June 15, 2011

I'm Out, Part 2

I walked in the Pride parade this past Saturday, never having even seen it before. I did get some shots of a few of the floats as we lined up at the staging area, but only a couple of them are decent. The shots, that is.

This is the float for two restaurants, one of which I visit almost every week. I don't remember seeing these two at Ivy's—and I'm sure I would—so they must work at Greg's. Yeah.



These lovely ladies and about twenty of their friends alternate at appearances all over the state. Second in age only to New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis as an AIDS fundraising group, they have danced and lipsynched to raise over a million dollars for AIDS-related organizations in Indiana since their inception.

The Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade was named this year in honor of one of the Bag Ladies who started the first parade nine years ago.



I marched with Indy PFLAG. When the leader found out this was my first time, she said, "Just wait. You'll never forget it." And she was right. As our little group strolled and handed out rainbow leis, we were greeted with loud applause, whistles and hoots, and shouts of "Thank you!" for an hour and a half. My cheeks got sore from smiling. I never took time out to pose for my own camera, and this shot is my only proof that I was there. Sort of proof. See that umbrella? I'm holding it. My stroll perfectly matches the man in front of me, so all you can see of me is my foot. But that's me!


Next year my convertible will be a float for PFLAG. And I'm determined to more than double our presence. We need to show the crowd that they have a ton of support. P.S.: You don't have to be a member of PFLAG to march in our parade. We can invite our friends who are allies to join us. So mark your calendars for the second Saturday in June 2012!

Last year's attendance of 55K tripled the previous year's. This year's estimate so far is 70,000 attendees to the festival that followed the parade. It was exhilarating. I've been to the festival three times now, but I've always been alone. I've got to drag some family and friends with me next year. They're squeamish about what they might see, but honestly, it's pretty tame compared to Mardi Gras.

Today my daughter texted me while I was at the Damien Center. A Facebook friend we have in common messaged her. He grew up on our street and is now a young husband and father. He asked her when I came out. Isn't that a riot? She said she "filled him in," but I have to find out what made him ask. Do you suppose he saw me at Pride?

Oh! I almost forgot: my OneSecond GSA group has met twice, and we're all excited about the future of our churches. (We have members from two churches, although the group is named for my own. My neighbor is hoping to learn how we're doing things and then start a similar group at her Lutheran church.) I'll try to remember to update you on our progress.

I'm still out, and I'm still proud. It's been a great week.

June 5, 2011

Creation Museum

Abe was working in the Cincinnati area this week and invited me to join him overnight when I was free. We had a lovely evening on Thursday, and Friday morning he headed back to work and I headed home.

On the way there I had noticed the brown highway sign pointing to the Creation Museum. I’ve seen it in the news and kind of rolled my eyes and sighed. After I passed the exit on the way to Cincy, it struck me that I might have the time to see it. Hmm.

I joked to Abe that I could stop by on my way home. But as I was driving it didn’t seem like such a joke. I did have some time and it would be fascinating to see, if it wasn’t too far away. When Exit 11 rolled up, I rolled off the highway. The museum was about a quarter mile away, ostensibly in Petersburg, KY but not close to anything but the highway.

In the midst of scrub and woods, I drove down a rural road and there it was.



The building is new and modern, and the grounds are well kept. There are gardens, a petting zoo, and several cafes on site. There was an officer in the parking lot directing traffic, and the lot was about half full at 10:30a, only thirty minutes after it opened.

The building fa├žade is nice enough, if dull. The interior is really very good: animatronics and displays almost worthy of Disney. We started in a canyon setting and walked through an explanation of science vs. Genesis. (See those lights above? Never at Disney!)



According to founder (and former science teacher from Australia) Ken Ham, whose books are featured in the exit gift shop, one’s interpretation of today’s evidence originates in one of two views: human reason or God’s word. In the view of biblical creationists, the two cannot meet. Click on the picture to read the side-by-side comparison of the two viewpoints concerning fossils and the universe.




Biblical Creationist Theology

From the Biblical Creationist point of view, the universe is 6,000 years old. It was created in six 24-hour days. All animals that we know to have existed lived among human beings before the Flood—including dinosaurs. All animals were herbivores until sin came into the world, introduced by Adam and Eve. Until then, no animals were poisonous. Men married their sisters, but that was not prohibited because DNA was not corrupted by a bad gene pool.



The flood occurred about 4350 years ago. It was the flood that changed everything we see today: animals' bones were covered in mud; the continents shifted in geological seconds to the arrangement we see today; deep river canyons were carved in days or even hours; and all current animal life originated from the pairs off the ark. Their offspring rode rafts of dead trees from the flood to propagate on all the continents.



We enter a room in which life-size animated figures are building the ark. There are some pretty impressive small models on display too. This is the first stage, when the ark was being built.



From the time Noah landed and populated the earth, mankind has continued to stray from scripture. The museum leads us to the current times.

The condition of the world today, which apparently is nothing but terrible in their viewpoint, is due to scripture being abandoned by culture. At this point we enter a darkened black-and-red room intended to be frightening: a door has a dozen locks; graffiti is sprayed on a wall; we see videos of teenagers playing violent videos and watching porn; a church is being smashed by a giant weight as people sing inside. And on one wall is more evidence of a fallen world:



I can’t help but notice that "gay marriage" is front and center.

We move from this display to a repeat of the message we saw upon entering: science vs. scripture, using different and engaging displays of biblical characters and scientific evidence. (The duplication allows crowds to enter through either entry, crossing paths at the center area of "today’s world." It also makes its point in a visually distinct way, driving the message home twice. Well done from an educational standpoint.)

The People

Who was there to see this with me? Many were apparently home schoolers, as evidenced by clothing and family units. (Full disclosure: I home-schooled my daughter through fourth grade due to our township’s low educational standards. BTW: I was right. But it was not about religion at all in my case.) All that I saw in attendance were white middle class. There were two buses in the lot from a church in Tennessee, and a man cell-shouting next to me told his phone that it was a six-hour drive from Alabama. One young teen girl, punked out in makeup and outfit, sat sullenly on a bench in one of the rooms.

The man who started all this, Ken Ham, is in litigation in Australia for alleged financial misconduct with his former ministry there. He has been banned from the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention for disparaging public remarks about a fellow speaker, although he is a popular keynote speaker at other home school gatherings. His ministry, Answers In Genesis, is in the final stages of getting huge financing for a theme park called Ark Encounter, to be built a few miles south of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

I’ve read plenty about this museum, none of it kind. I won’t pretend to agree with any of its premise, but I also won’t be a shrill critic as I’ve seen in so many places. I felt quite the outsider while I walked through the museum. It was filled with absolutes. I understand that the people who go here are looking for answers, and Ham gives them that. In fact, all of his books in the gift shop are under the series name Answers.

There’s that desire for certainty again. Those who feel alienated from a world they can’t grasp or control for whatever reason will be drawn to someone who gives them answers. Ham was there to give a lecture on “Genesis in Today’s World.” I didn’t stay to hear it. But it appears that he draws people to HIM and not so much to God. It’s all about what he sees in the Bible, which is not to say it’s about God's grace. When the Bible becomes a weapon, it is no longer about grace. This is a ministry based on fear.

When I look for a person who will help illuminate God, I find that it is someone who steps aside to make God visible in their words and deeds. They disappear as they teach by example. I see the inner light. They make me like who I am when I am with them. They give me peace about my relationship with God—not doubt or fear, even in the midst of questions and ambiguity. I found no peace at the Creation Museum, and I pray for those who are still looking.

Pictures so marked are from Ars Technica.

June 1, 2011

Painkiller

"Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is."

The final entry in William S. Burrough's personal journal.

Positive

The Damien Center had another positive test result today. He is in his mid-twenties. He was counseled immediately and compassionately, but when I had to leave he was sobbing in the parking lot in the arms of his friend.

When a counselor came down and knocked to be allowed in the testing office, I knew what it meant. Others waiting to be tested were ushered into a different room. The tester emerged after the counselor went in and was silent for a while. I asked him, "Does it ever get easier?"

He stared at the wall and his eyes began to tear. He shook his head and gave me a weak smile. He's seen it all, and still it shakes him up.

This young man's life changed irrevocably today. If he takes advantage of all that the Damien Center has to offer, he can live a relatively normal life and a normal lifespan. I hope to heaven he comes back.

Y'all be careful out there.