workshop Jan. 10, Attorney Bill Coats told the board it couldn't refuse a club based on content the board doesn't like.

"If you start treating groups differently based on what they say, you run afoul of the First Amendment," Coats said.

The issue came up before winter break when some students proposed the Gay-Straight Alliance.

The Associated Student Body group is taking input from students and will vote on the club Tuesday. The board said it would wait for that vote before discussing the issue further.

Board member Fred Striker said he feels the board is in a tough spot over the issue. The board can't refuse the club, but "probably close to the majority of the community wouldn't agree" with allowing the club, he said.

Most folks in the audience were employees of the school board or not willing to discuss their feelings about the issue, but one father of two students at Battle Ground High School said he's against the idea.

"I just think trying to promote the agenda of homosexuality is a sin," said Curt Massie. He said his children agree.

If a Gay-Straight Alliance is formed at Battle Ground High School, it won't be the first such group in the area. Evergreen, Mountain View and Heritage high schools each have a group that supports gay students, said Carol Fenstermacher, spokeswoman for Evergreen Public Schools.

Heritage High School has a student-run club, as well as a Gay-Straight Alliance support group that was started five years ago and is led by Tom Baldwin, a guidance counselor.

"It has never been controversial," he said. "We don't promote any agenda, we're not trying to turn anybody into being gay, we're just out to help students who feel maligned," he said.

The group focuses on keeping students safe and free from harassment, he said.

"There are times that schools can seem an unfriendly place to sexual minority youth," he said.

The Vancouver School District has had clubs similar to the Gay-Straight Alliance, but the groups aren't always active, said VSD spokeswoman Kris Sork. The clubs haven't been controversial, she said.

While school administration can't bar a club because officials disagree with it, schools can prohibit a club that would be illegal otherwise, or would interfere with the "orderly conduct of educational activities."

In addition, no one can be compelled to join or attend meetings, Coats said.

The workshop wasn't a public hearing, but Neal Blomquist, one 25 or so in the audience, did ask whether prohibiting all student clubs would give the board the right to eliminate the Gay-Straight Alliance as well, "if that has to be done as a last resort."

"I know of no high school in the U.S. that has successfully done that," Coats said.

He said some schools have tried and been sued as a result.

"If you go that route," he told the board, "you're making yourselves a lightning rod for various groups."

In addition, Coats cautioned, eliminating all student groups would substantially change how schools function in the community.

"It would take a material change in how you view your schools," he said.

Well, ahem. Coats didn't know to whom he was speaking. Blomquist and Massie belong to a group that (in my experience) would have no problem denying others the First Amendment rights they cherish for themselves. But that attitude is destined for the dustbin of history. Today in Washington State, lawmakers passed a gay civil rights measure that has failed for the past 30 years. The measure adds "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance, making Washington the 17th state passing such laws covering gays and lesbians.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

4 Degrees of Separation

Many years ago, I worked for a kind, handsome man whose lovely little daughter grew up and married a funny-looking talk-show host who bears an uncanny resemblance to the president of Finland, who may or may not be re-elected on my birthday, January 29th. How's that for coincidence?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Millions


Last Friday night our pastor invited the congregation to watch a movie together. It was a first. We rigged up a projector in a meeting room, ordered in pizza, dimmed the lights, and started with a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Then we watched "Millions," a movie that I can't recommend highly enough. It features two brothers who are made suddenly rich. One wants to live large, the other wants to give to the poor. Witty, magical, tense, lyrical, thought-provoking . . . this is a film I won't easily forget.

What would you do with a sudden windfall? I read recently that in America, once a person's annual income passes the $50k mark, he/she is no more likely to be happy with any increase in income.

If you've seen the movie, let me know what you think.

(To keep this related in some way to Laestadianism, let me add that it was a thrill to watch movies in a church.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Time to Weep, a Time to Act

I hesitate to write this. With two young children, I know that a minute's inattention can result in an accident. Once our infant daughter's "vibrating" childseat vibrated right off a table while I was chatting with a friend. Thankfully she was unhurt, but I learned a lesson.

In my experience as a parent coach, most parents are doing their utmost to learn about the life that is now theirs to protect, to "learn" the child who comes without instruction and who requires mind-numbing, round-the-clock care.

So when tragedies happen, how can we respect the grief of the family while learning from their loss? We must talk. At this distance and without many details, it seems there is a pattern to some of the deaths of OALC children.

Examples: A 14-year old is killed when a the tractor he is driving rolls over on him. A toddler in a church parking lot is killed when hit by a car. A baby suffocates when a playpen collapses on its neck, outside of earshot of any adult who can help.

We can ask: why was a 14-year old operating heavy equipment? Why was a toddler loose in a parking lot? Why was a baby placed in an unsafe playpen (the kind that collapse were recalled years ago), outside of earshot of an adult?

Perhaps the 14-year old didn't ask permission. Perhaps the toddler bolted away from a parent. Perhaps the faulty playpen was all the mother could afford.

I don't know. But it won't protect any child to leave these issues undiscussed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Finlandia

Last week we took an overnight trip to stay with friends (one a former OALCer whose brother, coincidentally, is married to my cousin). After a convivial dinner of Swedish meatballs and spinach salad, followed by the best Joulutortut (prune tarts) I've ever tasted, we interrupted our conversation to get the children to bed. Pajamas, teethbrushing, obligatory bed-bouncing, prayers, kisses, "one more story" and then . . . the sad strains of a bagpipe as our host, out on the deck, treated us to "Finlandia." What a lovely gift.

(How many former Laestadians learn to play an instrument? I'd love to be one of them.)

Follow the link above to hear a glorious version of Finlandia sung in Finnish, and read about the song's origin. Below are the lyrics to the version that Joan Baez sings on my iPod.

This is my song
Oh god of all the nations
A song of peace
For lands afar and mine

This is my home
The country where my heart is
Here are my hopes
My dreams my holy shrine

But other hearts
In other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams
As true and high as mine

My countries skies
Are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams
On clover leaf and pine

But other lands
Have sunlight too and clover
And skies are everywhere
As blue as mine

Oh hear my song
Oh god of all the nations
A song of peace
For their land and for mine
***

Can anyone tell me what hymn the OALC sings to this tune?