The end of a most awesome day.

At the end of what has been a most awesome day, I have a wish: it’s that the people who stood opposed today may some day change their hearts and come to experience the happiness that we did, when love won the day.

I wish them peace, acceptance, understanding and some day: love.

I try to not be happy because they lost, but I won’t lie and say I’m not. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy we won, I’m ecstatic that we won.  But I am also, just a little, happy that they lost. Not proud of that, and I’m still working on it.

I had a few conversations with them today. Even as an atheist, I can recognize that there are different interpretations of the Bible: some of them come from love, others come from a dark place of anger, hatred and lashing out at what they don’t understand. Those there today at the Capitol were from the latter group.

I hope they can turn away from that someday. It’s not good to live in that kind of pain, and the contrast between the suspicion and anger in their faces and the joy, love and openness that overwhelmed the rotunda today was stark. I am reminded of the phone conversation I had last year with a mother who had rejected her son because he was gay, and hadn’t spoken to him in years, because her pastor told her it was the right thing to do.

May you never have to feel that kind of pain in your life, as that she held locked up in her heart for who knows how long, as that she spoke of through gritted teeth to a stranger on the phone. Maybe today she can recognize the change the rest of her state is going through, and start down her own path away from that pastor’s terrible, painful advice. There are plenty of faith congregations who would welcome her AND her son with loving, open arms.

The world is terrible, because we make it so.

The world is beautiful, because we make it so.

Today just happened, because you and I made it so.

So here’s the thing…

So here’s the thing…

'cause this will happen.

’cause this will happen.

I can’t believe it was less than 24 hours ago that I posted my previous note starting with that phrase. I can’t tell you how nervous I was last night. I slept hardly at all, and what sleep I had was filled with dreams about being in debate class. The concept of arguing and defending a spirited point of view was obviously on my mind.

And yes, I know we still have to get through the Senate vote on Monday, and yes it still needs to get signed by Gov. Dayton, and yet we have to wait ALL the way until August 1st for weddings to start happening… but it’s a pretty done deal, folks.

I also can’t believe it was almost exactly two years ago that we were dragged into a fight we didn’t ask for. Belligerent busybodies who weren’t content with the fact that a group of my dearest friends already had limited rights, tried to up the ante in the dying days of their worldview and cement their discrimination further into law, before the younger generation could come along and ruin it all with their more “liberal attitudes” about who among us has the right to declare what kind of love is acceptable. The tide is turning, let’s get the boats out quickly.

“What are YOU going to do?” they challenged us. “We’ve already won 30 states before yours, there’s nothing YOU can do about it.”

Yes, there was. We committed to not becoming number 31. We decided to become number 12 instead.

We didn’t ask for that challenge; but we were certainly up to it. Months and months of phone banks, training, personal conversations, door-to-door canvassing, talking to strangers and friends and coworkers alike, and hours upon hours of registration and get-out-the-vote activities. And in one awesome night last November, at about 2am, the first part of that challenge was met, and turned back.

And this afternoon, this awesome, awesome afternoon, our full response was decisively heard:

DO. NOT. Mess. With. My. Friends.

We didn’t ask for the fight, but you shouldn’t confuse a peaceful disposition with cowardice. Don’t assume that just because we prefer to avoid the confrontation means we’ll flee when you provoke it. And don’t hit unless you’re willing to learn what it means when we defend ourselves.

In this case, it means that we’ll turn a state around from having no marriage equality to full marriage equality in two years. I’m guessing that somewhere tonight, those who proposed and supported the amendment in 2011 hoping for an easy win, are staring at a pretty large hole in their foot and wondering what the hell happened.

The numbers game

So here’s the thing: the vote tomorrow in the Minnesota house on HB 1054 (the Marriage Equality bill) matters to my friends, because it affects them and their relationships personally. It matters to the state, because it affects how it will treat these couples. It matters to me, because (insert nicer way of saying “fuck the haters” here). But it also matters to the country, because it’s going to have a significant psychological impact on the mental state of the Supreme Court Justices as they weigh the Prop 8 and DOMA cases.

It's time.

It’s time.

Both Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg have expressed reservations in both oral arguments for these cases as well as interviews (see the March 11th New Yorker) about pushing society too fast: large-scale social change shouldn’t come from the courts. We can disagree on that perspective (I do): especially so when the courts are addressing civil rights injustices that shouldn’t even have to take into consideration whether the ruling is “popular” enough yet. But it’s a concern they have raised, and one they have to be mulling.

But if the change is already observed happening from the bottom up, then this reservation evaporates. I don’t know what the magical number of states is to convince Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg that change is already happening; but I do know that 2 is better than 1, and that 12 is better than 11 (plus the District of Columbia, of course).

So this may very well have a significant domino effect, and all within this year, within a period of months.

We know that change is happening, we’ve felt it happen in Minnesota over the past year. Hell, we MADE it happen, you and I, with our phone calls and our conversations and our VOTES. But we’ve also seen pushback and defeats in the last 12 months, in other states and in other court cases, all of which could make a conservative (in the traditional, non-political sense) judge rather wary of leading the charge for action.

So the question is: what happens if the number is 12, Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg? Is 12 enough to signal that you are no longer leading social change, but actually trying to catch up instead? 12 states is a quarter of the country, and means over 55 million citizens living in states where same-sex marriage is legal. We decide national elections by tiny fractions of those numbers.

Sandra Day O’Connor has recently and very publicly expressed regret at taking on Bush v. Gore in the 2000 elections. I hope that Ginsburg and Kennedy, in 12 years as they look back on the year 2013, don’t have to express similar regrets about incorrect decisions. We’ve come so far in just the past 12 months: think of how much further ahead we will be in 12 years, and how misguided a decision to delay social justice today will look then.

A loss tomorrow does not doom the Prop 8 and DOMA cases for our side. It doesn’t even cause a major dent in the reality of marriage equality for Minnesota, in the long run. Hell, it’s just a delay either way.

But 12 looks like a really good number to me right now. What number looks good to you?

The Ultimate Martyrdom Myth

My interview with Notre Dame Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity Candida Moss, author of “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom” (buy here) for Minnesota’s Atheists Talk radio show is now available streaming on this site, downloadable, or subscribable via podcast or iTunes.

I did miss the opportunity to press a little bit further on the discussion around how Biblical scholars determine that some martyrdom stories are myths. In essence, they seem to use questions such as the following to calculate the level of trustworthiness of a given story:

– Were the stories written by non-eyewitnesses, long after the event?
– Do the stories seem to be retellings, recastings or appropriations of older mythic stories from other cultures?
– Do the stories contain anachronisms? References to ideas, institutions, people or places that were not current at the time of the events but were at the time of the writing?
– Are there multiple, inconsistent versions of the story, changing over time?
– As the stories change, do they become more hagiographic? Do they make the “star” of the story even more saintly, the acts even more miraculous?
– Do we lack confirming testimony from other, independent sources, of the events or people in the story?
– Do the stories seem designed to push a specific orthodoxy, perhaps against an idea of the time that was becoming popular but others wanted declared heretical?

Now my question (which I did ask in the show) was that all of these issues above, when asked of the traditional 4 Gospels, have an affirmative answer. Consider for example the transition from Mark to Matthew to Luke to John, where Jesus goes from a suffering, questioning crucifixion (“Why hast thou forsaken me”) to a stoic, accepting death (“It is finished”) over the years between which the books were written, multiple decades after the events in question.  A stoic death was very admirable among martyr myths in antiquity, as we see in Socrates’ case or in the disgust over the sniveling death of a Trojan prince at Achilles’ hand in Homer’s Iliad.  This example easily covers 4 or 5 of the points above, with a potential 6th depending on how much of the crucifixion story was addressed specifically at, e.g.,  the Marcionites and Ebionites.

So why did scholars (such as the Bollandists), trying to weed out whether the martyrdom myths were true or not using the criteria above, not end up casting an eye towards the Gospel books and deciding that there was probably as little proof of those being true as there is of many of the apocryphal martyrdom stories?  Was it only because the “original” Christian martyrdom story was untouchable by definition?  It would seem to me to be a prime candidate for this kind of analysis and (given the results from scholarly responses to the questions above) eventual rejection as apocryphal, for the exact same reasons the Bollandists reject so many martyrdom stories from the first centuries.

I really enjoyed having Professor Moss on the show, and I’d love to invite her back to talk about this.