Wednesday, February 18, 2009


If you enjoy my books and haven’t been following the installments on my blog, you’re in for a treat! The ten installments of THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity are now available all in one piece as an Adobe file. In this work I use reason, physical and social sciences, psychology, various other provable disciplines, and religious scripture to remove any rational objection to homosexuality. The letter also takes a stab at explaining why so many people refuse to let go of their gut-level, knee-jerk negative response to gays, and how their very humanity could help them. How it could help everyone.

Tolerance is better than hatred. But who wants to be tolerated? Tolerance helps us get through something unpleasant when we know it will end. I tolerate tolerance, because I’m doing everything I can to see that it ends in acceptance.

Read my open letter. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity, Part X

a work of fiction by Robin Reardon


The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

This blog entry is the tenth and final in a series of monthly installments that present the rationale behind Thinking Straight. The series is written from the point of view of a gay man—which I am not—so I've labeled it as a fictional open letter to humanity, addressed to anyone who will read it and consider its points. My hope is that it will further understanding and acceptance.

The installments have been presented in logical order (Part I and the full list of installments was posted in April), and I encourage readers to start at the beginning and proceed through.

X. ACCEPTANCE: A Few Suggestions


Recently I read Irshad Manji’s book, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. It’s also an open letter, and Manji makes a compelling case for worshiping strategically rather than tactically. Among many other astoundingly insightful points, she says that one of the biggest hurdles for Muslims is the tendency to apply the Qur’an as though the reader still lived centuries ago, in a desert civilization, without much of the science or social infrastructure to which we have access today. She makes her case much more academically than I do, quoting experts and researchers and providing footnotes and a bibliography. But she and I are saying the same thing when it comes to religious practice today: Shift has happened. Adjust your tactics.

Manji is a devout Muslim. She is a lesbian. And she lives behind bullet-proof glass.


Recently I heard someone say something like this: “It’s like you’re telling me that if I think marriage is something special between one man and one woman, I’m a bigot!”

Well, I don’t need to call this man a bigot; he just did it himself. If you think that something as fundamental to the human condition as marriage should be reserved only for a “special” group, doesn’t that kind of define bigot? He should look it up. And to anyone who yells about the sanctity of marriage, I say, “If marriage is sacred, you’d better outlaw divorce.”

In the past several years, a number of changes have happened around the issue of same-sex marriage. I wish this progress could follow a rational process, but it doesn’t seem to do that. Personally, I think that getting unioned, while it’s not the same as getting married, is a step in the right direction. Do I mean we should give up? By no means. But trying to force reason into people who are not rational, who are still doing thoughtlessly what their lizard brains tell them to do, people who are saying totally asinine things like, “If we allow same-sex marriage we’ll run out of kids,” won’t get us anywhere.

This doesn’t mean I won’t argue with them, and it doesn’t mean I’m not for full rights to all citizens. As far as I’ve heard—and believe me, I’ve listened carefully to lots of arguments against my right to marry a male partner, because I was hoping to construct counter arguments—there is no, and I mean NO rational reason to deny me that right. I did hear one fellow call into an NPR talk show (“On Point”) and declare that he didn’t see why he had to allow any group of people to get more civil rights (my jaw fell at this point) than anyone else just because they chose to have sex in a certain way. Two callers later, a woman told about the horrendous treatment her lesbian sister had suffered all her life. She asked, in essence, “Why would my sister have chosen this kind of treatment?” She’s right. So this guy’s argument is irrational, too.

The only argument that holds any water at all is the religious one (but only for religious people who are literalists), and that’s not rational, either; it’s faith-based. The last time I checked, in these United States a citizen in good standing (that is, not imprisoned for some horrid felony) did not have to follow the tenets or doctrine of any religion in order to receive full citizen’s rights. And, in fact, even people in prison for committing horrid felonies are allowed to marry. So, really, no religion should have anything to say about whether I can be married in the eyes of the law.

What if two atheists want to marry? Will any church or synagogue or mosque bless that union, and would the betrothed couple want that anyway? No. Do they have another option? Sure. City Hall. And if a Justice of the Peace officiates without some ordained individual present, are they married? You bet they are. Is it sanctified? No. Does it need to be? Not in the eyes of the U.S. law.

What if two Catholics want to marry, and they go through Pre-Cana and get all the way through the entire wedding mass, are they married? Not in the eyes of the U.S. law, they aren’t. Not until they get that legal license that the church can’t provide.

So what is this “sanctity of marriage” crap? Marriage is “sanctified” only if it’s blessed by some religious official. By some ordained representative of God whose authority is recognized by the betrothed. But that’s not what we’re asking for. We aren’t demanding that the Catholic church, or any other religious institution, sanctify our marriages. It would be nice, and we may believe it should happen, but that’s not what we’re asking for.

If only this were a rational process.

I know that the logic of this approach will not make much difference to lots of people who will continue to hold up a card that reads something like this: “Don’t let homosexuals destroy the sanctity of Marriage!” Just because they aren’t ready to see reason doesn’t make them right, however. And the card they’re holding up actually has another card behind it. They can’t see it, because they’re too busy confabulating. It says: “There’s no need to think. I feel instinctively this is wrong.”

Where have we heard that before?

Mike Huckabee is famous for saying that the problem with gay marriage is that it would be redefining marriage. I want to say to him, “And your point is ...?” For one thing, I’d love for him to explain how he came by his definition, when the Bible itself tells of supposedly righteous men who had multiple wives. And for another, what in tarnation is so awful about the idea of redefining marriage now? Why the hell not? What piece of sky is going to fall if we do?

No matter what you might think of Alan Dershowitz personally, no one can deny that he has one of the keenest legal minds alive today. In 2003 he wrote the article, To Fix Gay Dilemma, Government Should Quit the Marriage Business. His solution is that the civil union would be what everyone gets, and those who then choose to have their union sanctified by their house of worship, provided that house of worship agrees, can have a marriage. The word “marriage” would become the label for a sanctified civil union.

While I see the logic—the rationality—in this approach, I kind of doubt very many hetero couples who don’t choose to be married in a church or by a religious officiant would be willing to call themselves “unioned” instead of “married.” Mr. D. may have a good point, but it ain’t gonna happen.

So why will I personally put up—for now, let me stress—with a “civil union” instead of a “marriage?”

One is that the longer we go with few or no rights for gays, the more people will suffer. If we at least get our proverbial foot in the door, we’ll be able to get domestic partnership benefits and adoption rights to people who deserve it, and we’ll do that sooner than later. Also, if we have “unioned” gays all over the place, we’ll be eating away at all those lies about the terrible things that will happen to “real” marriage and “real” families. We’ll be able to PROVE that they are lies. And this will make getting to full marriage rights less of a struggle.

The other reason is that I’ll take tolerance over hatred. For now. But I don’t want to be tolerated. I tolerate tolerance, because I expect it to end. My goal is acceptance. I expect it.

Look, I’m part Irish. Maybe a quarter. Not long ago I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic behind a car on the bumper of which was a sticker that read, “God made the Irish #1!” Not only did reading this not make the one-quarter of me that’s Irish feel good, but it also made the hackles on the back of my neck rise. My fists and my jaw clenched. What’s the rest of me? Chopped liver? Why would someone put this on their car?

I’m not going to take the time to try and answer why they would do it, though you can believe I have some opinions. But I will venture an opinion about the effects. Bottom line: the extremely limited number of people who will feel good about reading that (or displaying it) is a grain of sand on a very long beach full of people who will feel insulted by it. So what purpose does it serve? Not much that’s good. It makes anyone who already sees the Irish as a bunch of ignorant, barbaric potato diggers feel validated in their opinion, and it makes many who might have stood up for Irish dignity feel embarrassed. And it might push a few in the latter category into the first.

Similar things would happen if I put a bumper sticker on my car that reads, “We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it!” Do I believe the sentiment to be valid? You bet your ass I do. Do I think it furthers my objective to put it on my car? Depends; what’s my objective, when it comes to gay rights? My objective is in the title of this tome. Acceptance. So the answer is no, that bumper sticker actually jeopardizes my objective, because the situation is that there are still more people who don’t want to accept me fully than there are people who do. And based on that situation, the tactic of slapping the majority of people in the face is not going to convince any of them to accept me, and it might push away some who were getting close. It’s a great battle cry at a gay rally, but I don’t recommend displaying it as a public banner among the general population of lizards.

Back to marriage. We’ve all heard the red herring that if we allow same-sex marriage, all bets would be off and there would be nothing to stop a mother and a son from marrying. Or a man and his—I don’t know, lizard?

God, but I wish people would think. Even a teeny tiny bit of thought would have prevented these idiots from making fools of themselves. There’s nothing about allowing all citizens in good standing the right to marry that would negate the existing laws that apply to ALL citizens who want to marry. Depending on the state, marriage applicants must get blood tests, wait some amount of time after applying before the license is granted, and answer questions about their potential familial relationship. Why? Two reasons: to prevent the spread of STDs; and to prevent inbreeding. These laws were established at a time (dare I say in a Situation?) when it was assumed that if two people were going to get married, they were unavoidably (barring the displeasure of the Creator) going to have children. So if the law won’t even let first cousins marry, what do you think it would say to a mother and son? Or to a mother and daughter, for that matter? That’s right, the law would be patently ridiculous, in terms of its intent, in this latter case, because no children would ensue, but it’s still the law.

So what about heterosexual couples in our situation as it is today? How many couples do you know who decided not to have children? If they were firsts cousins, they still wouldn’t have been issued a marriage license. So allowing unrelated gay people to marry is not the same as asking for these laws to be revoked. We’re asking for our civil rights to be acknowledged. Period.

I hate it when I hear someone say that gay marriages can’t produce children so they can’t be marriages. Does this mean heterosexual people who can’t conceive should be denied marriage? Some of them are young enough to have families and want to adopt; no marriage for them? What about the sixty-five-year-old widow, well past menopause, who wants to marry again? Should she be denied the right? Or are you just picking on gays because your lizard brain is afraid of us? Because there’s no rational reason to support the position of denying me legal marriage rights.

And as for those who insist that gay marriage, loving gay families, will somehow jeopardize “real” marriages, “real” families… how in God’s name would that happen? We support those families! We pay for their health care and their schooling! Talk about not thinking… Is it the lizard brain or the male mantra? It doesn’t matter. It’s wrong.

Lizard brains can be convinced by our human brains to chill with the paranoia. But it takes time, patience, persistence, and supporting the organizations who keep pushing forward gradually.

Civil Rights

This will be quick.

I’ve heard a number of prominent black individuals in the civil rights arena rant against gay people calling our insistence upon full citizens’ rights (such as the right to marry or not to be discriminated against in the housing or the job market) our civil rights. I have yet to hear any one of these nay-sayers make sense.

Are “black rights” civil rights? Absolutely. Are “gay rights” civil rights? Absolutely. Are “women’s rights” civil rights? Absolutely. My point is that not one of these interest groups holds exclusive rights to the concept of civil rights. Not one. Not even the “black rights” group. I won’t deny they have a cause; I fact, I support it whole-heartedly, and the fight ain’t over. But I sure as hell won’t let anyone deny mine. I want my civil rights, too. Everyone should.

Define civil rights: legal privileges and liberties granted by a given government to citizens in good standing. Withholding full citizens’ rights from the citizens of any demographic—black, female, Hispanic, Asian, gay—is a violation of civil rights.

End of debate.


Anyone reading this letter who still believes that homosexuality is a choice has understood nothing. One’s sexuality is an orientation. It’s part of who you are. And it’s not something you can change.

That said, a lifestyle is a choice. Am I advocating that gays choose a straight lifestyle? Why would I do that when the only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out?

So what am I talking about?

I mentioned earlier that, to varying degrees of success, some gay people have chosen to live a straight lifestyle. Do I recommend it? No; I don’t recommend living a lie. Can I tell someone else not to do that? No. But I do recommend they think rationally before they decide to do something that will force them to lie to everyone they know for the rest of their lives, including themselves. I recommend they use my Strategy I-Beam.

What’s the objective, if a gay person is trying to live straight? This isn’t a question I can answer for anyone; it makes no sense to me. It could be “To live the life my parents expect of me.” It could be “To live the life I’ve expected of myself so powerfully that I can’t imagine living any other way.” Or “To have the respect and admiration of society without having to work any harder for it than a heterosexual.” Or “I just don’t have the guts to be gay.” There are lots of possibilities.

But in the most important aspect of this question, they’re all in the same situation; and while many aspects of their lives will change, this one won’t. They’re gay. It’s an orientation. And if they want to live a life that denies it, they’re going to have to make a lot of plans based on dishonesty, and accept a lot of unpleasant realities. They have to plan to marry someone they might be able to love but whom they will never be able to feel fully passionate about. They have to plan to lie to their children, their families, their employers and co-workers—to everyone. They will have to deny themselves the expression of a huge, critical, foundational cornerstone of their identity.

I’m not saying this can’t be done. I’m saying that from what I’ve seen, its success is spotty at best. Think “Ted Haggard” and you’ll get it. If anyone wanted to deny his orientation, it was Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard. He was running so hard away from what he was, refusing to look back at it at all, that he was seen by almost everyone around him as running toward something they saw as beautiful and holy, and they followed him in droves, not realizing he was living a lie. The reality is that he was running away from something. Himself. Who’s the “almost” in “almost everyone?” His male prostitute.

So what about tactics? Well, you could try becoming the pastor of a fundamentalist Christian mega-church. Or you could become the CEO of a major corporation whose board of directors wouldn’t tolerate a gay man (or, most likely, any woman) in that position. Or you could become a lawyer who peruses the Web for clues leading to people who are trying desperately to deny their homosexuality by claiming to have become “ex-gay” (most of these cases are religion-based, by the way) so you can pounce on them like an ambulance chaser and wave their claim as though it were the flag of the promised land, driving away your doubts about yourself in the process. You’d sue any organization that claimed “ex-gay” couldn’t be done. (I have someone in mind, by they way, who has done this.)

As for people who’ve “changed,” they’ve changed their lifestyle, not their orientation. They can’t reprogram their hypothalamus. They can’t change the color of their eyes or the day they were born on, though they can lie about both. And if they’re left-handed, they can learn to use their right hand, but they’ll still be left-handed inside; their brain won’t change significantly.

If you repeat anything loud enough and fast enough, your brain won’t have time to perceive what’s really going on. Make it a mantra: “I must lie about who I am. I must lie about who I am. I must lie…”

Please. If you’re gay, choose truth, and expect acceptance. I’m not pretending it’s easy, but the more of us who are out, the quicker the homophobes’ lizard brains will get used to us.

And, the better it will be for everyone.

And, the sooner they will see that the only thing wrong with being gay is how they used to treat us when they found out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity, Part IX

a work of fiction by Robin Reardon


The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

This blog entry is the ninth in a series of ten monthly installments that present the rationale behind Thinking Straight. The series is written from the point of view of a gay man—which I am not—so I'm labeling it as a fictional open letter to humanity, addressed to anyone who will read it and consider its points. My hope is that it will further understanding and acceptance.

The installments will be presented in logical order (Part I and the full list of installments was posted in April), and I encourage readers to start at the beginning and proceed through. The series will be highlighted each month on in the DREAMScene newsletter.


THE GOD CARD, continued: Tactics (See the chapter on I-Beam Strategy)

Do not murder. Honor your father and mother. Do not bear false witness. Do not plant different plants together. Do not eat shellfish or pork. Do not marry a divorced woman (male audience was usually presumed in the Bible; women were too inferior to trouble with). Do not lie with another man. Do not waste seed.

Do this, don’t do that. Mostly “don’t,” actually.

Tactics, all.

And what do we know about Tactics? Right; they must be firmly rooted in Situation in order to support Objective. When shift happens, Tactics need to be reassessed based on the new Situation to determine whether or not they support or jeopardize Objective.

In our changed situation—that is, today, as opposed to two thousand years ago—does it still make sense to allow men to rape their female slaves, based on the accepted “facts” (at the time the OT was written) that slavery was a necessity of society and women were almost not quite human and they contributed nothing to the new life so it didn’t matter which oven men planted their seed in?

In our changed situation, should everyone still be desperately trying to have large families? Are we still (as when the Torah was written) desperate to enlarge and purify our Jewish race, so that God will strike dead men like Onan when he shoots his seed onto the ground rather than into the oven represented by his brother’s widow? (Look it up: Genesis 38, verses 1-11.)

In our changed situation, do we still believe that the woman contributes nothing to her child, because all the essentials for a new human life are contained in male ejaculate? Can we still sell our daughters into slavery? Would Lot, today, offer his two virgin daughters, as a substitute for his two male visitors, to the rapacious crowd gathered outside his home? (Look it up: Genesis 19, 3-8.)

Would you stone to death anyone who worked on the Sabbath? Would you expect God to kill your son because he masturbated? Would you kill your own son if he cursed you?

Those who refuse to see that the Bible’s tactical teachings are time-bound and situation-based are literalists. And the thing about literalists is that they can’t engage in conversation. All they can do is make proclamations. They won’t open their minds, and they won’t let go of their blind certainty.

If you start at the beginning of the Christian Bible and work your way through, what you will see—if you’re paying attention—is that the Bible contradicts itself over and over, in terms of tactics. The things that are all right to do and that are not all right to do change over time. Because even if you believe that each one of those books is the divinely inspired, immutable word of God himself, it’s still true that each one was written for a specific group of people in a specific time and place in a specific political environment and with social infrastructure specific to their time and place. In other words, in a specific Situation. And as shift happened, the Bible’s own tactics changed accordingly. Remember: the Bible is not a book; it is a chronological collection of books.

If a sweet young heterosexual couple moved in next door today and invited us to their wedding next month, would we curse them and stone either of them to death for living in sin?


So what’s the problem—today—with gay people? Why won’t religion let go of the tactic, long outdated and no longer rational, of condemning me?

Three things. One has to do with shift happening. The fact is that no one alive when any book of the Bible was written had any concept of homosexuality (see Part VIII for more detail on this), so it was never referred to as it exists today; there’s just no comparison, and so the Bible does not—cannot—address the homosexuality of today. The second is that pesky lizard brain screaming inside the head of most heterosexuals when they encounter a sexual orientation that seems unnatural to them. The third is something we haven’t talked about yet. It’s an aspect of male developmental psychology.

Why focus on the male? We’re talking about religion, here. Even in the religions that allow women to be ordained, the vast majority of clergy are men; also, the primary condemnatory religions were formed at a time when women were considered barely human. Christianity had a lively debate going for a while in the Middle Ages about whether women even had souls. And many religions don’t ordain women at all. Think Catholicism. Think Islam. Think Fundamental Anything.

Children who are developing normally spend the first two years of their lives figuring out that they’re human. They figure out a lot of other things, too, but in terms of their own personal identity, if they think they’re a snake, they’re insane. They’re human, and they’d better get that, or they won’t be able to build a viable life for themselves.

At about the age of two, the child is starting to take in the next identity differentiator: gender. And it’s apparent that this is important, because the child badly needs to figure out his relationship with his parents in order to figure the world out; it’s step one. So the child must understand that one parent is a girl and one is a boy, and it’s critical to figure out which one to identify with. If the child makes a mistake at this identity level, it’s not a question of sanity, as it was with the snake. At least, not yet. But it will be impossible for the child to build a viable life in the future. If a male child identifies with the female side of life, at some point he’s got to come to terms with this discrepancy. Either he finds a way to fit into life as he is, even though that will be incredibly difficult, or he makes whatever adjustments he can, so that he will be able to build a life; also incredibly difficult. [Important note to anyone who doesn’t already know this: a gay man does not necessarily identify as female. Get used to it.]

The next identity layer most children figure out is race. Is it important? You bet. But it’s no more important than the next layer: sexual orientation.

Some gay kids know from a very early age that they’re “different.” A lot of gay kids don’t figure this out until after puberty. But let’s talk only about the straight boys for this discussion, because there are more of them than gay boys, and because there will be more of them in clergy everywhere.

The two-year-old boy begins to identify with the male. With Daddy, if he has one, or with some other icon of masculinity if he must. Up to now, most children of both sexes have bonded with the female, because for most kids the mother or a female mother substitute has essentially been their everyday world. But the little boy has to start severing that bond, at least in terms of identification, or he can’t build a viable life. He has to start pushing away from the female identity. Hard. Very hard. Why so hard? Because for years to come, it would be possible to have his hair grown into ringlets and send him into the world in pink ruffles and call him Grace instead of George and have no one question it. George would have to pull down his bloomers and lift his skirt to prove he wasn’t Grace after all. So at some point after two, he’s going to start treating girls as though they have cooties. He won’t be as willing to hold Mom’s hand. His toybox will have tanks and trucks and guns, not dollies and tea sets. He’ll swagger like a B-Western film star and deepen his voice whenever he thinks there’s a question about who he is. He’s desperate to prove his masculinity.

The human brain doesn’t fully develop until around the age of twenty. So the little boy isn’t conscious of what he’s doing, and certainly he has no idea why. But a mantra sets up inside his head. It goes like this: I must prove I’m a man.

He’s not aware of the mantra, so even once he’s obviously male he doesn’t do anything to stop the chant. So it’s still going in his head, mostly quiet, but it gets louder and louder if something happens to threaten his masculinity, something that makes him insecure, that makes him doubt the success of this particular objective (proving he’s a man). And the closer that threat gets, the louder the chant gets, until he figures out what action to take that will make it go away, what action will take away the fear that he’s failed at this critical level of his own identity.

So now we’ll call on our homophobic bigot again. Remember that the “I must prove I’m a man” mantra is still there, more white noise than anything else most of the time. He’s actually terrified of me. Li’l ol’ me. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

There he is, leaning against his pickup truck doing his utmost to look manly and unassailable. Maybe his arms are crossed over his broad chest (he’s forgotten about the bulge beneath them where he keeps the innumerable beers he’s downed). And he’s glaring at me, the gay, the unnatural, the abnormal, the pedophile. There’s no need to think; he feels instinctively that everything about me is wrong. In one ear, his lizard brain is already screaming, “Eeeewww! Eeeewww! Eeeewww!” (Now, a lot of women would hear their lizard brains at this point, too; consider the idiot in Massachusetts. But the man also has another demon possessing him.)

I look at him, cock my head and throw him a flirtatious look, and then I move slowly toward him, my movements sultry. I don’t touch him, but I get close enough to hear him breathe. In the other ear, his mantra “I must prove I’m a man” gets louder.

“Hey, there,” I say, my voice silky and quiet. “Doing anything special tonight?” He doesn’t answer; he doesn’t know what to say, partly because his lizard brain is still screaming, and partly because his mantra is even louder now. I go on. “No?” A slight lift of my chin here. “I could change that.”

At this point, he’s totally deafened in one ear by his lizard brain and in the other by the mantra screaming, “I MUST PROVE I’M A MAN! I MUST PROVE…” He might just get the tire iron out of his car and bash me with it.

So when all the male clergy for whom homosexuality is unnatural have their lizard brains screaming in one ear and their mantra yelling in the other, they aren’t likely to do a lot of thinking. They don’t have to, because they believe the Bible has already done it for them. Instead of picking up a tire iron, they point to one of those five, maybe six places in the entire Bible that refer to men lying with men (the word homosexual didn’t exist, remember) and beat us to death with them. Never mind that they cherry pick these spots out of all the other sacred laws that are so conveniently ignored today. Never mind that society now has many ways for the elderly to provide for themselves, and not everyone has to pop out as many kids as possible. Never mind that homosexual people can now earn money and save it for retirement ourselves, so we’ll never be the charity cases of two thousand years ago. Never mind that we pay taxes that support the health care for everyone’s children (sometimes even our own). Never mind that we pay taxes that support public schools, even though most of us never have kids of our own. Never mind that instead of being drains on society, as would have been the case two thousand years ago, society is actually better off with us in it.

Gray matter? What’s that? There’s no need to think…

Prove they’re men? Yeah, I want them to prove they’re men. And not lizards.

As for my own tactics, while I’m not going to tell you what my religion is or even if I have one, and while all I’ll say about my belief system is that I use faith to bridge the gap between what I can prove and what I believe, I will tell you that I think Jesus was spot-on in those two all-important commandments from Matthew that I talked about in Part VII. I believe they are the most important tactics we can apply to achieve the objective of loving connection. So I do my best to live up to them. The first one, love God with all of yourself, requires that I know myself. I know this: I’m gay. And if you’ve read up to this point, you know that we’ve proven that homosexuality is a natural, normally occurring phenomenon. So guess what? I love God with that part of me, too. As for the second commandment of those two, love each other, again I do my best. Some of you make it extremely challenging, telling me how much God hates me. And some of you make me scream in frustration when you say you love me but you hate the sin of homosexuality in me. GET THIS: I AM GAY. Love me, love my orientation.

Shred that card. The one that says “Damned.”

Oh, there’s still sin here. There’s still a lot of missing the mark going on. Only it’s not the homosexuals doing the sinning—at least, not by virtue of being gay. What’s the objective? What did Jesus tell us? It’s all about love; all law depends on love. Anything that doesn’t create and support love is sin.

So where’s the sin? It’s with the people who create hatred and destroy connection. It’s with the people who hold up signs that say, “God hates fags.” It’s with anyone, anywhere, who fosters divisiveness and separation and pain and hatred and isolation and exclusion. It’s anyone who damns someone else.

And don’t fall for that old saw, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” It’s a lie. It’s a lie because if someone insists on hating something that’s a foundational part of who you are, how can they love you? How can you ever feel loved? If they keep insisting, you should print out for them the section of this letter called “There’s no need to think; I feel instinctively this is wrong.”

Love the human; expose the lizard.

Shred the card.

And now a word for non-theists. I heard self-proclaimed atheist Ian McEwan (author of several best-selling novels, such as Saturday and Atonement) interviewed for a PBS program that was part of their Frontline series. The program is called “Faith & Doubt at Ground Zero.” While the program was one of the most thought-provoking things I’ve ever seen, I wasn’t especially impressed with the excerpt they included on McEwan. But he’s such a master with words that I felt sure he’d have had more to say. So I went to the PBS Web site, where I was able to download a complete transcript of his interview. What follows is the gist (paraphrased) of what had a tremendous impact on the atheist McEwan because of September 11th.

Historically, the only people whose last words on earth have become widely known have been people who were famous. And many times the words themselves have become politicized to serve some agenda on the part of the people who heard those words. September 11th changed that. Why? Because of Situation.

A huge number of people, non-famous people, within a very brief span of time, faced their deaths. They knew they were about to die. What did they do? What tactics did they take, based on this situation? They reached for their cell phone, or any phone that worked, and they called someone they loved. And they said, “I love you.” They made a connection, and they expressed love, knowing it would be the last thing they did on earth. These people were Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, Deists, Sikh, Hindu, Hmong, Shinto, atheists, agnostics—it didn’t matter. They reached for a device that their situation today made available, and they achieved their primary objective: they told someone “I love you.” We know this, because so many of these messages were captured on voicemail, answering machines—again, because today, our situation is such that these devices are available.

But the most important thing was that regardless of situation, regardless of religion or the lack of it, regardless of everything else, these dying people wanted loving connection. Some thought of it as heaven, some as God, some as humanity, some as the cosmos. But they all reached for this universal, immortal connection at the moment of their deaths.

The God card is everyone’s card—or anyone who wants it. It is not something any one of us can hold up to any other of us and yell, “Damned!” It’s not a weapon or an accusation or a judgment. It’s love. Use it.

There will be one more installment with a few of my own rambling thoughts about some of the challenges society throws at gays. Till next time… know yourself; love yourself.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity, Part VIII

a work of fiction by Robin Reardon


The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

This blog entry is the eighth in a series of monthly installments that present the rationale behind Thinking Straight. The series is written from the point of view of a gay man—which I am not—so I'm labeling it as a fictional open letter to humanity, addressed to anyone who will read it and consider its points. My hope is that it will further understanding and acceptance.

The installments will be presented in logical order (Part I and the full list of installments was posted in April, 2008), and I encourage readers to start at the beginning and proceed through. The series will be highlighted each month on in the DREAMScene newsletter.


THE GOD CARD, continued: Situation (See Installment VI, I-Beam Strategy)

Just as it wouldn’t have been productive to examine every aspect of the differences in Situation between the lioness and the Thompson’s gazelle in Installment VI, it wouldn’t be productive to describe every aspect of our situation as we continue to apply the Strategy I-Beam to the God card. Because what we’re talking about here is our lives.

Instead of going into painful detail about what our lives are like, let’s compare our general situation today to the general situation of—say, two thousand years ago. This is rational, because when we’re applying our model, what will be important is understanding what the situation was when the plan was made (that is, when the texts were written), and how the situation has changed between then and now, so that we can figure out which tactics need to be reassessed.

“Tactics?” you say. “Tactics?” Yes. The Bible is chock full of tactics. Remember that the definition of a tactic is something you do or don’t do, based on your situation, to support your objective. Something you do or don’t do. Do you hear the phrases “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” echoing through the corridors of time? Tactics. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What was our situation when the plan was established? The answer to that kind of depends on whether you start when Jesus was wandering around Galilee or thousands of years before that, when the very first books of the Christian Old Testament were written—the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, which became the wisdom of the Jews. Remember that Jesus was called rabbi. And remember that his coming was prophesied by the Old Testament, so without it his followers would have no way to claim the title “Christ” for him. So how far back do we go?

For now, let’s start in the time of Jesus, reserving the right to delve deeper into the annals when we’re ready.

So what was our situation then? We’ll place ourselves in a settlement outside Jerusalem, with access to the hills and with our houses in a semi-urban cluster that serves as our community. Jesus has been crucified, and our community, having accepted his message, is doing its best to follow his teachings, good Jews that we are. Remember that most of the early followers were, in fact, Jews who had accepted Jesus as the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy for a messiah. A Christ.

I’m living in standard housing for the time, one or two rooms with walls of dried earth and probably tiles for a roof, or maybe some other material; I’m no historian, so bear with me. It’s not these details that matter.

I live here with my wife, our three kids, and her parents. We have no electricity, no running water, no stove, no dishwasher, no microwave oven, no computer, no Internet—you get the picture. How can I be married, you ask? Aren’t I gay? I know this much about history: until the last couple of centuries, the homosexual orientation wasn’t recognized as anything other than an occasional aberration by certain heterosexual people. The very words “homosexual” and “heterosexual” weren’t coined until the late nineteenth century; no apparent need for a distinction, so no distinction. Everyone was straight by default so there was no word for it. No one had time to sit around gazing at his navel (haven’t been able to see mine for a while, but never mind) wondering what would make him happy. What would make him feel fulfilled. What his true destiny might be. Everyone was straight, because there was no other option. And two thousand years ago, you’d better believe everyone in our little community was living hand-to-mouth and barely surviving.

So. I got married as soon as I could find a biologically efficacious female (where have I heard that phrase before? Hint: we were examining the Unnatural card in Part II) from good stock who would have me, and I was glad to have her. Not many people had the luxury of marrying for love. Mostly they married out of necessity, and they did their best—if they were followers of Jesus, or of any similar philosophy—to find love in that relationship. And they started having kids just as soon as possible. Why? Read on.

As I said, in our situation two thousand years ago I have three kids. My wife gave birth to five in the past seven years, but two died. Pretty standard for the times; I was lucky not to lose her, too. She may have more, but we’ll have to wait and see; she’s getting old, at twenty-five. She married late.

My in-laws live with us. Why? Well, my mother-in-law had four kids, but only my wife survived. You say that doesn’t answer the question? Let’s explore. Just as we don’t have electricity or running water and so on, we also don’t have money. I’m really lucky if I have a shekel in a purse hanging from my belt. Same for my in-laws. And because no one has any money, there are no banks, no savings accounts, no retirement funds or pension plans. The exceedingly few people who actually have money have to pay guards to keep it safe. So if my wife and I didn’t take her parents in, they’d be out in the street, dying in the gutters. Not only do we not need any more flies and rats than we already have, but also this callous treatment would fly in the face of that second most important commandment. If you want a more secular reason, we need our kids to see that this is expected, or my wife and I will be in that gutter someday.

The parents-in-law pull their weight, as best they can. Mom cards and spins the wool from the goats in the herd I herd on those hills outside of town, and Dad knows how to make cheese with the milk and how to preserve the meat when there’s a slaughter or one of the goats dies, provided we can barter some wool or some cheese for salt. But Mom, at forty-two, and Dad, at forty-three (they haven’t got much longer on this earth) are way too decrepit to lug those heavy ceramic jugs to the well in the middle of town several times a day to get the water we all need, so my wife does that.

My parents were luckier than my in-laws; they had four of us who survived, and since I have to support my wife’s parents, my siblings support mine.

In the house next to us lives a nice couple. True followers of Jesus, very clear on the objective and how to get there. Last year, when the youngest of my kids got sick, my wife tried very hard to save her. Stayed with her every minute. And the woman next door was a saint. She fetched water for our entire family right up until my little girl died. And her husband? Another wonderful person. Two years ago, I broke my ankle chasing after one of those damned goats. He’s a shepherd, too, and he took care of my goats as well as his while my ankle healed. I have a permanent limp (no doctors), but I can manage.

Wonderful people. It’s a shame God hasn’t seen fit to bless them with any living children. We know they’re trying; we can hear them in there doing their best. But she’s had two miscarriages, and that was a while ago. So what’s going to happen to them when they get to be forty-two, and their teeth are falling out, and their bones are misshapen from overwork and undernourishment? Who’s going to take care of them? The answer is my kids. And the kids of everyone else in our part of this community. Why? Not just because they’re so wonderful, but because if we didn’t, we’d be disobeying the most important things Jesus told us to do. Will our kids resent it? Maybe a little, but they can complain only so much. It isn’t the fault of these terrific people that they don’t have kids. It’s God’s will, as far as we can tell. Plus, we want this protocol established; it could be one of our kids who goes childless in the next generation.

Let’s change the neighbor couple’s situation just a tad. Let’s say that not only do they not have kids, they don’t want them. They’re doing their level best to avoid them. The woman has said as much to my wife. “Kids. Noisy, dirty, too much trouble. Tell you what. If one of your kids gets sick, I’ll help you out as much as I can. I’ll even fetch your family’s water for days and days. Just don’t ask me to take care of any of your kids.”

Who’s going to take care of them when they get to be forty-two? You guessed it: my kids, and the kids of everyone else in our vicinity. Will they resent it? You bet your ass, they will. Because this couple deliberately, knowingly arranged their lives so that they would end up as charity cases on the backs of the next generation, without even trying to ease that burden. And our lives are hard enough as it is, thank you very much; the next generation will already be caring for their own parents, as well as the old folks who tried and failed to have living children. So who do these people think they are, that they can arrange their lives to their own convenience and everyone else’s increased suffering?

The word “sin” is used a lot in scripture. Literally, it means “missing the mark.” And what’s the mark? Our objective is the mark. Loving connection. Following those two most important commandments in everything that we do. So if we do something that we know full well will jeopardize our own ability to follow those commandments, or if we do something that we know full well will cause others to struggle in their attempts to follow them, what are we doing? We’re sinning. We’re missing the mark.

That couple who decided not to have kids? They’re sinning. In that situation.

Let’s change the neighbors one more time. Now it’s two men who have decided that they love each other emotionally, physically, spiritually, in every way they can. No one expects that between them they are going to produce children. So, just like the heterosexual couple who actively decided not to have kids, it doesn’t matter how wonderful these guys are while they’re able-bodied. At some point, they know full well that my kids are going to have to take care of them. Jesus never said the ten commandments that Moses presented were no longer in effect. In fact, the two he gave us make those other ten fall into place rather by default; if I love myself, and I love you just as much, how can I kill you? So, no adultery, which means neither of these neighbor fellows can have a few minutes alone with a woman he isn’t married to, in hopes of begetting a child. And forget the old turkey baster routine as well.

Those two men are sinning. In that Situation. They’re missing the mark.

I’ve heard a number of gay people say that they have no problem reconciling their homosexuality with their Christianity because Jesus never said anything about it. To these people I want to say, “So what? I’ll bet if we could go back two thousand years and ask him, he’d say, ‘Uh, gee, guys. No. You can’t really do that. Not the way things are now.’”

Look at it this way. As you read the New Testament, how many times do you see parables and anecdotes and metaphors that have to do with fishing? Why? Because so many of Jesus’s disciples had been fishermen. If he was the all-knowing, God-incarnate entity that the most devout believe, then he knew he had only a short time to get his disciples on board before they had to carry on for themselves, so he spoke in language and about situations that made sense to them.

I happen to think the Internet is a great metaphor for loving connection. I can just hear Jesus saying, “You know this Kingdom of God I’ve been telling you about? It’s great. It’s all about love. I know you look around you and see yourselves as different from each other, but here’s what you can have if you follow those two commandments I gave you. It will be a lot like the Internet. Each of you is a node on the Internet, and the bandwidth that connects all of you is made of love. There are different kinds of love, like the security layer and the http layer and all the other layers of this bandwidth, but altogether they make up the most wonderful network…” And either all the faces around him are totally blank at this point, or they’re clouded with thoughts of how to capture this madman and lock him up someplace where he isn’t a danger to anyone. No one would take him seriously, and his mission would fail. The moral of the story? Even if Jesus had known that someday the Internet would exist, and even if he agreed with me that it makes a great metaphor for his message, he couldn’t have used it. Not then. Not in that situation. And by the same token, even if he knew that one day our situation would have changed so that we didn’t all necessarily have to take our in-laws into our crowded little two-room hovels, if he knew that one day it wouldn’t matter if the two guys next door never had any kids, even if he knew that, he couldn’t have said it. It would have made no more sense to the people of our little first-century community than the metaphor of the Internet. So, in that situation, at that time, he could not have agreed to same-sex marriage. The tactic of everyone having children was essential because of the situation.

Need some more convincing about how situation has changed? Fine; let’s go farther back.

There are lots and lots of sacred laws—or, at least they were sacred at one point, and they’re still in that collection of books without which the Christ would have no leg to stand—the books most people ignore utterly and still call themselves good Christians, or observant Jews. Want me to name a few of these so-called sacred laws? How about not planting two different kinds of plants together? Never mind that today we know planting marigolds with tomato plants helps keep the bugs off the fruit. How about not wearing clothing made of mixed fibers? Will you miss your cotton/linen blend sweaters? Your silk/wool blend suits? Your rayon? If you have a child, did you know you’re obliged to put that child to death if he curses you? If the child is a she, don’t worry; you can sell her off as a slave, as long as you take her far enough away.

Oh, and by the way, everyone knows that all the raw material necessary to make a human is contained in male cum, and a woman’s only purpose in life is that of a human oven. This means you men can essentially treat her as property, as chattel, because the male is obviously God’s chosen sex. I mean, isn’t God a man, after all? Need I say more? So playing with yourself, young man, is a sin! You’re essentially killing people! If you’re ready to be shooting off, it’s time you were married; that is the stuff of human life you’re wasting. Abominable! And if you think you’re going to go at it with another boy, well that’s tantamount to murder. Abominable again, for the same reason! It wasn't the sex that was abominable; it was that both of them were killing someone. No one ever said one word in the OT about woman-on-woman action. It was only male cum they cared about.

If we go far enough back into the Torah, we see that it was common practice for a man to have several wives. And the law states specifically that he is allowed to rape his slaves, as long as they’re female. Today, this is the abomination. Today, most of us think the idea of owning another human being is abomination.

Um, what happened?

I’ll tell you. Shift happened. Remember Situation? It’s not absolute. It changes. Even if the objective doesn’t change, it’s practically a guarantee that situation will change, given enough time and enough influential factors. And what do you have to do when Situation changes, if you want to be sure you’re still working toward your Objective? You have to reassess your Tactics.

So why are so many supposedly loving Christians (and others, but we’re picking on Christianity right now) still condemning homosexuality? We’ll explore that next time: Tactics.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity, Part VII

a work of fiction by Robin Reardon


This blog entry is the seventh in a series of monthly installments that present the rationale behind Thinking Straight. The series is written from the point of view of a gay man—which I am not—so I'm labeling it as a fictional open letter to humanity, addressed to anyone who will read it and consider its points. My hope is that it will further understanding and acceptance.

The installments will be presented in logical order (Part I and the full list of installments was posted in April), and I encourage readers to start at the beginning and proceed through. The series will be highlighted each month on in the DREAMScene newsletter.

VII. THE BIGGEST CARD: Intro and Objective (See I-Beam Strategy)


Remember virtual cards? Those things that homophobic bigots will flip up at me to prove how disgusting I am because I'm gay? Before anyone starts worrying that I’m going to show you how to shred a card that has “God” on it, let me tell you what the holders of this card are saying when they hold it up to me: Damned. That’s what we’ll shred.

Examining this card is going to be very difficult for some people. One reason could be that most of us never think about religion. We might think about being nice to each other, or about forgiving each other, or about going to church, or about what we’ll wear to this year’s Easter service, or whether perhaps we have a calling into the ministry. We might even indulge in a little textual examination of scripture. Our own apologia, our own exegesis. But how much to we really think about what the ultimate goal is?

The more troublesome reason—that is, the one that’s more likely to make people choke on an examination of this card—is that our minds are closed. Somewhere along the line, someone convinced us (and some will say it was Jesus who did the convincing) that the Bible is not to be questioned. That it contains the sacred, inerrant, and immutable Word of God. In my experience with many of these individuals, there’s nothing rational or logical that anyone can say to them that will shift them off of this position. Even this exchange doesn’t help:

Me: What is the Bible?

Disciple: The sacred, inerrant, immutable and inspired Word of God.

Me: How do we know?

Disciple: The Bible says so.

To these individuals, and to anyone else who feels uncomfortable approaching religion the way I’m going to do it, I say this: If the Bible is right, then it will be right when you’ve heard what I have to say. If it’s immutable, I’m not going to be able to change anything about it.

So open your mind, just a little. It might not be easy; it might actually be scary. But you have nothing to lose. I can’t hurt you or the Bible or God. Furthermore, I'm not even going to say that anything in the Bible is wrong.


So. Ready? Here we go.

This is the really creative application I promised you of that very simple business model. It might look ridiculous, at first blush, to try and apply a business model to the God card. But think of it this way: the concepts of faith and religion (not the same thing, by the way, because you can have faith without religion, but religion without faith is meaningless) are not based on fact. They don’t depend on reason, or proof, and one person’s experiences usually don’t resemble another’s exactly, even if those two people belong to the same church. These factors make this particular card the most powerful one of all. We can’t dissect it. We can’t define it so that even two people agree on what it is.

So how are we going to deal with this card? Trying to wrap our cerebral cortex around something that isn’t based on reason is rather like trying to snatch a fish out of moving water with your bare hands. Or like trying to locate a small object somewhere on a very large field. We need a model, such as the rope grid that professional searchers would place onto that field to help them eliminate areas where the object wasn’t found and move to new ones.

Fortunately, we have a model. The I-Beam Strategy. (See Part VI.)

The religion I’m going to apply the model to is Christianity, partly because it’s the one I’m most familiar with, and partly because most everyone who’ll read this will be able to follow along, even if you’re not Christian yourself, because it’s pretty much all around us in Western culture. But I want to be clear that this model could be applied to any religion. Its very simplicity allows it to move into some very unusual areas, for a business model. And in fact, it’s really not just a business model. It can be used as a model for life. The lioness and the Thompson’s gazelle do exactly that.

So. Let’s apply.


Before we start, I want to apologize to agnostics, non-theists, and atheists, because in working through this, I’m going to speak as though we all believe in God in some way. Bear with me, and I’ll show you later how it can apply to you, too.

What is our objective, in terms of this entity called God? What’s our goal in achieving the ideal relationship with God? What must not fail?

Some people will say “Getting to heaven.” Remember when we were working out our objective in building the office tower, and I said we would know the objective was clear when the question “Why?” wasn’t bringing any more clarity? When “Getting to heaven” is given as the objective for our relationship with God, I’m going to ask, “Why? Where is this place, and what makes it so wonderful?” If we explore this avenue, we’ll probably decide that what makes heaven so wonderful is that God is there, and all the people we love, and we have everything that makes us happy. The next question is, “What makes us happy?” I mean, what if one of those people you love turns out to love someone you can’t stand, and that third person is right here in heaven with you? Will that make you happy?

We could explore this for a considerable amount of time, but I think where we’ll end up is here: the Love that is God is the be-all-and-end-all (would that be the alpha and the omega?) of heaven. If this adventure that religion would lead us on ends well, then the love God has for us, the love we have for God, the love that we have for each other because of the joy that only love can bring, will transcend any differences that would make heaven less than wonderful. So it’s really about love. It’s that Love that passes all understanding that we’ve heard so much about. It’s that love that makes us feel like we belong, like we’re home at last, a feeling we wouldn’t give up for any number of office towers. And why do we want that love? I can’t come up with a response that explains that, other than the joy it brings. All I know is that it drives most of what happens on earth. Sometimes we’re driven to get it, and sometimes because of the lack of it, but always it’s about love. Even the lizard brain in us is acting out of some aspect of love of self.

Some people will respond to the question of the objective with something like, “Doing what God wants.” And what’s the model’s response? That’s right: “Why? Who is this God person anyway, and why is what God wants more important than what I want?” Again, we could go round and round for a while, but I suspect we’re going to end up at Love again—that surpassing Love that is God, beyond which nothing matters.

Some will respond “Glorifying God.” Um—why? Oh; because God loves us so much? Because of the joy we feel when we return that love?

Imagine having that love. No, wait; I think actually it would be more like being inside that love. Imagine that. I’ll give you a minute.

What are your feelings toward God? Toward anyone else in that place called heaven, if that’s where you see yourself? Does the love you’re inside of make you feel connected with God? With those other souls? With your own soul, for that matter? Just as that Love passes understanding, this connection passes understanding. And it’s love that creates and maintains that connection.

We could go through a number of these examples, and if you come up with one that doesn’t end in love, I’m going to suggest that you haven’t reached clarity yet. You haven’t asked “why” often enough, or you’ve gotten distracted and aren’t really talking any longer about what must not fail. So I’m going to say that our religious objective, our life objective, our objective vis à vis God, is this: loving connection. You may feel more comfortable phrasing this differently. If you’re one of the folks who said “Getting to heaven,” or “Glorifying God,” that’s fine, as long as you understand that it’s a deep, unfathomable loving connection with God that make everything so wonderful.

If we want some scriptural confirmation, let’s go to Matthew 22:37. This is where Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In other words, with everything you are, love God completely. This commandment has an interesting subtext to it. An assumption, really. In order to love God with everything you are, you must know what you are. You must know yourself. Know yourself, and love God with all of it. Jesus tells us this is the most important thing any of us can do, and we are commanded to do it.

The second greatest commandment, moving into verse 39, is to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Again, there’s a subtext. How much sense would it make for Jesus to tell you this, if you didn’t love yourself? So the assumption is that you love yourself. And then you are to love everyone else as much.

So in summary: Know yourself, and love God will all of that; love yourself, and love everyone else the same. This sounds to me like it’s getting us to loving connection. This sounds like the way to the objective. And if there’s any doubt, Jesus removes it in verse 40: all other laws depend on these two commandments. So if you’re trying to follow a law that prevents you from loving God with everything you are, or if you’re exempting or separating part of yourself from loving God, or if what you’re doing shows that in fact you don’t love yourself or your neighbor, you’re disobeying the two most important things Jesus told us to do. Everything we do must support these two commandments, if we’re to reach our objective of loving connection.

Those of you who know your Old Testament will realize that these two commandments do not appear among the famous Ten in Deuteronomy. But if you follow these two, the Ten will fall into place like so many well-placed dominoes. I mean, if I love you as much as I love myself, how can I lie to you or steal from you, let alone kill you? But even with all these commandments, we need to remember that they are TACTICS. (We’ll cover scriptural tactics later in more detail.) The Objective is still loving connection, or just Love if you prefer. So we know the commandments are tactics because—why? Well, because it isn’t not stealing that’s absolute; it’s loving each other too much to steal that’s absolute. This is the objective; not stealing is the result.

The next installment will apply Situation to this card. In the meantime, I encourage you to think about your own, personal relationship with God, or with Life. What is it that must not fail?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

THE CASE FOR ACCEPTANCE: An Open Letter to Humanity, Part VI

a work of fiction by Robin Reardon


The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

This blog entry is the sixth in a series of monthly installments that present the rationale behind Thinking Straight. The series is written from the point of view of a gay man—which I am not—so I'm labeling it as a fictional open letter to humanity, addressed to anyone who will read it and consider its points. My hope is that it will further understanding and acceptance.

The installments will be presented in logical order (Part I and the full list of installments was posted in April), and I encourage readers to start at the beginning and proceed through. The series will be highlighted each month on in the DREAMScene newsletter.


So far I’ve spent a lot of time and used a lot of words to show that there are no rational reasons (is that redundant? if so, I think it was warranted, considering how much irrational, thoughtless blabber has been put forth by the homophobic world) to condemn or to fear gays or homosexuality. And, IMHO, I’ve accomplished a lot. But so far, only the condemnations that science, psychology, and – well, reason can destroy have been shredded. The most intractable condemnation is yet to come: religion.

I’m not against religion, per se. I’m just with The Reverend Lawrence Keene: “It’s okay to have a fifth grade understanding of God, as long as you’re in the fifth grade.”

But we can’t use reason alone to enhance a fifth grade understanding of God or religion. Religion is faith-based, not reason-based. We know this because even though a religion might insist on its absolute truth, it can’t prove that. And yet people believe it.

So just to get us started, let’s define.

A religion is a system of applying faith. It’s not faith itself, despite the fact that many people use the two terms as though they were the same. It would be tough to support a religion without faith (unless lip service is enough for you), but you can certainly have faith without religion. A religion is also a kind of blueprint for life. It’s based on identifiable doctrine, it establishes its own authority figures, and it contains rituals and, usually, dogma. The typical Judea-Christian religions all go on at great lengths about what you should and should not do to live the kind of life the God in question expects.

So a religion such as Christianity is a model for life.

I told you in the beginning that the model I’m going to show you is a kind of business model, but it’s also a life model. In fact, it’s an extremely useful life model. I put it together for the purposes of this discussion, but I have to say I’ve used it in many ways since then, to great success.

I’ve never seen anyone use it in the form I’m going to describe it here; I admit is simplistic, and on its own it wouldn’t do a project manager much good. But it really is the foundation of all project management disciplines that work. I’m going to apply it in a very creative way, if I do say so myself.

Here it is:



See? Really simple. I’ll bet you understand the relationships among the three components already. But let me go through it anyway. Humor me. You might be surprised. First, let’s define each component.

Objective is where you want to get to, or what you want to accomplish. It’s the reason you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. It’s what must not fail. What happens if it fails? Kind of depends on what “it” is, but in all cases the goal, the dream, dies.

Situation (surprised that I didn’t go directly to tactics? Bear with me…) is where you are. It can also be what resources you have. It’s the place from which you’re going to take action in order to achieve your objective. This is where you make your plans. In Situation, you don’t take any action at all other than researching where you are or what you have to work with, and then making plans. If you don’t understand your situation well enough, especially in a complex project, you’re almost certainly going to fail.

Tactics are the actions you take—what you do and what you deliberately avoid doing, based on your situation, to accomplish your objective. The really interesting thing about Tactics is that they have to be firmly rooted in Situation. If a given tactic is not rooted, it’s going to be a waste of time and resources at best, or it’s going to jeopardize your objective at worst. The really puzzling thing about Tactics is how many people want to go there second. Right after Objective. Hell, a lot of people don’t even bother to understand Objective very thoroughly before they start applying tactics. That is, before they start doing things.

Now, if you’re normally-abled, getting out of bed in the morning as an objective will not require a whole lot of planning, and you probably won’t even think about it as an objective, let alone establish your situation or examine your tactics to see if they’re useful or dangerous. But what if you were quadriplegic? In that situation (that is, where you start from), achieving the objective of getting out of bed is more complex and will require some planning and some very specific tactics.

I know I told you I was going to apply this model creatively. I will, but we aren’t there yet. First I have to make sure that I’ve been really really really clear about how to use this model, because otherwise the chapters following it will be easy to misunderstand and even dismiss.

I’ll give you a couple of examples, and I’ll demonstrate how this model can be applied to a project or goal as situation moves through time, and how it can be applied to a single slice of time.

Office Tower: Situation changing over time

You’re going to build an office tower. You’re a business person, not an architect or the owner of a construction company. You’re more like Donald Trump, only not quite as wealthy. And with better hair.

What’s your objective? Do I hear some people say “Build an office tower”? If you said that, you’re actually describing a tactic, not a goal. Because why are you going to build this tower? What will you do with it when it’s done? You’re going to lease out office space, right? So what you really want is to spend less money on your tower than you expect to receive through these leases over some period of time that you deem a good return.

So what’s your Objective? That’s right; making money. (It might also be to win Daddy’s approval at long last, or prove to your big brother that you’re cleverer than he is, but those goals are beyond my capacity to help you plan for.) If you forget that your objective is making money, if you lose sight of this goal and get distracted by how pretty the thing will be or how great it will feel to see your name so near the clouds, you could easily make some very foolish decisions about how to proceed each time the situation changes. Because guess what. The situation will change. It always does. Shift happens.

We’re ready to talk about Situation now, because we’re clear on our Objective: making money. How do we know we’re clear? Because trying to answer the question “Why?” isn’t bringing any more clarity. You may have your own personal reasons for making money, but again they’re personal and not something we’ll address here. For most people, making money is enough of an objective.

So first, what’s your situation today? Do you already own the real estate you want to build on? If you have to lease the land, have you figured enough expense into your financial plans to build your tower where it will bring in as much lease money as possible as quickly as possible? (Remember your objective.) Is there a building of any sort already on it? Will it need to be totally demolished, or can you use anything on the site?

Do you have storage facilities where you can keep materials for the construction, or will you need to rent space, and can you afford to do that? Or will you rely on just-in-time delivery, which can be risky? Whichever it is, plan accordingly.

Will you use union workers or hire people who will work for less but may have less experience and who may not speak English well enough for communication to be easy? Union workers (who also sometimes don’t speak English as a first language) are more expensive and may strike; non-union workers present different potential risks, like having unions picket you. Whichever it is, plan accordingly.

Will your contractor have access to enough heavy equipment to replace something quickly if it breaks down? Available redundant equipment will increase your cost, but there’s a risk to the lower cost; if some critical piece of equipment breaks down and takes time to fix, your entire schedule could be affected. What’s the result? A negative impact on your cash flow. What’s your objective?

Will you hire a known architect whose work is proven or a newby architect, partly because she’ll be cheaper and partly because you want to give her an opportunity? What’s the risk worth to you?

All this, and lots more, must be asked and answered and planned for before you take step one. That is, before you perform even one of your tactics. Because how will you know which tactics to do first if you don’t have a solid plan?

When you’ve planned as well as you can, knowing the kinds of hazards a project like this could entail, you need to think about what could happen over time. Like the possibility of a union strike. Or of a weather disaster, depending on what city you’re in. Earthquake? Hurricane? Tornado? Ice storm? You can’t predict, but you can anticipate. Shift happens. But no matter how thorough you are, you know there will be things you can’t plan for. Only when you’ve done all the planning and anticipating you can do will you begin the Tactics portion of your project. But keep in mind that over time, as the situation changes, you’ll have to change your tactics. Shift happens. That’s not an echo.

So. Tactics. Now’s the time you hire the architect, and make arrangements for materials storage, and clear the land. Here’s where you put one foot in front of the other, shift your weight, put the back foot in front of you, shift weight again, and move forward.

Time passes. You’ve hired union workers. There’s a strike involving electricians. What changed? Situation. What might have to change next? Plan, and tactics. You might decide to wait out the strike, but that’s money lost on everyone else you either have to keep paying or let go. If the strike begins to look intractable, you could decide to hire non-union workers. Be prepared for demonstrations, possible vandalism, violence. This is a change in tactics. And what brought it about? Did the objective change? No, not unless it has failed. What brought about a change in tactics was a change in situation.

If you don’t change your tactics to accommodate changes in situation, you could get into financial trouble. What will that mean for your objective? What’s your objective?

Serengeti Plain: Different situations, same slice of time

We’re on the Serengeti. It’s a rugged place for the animal inhabitants—in some cases kill or be killed, in others run or be eaten. So the objective for all of these animals is the same: survival. It would take too long to examine the situations of all these creatures, so I’ll select two with a basic difference in their respective situations.

On one hand, we have the lioness. What’s her objective? Survival.

What’s her situation? She lives on the Serengeti, she has access to food and water most of the time, she must sleep, she feels compelled to help maintain the pride so she’ll have to submit from time to time to the attentions of that mangy thing who seldom hunts for himself, and once he’s had his way she has cubs to care for, but this is necessary for the survival of her species, so she’ll have to do it.

What are her tactics? She submits to the mangy thing, she bears and raises her cubs, she scouts out watering holes and moves with the water in dry times if necessary, she drinks, she eats, and she does all the other biological necessities of life that we don’t need to go into in detail. The most basic thing she does is eat. She eats to survive. Survival makes all the other things possible. (Interestingly, it’s also her objective.) And to get food, she hunts. That’s a tactic based on her situation (a carnivore on the Serengeti Plain), and it supports her objective.

On the other hand we have a Thompson’s gazelle. What’s his objective? Survival. What’s his situation? He actually has a lot in common with the lioness, and with a few exceptions (like submitting to the mangy thing) their tactics are also the same. However, the most important tactic, eating, is performed in a different way. If the gazelle were to chase the lioness, what would happen to his objective? In fact, in order to support his objective of survival, he has a tactic that trumps eating: running.

For both these animals, the objective is the same; the situation is the same in many places but different in a few critical ones; and wherever the situations are different, the tactics must be correspondingly different.

I want to be very clear about something before going on, so I’m going to say it again: a Tactic that is not firmly grounded in Situation will not support Objective. For any given objective, situation almost always changes (shift happens). When situation changes, the tactics that depended on the changed aspects of the situation must be revisited and, probably, changed.


Next time, we’re moving on to the biggest Card of them all. I all it the God card, but what it really says on it is “DAMNED.”