It’s the Little Things

I remembered an old quote from a former Hall of Fame major league baseball pitcher by the name of Satchel Paige; “Never look behind you, cause something might be gaining on you.” Ain’t that the truth?

This year has been full of challenges; very difficult times, full of loss and with more to come … Despite all odds if we are to find peace we cannot and must not look back, but rather continue to move forward.

As I write this blog this evening all across our nation people are caught up in a war of words and ideology. It feels like we are stalled and a fierce fight is going on to push us back to the “good old days”, whatever that was or is.

Folks on both sides of the various debates will tell you they are fighting for the very soul of America. Some have such a heighten passion for their side of the argument they are willing to kill another to make the point. Still others will offer their life as a sacrifice to prove their point.

All across our world these debates are raging and sometimes resulting in historic change and at other times resulting in mayhem and death.

No one person or institution is immune from the cultural earthquakes shaking us to our very foundations of life and faith.

Mainline traditional churches are in crisis mode as they loose more and more members.

Church’s big and small suddenly have found their buildings being foreclosed on. I think I read somewhere that there are 113 churches facing foreclosure in the Atlanta metro area.

The split among churches over sexual orientation, gender identity and their role is society is as great as the split of 1064.

To stave off the impending loses of both people and revenues leaders of some churches have resorted to turning worship time into productions befitting of a “Broadway play” leaving far behind the “gospel” purpose of their existence.

In our LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer or Questioning, Inter-sexed and Allies) community as the movement for our acceptance and all the rights and privileges which goes with it moves into it’s 43rd year the divisions and debates are as bad as it is every where else.

We too have people maneuvering for power and control of the movement not caring how many people they have to step on in their climb to the top.

We have our share of those who will cry out that one group or another is too male, too female, is too white, too black, too racist or privileged.

We have too many in our community whose mantra is “thank God I am not like them”

North Avenue in Atlanta is still an invisible fence that too few from one side or the other will not cross to do the work of the community. The areas around this invisible fence are war zones of drugs, prostitution, the homeless and property values.

We have those in our community who are young and new to the movement and think us older folks are too slow or have become apart of the establishment and are starting to push.

Sadly we also have our share of folks who have “made it”, feel safe in who they are and have left the reservation and don’t give a crap about those left behind.

Somewhere in all this arguing, positioning, name-calling and temper tantrums it seems we as a whole have stopped listening to each other. We talk past one another, and rather than acknowledging the person and what they are saying most of our response begin the word “but”.

We have forgotten it is the little things that count. It is the little things we do for and with each other that will ultimately make the difference in all our lives.

Let me tell you the story of two people who are living examples of what I mean. Their names have been changed.

This is the story of Thaddeus and Sophia. Thaddeus is a black mid forties straight alcoholic male and is homeless.

Sophia is a 50 something male to female trans person and very active in the community and has had to fight for acceptance at every turn.

Thaddeus started coming to church services in the park about three and half years ago and I dare say there was not more than a handful of services he attended in which he wasn’t well past the legal limit of alcohol consumption.

Thaddeus originally showed up each week to get something to eat and a bus pass or money for this or that. Eventually as he got to know folks he started coming earlier and staying for the entire service. He knew a lot of the folks who attended were gay but that didn’t bother him as he loudly announced on several occasions, because he knew he was straight.

He did however; have a tough time wrapping his mind around the “whole changing bodies thing”. He was just as pronounced in that little gem as he was about being straight.

Sophia who generally had a low tolerance for people who were critical of the trans community for some odd reason always took Thaddeus as he was, giving him a hug and conversation of one sort or another every week he and she were there.

Over the years Sophia and the rest of us learned of Thaddeus plight, how he ended up homeless, his fear of the “DT’s”, his distrust and real fear of doctors and his very uneasy relationship with APD. He was a marked man and APD would and did stop him often. In fact many times when he wasn’t at church he was in jail on one charge or another, all misdemeanors.

Along this journey with Thaddeus, I noticed Sophia never criticized or ignore him. In fact she was one of the first in the group to “acknowledge” his story, his life and challenges.

As you might imagine this confused the hell out of Thaddeus. At one point he came to me and asked if she was single and I told him no she had a girlfriend. He seemed to be greatly relieved…anyway I digress.

One Sunday he shows up to service with a beat up bicycle and most of us in all honesty were wondering when APD was going to show up and arrest him for having a stolen bike.

During prayer time he asked for prayers to find a way to get the brakes on the bike fixed.

Before I could finish my thought of Thaddeus wrapped around some tree, Sophia said she would fix his brakes.

You have never seen separation anxiety at it’s worst until you have an intoxicated person ask for help to get the only thing they own in the world fixed and it dawns on them you are going to take it away for a while…Oh my God we had some drama that day. Suffice to say we got Thaddeus calmed down and Sophia took the bike to her home.

It was then that one of those “little things” happened. Sophia had planned to take the brakes off a bike she had in storage. This was a brand new 10-speed bike that she had bought sometime back but for various reasons had never used or ridden.

One the way to the storage area it hit her. Why tear apart a perfectly good bike?

2 Sundays later Sophia presented Thaddeus with a brand new ten-speed bike. His face lit up like a kid at Christmas time.

That happened 4 months ago. The same week he got the bike Thaddeus found his way to an AA meeting, within 2 weeks of that he had gotten a medical doctor’s appointment, gotten referred to a therapist and did what he swore he would never do and found a shelter in which he could stay for as long as it takes to get his feet firmly on the ground.

Sophia, in this one little thing convinced a broken man he counted, he was worthy and his life was important.

The story isn’t over; this isn’t a fairy tale ending. Thaddeus has a long way to go for full recovery. There will be challenges and trials, but they will be different now because one person did the little thing that shouted for all to hear; “You count!”

We all would be well served if we took notice here. This is a story of one straight man and one trans women. This is about as polar opposites as it gets. This is a story of one looking for a reason to live and one looking to live in acceptance.

Last Sunday Thaddeus said during prayer time, “I praise God for this church, I would not be alive if not for this church.” That was the theologically correct way to say, Thank you Sophia. I am alive because of you doing this little thing.

You see it is our story too…for it is the little things that really count. It is the little things we do for and with each other that will make the difference in those big things, which occupy the headlines today.

We are in the Red Zone

We know the LGBTQIA community has made a great deal of progress over the 40 plus years. This progress has come about because for the most part the community as a whole has stepped far out of the closet into the every day world.

There is no place one can go and not find well-adjusted and successful folk. Hell we have even made it into commercials to sell almost every conceivable product and are main characters in the TV and movie world.

“Don’t ask don’t tell” is about to become a thing of the past. Every time one looks up there is another state granting either Marriage or at minimum “Civil Unions”.

The national polls are all indicative we are making great strides of becoming an accepted part of society rather than an abomination.

The more we come out of our closets and are honest about who we are and who we love the more true Rev. Troy Perry’s proclamation of 30 years ago is: “To know us is to love us!”

Children who have been raised by same gender loving couples are growing up proud of their parents and even tell the same crazy stories about the parents that have been told for centuries.

Each day brings more protections for our jobs, our families, our property and the ability to not get the living crap kicked out of us when we are seen in public, at our schools, the bars, sporting events, the grocery store and restaurants. We have come so far as to be able to travel openly and safely.

Our choices for spiritual enrichment are no longer just “Gay Faith” groups. In every major faith there are affirming and progressive congregations who stand proudly for and with us as a whole people of God.

We are in times of national disasters seen as heroes rather than villains. We participate in many sports and excel right next to our straight sisters and brothers.

My God we even run for public office and win.

The President of the United States has appointed more of our community to all levels of jobs through out the federal government than all the other Presidents combined!

Praise is to God for all those in the LGBTQIA community who for the last 40 plus years have been willing to let their light shine brightly and courageously for all to see. Thank God for all those who have live their lives in such a fashion as to teach the world not only are we not those who spoil the soup but rather give spice and taste to it.
Thank God for all those who have despite facing the loss of family, job, property or even the loss of life; have stood strong and said “no, the closet is no place to live.”

Yet, with all this progress, with all this good stuff, we now find ourselves in the “red zone” on the football field of life. The red zone is the last 20 yards a team must travel on the field in order to score a touchdown. It is said by football experts that it is the single hardest ground to make progress toward the “promised land” or the thing we call a touchdown. Why, because the defending team will come together and do everything they can to stop that progress, to stop the other team from scoring and coming away with a victory. Sometimes what they do is within the rules sometimes it’s not.

The only way to get into the end zone is for the team driving to come together as a unit and do everything they can to continue the progress to the goal line. This will sometimes get done within the rules and sometimes not.

My point is that now is not the time to allow our community to become divided, fractured and apathetic towards those who would do us harm. For now the real test comes. Will the diversity of our community be our strength or will we turn on our selves and begin to self-destruct in the same way we see the Tea Party and Republicans doing now.

Let there be no mistake, those who would do us harm are now desperate and will stop at nothing to derail and push back our progress. They will lie, attempt to legislate, ex-communicate, fire from jobs, make up wild stories, or physically assault us so as to raise the level of fear to ungodly heights. Those who seek to do us harm seek to have power and control over our lives and us. Failing that, it is not out of the realm of possibility they will simply eliminate us.

We need not look any further than the county of Cobb.

Georgia GOP Rep. Bobby Franklin has said,

“The Bible says (homosexuality is) a capital offense. You want someone [in the military] with unrepentant criminal behavior? And it’s not just that, neither should adulterers, neither should thieves, neither should a lot of things. The church is full of sinners, but we’re told in 1st Corinthians it rattled off the homosexual, the adulterer, the thief, the liar, and such were some of you, but you’ve been washed, you’ve been justified and so forth. It’s not what you were. You’re not punishing a thought. But do you want an unrepentant drug dealer in the military? Same thing.”

The Georgia Voice writes that “according to his official biography, Franklin ‘has been called ‘the conscience of the Republican Caucus’ because he believes that civil government should return to its biblically and constitutionally defined role.'”

(the marietta daily journal via the georgia voice)

Or how about this:

“Carroll County Sheriff’s Office investigators are getting help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as they attempt to find out who threatened a local man and then followed through on their threat hours later in what appears to be a hate crime.

A rock wrapped with a threatening note containing anti-gay slurs was thrown through the window of a home on Alvin Drive Saturday night. Then, Sunday morning, the house was burned.

Christopher Staples, the 43-year-old victim, is gay.”

Or how about the email I received from a person who had been at our church website:


I do not see how in this world you can call your selves CHRISTIANS, the BIBLE states very clearly that homosexuality is wrong. Try and read the Bible some time, in there around the story about Sodum and Gamora, it is an abomination to my Lord Jesus Christ. And absolutely makes me plain SICK!!!!!

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Yes you are correct, ANYONE can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved! (Romans) But what you are severely mistaken on, is that when you are saved that means you repent of your sins. And let me tell you, last time I checked in the bible sexual immorality is a sin.

I’m a Christian, and I know that we all make mistakes, and sin. When I sin, I ask for forgiveness, and am forgiven. But when you are trying to justify homosexuality, that is wrong. When you are saved, you REPENT of your sins, that means to TURN from them. It says it as bold as black and white, there are no gray areas in the bible-homosexuality is wrong, and is a sin!

Yes, Jesus loves everyone, no matter what, but that gives no right to justify sin. God’s grace is abounded, but that is not an excuse to sin. Sin is sin is sin.

This web page is a sin to God, encouraging others that homosexuality is okay. Sadly my uncle and aunt are ones who believe the same, and because of this lie, their beliefs are very twisted.

How can you twist what is most very clearly stated that homosexuality is a sin. Just like, murder, lying, malice, hatred. Its [sic] all in black and white.”

This kind of stuff is only going to get more and more focused and painful if we stop what we have done all along which is to allow our diversity to shine through and tackle these attacks in a variety of ways.

Now is not the time to move to the suburbs and pretend everything is OK.

Now is not the time to pit organizations in our community one against the other.

Now is not the time to tell young up and coming leaders in our community to “sit down and shut up cause you don’t speak for us.”

Now is not the time to say, “you can’t speak for me because you are white”.

Now is not the time to say, “you can’t speak for me because you are black”

Now is not the time to say, “you can’t speak for me because you are not trans”.

Now is not the time to throw anyone or group from our community under the bus simply because we are not comfortable with them.

Now is not the time for the faith community to be guarding it’s particular turf or fighting for camera time.

Now is not the time for those who are from the “grass roots” way of doing things and those from the more corporate side of our community to say, “we can’t and we won’t work together”

Now is not the time to get into fights and disagreements about our history, and who has done what to whom and how often.

Now is the time to allow Georgia Equality, The Queer Justice League and a host of other organizations in our community to do what they do best and come at our oppressors from every direction and with a diversity of plans of action.

Now is the time for our faith communities to come together, and be the spiritual leaders our community needs.

Now is the time for the individuals in our community and our allies to get involved, to stand up and be counted, find those places in the community where your ideas, creativity and passion can be most useful. Yes, that includes being willing to spend a little less on partying and giving some of that money to those who are in your opinion doing the work.

Now is the time to revisit an ancient writing with renewed understanding and commitment to its purpose:

“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

1 Corinthians 12:15-26 (New International Version, ©2010)

Now is the time. We are in the “red zone”. Now is the time for our diversity to be our integrity and strength.

A Prayer-Poem for Non-Violence

By Darlene Darlington Wagner

Dear Eternal Mother (or Father),
How does your peaceableness manifest
In sentiment, thought, deed, and spoken word?
Across these aspects of existence
Which peace-building arts would you instruct
Me in? A person’s haste I recompense
With deference, a person’s anger I
Toil to reward with calm compassion.
Yet, how shall I respond to arrogance,
Cold ridicule, or power-lust-propelled
Brutality? (Any suggestions here? I’m not quite a true pacifist!)
This world now trembles in
Her weariness of fiery blasts and blood-sopped
Bodies rending and insulting her
Life-nurturing skin. A new, invincible
Peace, whose practitioners fall never to
Vindictive wrath’s allure, nor break ranks for
Just cause by forceful means, must claim all lost
In strife, must give sight to those blind by rage,
And heal the earth of hatred’s scars at last!
Sweet, Gentle Goddess, whose touch eases hurts
Within, calms discord separating hearts,
And promises to heal earth’s wounds and rifts,
To your unbounded Spirit bind me tight!

An Unjust Law is No Law at All

A little less than a year ago, I wrote a blog concerning the Arizona Immigration law.

So if much of this blog looks familiar, forgive me but what was written this past spring still applies especially in view of what is about to happen in Georgia.

It is my prayer this gets a serious read. My prayer also is for the clergy of our State to step forward and give the moral leadership that is required by our faith, “to do justice, act mercifully and walk humbly with God.”

I find it interesting as a people of the Christian faith we say the sins of the parents (father) should not be visited upon the children, yet there are some who are pushing to make that the law of the state.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote from his cell in the Birmingham jail,

“I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’ . . . A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.”

Unless we wake up our state is in danger of passing an un-just law.

The legislation, which has been introduced instead of helping solve the problem, will only create a whole new level of criminals and cause those people of faith who support the law to be more than just a little hypocritical in the practice of the faith.

It is a point of fact that such a law will give policing agency’s far more power than we want them to have.

This law is not written to hand out any kind of justice, or extend any kind of mercy.

Further this law is not written to prevent crime or to allow Georgia law enforcement folks to “serve and protect”. No, this law is written out of fear, bigotry and political opportunism.

Ever since 9-11 our fear of illegal immigrants has reach unprecedented levels of fear. We are now justifying our fear of people and cultures we don’t know or understand by painting with a very wide brush that says if you are not American then you must mean us harm.

Of course lost in this kind of thinking is Tim McVey, the “Uni-bomber”, Eric Rudolph, John Wayne Gacy or Charles Speck, all who were white and as American as they come…but I digress.

This is of concern also because this is the same kind of fear used against LGBTQ people and through various laws attempt to control and crush or kill if need be those who don’t live out their lives from the correct biblical perspective and view of the universe.

We have heard all the arguments why “these” people must be contained, captured, and deported without benefit of legal counsel or trial. Why it is justified to destroy families and even kill those coming across the border with very little provocation.

These arguments have “collateral damage” by making the landscape ripe for “human trafficking and smuggling”. We don’t seem to care about the truckloads of humanity that have died in mass in the desert heat and without water or food because someone was trying to make money.

It is argued first, this is a matter of national security since we don’t know which un-documented simply wants a job and food for their family or instead might be a terrorist sneaking into our country to blow off the very hand which feeds them.

When that argument doesn’t have the desire results the arguments added to the rhetoric is the rise in violent crime, theft, poaching and land destruction (property values). At the same time this is being spewed across the landscape, we hear the cry: “They are taking our jobs”!

Further, because of our ridicules drugs laws we have set ourselves up for more collateral damage with an unwinnable “drug war”, which also becomes part of the collar placed on the necks of all those who are un-documented …well you know, “they are all “drug traders”.

Finally when all else fails the argument is made “these un-documented people are breaking our health care system.” Really? Our “health care system” was pretty screwed up long before out of political expedience this jumped front and center in our “war” on those who are un-documented.

Now let me be clear these concerns are things for which we must be aware of and at some level as with anything there is good with the bad.

However, all these arguments are being made and exploited without benefit of our faith connection being considered as our starting point for our conversation, questions and concerns.

Rev. Richard Nathan is the pastor of Columbus Vineyard Church and makes two excellent points in two different articles:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a liberal organization, published an extensive report refuting often-cited myths concerning immigration (“Immigration Myths and the Facts Behind the Fallacies,” Despite claims to the contrary, illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year, and do not qualify for or collect public assistance or welfare benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or Section 8 housing.

Furthermore, enforcement-only policies are no solution. Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants is utterly impracticable. Not only would it cost hundreds of billions of dollars ($206 billion over five years, according to the chamber), it would destroy families and communities across the country.

The way forward is clear. We need to secure our borders, crack down on dishonest employers and require illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements, including learning English, working and paying taxes before they earn the chance to become citizens. Such practical reforms would strengthen our economy, serve the interests and honor the ideals of our nation, and provide immigrants with the opportunity to fully join our society.

His second point asks his readers to put on their “biblical spectacles” when confronted with the issue of illegal’s and your “faith response”. I would ask my readers to do the same:

I would hope that Christians would first put on biblical spectacles when approaching the issue of illegal immigration. The biblical Christian would:

1. Begin with the conviction that illegal immigrants are persons made in God’s image and are, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity (Genesis 1:26,28).

2. Appreciate the fact that many of our spiritual ancestors were themselves economic refugees. Thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved from the Promised Land on several occasions in search of food (Genesis 12:10; 26:1; 41:57; 42:6; 43:1-7). The story of Ruth is the story of an immigrant who continually crossed national borders in search of food. Other spiritual ancestors of ours were pushed out of their homeland because of war or persecution (Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, and the baby Jesus). So immigration because of economics, war, and asylum seeking is not far from every Christian’s own heritage.

3. Specifically apply the Second Commandment to illegal immigrants: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

4. Care for immigrants since they had a central place in the laws and practices of ancient Israel. Israel was commanded to love immigrants because God loves immigrants. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

5. Be hospitable according to New Testament teaching which literally means to “love the stranger” or the alien (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Jesus commanded his followers to welcome people who had no social standing, such as the poor, the sick, and the outsider (Luke 14:12-14).

I am fully aware that these considerations will not solve the challenge of those who are undocumented, but it will sure change the discussion from what is now destructive, punitive and life ending to something that more closely resembles “doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God”.

As Christians we are encouraged to “cast out all fear and replace it with unconditional love”…so then we must ask ourselves how does this pending Georgia legislation promote the love we are suppose to be living, the love we are suppose to be practicing, the love we are suppose to be sharing?

In our political world today the conservative and progressive’s seem to agree on very little but as a people of faith we indeed have some common ground.

Rev. Brain Clark a conservative pastor of Calhoun First United Methodist made an interesting post on his blog, which makes my point.

“Despite the fact that undocumented persons contribute to the State tax base, bolster the agricultural economy, and keep local businesses alive, the real issue before the committee isn’t economic. The real issue is that Arizona-style legislation is both immoral and unscriptural. The legislation is immoral because it threatens to tear families apart, destroy the lives of countless children and youth already living productive lives in our communities, and does nothing to advocate for a fair earned pathway to citizenship. The legislation is unscriptural because it ignores the biblical mandates to love our neighbors, to offer forgiveness, and to treat others the way we desire to be treated. God loves the undocumented persons living among us as much as God loves every natural born citizen and calls us to treat them with love and respect. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (NRSV)”

The full blog post can be read here: I only hope we heed his call:

So now we as a people of faith cannot hide behind separation of church and state.

We must consider where we stand…how do we love others? Is this love up to the standards set by Christ?

Brothers and Sisters, what is written in the scripture? Just this:

And a certain teacher of the law got up and put him to the test, saying,
Master, what have I to do so that I may have eternal life?
And he said to him, what does the law say, in your reading of it?
And he, answering, said, has love for the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;
and for your neighbor as for yourself.
And he said, you have given the right answer: do this and you will have life.”
–Luke 10:25-28

If we are be a state where justice prevails, mercy is a priority and we have true equality then we must not leave anyone behind; we must not leave any part of our community out.

Slicing and dicing families and turning them into fugitives from the law are not what our faith teaches in these matters.

Come on folks it is not rocket science! There is no justice, there is no safety, and there is no protection until all really means all. This proposed law cuts out a huge chunk of all.

Our Collective Denial

Our Country is 236 years old. Of those 236 years we have been in a war of one kind or another or some kind of military action for a total of 165 years and still counting. In case you think my count is off here is the history:

War of Independence 1775-1783
Northwest Indian War 1785-1795
Quasi-War 1798-1800
Barbary Wars 1801-1815
War of 1812 1812-1815
1st Seminole War 1817-1818
2nd Seminole War 1835-1842
Mexican-American War 1846-1848
3rd Seminole War 1855-1858
Civil War 1861-1865
Indian Wars 1865-1898
Spanish-American War 1898
Philippine War 1898-1902
Boxer Rebellion 1900-1901
Mexican Revolution 1914-1919
Haiti Occupation 1915-1934
World War 1 1917-1918
World War 2 1941-1945
Korean War 1950-1953
Vietnam War 1964-1973
El Salvador 1980-1992
Beirut 1982-1984
Persian Gulf “Support” 1987-1988
Invasion of Grenada 1983
Invasion of Panama 1989
Persian Gulf War 1991
Somalia 1992-1993
Bosnia 1995
Afghanistan 2002-2011
Iraq 2003-2011

1, 317, 348 Americans have died in these 30 conflicts. I could not find reliable figures for the number of people who were causalities at our hands, but suffice it to say I am sure it is far greater than 1.3 million.

Just since 1976 the United States have executed 3, 260 of its citizens.

Killing people seems to be what we do best. We glorify killing, we put it up in the bright lights of Hollywood, we sprinkle it all through our theology and we justify it as “free speech”. We call a movie with two people “making love” porn and call it immoral. We make movies showing people being blown to bits and we give them academy awards.

So has our political speech become so violent as to have played a part in what happen in Tucson last week? I think if one reads the list the answer is clearly NO. It is who we are as a society.

So there is the truth in black and white for all to see. Say what you will, but we are far better at just eliminating those who disagree with us rather than finding a way to live together in our diversity.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to take a second look at how we talk, how we think, how we live and how we relate to others.

Mr. Ira Leonard is a professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Ct. and in an essay entitled; “Are We a Peace-Loving Country or a Violent One?” sums it up rather accurately when he writes:

The reality is that war — whether on a large or small scale — and domestic violence have been ever-present features of American life and culture from this country’s earliest days almost 400 years ago, though this is not taught in American schools and textbooks. Violence, in varying forms, according to the leading historian of the subject, Richard Maxwell Brown, “has accompanied virtually every stage and aspect of our national experience,” and is “part of our unacknowledged (underground) value structure.” Indeed, “repeated episodes of violence going far back into our colonial past have imprinted upon our citizens a propensity to violence.”

Thus, America demonstrated a national predilection for war and domestic violence long before the 9/11 attacks, but its leaders and intellectuals through most of the last century cultivated the national self-image, a myth, of America as a moral, “peace-loving” nation which the American population seems unquestioningly to have embraced.

Despite the national, peace-loving self-image, American patriotism has usually been expressed in military and even militaristic terms. No less than seven presidents owed their election chiefly to their military careers (George Washington, 1789, Andrew Jackson, 1828, William Henry Harrison, 1840, Zachary Taylor, 1848, Ulysses S. Grant, 1868, Theodore Roosevelt, 1898, and Dwight David Eisenhower, 1952) while others, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, for example, capitalized upon their military records to become presidents, and countless others at both federal and state levels made a great deal of their war or military records.”

How sad is that we have become so accustom to violence it only shocks us occasionally.

What is really sad about all this is it does not account for all the murders committed in this country. It does not account for all the people who die way to early because of a lack of medical care, lack of mental health services, safe housing or enough proper food to eat.

It does not account for the countless number of people who are beaten to within an inch of their lives or killed because of the color of their skin, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any one that does not fit those in power belief system.

My friends read those numbers again, try to wrap your mind around the fact that we live in a world that is far more interested and invested in killing you. We say we honor life but when given the opportunity to do that, we miss the mark not just a little but by a lot.

Critics of President Obama’s speech in Tucson didn’t focus on his words calling for civility, but rather complained of the “pep rally” atmosphere.

One Face Book thread read like this:

I’m confused…. why is this crowd cheering so loudly at the President? At a memorial service??

I can’t watch…I’d be furious if someone I loved had been shot. This crowd is completely disrespectful.

I had to turn away….its like a political rally and not a memorial service…

Because he’s such a rock star



Honestly. And ABC news has the headline “Together We Thrive”… . You can’t make this shit up

Nice – how about hiding the heroes that stopped the crazed shooter way back in the crowd while showing closeups of the political faces like Janet Napolitano, Kristin Gillibrand & Nancy Pelosi?

It is just not right. I cannot believe this one… They all should be ashamed of themselves

It’s all about the politicians and not the people….just another way to make them look like they care…

I’m just sayin….and so are they apparently!
42 minutes ago · Like

Oh, this was a thread of comments from a friend’s posting. Thought it was interesting and kind of funny.
40 minutes ago · Like

and it was odd
22 minutes ago · Like

ummm, am I being politically polite?!
22 minutes ago · Like

I agree with all of those comments. What a bunch of A-holes!!
10 minutes ago · Like

clap clap! HRH clap clap was gettin on my nerves, right into that microphone every 2 mins.!

I wonder how that string fits with the words of the President, I mean were they really listening?

“That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

Yes, it is apparent we have gone astray and we have been that way from almost the beginning.

Yet, we have an opportunity here, I wonder will we finally seize the moment? For those of us who call ourselves Christians…will we now be able to recognize violence has only one certitude-death.

Will we now recognize the only other thing that is certain is violence and violent language does not bring peace…it has not worked to this point, is it not time to try something different?

Will we say there has been enough killing? Will we take this opportunity to say enough is enough?

Can we take these words and really give them more than lip service:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 NIV)

My hope and prayer is that we will begin to change our priorities from war and words of war to life and words that give life rather than steal it.

Maybe if we spend our time trying to live out the words from the teaching of Jesus, the words of President Obama may yet come to pass;

“If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”

Should States Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

By Ansley Kasha

By definition love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Love is a concept that everyone knows about. How would you feel if all of a sudden your right to love was taken away? Empty? Alone? This is how approximately 8.8 million people feel all the time. Gay marriage is a touchy subject to discuss because it deals with religion as well as personal values. Although in American society people as a whole are not in favor of gay marriage, I strongly believe in the right to marry the same sex. I can understand why people would be against same-sex marriage, but do they understand why I would be for it?

Let’s take religion to start off with. Someone once anonymously stated on an online article, “I always thought the freedom of religion implied to the right from religion as well.” If this were to be true, is it right for the country to take away someone’s right to love based strictly on their beliefs? What if someone is a different religion other than Christian and doesn’t go by the Bible? How does being atheist fit into all of this? All of these are significant points to consider. What about the fact that state and religion are supposed to stay separate? If state and religion were actually separate, I bet more than six states would approve of gay marriage.

Morals also play a part of this ongoing argument. The way you were brought up affects your view on this. Your religion, how your parents were raised, and the type of household structure you were brought up in can affect your opinion on this issue. I was raised to accept everyone for who are. If they had disabilities, you accept them and learn to live a lifestyle that accommodates their needs. How is gay marriage any different? The way you feel about other people is just a part of who you are, just like disabilities. If someone wouldn’t look down on another person with a handicap, why would they look down on someone who is in love with the same sex?

Naturally people are going to disagree with my point of view. But if I were to ask someone who has a different viewpoint than me why gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized, what would their argument be? Does not legalizing gay marriage come down to feeling uncomfortable? Is it something people aren’t used to and therefore it is presented as wrong? But when you think about it, isn’t that how everything new works?

I believe that same-sex marriage should be made legal everywhere because it is simply just love. When you think about it, who is really hurting? How is it going to affect you in a negative way? Same-sex marriage, whether between men or women, is just a form of love. Maybe it is different from what you are used to, but when it comes down to it, it is all just the same thing. It’s just a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

In One Brief Year, this Visitor from God Changed Us Forever

Dear Friend,

We want to share with you the story of a dear friend of ours, Charles Harris.  We didn’t realize how truly special he was until he explained to us how he came to be in our midst at Gentle Spirit Christian Church about two years ago.

The simplest way to tell it is just that he turned up one day.  He was hungry more than anything, so he waited through the service and the sermon, and he enjoyed a sandwich at the picnic luncheon that followed.  When we asked him where he lived, he pointed to the east and said he lived under an overpass.

The reason Charles liked that overpass was that the police essentially ignored it — and with no ID and a powerful addiction, Charles found it easiest to stay out of the way of the police while nursing his addiction and foraging for food.

Not that Charles preferred this life; what he really wanted was to get off the streets.  Which is next to impossible if you’re in the grips of an addiction, so Pastor Paul urged our new friend to consider getting clean and invited him back the next Sunday.

The next Sunday, Charles showed up again and quietly offered a prayer of thanksgiving for seven days of sobriety.

A year later, we had helped Charles find housing and employment, and he never missed a Sunday service in the park.  In fact, when his supervisor attempted to schedule Charles to work on Sundays, Charles told him point-blank that going to church every Sunday was part of his recovery, and that without his recovery he doubted that he ever would have returned to work.

And then, just as quickly as God brought Charles to us, God called him home.  The substances Charles had put into his body had taken their toll.   Charles always understood this might be the case, and so did we. Still, we were devastated.

Later, we began to understand why it was that we became Charles’ last stop before going home.  And we’re grateful for that opportunity.  Charles had a beautiful smile, and during his time with us he always seemed to have it on.

So when people ask us why for four years running we’ve been worshipping in a park, year-round in all sorts of weather, Charles is part of our answer.

Any given week finds us helping people just like Charles.  We empower them to find food, housing, transportation, employment, recovery.  Sometimes it’s just about providing care, hope and love.

But no matter how we’re able to help, we want first and foremost for those in our midst to believe in themselves — to believe that no matter where they are in their lives, they still have a chance to find the things that have eluded them.  It’s why we start every service by greeting each other and saying, “You’re in the right place.”

Next week we know there’ll be someone else who believes they have no one to turn to, and we’ll be there to assure them that they do.

It doesn’t take much to help someone get back on their feet.  For instance, only $10 helps secure a bed for someone spending their first night off the streets.  $17 helps someone afford a MARTA Breeze card to get to their new job for a week; $68 does the same for a whole month.

If you would like to help us continue this ministry, just click on the You Can Help tab above to learn how.

We are deeply grateful for whatever you can do, and we wish you many blessings.

The Fraud Called Christmas

I want to share this obvious observation: Even if there were some remote chance I could become pope…they would never let me. The reason is simple and it is not because of my progressive views of Christian theology, or the fact that I am unapologetically gay or even the fact that I do not believe the bible is the inerrant word of God.

Nope is because I believe December 25th is one of the biggest frauds every pulled on humanity.

Those who are pastors know that what I am suggesting is very true. Y’all went to seminary and know saying Jesus was born on December 25th is like saying there is a real living breathing Santa Claus. This fraudulent claim has made our jobs and life during this time of the year a living nightmare of endless days of no sleep and one crisis on top of another.

For the Christmas season, which begins long before the 1st Sunday in Advent, actually right after Halloween we are subjected to 12 weeks of Christmas messages that have little to do with or about our Christian faith. In fact most of the preparations, and so-called traditions have been borrowed or should I say stolen from pagan practices! Although many marketing people cleverly package their presentations pointed in the direction of a cute little baby in cute well manicured and warm manger scene.

People begin making plans for family gatherings and the perfect gift to make the perfect statement of love or impression. This is all destroyed when Johnny announces he is bringing Tom home for Christmas or Susie tells the family she will be spending this holiday with Tammy and her family.

Money, jobs, friends, illness, those dying, families, the homeless, starving children, criminals of all kinds and political games all become the all consuming thing that will happen in that particular year or in a lifetime coming up to December 25th.

Starting with Thanksgiving and through Christmas day every story has a Christmas slant meant to make one feel guilty, or believe it is possible for one day if enough money is spent to be a day of perfect perfection.

Almost every retail business, in America anyway, is geared to this time as making or breaking them for the entire year.

Legislation, which is vital to so many people’s lives, is either held hostage or used as extortion leading to December 25th.

Also, starting with Thanksgiving our food consumption just simple goes off the charts eating far too much of everything and especially the wrong things. Alcohol consumption also goes off the charts but hey you got to drink something with all that food.

The normal every day challenges of life become a crisis of faith because “tis the season”.

People’s social and pageant schedules become so jammed there is no time to take a breath or enjoy a quiet moment of peace and wonderment at God’s creativity in this world in which we live.

We are pushed to acts of kindness because it is the Christmas season, rather than it is the right and just thing to do.

I could go on and on but you get the point. Oh wait I forgot the ultimate fundraiser of those on the “Christian and political right”: “The War on Christmas” is fought for the entire 12 weeks leading to December 25th. Do you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? Legal fights jam our courts over these phrases or worse where a nativity scene gets set up. Conservative Christian websites fire up the war by warning their readers and members that “Christmas is about to be stolen from them so send us money to protect you!”

Now for those readers who have at this point decided I am some sort of Scrooge or Grinch that stole Christmas be patient and keep reading.

When I was young my Grandfather told me the reason one should not lie is because once you tell a lie, you have to tell another lie to cover the first and another to cover the 2nd and pretty soon you are just having to lie all the time because you have lost track of the truth and you can’t remember what you said and to whom.

We have been told and believe so many lies concerning Christmas that we have almost completely lost why this particular birthday is important, why we celebrate a life which in 33 years (a couple years more or less) had such an impact as to change the very course of human events.

In all the perfection we strive for in the holiday season we forget this birth was anything but neat, clean and glamorous. We forget or by cheesy tradition explain away this child was conceived out of wedlock, borne in abject poverty and grew up in a world that was most certainly as dangerous to human life as it is today. We forget or don’t talk about how the gossips of the day most have had a field day both inside the temple and outside.

We jump past the truth of this story which tells us that no matter how bad things are or get God can raise us up out of the ashes of despair to a place with the Creator.

We forget this is a birth that gave us a moral compass for living a life that would being pleasing to the God who created us because it leads to a life of doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God.

When we first bought the lie of December 25th, it became easier to buy the other lies. In fact the Christian and political right’s fear of Christmas being stolen while a lie itself was a self-fulfilling prophecy. For you see I don’t think we have to worry about Christmas being stolen…it already has been stolen and replaced with the craziness that we call the Holiday Season.

It is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was born that we celebrate. The truth of the date is somewhere between April and August depending on whose math you believed. About the only thing certain about the date is it was not the 25th of December. The story of the circumstances of his conception and birth give us real hope that it gets better. Jesus’ life and work gives us a working model and road map for our life. His life is indeed one we can look up to and not be disappointed in what we see. His arrest, faulty conviction and the administration of capital punishment followed by a resurrection give those us who call ourselves followers of The Christ, the assurance that nothing in this world including death of the physical body can keep us from God.

Maybe the date we celebrate the birth in the wider view is not as important as getting back to why we remember this birth like no other birth in history.

So it is with the spirit of being authentic in our celebration I ask us to consider how our “Christmas” celebration this year will measure up to the words attributed to the one we celebrate, we remember, we strive to be like:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Creator in heaven.

Matthew 5:3-16 (New International Version, ©2010)

It seems to me that December 25th is as good as any day to get back to the authentic reason for giving honor to the birth of the one called Christ.

How About Some Common Decency?

Last week I really found out just how difficult the world has become. How a couple of bad choices can change one’s life forever. How being in the wrong place at the wrong time can make it damn near impossible to get a job or find housing.

We had a young man show up at the church looking for help. For the sake of privacy we will call him Tad. At the time he came to the church I was out on a hospital call and the church secretary was the one who heard his story first.

Now under normal circumstances the secretary would have given Tad some food, maybe a marta pass and let him use the phone to make whatever contacts he needed to make and sent him on his way.

However, today was different and by the time Tad had told his story the secretary really didn’t know what to do. She did know that our church and I in particular work with the really complicated stuff…so she called me to tell me Tad’s story.

The long and short of the story was that Tad had just found out he was HIV positive and when he told his roommates they threw him out. He had spent the night before sleeping in the woods and trying to stay out of the way of the police. By the time he had gotten to the church he was cold and hungry and extremely tired. He also added that this was the first place he had been to where anybody would even listen to his plight.

I gave the secretary a couple of referrals that specialize with HIV positive men. She had given him the number for a local shelter and he was heading that way. I was concerned how this particular shelter would react to him and his story should he decide to tell them. So, I indicated if that fell through to call me on my cell and I would talk to him and try to set up a time to get together and see if we could begin stabilizing the situation.

God’s humor and timing is pretty awesome and when I got back to the office, there was Tad and his emotional state now in addition to being tired, scared, and cold was now angry.

When Tad got in touch with the shelter and they told him to come on down, he had gone back to where he had been living to gather his belongings. Upon arriving he found his bed cloths, coats, underwear and socks and some other personal stuff had been burned. What had not been burned had been piled up in the back yard and bleach poured all over it.

So now it is time to take a deep breath, sit done with a cup of coffee and walk through this. So here is a very brief description of the last year for Tad.
He has been married for 5 years.

He has been in recovery from drug use for 3 years.

About a year or so ago he got laid off from his job, and in an effort to get money for food he passed a bad check (bad choice #1). Got caught and spent time in jail.

While in jail he lost the job he had just gotten when he had to go to court and face the bad check charges.

A few days after getting out jail he is out and about looking for work when Atlanta’s finest stop him on the street and begin to question him. (Wrong place, wrong time)

They question him about drug use, where he lives, check his ID and pat him down. One of the officers walks up the street about 20 yards of so and discovers a bag of crack. So now he is arrested for possession of something which clearly was not his since in his movement had not gotten to where the officer found the bag.

The case goes to court and is dismissed out of hand by the judge who says this should have never happened.

In the meantime he and his wife need to move from one housing unit to the next.
In the process of the move a background check is done on Tad, the drug arrest is discovered. Tad is told he can not live at the complex with his wife because of HUD drug arrest rules. So now, he is homeless.

In an effort to stay out of the police’s way he goes from friend to friend. He finally hooks up with some old college buddies. Some sexual experimentation goes on. The experimentation is anything but safe (Bad choice number 2).

Through the church he and his wife had attended they find a place with some church members he can live until he can get some legal help to be able to move back in with his wife. Yup you guessed it, this where his stuff was burned, bleached and he was told never to come back.

I can not begin to tell folks how many ways this is so wrong, without compassion, without reconciliation, without justice and not a shred of common decency.

Tad has family in the area so we contact them to try to arrange a place to stay. Quote: “I got kids you ain’t bringing no AIDS here!”

In the meantime we have found housing but there will not be an open bed for 5 days. So Tad and I are off to the shelter downtown. By the time we got there no more emergency bedding was available. They had a transitional housing program but that would cost $10.00 a day. Before readers shake heads and roll eyes, please bear in mind the old saying; “If something costs a quarter and you ain’t got a quarter it is too expensive.”

$50.00 for a homeless person? Yea, just chew on that for a while and think about the insurance CEO knocking down 3 or 4 million a year.

A few phone calls are made and a couple of members of the church commit to covering the cost. Wow! Praise God! For a church that has less than $2,000.00 a month to work with, this was an impressive act of compassion. We get him back to his room, ugh, no, not a room but rather a dormitory with 30 other men and come to find out infested with “bed bugs”.

Well, today as I write we are past the crisis. Tad has housing and we are working at getting the proper coping mechanisms back in place. So why write about this?

Simply, Tad’s story could be our story. A couple of bad choices, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and wham we too could be the scourge of society, the one for whom legislatures pass laws to protect the common good. A little common decency, a little compassion a little unconditional love could have prevented this story.

Tad’s story is not singular but rather community. Of the 11,000 homeless in Metro Atlanta one will hear the same type of story again and again. Their plights are justified by those with power in government and the more powerful churches by pointing out their perceived short comings, their perceived sins. They are labeled as drug users, drunks, homosexuals, Gender confused, prostitutes, illegal’s, crazy people, and just plain bad people. A little common decency, a little compassion a little unconditional love could have changed these perceived sins to blessings.

Yet, sad to say we the people contribute to making the homeless criminals because we demand law and order rather than common decency, compassion and not being so judgmental about how people get where they are.

For instance, there are no public restrooms through out the city. So if one urinates outside and gets caught they can be given a ticket for public urination a misdemeanor, or if they cross some imaginary line with law enforcement they can be charged with exposure, a crime that will land them on the sexual offenders list. That is a place in the State of Georgia no wants to be if they want to have a roof over their head.

Maybe somebody could tell me where the common decency is in dropping charges against a homeless person but making them pay a fine. Did it ever dawn on our brilliant officials if they had money to pay the fine, they might not be on the street to begin with? Dear reader, don’t roll your eyes because there are some who are simply one traffic ticket fine from not paying the rent or mortgage.

People often ask me why are things going the way they are, how did we get to this point, how did we become so polarized? Simple, as was said earlier we as a society and a people have lost our common decency. Why? In my not so humble opinion since 9-11 we live in fear. We fear everything and everybody. The list of fears are too many to list here, but it is fear that causes people to make more and more laws, get less and less compassionate and understanding.

So the next time you see someone sleeping under a bridge, walking the street, sleeping in a door way, remember they have a story too and their story all too easily could be our story with a wrong choice, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I think my wish for this Christmas, my prayer in this holiday season will be simply this, Dear God fill our land, our homes, our jobs, our churches our families with decency and the strength to do justice, act mercifully and walk humble with You…and so it is.

May We Not Forget

Saturday is a day of mourning. It is not a day that is on the national calendar. In fact with the exception of a small percentage of people in this country this day of mourning will pass completely unnoticed.

Those who take a moment and remember on this day will find themselves swinging between tears of grief and deep waves of anger not to mention a certain amount of fear of further attacks.

The devastating images of those viciously killed in 2010 for simply trying to be themselves is something we should remember, something that should burn in our souls.

The people we mourn for this day are apart of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but still don’t take seriously enough that folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world.

While progress has been made, while things have gotten better, there is still a long ways to go and this community is still too often an after thought.

We still do not take seriously enough these children of God find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity.

In fact in our fair city of Atlanta, the shelters are still not required to accept those who are in transition unless they are willing to accept being forcible moved backwards in that transition.

People in transition walking down the street at the wrong time or in the wrong neighborhood stand a good chance of being stopped by the police and questioned around drugs, prostitution or both.

The fact is most political leaders of the community see the trans community as nothing more then a “political calculation”. In fact far too often these people are something to be added or subtracted from the political equation.

I still see far to often in community meetings the eyes roll or heads shake when the needs of the trans community are brought up.

So even today the message continues to go out loud and clear…it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.

We often forget is it was these folks who started the whole “gay rights” movement we know today when they stood toe to high heal with the New York City police department at Stonewall.

We do not acknowledge nearly enough they have been with us every step of this bloody fight for our rights, our self worth and our very souls.

We only recognize from a distance that each day when they get out of bed and step into the world it may in fact be their last day.

So on this day I implore you to remember the transgender community…to pay attention to the day that has become known as “Transgender Day of Remembrance”

May we who mourn and remember today take some comfort in these words:

“God is King, despite the chaos that may be roaring around us.” (Ps 93)

“If one member suffers, the whole body suffers…” (I Cor 12)

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord takes care of me as his sheep; I will not be without any good thing. He makes a resting-place for me in the green fields: he is my guide by the quiet waters. He gives new life to my soul: he is my guide in the ways of righteousness because of his name. Yes, though I go through the valley of deep shade, I will have no fear of evil; for you are with me, your rod and your support are my comfort. You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing. Truly, blessing and mercy will be with me all the days of my life; and I will have a place in the house of the Lord all my days.” Psalm 23

Saturday evening, here and all around the country may we find ourselves moved to pray.

May these prayers be for all of the victims, their family and friends.

May we pray for our government to have the wisdom, the courage and a God like response to this insanity. Let us pray for God’s protection and a calming of theirs and our fears.

And may our prayers be accompanied by expressions of our faith – in which we are not conformed to the ways the world and how they will respond to children of God, but to the way the Christ would respond. May we be in our speech and actions the love of God.

Let us remember the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith,

We have lost so many people in our community to the hand of hatred and prejudice, yet we still are not seemingly willing to fight back. Meanwhile, we die at the hands of a lover, of police, of medical practitioners, and even parents, while the news media calls us “freaks” — and worse.

In fact, the media’s reluctance to cover our deaths lies near the heart of this project. It can be all-but-impossible to find honest, reliable media on the death of a transgender person: It either does not exist (which is how one can cover thirty years of cases and still only have as many as I have to present), or it uses names that the deceased did not own, and pronouns that did not fit their reality.”

In the world we live in today there is no “safe way” to be transgender: Some are living very out lives, and some are living fully “stealth” lives. Some are identifying as male, some as female and some as both and neither. Some lived in small towns, and some in major metropolitan areas.

There are things we can do and must do if the killing is to stop. I would encourage our community and friends to:

• Let us educate ourselves about transgender issues.

• Let us be aware of our attitudes concerning people with gender-atypical appearance or behavior.

• Let us make more than a good faith effort to use names and pronouns that are appropriate to the person’s gender presentation and identity.

• Let us not make assumptions about transgender people’s sexual orientation, desire for surgical or hormonal treatment, or other aspects of their identity or transition plans.

• Let us keep the lines of communication open with the transgender person (s) in our lives.

• Let us become more aware of the things which would make life easier and the transition smoother, i.e. markers on drivers licenses, applications and forms.

• Let us not just sit on our lack of knowledge and understanding. Let us seek out support in dealing with our feelings. This is the 21st century and there are plenty of resources for us to get help.

Finally but not least let us turn out in mass this Saturday evening at the State Capital to show the “T” really is apart of LGBTQ and it does not stand-alone. I know it is Saturday night but we were enraged when they raided our bar can we not also comfort our friends in their loss?

Here is the list of those who were taken from this world far too soon in the United States and Mexico.
The entire list can be seen at:

1) Mariah Malina Qualls
Location: San Francisco, California
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head.
Date of Death: December 9, 2009
Mariah was 23 years old

2) Estrella (Jose Angel) Venegas
Location: Mexicali, Mexico
Cause of Death: Shot in the chest and the forehead
Date of Death: December 13, 2009
Estrella was 32 years old
Sources: Estrella’s brother.

3) Myra Chanel Ical
Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: Many wounds and defensive bruises.
Date of Death: January 18, 2010
Myra was 51 years old.

4) Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar
Location: Queens, New York
Cause of Death: Strangled
Date of Death: March 27, 2010
Amanda was 29 years old.

5) Toni Alston
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Cause of Death: shot to death
Date of Death: April 3, 2010
Toni was 44 years old.

6) Chanel (Dana A. Larkin)
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Cause of Death: Shot in the head
Date of Death: May 7, 2010
Chanel was 26 years old.

7) Sandy Woulard
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Cause of Death: Shot in the chest
Date of Death June 21, 2010
Sandy was 28 years old.
Source: Chicago Sun Times (The victim was identified as Credale Woulard)

8) Antonio Jones III
Location: Southampton, NY
Cause of Death: Punched repeatedly and grabbed by the neck
Date of Death: August 1, 2010
Roy was 16 Months old.
Note: 20 year old Pedro Jones told police he had struck the infant several times with a closed fist. Jones said he was “trying to make him act like a boy instead of a little girl.”

9) Gypsy
Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: shot to death
Date of Death: September 6, 2010
Source: Cristan Williams via the Houston Police Department

10) Victoria Carmen White
Location Maplewood, New Jersey
Cause of Death shot
Date of Death September 12, 2010
Victoria was 28 years old.

May God have mercy…

An independent, affirming and progressive church serving metro Atlanta. We are open, positive and inclusive.