The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reaching Out To the World

I looked at the stats on this blog yesterday and learned that there were visitors from 31 states and 21 countries over the last 500 visits. The states with the highest number of visitors (out of the last 361 from the U.S.) were Alabama (70), Florida (58), Georgia (23), Virginia (17), Pennsylvania and New York (14 each) and California (12).

Of those 500 visitors, 361 came from the U. S. and the other 139 came from places including Canada, UK, Australia, France, Hungary, Denmark, Togo, Israel, Serbia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Sweden and more.

Bessemer Opinions reaches the world. What I don't know is why some of those visitors come to Bessemer Opinions. Are they people with ties here wanting to find out what is going on? Or people who stumble here? Or people researching a subject and find us through google or another search engine?

Whatever the reason, thanks for visiting and check back often.

Another person reaching the world is Jay Bakker, the preacher son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Nice tats, by the way.

Here is part of how he describes his experience on his church web site, RevolutionNYC .

Eventually, Jay was able to conquer his demons and made a personal decision to find out who God really was. What he discovered floored him – God wasn’t some judgmental, condemning deity sitting on a throne waving an angry fist in the direction of sinners – rather, he was an understanding God offering his gift of love and grace with no strings attached. For the first time Jay wasn’t being driven to Christ out of fear; he was being drawn to Christ through love.

Jay recently spoke at another church about same sex marriage.

Here Jay explains to Larry King why he became a pastor and why his views are what they are. He gives a good explanation of why some evangelicals treat gays the way they do. He also says that Christians are the only army that shoots their wounded.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My New Job

Food for thought.

I have a new job as Program Coordinator for Alabama Victory Gardens.

Alabama Victory Gardens is a non-profit organization whose mantra is "growing communities - one urban garden at a time." In response to the food insecurity issue in our part of Jefferson County we have recognized a need to which are responding.

Alabama Victory Gardens will will help to improve our community in several ways. In addition to addressing hunger and food insecurity, we will offer entrepreneurial opportunities by creating sustainable green jobs and will strengthen communities by involving community members in the growing, distribution and preserving of foods.

Community gardening is occurring all over.

This community garden is in West Philly.

We will also introduce youth to Agricultural Careers and provide work opportunities for students.

We plan to return 50% of our produce to the neighbors of the garden in similar form to this box of veggies. This box of produce is in Great Britain.

Like I said, it's occurring all over. And we need it here.

This project is beginning in Bessemer but already interest is growing in nearby cities in our area. I have a feeling that we will surpass our initial objective of five gardens in Bessemer quickly.

We have a great role model for our efforts. First Lady Michelle Obama helped these kids prepare the vegetable garden at the White House. (They are still talking about this on the Today show this morning).

Within a few days we will have a web site at (the site will be open in a day or two). Until then, for more information contact me. My contact information is in the column on the left.

I introduced Alabama Victory Gardens to the community in my column in this week's Western Tribune as well. That column follows this post. Or click here.

Western Tribune Column April 29, 2009 Alabama Victory Gardens

This is my column from this week's Western Tribune. For more information, contact me.

Alabama Victory Gardens

Recently we learned that donations to area food banks are down at a time when their services may be more in need. As Bessemer’s unemployment, currently at 13.1 %, continues to rise, more people in our area will become dependent on charitable organizations for their food.

Food security or lack thereof, is certainly an issue that is gaining in importance. Food security is defined as the “situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe , and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Charitable food banks help to address this problem.

First lady Michelle Obama has established a Victory Garden at the White House and in doing so has set an example that we should all follow. Many of us have backyard gardens where we grow too many tomatoes and squash for our own families. Through simple sharing or through the development of networks this excess produce could be used to provide nutritious food for our friends and neighbors.

But there is another solution to the problem of food insecurity, and that is community vegetable gardening.

An urban garden is nothing new to the Birmingham area, as Jones Valley Urban Farm has been growing vegetables in downtown Birmingham for years.

But why not empower community members and supply them with the training and resources to establish gardens in their neighborhoods from which they could feed themselves and their needy neighbors?

Alabama Victory Gardens (AVG) is an organization with such a goal. The group plans to establish at least five community gardens in the Bessemer area this year, but has a goal of 100 such gardens within two years.

AVG is partnering with community organizations and faith based institutions to introduce the program and is currently identifying potential garden sites and making arrangements to use the properties.

In addition to providing fresh and healthy food, AVG plans to make these gardens sustainable by selling a portion of the produce. Wouldn’t a Farmer’s Market for local produce be a good idea for Bessemer?

Money raised will help defray the costs of running the gardens.

Alabama Victory Gardens is but one piece of a puzzle that must be completed to solve the problems of food insecurity in our area. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and the harvests are bountiful.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unnatural Acts

This is the short post of the day. The long one follows.

Much has been said by Paul (the Bible guy) and other more recent jabbers who leave comments on this blog about "unnatural acts" and how they were the cause of the destruction of Sodom and will be the cause of the destruction of our country or the world.

Think for a minute and answer this question. What unnatural act is likely to result in a great catastrophe?

A. Sex between two men.

B. Boarding an airplane and flying.

It is not natural for man to fly, but it sure is a way to get swine flu from one country to another.

Now, continue reading...

Thou Shalt Not Love

This is the long post of the day, at least if you watch the videos.

Here is what many Christians seem to be saying to members of the LGBT community.

A few days ago an attempt was made to put a link in a comment that would have directed readers to NARTH, which should stand for National Association of Reparative Therapists and Homophobes, but in reality stands for something else.

NARTH promotes ex-gay therapy, which has been denounced by every credible medical and psychological organization on the planet, and which should be outlawed, except for we do have freedom of speech in this country, even when your speech drives people to commit suicide.

Daniel Gonzales actually lost 2 1/2 years of his life because of NARTH and founder Joseph Nicolosi, but realized that the group was doing nothing positive for him. He founded

Here's a link to an article in the New York Times concerning bullying and gay teen (or younger) suicide. The two kids in the article did not identify as gay, but that does not matter now. As the author wrote, "Whoever they would have been is forever lost to the grave."

Please don't try to post links to quackery and foolishness.

Art of All Types

Be sure and read my Western Tribune column from last week, which follows this. It's a prelude to this week's column, which will be in Wednesday's paper, avaliable Tuesday.

The Magic City Art Connection is over but the art lives.

This drawing of our current president and a former president was on prominent display at Magic City Art Connection. Steve Shepard's art work often carries a message.

This one says;

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of Obama's fateful win, He has trampled down the Bushes who we'll never see again. He has loosed the fluid lightning of his mightier swift pen: Torture and War will end!!

Barack Obama Hallelujah. Barack Obama Hallelujah. Barack Obama Hallelujah. His change will save us all."

I own one of Steve's drawings of Barack Obama. Steve told us yesterday that he is a cousin of Shepard Fairey, who painted the famous Obama Hope painting. Talent, and politics, run in the family, I guess.

Now what is this? These colorfully costumed ladies were gathered near the fountain in Linn Park yesterday.

Just as colorful was the most expensive piece of art work that I saw there: this collection of insects. All of the insects are accurately painted on paper by Jennifer Ivory. She uses mylar, horsehair, feathers and other materials in her work.

This collection was priced at $35,000. All I have to say is, it beats capturing poor little butterflies and murdering them with chloroform or whatever. I was guilty of that as a kid.

One other artist of note was Karen Elise Cohen whose computer generated paintings are both thought provoking and eye catching. Although created on a computer they are difficult to reproduce on a computer, as she admits on web site. My favorite is "For Love" but I couldn't get a good image of it. Here's a detail from it, though. Click on gallery and figurative to see "For Love"and click here to see the Rebecca Series for some really "wow" paintings.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Western Tribune Column April 22, 2009 Earth Week

This week we celebrate Earth Day and events are scheduled around the county that provide education and promote Earth friendly policies.

In a recent letter to The Birmingham News Lewis Fuller, Chairman of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, wrote “there’s no such thing as global warming,” claiming the concept was “invented by self-interested Al Gore.”

He then goes on to provide anecdotal evidence such as a snowfall in Mexico City to support his view.

A recent lecturer at UAB warned against using weather events to support or deny climate change. The best support is found by looking at trends; trends of temperature over the past hundred years and trends of CO­2 concentration in the air and such. There is not enough space in this column to provide all the overwhelming evidence that supports global climate change (and man’s role in it).

But Earth Day is about more than climate change. It’s about respecting the Earth.

If one is a Christian that means respecting God’s creation.

Christian or not, “it is, after all, the stuff of which we are made, from whence we have come, and to which we shall return,” a fellow blogger recently wrote, referring to the soil upon which we walk and from which we grow our food.

And whether we look at this from a religious or non-religious viewpoint, we must realize that the intricacies of nature were present before we were, and there is a balance that must be preserved in order for our existence to continue.

We, as humans, are not “apart from nature.” We are “a part of nature.” In Faith Seeking Understanding theologian Daniel Migliore wrote that humans are “standing in organic relation to each other and to the world of nature.”

More people are returning to gardening this year than in recent years. In part this is due to the current economic state and desire to reduce food expenditures but for many it represents a desire to eat fresher, healthier foods. Many are choosing to garden using organic methods so as not to adversely affect the earth and the food they are producing.

Whether through the individual efforts of local gardeners or by policies developed by our government, caring for our Earth is everyone’s responsibility. Our Earth is a beautiful place in its present condition. Let’s be sure we would recognize it when our grandchildren inherit the responsibility for it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Art, Love and Torture

See some pictures of an interesting rose and more at Bessemer Science and Nature.

Lots to choose from for lovers of art this weekend. Today through Sunday is the Magic City Art Connection at Linn Park in Birmingham. In Bessemer, on Saturday, is Art at the Tracks at the Hall of History, from 9:30 to 4:00.

At Linn Park yesterday I was helping someone to set up, and we were near this guy building this. I didn't get his name, but he says there is no plan to building this. He just does it.

Near the fountain is the art of Paul Cordes Wilm. Paul is a twin (the second), plays softball and likes abandoned houses and rivers. This is a series of his artwork. You can buy it. It follows the theme that I have been following. Love is love and is real and is significant regardless of who it is between and regardless of what detractors of love say. Thanks, Paul.

You might remember this cover from Black and White (February) that Paul did.

Jonathan Mann is writing a song a day. For this one, he took the lyrics directly from the "torture memos," the legal justification for torture that the Bush administration used and for which no one has yet to be prosecuted. Thanks, Homer (and Jonathan).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Future and the Present

Here is the future of same sex marriage state by state, as predicted by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight and mapped by Chachy at The Map Scroll.

The years indicated are those by which a gay marriage ban would be defeated by voters in a given state, according to a regression model designed by Silver. His model included three variables: the year in which an anti-marriage amendment was voted on, the percentage of adults who said religion played an important part in their lives, and the percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

In some states a ban would already be expected to fail; New England and New York and some Western states. There is more explanation at the link above. Where Alabama stands is below.

The Winner Answers the Question
Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton was on the Today Show yesterday and was asked the same question that Miss California was asked during the competition. Granted, Kristen had time to think about it, but...

The Present

Here is some information about same sex couples in Alabama, from Williams Institute. Here is the Alabama Snapshot. This information is based on 2005 data, so there are probably more same sex couples now.

My comment, up front, is that the actual numbers of same sex couples and GLB individuals in the state are probably higher, since a number of people still tend to hide or deny their sexual orientation, yet I doubt many lie and claim to be gay when they are not.

There were 8,602 same sex couples living in Alabama in 2005. There were 94, 639 gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals (single or coupled) in the state. That's about 2% of the population.

The demographics are interesting. Individuals in same sex couples are, on average, 41 years old, and are significantly younger than individuals in married opposite sex relationships. Does that mean that gays are able to fall in love and commit to one another at an an earlier age than straights (or does it mean that we break up earlier, which could be in part due to lack of legal recognition and the sense of permanency that goes with it)?

Same sex couples live in every county in the state, with Jefferson County having the most (1488 couples, 0.57% of all households), followed by Mobile County (800, 0.53%), and Madison County (430, 0.39%).

Here's a surprise: the counties with the highest percentage of same sex households are Perry (0.72%), Hale (0.64%), Choctaw (0.63%) and Bullock (0.63%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are more likely to be employed (66%) than individuals in married opposite sex relationships (63%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are more likely to have a college education, (23%) compared to married individuals (21%).

Individuals in same sex relationships are less likely to have served in the military (7%) than married individuals (17%).

About 25% of same sex couples are raising children under the age of 18, (about 3,309 children).


Same sex couples are a significant part of Alabama demographics and will eventually have their relationships recognized. I predict it will be sooner than the 2024 prediction by Silver.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


There's too much to offer opinions on and too little time to do it.

It's Earth Day. We have a responsibility. You may get tired of me saying the same thing over and over, but that's what I do. Finally, you get it. Today Earth premieres. In Birmingham, it's playing at Rave Patton Creek and Carmike Summitt 16. Much of the footage has been seen in the Discovery Channel/BBC series "Planet Earth." Worth seeing again on the big screen.

The EPA is back on the job, according to Lisa Jackson, who heads the agency. Good.

Birmingham Councilwoman Miriam Witherspoon passed away yesterday morning. 48 is too young to die. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

Acting Freddie Mac chief David Kellermann is dead, suicide suspected.

Pandora's box has been opened. President Obama will not stand in the way of an inquiry into the use of torture. Some officials are saying the techniques worked. I say investigate!

Right wing extremist Representative Jay Love of Montgomery has introduced a resolution in the Alabama House that praises Carrie Prejean for speaking out against equal rights. How sad. And what a waste of time in a legislative body for which the clock is ticking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Miss USA and Progressive Republicans

Kristen Dalton

I'm trying very hard to decide why this created controversy.

First, I wonder why Perez Hilton was chosen to be a judge, but that's a different issue.

No, I wonder why they claim that Miss California Carrie Prejean lost the pageant because of her answer. That is what conservatives are claiming.

I didn't watch the pageant, but I read that Kristen Dalton, who won, also beat Miss California in the swim suit and evening gown competition. It seems she won the pageant fair and square.

From Digital City :

"Miss North Carolina USA Kristen Dalton had the highest scores of the contestants in both sections with a 9.198 in swimsuit and a 9.470 in gown."

This seems more like a Fox News type fabricated controversy to make it seem that someone was victimized because of her conservative views.

Who cares what a Miss USA contestant thinks about an issue? Sure, it's a little disappointing that she's not more enlightened, but this is a contest where women parade around in bikinis, after all.

So let's not get distracted by one beauty queen's view. She's allowed to have her view. But it's also right to point out that the country is moving past her view at lightning (well, slow lightning) speed.

Take this for instance.

Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, describes herself as a "progressive Republican", is liberal on social issues and says she was "raised a Christian, an open minded Christian." She supports same sex marriage.

The future of the Republican Party depends on people like Meghan McCain. But for now, the party is controlled by...controlled by...well, for now the party is out of control.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No, no, no. Not him.

We should all be afraid.

No, I'm not referring to the situation on Bessemer's south side, which has only been reported in The Western Tribune. All of the television stations and the other newspapers have received the same information that The Western Tribune has, but none think it important enough to warn the residents of the area.

No, I'm referring to this headline in the Birmingham News:

Sen. Erwin opens campaign for lieutenant governor.

Why does that strike fear in our hearts?

Because he's a nut.

Remember, he said that God sent Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf coast because of sin and wickedness.

Of course, some with a little more theological training than Erwin interpret things differently:

"I have no idea what sort of senator or politician Mr. Erwin is, but he's sure no theologian," William Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, told the News. "I'm certainly against gambling and its hold on state government in Mississippi, but I expect there is as much sin, of possibly a different order, in Montevallo as on the Gulf Coast. If God punished all of us for our sin, who could stand?"

Oh, and I wonder if Erwin will handle his campaign contributions any differently than he did in 2002 and 2003. "The basic arc of the story is this: Erwin used money from his campaign account for obviously personal expenditures." Maybe, maybe not, but it seems fishy anyway.

Of course nothing ever came of this, not because what he did was right, but because ethics violations in Alabama are generally ignored (unless the charges are just made up, but that's a different story).

Anyway, Erwin told a crowd (I'm paraphrasing) he wants to "remove women's rights, promote bigotry and hatefulness against homos, and preserve the rights of criminals to possess assault weapons." Or something like that.

Referring to the Katrina question, the News reports "he said it was a difficult theological question as to when storms are God's wrath or just storms."

His theology has already been questioned, but still, I wonder about those storms yesterday? I mean, was it the wrath of God that made two of our TV's pictures get all fuzzy for about 15 minutes, or made one TV go out when the others remained on. It was storm related, I'm sure, but I thought it was just something to do with the cable lines.

And that Gravity Wave the other night. Is that why it was so hard to explain scientifically, and why there is so little information out there?

A Gravity Wrath from God?

In the prayer at the end of the rally yesterday, Johnny Rutledge "said he believed it was God's will Erwin would lead the state to be 'a more Christian and holy Alabama.'"

Seems to me a more Christian Alabama would mean removing the sales tax on groceries to help the poor and passing a hate crimes law to protect minorities and make crime fighting easier and restricting gun rights so that criminals would have a more difficult time obtaining them. Things like that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Anti Marriage Ad

Odd picture of the day. Seen near my house.

National Organization for Marriage made a silly ad and many parodies and responses have been produced. Here's one.

Homophobia: an irrational fear of, or aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.

Bigot: a person who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race or politics, and is strongly intolerant of those who differ.

Here's the line up for the video:

In order of appearance:
1. Anita Bryant, anti-gay activist gets a pie in the face
2. Bill O'Reilly, of "The O'Reilly Factor" discusses a lesbian couple that was voted "cutest couple" in their high school yearbook
3. Yes for Proposition 8 Campaign Advertisement
4. A Phelps Family (Westboro Baptist Church) anti-gay protest
5. Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" on Larry King discussing homosexuality
6. "Gathering Storm" anti-gay marriage advertisement from the "National Organization for Marriage"
7. "Protect Every Kiss" gay violence advertisement from German organization "Maneo"

Stephen Colbert also made a parody of the ad.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

I'm glad we can have fun with this, while showing the ridiculousness of the attempts to deny equality.

Friday Five

1) At the Pensacola Teabagging Party at least one person told the truth. Watch.

"back in 2000, there was a budget surplus in the country [lukewarm cheers], and then the next eight years, it was destroyed by the profligate spending of the Bush administration."

"Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget—congratulations!"

"So let’s remember that if you’re going to argue about lower taxes and less spending to place the blame where the blame belongs—and that’s squarely in the hands of the Republican Congress and the Bush administration."

Did the guy make it out alive? (Thanks Kathy )

2) See whats developing at the Jonesboro Community Garden and view pictures. Bessemer Science and Nature .

3) What a surprise. The day that I promote my friend Malcolm Marler's web site, he comes out!
Malcolm's Coming Out. I kind of suspected.

4) Be safe this weekend. Be aware of your surroundings. If anything seems unusual, be suspicious.

5) Be sure to read what I had to say about Legion Field in The Western Tribune. It follows this post.

Western Tribune Column April 15, 2009 Legion Field

Before the ink had dried on the contract that moves the high school Super 6 Championship games from Birmingham to Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford had the Old Gray Lady torn down and tennis courts and a lake built.

At least in that never idle imagination of his.

I believe he said he would wait until a new facility was built before calling in the wrecking ball, and that’s a good thing, considering the Magic City Classic, which features the Alabama A&M Bulldogs and the Alabama State Hornets, along with the SWAC Championship, still need a place to play. They might actually enjoy participating in a new domed facility.

But what about the most frequent user of the stadium each fall? UAB plays its home games at Legion Field, and might feel that a North Birmingham dome, even further from campus than the current venue, is not the ideal place for them.

Gene Hallman, CEO of the Alabama Sports Foundation, said, “The biggest problem with Legion Field these days is its age. In comparison to Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare, it clearly comes up short relative to modern conveniences.”

Right, Gene. Except its age is virtually the same as Bryant-Denny, and just twelve years older than Jordan-Hare. It’s not age, but upkeep. And the reason there has not been upkeep and modernization as with the other stadiums is that Birmingham has lacked the kind of leadership it needed over the last several decades to stay on top of things and move the city forward in all areas, including sports.

Certainly we’ve had big sporting events here such as the 1996 Olympic Soccer matches and SEC Football Championships prior to 1994. But the successes of the past were because of business people like Hallman, not elected officials who could really make a difference in upgrading the facility.

I have some good memories of Legion Field, the best of which is without a doubt the 1972 Iron Bowl when as a college freshman I watched Auburn defeat Alabama 17-16. Punt, Bama, Punt.
And Olympic soccer ranks up there, too.

You know how I feel about preservation, and you know that I would rather see the Old Gray Lady given more than the “facelift” that the mayor says he gave. A “Nip/Tuck” style complete overhaul and the stadium could compete with the two aged contemporaries that have overtaken her.

And then let’s bring the Iron Bowl back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"One Christian Minister's Response to Homosexuality"

Malcolm Marler is a good friend of mine. Malcolm is a former Southern Baptist and United Church of Christ minister and is now a lay person in the Episcopal Church. He is also a chaplain at the 1917 Clinic at UAB.

Malcolm grew up in Gardendale, attended college at Clemson (and played football there), and holds a Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. On his blog he describes himself as a "straight, white, bald guy" writing about gay issues.

On Malcom's blog is a series titled “One Christian Minister’s Response to Homosexuality,” which he says is "about my journey in my 30 years of ministry on why I believe all persons (more specifically persons who are gay–GLBT) are children of God and should also have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone in our society including marriage, healthcare insurance, role in the church, etc."

His latest installment in the series is Part VIII Gay Marriage. The entire series is good but since Same Sex Marriage is so much in the news and this blog I wanted to start with that.

He poses a question similar to what I have asked.

I believe that God is love, so how can I oppose two persons who want to make a life commitment to one another in love? How can I deny a couple all of the rights that I take for granted? How can I deny a couple the social support that I value in my own marriage? How can I deny a couple the blessing all straight couples get in a church whether their faith is central or not in their lives?

Read Rev. Marler's response to his question.

I often receive criticism for quoting gay scholars and authors when addressing gay issues ( I guess blacks can't write about blacks and women can't write about women according to that mentality) so here is a straight minister writing about the issues.

Read the rest of the series. You can go to the other parts from the link above, or from here:

Part I Finding the Words "...I was homophobic..."

Part II Is Homosexuality a Sin? "...This was not a question I answered hastily..."

Part III Reaching Out "...It was ironic to me that a physician who happened to be Jewish, and a businessman who happened to be Methodist, convinced a state university hospital system to hire a Chaplain who happened to be Baptist, to reach out to churches so that they could help rather than hurt its patients at the AIDS clinic..."

Part IV That Judgement Thing "...And yet, many of us in the church use the name of God to say to persons who are gay, “You are not really one of us. You are not really part of this family. You are not really a Christian.”..."

Part V A Shining Light "Stereotypes. Sometimes we think all Baptists and Baptist churches are the same when it comes to their view of homosexuality. But Oakhurst Baptist in Decatur, GA is an exception..."

Part VI Matt's Story ..."I finally understood that I am created by God as a gay man…this is who I am..who I am supposed to be..."

Part VII Creating Community "...I write here so that I can be clearer about my life’s purpose..."

Part VIII Gay Marriage "...They tell no one, and their joy is silenced..."

Click on the links above and read the entire series. The posts are short, it won't take but a few minutes to read. If you are gay, this will help reaffirm that it's OK, in fact, it's great. If you are not gay, this will help in your understanding.

Local Pirates

Do we live in Somalia?

Sometimes it seems that way. Pirates near that country have vowed to step up their attacks and are keeping their word. Several ships have been hijacked since Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips was rescued. The pirates even attacked a U. S. ship, the Liberty Sun, but didn't make onto the vessel.

Here in Bessemer it seems that land pirates are taking over the neighborhood. A neighbor in the historic south side was kidnapped from his home and forced at gunpoint to retrieve money from ATM's night before last. I'm not going to provide any details or the name of the victim, but many of you know the person.

As if that wasn't enough, two other attempts within a couple of blocks have been reported from the past weekend. Those were unsuccessful, fortunately.

Do we read anything about this in the news? No.

Do we have any statements from law enforcement warning residents to be extra careful and assuring us that they are on top of this? No.

Should the sheriff's department or some other agency come to Bessemer if the local police can not control crime here? Yes.

All we can do is be careful, be aware of your surroundings, use your alarm system (your system can be updated to work even if phone lines are cut), and keep your gun handy.

Well after that downer, if you need a smile, watch this video of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent this week. Susan Boyle. She wowed even Simon, and the crowd went wild. I couldn't embed it, but it's a must watch. Really. Really.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"A Teabagging We Will Go,..."

Not me, but conservative Republicans, led by David Vitter (who might know more about the subject than is proper) are set to hold a National Teabag-Off tomorrow across the country.

Republican Party chairman Michael Steele asked the organizers in Chicago if he could Teabag with them, and they refused him.

What's the public teabagging about anyway?

Some say its a tax protest, held on tax day. But the taxes we are paying are the ones from the Bush era, since Obama hasn't passed any taxes (and won't).

Some say its a protest against the rising deficit, something they completely ignored during the Bush years. Also being ignored, polls that show that a large majority of Americans prefer to fix health care over reducing the deficit. And would rather spend more on education than fix the deficit. And this Gallup poll shows that 71% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in President Obama when it comes to doing the right thing for the economy.

Some say its a protest against socialism. OK. Ask the teabaggers, if they are over 65, are they willing to give up medicare and social security? If they are under 65, are they ready to take those programs away from their parents?

Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox on Teabagging:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

What this teabagging tomorrow is really about is getting their rocks off because they can't stand the fact that we have a successful well loved and respected president who happens to be black.

Teabaggers, enjoy your day. If you can't teabag with your friends, who can you teabag? This is probably the only pleasure you will have for the next 8 years.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Weekend

I hope everyone had a happy Easter, or, if it's not a holiday you celebrate, a good weekend. I know the family of Captain Richard Phillips had a good weekend, as they learned their love one had been rescued. Here's Captain Phillips with the commanding officer of the USS Bainbridge, Cmdr. Frank Castellano, after the rescue.

Picture credit U.S. Navy, via Reuters

For republicans always on the watch for an Obama failure, this success must bring mixed messages. Obama carries a big stick and uses it. The world, including those who don't like us, are sure to notice.

At the risk of fueling Bessemer Opinions detractors claims that I make everything gay, I offer the following. We did the egg dying thing Saturday night...

...threw all our eggs in one basket (carton)...

...and they landed in the pattern of the Rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride.

Easter, unlike Christmas, is difficult to make gay. I mean, there are no elves or fairies, no gaudy red suits, no anticipated decorating opportunity, no fabulous parties at The Castle or here.

Well, there are Peeps.

But the real Easter story, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, for all of us, straight or gay, is good enough for me.

As for the rainbow of eggs, what do hard boiled eggs have to do with Easter anyway?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yesterday's Event

Check out the Columbine pictures on Bessemer Science and Nature.

I guess I educated some people. No comments on the Sodom story or the abortion column. Wow.

Does this look familiar?

If not, you might recognize this.

If not, you are fortunate in that you must not have had a vehicle broken in to.

I tried to find statistics for the area, then for the state, but I'm just going to rely on what the police guy and the auto glass repair guy said.

Car burglary is way up in the Bessemer area. The thieves are after anything, but one thing that really attracts them is GPS devices left on the dash...

... or anywhere in sight.

My sister in law had one of these stolen. I don't think she had it sitting on the dash like the picture, and it happened in downtown Birmingham, not Bessemer. But it can happen anywhere.

In fact, the glass repair guy said that he replaced a window for a Bessemer attorney who had their GPS stolen in broad daylight with people in the office watching. The perp was wearing a tie, he said. High class scum, I guess. Just broke the window, grabbed the device and was gone before they could get out to stop him. He backed down the street in his vehicle so they couldn't get his tag number.

I don't have a GPS device, and still look for the moss growing on the north side of the tree to determine direction. Neither does Bobby, but **** happens.

That was yesterday. Have a safe and happy Easter weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Story of Sodom

Next week I promise more mundane subjects. Be sure to read my review of Dr. Solomon's presentation at Bessemer Science and Nature.

This is by Rev. Jonathan Loppnow and Rev. Paul C. Evans of Topeka. I have permission to reprint it. I did place some emphasis here and there.

Update: This post was pretty much a response to comments on
this post about Perry Stone.

Genesis 19 The Story of Sodom

Genesis 19 describes how two angels visited Sodom and were welcomed into Lot's house. The men of the city gathered around the house and demanded that Lot send the visitors to the mob so that they might know the angels.

[The Hebrew verb yada (to know) is ambiguous. It appears 943 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). In only about a dozen of these cases does it refers to sexual activity; it is not clear whether the mob wanted to rape the angels or to meet with them, and perhaps attack them physically. From the context, it is obvious that their mood was not friendly].

Lot refused, but offered his two virgin daughters to be heterosexually raped if that would appease the mob. The offer was declined. God decided to destroy the city because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. The angels urged Lot and his family to flee and to not look back.

Unfortunately, Lot's wife looked the wrong way, so God killed her because of her curiosity.

God was apparently not critical of Lot for offering his two daughters to be raped. However, God was angry at the other inhabitants of the town. He destroyed Sodom with fire and brimstone (sulfur). He presumably killed all of the men in the mob, their wives and other adults, as well as children, infants, newborns, etc. It is unclear from these few verses whether God demolished the city because the citizens:

1)were uncharitable and abusive to strangers
2)wanted to rape people
3)engaged in homosexual acts.

The Church has traditionally accepted the third explanation. In fact, the term sodomy which means anal intercourse is derived from the name of the city, Sodom.

But the first explanation is clearly the correct one.

As recorded in Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:7-16, Jesus implied that the sin of the people of Sodom was to be inhospitable to strangers.

In Ezekeiel 16:48-50, God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom's sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered, and worshiped many idols; sexual activity is not even mentioned.

Jude disagreed with God; he wrote that Sodom's sins were sexual in nature. Various biblical translations describe the sin as fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust; you can take your pick.

We are faced with the inescapable and rather amusing conclusion that the condemned activities in Sodom had nothing to do with sodomy.

Source: OCRT: Bible and Homosexuality

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah actually condemns inhospitality and idolatry, not homosexuality.

Read the Scriptural cross-references: Deuteronomy 29:23, Isaiah 1:9, Jeremiah 23:14, Lamentations 4:6, Ezekiel 16:49-50, Amos 4:11, Zephaniah 2:9, Matthew 10:15 / Luke 10:12, Luke 17:29, Romans 9:29, Jude v.7, Revelation 11:8

NOWHERE in the Scriptures does it say that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexual sex. Even if the specific point of the story was concerning a sexual matter, rather than hospitality, the issue is rape not homosexuality. Jesus claimed the issue was simply one of showing hospitality to strangers (Luke 10:12).

How ironic that those who discriminate against homosexuals seem to be the true practitioners of the sin of Sodom.

Source: Same Gender Sexual Behavior and the Scriptures

This paper is provided as a service of the Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka, authors Rev. Jonathan Loppnow and Rev. Paul C. Evans. It may be reproduced freely as long as the entire text is reproduced and unaltered, all attributions are left intact and it is not sold for profit or included in a for-profit publication. Copyright © Jan. 7, 1998
Copyright © by the author All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

D. C. Votes for Equality

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column from today's paper, following this post. I think I stirred something up.

Yesterday the D. C. council voted to recognize same sex marriages performed elsewhere. This is preliminary to a gay marriage bill for the city. Story from the Washington Post .

A poll at that web site at this moment has 87% of respondents choosing "The city should itself legalize gay marriage," 4% choosing "The city should recognize gay marriages," 2% choosing "Civil unions or domestic partnerships only," and 5% choosing "None" (no recognition of same sex relationships).

I need your help at Bessemer Science and Nature. It has to do with this:

Barring big news, tomorrow I plan to address a reader's comment regarding the story of Sodom in the Bible. Yesterday's post, of course, addressed the story based on the Hebrew writings. Oh, the Old Testament book of Genesis is Hebrew writings, that's right. Anyway...stay tuned.

Western Tribune Column April 8, 2009

This column has already angered some. But here it is:

To say that President Obama “favors the taking of life from the unborn” is a misinterpretation of policy if I have ever heard one. But that is part of the rhetoric being applied to the debate over the invitation by the University of Notre Dame for the president to speak at commencement.

For the Catholic Church to be so focused on abortion is not surprising. After all, anything to take the focus off of their own misgivings. Remember, this is the church that allowed Cardinal Bernard Law, the prelate who obstructed justice in the investigation of pedophilia in his own diocese, to remain a member in good standing, in fact, allowing him to run the third largest basilica in Rome.

Catholic universities have always been places where freedom of thought and differing opinions have been allowed. Thomas Reese, a distinguished fellow at Georgetown University, wrote that in denying the voices of people with different views, “We are admitting that our arguments are not convincing.” And Dick Meister, the former provost of DePaul University (the nation’s largest Catholic University), said that allowing Obama to speak “epitomizes Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.”

On the subject of abortion, if that’s what the Catholics in opposition to Obama want to talk about, a recent Gallup Poll released last week shows no difference between American Catholics and Non-Catholics on the issue. And the majority of Americans do not want to outlaw abortion, although they may want to limit the procedure to certain circumstances.

Our president, regardless of what one might want to believe, is more interested in preventing unintended pregnancies than in taking away a woman’s right to individual choice as a way to reduce abortion. If unintended pregnancies are significantly reduced, the number of abortions will decrease also. Is that so hard to understand?

On the other hand, if abortion were outlawed, abortions would continue, but would be less safe. I recently attended a presentation at UAB on what might happen if abortion were outlawed, by physicians who were practicing before it was legalized. Their predictions regarding the health of women were dire. I couldn’t help reflecting on Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s scoffing at the concern over the health of the woman when abortion was mentioned during a debate.

Many see the hypocrisy in the current debate and believe it’s just a way for Catholic Republicans to demean Obama.

Meanwhile, his approval ratings remain steady.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont Legalizes Same Sex Marriage

Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage, this time from the legislature, which overrode the governors veto of the legislation yesterday.

Time marches on. Equality is catching up.

Sodom - What Happened?

A few weeks ago a reader posted a comment asking if I had watched Perry Stone on TBN. "Entire 30 minute episode with historical evidence about Sodom and the homosexual sin (out in the streets) that brought it down," he wrote.

Well I don't often watch TBN and have never watched Perry Stone, but of course you can find him online. The episode referred to is #441 - The Zoar Factor.

True to the form of Christians that pick and choose verses and mis-interpret them to demonize gays, Mr. Stone does the same thing with Hebrew Scripture, taking a passage from the book of Jasher and after misinterpreting the verse, forgetting all of the words around it. He focused on one verse.

Here is what Jasher 19:3 says: And by desire of their four judges the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had beds erected in the streets of the cities, and if a man came to these places they laid hold of him and brought him to one of their beds, and by force made him to lie in them.

Those are the words displayed on the screen, but Mr. Stone mis-quotes the end, saying "and by force made him to lie with them."

There is a big difference between "in" and "with".

So I wondered what the verses that followed said.

Jasher 19:4-7:
And as he lay down, three men would stand at his head and three at his feet, and measure him by the length of the bed, and if the man was less than the bed these six men would stretch him at each end, and when he cried out to them they would not answer him.


And if he was longer than the bed they would draw together the two sides of the bed at each end, until the man had reached the gates of death.


And if he continued to cry out to them, they would answer him, saying, Thus shall it be done to a man that cometh into our land.


And when men heard all these things that the people of the cities of Sodom did, they refrained from coming there.

There is not a word in there that would lead one to believe they are talking about forced sex between men, but that is what Stone implies. In fact, that is what he bases his entire show on.

You can read Jasher 19 here and you will learn that the people of Sodom went on to starve and torture visitors. It seems this is the abomination that may have been looked upon by God with disfavor.

In fact, read on. Just after covering a woman with honey and then placing her before a swarm of bees that were stinging her all over, and as she was being ignored by the people:


And the Lord was provoked at this and at all the works of the cities of Sodom, for they had abundance of food, and had tranquility amongst them, and still would not sustain the poor and the needy, and in those days their evil doings and sins became great before the Lord.


And the Lord sent for two of the angels that had come to Abraham's house, to destroy Sodom and its cities.

In fact, nowhere are relations between same sex partners mentioned.

As for Stone, he has no credibility. He goes on to say that the same abominations are taking place in the United States. Well, yeah, we are not "sustaining the poor and the needy." But it has nothing to do with homosexuality!!!

Stone goes on to compare judges in Biblical times permitting torture of visitors to judges in the United States making rulings (about gay rights is implied). Apples and oranges?

He blames the hurricane in New Orleans and the mildew that resulted on a curse from the Lord (he says "mildew" is biblical), and the city of Galveston's storm damage last year on the Bible's admonition that it rains upon the just and unjust, and says just as Lot (who was a just man) had to relocate, so the "just" citizens of hurricane damaged areas have to relocate.

Give me a break!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Young Evangelicals

I've written previously about Rick Cizik and evangelicals in general. Cizik, of course, is the former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals who was booted after saying he believed in civil unions for gays and lesbians during an interview on NPR's Fresh Air.

The Advocate has an article in their current issue titled "Reduce, Reuse, Religion?" The article focuses on Jonathan Merritt, a Southern Baptist student (or former student) who is becoming a leader in the growing "creation care" movement among evangelicals.

Read what Merritt said about his new found fame (or infamy) in this article from the Christian Index. He's been tagged a (gasp) liberal.

All because he is concerned about the environment. Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative is the web site he started and his declaration that created the buzz can be found there.

My interest in the Advocate article (and I assume their purpose in printing it) is that it says young evangelicals are taking the focus off of divisive social issues and placing it on more pressing concerns. (The article is not available online as I write this) A majority of young white evangelicals (age 18-29) support either marriage or domestic partnership for same sex couples (58%), according to a 2008 study referenced in the article, compared to 46% of evangelicals over 30.

Merritt says it's easy to see why. Four out of ten evangelical youths say they have a close friend or family member who is gay, twice as many as their older counterparts. When the issue becomes personal, attitudes change. "Many older [evangelicals] are in disbelief when you quote that statistic," he says. "One man said to me, 'Well, I have a cousin who is gay.' I told him the difference is that I hang out with my friends who are gay on Friday nights. You just see your cousin at Christmastime."

The future looks bright(er) for the planet, and for equality.

Read an announcement about a distinguished speaker, Susan Solomon, coming to UAB Wednesday at Bessemer Science and Nature, speaking of climate change.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bessemer = New York? Why Not?

I don't see why not, at least in this respect.

In New York High Line Park will soon open. An abandoned railway is being turned into a park in the sky. Their park will be 1.45 miles long, winding 22 blocks through Manhattan's Meatpacking district and West Chelsea. The area's gays will love it. And the area is full of 'em. Of course, others will enjoy it too. We don't hog all the fun.

Aside from that, according to press, it is only the second elevated park - the first being Promenade plantee in Paris. Now, I can't believe that there are no other elevated railways turned park in our country, but that's what the Advocate says. But what about this?

Here in Bessemer we have the abandoned rail line that spans Carolina Avenue and turns parallel to First Avenue. It's wide enough for a bike/walking trail and then some.

It could be extended over Arlington and Berkeley Avenues. The infrastructure is already there.

It would span across Berkley Avenue here.

And could continue across Clarendon, Dartmouth and on...and meet up with an extension of Red Mountain Park if our city leaders would look into it. The Auburn University Urban Studio already thought of this. I have plenty of these proposals/maps if anyone is interested in what could happen in Bessemer. In there plan the elevated park comes down to ground level somewhere before the Hall of History.

Please be sure that your favorite Bessemer leader sees this.

Uh-oh. I'm seeing coffee shops and art galleries again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Be sure to read my Western Tribune Column which follows this post.

And check out Bessemer Science and Nature to learn about recycling plastics and recycling in general in Bessemer.

I had something prepared to write about, but NEWS FLASH.

The Iowa Supreme Court just ruled in a unanimous decision that Same Sex Marriage is legal. Des Moines Register.

Picture credit Rodney White/ The Register

Iowa becomes the third state to legalize equality in marriage, following Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” the justices said in a summary of their decision.

More information from 365 gay

Progress marches on. Equality marches on. The dream becomes reality.

A reader yesterday said, concerning the fight for equality, "This is one fight that will never be won." (In a comment I did not post, because it violated my rules).

The fight is being won. This is in the "heartland."

Now we just need to see the Prop 8 overturned in California. And maybe a "southern state."

Western Tribune Column April 1 2009

It seems that Bessemer is on the verge of a Spring time renewal of sorts, at least in the historic South Side neighborhood.

Whenever a building is unoccupied, whether it be a church, a school, a home or public housing, there is concern that the structure will deteriorate or become a haven for vagrants or those who are up to no good.

In the historic district we are especially concerned for several reasons. One, the old buildings, while built from sturdy materials with construction methods meant to last, also deteriorate quickly if not properly maintained. Two, because of the historic nature of the structures, they connect us to the past and to our roots. Third, the buildings represent architectural styles that can be mimicked but not reproduced in part because of a lack of skilled craftsmen but also because the lumbar produced today is not as dense or strong as that used a century ago.

So you can imagine the relief felt by preservationists last week when we learned that one of the most notable vacant houses on Clarendon Avenue is being sold to a couple who is interested in preserving its beauty.

Then the community’s spirit was lifted when the Bessemer Board of Education approved the superintendent’s recommendation to sell Arlington School to an individual who already has shown his willingness to restore historic properties. Preservationists have fought for years to save this building, and the Alabama Historical Commission listed the property as one of its “places in peril” in 2003.

These two items of good news came after learning that another historic property, the “neo-classical Revival temple fronted church” formerly known as South Highland Baptist Church, had been purchased and will be used to benefit the community. More about this will be revealed over the coming weeks, but at least we will stop hearing “I hope it doesn’t become another Arlington School.”

Spring time is a season of renewal, no doubt, but what’s renewal without a sense of security?

That is why the fourth item of interest is important. A new police substation is being built on Dartmouth Avenue and our perception is that this will make us safer. Perception of course, is not necessarily reality, but I can’t help but believe that the community will benefit from increased police presence. And when this community, or any community in the city is improved, the entire city benefits.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fashion Inquiry and LGBT Civil Disobedience


She always has it.

She always had it.

She had it too.

So why doesn't she have it?

That's the question Brits were asking yesterday, as they realized that Michelle does not carry a handbag with her all the time. I'm glad that is the pressing issue of the day, as thousands of British citizens were protesting the G-20 and the European press was trying to assign blame for the global crisis on the US.

But we love Michelle. So do 72% of Americans according to a recent Gallup Poll. Her approval even surpasses her husband's.

I approve of both.
Take It to The Streets
A coalition of prominent activists for gay equality is promoting non-violent civil disobedience in the fight for equality.

"We are tired of defeat, token change, defending ourselves against charges of moral inferiority, and being told to “wait” in the land we love while liberation occurs in other countries. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged that real change takes time; yet he also warned against the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” and instructed the oppressed to demand equality now – not on the convenient time schedule of those doing the oppressing."

Among those supporting this effort are leaders of Soulforce, who for years have led the fight to combat the Spiritual Violence which targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. This type of violence toward the soul of a person drives people away from the love that God offers and contributes to the low self esteem that many LGBT persons harbor.

In a letter, the leaders of the effort said this (emphasis mine):

Efforts to achieve full civil equality - such as the right to marry the person we love, the right to care for our families, the right to nondiscrimination in the workplace, and the right to serve openly in the military - have awakened a sleeping giant within the soul of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) community.

We are tired of agonizing political setbacks, token change, defending ourselves against charges of moral inferiority, and being told to "wait" in the land we love while liberation occurs in other countries. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged that real change takes time; yet he also warned against the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" and instructed the oppressed to demand equality now - not on the convenient time schedule of those doing the oppressing. Legislative efforts toward equality, while essential, have proven woefully inadequate under current circumstances.

Today, we affirm that nonviolent strategies such as marches, vigils, demonstrations, public protests, and civil disobedience, seek to create what Dr. King called "healthy tension".. This constructive tension forces those who perpetuate injustice, and society as a whole, to pause, reflect, and consider the ugliness of their prejudices and the indecency embodied in their discrimination. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

In addition to Dr. King's legacy, we remember that those of Mahatma Gandhi, Bayard Rustin, Oscar Romero, Cesar Chavez, the Velvet Revolution, and countless others are deeply rooted in United States and world history. Nonviolent resistance continues to play a vital role in undermining the power of repressive political regimes.

We call on community organizers, activists, movement leaders, and all LGBTQ people across the nation to begin training the masses in nonviolent direct action. We have prepared a new online resource - - to assist in this vital task. As we resist injustice, we must avoid violence of the fist, tongue, and heart and remember that in truth we are challenging unjust systems, not people. In due course, we seek to be in community with those from whom we currently find ourselves divided.

We, the undersigned, call on LGBTQ and allied people everywhere to act with strength and integrity. Today, we reclaim nonviolent direct action as part of that process. Let's understand that the vision of equality belongs to all of us and we are each responsible for taking action in pursuit of that dream. We all have the faculty to be powerful, influential, and prevailing. Let's reinvest in our movement for social change and believe in our own capacity to effect that change. Let's allow the boldness and hunger for justice to grow and contagiously spread to others.
Let's take it to the streets.

Jeff Lutes, Soulforce
Cleve Jones, UNITE HERE
Willow Witte, Join the Impact
Sara Beth Brooks, San Diego Equality Campaign
David Comfort, Equality Network
Kip Williams, Radical Designs
Jeff Sheng, Fearless Campus Tour
David Valk, UCLA Student
Laura Kanter, Orange County Equality Coalition
Christopher Hubble, Soulforce in Colorado