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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

For as far back as Joy Ladin can remember, her body didn’t match her soul. Gender defines us from the moment we’re born. But, how is that related to the lifelong work of being at home in ourselves? You’ve got to check out our show this week, "Gender and the Syntax of Being." Krista’s interview with her explores this question through Joy’s story of transition from male to female — as a poet, as a parent, and as a the first openly transgender woman teaching in an Orthodox Jewish world.

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Excellent Infographic Breaks Down Gay Rights in U.S. by State and Region
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The coolest part about The Guardian's dynamic graphic on gay rights in the United States may be its Facebook integration. The infographic illustrates the level of rights — from adoption and schools to same-sex marriage and employment — granted by each of the 50 states, grouped by region, and then proportionally breaks it down by the states in which your Facebook friends live.
Interestingly enough, this matters. The reconfigured breakdown is more relevant to one’s life because it personalizes the issues to a degree, giving one a sense that these issues matter differently depending on where many of the people you care about now live. (Mine’s heavily weighted with North Dakotans and Minnesotans considering I’m a Midwestern boy, but who knew I had friends in four-fifths of the country.)
A small quibble, though. The circular shape of the graphic inherently weights the importance of an issue depending upon which concentric circle it occupies. In this case, the more proximate the issue type is to the circle’s center, the less area it takes up and, therefore I wonder, seems less important. One way to balance this might have been to assign bolder, more aggressive colors to the more interior circles: schools might be assigned the red now designated for marriage and marriage be assigned that Columbia blue.

Excellent Infographic Breaks Down Gay Rights in U.S. by State and Region

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The coolest part about The Guardian's dynamic graphic on gay rights in the United States may be its Facebook integration. The infographic illustrates the level of rights — from adoption and schools to same-sex marriage and employment — granted by each of the 50 states, grouped by region, and then proportionally breaks it down by the states in which your Facebook friends live.

Interestingly enough, this matters. The reconfigured breakdown is more relevant to one’s life because it personalizes the issues to a degree, giving one a sense that these issues matter differently depending on where many of the people you care about now live. (Mine’s heavily weighted with North Dakotans and Minnesotans considering I’m a Midwestern boy, but who knew I had friends in four-fifths of the country.)

A small quibble, though. The circular shape of the graphic inherently weights the importance of an issue depending upon which concentric circle it occupies. In this case, the more proximate the issue type is to the circle’s center, the less area it takes up and, therefore I wonder, seems less important. One way to balance this might have been to assign bolder, more aggressive colors to the more interior circles: schools might be assigned the red now designated for marriage and marriage be assigned that Columbia blue.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Going to a Town” by Rufus Wainwright

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Rufus Wainwright. Photo by Laura MusselmanRufus Wainwright performs in KEXP’s studios in 2007. (photo: Laura Musselman)

What do you do on a 16-hour family road trip to Montana with two sons under five and a wife riding shotgun? Play a lot of music — and sing badly. But, there are certain songs, certain performers that bring on the quiet. And this live performance from Rufus Wainwright is one of them.

Fumbling around my pickup’s floorboard pickup while cruising down I-94, my fingers serendipitously happened upon an unlabeled compilation CD I had burned in 2007. Etched with grit and gravel, it actually started playing. The opening track: Rufus Wainwright’s live version of “Going to a Town” that he performed at KEXP’s studios in Seattle while promoting Release the Stars.

Trying to conjure up meanings of the song’s lyrics would require too much exegesis, if you will, for this humble post, but Wainwright’s melodic challenging of America and its brokenness is valid four years later. Through this song, he forces us to remember what we once were as a nation — even if it’s a dream — who we’ve become, and what kind of people we might aspire to be again.

When I hear a ”Daddy, daddy. Play it again!,” I know he’s the right notes.

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A Mormon Example on Sexuality and Religion

by Krista Tippett, host

Elder Marlin K. JensenReligion Dispatches offers a riveting report of a recent meeting in Oakland in which a leading Mormon authority offered an apology for the pain caused by the LDS Church’s activism on California’s Propisition 8. To an emotional gathering of “LGBT Mormons and their allies,” Elder Marlin K. Jensen reportedly said:

"To the full extent of my capacity, I say that I am sorry … I know that many very good people have been deeply hurt, and I know that the Lord expects better of us."

I’m on record as saying that we should measure the public virtue of religious traditions not merely by the positions they take, but by the way they treat those with whom they agree and disagree along the way. It is, sadly, rare to witness religious authorities open up to this kind of human and seemingly searching encounter on an issue in which they have staked a theological and political claim. I say, “Bravo.”

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A Church Divided, Together: The ELCA One Year after the Vote

by Andrew Haeg, Public Insight Network

In the audio above you hear Rev. Daniel Ostercamp from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Webster, South Dakota, who opposes the ELCA vote, followed by the voice of Joseph Haletky, a member of the congregation at First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Palo Alto, California, who has supported it.

On August 21st, 2009, the Evangelical Church in America voted to allow gay pastors in committed relationships to serve as clergy. To understand the impact of the vote on the church, we’ve been reaching out over the past several months to Lutherans who are part of the Public Insight Network, and many others. More than 2,000 have shared their story or insights. We’re using what they have shared to produce an online project that will unfold over the coming weeks.

Many of the stories we’ve received come from many Lutherans who rejoiced over the vote, and whose congregations have experienced a new, stronger sense of inclusiveness and welcome. And we’ve heard from those who were saddened and distraught over the vote. In many cases, their congregations have chosen to un-affiliate from the ELCA, weaken ties to the national church, or to express their displeasure by withholding money. We start by tuning into the very different experiences of two congregations — one in South Dakota, one in northern California.

st-johns-lutheranSt. John’s Lutheran Church in Webster, South Dakota sits on Main Street next door to other fixtures of small town life, the city hall and the library, and a block down from the post office. The church just celebrated its 125th anniversary. Five or more generations of families have worshiped here. It’s a congregation of 800 in a town of 2,000.

When the vote took place last August, the pastor, Daniel Ostercamp, was saddened and disappointed. He and much of his parish were strongly against the push to make gay pastors full clergy. But the traditions of the church ran too deep to be uprooted so quickly. “It’s very much a sense of history, a sense of connection,” he says. “To walk away from a church because you lost a vote is a very hard thing.”

Daniel Ostercamp, Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Webster, South DakotaHe says the church is a powerful bricks-and-mortar expression of a community and their beliefs. “As much as Americans want to talk about being a people that travel that move — a mobile society,” Ostercamp says, “a sense of place is still important. When you’ve been baptized in a congregation, your kids have been baptized here, and you were married here. That’s where you’ve said your prayers, that’s where you’ve sung your hymns,” he says. “You’ve been in a sanctuary. And if there’s a controversy that’s forcing you to make a choice, that’s very gut-wrenching.”

St. John’s has not chosen to leave the ELCA. They’ve opted instead to symbolically proclaim independence from the authority of the national ELCA through gestures such as withholding money they would normally give and sending it instead to the Lutheran church in South Dakota, or to local missions.

He says he believes that “congregations are going to be more responsible for who they are, and that the synod and the national are going to have fewer and fewer resources and less and less influence, for better or for worse.”

The experience at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Palo Alto, California is a world apart from St. John’s in Webster. It’s in the middle of the largely progressive Sierra Pacific Synod. Years ago, First Evangelical had voted to be a Reconciling in Christ congregation — meaning it was open and welcoming to gay and lesbian members, and pastors.

First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Palo Alto, California on Easter SundayThis, in marketing terms, gave them a kind of “first-mover” status in town, and as Haletky says, the church drew new congregants who were looking for a church that was inclusive and focused on social justice.

Last year’s vote was enthusiastically supported in this church, and as Haletky says, has given the congregation confidence to reclaim the words “evangelical” and “confessional” from conservative Christians who they say have co-opted them.

Yet their joy is tinged with some sadness. Seven of the 206 churches in the First Evangelical’s Sierra Pacific Synod have left the ELCA. That’s a small percentage, and fewer than in other parts of the country, but it’s evidence of a major fissure that’s opened underneath the ELCA — one that has to be mended if the church hopes to stay together. “We weren’t going to succumb to some sort of triumphalism, that we had won somehow,” Haletky says, “because there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done healing the church.”

Joseph Haletky, congregant at First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Palo Alto, CAThe vote brought to Haletky’s mind a “beloved” pastor who had served the church back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Well into his 40’s, the pastor revealed to a few congregants that he was, in fact, a gay man. Haletky says all the “little old Swedish ladies tried to marry him off to their nieces,” while he kept his secret for fear of being defrocked and shunned.

Now pastors who were similarly closeted can come out and participate fully in the life of the church. This makes Haletky happy. He says that for First Evangelical, the vote “has been a plus all the way around.”

Check in here for periodic stories of the impact the ELCA vote on the lives of individuals and communities. And, tell us your stories about how this issue is affecting your community.

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Day 9 - Feruze Faison: “The Sweetest Sip of Water”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 3:24]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Feruze FaisonFeruze Faison, our ninth voice in this special series, grew up in Istanbul and now lives and teaches elementary school in New York. After an early marriage in the U.S., she met her current partner, a woman with whom she’s raising three children. Her relationship is a source of estrangement between her and other family members. The Sufism of her native Turkey influences her personal faith and her memories of Ramadan.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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