Category Archives: Blog

A LONELY ROAD

There is probably no one part of our community that are more misunderstood, laughed at and ridiculed then those who claim the “T” in LGBTQ. Yes those who find themselves in one way or another in the wrong biological body.

“Transgender (from trans (Latin) and gender (English)) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman or man) commonly, but not always, assigned at birth, as well as the role traditionally held by society.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as male, female, both or neither) not matching one’s “assigned gender” (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). Transgender does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation — transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.

The current definition for transgender remains in flux, but some definitions are:
“Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but combines or moves between these”.[14]
“People who were assigned a gender, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.”[15]
“Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the gender one was assigned at birth.”[16] < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender>

See these are the gentle souls in our community who get beat up daily. They are the gentle souls who get laughed at as they go about their day as if they are some sort of freaks in a sideshow. When it comes to getting through the day unscathed there is no group of people that is more challenged.

If they get through a day without being ridiculed and harassed…by the end of the day their job may be history, providing they were able to get a job to begin with. Some of those who can’t get jobs turn to prostitution to get money for food and some kind of shelter.

I became aware and then deeply troubled by the T’s challenges when I was invited to offer the opening prayer at what has become the annual “Transgender Day of Remembrance”. I did my prayer and then sat in complete and utter horror as I listen to the stories of discrimination, loss of income, loss of family, loss of friends, loss of property and basic civil rights because one’s biological gender did not match their inner gender.

My God they could be arrested for fraud because they State would not put the proper gender on their driver’s license.

The list of people who had not just been murdered but butchered broke my heart. The list of names seemed endless and I promised myself that night that I would not be silent.

I would stand with my sisters and brothers in the Transgender community to demand justice, mercy and most assuredly their place with God. What I thought was merely gay entertainment settled in my heart as a matter of life and death for the sheep of God’s pasture. These gentle and loving folks belong to God and are loved by God just like the rest of creation.

There is nothing that I can write as a pastor that tells the story of the transgender community’s plight better then the story of Alice as told by Monica Helms who is a member of our church.

“(The following is a first person account of the last fifteen months of my friend, Alice Johnston’s life, as if she may have told it. The events in this actually happened. – MFH –)

ALICE
By Monica F. Helms

I stared at the television screen in disbelief as one of the World Trade Center buildings crumbled into dust, then the next one. The horror I witnessed would haunt me for the rest of my life and the news estimated that over 3000 people lost their lives that day. What they didn’t say – or know – was how many more lives would become impacted by that fatal day. I would soon find out that I, Alice Johnston, would be one of them.

A few weeks after September 11, 2001, the reality of a less secure world and a devastating disaster hit home for me. My boss told us all that he would have to close the doors and let us all go. Business had dropped to near zero and his small company couldn’t absorb the loss. My roommate also worked there with me.
This news scared both my roommate and me because we’re both pre-operative transsexuals. The prospect of finding a job for many people after 9/11 looked grim at best, but for two transsexuals in Georgia, prospects looked grim even in the best of times.

Discrimination runs ramped and is even seen as acceptable by most politicians and employers in the state when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. They would rather have us on the welfare rolls putting a drain on the state’s treasury than to have us as employed, tax-paying citizens. Drawing unemployment was how my roommate and I had to survive over the next several weeks. I have learned over the years that out of the entire human race, transgender people seem to be considered the most disposable in society. And yet, we have a lot to offer if people would only give us a chance to prove it.

Both my roommate and I had marketable skills to offer potential employers. She has training in computer repair and has extensive experience in warehouse management and I am a computer technician and programmer, plus I have a degree in Library Science. On top of that, I’m a decorated Army veteran of two wars. Someone was bound to hire me, or so I thought.

Over the next several months, my roommate and I applied for hundreds of jobs, but as soon as they found out – or guessed – that we were transsexuals, all bets were off. No one would call us back for a second interview. Even when we got that sacred second interview, we would be told things like, “You’re over-qualified,” or, “We’ll call you,” or, “We have other applicants to interview.” What they really wanted to say was, “Get yer sorry faggot ass out of my office!” I would have accepted that much better than their lies and deceit.

The time came when my roommate and I had to move out of our apartment and put our things in storage. We still had some weeks left on our unemployment, so that would help a little. I planned on moving in with a friend and my roommate decided to see if Iowa would provide her better opportunities than Georgia. I love Georgia too much to want to move.

Packing my things was a terrible time for me. I enjoyed my video collection and my music, but I wouldn’t be able to take them to my friend’s house. When my roommate and I finished packing and moving everything into the storage unit, we shut the door and locked it. I had a strange feeling that I would never see my things again. Sadness came over me and I began to cry.

People I helped in the past rejected helping me. The transgender community of Georgia turned their backs on me. I lost my job and had no prospects and I would have to rely on the kindness of a person I hadn’t known very long. My roommate and I hugged, and then parted ways.

The woman I moved in with had a very interesting profession. She was a Madam at an established bordello in the Atlanta area. One wouldn’t think a bordello could survive in the heart of the Bible belt. But, since hypocrisy abounds in police departments throughout the South, the concept becomes a bit more plausible. The Madam probably paid protection money to keep her business open.
At first, I survived by doing side computer work for several people and to help keep the bordello’s computer system running. I also helped them maintain their security system and elaborate camera setups. It felt satisfying for a while, but I wasn’t making enough money to get out on my own. Something else needed to be done.

I continued applying for jobs in the computer industry, but they were getting harder to find, even a year after 9/11. The odd jobs I did couldn’t keep me in money, so I began doing something I never thought I would ever do. I started working at the bordello as a hooker. At first, the customers found it intriguing to have sex with a real live transsexual. I didn’t enjoy it, but the money was better than nothing. However, the novelty of having sex with a transsexual soon wore off with the regulars and the men stopped asking for me.

My personal relationships with the Madam also began to deteriorate. I really liked her, but she stopped finding me interesting any longer. One day, after a heated argument, she threw me out of the house. Luckily, another friend took me in and he tried to help me find a job. That never went anywhere. I began feeling helpless and alone.

Many of my friends had either stopped calling or turned their backs on me. I heard from my old roommate that she got training as a truck driver and found work with one of the large carriers. She tried to talk me into going into the same business, but I could never picture myself as a truck driver.
Not too long after moving in with my friend, he had to move and I couldn’t stay with him.

In December 2002, I realized I would soon become homeless for the first time in my life. The prospect of being homeless frightened me. “Why is this happening to me?” I asked myself. “I didn’t ask to be a transsexual. If I didn’t have a choice then why are people treating me so badly?”

I felt truly alone. No place to go. No friends to turn to. No hope. Only despair. I can do many jobs, but no one will hire me because I’m a transsexual. Where can I turn to?

The last chance I had was to see if a homeless shelter would take me. I began calling around to all the women’s shelters in Atlanta, but I had to be up front with them. Each time I told them that I was a pre-op transsexual they would tell me I wouldn’t be accepted in their facility. I called a few men’s shelters to see what they could tell me and they said they would accept me only if I presented as a man. They wanted me to deny my identity and lie to them and myself before I would be accepted. Even then, I could easily become a victim of rape or violence once they found out I was a transsexual. My options had run out.

My friend gave me access to his computer one last time, so I put an automatic message on my Yahoo E-mail address. The message said, “I will soon become homeless and since homeless shelters won’t take in transsexuals, I’m a goner.”

Where is my family? They have all abandoned me. Where are all my friends? What friends? The transgender community here in Georgia never wanted to help me. I didn’t fit their narrow viewpoint of what a transsexual is supposed to “properly” do to transition. Others who still say they’re my friends are either gone or in a situation no better than mine. Is this what I have left after all the things I’ve been through? Nothing? I was safer in Iraq during Desert Storm. At least I was treated better there.

My car still worked, just barely. I have only one thing to do. Time for a road trip. After driving for 45 minutes I arrived at my destination, the Chattahoochee River. My jacket kept me from freezing. I could hear the water moving and the moonlight reflected off of the ripples. No one else would have dared to be out on a night like this. But, I had a plan.

As I unwrapped the towel, I revealed my one last true friend, my trusty .357 Smith and Wesson. I felt its cold steel and its well-balanced weight in my hands. Out of everything I gave up in the last fifteen months, I could never part with my .357. Now, it has become my last piece of pleasure in my lonely, miserable life.

“Why am I a transsexual?” I screamed. The trees dampened my voice. “Why am I a transsexual?” I whispered. I got no answers. Tears flowed from my eyes as I cocked the hammer. “All I wanted to do was to live my life as me.” My .357 seemed lighter somehow. “I didn’t ask for this life.” I lifted the gun. “I just wanted to live.” I felt the cold steel barrel pressing against my temple. “But, they wouldn’t let me.” My hand shook and I lowered the pistol. “This is what they wanted me to do.” I raised the .357 once more. “They’re getting their wish.” My finger tightened around the trigger. “They got what they wanted.” I pulled my finger back. “They got me . . . “
———-
On December 17, 2002, Alice was found along the Chattahoochee River, a .357 slug had shattered her skull. This happened two years after the City of Atlanta passed a non-discrimination law that covered transgender people and included public accommodations, such as homeless shelters. Not only did homeless shelters break the law and failed to help her, but so did the rest of society.
Alice was my friend and I failed her, too.”

This story does not end with blame being laid on Alice’s friends or Monica’s-it comes to rest at the feet of all who would call themselves “followers of Christ”. The lack of compassion, the lack of hospitality the total absence of understanding and love points a finger of blame at the church which shouts; “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when they becomes one, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15 (New International Version)

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

SEX!

I have thought and thought about this and I guess I need to say something.

Sen. Larry Craig, Christian evangelical leader Ted Haggard, and Mark Foley are among the most recent conservatives to get caught in various stages with their pants down. Every time this happens the news media goes nuts, the LGBTQ community gets pounded by the religious zealots, as well as getting their own righteous fur up, and nobody bothers to speak about the real issue.

The real issue is sex. We have taken the most beautiful, wonderful, deeply personal emotional and physical experience given to us by our Creator to share with people we love in the deepest ways and made it a “weapon of mass destruction.”

I suspect by the time I am done writing this I will get blasted from all sides. Folks, our society and the way we handle the subject of sex made for the situations these people and others find themselves in. Before you flame me, remember, I am not saying they made right or good choices but our fear and our lack of comfort with sex set it up. Sex is like a fire it can provide warmth, light and life or it can be an inferno that destroys us.

Something as simple as bringing up “masturbation” can cause uproar that goes beyond logic. Remember when we had a Surgeon General fired.

“America’s chief doctor resigned last week after saying that masturbation could be an appropriate subject to teach schoolchildren. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was asked to go by President Bill Clinton after she angered conservatives by discussing the possibility of encouraging masturbation to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Her remarks were made at an AIDS meeting held by the United Nations in New York.” (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/309/6969/1604?ck=nck)

My land if we can’t be honest and forthright about masturbation how can we have an honest, open and beneficial conversation around sex in its fullest forms. Because people are afraid of sex it becomes a “weapon of mass destruction” that has ruined more lives then has been killed because of the Presidents fear of WMD’s in Iraq. I believe with all my heart the religious zealots are the authors of this fear, probably dating back to Augustine. (That is another blog for another day)

How did they handle the Senator? How about this:

“Peter LaBarbera, executive director of Americans for Truth, says one homosexual group actually publishes a book that advises men how to avert criminal charges when engaging in public lewdness.

“It seems that the homosexual movement is complicit in a lot of this behavior because they’re not just telling homosexuals to stop,” he says. “When you have a major legal organization like Lambda Legal actually publishing a book to help these so-called ‘cruisers,’ which are men cruising for secret sex on the side like this — when you have organizations like that enabling it, it seems that they are also complicit in this sort of behavior.”

He says that he has never met anyone who hangs around public restrooms “peeking through the cracks of stalls. We all know this is perverted, deviant, homosexual behavior.” LaBarbera says Craig needs to resign immediately due to his “perverted, deviant” homosexual behavior.

According to LaBarbera, anonymous sexual encounters in public are a common practice among many in the homosexual community, noting decades after the AIDS crisis, homosexual activity is on the rise in public bathhouse”.

Well let’s kill two birds with one stone…destroy a man’s life and blame the whole thing on homosexuals.

Let’s be honest here…yes, gay men cruise restrooms and there is a whole set of signals that go on to connect with people. With that said based on the description of the police officer and Senator Craig’s reaction, the Senator probably did get “caught with his hand in the cookie jar”, so to speak. However, it is nothing like the media makes it out to be and it seems to me the police officer had a bias attitude as well. However, I digress…

Yes, gay men have been known to go to quiet parts of parks in search of a sexual partner. Yes, gay men have utilized the Internet to seek out and meet sexual partners. Yes, gay men have placed ads in various media sources looking for sex. Yes, gay men have a whole set of signals and signs to indicate interest in a particular person. We have gotten so refined that we even have a “hanky code”. Yes, there are “gay bathhouses” that are used for the purposes of having sex. Yes, there are bars in the community that are known as “pick-up” bars. Finally but not least yes, there are all forms of “gay prostitution” which include, massage therapists, escorts and streetwalkers. No, the gay community has not practice smart or safe sex.

I am not condoning any of this, just simply stating facts.

Here are some more facts to consider.

Yes, late at night if you watch TV there are ads for phone lines by which heterosexual folks can hook up for “conversations”. Uh huh. Yes, there is more then one outdoor movie drive in that has been the starting point for a family. Yes, in Atlanta alone there are more “massage parlors” then one can count. Yes, you can pull into a state park and find cars parked in pairs off by themselves and the windows are steamed up and the car is a “rockin”. Go to any park and you will find couples in various stages of undress and inter-twined in such a way to cause one to say: “Get a room”! Yes, heterosexual people have used the Internet to seek out and meet sexual partners. Yes, heterosexual persons have placed ads in various media sources looking for sex. Yes, heterosexuals have a whole set of signals and signs to indicate interest in a particular person. Yes, there are bars in the community that are known as “pick-up” bars. Finally but not least yes, there are all forms of “prostitution” which include, massage therapists, escorts and streetwalkers. No, the heterosexual community has not practice smart or safe sex.

So what is my point here? Is it not obvious? People like sex and will do just about anything to get it. What is defined, as “porn” is a multi-billion dollar industry. For that kind of money a lot of some bodies must be buying it. Also, don’t be fooled, the religious zealots are watching it too, but just so they can tell you how bad it is. Uh Huh! The American Family association folks seem to have seen a lot more porn then I have…well maybe not.

Does it not strike anyone strange that we can go to the movies or watch on TV any number of people being raped, beat up, cut up, shot, chopped up and blown up and we give out awards on national TV for how good these shows are? Yet, let there be a little too much skin or people gay or straight making love and it is called pornography? People making love are bad and killing people is good. There is something wrong with this picture.

We need to wake up and start talking about sex honestly, openly and as something God has given us as a way to share our deepest most intimate emotions and maybe the afore mention lists will start to fade.

Talking about sex from a point of a celebration of who we are as opposed to using it as a weapon by which we can send people to hell might make a difference in the afore mentioned lists as well.

Talking about sex from a positive point of view is difficult to be sure, simply because over generations it has been used as a point of power and control over people. Yet, the call to live a life, which includes sex as a God given part of it, requires tackling some hard questions.

What does it mean to have sexual integrity? What does it mean to be sexually moral? What does it mean to be sexually ethical? What does it mean to take sexual responsibility?

These are the questions that need to be asked, discussed and explored. They can’t be asked at the group level. I suppose to do that we will first have to get past the idea that says sex is primarily for procreation and restricted to people of opposite genders.

We need to get to the point where we see this as about our relationship with our God and how we relate to each other. We have to be willing to talk about what sex really feels like to us when we participate and use this gift. Maybe seeing our sexuality as a gift would be a good start.

I think this is where churches, both gay and mainstream, make the mistake. They act as if sex is something dark and foreboding, rather then a gift from God that when shared wisely can change the world.

I hope we wake up soon, as it is already too late for Sen. Larry Craig, Christian evangelical leader Ted Haggard, Mark Foley and hundreds of thousands of others who have been destroyed by our inability to see sex as something to be celebrated rather then feared. There are whole generations yet to be born counting on us.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

ON BEING THANKFUL



Sometimes it is good to sit back and reflect on how far our community has come since 1968. I mean really think about it there are people who are spending millions of dollars to make us shut up and go away.

They spend every waking hour trying to convince people we are the last great menace to the world as we know it.

They have gotten so desperate in their efforts to destroy us they have tried to convince the world that with enough prayer God can change us. You would think they would take the hint, since LGBT folks have been around since biblical times. God knows there more ex-ex gays then we can count. We are not going anywhere, anytime soon.

It also strikes me if the police spent as much time trying to bust straight folk for having sex in public places many of our so called leaders may never have been born.

Of course, these are the battles that have to be fought with the Religious Right, politicians who only know power and greed to be converted, rights to be won and relationships to be recognized. There is far, far too much to do; our enemy is strong, well organized, have endless amounts of money and if we stop even for a second we will be overcome.

Then this morning I read from the Luke 17:11-17:

“It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

“Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

For it occurred to me, our Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgendered community are not much different from the ten lepers. Today it is we who are the untouchables in our world.

In this society, it is we that somehow are cursed by God and shall rot in the pit of hell for the “love that dare not speak its name.” We have been cast out of the Temple, cast out of our families and cast out of our community. Sent to the likes of sleazy bars, baths, and parks.

We have stood at a distance and cry out to God to have mercy on us, to save us, to give us a place where we will know peace. We cry out to God to be restored, healed and given new life. Like the lepers in the story we hear God (Jesus) tell us to go show ourselves to the priests.

While going to the priests we discover gay churches, we discover gay friendly churches and we do as we are told and tell the priests. Those priests and ministers both men and women affirm for us we are whole creations of God!
We have something to offer the community in which we live!

We go into the streets renewed and refreshed, full of energy and desire to fight for what is right. Over the years we have gained a tremendous amount of ground.

We have gone from a community where our “love dare not speak it’s name”, to a community that not only speaks it’s name but shouts it from every village and city!

We have gone from only having parks and bars to literally websites full of options!

We live in a time when it is impossible not to find a book about us, rather than the time our subject was banned.

We have come from a time when our relationships were disguised as brothers and sisters to a time of national debate on our standard of marriage!

We have come from a time of electro-shock therapy to being accepted in mainstream psychology as normal and productive.

We have come from a time when those who make the laws could ignore us and make us illegal, to a time where they court our vote and track hate crimes against us.

When we arrived at some of the Temples to show the priests, at first we were shunned and thrown out. Told the sins of our life would blot out any good.

Yet, even in this, God called out priests who were not blinded by the letter of the law, but rather worked from the spirit of God. They to began to cry out: “God have mercy on us!” They make this cry with and for us. As we travel along the way, we look and see we have been cleansed!

So now as I reflect this morning, I find myself thankful for those who cried out before me. Folks like Rev. George Groh whom years ago said they could throw me out but they would never shut me up and he never stopped reminding me I belonged to God! Rev Troy Perry, whose ministry literally saved my life.

I find myself thankful for those who cry out with me today.

My close and dear friend Rev. Antonio Jones who is the thunder to my lightening.

Rev. James Brewer-Calvert, who heard our church’s cry for shelter and said, “welcome home”.

Rev. Guy Kent, who is a tremendous friend, a mover and shaker and a preacher who accepted me just the way I am and called me his friend.

Most importantly today I will go back to my God, my Savior, who has heard my cry and say, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

A FOLLOWER OF JESUS

Sometimes I really don’t get why I would continue to call myself a Christian. While the last couple of weeks have not been the worst of times for the institution of Christianity it has not been anything to write home about either.

First, you get the wacko’s of a mega church in Texas refusing to do the funeral of a man after they found out he was in a loving same gender relationship. They tried to hide behind church policy about homosexuality, that some how if they did this mans funeral it might look like they are supportive of the “homosexual agenda” by accepting this persons relationship. To make matters worse they tried to justify their actions by saying they were willing to pay to have the funeral done someplace else and the family could have the food that had been prepared.

What happen to the church practicing common decency and hospitality?

Then if you are a reader of the “Questing Parson” the other day you find a story of a mega church in Woodstock Georgia refusing to help a man and his family who had been burned out of their home. Why you ask? Well let’s see he has three kids and a woman he loves but has not married and as their representative said; “We don’t subsidize immorality, and dismissed the man.”

Then I read from the Rev. Eugene H. Peterson, who is a “Professor Emeritus” of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver B.C. He is the author of the newest translation of the Bible called “The Message”, the Bible in contemporary language. In his introduction to the Old Testament book of Amos he writes;

“More people are exploited and abused in the cause of religion then in any other way. Sex, money and power all take a back seat to religion as a source of evil. Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization is convinced that god is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history worldwide of religion fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering.”

Wow! Read that again. No wonder churches are more empty then full.

Then I found myself channel surfing the TV the other day when I came across a TV preacher in “full preaching mode” declaring that for those who choose to go against God will pay the price of God’s harsh judgment. God will punish those who live in a homosexual life style and God will destroy and bring destruction to the society that does not “fear” the Lord and eradicate this horrible sin against God.

Now I have to tell you, it was this preacher’s use of the word “fear” that caught my attention.

Fred Phelps out of Topeka, Kansas whole ministry and picketing is based on this rubbish.

Jimmy Swaggert built a religious empire based on this crap and oh yea let us not forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are always saying we were getting God’s wrath because we somehow misbehaved. Everything from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. These people have gotten filthy rich off people’s fear of God.

So let see if I have the formula of the “Church” correct…”lack of morality=a lack of fear from God, who will punish those who do not fear God.” In other words if we are fearful of punishment from God then we will behave. My friends this is really bad and dangerous theology. It makes a mockery of the Cross-and the whole teaching of Jesus.

Fear is a natural and normal event for human beings. Sigmund Freud has written at some point that we experience fear when we enter a field and see a large animal charging us; hence our well being is in real danger. Anxiety, is what we experience when we enter a field and we think that a large fierce animal may, perhaps be somewhere in the field and might; just might attack us. Natural fear is a positive thing, while anxiety is negative and many times harmful to our thinking and physical well being.

Positive fear is part of our instincts as human beings. If we are at risk for some reason, fear is indeed an emotion that will cause us to take action to protect ourselves. This is usually based on fact or real experience.

However, it strikes me this “fear the Lord” and the enforcement of morality being preached in churches and other religious groups is more about “negative anxiety” rather then genuine concern or fear of something factual or experiential.

“Negative anxiety” about what may happen after we die or even while we yet live is nothing more then a means by which evil people use to gain power and control of others.

Further this thinking gives those who are snobs, bigots and “power and control” freaks the ability to ignore the words of Jesus at every turn. It gives them an excuse to total ignore Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-40.

People who are anxious have a tendency to comply with “rules for living” when faced with what “might” happen. In fact they even send more money to the folks who are making pronouncements about “what may happen”. Need proof, watch the 700 Club for about 15 minutes. Better yet read Don Wildemon’s “American Family Association” newsletter, this dude has always got his hand out for money over what might happen.

Fear is the great motivator of war and killing…take a look at Iraq. We are giving away constitutional right after right because we have been convinced to fear somebody or anybody from the Middle East.

Has anyone come back from the dead, aside from Jesus, to tell us what there is after death?

We have all heard the stories and talk about “out of body experiences”.

However, I do not recall that any of them reporting an angry and punishing God…in fact it has usually been the exact opposite.

I heard a wonderful story concerning this very issue…I am not sure of the author or who to give credit to; but it is too good to not mention it here.

“There was a person visiting their minister and during the course of the conversation said to the pastor, “I am afraid to die, I have no idea what is there on the other side of life or what will meet me when I get there. Pastor, can you help me with this and tell me what to expect.” The minister look at his friend sadly and said, “No, I cannot tell you what it will be like after you die or how it will be.” The person was astounded, as they knew this pastor was a good solid praying Christian. So the person replied. “How can this be? How can you not know? You are a Christian and you can’t tell me what happens after one dies?” Just then there was a scratching at the office door and the doctor opened the door and in bounded his beloved dog. The dog was just all over the minister so happy to see its master. It was in this moment the minister looked at the patient and said, “You see how my dog just bounded into this room having no idea what was on the other side of the door, not fearing what was on the other side but only knowing that his master was here. I suspect that is the way it will be for us going to the other side of life with only one solid piece of knowledge…Our Master is there and waits to receive us.”

If someone is threatening you with eternal damnation and punishment then you are being bullied. If your preacher wants you to live in accordance to his/her moral pronouncements based on the judgments of God…then get out of that church as fast as you can, do not walk… run! The message of those who are followers of Christ is not “fear and anxiety, but rather the love of God.

The “Church” needs to wake up! I submit the agenda of the “church” must change! As my friend has quoted another source by saying, “The church is not in the business of enforcing morality, but in the business of extending grace.” Ah yes the words of Jesus:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Creator’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

I think this is why the Senior Deacon at our Church has it right when he says; “I no longer call myself a Christian, but rather a follower of Jesus.”

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

IN CASE WE FORGET

Most folks my age or older lived through a horrific part of our history in the USA during the 50’s and 60’s. A time when our cities burned both physically and with emotional hatred. A time that is burned deep into our hearts and souls. A time that even today has scars that go deep and the healing is still slow and at times becomes horribly infected.

The cost of racism in this country has been high and the cost of human life is ridicules for a country where the “religious zealots” call us a “Christian Country”.

So when a member of our Church had a chance to remember, he took that opportunity to journey, remember and pay honor to a person who truly “walked the talk” of Jesus.

Lance is a deeply spiritual man and I now give you a part of his journey so that we don’t forget…

On Saturday August 11th I participated in the 9th Annual Jonathan Myrick Daniels and Martyrs of Alabma pilgrimage in Hayneville, Alabama. Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian from New Hampshire who was martyred at Varner’s Grocery Store in Hayneville on August 20, 1965, when he caught the full blast of a shotgun aimed at 17-year-old Ruby Sales, an African-American girl at whom a shotgun had been leveled by Tom Coleman, who was later found not guilty by a local court. Myrick’s death helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement within the Episcopal Church.

My connection to Daniels is that I was baptized and experienced my early Christian formation in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, where in my home parish we prayed every Sunday for “Blessed Jonathan Daniels of New Hampshire”. When I saw that a pilgrimage in honor of this Episcopal martyr was to take place, I was drawn to participate.

What I experienced was a powerful remembrance of the life and works of a singular man who gave his life while discerning a calling for the priesthood — and following that, a call for justice that took him to a part of the country that is my home now and that is the land of my birth and upbringing. What we all experienced in Hayneville was a call to honor the life, works and death of Jonathan Daniels and the Martyrs of Alabama by continuing to work for a just and equal society and a compassionate world.

The pilgrimage involved a procession from the central square in Hayneville to the building that was the jail where Daniels and his compañeros endured inhumane conditions after having been arrested for picketing a whites-only store in Fort Deposit, Alabama. All of the protestors were arrested and taken to jail in Hayneville. They were held for six days and refused to accept bail unless everyone was bailed. When the prisoners were released without transport back to Fort Deposit, Daniels and three others — a white Roman Catholic priest and two African-American protestors — went down the street to get a cold soft drink at Varner’s Grocery Store, one of the few local stores that would serve nonwhites. They were met at the front by Tom Coleman, an engineer for the state highway department and unpaid special deputy, who wielded a shotgun and yelled an obscenity at them. When the man threatened the group and finally leveled his shotgun at Ruby Sales, Daniels pushed Sales to the ground, caught the full blast of the gun and was killed instantly.

Coleman was acquitted by a jury of 12 white men, on the grounds of self-defense, and in spite of the testimony of Ruby Sales.

In 1991 Daniels was designated a martyr of the Episcopal Church, one of 15 modern-day martyrs, and August 14th was designated as a day of remembrance for the sacrifice of Daniels and all the martyrs of the civil rights movement.

Our pilgrimage ended in the courthouse where Coleman was acquitted.
The bench where the judge sat was converted to an altar, and we celebrated a Eucharist where the hymns we sang were accompanied by singers who sat in the part of the courtroom where the jury that acquitted Coleman had sat. At the start of the Eucharist we were addressed by the mayor of Hayneville, an African-American woman. The law enforcement officers who had guarded our procession were African- American. Lowndes County, of which Hayneville is the seat, is 73% African-American.

I’m sure the world in which we live today, with its outward and visible signs of racial equality (to set aside for a moment the truth of the invisible racism that now permeates it), was just as hard for many of the people of 1960’s Lowndes County to imagine as it is for us to imagine the amount of hatred and violence that once found a home there.

What I gained from Saturday’s pilgrimage was a great sense of having participated in a healing of that chasm of history, circumstance and understanding. We know from the Holocaust and from 9/11 just how great is our human capacity to move beyond shocking historical events — and then, eventually, to underestimate their significance — without truly integrating their lessons.

It’s a collective forgetting that is truly regrettable and that violates one of the principle axioms of human collective behavior: Those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. Saturday’s pilgrimage, the ones preceding it and the ones to follow, are a small but powerful effort to turn back that tide of forgetting and replace it with healing.

Amen my brother Amen!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

This Ex-Homeless Man Will Challenge Everything You Think You Know about the Homeless

When the “Questing Parson” and I were sharing the same Church Building, at his invite of course; one day a man with long flowing thin hair, a full beard, glasses and a cane showed up and took up residence in the church breeze way.

There was nothing unusual about this as Pastor Guy had always let the neighborhood’s homeless find shelter and safety on the grounds of the church.

However, this particular man was sent I believe by God to remind us to be about doing justice, being merciful and walking humble with God.

Chuck showed up at the church after having 2 strokes, 2 heart attacks and triple by-pass surgery. The place he had last lived was also his place of employment and when he was hospitalized the owner of business had no more use for him and let him go, effectively putting him on the streets of Atlanta.

You could not have met a nicer guy. He spent his days picking up around the church and at night keeping an eye on the church property keeping it safe from break-ins and vandals.

After Pastor Guy introduced him to me, he got interested in our ministry because while he was straight he was more then helpful to a couple of gay friends in the Navy to “help them along with their sexual experiences.” The way he had it figured folks in main-line churches just wouldn’t understand him being that helpful, so our church seemed like a good fit.

As time went on, we found out that Chuck had been in the Navy and was for a period of time part of the Viet Nam conflict. Now, I must tell you that experience, coupled with years of heavy drinking (he hasn’t had a drink now for about 5 years) and his strokes had not left him in good shape physically or mentally. He had been robbed of his ability to take care of himself fully and his mental capacity was not the best. He had many stories in his head, many experiences with people in the political arena and other famous folks that just didn’t connect with reality, if you know what I mean…yet by the grace of God he had managed to survive.

For a man who had a damaged heart physically, his spiritual heart was strong and focused. He was always the first to meet new folks at church and make them feel welcome. He was the first to read scripture during service and was just more then happy to help serve communion each week.

From his “breeze way” sleeping quarters he directed new folks who showed up at the church on the “how-to’s” of keeping their area neat, tidy and picked up. He enforced a “no alcohol” policy on church property, using his cane if needed to make the point.

If he had a sandwich to eat and someone showed up hungry then half was theirs…same was true of anything he had including his money, what little he got from doing minor chores, finding loose change or the generosity of strangers.

When the church had a potluck, he would gather the left over food and give it out to anyone who was hungry and many times without them asking…they would show up at the church and the first thing he did was give them something to eat.

Well everything was moving along fine, but then the “Questing Parson” decided to retire and was replace by a pastor from the suburbs who was very nervous around homeless folks and homosexuals, Chuck’s time of staying at the church was quickly coming to an end.

Now, I have lived long enough to know that even if people’s intentions are not the best, God can still work miracles through the crap.

Long story short, our church cut a deal with a local Hotel to let Chuck stay with them. Between, our church, the church of the new pastor and individual donations we managed to pay the weekly bill of $145.00. Now of course this was not a permanent solution and to be honest the new pastor just wanted to be done with this.

After all the church property was infected with LGBT people and they had to be removed before the church could fully recover from it’s lost ways of the last 7 or 8 years. But that is another blog….

Well, when the new pastor found out Chuck had been in the Navy and in Viet Nam, pressure was brought to bear on the VA on “why were they not taking care of their own”?

The new pastor made countless phone calls, wrote several letters and filled out volumes of paper work. God’s hand was in this as Chuck was granted a VA pension of just under $900.00 a month. As I said God works despite why people are doing the things they are doing.

Anyway, back at the Hotel, Chuck fit right in…chatting with the other residents, handing out his food supply and keeping the night watch man company in the wee hours of the morning. He met several new people and told them about the Church having services in the park and brought them to church. He kept me busy with folks he had met and needed help.

The location of the Hotel is exactly 3 miles from where we are worshipping in the park and Chuck walks the full 3 miles every Sunday, rain or shine, in the heat or in the cold, or good air days or bad. Many of us have offered to pick him for Church but he refuses by stating, “I’m a nice guy, I can get to church on my own”. Recently, he at least let’s us give him a ride home on Sunday’s.

The first thing Chuck did when he got his pension was to ask me what a tithe was. I explained and he directed me to take $80.00 per month and give it to the church as his tithe and offering. I was speechless…Chuck’s room rent was $628.33 per month which really left him about $200.00 a month to get food and other essentials.

At one point I had to ask him to give me his ATM card because every time someone needed $10.00, $15.00 or $20.00 he would give it to them no questions asked and never know if they were going to give it back.

He spends his days chatting and visiting and if a person has some need he tries to meet it and if he can’t he calls the church to let us know someone needs help. He constantly asks about the prayer needs of people and if they have been answered and has made some pretty outstanding offers of support when those prayers have not be answered in Chuck’s time frame.

He has stories, oh my God does he have stories and if you give him the chance he will tell you ever one of them sometimes twice just for good measure.

This is a man who has paid to fix people’s cars, paid their utilities bills, bought their groceries and even offered to pay their mortgages so they wouldn’t be homeless.

When I explain to Chuck he does not have enough money to do these things and still keep a roof over his head and eat, I get Chuck’s finger pointing in my face and his standard remark; “I’m a nice guy, I have lived on the streets before, I can do it again and survive, but this person can’t and shouldn’t cause God knows it’s not right for them!”

There is a TV commercial that plays late at night, stating that Jesus the Christ has in fact returned and is living among us. They give you a number to call if you want to find who and where He is.

I don’t need to call the number, because I have seen the living Spirit of the Christ up close and personal and he reminds all who will listen, “Hey I’m a nice guy!”

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

FRIDAY’S TRASH

Is there no end to this trash we are subject to? I was referred to a book called,

“A PARENTS GUIDE TO PREVENTING HOMOSEXUALITY” by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi
In this groundbreaking book Joseph and Linda Ames Nicolosi uncovers the most significant factors that contribute to children’s healthy sense of themselves as male or female. The Nicolosis provide clear insight for identifying potential developmental roadblocks and give practical advice to parents for helping their children. This book offers compassion and hope for all those parents who seek to lay a foundation for a healthy heterosexual identity in their children.

I was asked for my response, well it is Friday, my “day of no compassion”…so here is my response.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is the darling of the “Christian right” who is claiming to be able to “convert” one who is a homosexual to a heterosexual and now more particularly in this book that homosexuality can be prevented.

Nicolosi is the inventor of a form of therapy, which is referred to as “Reparative Therapy” and this is nothing more then a political spin of the “religious right” as a cover for the dismal failure of the “ex-gay” movement.

According to Jeffry G. Ford MA, LP

“Its roots stem back to the work of a British theologian and self proclaimed psychologist Elizabeth Moberly. Morberly wrote a couple of books in the early 1980’s that the early “ex-gay movement” found very intriguing. Her research involved no subjects! She simply did an extensive literature review of the outdated works of Irving Bieber, Lawrence Hatterer and Sigmund Freud and came up with a relatively minor reinterpretation of their findings.”

In order for reparative therapy to work, one must assume that “homosexuality” is a disorder of some kind or a personality defect to be corrected. These assumptions are:

1. We are called to love gay and lesbian people “struggling with sexual orientation”
2. Homosexual orientation is chosen or is the result of bad childhood experiences; and
3. People cannot condone this “sinful” behavior that was chosen by their loved ones, and therefore “cannot accept their gay, lesbian and bisexual family members”.

This is pure trash and an out and out lie. Here are some pointers as to why:

1. Sexual orientation is not a disease. In 1973. The American Psychiatric Association removed the term “homosexuality” from the list of mental and emotional disorders. Therefore, it does not need to be cured.
2. “Reparative therapy” doesn’t work. In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good.
3. “Reparative therapy” is dangerous. In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association stated it was opposed to reparative therapy, stating, “Psychiatric literature strongly demonstrates that treatment attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. However, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”
4. According to the American Medical Association, “most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an un-accepting environment. For this reason, aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.”
5. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (2001) asserts that homosexuality is not “a reversible lifestyle choice.” (Information supplied from: “Reparative” Therapy or “Ex-Gay” Ministries page of the National P-Flag website)

I would like to note for the record that “struggling with sexual orientation” is the “key” card in the “house of cards therapy”. This comes from the same idiocy, which we know about concerning the American Indians: who had no idea they were savages till the arriving Christians told them they were. To this I will offer this. I am 52 year old, gay man who is the Pastor of an inner-city Christian Church, own a home, pay my taxes, contribute to the national economy, vote in every election, and live a full, loving, and exciting life with my same gender partner of 25 years.

I assure my readers it has not been a struggle but rather an incredible blessing! Further the people who struggle with this issue do so because they have been told they are some sort of “abomination of God”

We struggle with this issue because the morally frozen and hypocritical heterosexuals tell us too. When my Father, caught me masturbating at the age of 12 or so…he told me God would kill me for doing that and quoted scripture and said: “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also.” (Genesis 38:9-10)

It should also be noted this whole idea of “reparative therapy” or conversion therapy is a religious question trapped inside a psychological costume.

Since the “religious right” no longer has a strong theological argument for condemning homosexuality…they have turned to the secular world to help them.

“Reparative Therapy” is based upon several religious lies or more correctly “Christian” lies. Some of which are:

The Book of Leviticus expressly forbids homosexual sex.
The purity laws of the ancient priesthood are a code of ethics rooted in a time and culture that is far removed from today’s world. Among other things it forbids shaving, wearing clothing made of two different materials, eating rare meat, and many other things. The edict against homosexual sex is part of this code, no more or no less important than the verse that forbids harvesting an entire field of grain or piercing an ear. It is important only as a historical document, not as a set of rules to follow in this time.

Sodom was destroyed for the sin of homosexuality.
Sodom and homosexuality were not connected until the Middle Ages. In Biblical days it was acknowledged that Sodom was destroyed for greed and inhospitality. While some believe that it was probable that the men of Sodom were bent on raping Lot’s visitors, this was an act of violence, not an indication of the sexual preference of the male population of the city. There are many references of Sodom in the Bible (Ezekiel 16:49; Mark 6:11; 2 Peter 2:6-8, among others) but none of them mention homosexuality.

There are scriptures affirming the Biblical condemnation of homosexual sex.
(Romans 6: 26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy) “There is no doubt this is a condemnation of homosexuality. Yet there is a twist. Paul, as well as other authors of scripture, understood the practices they contemned as perversion, to be acts committed by heterosexuals. Modern considerations of sexual orientation were not considered by Biblical writers.” (Rev. Guy Kent “questingparson.org” “Homosexuality and the Church” essay)

It should be pointed out that because a few verses either show favorably or unfavorably towards a subject, does not mean the “Bible” supports or doesn’t support something.

The Bible is a collection of sacred writings that come from different time periods and are written by different authors trying to explain from their point of view who God is and how we as humans relate to and journey with God. The views of each of these authors are as varied as the authors themselves. One must always remember that the Bible is a history and guide to a faith. The Bible is not the end- all and be-all on any subject of faith. It may be divinely inspired but hardly divinely written.

One’s psychological sanity and safety should never be set aside for the sake of a particular religious belief, particularly when there is on going evidence for one’s sexual orientation being formed at an early age and having far more to do with genetics then religion or particular behaviors.

The “religious right” and Nicolosi have spent so much time trying to eliminate the gay community, they have missed the vast majority of people in the LGBT community who lead wonderfully wholesome lives.

Maybe one day there will be research done in this part of the gay, lesbian bi or transgendered community that is whole, healthy and happy, but until then we will have to endure the lies and misinformation of the religious right and the fraudulent psychological “equine fecal matter” being set forth by people like Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.

This guy and his ilk are wolves in sheep’s clothing looking to make a buck at the expense of people’s mental and emotional well being.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

ALONE TIME

Last Saturday evening around 8:30pm we got a call at home from one of Bill’s sisters saying that our sister-in-law Sheila had passed away. This was the wife of Bill’s second oldest brother Allen. She had developed a brain tumor a few years back and this was the end of a long battle of her trying to keep control of her life. As the tumor grew and took over more of her brain, she found herself needing more and more help. She deeply resented not being able to do for herself and so was not a particularly good patient. So for me her passing was somewhat of a relief as she would no longer have to suffer or be in pain.

I should also mention this was the sister-in-law along with another sister of Bill’s who tried to make our life miserable because we were together. She and this other sister were the only ones out of the entire family who were not at Bill’s and my commitment ceremony (read wedding). She also stood in the way of me doing Bill’s Mom’s funeral even though that is what our Mom wanted. So again her passing was for us a relief, we know that she now knows the truth of our love.

Her feelings about homosexuality translated into great tension between Bill and her husband (Allen). So bad was the tension that at one point years ago at the funeral of Bill’s mom these two almost came to blows. While they kind of settled things…they did not keep in close contact except through other family members.

The weekend before I had been out of town doing my hobby, umpiring at a national ASA 18 and under slow pitch softball tournament in Columbus Georgia. I had been gone for 5 days and so this past weekend was to be spent trying to get caught up with chores, church and my husband. Then with that phone call everything changed.

First, just getting back into town…I could not turn around and go out of town again. My schedule between the church and umpiring was just too full. Second, I wasn’t all that excited about going to this particular funeral. Third, Cincinnati is a long drive when your vehicles are due for work in the shop. Further getting a flight on short notice was going to cost almost more money then major league baseball player makes. So you can imagine what it would cost for two.

Well Billy saw this as an opportunity to spend some time with the family and maybe even do a little renewing of a relationship with the widower. So there was just no doubt that he had to go. So I went to work on trying to get a flight. Long and short of it we got it done and put him on a jet this past Monday morning at 6:00am.

I got back to the house at about 6:20am, walked in the door and then WHAM!!!!!!!!!!! It hit me………I was alone in our house, ALONE.

Bill and I have been together for 25 plus years. Yes, I have traveled without him because of work mostly. Yet, neither one of us gave this much thought because Bill has always been a “homebody” and it was the best part of the trip coming home and finding him in my arms with a big smile, a huge kiss and in most cases some kind of great dessert to say he had missed me.

Even when we were separated for a short time a few years back, I never moved out and still saw him everyday.

So I have to tell you this was different…I walked in the dining room where there was a pair of his pants slung over a chair…but there was no one to bitch too about it. I walked into the kitchen…his kitchen, it is really his kitchen, I just pass through sometimes. Everything was ready to cook a meal but there was something missing…Bill

I went upstairs to go back to bed for a little more sleep, but the bed was suddenly just too big…no Bill draping himself over me and no 80 pound dogs, because they were at the front door waiting for “Daddy Bill” to come home.

I got up and went about my day…had to study for an umpire written test that night…but damn that wasn’t going well because I was not being interrupted ever 5 mins. or so with news of the neighborhood, gossip from Bill’s work or some ruling that Judge Judy had just made. There was no thundering from upstairs where Bill would be on his hands and knees playing the “pack leader” with the dogs…I was alone and not liking it one bit.

I got home that evening but there was no one there to tell that I thought I had aced the umpire test.

I sat down to watch my new favorite show “The Closer” but it was not nearly as interesting without Bill’s running commentary as to who actually did the crime. Then came my 2nd favorite show “Saving Grace”, but damn that was boring as I had no one to discuss the deep theological statements being made in the script. Nor was there anyone to discuss how hot some of those cowboys were and gee if were just young again.

I tried to get the dogs attention to play with them, but they were in the front room laying at the front door…watching, waiting, and looking for “Daddy Bill” to come home.

Now in our little world Bill normally comes home from work around 12:30am as he works second shift. Did I tell you we have a 15 year old Macaw who just thinks Bill is his Mother?

Well I had tried writing a blog but couldn’t stop wondering how things were going with Bill…I tried watching the news, but when I laid down on the couch I could smell him…his after shave, his hair…I could feel him rubbing my shoulders…I could see his deep brown eyes smiling at me, I could hear his soft voice telling me he loved me. ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT!!!! I can’t take this anymore I am going to bed…it is 12:30am

Have you ever heard a Macaw scream and work for attention? If not it sounds like someone is being murdered…it is loud and piercing and continual. I tried to give him some attention but he was having none of it…it was 12:30am and his mother was suppose to be there giving him peanuts. Then I remembered that when the lights go out he quiets down. So I went to that bed that was far too big and it started all over again, I could smell him, I could hear his laugh, I could feel him against me…the dogs, where are the dogs…oh yea at the front door waiting for “Daddy Bill” to come home. I am so alone.

Tuesday through today have been miserable…it is more then hot in Atlanta, the house is empty and I cannot get Bill out of my head. Last night I dreamed (I never dream of at least that I remember after waking up) of all the trips Bill and I have taken, my Mom was with us for some strange reason…humm… probably cause she likes him more then she likes me…but I woke up looking at the clock knowing that in a little over 12 hours I would be picking him up at the airport and I really started remembering how deeply I love him, how much I need him, remembering if it were not for him I would have left the ministry years ago…thinking how incredibly thankful I am to God for bringing this man into my life 25 years ago. Knowing beyond any doubt he is truly “the wind beneath my wings”!

Then I realized that Allen (Bill’s brother) was going through the exact same thing…his house was empty, in the kitchen were the tools where Shelia prepared their meals but nothing would be cooked this day, the laundry room had her cloths, the yard had her hand on the flowers that bloom in late summer, he can smell her on the pillow, he can see her smile as she plays with the grandkids, he can feel her holding him and telling him she loves him…he is alone, oh so alone.

My man, the one who has always been able to see into the soul of a person and know what to do to meet a need, saw and knew what his brother was going to be feeling and so he went to him to be with him.

He went to help Allen through his alone time, to remind him that despite everything, they are brothers, they are family. He went to hug him, hold him and remind him that he would always love him and to hold his hand in his time of great loss.

Billy is walking, talking proof of a loving God. He is so in touch with the Spirit of God that allows one to love unconditionally. He is so strong that he can see beyond the hurt sent his way and love anyway. This is the man I married, this is the man who chose to married me.

He chose to love me, to live with me in spite of me and to never give up on me even when I had given up on myself. Yes, I really am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. God has blessed me beyond all measure with this gift called Bill.

At 8:59pm tonight I am going to be busy telling the man I love how much I appreciate him, how much I need him and how much I love him. Yes, life in God is good!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Jesus’ Memo to the Haters: Worry About Yourselves

Let’s start with some quotes that I have been subjected to for the last 30 or 40 years:

“SODOMY IS AN ABOMINABLE SIN, WORTHY OF DEATH.”

“SODOMITES ARE PROUD OF THEIR SIN (“GAY PRIDE”), AND IN THAT PRIDEFUL STATE THEY CANNOT REPENT – YOU CANNOT REPENT OF SOMETHING YOU’RE PROUD OF.”

“THERE IS A HELL WHERE ALL IMPENITENT SINNERS WILL RESIDE FOR ALL ETERNITY. THAT INCLUDES SODOMITES (CALLED “DOGS”).”

“Matthew Sheppard has been in hell for 3209 days.”

“Homo sex is a sin”

“Men with men, and women with women; it is an abomination,” citing Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:18-32.

“God Hates the USA”

“God Hates Fag Enablers”

“Fags are worthy of Death”

“Your Pastor is Lying”

Finally a letter I got because of my previous blog:

“This story of yours mocks God, you need to look at Romans more carefully without your bias about what you want or what your needs are. It talks about persons thinking they are wise and being fooling and their hearts darkened. It also talks about dishonoring your bodies and changing the truth of God into a lie. I can honestly say there are so many Christians out there now who try to justify their behavior. If we don’t believe any of the bible and feel the need to justify or change it for our own needs why bother? God is not mocked. You are not a messenger of God, but a tool of the Devil and you will pay the price with the burning of your soul in hell!”

All I could do after reading this was shake my head in wonderment of how mean some so called Christians could be. How on earth could anyone think that what happen that early morning in the hospital was changing the truth of God into a lie? Here was the truth of God being played out in real life and this person denied it is real, denied the absolute unconditional love of God.

My first response in most of these cases is to mention the story of “Peter the coward”, you know the one who denied even knowing Jesus not once but three times, and after being forgiven by Jesus started whining about John. Then Jesus saying,

“If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?”

This would be a nice biblical way of telling some folks to stay out of the LGBT community’s bedrooms and other peoples faith walk and take care of their own relationship with God. Yet I guess it is not that easy. I mean why are these people so worked up over the prospect of God actually loving God’s LGBT creation and wanting to be relationship with them?

Then I re-read Luke 15:25-32 (The Message) and it hit me. These people are the older brother in the story. They have spent their lives staying the course, going to church every Wednesday and Sunday. They show up at all the church functions without fail.

They pray at every meal. They pray before every game. They pray before tests. They pray before, during and after church. They pray before going to sleep.

They serve on all the right church committees. They clean the church. They participate in church services by ushering, being greeters, readers, and singing in the choir.

They are the guardians of the money, the keepers of the church property and serve on the committee that calls the Pastor and proclaims the one called, is most assuredly of God.

They are the keepers of the law, seeing to it that anyone who does not keep the rules is properly punished and removed from the fellowship.

They are the keepers of the moral law even when they may fall short themselves-for after all no truer words have been spoken on their behalf then when the older brother in the story says,

“Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money (blessings) on whores (gay life style) shows up and you go all out with a feast!”

If you don’t think that is true, you should have been at “Gay Pride” in Atlanta this year. They were lined up on the street corner with their signs that read much like the quotes at the beginning of this blog. For a group of people who were right with God…they were saddest, unhappiest and angry people I have ever seen.

They never hear God clearly say to them,

“you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead (out of relationship with God), and he’s alive (back in relationship with God)! He was lost, and he’s found!”

Yep that is it… and they have become the Peter spoken of at the end of the Gospel of John. Except now they are whining about LGBT folks having a place in God’s kingdom too. Maybe they ought to listen more closely to the response of the Messiah.

“They want to get married!” “What is that to you? You follow me.”

“They want to be ministers!” “What is that to you? You follow me.”

“They call themselves Christian but have sex outside of marriage!” “What is that to you? You follow me.”

I agree when one comes back into relationship with God and the Christ one becomes a new person and should attempt to live out a life which “does justice, acts mercifully, and walks humbly with God” [Micah 6:8]. Even more importantly following the command of the Christ: “That you love one another as I have loved you. Understanding from the depths of our souls this statement of Jesus; “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

So, let me ask where is the justice in condemning LGBT people for something they do not choose? Where is the mercy in denying those same people job protection, health benefits and the ability to marry and be in covenant with one another? How is it walking humbly with God to insist in the world which God created, the definition of sexuality is only their definition of what is natural and when this definition gets troublesome they simple re-define it so that they continue in the good Christian lifestyle.

You see, I believe it was Jesus who said, “let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

Those who are the most worried about the LGBT community living in sin should not be casting stones our way to begin with. Why with adultery, fornication, divorce, lust, murder, theft, spousal abuse, child abuse, and idolatry they have plenty to be concerned about themselves and should leave us GLBT Christians alone.

Gee I wonder, given all that “heterosexual people” do that is horrible before God, could someone please explain how Christian heterosexuals can continue living a straight lifestyle?

Oh yea I almost forgot…“What is that to you? You follow me.”

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Doing Something a Little Different

Honest folks there is a part two to the last full blog “Coming Home”. I really intended to have it posted by the end of the day…but a very busy pastoral week has prevented that. Please say a prayer and or send good thoughts for Teresa, a parishioner of the church who is having a VERY tough time.

Now I am in the process of getting ready to participate in my hobby and serve this weekend as an ASA Umpire.

In just a few hours I will leave to do my first National tournament for Girls’ 18-Under Slow Pitch in Columbus, GA – July 26-29, 2007.

I started doing this as a way to stay active, have some fun away from the office and participate in the community from a different point of view.

This is my 3rd full year of calling both slow pitch and fast pitch softball, so I am really just a rookie going to this “national tournament. So is was an honor to be picked to calls games this weekend…hence I am just a tad nervous.

But I digress…when I return I will offer my thoughts as to who the older brother is in the story told by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32 in our 21st century world…so stay tuned Sunday evening.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.