Tag Archives: Facebook

Love…and Marriage in the time of Facebook

Last week, some friends of mine got married out of state. I didn’t attend the wedding so I made a point of checking my Facebook feed throughout the day. Both of these friends work in public relations so I knew that photos of their big event were forthcoming. I was excited to see them.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Through the immediacy of social media, I was able to view the moment they became a married couple. I saw the venue, the cake . . . I got to share a little bit of joy from hundreds of miles away, just hours after it happened. When they updated their Facebook status to “married”, I enthusiastically clicked my “like” button to express my congratulations. That’s how we do things in the 21st century, right?

And there on the feed I saw a “life event” announcing their names, the date, and the occasion of their marriage, displayed under an icon of a bride and groom.

But my friends are not a bride and a groom. They’re two grooms, happily married in their home state – something few of us could’ve imagined five years ago. And this is perhaps a small thing – but I really object to that little icon defining marriage as a man and a woman. So much progress has been made – and I believe that social media has been a contributing catalyst. As a wedding celebrant, I’m really aware of wedding vendors who refer specifically to “brides and grooms”. I see so many wedding cards and ephemera that adhere to the “man and woman in a big white dress and veil” narrative – and LOTS of weddings don’t look like that at all.

So, I sent Facebook a message. I pointed out that in many states (37, plus Washington DC and some Missouri counties) and countries around the world (18, and portions of some others) marriage is defined more broadly than strictly male/female. I suggested they should consider a more inclusive icon. Isn’t Facebook more open-minded than, say, Fox News?

I received a polite reply informing me that Facebook receives so many messages, they can’t possibly respond to them all directly. The message assured me that they would consider my concern seriously.

Well I am stubborn and impatient, and it occurred to me that perhaps I could enlist the power of social media to call attention to this one small thing and make it different. So I’d like to ask my similarly minded friends (and friends of friends . . . This is social media after all) to do this:

• On your Facebook page, click the little triangle in the top right-hand corner of your screen. On the drop-down, click “report a problem”.

• In the next window, choose “general feedback”.

• In the next window, under “product” choose “timeline” and leave feedback suggesting that the icon should be changed.

Please encourage your friends far and wide to do the same. Inclusive language and images matter, and platforms like Facebook have the opportunity to make an important statement about what marriage looks like.

My Own Personal Jesus

I am an Atheist.  I don’t believe in any supernatural deity.  I don’t believe in a god, and I don’t believe in Jesus, the son-of-a-god-who-is-really-god-too-by-some-technicality-I’ve-never-quite-grasped.  But I really like the Idea of Jesus.  In the gloominess of my Catholic upbringing, Jesus was a bright light.  Some of my earliest storybooks feature his kind, serene face and deep soulful eyes.  I loved the story of his birth in the manger (Oh how many times my poor baby brother had to be the infant Jesus to my Virgin Mary as I staged impromptu Christmas pageants!)  The “Sermon on the Mount” with its implied socialism (don’t tell Sarah and Michelle!) struck a serious chord with me early on.  Whatever else, religion might have imprinted on me, Jesus was justice and Jesus was love.

I think of him in the same way you might regard other literary characters – Jiminy Cricket, sitting on your shoulder helping you tell right from wrong, or wise Dumbledore, or Glinda, from the Wizard of Oz, explaining that you’ve had the answers all along, but that you needed to find them within yourself.  His “real-ness” has never diminished for me, what he’s supposed to stand for.  Losing my faith hasn’t robbed me of a belief that “do unto others” and the rest of what’s on his CV are pretty good ideas to live by.

And Jesus was a bit of a rebel too; getting snippy with his mom (the “didn’t you know I’d be in my father’s house?” incident when he went missing as a little boy) and trashing the money lenders at the temple for their greed and poor location choices.  He had a whole crew of guys he rolled with, but he wasn’t a snob.  He hung out with the lepers and the poor and the prostitutes.  Whatever your deal was…he was cool with it.  If Jesus lived on Long Island in the 80’s, he would definitely have worn a leather jacket.

I have a theory that adolescent Catholic girls form an early attachment to Jesus as the image of perfect manhood.  What could be more attractive to a flat-chested, bookish, twelve-year-old but to know that this gentle, handsome man knows you, and loves you for who you are?  For years, the life-sized statue of a crucified Jesus that hung above the altar at our church was the closest thing I’d seen to a naked adult male.  Despite the gore and the ashen pallor, those muscled biceps…the washboard abs…the long hair…I blame my years-long penchant for long-haired heavy-metal bad-boys on my early religious indoctrination.

Earlier this week as the vote for Marriage Equality loomed ever closer, and the arguments, on the street, in the media, and on the internet got more heated, I found myself completely swept up. The live feed from the senate was constantly playing on my computer.  I manically pressed re-dial as I called Senators over and over.  And I actually broke the Facebook app on my iPhone after five days of constant update- checking, and posting of witty and weighty answers to that eternal question, “what’s on your mind?”

And the thing that kept coming into my head, ironically enough, as religion became the defense of choice for intolerance, was “What would Jesus do?”  I mean seriously – which side would he be taking here?  Jesus was all about love, right?  He of the washing of the feet.  He who saved the life of an adulteress by insisting that the one who is without sin, cast the first stone (are you listening Archbishop Timothy Dolan?!?).  He who stuck the ear back on the Roman centurian who had come to arrest him!  I began to feel that a contingent of religious people had stolen Jesus from me and were misrepresenting him!

MY Jesus, the Jesus who occupies my secular heart would have been as ecstatic as I was when the Senate voted in favor of Marriage Equality late Friday night.  My Jesus would have voted yes for love, for commitment, for families, for security, for justice.  He would have been carrying a rainbow flag and singing in the halls of the capital all last week.  He would be at every single gay wedding, making wine from water, just like he did at Cana in the bible – and smiling.

My husband and I drove to Albany late on Friday evening to meet up with an old friend who was in town demonstrating.  We arrived just as the senate vote was made official and caught the wave of frantic reporters and jubilant spectators as they exited the capital.  Amidst horns honking and people shouting, we three walked up the street, going nowhere in particular, taking in the glorious weight of what had just happened.  We were stopped on our trek by a disheveled, middle-aged man staggering, from what was clearly the consumption of a large quantity of alcohol.  “Let ‘em do what they want to do.”  He slurred emphatically.   “I’m TELLING you… I said, this is BULLSHIT.  It’s crap.  Good Luck.  I’m not gay but who gives a shit.  That’s YOUR business.  What business is it to say you can’t do that? I’m down with it.  I’m GLAD you guys won.  I’m ALL good with that.”

MY Jesus would have shaken his hand.

On People of Faith

Two weeks ago, I posted a link to my new website on my Facebook page.  I was expecting some feedback on the template I’d chosen and the way I’d organized my content.  Many of my Facebook contacts are way more technically savvy than I, and I thought they might give me some pointers as I launched my first website and blog.

I didn’t get the kinds of responses I expected.

With the exception of my friend Anthony from high school who (very usefully) flagged me that my blog was not set up to receive comments, the feedback was not about the design and organization at all.  It was about the content.  Much of that feedback was super positive and encouraging – and it came mostly from my friends who have strong theistic beliefs.

It’s not that I anticipated hate mail.  I expected that civility would prevail.  I just hadn’t predicted the outpouring of support and encouragement that I got.   I am, after all, categorically rejecting something that these friends hold dear.  It really caught me off guard.

It shouldn’t have.  Most of these folks are people who I know well, and I know them to be tolerant, generous, accepting individuals.  The idea of secular ceremonies for those who want them isn’t threatening to what they believe.  Marriage equality is a right most of them value and support.  My own humanism isn’t a shock to any of these folks.  Some of them knew me back in my teens when I painted my finger nails black and claimed to worshhip the devil.  They’ve witnessed the journey.

I realize that there is a part of me that’s become so hostile to the idea of faith – because of how it’s wielded by a lot of other people – that I am less conscious of when it is practiced with restraint and openness.  It caused me to re-evaluate the copy on my website.  All in all, I think I was pretty even.  I did edit out one kind of snarky comment about “imaginary friends”.

I’d like to subscribe to a philosophy of ‘live and let live’ and I think that works on an individual basis.  I’m not so sure it functions beyond the circle of people one knows personally.  Sam Harris, whose philosophy I really identify with, suggests (and I’m paraphrasing here) that religious moderates provide a kind of safe cover for religious extremism.  By rejecting the intolerant and violent pieces of dogma, they’re sort of practicing a “religion lite” while still lending credence to the religion as a whole, and making way for those who have a more literal, and perhaps dangerous interpretation of the faith .

So can we believe different things and still share the world?  Do my friends believe they’re going to heaven and I’m not?  Do I believe they’re wasting time and energy on religious practice that could be better spent on tangible action?  Does that change the way we think about each other?  Should it?  By advocating what we believe, do we give license to those who would take those beliefs to unreasonable ends?

I’m still working through this…