Why Families Are Like Sandwiches

Discussions continue regarding what actually constitutes a family in our society, in light of proposed and imminent changes to marriage legislation. Conservative Christian groups in particular claim that children are better off when situated in a certain arrangement of opposing genders and “appropriate” sexual preferences, i.e.: parenting is to be carried out by one heterosexual man and one heterosexual woman cohabiting, and joined in a church-approved, legal, marriage. Many Christians – and some non-Christians – continue to strongly defend their view that same-gender co-parents commit a kind of child abuse just by carrying on their relationship in the proximity of any children, regardless of whether those couples have superior parenting skills to heterosexual individuals or couples with children. It should be obvious that as long as the sexual preference of the adult – heterosexual or otherwise – is not towards the child in their care, every family can be judged on its own individual merits where child abuse is concerned.

And now, on a lighter note…..

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Families are kind of like sandwiches.

Sometimes with a sandwich/family, it’s the same old thing every single day. And some people really like it that way. Sometimes you get to change it up, and then every day brings something totally different. Provided everyone gets something that’s good and wholesome most of the time, both ways are perfectly okay.

Sometimes with your sandwich/family, things can get a little messy, both in the creation and the enjoyment. Sometimes everyone wants everything all at once, and it can get a little stressful. And sometimes someone decides they don’t want sandwiches any more, and that can be sad and confusing. The thing to remember is that sandwiches are not nailed to the ground. They were made to go where people go. They were also made to be divided and multiplied and shared, and even to be consolidated. It can all be done. Sometimes the best part of having a sandwich is being able to share it, and have one shared with you. If you have a sandwich worth sharing, there are plenty of folks out there eating lunch alone, you know.

Now, some people like to make themselves the boss of sandwiches/families. These ones like to go around saying there’s only one way to make a sandwich, and only certain things you can use to make one. Don’t listen to that garbage. You may feel at times like you’re expected to come up with honey-baked ham, swiss cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes on organic sourdough, and you can really only do a good old peel-back-packet ham, week old tomatoes from the bottom of the crisper and plastic-wrapped pretend cheese on thin sliced white. You may only have one piece of bread to work with, or maybe you’re coeliac, or vegetarian. How do you make a HCT without any ham in it? Can you even have a sandwich with just one piece of bread to work with? Who knew lunch could be so stressful? You know what? Screw ‘em. They’ll just have to deal with it, especially if they will never actually have to eat your damn sandwich. You just go ahead and make the best of what you’ve got, honey. If you like it and are prepared to live with it, and you serve it up with a big smile and a lot of love, you’re doing great, I don’t care what anyone says.

Besides, if its white bread, wholegrain or no bread at all, if it’s Swiss, cheddar, sliced or shaved, if it’s salad, salami or smoked salmon with watercress and cream cheese, it’s still a sandwich, anyway you look at it. There are guidelines, sure, but in the end, you never make a sandwich for the sake of making a sandwich – it’s lunch. It exists to fill a hunger – just like a family does. And if your sandwich/family fulfils that purpose be it a PB&J, HC&T or BL&T, then it’s a perfectly awesome sandwich/family dammit, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise 🙂

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How Will You React When You Realise Your Child Is Gay? Guest post by Hannah Pate

I’ve known Hannah Pate since she was a young girl. She and her sister Rebekah were P.K.’s – pastors kids – at the big Assemblies Of God church we used to be a part of in the late eighties and early nineties. Their dad Anthony was one of our pastors back then, a vibrant evangelical preacher with an international ministry and larger than life personality. One day, we turned up to church to hear that Hannah’s dad had left their mum and gone away with someone else – another man. We were all baffled and shocked. He did what? The church went into damage control, closing ranks around the girls and their mother. I don’t know if the church handled it well – there’s not really anything we can compare that to – but I can say we all found it very sad when Anthony simply seemed to disappear off the face of the earth for a while.

Many years later I sang at Hannah’s wedding, where all her family including dad Anthony Venn-Brown celebrated together. I remember marveling at what a strong, self-possessed young woman of grace and confidence Hannah had become. She and Michael now have two amazing daughters of their own, and I know it must have been very hard for their particular family to make this all work somehow. The fact is this family are one of the main reasons I came to change my views on homosexuality and marriage equality. Whilst many Christians get all hot under the collar and postulate about how relaxing their vilification of homosexuals will diminish the Christian faith and incur God’s anger, I have watched Hannah and her family support and work together to just love each other the very best they can. I see God in that, far more than I do in the attitudes of those who refuse to temper their hostility toward LGBT people and their families. I was very proud to march beside Hannah and Anthony – an ambassador and advocate for the homosexual community –  in the 2012 years Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney.

The fact is statistically, many of the Christians who have made up their minds about same-gender attracted people have someone very close to them right now who is homosexual – a child, a brother or sister, even a parent. The real issue I have with the majority Christian attitude against same-gender attracted people is this assumption “they” are not “one of us”. They are all “out there” – others. We are kidding ourselves. There are people in your church, parents at your kids school, friends in your workplace, tradesmen you employ, health professionals you trust and politicians you vote for who are homosexual. Bet on it. The reason you don’t know the whole truth about them says an awful lot about the society we live in – and also says much about the kind of people they have had to become because of the society that makes them “lesser than” everyone else.

Hannah has written this excellent piece, which I am proud to repost here. Please visit and support her blog.

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How will you react when you realise your child is gay?

“It’s sad to have a knowing that some people will read the heading of this blog and completely ignore that it was ever written. But thank you to those who care enough about their children and are brave enough to read on.

“I am a mother of 2 girls. I love my girls for all the things that are different about them. I love that they don’t always follow the crowd and they are individuals. They are gorgeous, and love to dress up and wear make up. But they also love to play hard on the basketball court and love adventure.

“So, if they came to me one day and said “Mum, I’m a lesbian!” what would I do?

Before I answer that question I want to tell you why I want ALL parents to think about the question heading for this blog.

“I have a gay dad. I love my dad to bits. I love that unconditional love means that I still have a great relationship with him (thanks to my mum too). However he, and many others in this world, have been criticised, rejected and cut off from their families because the family members did not choose love above all else. I have spoken personally to countless men and women that have been kicked out of home, banished from speaking to their families and in some cases have attempted suicide because of the rejection from their families.

“Let’s wind back the clock. You hold your child for the first time. They are absolutely perfect and look up at you and your world changes because they are now in it. You start to look to the future and wonder what they will be when they grow up, who will they marry, will they travel the world? You think about these things and have your own image of how these questions will be answered. But one thing we have to remember is that we absolutely no control over that or whether you son or daughter is gay or straight. They are who they are!

“There are many children and teenagers that I have interacted with that already probably know that they are gay, but for a variety of reasons don’t understand it or verbalise it. I have taught my children to be loving and caring of ALL people and in particular to be sensitive to those of their friends that may ‘come out’ during the time of their friendship with them. I am hoping that by talking about it with my girls and educating them, that a friend will find comfort and safety in the friendship they have to be able to confide in them and find support through their ‘coming out’.

“But my child is only 2 years old, it doesn’t affect me!

“Talking about this is just as important as talking about immunisation or child locks on power points. It is a life or death situation and I would hate to see parents being anything other than loving and supportive. I am sure that when your child was born you didn’t say “I will only take them home if they are straight, I will only take them home if they never misbehave, I will only take them home if they become a teacher like me”. You loved them unconditionally! NEVER stop doing that.

“So to answer the question “if my girls came to me one day and said “Mum, I’m a lesbian!” what would I do?

“I would say “OK” and give them a hug. No drama, no over the top craziness. Just pure and simple love.

“Some kids know this really early on in life, yet some don’t come to this acceptance until they are older. Either way, they need you to love them.”

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You can visit Hannah’s blog here.

Why Christians Are *Not* The Boss Of Marriage

*After the recent affirmation by US president Barack Obama of same-sex marriage, I’m reposting my piece Why Christians Are Not The Boss Of Marriage which appears in my book God, You Can Take My Mental Illness, Just Not The Part Where You Speak To Me – available on Amazon for Kindle, and soon as a print version on CreateSpace.
 
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I’ve been doing some thinking about marriage lately, in light of the recent decision by New York State in the U.S. to legalise homosexual marriage, as reported by the New York Times.

I myself am married. I committed this act when I was all of nineteen years old. The person I married was just eighteen, and we had managed to make a little baby together the year before. Of all the things we did in those early years, marrying was certainly technically the easiest. It was one terrific day. But getting ourselves a Christian marriage had definitely been much harder, despite the fact we both wanted it, were old enough, heterosexual and Christian.

We knew we wanted to get married pretty much right after we found out I was pregnant with the little baby. It never occurred to us we should have an abortion, or adopt. We wanted to be together, and we wanted to put things right. We felt that our relationship had broken lots of rules, and violated people’s expectations of us at that time. Whose rules? Whose expectations? Well, our families of origin, the church, and our peers at the youth group we belonged to. We wanted to let them all know we were prepared to do the right thing after being pretty much finished with doing the wrong thing. We figured we could be together, and have people think well of us again, by getting married all Christian-like.

But it proved not to be quite that simple. Just in case we’d made the grave mistake of thinking doing the right thing was as easy as doing the wrong thing, the leaders of our church youth group asked us to stand up in front of all our peers at the Friday night youth service and apologize to everyone for what we’d done. Right after vomiting from the sheer horror of it, we agreed to do it. We said sorry for letting everyone down, and explained to everyone how we fully intended to marry and make a family together. We thought the speech was going quite well when the assistant youth pastor stood up and remarked “Well, we’ll just see how it goes, won’t we?” I.e.: It’s all right to say these things, but time will tell. Wow, we so want you to be our associate senior pastor in five years time. Not.

Getting everyone’s approval was clearly going to be more difficult than we’d thought. Ever hopeful for the blessing of the church on our relationship, right after our lovely little baby was born we brought him to our church to ask our senior pastor if we could have a public dedication for him on a Sunday morning in church, just like everyone else. We were told to come back after we were married. Not long after that, our first piece of pre-marriage counseling included this little gem. “So, seeing as you two had sex before marriage, one of your big concerns will obviously be what other contraventions of God’s laws you are capable of breaking. Are you at all concerned that the other may have affairs because both your ability to do the right thing is demonstrated to be so poor?” We didn’t get any more counseling after that.

All of this hassle, just so we wouldn’t be living in sin. So, just what do you call it when people take money for putting a young couple through that?

For years I had this morbid fear that perhaps the pastor who married my husband and I had forgotten to submit the paperwork to the authorities and we’d get a letter one day to say we weren’t really married at all. I would lie in bed and worry about it, then one day I realized that if this were true, God already knew. Maybe that’s why, I reasoned, everything is always going wrong for us? Maybe we never have any money and fight all the time because we are still sinful in the eyes of God?

Shame is a hard stain to shift.

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I believe in marriage, but I don’t insist that others do. However, when people have said to me in the past that marriage is “just a piece of paper,” I have been known to reply “so is a drivers license.” I know we Christians have tried to tell people there are consequences for not getting the piece of paper and acting as if you are married, and we have given it a dirty name to make people feel bad for doing it. It’s called “living in sin”. But you don’t stop living in sin once you get married, I can assure you. The piece of paper will not guarantee the level of maturity and wisdom required for a peaceful, non-combative partnership, but the way the church carries on you’d think a marriage license was some kind of diploma for emotional intelligence. It certainly ain’t that.

I am actually still deciding if marriage is the exclusively “Christian” institution we have made it out to be. I’ve been doing some research trying to find out exactly when marriage as such began to be mentioned in the Bible. Old Testament marriages would certainly have been Judaic ceremonies: at least from the time Judaism began to be practiced. However, I find no evidence that Adam and Eve were Jewish, nor their direct descendants, so no such ceremony could have occurred in their instance, yet Adam is referred to as Eve’s husband, and Eve as Adams wife as early as Genesis 3. Also, I cannot find a text for a marriage ceremony as such in the Bible. Marriage, wives and husbands just seem to start to be mentioned at some point, right back early in Genesis, way before the Mosaic Law, or Jewishness are.

Despite this Biblical ambiguity, Christians talk about marriage as if we invented it in the first place and only ever meant to loan it to the world, with the condition we always reserve the right to decide who gets to do it. However, practically every religion, people and culture in the world has its own marriage rites. Regardless, Christianity continue to claim their self-professed right to dictate the conditions of everyone’s marriage in the whole world, even though marriage existed way before Christianity, before Judaism, even before people were separated by language, into tribes, cultural groups or nations and even before government. According to the Bible. I’m not making this up.

Whilst I can’t understand Christian’s meanness on marriage, I can understand why people who aren’t allowed to get married would like to. There are various social and financial advantages for married couples, and I think everyone ought to be allowed to access these advantages if they are citizens of the society providing them. I do not believe that variances you were born with are sufficient qualification to exclude a person from marriage. The debate about inherent variances versus conscious choices will have to wait for another time, but suffice to say that even if being homosexual is a “lifestyle choice”, it still doesn’t mean human rights must relinquished in exchange for it, any more than choosing to become a Christian should, which, it could also be argued, is perhaps just as much a “life-style choice”.

I’ve observed that Christians have a droll tendency to hoard up all the fun and special things in life like marriage and Christmas and being a family and call them Christian even though they’re really not. The fact is you don’t have to be a Christian to love someone, to be able to make a vow and keep it, to sign a contract or to even have a child. Marriage and family are not Christian institutions; they are human ones. It ought to be okay for all human beings to be able to get married if they want to, anyway they want to, for whatever reason they choose. Christians just don’t get to make up the rules for all the human beings, any more than Buddhists or Muslims do. Boy, do we kick up a stink when they try it.

I believe that Christians, in their moral exuberance, must not require that the basic human rights and freedoms of non-Christians be diminished in any way unless they are prepared to give up their own rights and freedoms equally. Lord knows, we’re not. A few months ago, a church in the town we were living protested publicly about a festival organised by the homosexual community that the council was considering approving. At the same time as they were protesting, this particular church enjoyed the blessing of the very same council for their own public Christmas celebration in December. However, the church did not recognise that in effect their protest against the homosexual event was absurd. They wanted the basic right of gay people to gather and celebrate and run a legal, family-oriented event in their town to be denied, whilst their own right to do the same be upheld. Ironically, later in the year and unrelated to the protest, the local business that had sponsored the church event withdrew their support, and Carols by Candlelight had to be cancelled. However, the gay event went ahead, and was a great success.

You know, in another time and place, not very long ago, people with dark skin were not allowed to marry one another, or anyone else. Instead, they were obliged to continue to live and work in an elite, aloof, and very Christian society that made them into pariahs and slaves. However, these people, the ones whom they said were not even qualified to be called human, married each other in secret and lived as married people just the same. The stupid, white, religious people who said they couldn’t just had to suck it up and get the hell over it.

I believe history may be about to repeat itself.

My marriage is one of the things that has made me the happiest – and also the most miserable – in my life, but if I have taken it for granted in the past, I do so no longer. This isn’t just because of the trials we have been through to stay together, but also because I cannot imagine what it might have been like if we had been forbidden to marry in the first place.  For me now to think that some people in my community are denied the right to marry for what I consider fairly redundant reasons almost makes me want to divorce on principle. It’s not that I hold contempt for marriage, on the contrary, but I do hold contempt for the conditions others place upon it in the name of the Christ I follow, a Christ who has shown to me nothing but love, compassion, acceptance, leadership, support, forgiveness and mercy.

Marriage is an institution I have come to respect and revere, and which has afforded me social privileges which prior to now, I hadn’t even considered would have been withheld if the person I loved and had children with were a woman. My conscience and my Christianity prevents me from continuing to passively accept these privileges I enjoy without ensuring they are also available to others if I can see no reason, political, moral or otherwise, why they ought to be withheld. Christians may continue to deny the rights of others in the community to marry, claiming marriage is a Christian institution, but Biblically, marriage was a human institution way before it was ever a Christian one. I believe Christians need to be careful they do not stray back into the stupid, white, religious practices that have alienated many people from the church in the past. I conclude with a favorite quote of mine from Anne Lamott, in turn quoting Father Tom Weston: you can be sure your God is a god of your own invention when it turns out he hates all the same people you do.

Why My New Church Might Just Be A Real Estate Agent

NEWCASTLE, NSW – The minister of a small, Presbyterian church in the Newcastle suburb of Wallsend has gotten much more than he bargained for when he posted this message on his church billboard earlier this week.

A church spokesman confirmed to the Newcastle Herald that the billboard was in response to the introduction of two separate bills to legalise same-sex marriage in federal parliament on Monday.

The billboard out the front of Wallsend Presbyterian Church, as it appeared earlier this week.
Local opinion on the Herald website about the billboard has been fiery. From “I take offense to this as a tradie!”, to “Keep your religious views out of my life. If God created me, he should accept that he made me gay!”

I especially liked this one. “I’m gay, I’m Christian, I’m a tradie and I guess I’m stuffed in the eyes of that particular church. I’m also proud that the church I belong to includes and welcomes my partner and I for what we are.”

I am wondering how I find out where that couple worships. Sounds like a place I’d like to visit.

It seems that some were not content to just leave online comments. Later this morning, the Herald updated the story. Here’s how the billboard now appears, after someone took exception, and a spraycan, to it. And to the church building.

 

Oh dear.
I Googled the church in question in order to get their email address. I wanted to send them a picture of something I wondered if they’d recognise. This – as any tradie will tell you – is a universal joint.
What I found on their website – besides the email address, was a picture of the front of the building, (appearing as it was before they had to paint over the last lot of graffiti, which occurred the last time they posted a similar message on their billboard) including the business next door, presumably for reference purposes.
I wonder if you see the irony here.
So *that’s* where it all went.
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