Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If It May Please The Court, Or More Specifically, My MAKER...

My views on gay marriage don't fit neatly into a Facebook post, much less an icon, and they definitely won't make it onto a bumper sticker. I will confess to you they have "evolved," as President Obama might say. In 2004, before I got right with GOD, I wrote, "Your Gay Marriage Doesn't Threaten My Straight One." That was before I knew GOD's Truth. My stand reads more like a court brief, so I submit this filing.

Let me start with my personal beliefs. First, I believe homosexuality is a sin because that's what the Bible tells us clearly. The Bible references homosexuality nine times. Four of those times are in the Old Testament (all verses NIV):
  • Genesis 19:1-25, which is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 19:5 says, "They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.'"
  • Judges 19:22-30, a similar incident. Genesis 19:22: "While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, 'Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.'"
  • Leviticus 18:22: "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable."
  • Leviticus 20:13: "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
The other five mentions, in the New Testament:
  • Romans 1:24-28: "Therefore GOD gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about GOD for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, GOD gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of GOD, so GOD gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done."
  • 1 Corinthians 9-10: "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of GOD? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of GOD."
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11: "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed GOD, which he entrusted to me."
  • 2 Peter 2:6-10 "if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the LORD knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority."
  • Jude 1:7: "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."
Homosexuality is directly mentioned in five of these verses. The others reference it from the broader topic of sexual immorality. But either way, it's clear GOD tells us homosexuality is a sin. Let me deal with two common arguments used by those who claim homosexuality isn't sinful.

1) JESUS never talked about homosexuality. True. But HE never talked about a lot of things in the Old Testament either, because HE didn't need to. The Jewish nation had GOD's law already. Also, JESUS talks about a proper marriage in Matthew 19:4-5: "'Haven’t you read,' HE replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?" So JESUS is on the record for the definition of marriage as a man and a woman.

2) The Old Testament has lots of stuff considered sins like eating red meat and pork that Christians do without raising a fuss! Again, true, but that was the Old Covenant with GOD. Under JESUS, we have a new covenant, one that specifically tosses the dietary laws. JESUS says in Matthew 15:11: "What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." Romans 14:17 says "For the kingdom of GOD is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

(FaithFacts offers some more analysis.)

Now let me take on another argument made by gay-rights supporters: "Why is it so wrong for two men or two women to love each other?"

The answer is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, as long as we're talking about love outside an erotic context. Many favoring gay rights point to 1 Samuel 18:1 for support: "After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself." However, the Bible is talking about brotherly love, not erotic love. Reading on through verse 4, we see: "from that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt."

We have more than one type of love: platonic, which is a friendship sort of love; erotic, which extends into the romantic and sexual; and agape, which is an all-encompassing "higher love" -- an affection for people in general and a desire to sacrifice for them. You can argue Jonathan's love for David as the agape type.

Coming back to what I believe, as someone who loves (agape) and wants to serve GOD, I cannot see gay marriage as something other than sinful, and I speak as someone who has homosexual friends and colleagues. You think I like taking this position? JESUS told us living for HIM wasn't going to be easy in John 15:18-21: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated ME first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted ME, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed MY teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of MY name, for they do not know the one who sent ME." Living for GOD requires sacrifice, and that includes sacrificing the easy or popular mindset of the time if it doesn't square with GOD's commandments.

Let me tell you what I do NOT believe:
  • I do NOT believe the Bible tells us to act violently towards homosexuals, regardless of that verse in Leviticus. JESUS taught us to love sinners, in the agape way. As for that Leviticus verse, the context of that was GOD's commands to Israel in that time to purify itself and rid itself of sinful practices found in pagan nations surrounding them. If Israel was going to be GOD's chosen people, it had to walk the walk, even in the extreme sense. GOD also had another motive with the Old Testament laws: to show us how it was impossible to live perfectly within HIS will. Boy, did we ever need JESUS!
  • I do NOT support that crazy cult church in Kansas that demonstrates at military funerals saying soldiers die because of homosexuality in America. JESUS says in Matthew 7:15-17: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." You can certainly see from the actions of this so-called church, it's not bearing good fruit.
  • I WILL NOT refuse to work alongside people who are gay, nor will I openly condemn my gay friends, nor will I name and shame them publicly by stepping onto some moral high horse for all to witness. I consider that acting like a Pharisee. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GOD." I don't play the game of "this sin is worse than that sin." A sin is a sin is a sin, and as Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of GOD is eternal life in CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD."
There's also this: not everyone who is gay has gotten right with GOD in the first place, or even believes in GOD to begin with. What good does it do me to argue GOD's Truth to people who aren't of a mind to accept it? This goes for a multitude of sins, not just homosexuality. In Matthew 7:6, JESUS tells us not to waste time trying to hammer GOD's truth into people when they're not ready: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Don't get bent out of shape over the use of "pigs" and "dogs" in this verse. JESUS is talking metaphorically, not pejoratively, like that modern-day saying: "Never teach a pig to sing. It doesn't work and it annoys the pig."

So now I come to the question, should government recognize same-sex marriage? The Bible tells us governments are an authority recognized by GOD in Romans 13:1-2: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which GOD has established. The authorities that exist have been established by GOD. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what GOD has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

So clearly governments have a responsibility to act within GOD's will.  What happens when they stray outside that will? You can look through the Old Testament and see numerous examples of Israel suffering under the rule of evil kings and leaders who strayed from GOD's law.

What about separation of church and state? Let's be clear about what it means. Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his GOD, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." He was talking about keeping government from messing around with churches, not keeping GOD's principles out of government.

Here's where it gets complicated: clearly, government is within bounds to prohibit gay marriage. But technically, it's also within bounds to declare homosexuality in general illegal, which has been done in the past, but is now largely a relic of our past. Our authorities don't go around rounding up homosexuals -- something Hitler's gestapo did. I don't want that. Most Christians, save for those radical fringes, don't want that. GOD doesn't want that -- in truth, HE'S within rights to round ALL of us up for our sins!

So how can government justify banning gay marriage when it doesn't ban gays? It doesn't have to condone the decisions for same-sex couples to marry. It doesn't have to make gay marriage equal with straight marriage. If a same-sex couple wants to live together, I'm not going to call for government to break them up. But just as our governments don't give marriage benefits to straight couples living together out of marriage, I say they shouldn't feel obligated to do the same with gay couples. I don't consider that to be discrimination; I see it as acting in accordance with what GOD is asking governments to do.

Again, I'm not saying I LIKE THIS. GOD's principles are not there for our enjoyment. I know some of my friends are going to disagree with me adamantly about this, and that's fine. I don't hate you. I don't want to. I am not on a mission to preach and rail against homosexuality, and if you know me, you know that. But when the question is put to me, and I have to answer it and take a position, I'm going to take GOD's position, because I love GOD and want to serve HIM, even if that makes me unpopular with my friends or with the world. That's life. That's Christian life.

Yes, I've changed my beliefs since I wrote that 2004 post. But one thing remains unchanged. In 2004, I wrote:
If you think about it, we don't even need gay marriages to degrade straight ones. We've done that already. We've done it through a 50 percent divorce rate. We've done it through "triple-a:" adultery, abuse, abandonment. We've gotten into commitments we weren't ready for, and we refused to let somebody talk us out of them because nobody else is allowed to be judgmental when we're in love.
So we've all got work to do. Just like the Bible says, "For all have sinned..."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Goodbye, Randy

Randy Garsee (Source: KOLD)
Like many of you, I was shocked to hear the sudden death of former KOLD news anchor Randy Garsee. I hadn't spoken to him on a regular basis since he left the station in 2006, but I knew he was pursuing journalism on his own terms, just the way he wanted it.

Randy arrived at KOLD in 1997, shortly after his longtime partner Kris Pickel and about three years before I stepped into the newsroom. His corner cubicle was adorned with dragons -- his favorite mythical creature -- and a millennium coffee-mug he'd doctored to read "01-01-01" instead of "00" at the end. Randy and the station shared the philosophy that the real turn of the millennium would come a year after the monstrous hype over all things Y2K. He reported and edited a weekly feature, "Beyond The Millennium," which spotlighted futuristic, cutting-edge subjects with a Tucson connection. One story had him checking out paranormal research at the University of Arizona and raising the question of whether mediums might one day testify in court on behalf of the dead.

One story he pursued relentlessly was the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that polygamous breakaway sect of the Mormon church led by shadowy self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs. Randy journeyed to the Utah-Arizona border and a remote ranch in West Texas as he tracked it.

He once tried to get an interview with Jeffs as members revealed what was happening in the FLDS-controlled enclave of Colorado City, Arizona. A camera rolled while he made a call from a pay phone in the town:

RANDY: "Hello, Brother Nephi?"

ISSAC: "This is Isaac."

RANDY: "Hi there, Brother Issac, I was wondering if I could talk to the Prophet today."

ISAAC: "Who is this?"

RANDY: "My name is Randy Garsee. I'm with KOLD-TV in Tucson. Would he be available for an interview today?"

ISAAC: "Negative, he would not."

RANDY: "Does he ever talk to the media?"

ISAAC: "We have no comment."

In the end, it didn't matter. Jeffs went to the slammer for hooking up underage girls with FLDS members. Garsee moved on to the next story.

With his Navy background, he proved to be an invaluable resource for military perspective and technical rib-poking. In 2003, He went to Kuwait when the U.S. tangled with Saddam Hussein again, hoping to get the inside story on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base personnel overseas. But due to a mess-up in the commanding ranks, neither the access nor the lodging he had been promised materialized. He nearly ended up stuck in the Middle East as the nation went to war. "I think I just got somebody fired," Randy said after he complained to the officers.

Randy with then-KOLD photographer Carl Lemon,
taking on "Anchorman."  (Source: Facebook)
In 2001, he came up with a new idea for a movie review feature: have people who share an occupation with characters in the film offer their take on how Hollywood portrays their job. I suggested the name: "Reel Life Movie Reviews." We debuted it with the film Pearl Harbor using three military service members who narrated their thoughts intercut with movie clips. For Spider-Man we turned to a local comic store owner and a spider specialist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. A Tucson magician offered his opinions on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. When The Passion Of The Christ came out, Reel Life was a natural fit to let members of Tucson's religious community offer their views.  Randy got to see movies on Friday and get paid for it.

But most of Randy's viewers remember his knife-edged wit. He often injected micro-commentary into news items, especially when the station's aging tape decks started breaking up video on the air. "Can we get a working tape recorder around here?" he once blurted out from the anchor desk. In other famous on-air moments, he teased former reporter Kaushal Patel about her wardrobe choice and asked J.D. Wallace why there was barbed wire up at Pima County Democratic Headquarters. I gather he had the Howard Cosell effect: viewers who loved him watched because they wanted to see what he'd say next, and those who hated him watched to see what he'd say next.

In a 2006 interview with Tucson Weekly, he said:
"I always feel like people are inviting you into your living room. This is a job. People know it's a job; it's a career, but everybody likes to have a little fun on the job. Everybody does. That's something I took from the newsroom to the anchor desk. I try not to be too flip or too obnoxious, but my philosophy is to watch the newscast with the viewer, and if things go wrong, or if I do something stupid, which happens all the time, comment about it. Say something about it. I get more e-mail about those kinds of remarks--about referencing video, the jokes at the end of the show--more comments on that from viewers than anything else."
Your humble servant shouldered some of Randy's one-liners. When I took poetic liberties with some news copy, he quipped: "Our producer, Chris Francis Shakespeare wrote that." In the newsroom, when I heard crackling over the scanner about a body being found and noted it was right down the street from my home, he cried out: "Dammit, Francis, I told you to bury those bodies further away!"

Randy was also an aspiring novelist. He'd completed two books in his stint with KOLD, but he was having trouble getting them published, even with help from an agent. I revealed to him I had been working on a novel myself, and he graciously asked to see the first chapter or so. Within days he returned with his verdict.

"You need to seriously pursue this," he said, not cracking any jokes this time. "For somebody to turn around a novel this fast shows ability." Actually, I had been working on it for about 10 years in various forms, including a screenplay, but I had never finished it until months before. He encouraged me to spend the money on a writers' workshop in Tucson, where I could start courting potential publishers and agents while learning the business.

I did so in 2003, doing an interview and sending out some query letters and manuscript samples, but the book went nowhere. I knew I would have to send out oodles more to have a decent shot, but ultimately, I decided the text could be better and focused my attention on my day job. Randy eventually turned to e-publishing to get in print. One day, I might head that route.

Randy's passions for reporting and writing were only matched by the passion of his demeanor. He didn't suffer fools gladly, and I saw him light into more than one person. He believed in fighting for his stories, almost to blows in some cases. Randy also refused to practice office diplomacy, which did him in when he thought his contributions were being marginalized.

Source: Blogspot
It didn't take him long to find his next gig. He went to a smaller station in Ada, Oklahoma, and then moved back to a military job, providing video from U.S. operations overseas. Randy was working as a communications and public affairs adviser for the Center for Naval Analyses and Institute for Public Research when he passed away in his sleep on Sunday. He was only 50, a mere nine years older than me, but with enough experience for two lives.

Randy had a wife and two daughters. One of the girls loved to run up and hug me every time she visited the newsroom.

"Oh, thank you," I said to her. "You know the producer doesn't get a whole lot of hugs."

"I'll hug ya," Randy deadpanned.