I haven't had much time to wander around the blogosphere lately - I've either been working or avoiding work or working in my garden - the weather for the past few days has been amazing. Today was just perfect - the dogs were happy: Stanley was snoozing in the sun among the blueberry bushes, Wood was under the shade of the live oaks, and the Ancient Wonder Beagle was indoors asleep on her clean bed (going outdoors upon request). I cleaned out tomato pots, admired the Salvia puberula 'Hildalgo', planted the gloriosa lilies, and put the starfire lilies in a clay pot on the deck (hopefully they'll bloom by the holidays). It was a wonderful day - warm and sunny - a day where I had space and the time to think.
This morning, I read this post over at Garden Rant about a landscaping company that denied a client service because they were homosexual. The post was originally published at Gardening While Intoxicated, and I recommend that you take a look there for the full story. Here is the note that the client received (quoted from Garden Rant):
"Subject: Cancel Appt - Garden Guy
"Dear Mr. Lord,
I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.
Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs.
All my best, Sabrina"
This 'note' haunted me all day. Evidently the prospective client passed this note around - and it made it around the blogosphere as well, resulting in the landscaping service receiving a number of negative emails and phone calls. Eventually the company released a statement that they "do not hate homosexuals" and "We meant to uphold our right as small business owners to choose who our clients are". I personally find it puzzling how one can say they don't "hate" a certain group while exhibiting blatantly discriminatory and hateful behavior. There's a disconnect in the rationale behind this type of behavior that I thought about for most of the day - and I thought about how one person can be raised in a church and grow into an adult that discriminates, while others do not.
So I wandered around the garden, placing the soil from the tomato pots onto the asparagus bed, transplanting the 'cinnamon' ginger into a larger clay pot on the deck, planting the pineapple lilies (white, yellow, and pink ones) in the ground - and I thought about religion and the Bible and hate. I was raised in a church - my parents took my brother and I every Sunday - and I was baptized when I was 12 years old by being dunked three times in a water-filled pool that on any other Sunday was the church's altar. I was raised in one of the three Peace Churches - the Church of the Brethren - yes, I was raised a pacifist. That word was never used though - out of fear - since so many people then (and even today) assume that if you are a pacifist that you are non-patriotic. That always frustrated my father, who was about as patriotic as a person could be.
A church is a collection of beliefs - but what I think people often forget is that Pastors each have their own individual interpretation of their religion - these individuals go to seminary - to school - and are trained. Seminarys often differ fairly dramatically in their teachings - in their interpretation of the bible - whether it is interpreted more literally - or less so, where it is used as a guide but not as an absolute. I think people get into trouble when they view their religion - their church's interpretation of their religion - as an absolute. The Bible can (and is) interpreted in so many different ways - with each interpretation used to justify a certain position - but I think it's important to understand that it is just an interpretation - either one person's or one group's interpretation among a number of different possibilities. The Pastor of a Church can significantly influence this view of the Bible - the Pastor who is a human being, who has a past with biases built-in, who was educated in an institution with biases built-in - a human being bringing his/her interpretation to the table.
Today, as I was wandering the garden and thinking about a hateful note sent to a man simply wanting some landscaping assistance - I was filled with such gratitude that the Pastor of my church as a child was the person that he was. He was our pastor for 13 years - for most of my childhood - and when I left home for college I kept in close touch with him, even though I never regularly attended church again. We kept in touch during holiday visits, on special ocassions, and through email - emails that continued up until two days before he passed away due to complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). I saved all of his emails - daily communications for almost two and a half years - emails that described the subtle (and not so subtle) progression of his disease - emails that for the last few months were made possible only by voice-activation. I continue to communicate with his spouse - a wonderful woman herself - who still struggles with the loss of someone so special to so many of us.
The church that I was raised in taught inclusion - our Pastor lived an inclusive life, where everyone was welcomed - a life where 'love thy neighbor as thyself' wasn't 'love they neighbor as thyself but only be friends with them if they are like you'. I never heard my Pastor be hateful - in word or behavior - to anyone. Discrimination is hateful - it isn't about love, it isn't about understanding - and it definitely isn't about the church that I was fortunate enough to be raised in, or about the God that I was introduced to as a child - and I'm far too cynical about the Bible to believe that it is an absolute text, but instead is a document open to a myriad of interpretations. So today - on a beautiful Saturday in November, I felt enormously grateful that I was raised in a church with a Pastor that not only taught, but lived inclusion and acceptance of all human beings.
I don't feel happy that I live in a state that overwhelmingly voted 'yes' for the marriage amendment, but was glad to hear that Charleston County may have been the only county in the South Carolina where a 'no' vote was the majority. I've listened to and read all sorts of reasons why one would vote 'yes' - and I've yet to truly understand the rationale. Perhaps that is my own bias - but today I felt relieved that I can't understand the rationale, and that I will never understand how discrimination can be justified. But I was lucky to have someone in my life when I was young who didn't understand discrimination either - not everyone is that fortunate.
This fine Sunday morning, I couldn't resist helping Joan out a bit with her weekly 'Church in Lieu of Attendance' posts (which is always about as close as I get to attending Sunday morning services!).
I'll start with an exterior view of St Stephen's Cathedral - which is located in the center of downtown Vienna. It's impossible to miss! It's an example of gothic architecture - and has been around (in one form or another) since the 12th century - since 1722 it has been the cathedral church of the archbishop. After surviving, or at least partially surviving, numerous wars, it's biggest threat currently is atmospheric pollution - primarily sulfur dioxide (remember...acid rain?).
We did manage to walk up 743 stairs - which got us as far as we could go up the 450 ft high spire that looks out over the city. It was a narrow spiral stone staircase - and after making it down we all felt more than a bit dizzy! There's currently quite a bit of work going on to preserve the tower - mostly cleaning of the tower surface. The interior of the church was quite beautiful - as you can see from just one of the numerous alters located inside.
But my favorite church in Vienna was definitely St Michael's - it had a simply fascinating integration of both pagan and religious symbols - and made me wish that I was better able to interprete the symbology. I must confess that our reason for heading to St Michael's initially was the "dead bodies" there - but unfortunately the crypts were closed due to repairs.
Yes, I suppose you could say that a Sunday morning spent in church wouldn't hurt any of us - but shouldn't a lovely Wednesday afternoon spent admiring them count as well?