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August 2006

Richard Armitage and Valerie Plame: An Apology to the Administration

Well, it seems to have finally been settled that Richard Armitage was the original leak of Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak. For many months now it seemed like this was becoming the inescapable conclusion.

This conclusion means that some of us critics of the administration need to swallow hard and apologize, but with a qualification.

Richard Armitage is a good public servant and one of the most capable people to have served in the Bush administration. He was undersecretary of State under Colin Powell. Armitage was a strong internal critic of the the war in Iraq, how the diplomacy was handled before the war, and how the occupation was handled afterward. Richard Armitage is a good guy.

Clearly, then, the original leak was not motivated by a desire to defame Valerie Plame or Joseph Wilson.

My qualification is twofold. According to the NY Times article, even Mr. Armitage only learned about Valerie Plame's identity after internal memos were circulating in the administration. Maybe the administration was preparing the hatchet job defense that they did employ, it's just that Mr. Armitage ended up being an unwitting pawn in that plan.

Because it is quite clear that at least once the name had been leaked initially that administration officials did continue to leak the identity with the intent of harshly and personally attacking one of its earliests critics. And the treatment of the Wilsons must still be taken as part of the broader series of misdirections, misstatements, misperceptions, deceptions, and outright lies that have been part of selling and then defending the war in Iraq.

With that twofold qualification, which may mean that this isn't much of an apology then, I apologize to the Bush administration for my assumption that the original leaking of Valerie Plame's identity was done to attack a critic with callous disregard to the effects upon our intelligence-gathering ability during a time when that ability was sorely needed.

The Filthy Rich

I'm reading a delightful article in the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly on how the super-rich have to hire companies of advisors to help them spend their excessive wealth (thanks Georgie Boy). Here are a couple of choice excerpts:

"One financial adviser was reportedly asked to find someone to teach a client's children about wealth and the responsibilities that come with it. He got quotes from four 'wealth counselors': the cheapest was $1,600 a day, the most expensive, $16,000."

"'How much do you charge someone to curate their wine collection? You can't comparison shop for that.'"

One advisor said, "If you're not the type of person who's planning an anniversary party in the south of France for fifty friends, where you're going to fly them over, we're probably not going to be able to help you. It's not that we can't help you; but you'll find that our fees are prohibitive for what you want done."


This devotional received so many responses from around the country, I decided to run in on the blog too.

Devotion for Thursday, August 24, 2006
by Rev. Dr. Scott Jones

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God's understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint. - Isaiah 40:28-31

Sometimes we are uncertain about the road ahead. When we are uncertain, God's story tells us that we should wait upon God. Patience is a virtue, as they say. But what kind of waiting should it be?

It should be a hopeful, expectant waiting. A waiting with eyes and ears open to a surprising word from God. A waiting filled with prayer. Sometimes we need to wait, as Isaiah tells us, because we've become exhausted and need to renew our energy.

Sometimes we are impatient and allow our fears and anxieties to overwhelm. Our fears and anxieties compel us to decide and act before we have heard that word from God. Such decisions and actions often end up getting in the way of our hearing God's word when it does come. Such actions lack faith that God will provide when the time is right.

And Isaiah assures us that God will provide. When the path does become clear, when the vision is clarified, when the time is right, then we must quit waiting; it is now time for decisive action.

Sometimes we get stuck waiting, even after the path ahead has become clear. Once again, fear and anxiety hold us back. Such immovability lacks courage.

How do we determine whether we are in a season of waiting or a season of action? Wisdom. And that takes experience, community, prayer, and a reliance on those whom God has gifted with insight.

If we follow this scriptural model, then God assures us that we will mount up on wings like eagles. That's one of my favorite images in scripture.

Holy Spirit, sustain and comfort us. Walk along side us. Inspire and direct us. Fill us with your power and glory. Teach us to wait and to act and to have the wisdom to know. Amen.


Film Project #7

Director: Julie Taymor
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming

Last year I had planned a project of re-watching great and favourite films with friends and then writing about them. I slacked off, but thought I'd start again with one of my favourite films from 1999.

As we entered the fall of 1999 it became clear that we were not in a normal film year. In fact, I, and other close friends, would late declare 1999 the greatest year in the history of filmmaking, supplanting previous title holder 1939 (Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Wuthering Heights, etc.).

My 1999 "Top Ten" list would eventually include about 25 films (I think "Top Ten" is a concept more than a strict numerical list. One year I only had seven films in my "Top Ten."). It seemed like everytime I rented one of the acclaimed films from the year (few played in Shawnee) that I thought that one was better than the others. Though my list was constantly in flux, I did end up with five that remained consistently at the top: The Insider, The Straight Story, Titus, Being John Malkovich, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I remember, distinctly, how I felt when I finished watching Titus back in 2000. I was overwhelmed with emotions, mainly horror overcome by hope. Let me explain.

Julie Taymor had done the Lion King on Broadway, so it was intriguing when her first (and I believe so far only) film was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. No one reads or performs this play, because it is Shakesepeare's most violent.

The film is a stunning adaptation, with incredible visuals. It's setting is a mixture of ancient and modern. The modern elements seem to be influenced by both Ian McKellen's brilliant Richard III and Frederico Fellini.

The performances are stunning, particularly Jessica Lange who makes your skin crawl with her precise, malicious line reads, e.g., "cruel, irreligious piety."

Watching the film, one is struck by its excellent filmmaking and the moral of this mostly unfamiliar story -- that we humans are brutal, violent people; that life is devoid of reason; that all is overwhelmed with tragedy. Pretty cynical, depressing stuff. I love great art that does this (like The Bicycle Thief). On the one hand the content overwhelms one with the negative aspects of humanity, yet the work of art conveying that message is itself an example of the great beauty of which we are capable -- that there is still hope for humanity.

But then something happens at the end of this film. Let me back up, though. Taymor opened the film with a contemporary, American boy playing with his action figures while eating breakfast. The kids playing becomes more and more mock-violent (squirting ketchup for blood). Even the kids house is being bombed; then he is carried into the theatre, where Titus begins. A strange device. Then the kid keeps reappearing in the film, eventually taking on one of the roles. My friend Jon, who watched the film with me the other night, kept asking "Who's the kid supposed to be?"

At the very end of the film where everything has suddenly sprialed into horrific, gory violence, we end up back in the theatre. The kid picks up a newborn infant (part of the story) and walks out of the theatre toward the horizon, where the sun is slowly rising. It is a long shot, about five minutes probably.

And in that moment six years ago, it hit me, what I think Taymor intended with the film. The movie was reminding us of the horribly violent, irredeemable century that was ending. The kid has born witness to this and so, at the end, turns his back on it, picks up the child (always a symbol of new life) and carries him into the dawning new century. Taymor clearly hopes that we will take advantage of a new opportunity to overcome our brutality.

In 2000 I cried at how beautiful that message was. In 2006 I cried because this century is already horribly violent and irredeemable.

Recognizing Our Anxiety for What It Is

Recognizing Our Anxiety for What It Is
II Sam. 5:1-5, 9-10
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
20 August 2006

I want to back up. Instead of this moment of triumph when David is crowned king of all Israel after seven years of civil war with the surviving members of the House of Saul, let’s go back to the end of the Book of I Samuel.

For years David has been hiding in the wilderness, pursued by Saul, in a series of marvelous narratives that are a literary achievement.

Eventually, David realizes that Saul will sooner or later succeed in finding him., so David allies himself with the Philistines. King Achish gives David control over the city of Ziklag, where all of David’s followers and their families come to live. David now works for the Philistines and raids various tribes and towns all the way to Egypt. The Philistines think he is raiding Israelite towns, but David is raiding the towns of other tribes. In each one he slaughters the entire population so that no one will return to the Philistines and tell his secret.

The Philistines then muster for one final invasion of Israel. Saul prepares his forces. Saul is no longer receiving the guidance of the Lord, because God has removed God’s Spirit and Samuel has died. Saul, who had expelled all the sorcerers and mediums from Israel goes in secret to the Medium of Endor. She is afraid when she discovers it is Saul who has come to her, but after he swears his protection, she calls the ghost of Samuel. Samuel is angry at Saul for awakening his spirit and announces to Saul that he and his sons will be dead tomorrow. Saul flings himself to the ground in terror. Saul is finally a completely broken man.

David marches out with the Philistine army, planning to participate in the invasion of Israel, but the Philistine lords are afraid of David’s armies switching sides in the battle, so King Achish sends David home to Ziklag. When David and his men get back to Ziklag, it has been attacked by the Amalekites who have taken all their wives and children and burned the city. David and his men weep uncontrollably. They pursued the Amalekites, freed the captive women and children, and gained great spoils of war. Immediately when he returns, David sends the spoils to the elders of Judah -- clearly David is currying favor.

The Philistines attack the armies of Saul and defeat them. Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, die on the battlefield on Mount Gilboa. Thus ends the Book of I Samuel.

There is a confusion and ambivalence that runs throughout this wonderful book. There are competing claims to priesthood, arguments over whether or not to crown a king, competing contenders for the throne, and war between the Israelites and the Philistines. It is a literary marvel, rich in meaning.

When the book ends, we are at a cliffhanger. The Philistines have conquered Israel and are in control. The king and some of his sons have been killed. David, the rebel, has allied himself with the Philistine conquerors, though he has also taken steps to curry favor with the tribe of Judah. God has abandoned Saul to die in battle. God seems to have stepped away from history, allowing events to take their own course.

Nothing has gone as planned. Back in the opening story of this book, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, had prayed for God to fulfill her desires and give her a son whom she would turn over to God as God’s instrument. When God gives her a son, she sings a great song:

My heart exults in the Lord;
I have triumphed through the Lord.
I gloat over my enemies;
I rejoice in Your deliverance.

The final stanza is full of promise:

The foes of the Lord shall be shattered;
He will thunder against them in the heavens.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give power to His king,
And triumph to His anointed one.

This book that began in promise, ends in defeat. There is no king. The anointed one is not on the throne. Israel’s enemies have conquered the country. Where is God?

I Samuel speaks to those times of confusion and ambiguity. This is written for those times when promises seem unfilled. It is for those times when all your plans have failed. Eli was plan A, but he and his sons failed to lead. Samuel was plan B, but the people rejected Samuel’s leadership and crowned Saul. Saul was plan C, but he has turned bitter and angry and is guilty of horrendous violence. David was plan D, but right now David, who held so much promise and potential, is wondering around out in the wilderness, allied with the enemy, guilty of brutal murders himself. It doesn’t look like plan D is going to work either.

The more I thought about these stories, the more I realized that they wouldn’t fit how I had planned to use them in this sermon series. That happens, you know, the Bible breaks out of the boxes we try to put it in.

Sure David achieves success after many years and is crowned king, but at what cost? How many people have died so that David can ascend the throne? How many people have been cast aside? And how many more will live with the threat of danger in order to keep David on the throne? They may have achieved success, but the Book of Samuel reminds us of the danger that always surrounds power and the drive to succeed.

So, I want to speak directly about violence and the dangerous world in which we live. The more I read these stories in I and II Samuel, the more I felt at home in them, that they described a time very similar to our own – a time of fear, confusion, anxiety, danger, and violence.

When I was in high school, the Cold War came to an end. I remember the excitement and hope at that time that we were entering a new world order where democracy, the rule of law, and peace would be ascendant. And there were positive signs – the reunification of Germany, the democracies of Eastern Europe, the swift, unified action of the international coalition in Kuwait, the worldwide economic prosperity of the nineties. Sure, there were signs that there were still serious troubles in the world – the chaos in Somalia, the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, the AIDS pandemic, the war in central Africa that had a larger theatre of operations than World War I did in Europe (though most people don’t even realize a war that big occurred in the nineties). And then there were those bombings of embassies and the USS Cole, but despite all these signs, we entered the new millennium with a great deal of optimism and hope for the future.

9/11 and the subsequent events changed all that. We have spent five years in Afghanistan pursuing the Taliban and al-Qaeda. This August we commemorate sixteen years of being militarily involved in the affairs of Iraq. Though some experts dispute the conventional wisdom, most of the people I read and hear on tv believe that the situation in Iraq is getting worse and worse after years of mistakes on our part.

One year ago this next week, the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and we observed a nightmare we never thought we’d see in this country. This was less than a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami, probably the most horrible single event in my lifetime.

In recent weeks North Korea has tested new missiles, Iran has become the dominant power in the Middle East and will likely be a nuclear power soon, and Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in Lebanon, a country who had just begun to emerge from decades of civil war, occupation, and ruin.

The last fives years, there have been terrorists attacks in Indonesia, Spain, India, Russia, and Great Britain. Last week we learned that our authorities and those in Britain and Pakistan thwarted what would have been a horrific attack on trans-Atlantic travelers.

As a result of all these things, our lives have changed. We go through security checks. We wonder what we’ll be able to take on planes. Gas prices are so high that they are affecting our financial well-being.

Folks, I want to name it. I think that we are collectively suffering from anxiety. And with this anxiety has come all of its partner emotions – grief, anger, fear, cynicism, and depression. We already had a pretty pronounced culture of fear in this country before all these events, but I believe it has gotten worse. And it has now lasted so long that we are experiencing an added fatigue that comes from dealing with these complex emotions for so many years.

I see it all the time. Friends gather and the conversation veers off to world or national events and everyone gets a little downcast and the mood changes. Sometimes people end up getting angry at each other about world events over which we have little control.

I’ve had many conversations with fellow ministers this summer about how this summer in particular everyone’s moods seem so different. Some of it is probably the heat, but more people seem to be depressed or in funks. Uncertainty has led to declines in philanthropic giving. People seem to make decisions out of anxiety and fear instead of from places of hope. There is greater confusion and tension.

Maybe you don’t perceive this, but I do. Last week in our Council on Ministry meeting, Paula talked about how she thinks we need to rant. That we need to allow people a chance to get together and vent all their griefs and frustrations. I think that would be a wonderfully cathartic exercise and plan on us putting such an event together in the near future.

This week as I read these stories about a time of confusion, danger, uncertainty, and anxiety in ancient Israel, I realized we live in such a similar time. What can we do? I think that the first thing we need to do is to simply name it. In our orders of worship, I have passed out blank pieces of paper. I want you to take those out and grab a pen or pencil. Tom is going to come play an instrumental piece for us. While he plays, I want you to take the time to consider what in this world or in your life is a cause of anxiety, fear, grief, anger, frustration, disappointment, confusion, cynicism, or depression. Then write these things down -- some of us might have longer lists than others. Or maybe you can draw something that represents these things for you. Work on this while Tom plays. Then, when you come forward to receive communion, I invite you to lay these pieces of paper in the bowl that will be here at the altar as a sign that you are presenting these burdens to God, asking for God’s help. I will then take these papers this week and offer them in prayer to God. They will be anonymous and confidential unless you request otherwise.

This Mesopotamian Entanglement

This month commemorates the 16th anniversary of United States military engagement in the affairs of Iraq. Sixteen years. Shocking when we think about it.

It was on Aug. 2, 1990 that Iraq invaded Kuwait over a border dispute. Since the 1930s, Iraq had claimed Kuwait, which at that time was still a part of the British Empire. Famously, America's ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990 that the United States had no interest in border disputes between Iraq and Kuwait.

On the 16th anniversary of our military engagement in the affairs of Iraq, it might be good to gain a little perspective. . . . .Read More of my monthly column here.

David Loves Jonathan

David Loves Jonathan
II Sam. 1:1, 17-27
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
13 August 2006

I want to begin by simply retelling the story.

David was young and had a ruddy beauty that captivated people. And he had pluck. Coming to the armies of Israel to visit his brothers, he had astonished the entire camp by taking on Goliath of Gath and defeating him. David succeeded in battle where others had failed. Saul wanted to know who this young man was and sent the commander of his armies to fetch the lad.

David stood before the king with Goliath’s bloody head still in his hands, covered with grime, blood, and sweat himself. “Whose son are you, my boy?” the wily king asked. Notice: “whose son are you, my boy. Saul was drawn to this young man and wanted him for his own household.

“The son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

Jonathan, the king’s son, was standing there. Jonathan, who had already proven himself to be a great warrior, the hero of the army, had heard David and immediately he loved David as himself. Immediately, his own soul became bound up with the soul of David.

That day Saul did take David into his own household and would not let him return to Bethlehem to his father Jesse.

That day Jonathan made covenant with David, because he loved him. Jonathan stripped himself and presented David with his cloak and tunic, his sword, bow, and belt.

David became a great warrior, the hero of the army, and Saul placed him in command. When the troops returned from war, the women of the towns of Israel came out singing and dancing with instruments and shoutings. They chanted, “Saul has slain his thousands; David, his ten thousands!” And Saul was distressed and greatly vexed.

From that day on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David, suspicious that he would rise up and claim the crown. An evil spirit of God gripped Saul.

Saul offered David his eldest daughter Merab to wed. Then changed his mind. Saul learned that his other daughter, Michal, loved David. So, Saul conceived a plot to entrap David through the engagement and marriage to Michal. He set a task for David, a bride price of one hundred Philistine foreskins. Surely, if David tried to circumcise one hundred Philistines, he would be killed. David and his men massacred two hundred Philistines and brought their foreskins to the king. Saul grew even more afraid of David.

Saul now urged Jonathan and the other courtiers to kill David, but Jonathan took great delight in David and warned David that Saul wanted to kill him. David fled, and Jonathan pleaded with Saul to change his mind. Saul heeded his son’s plea and swore that David should not be put to death. David returned to serving Saul.

One again Saul was jealous. He first tried to kill David himself. Then he plotted for David to be killed while in his bedchamber with his wife. Saul’s daughter Michal warned David and helped him to escape. David fled to Samuel.

Saul sent to Samuel to capture David, but every messenger that went was seized by the spirit of God and began speaking in ecstasy. Finally Saul himself came and was overwhelmed, once again, by God’s spirit, speaking in ecstasy, he stripped off his clothes and lay naked all day and night before Samuel.

David fled and returned to Jonathan. “What have I done,” he asked. “What is my crime and my guilt against your father, that he seeks my life?”

Jonathan replied, “Heaven forbid! You shall not die. My father does not do anything, great or small, without disclosing it to me; why should my father conceal this matter from me? It cannot be!”
David pressed on, “Your father knows well that you are fond of me and has decided: Jonathan must not learn of this or he will be grieved. But, as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want, I will do it for you.”

So David arranged a plot whereby Jonathan could find out the desire of the king. David would miss a feast. If Saul grew angry over David’s absence, then it was clear he wanted to harm David.
David concluded his plans “Deal faithfully with your servant, since you have taken your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. And if I am guilty, kill me yourself, but don’t make me go back to your father.”

Jonathan replied, “Don’t talk like that! If I learn that my father has resolved to kill you, I will surely tell you about it.”

Jonathan and David then planned how Jonathan would get word to David. Jonathan loved David as himself and concluded their pact, “As for the promise we made to each other, may the Lord be witness between you and me forever.”

David hid and awaited word from Jonathan.

The first day of the feast, Saul said nothing about David’s absence. He assumed David was unclean and going through the rituals of cleansing. On the second day, when David was absent, Saul said to Jonathan, his son, “Why didn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal yesterday or today?”

Jonathan answered, “David begged leave of me to go to Bethlehem, He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are going to have a family feast in our town and my brother has summoned me to it. Do me a favor, let me slip away to see my kinsmen’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

Saul flew into a rage against his son Jonathan. “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! I know that you side with the son of Jesse – to your shame, and to the shame of your mother’s naked genitals! For as long as the son of Jesse lives on earth, neither you nor your kingship will be secure. Now then, have him brought to me, for he is marked for death.”

Jonathan stood up to his father, “Why should David die? What has he done?” And Saul threw a spear at Jonathan to strike him down.

Jonathan went out to David. David flung himself down in front of Jonathan and bowed low three times. They kissed each other and wept together; David wept the longest.

Jonathan said to David, “Go. We have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord.” And David went away. They never saw each other again.

After Saul and Jonathan were slain in battle at Mount Gilboa, a messenger ran to inform David, who had spent years in exile as a brigand, outlaw, and insurrectionist, who sometimes allied himself with the Philistines, but who had drawn more and more people to him over time, people opposed to Saul’s leadership.

David, in his grief, sang a great lament over Saul and Jonathan.

Your glory, O Israel,
Lies slain on your heights;
How have the mighty fallen!

How have the mighty fallen
In the thick of battle –
Jonathan, slain on your heights!
I grieve for you,
My brother Jonathan,
Greatly beloved were you to me;
Your love was wonderful to me,
More than the love of women.

Years later, after David was established in his throne as king of all Israel, after many wars and much bloodshed between David’s forces and the house of Saul, David inquired “Is there anyone still left of House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?” And a servant was brought to him, Ziba by name. The king asked this servant if there were any remaining of the House of Saul. Ziba answered, “Yes, there is still a son of Jonathan whose feet are crippled.”

David found this son, named Mephibosheth and brought him to court. Mephibosheth prostrated himself before David who said, “Don’t be afraid. I will keep faith with you for the sake of your father Jonathan.” David gave back to Mephibosheth all the land of Saul and made Mephibosheth a part of his own household, eating at David’s table like a prince.

So, what should we make of this story? Are Jonathan and David gay?

What is clear is that a covenant, based on love, sealed with intimate affection, is made between two members of the same sex, a covenant witnessed by God and blessed by holy scripture. Michael Piazza wrote, “When, how, or even if, David and Jonathan’s love was sexually expressed is really not the point. Both the Bible and history have honored their passionate love for one another.”

I personally believe in the queer reading of this passage, though with a healthy dose of skepticism remaining. It is not conclusive, and scholars disagree. Many prominent commentators completely ignore the queer reading and don’t even address it. Others address it only briefly, but simply to dismiss it without convincing argument. Though I am sure they exist, I was unable to locate any commentary that adequately argued against the queer reading.

You should also know that there are straight scholars who adopt the queer reading of this story. In fact, now there is enough nuance to the debate that even the queer reading has variations and disagreements, always a healthy sign in the scholarly world.

Further, you sometimes hear people reject the queer reading on the notion that this is some radical, unconventional, new idea. However, for centuries there have been people who thought David and Jonathan had a gay relationship, all the way back to various Medieval scholars. Even Peter Abelard, who was quite clearly a heterosexual and one of the most prominent writers of the eleventh century, presents an erotic reading of the David and Jonathan story.

We also know that such relationships were common in the ancient world. They were particularly common in the warrior class with prominent historical examples like Alexander and Hephaistion and Julius Caesar and his various relationships.

It was also a common feature of the literature of the ancient world. Much of the David narrative is written much later than the actual events, and what we have is a work of literature, rooted in legends and folktales that have some connection with an historical reality. We have other examples of a lament like David’s, a great warrior lamenting the death of his beloved. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh laments the death of his lover and companion Enkidu, and in the Iliad, Achilles laments the death of his lover and companion Patroclus.

There are many questions not resolved. Were David and Jonathan lovers? Did Jonathan love David, and David simply used Jonathan to achieve his own political ambitions? Did the authors who composed this story intend to represent a gay relationship in a positive light?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that in sacred scripture, in the Holy Bible, in the church’s guide to faith and practice, in the story about the most prominent character in the Hebrew Scriptures, after Jesus, the most prominent character in the Christian Bible, there is a story about a covenant, based on love, sealed with intimate affection, that is made between two members of the same sex, a covenant witnessed by God.