January 14, 2017 – The Hilltop Cross

– – –

Today I stumbled across an old photo, taken during the first few months I had lived in Bisbee, Arizona. It’s a mile-high historic town where one of the largest copper mining operations in the world existed. On a, 80 story hilltop overlooking the canyons the comprise most of the town is a makeshift shrine, evidently constructed by a single individual, who hauled mortar and supplies up the trail to the top of the hill, one small load at a time.

The folks that live in town have added to the shrine their own little flourishes. Candles, prayer flags, and sculptures have slowly accumulated, and the cross at the top of the hill kind of belongs to the whole community now. Even in the tumult of my last few months in Bisbee, with a flagging relationship and commensurate flagging reputation among some hostile locals, I always found peace hiking up into the hills to look at the view and be alone with my thoughts.




Why We Need To Eliminate Marriage

Equality post“When I am instructed by the all-knowing Jehovah to profess an ostensibly ‘equal’ brotherly love within the same pages where I am instructed to murder my fellow man for engaging in a love act, I can’t help but look elsewhere for guidance.”

– – –

Among people of all ages, ethnicities, and religions, a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage has been growing. This acceleration of tolerance culminated on 26 June 2015 with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In the 5-4 decision, the highest court of the land invalidated gay marriage bans in the United States of America. This was no longer a state’s rights issue. A push for equality and a celebration of our inalienable rights had occurred.

Many consider this a progressive forward movement, failing to recognize the near fifty-fifty split in the court’s decision, a figure which loosely reflects the national attitude toward same-sex marriage. Some citizens of faith – certainly not all – viewed the move as an attack of their religion, and the bellicose rhetoric of conservative radio began once again to sound the trumpets about the “War On Christianity.”

The decision to overturn gay marriage bans has been viewed by some as the first stumble on the slippery slope. Some groups genuinely believe that the government has become a bloated, liberal bureaucracy that intends to dismantle their church, manipulate their faith, and legislate morality. Regardless of how foolish such an attitude may outwardly appear, the court’s decision served not to end the argument, but to reinvigorate opposition to marriage equality.

There has been unanimity among the GOP presidential candidates to have the decision overturned. The only difference in their rhetoric would be the degree to which they would fight. Ted Cruz, who won the Iowa Caucus on February 1st, has spared no opportunity to express his fervent opposition to same-sex marriage – an ironic stance for any patriot, especially a student of constitutional law.

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson made reference to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He wrote, “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 the 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.”

If we are to examine the topic, perhaps we could recognize that the issue of marriage equality truly does hinge on the definition of marriage; we have a semantic legal problem, not a religious or moral one. The term itself, marriage, has both secular and religious connotations. In a land where there is a supposed “wall of separation” between church and state, it is the word itself that has led to such persistent conflict. The only sensible argument – an argument that has yet to be made by any politician on the hill – is the argument to eliminate marriage from our legal doctrine altogether.

It sounds extreme, but it’s actually quite sensible. If we view marriage as a tradition largely steeped in religious values, then we all ought to acquiesce and consider the term a religious one. If there is indeed a separation of church and state in these United States, then no statehouse should recognize any marriage of any kind. If we can view marriage as the joining of individuals in a religious ceremony, then it is appropriate for the ceremony to be privately held, between those individuals being married and their faith community. The government ought have nothing to do with it.

In order to honor the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, it is necessary to strip marriage of its legal status. Heretofore, the legal benefits of marriage have been distributed by a discriminatory legal apparatus that would not grant those same benefits to same-sex partnerships. This is wholly in violation of the 14th Amendment which mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally under the law. This is precisely why the Supreme Court eventually ruled as they did.

All partnerships, homosexual or heterosexual, should be required to apply for a domestic partnership – not a marriage license – should they seek legal status and the benefits bestowed upon legal partnerships. Fears of government intruding on hallowed faith traditions will be quelled. Citizens will enjoy greater equality under the law. People can continue to define marriage however they please, and there will be no legal consequence to those who disagree.

Supporting strong domestic unity will have a net-positive impact on our society. Such unity will serve only to create more satisfied, socially invested patriots, regardless of the form their love happens to take.

It would be a challenge to identify a distinction between denying same-sex lovers equal rights under the law and refusing to let a black person drink from the same water fountain as a white person. This is the 21st Century, and we cannot accept any argument that would diminish a person’s inalienable rights.

Spread the word.

Consider supporting this independent artist by sharing this article or purchasing a print.

January 22 – Piano Guts

01-22 Piano Guts post

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

– – –

This past week I have been spending my days in church; most of that time has been spent tearing it apart.

But no. I’m not a rock star and this sanctuary isn’t a hotel room. I’ve been remodeling it with a carpenter friend who’s been teaching me some of the finer points of woodworking and repair. This week’s project had us redesigning & rebuilding a stage. Sledge hammers and circular saws aren’t anything I ever associated with church when I was growing up. Back then, church was this big room where people mutter the same responses like wind-up toys, kneel and stand over and over, and I always left feeling more perplexed about religion than when I arrived.

Even after being forced into catechism, most of my lingering questions remained unanswered or ignored. The King James Bible isn’t the most relatable piece of literature to a twelve-year-old. Hell, it barely makes sense to most adults. Religion was a frustrating experience altogether, which is probably why I elected to reject religion outright from an early age. I have since made peace with those adolescent frustrations. I still haven’t found god, but I don’t feel like I’m being judged just because I stopped looking. There’s a really big club called the Catholic Church, and I just happen to not belong to that club. And that’s okay with me.

Morality and decency isn’t defined by your faith. It’s defined by your actions. I made a house of worship look a little more grand today, and I have every expectation that the congregation will enjoy the things that I have built for them. At least that’s the hope.

There’s this upright piano that the church is remodeling, too; they’re going to install a keyboard but keep the veneer of the old piano. Keyboards don’t go out of tune quite so easily, and the church had been spending over a hundred bucks a month just to keep the old piano in tune. Earlier tonight, before grabbing my water bottle and coat, I snapped a few pictures of the piano’s interior. I’d never actually seen what the inside of one of those vessels actually looks like, and I thought it was a fascinating, industrial arrangement.