Friday, September 6, 2013

SYRIA: We need to find another way...

We need to find another way. 

I sent the following to The White House and to my Senators and Members of Congress. We have to be better than the weapons we use; somehow we have to find another way, in my opinion. And that is all this is, my opinion. If you share it or don't, either way, please contact your representatives. 

For the record, I don't find the cartoon funny. I remember this response when the then president stood on the pile of rubble of 9/11. With the world at our side, ready to take our lead, we chose a military response, when there were other ways. We are in such a place, once more. I applaud the president for going to Congress; I agree that we need to stop the loss of life and the atrocities in Syria. And, we need to find another way. There has to be another way. We have to be better than what I am concerned we are about to do.

Below is what I sent. Easy to do. Just Google your area's representative and send your comments. I think we have a grave responsibility here to speak out. That, too, is my opinion.

Dear [Senators and Congressmember]

Thank you for your service to our nation.

I am writing not as a person who is "war weary" but someone who is "peace persistent." We need to find another way to deal with Syria. Every vote I have ever placed for an elected official, including my vote for you, has always been to find ways to avoid war and the use of military force.

Surely our political representatives and international influences can do better than to coalesce around a strike that will not solve the problem in Syria. I am hopeful that this buildup is to create an atmosphere for a negotiated settlement. Hopeful and prayerful.

And to those that say we will look "weak" if we do not strike, I say "Peace always looks weak and therein is its strength." The world understands that better than we think, and those who don't will never learn from the violent acts of war. Never have. Never will.

Please do not take us into limited or any other kind of action or war. Find another way...please.

Rev. Raymond J. Bagnuolo

Friday, August 16, 2013

IMHO: We do not belong at the Olympics.

The following are responses to our participation in the Olympics in Russia. It was begun on Facebook, and posted here for more discussion:

Posted Response on to:

I have heard the argument that we need to continue in these games for many reasons, including the work of the athletes that would be "wasted" were the US to pull out of the Olympics because of the Russian givernment's violent stance on preventing human expression of gender in any ways that would "promote" or propagandize being LGBTQ. That said, it is a privilege to represent the USA as an athlete or a member of the Armed Forces. Sometimes, that privilege is called to respond in ways that are unexpected or unwanted. No one trains to compete to boycott. No one trains to serve their country to die. Yet, who we are and what we stand for comes with a price. Trying to nuance the inhumanity of the Russian laws with the immunity of a international competition is weak-hearted, self-serving, and much too far from being the guiding light for all oppressed people that we are called to be. A light that includes our Russian sisters and brothers who are LGBTQ. It is time to draw the line and stand with all those who need a voice against the violence and repression of any such nation, who by these actions should never be referred to as a "host." This USA has no place in these Olympics, except to demonstrate that we are as complicit as those we challenge for not promoting democracy and human rights.
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, NY

One of the responses from a good friend of mine suggested that the participation in the 1936 Olympics and the outcome where the USA "kicked some ... butt" was important. He references the "Hitler Olympics," as has others to make a case for us to remain in the games. You can read the full exchange at

My response was as follows:

My friend, I always appreciate your comments, but I must disagree with you here. I continue to be baffled by the references to Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Olympics as indicative of what our response could be in this situation. Trying to make some connection, I will say that I think this argument and the Holocaust-references boil down to a question of atrocity. For some privileged, white, heterosexual folk - the weak international response to a host nation being fiercely opposed to people who are gay may not seem like anything around which to rally in a decisive way. Yet, for people who are LGBTQ, the response might be different. It is for me. And, in the end, I only speak for myself. 

However, because I see the violence that is regularly and horribly directed at gay people - because they are gay, I live with the perspective of perhaps a different sense of atrocity. Enough to disagree with those who say, "Let them play." 

As a nation, either we are the nation we were during Hitler's draconian rule over Germany - or we are different. Had we known that Hitler's Final Solution was being hatched and planned for even at that time - would we still have gone to Germany to play? 

Now, I am not elevating the conditions for people who are LGBTQ to the atrocities of the Holocaust, but you and others keep bringing this up. So, I will ask the question: Do we need to get our hands on the doors of the ovens at Auschwitz to remember that we learned this lesson? And, if we are a different nation, if we are a nation that has the courage we say we do - do we stand up for the least among us to prevent the next worst things that just may happen to concretize your reference?  Do we make it clear that we are a nation that knows that witness is far from a cop out - but an act of deep conviction, pride, and protection for those we say are equal? A witness that makes sure we do not barter away our fidelity or our backbone, making sure that folks looking for such things might find them here, as they might in other countries. 

I am not trying to change any country, their laws or their practices. I am simply saying that something has to rise above expediency - or who we are is mired somewhere other than in our hearts and our history.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gracious Reunion or Controversy?

Gracious reunion? Controversy? Hmmm....
On the announcement for the PC(USA) Big Tent in August, the three day event is referred to as “a giant Presbyterian family reunion” -- and yet in all of the 10 major conference threads and the 37 pages of event synopses of hundreds of discussions and workshops -- there is not one reference I could find to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning or even Homosexuality. In fact, I could not find even one reference to the word "marriage." Really.
It seems that the reunion is not quite "out" about welcoming those of us who are LGBTQ, our families, and friends into the formal agenda and discussions during these amazing times. What could that be about?
Mostly what is said is that the gathering is not meant to be controversial. Well, neither are we.
The "Big Tent" agenda seems also to reflect a recently long-awaited Theology and Worship study guideline report on marriage that pretty much avoids the discussion of marriage for same gender loving couples. In fact, even our sisters and brothers who oppose marriage among members of the church who are LGBTQ - even they complained that there was little opportunity in the report to spur discussions in their congregations.
Methinks it is such an agenda and study that is controversial, not the challenges we face to love one another in unity and with our differences. In fact, the latter discussion would be a wonderful balm to the avoidance that has long divided us. That, indeed, might just round out a "Presbyterian Reunion."
Just sayin'...
Big Tent
Marriage Report

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prayer and Presence and Boston

April 16, 2013
From my posting at

Gay Pastor: Prayer and Presence and Boston

The first time I heard the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 in which Paul says, “…pray without ceasing.” I knew that was probably a good thing to do, but I couldn’t imagine how to do it. All the time? Praying? 

This morning, as we awake to the tragedy in Boston of another senseless act of violence, as we fall to our knees literally or figuratively, again, praying for those whose families and friends stumble forward without their loved ones “who only went to see the marathon!” – and those who will need to live with the scars of yesterday’s acts of hatred for the rest of their lives – we pray. And, it seems that the spreading illness of violence and horrific events that keep coming closer and closer – are bringing us to a ceaseless time of prayer, without respite, not because of our diligence but because we need pray ceaselessly in response to the frequency with which the unimaginable continues to become real.

It is the right response. Prayer works; I don’t really know how. But it does. And, I know that to pray is also to pause, moving closer to God, consciously entering into God’s presence. That is always good to do, even better in the company of others. Prayer and remembering we are in God’s presence heals us, those we pray for, and the world at large. It is always the right thing to do.

Prayer is an action in the best and most difficult of times and all in between. It  leads us to help and toextend ourselves, being there for others in whatever ways we can. It is the most powerful of all our responses  that we too often come to as a last resort. It is the place to begin and from which all that needs to be done follows. It is the language of Love that strengthens and guides us, just as it has been from the first time the heart cried. “God help me! God help us!” It is what makes our responses and actions prayers, in themselves. 

And, it is always loving, never violent in its response.

In whatever ways we come to prayer today, for the victims, their families, their friends – for us all – let us pray without ceasing by living into the presence of God and this power of prayer. And then together, let us act accordingly, so that all that follows is prayer without ceasing.