Finding Oneself at the Wrong End of a Gospel Story

I have got to say there is nothing worse than finding one’s self on the wrong end of a gospel story. A few days ago, when the news of Bishop Jim Swilley the founding pastor of “The CHURCH IN THE NOW” got out that he had come out, I was not particularly kind.

One my Face book page I made the following comment: “is thinking Rev. Swilley is NO gay hero. He finally comes out after he has fathered 4 kids, was in a sham of a marriage…and how many young folks took his hypocritical teachings to heart and ended their life? I am sorry there are those of us who have stood in the line of fire for a long time and took the hits while he was…Thank you Rev. for getting a conscience, lets see what you do now that you are out.”

Then as I am preparing to write this blog I re-read the story of the “Prodigal Son”. One can find the complete story at Luke 15:11-32 (The Message). Needless to say I found myself on the wrong end of this Gospel story.

For as many times as I have told this story over the years and how it is a wonderful affirming story for the LGBTQ community, I found myself convicted tonight by the end of the story.

 

“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef! —Because he has him home safe and sound.’

“The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘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 on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

“His father said, ‘Son, 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, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!'”
I found myself standing in the place of the older son. For a guy who has been preaching an inclusive gospel for 25 years this is an embarrassing and humbling place to find one’s self.

Of course when one reads this story from Jesus, it is easy to see and understand the Father’s response. However, the more difficult part of this story is we never get the interaction between the older son and the younger. Did they ever work things out?

When the party was over did the older and younger brother reconcile? Did the younger brother ever know the older one was unhappy and why?

Did the older brother ever stop and listen to the younger brother’s story and how he came to do what he did and make the choices he made?

I have never met the Bishop and only know of the Church he founded by driving by it on I-20 several times and thinking each time…there is another one of “those” places.

It was a mega church; an evangelical church and we all know how they feel about the LGBTQ community right?

So of course I sat and listen to the Bishop’s coming out sermon to his congregation tonight from beginning to end.

I then found his blog and read what he had to say. In his latest writing, “Making it Plain”
he said:

“I at least have not had to work through any credibility issues, or do any damage control concerning my message. I have never one time in nearly 39 years of preaching said a derogatory or condemning word about people with same-sex attraction. An in-depth search can be made through my books, or through decades-worth of tapes, CDs, DVDs, or manuscripts of my sermons, and there will be no evidence of the preaching of condemnation found.”

 

Further just before that he said:

“I think it’s important to point out that my main message is and always has been one of love, grace, and tolerance. Church In The Now has been a multicultural/multi ethnic/ecumenical community since its inception, and, as such, has established a long-standing reputation as being a bridge builder among belief systems and people groups. It is neither a white church, nor a black church – it is a church for all people – so it will not become, now or ever, a “gay” church. CITN is inclusive because we believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, demands that we be…and that Gospel is simply the Good News that GOD IS LOVE, demonstrated through the Christ, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the lifestyle demands made by the Gospel are summed up in two basic and proactive commandments: (1) Love God (2) Love people. That’s all. Church In The Now will always be a place that embraces the truth of the real Gospel, and the simplicity that is in Christ.”

 

I had done what I have so long preached against…I made lots of judgments and offered my friends and family a knee jerk reaction.

I like the older brother in the story felt like all the attention the Bishop was getting for coming out at 52 when I was out at 13 was a little much. One can read my previous blog to get the full story on that.

I felt like as an openly gay pastor and progressive person of faith I had taken the heat, buried our people, held the hand of the oppressed, fought the fight, stood on the front lines and taken the bullets of hate, ridicule and disrespect. In fact I could think of many of us pastor’s who have for long time been barley able to make ends meet because we took the opportunity to be out, proud and free.

Of course so has the Bishop:

“Concerning any negative things written about me online, which are mostly done by conservative Christian or Evangelical groups or watchdog organizations, I can only say that it comes with the territory, and I’m used to it. I have no desire to defend myself, or to argue the Scriptures with those who would not be open to anything I would have to say. Integrity can’t be proven, it must be discerned.

I’ve been discussed on blogs and websites for years because of my inclusive theology, and because of the spotlight being on my family for some time because of my uncle, Bishop Earl Paulk, who died nearly two years ago. Usually, any negative article about me begins by making the connection with him, and, even though I don’t understand why that connection is germane to my story, I guess it makes it more interesting to some.

In the last few days I’ve been called both a hero and heretic. I don’t believe that I am either. At the end of the day, all that really matters to me is what God thinks and says about me, and that is between Him and me.”

 

So why write this? Why admit to the community I was a jerk in the way I responded to the story, that I was childish and immature?

First, because words have power and as we have seen with the bullying issue words can have a devastating impact both in the short term and the long term. My open and public words were no better than any bully. For this I am deeply embarrassed and sorry…May God have mercy on me.

Second, two words, being authentic! At Gentle Spirit Christian Church it has been taught for years that we “walk the talk”. So not to admit publicly I was wrong after public words of judgment would hypocritical at minimum and anti-gospel at the worst.

Finally but not least, each one of us travel this life and for the most part do the best we can with the cards that are given to us. The Bishop is right on the mark when he says there are only two things that really matter: (1) Love God (2) Love people.

I know tonight, my face book words did neither of those things…God have mercy on me a sinner.

Bishop Swilley, welcome home and may God bless, protect and encourage you in the days ahead.

You Are God’s Child and You Are Not A Mistake!

When I was a 13, during the month of January 1968 I wrote a paper for my 8th grade English class on why Dr. Martin Luther King was my hero. No big deal one would think except I was a white kid in an all white school. As any one who reads my blog with any regularity will tell you my grammar is awful and so it was no surprise I got an A for content but a D for grammar. With that paper my life became complicated. I was now known as a n***** lover. There was no end to the jokes and nasty notes left at my locker or in my schoolbooks.

It should also be noted at about the same time I had gone through a sudden growth spurt. So by the time the school year had ended I was 5’9” and 120 pounds. I was kind of geeky looking to say the least.

At the same time I was apart of a family who included a father who had a very strict definition of what it was to be a “man” and a mother who insisted on me having “school clothes” and “play clothes”. The problem with this you might ask? Nothing except when I went to school I was dressed in a freshly ironed shirt, a pair of dress pants and polished shoes, and a Princeton haircut. Dressed this way amongst kids in blue jeans, tennis shoes and long hair I stood out as not being particularly “manly”.

For the record it should also noted at the age of 9 I had figured out that I was not same as everyone else when it came to issues of sexuality. I had more than a passing interest in men. I couldn’t understand why I felt about men the same way other guys were feeling about girls.

My grandparents at this time had a foster child who was 14 and would later become their adopted son, my step uncle.

Starting at the age of 10 while visiting my grandparents I would sleep in my step uncles room. I woke up one night and caught him masturbating. Long story short I figured out in that time I was a homosexual. This probably would not have been a bad thing except for my step uncle taking advantage of my curiosity and literally raping me until I was 13 and he left for the army.

At one point he took me to a place no young person should ever have to go physically. The whole time he did this to me, he told me I was nothing but a fagot and if I ever told anyone I would be thrown out of the family for being a queer. I threw out bloody underwear that summer out fear of being found out.

There was no one to tell and no place to go for support or to get help.

The only positive thing to come out of this experience was that I learned I would never make a person do something sexual for which they did not want to do.

So fast forward back to the end of 8th grade school year. A friend of mine showed up to my house one day with some of his father’s naked girl magazines and a jar of Vaseline. We experimented that day. Compared to what I had already been through this was great and I had my first official crush. That is until he told his friends. The bullies came out in mass numbers. Much like vultures circling that prey which is about to die.

Now, I was a marked kid…called a homo, fagot, pushed into lockers and cornered in the locker room. I was followed home with kids calling me names. Eggs were thrown at our house.

We would get phone calls at our house asking for me because they wanted a blowjob. This went on the entire 4 years of high school almost daily.

So my days in high school were spent in complete torment and fear that in the end no matter what I wanted to do or did I was a loser. I was a n***** lover and a fag.

Those days of high school were hard for me. There was no place to go for support or understanding of what I was feeling, who I was or any kind of acceptance. To many I was just at minimum weird and at worst a pervert. I later found out that my struggles and experiences caused untold grief for my family and especially my sister.

Ironic isn’t it, my sister was bullied because of her brother. While most sisters get to look up to their older brothers, mine probably spent most of her high school days wishing I never existed.

Those times made it difficult for my friends too. For the mention of my name brought laughter and jokes. I have often wished there could have been a different way, a better way.

So why am I sharing this tonight? Because tonight when I signed into facebook I saw yet another story of a young man whom saw no other way and has taken his life out of this world.

“Terrel Williams, a 17-year-old native of Beverly Hills, CA, took his life on October 13, just hours after being attacked by five other high school students, and pushed and thrown into a brick wall at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, WA.

Terrel’s mother, Cheryl Williams, found her son in their Lakewood home — he had hanged himself in his bedroom closet. Terrel left a suicide note:

“I’m sorry to my immediate loved ones, but I feel suicide is the only way out. I felt coming out, and being happy with Daric, was the best thing I could’ve ever done. But I didn’t think it would lead to my death at an early age.

“Today, was the record worst day of my life, some kids at school stole some of my stuff that I got from people I really cared about, and that really pushed me over the top, next to being shoved into a wall, and my ribs being broken.”

Tonight, my heart is yet again broken by society’s inability to support the diversity of creation, to see the beauty of that diversity and to understand our real strength comes in that diversity.

How did I get through it? I really don’t know. I do not see myself as particularly strong or smart.

I do know what it is to feel totally alone, unsupported and mocked. Funny even today I can still feel that way.

Maybe I got through this and lived to tell about because when I was at my lowest there was a United Methodist Pastor by the name of Rev. George Groh, who when he heard I was in trouble and seriously in the process of putting a bullet into my head dropped what he was doing and came to me. 20 miles he drove at 7 in the morning.

He came to me and in the midst of my hurt, anger and isolation held me in his arms and cried with me and in the end assured me I was God’s child and I was no mistake. As he held me, he listens to all my shortcomings and confessions. He cried as he listens to my entire story of the rape. He is angry with me as I tell him of the days of high school. He holds me tighter as I cried about being a failure to God and my family and again through his tears assured me I was God’s child and I was no mistake.

Then he pulls out his little pocket bible and reads to me the 22nd Psalm, the whole Psalm not just the part we hear read on Good Friday in church:

“1-2 God, God…my God! Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
they cried for your help and you gave it;
they trusted and lived a good life.

6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!”

9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother’s breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
since the moment of birth you’ve been my God.
Then you moved far away
and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.

12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
like a herd of buffalo on the move.

14-15 I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled,
every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
in the dirt.

16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.

19-21 You, God—don’t put off my rescue!
Hurry and help me!
Don’t let them cut my throat;
don’t let those mongrels devour me.
If you don’t show up soon,
I’m done for—gored by the bulls,
meat for the lions.

22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
—worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
—worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
—worshiping!

30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

So, this is why I write tonight. To stand witness for our young people and say to them you can get through this. To say to them you are not alone and the bullies are just that bullies, they pick on you because they can’t be honest and content with themselves.

I write this in the hope a message will go out loudly and clearly from other pastors and spiritual leaders who will walk the path of the Reverend George Groh, and hold these kids and look them in the eye and say to them; “You are God’s child and you are not a mistake!”

I write this because despite how it might feel right now, “tomorrow will be better”, I know because I have been there.

We’re Here!

For those who have watched the “Godfather” trilogy starring Al Pacino among many stars as Michael Corleone as the head of a powerful crime family will recognize the intensity of my quote to start this blog.

Michael throughout the movies is portrayed as the good son, who is attempting to take the family business and turn it from a dynasty of crime to one of legitimacy. Almost at every turn there is some action by other crime families, which keep him from reaching his goal. This idea carries all the way to the third movie where we find Michael in a fit of frustration say:

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

For the last several years I have said and thought “Gay Pride” had really lost it’s punch. It was no longer a large political, social and spiritual gathering bringing together hundred’s of thousands of queer folk to stand in solidarity for a common cause.

In fact over the last several years it seemed to me “Pride” had become simply a major street party and a vendor’s dream come true. When the decision was made in Atlanta to move “Pride” from June and the rest of the country to October well I thought if it is going to be a party at least the weather is better!

Then much like in the “Godfather” movies in step the religious and political right. Just when the community seems to making incredible progress on the road to equality the heat from the right gets turned way up.

We begin to see headlines and tragedy from several parts of the country:

· Minneapolis Archbishop Withholds Communion from Gay Activists
· Last month Catholic churches in Minnesota mailed about 400,000 anti-gay DVDs to Catholics in the state as part of a push to amend the Minnesota constitution so as to legally bar gay and lesbian families from accessing marriage rights.
· Bishop Eddie Long is sued by four young men and the media (main-stream) turns the story into something that reads like what the “right” has said for years: “homosexuals are predators after your children”
· A staffer from a US Senator’s office thinks it is ok to publicly say: “All fags must die”
· 60 plus people are thrown to the floor in a gay bar in Atlanta in a raid style we have not seen since the 1960’s.
· Early this year some TV want to be star makes headlines which say, “Joe Rogan Explains Why Gay Slurs Aren’t Anti-Gay”
· The US Congress says it is ok to be LGBTQ and die for your country, you just can’t say you are LGBTQ.
· A young man in Savannah Georgia is beaten senseless by two marines because one of the marines thought the young man winked at him. Of course the charges are reduced to misdemeanor offenses.
· A gay pastor and his partner are assaulted as they have a picnic together in a park.
· A judge thought it was perfectly all right to tell a male to female trans person in a letter for the record, “You have explained to me you consider yourself a trans-gendered person, that you are taking hormones and that you have breasts. However, until you are no longer considered legally to be a male or until you provide competent medical evidence that not dressing as a women presents serious risk to your health, you must not dress as a women for **** court.”

Then we have this little summary from the Out at Emory list serve at Emory University:

· Eleven-year-old Tyler Wilson of Findlay, Ohio, whose arm was broken by two boys because he joined the cheering team on August 31st;
· Fifteen-year-old Billy (William) Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, who was found dead on September 9th in a barn at his grandmother’s home after taking his own life. Friend and classmate Nick Hughes said that he was tormented for years because of accusations of being gay;
· Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student, who took his own life on September 22nd after his roommate secretly filmed him during a “sexual encounter” with another male in his dorm room and posted it live on the Internet.
· Thirteen-year-old Asher Brown who killed himself September 23rd after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students in Houston, Texas.
· A University of Wisconsin at Whitewater student assaulted on September 26th after she was called “faggot” for wearing a “Legalize Gay” t-shirt.
· Thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh of Bakersfield, California who died September 28th after nine days on life support after he attempted suicide. He was continuously bullied for being gay;
· Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old openly gay student at Johnson & Wales University commit suicide on September 29th;
· Chris Armstrong, the openly gay Student Government Association President at the University of Michigan attacked by the Assistant Attorney General of Michigan, Andrew Shirvell. Shirvell created a blog about Armstrong, calling him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly” because of his work to create gender-neutral student housing.

Let us not forget our sisters and brothers in the Transgender community continue to be slaughter as well:

· Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico
· Paulina Ibarra was found dead on the floor of her apartment at 939 N. Mariposa Ave. around 8 p.m. Aug. 28, and police are looking for 24-year-old Jesus Catalan.
· Neighborhood Safety Issues Raised After Transgender Murder
· Mariah Malina Qualls Location: San Francisco, California Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head.
· Myra Chanel Ical Location: Houston, Texas Cause of Death: Many wounds and defensive bruises.
· Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar Location: Queens, New York Cause of Death: Strangled
· Toni Alston Location: Charlotte, North Carolina Cause of Death: shot to death
· Chanel (Dana A. Larkin) Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Cause of Death: Shot in the head
· Sandy Woulard Location: Chicago, Illinois Cause of Death: Shot in the chest
· Roy Antonio Jones III Location: Southampton, NY Cause of Death: Punched repeatedly and grabbed by the neck
· Victoria Carmen White Location Newark, New Jersey Cause of Death shot

All of this continues to happen because the religious and political right has decided the LGBTQ community is the equine-fecal matter of the earth and spend vast sums of money and hysterical propaganda to prove it. The religious right laments we are the abomination of God and continue to use all of its resources to wage war against us.

So it goes anything that is done to the LGBTQ community is fair game, justice only matters if you are not LGBTQ. Equal rights are for anyone except those who are LGBTQ. Common decency and respect for one’s neighbor is for everyone except those of the LGBTQ community.

We are discussed by the political powers as if we are not in the room and it is costing our community dearly. We are paying with our lives, our health and well being. (I have news for those who do that-we will be in the room this weekend.)

There are those who say we need to be more patient, polite and less confrontational. Really? Have they read these lists? If this were their little kingdom being intruded upon in this manner, they would declare war on somebody.

About a year ago I wrote a blog where I signed on with Bishop Sponge and a manifesto which I said I agreed with: and that needs to be said again. For the sake of space here is the URL:

http://reverendbitchsir.blogspot.com/2009/12/time-has-come.html

So yes, the religious and political right has succeeded in making this year Pride is extremely important maybe more so than in it’s previous 39 years and leaving me saying: “”Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

So yes “Gay Pride Atlanta” is more than a street party, it is more than merchant’s selling their stuff. It is more than the Politian’s showing up to get our votes. It is more than photo ops for star wanna be’s, it is more than folks dressed in everything from barely legal to wildly entertaining. It is more than the special entertainers, more than a “marriage ceremony”, more than the dyke parade or the march on Sunday.

For it is all of these things together for which 300,000 LGBTQ’s and their allies will come to Atlanta. Pride this year and every year is about not letting the religious and political right control and direct the national conversation. It is saying in very clear terms: as we gather this weekend, “you have tried to legislate us out of existence, you have viciously beat us, you have denied us basic human rights, you have fired us, you have denied us housing, you have denied us our children, you have stood in the way of hospital visits, you have even killed us…but “We’re still here. We’re still queer. So please get used to it.” Therefore today I say to those who seek to do us harm if they have a problem with our sexual orientation, gender identity or theology, God bless you and may they get over themselves soon. Let the party begin!

Homophobia, An Efficient Killer

I guess it has been about 2 years since the Rev. Al Sharpton stood in the pulpit of Tabernacle Baptist church and gave this little gem concerning black clergy and the church:

“They preach homophobia from their pulpits Sunday morning and cruise the parks at night!”

I also remember after that service was over; this statement was stuck in my head.

Talking with some of my colleges and friends in the black community, I was informed not only was that statement true but also in fact there were any number of black clergy in the city of Atlanta who were an exact fit. “In fact Pastor Paul, there are some pretty big and powerful preachers in the black church for whom Rev. Sharpton hit the nail on the head.”
I was dumbfounded.

I am sometimes naïve when it comes to the real world. I know a lot of politicians who would sell their own mother if it meant them getting elected and then lie about the sale, but pastors are and should different right?

Apparently I am still somewhat of a sexiest. Sure there might be the whole hetro adultery thing going on. So why would these very conservative preachers really take the risk of doing what they so virulently preach against in such a small talkative community?

Do they not understand if you beat us up long enough eventually we will expose you for who you really are?

Further, why would this small talkative community simply turn and take on the persona of “don’t ask, don’t tell”?

I have come to believe it is because homophobia is alive and well and more dangerous than ever.

“Homophobia”, is the unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.

Which is why, there is nothing worse than to be a homosexual or to practice homosexual behavior and the community seems to hold a different standard for black preachers as compared to white preachers.

One might survive if they use drugs, one might survive if they misuse church funds and they might even survive if they are caught playing with the deacon’s wife. One survives these transgressions because “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God!”

Remember the good Rev. Stanley of Peachtree Baptist? All was forgiven and forgotten. Bless his heart. Those who are part of the United Methodist Church know if a preacher is caught playing around in the congregation come annual conference time the preacher is simply moved to another church. There is a long list of black preachers who are divorced or were divorced during their time in the pulpit and have survived rather nicely.

Yet, to cross the homosexual line and express homosexual behavior is the sin of all sins. This sin is the worst thing a person can do. One’s career, calling and respect in the community will be lost if they dare cross this line and get caught.

There is nothing which will get the news Medias attention faster than a black male preacher who is caught having sex with another man. They jump on it with all the alleged details and leading statements of how horrific this person is. In very short order it becomes the subject of national news with powerful people weighing in with their knowledgeable (really lack of facts) opinions and attitudes.

Of course if the accused person is anti-gay and is rather famous for attacking the LGBTQ community, then this just adds fuel to an already hotly burning fire.

Bishop Eddie Long an ardent opponent of the LGBTQ community, even to the extent of having an “ex-gay” kind of ministry as a part of his mega church and who lead a huge march against gay marriage, has been accused not by one but three young men of stepping over the line into the sin or sins.

Now, I have to say for the sake of being honest, I have never been particularly impressed by the Bishop. Having Bentley’s parked in one’s drive way, owning one’s own private jet, etc has never struck me as the ministry of the gospel, but rather a ministry prosperity and over indulgence. The church claims 25,000 members! Damn, that is 9,000 more people than the town I grew up in.

If we do the math this also means conservatively speaking there are probably 1200 plus LGBTQ people associated with this ministry.

Anyway, I digress. As I mention a few blogs ago the “victims” are already being blasted by the Bishop’s supporters. They are being called everything in the book and I would imagine before it is all say and done they will be painted as the predators of a powerful preacher. As I said before, this simply is the roots of homophobia rising to the surface…cause; well you know all gays are criminals.

Reports on the story have not said if the three young men themselves are gay or not. Before people write me and say this is not important…yes it is. Why?

It would change the dynamics of the story from abuse of power to the possibility of a really messed up love triangle. There may be abuse of power but it would be a whole different animal at that point. A full day before the story broke, I got a heads up from a friend, “BTW, stay tune, a very prominent local Bishop is about to be outed by his secret lover in a lawsuit.”

Now, please if the way this story has been covered doesn’t prove how evil, how nasty, how un-repented, how vile and how dangereous homophobia is then we are asleep.

It is true the Bishop set himself for a huge fall and made himself a target of people just dying to prove he is the ultimate hypocrite.

Yet, the real problem here, the reason this story is so devastating is because of the homophobia that is intertwined all through it. This Bishop made a huge mark for himself with a ministry designed to destroy my (our) community. As a friend Craig Washington wrote in a column for The Root:

“Whether or not Long actually committed the acts of which he was recently accused, this much is true: He is assuredly guilty of engendering fear and hatred of LGBT people among thousands. He has convinced countless numbers of gays that they are sinners whose salvation rests on becoming “reconditioned” into heterosexuality. Such toxic teachings reinforce the stigma that compromises HIV-prevention efforts as well as our mental and physical health.”

If, the accusations are correct, there is a price to pay for such devastating hypocrisy. If, the facts turn out to be something else how will we deal with that?

While it is easy to be critical of how people live their lives, if this turns out to be factual, will anyone ask or see how homophobia drove the Bishop to this moment. How, even knowing he had a gift to preach, he had to hide who he really was to pursue his career and calling?

Will it ever be discuss in the black congregations their complicity in this drama, because the worst thing their preacher could do was be a homo? How the black church lives out “don’t ask and don’t tell” to the destruction of its young men every day.

If it turns out these accusations are really about something else, will my community stand and say to Bishop Long, “Hey we are really sorry we jumped the gun, cause you know you are such a jerk when it comes to our issues…well we just wanted you to fall hard…sorry”.

Regardless of the outcome of this story, will we spend some time seeing how the devastating tentacles of homophobia wrapped themselves around the Bishop, the Bishop’s family, his friends, our community and as the outrage was expressed choked our any thought of compassion, understanding and love?

My friends this is a sad and heart breaking story, because it is really not about Bishop Long. The author of this story no matter how the facts turn out, no matter the drama unfolds is about homophobia. It is a killer, it kills those who practice it and it kills those who internalize it. It sometimes kills those who fight it.

I think that may be why Elder Tony Jones a very good friend of mine had this to say on his facebook status page:

“I reflect on Bishop Eddie Long and this recent matter, I am reminded of this one thing. Regardless to the outcome, unconditional love is still appropriate and necessary.”

My prayer is we all take heed; we all take a deep breath and take the Elder’s words to heart. For if we do, there is an opportunity here to begin to dismantle the destruction of homophobia and begin to heal.

The Day Fear Paid A Visit and Stayed

On September 11, 2001 at 8:50am my phone rang and it was our church deacon asking if I had seen the news. My day was just starting and I had not got through my first cup of coffee, let alone turned on the TV.

He went on to say a jet airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center. “Oh my God, did a pilot have a heart attack, did something go wrong with the plane?” I was shocked and told the deacon I would call him back.

I turned on the news to see a picture of the World Trade Center and thick black smoke coming out of the side of the building. I don’t really remember what the reporter was saying when suddenly a large jet crossed the screen and slammed in the 2nd WTC tower.

I was stunned, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and in another 30 seconds or so my mind started asking questions…what happen? How many people were on those planes? Who was on those planes? How many people are in those buildings? My God they are all dead…damn…what is happening? How the f*** does something like this happen…

My mind began to focus on the reporter and it seemed he had as many questions as I did. They were beginning to get reports of another crash, this time at the Pentagon…then there was talk of a 4th plane that also crashed in an open field somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Then suddenly right in front of me the first tower collapsed, not long after that the 2nd one came down and in that moment deep in my soul I saw the United States of America change and it was a change brought on by fear.

The story of that day and what happen was staggering.

“Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. (Washington Dulles International Airport).[2] At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, followed by United Airlines Flight 175 which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.[7][8]

Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.[9] A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m, after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers. Its ultimate target was thought to be either the Capitol (the meeting place of the United States Congress) or the White House.[10][11]

In a September 2002 interview conducted by documentary-maker Yosri Fouda, an al Jazeera journalist, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh stated that the fourth hijacked plane was heading for the United States Capitol, not for the White House. They further stated that Al-Qaeda initially planned to fly hijacked jets into nuclear installations rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but it was decided not to attack nuclear power plants “for the moment” because of fears it could “get out of control”.[12]

During the hijacking of the airplanes, the hijackers used weapons to stab and kill aircraft pilots, flight attendants and passengers. Reports from phone callers from the planes indicated that knives were used by the hijackers to stab attendants and in at least one case, a passenger, during two of the hijackings.[13][14] Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones,[15][16] and provide details, including that several hijackers were aboard each plane, that mace or other form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray was used, and that some people aboard had been stabbed”

The statistics from that day are even worse.

The initial numbers are indelible: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. From there, they ripple out.

Total number killed in attacks (official figure as of 9/5/02): 2,819

Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343

Number of NYPD officers: 23

Number of Port Authority police officers: 37

Number of WTC companies that lost people: 60

Number of employees who died in Tower One: 1,402

Number of employees who died in Tower Two: 614

Number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald: 658

Number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom: 22

Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115

Ratio of men to women who died: 3:1

Age of the greatest number who died: between 35 and 39

Bodies found “intact”: 289

Body parts found: 19,858

Number of families who got no remains: 1,717

Estimated units of blood donated to the New York Blood Center: 36,000

Total units of donated blood actually used: 258

Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609

Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051

Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20

FDNY retirements, January–July 2001: 274

FDNY retirements, January–July 2002: 661

Number of firefighters on leave for respiratory problems by January 2002: 300

Number of funerals attended by Rudy Giuliani in 2001: 200

Number of FDNY vehicles destroyed: 98

Tons of debris removed from site: 1,506,124

Day’s fires continued to burn after the attack: 99

Jobs lost in New York owing to the attacks: 146,100

Days the New York Stock Exchange was closed: 6

Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: 422,000

It took the United States of America 26 days to respond with our full weight and power.

Through November of 2009 according to Stephen M.Walt on a website called, “Foreign Policy” 148,000 Muslims have been killed by US bombing runs and the military in 2 different Muslim countries.

Ironically, all these folks have been killed and we still do not have the one who was the mastermind of the fear in which we live today. Also, we still get his or his minions’ little taped messages to keep the fires of fear going.

In fact those in this country those who make their living as purveyors of fear have simply become more organized and more powerful. Can you say “Tea-Party”?

The religious and political right wing zealots of the world are so “fearful” of anyone that doesn’t fit their definition morality and faith and their fight is so fierce, they will throw any manner of fecal (fear) matter at the fan and it just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks. Those sticking points of fear today are homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Iranians’ and anyone who doesn’t believe President Obama is a socialist who is secretly a Muslim born outside the USA.

I have come to recognize that this fear and concern is deeply rooted in the way we were and are taught to view God. So in essence, the only way to get past those fears is to change the way we view God.

I have recently been re-reading a book written by Bruce Bawer, called Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. From this book I have come to understand the real source of the fears played on by the zealots of our day.

The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bauer states:

“Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission–the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, ‘go to all the nations and make them my disciples’–liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'”

What these few words essentially say is that we have a choice as to whether we understand and live with a God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specific way or we will be punished or we understand and live with a God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

All one has to do is read the story or the “prodigal son” to make the obvious choice.

Yet what get’s focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and the self-proclaimed authority figures who have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Iranians’ and anyone who doesn’t believe President Obama is a socialist who is secretly a Muslim and born outside the USA are allowed to pursue a life in which “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, yes there is a choice to be made.

Otherwise, why did Jesus spend almost his entire earthly ministry bringing the outcasts, those outside the law back to the fold?

Why did Jesus, when asked to state what the greatest commandment was, say to Love God and to love your Neighbor?

He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the day, rather he spent all of his time telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and live that love.

The women caught in adultery released, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion’s slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.

Jesus’ words:

“Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother’s eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?”
–Matthew 7: 1-3

“Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men’s backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them…
Matthew 23:1-4

“But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! Because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?”
–Matthew 23: 13-17

Yes, we can choose to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around us or we can choose to live by the teachings of Jesus and his examples.

We can belong to the church of the religious leaders and know it alls and continuing killing people of other faiths at an alarming rate or we can follow the type of faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for.

A faith that was to include all those whom the religious leaders of the day said was not part of God.

In the end the religious and political right gets and maintains its power from fear.

Fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must begin to listen to, believe and live the word’s of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!”

Saturday will be September 11, 2010-the 9th observance of the day “fear” found a home in our country. Maybe after we spend some time remembering those who died a horrific death and all the carnage that has come about since we might take some time to consider these quotes and with God’s help we can be a people who honor, uphold and celebrate the diversity which makes us strong rather than live in and with a fear which will ultimately destroy us all.

“Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free health-care. You’re thinking of Jesus.” – John Fugelsang

..”cares about the welfare of the people, their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.” ~ John F. Kennedy, 1960

“Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I am made in the image of God, but not necessarily your image of God.”

“How many people have to be in hell before you’ll feel safe in your salvation?” Alan Jones

“Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”–Mahatma Ghandi

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” -Karl Barth-

“Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” President Barack H. Obama January 20, 2009

“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice” Cherokee Expression

Hysteria and Paranoia

By the time readers are done reading this particular blog I may lose a few friends, maybe a few church members and a few colleagues will finally have proof that “I have just finally gone over the cliff.”

Those who are promoting the hysteria and paranoia around the building of a mosque near “ground zero” in New York City are in the truest sense of the word “idiots”. I am using this word in the modern sense of it’s understanding: “describing an extreme folly or stupidity, and its symptoms (foolish or stupid utterance or deed).

Yes, for a pastor this is VERY strong language, however this controversy is an embarrassment to me as a follower of Christ, an embarrassment as a reasonable educated person and an embarrassment as an American.

First and foremost the term “the Ground Zero Mosque” is misleading and a lie. This proposed building is a full four city blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.

In most cities such as Chicago and New York where the geography is grid like, there are about 8 blocks to a mile. 4 blocks would be almost a half a mile from where the World Trade Center stood. This is hardly “ground zero”.

According to Gary Leupp who is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University this whole ridicules controversy got it’s start from a person by the name of Pamela Geller.

Pamela Geller, who maintains a blog called Atlas Shrugs. She has written a book about Barack Obama in which she alleges his real father was Malcolm X. She leads an apparently tiny wacko group called Stop the Islamization of America. Seeing the opportunity to have her moment in the sun (and she is soon interviewed by FOX News and CNN), she lashes out at Cordoba House. She declares on her blog, “this is not about religious liberty. No one has suggested abridging the First Amendment to stop the mosque, and to oppose the Ground Zero mosque is not to oppose the First Amendment. There are hundreds of mosques in New York, thousands in America. This is not a religious issue. This is an issue of national dignity and respect for those who were murdered at that site in the name of Islam.” She begins to organize a protest at the Park Place site.

Soon New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser references Geller’s group, falsely describing it as a “human rights group.” This brings the movement against the “Ground Zero mosque” out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream press. She sensationalizes the issue, falsely reporting that the center is to open on Sept. 11, 2011. A “controversy” erupts.

I would encourage readers to click on Gary Leupp’s name above to read the full article, as it is an excellent time line of something, which should not be an issue.

The time line continues and shows after the media gets a hold of Geller and gives her 15 seconds of fame, the half-term governor of Alaska, Sara Palin and then Georgia’s own adulterer former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich weigh in:

July 16 Sarah Palin weighs in. Addressing not Muslims specifically but “Peaceful New Yorkers,” Sarah Palin twittered: ” pls refudiate [sic] the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.” She adds two days later (after ammending “refudiate” to “refute”), “Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. . .” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expresses outrage in multiple statements over the next month: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” “It’s not about religion,” he insists, “and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.” He says the center will be a symbol of Muslim “triumphalism,” and that building the mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.”

He writes, “‘Cordoba House’ is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain-the capital of Muslim conquerors, who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex… every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.” In response to this absurd allegation the center organizers change the name to “Park51.”

(Gingrich who postures as an historian and scholar might have noted the Visigothic church was purchased by the conquering emir after 718 and that the Arabs during their rule in Spain pursued a policy of far greater religious tolerance than the Christians had before them. They allowed churches and synagogues to operate freely. When the Christians regained power, they expelled all Jews and Muslims, or forced them to convert, and conducted the Spanish Inquisition.)

Come on Mr. Gingrich, you know full well Saudi Arabia an Islamic country. You only go to that country if you are on invited. So if you plan on going, you do as you are requested in the home of the host.

If you go to the Vatican, you cannot practice another faith in Vatican City, it’s their laws. It is the same as in Saudi Arabia. I know it sounds harsh, but if you choose to go there you are allowed to practice your faith in the privacy of your own living quarters while there, I am not naive enough to say you cannot pray to your own source while here. However, there is just no open propagation.

Further it is well known fact that in the United States of America unlike many countries in the world “religious freedom” is held sacred and considered a constitutional right.

Both Palin and Gingrich in their quest for political power and capitalizing on people’s fear conveniently forget some of the biggest groups to come into the United States were those seeking relief from religious persecution.

Further, all these folks from the “right” forget the history of Christians has its moments of incredible terrorism based on fear and arrogance as well.

Remember the Salem Witch Trials?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

Let’s look at one trial transcript to get a feel for what hysteria and paranoia produce:

The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft. The fact that Thomas Newton, special prosecutor, selected Bishop for his first prosecution suggests that he believed the stronger case could be made against her than any of the other suspect witches. At Bishop’s trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop’s image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. A villager named Samuel Grey told the court that Bishop visited his bed at night and tormented him. A jury of matrons assigned to examine Bishop’s body reported that they found an “excrescence of flesh.” Several of the afflicted girls testified that Bishop’s specter afflicted them. Numerous other villagers described why they thought Bishop was responsible for various bits of bad luck that had befallen them. There was even testimony that while being transported under guard past the Salem meeting house, she looked at the building and caused a part of it to fall to the ground. Bishop’s jury returned a verdict of guilty. One of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall, aghast at the conduct of the trial, resigned from the court. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop’s death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged.

It was this kind of hysteria and paranoia that was cause for Japanese who where American citizens to be rounded up after Pearl Harbor and placed in camps.

It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia which has police officers in Arizona and Gwinnett County asking brown skin people for their papers.

It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia that does not allow LGBTQI people to serve in the military.

It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia that denies the LGBTQI community marriage.

Let us not forget the American Indians had no idea they were savages until the Christians arrived on their land.

Let us not forget Tim McVey and Eric Rudolph were driven by their Christian roots to commit acts of terrorism.

Let us not forget Adolph Hitler considered himself a Catholic until the day he died. In 1941 he told Gerhard Engel, one of his generals: “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” In fact, Hitler was never excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and Mein Kampf was not placed on the Church’s Index of Forbidden Books.

Let us not forget the newest whacko pastor at the “Dove World Outreach Center” in Gainesville, Florida — a “New Testament church, based on the Bible” — to promote an “International Burn a Quran Day” this September 11.

Gee, I wonder what kind of press would be gotten if we held a bible burning day every time some Christian committed an act of violence?

Let us not just gloss over the insanely racist blog of Mark Williams who is quoted by Professor Leupp:

“The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god (repeat: ‘the terrorists’ monkey-god.” if you feel that fits a description of Allah then that is your own deep-seated emotional baggage not mine, talk to the terrorists who use Allah as their excuse and the Muslims who apologize for and rationalize them) and a ‘cultural center’ to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult. It is a project of American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, essentially the same group of apologists (but under 2 different names) for terrorists and the animals who use it as a terrorist ideology. They cloak their evil with new age gibberish that suggests Islam is just misunderstood.”

My point here is not to deride the Christian faith, but to simply say we have not held the entire religion accountable because of whackos in the faith.

Richard W. Bulliet, Professor of History Middle East Institute Columbia University probably sums it up best when he says, “Jim Jones, David Koresh and Meir Kahane do not typify Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the civilized West, but those same eyes are prone to see Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar as typifying Islam,”

I wonder why that is? Maybe because we as Christians know even less about Islam then we do of Judaism. For instance do most people know Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of life is to worship God.[5] They regard their religion as the completed and universal version of a primordial, monotheistic faith revealed at many times and places before, including, notably, to the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

How about this verse found in the Quran: “Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians…and (all) who believe in God and the last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” The Qur’an, 2:62

9-11 was the idea and mission of one man and a handful of his followers; let us spend our energy, resources and efforts to bring these people to justice. To continue this ridiculous controversy is to forget what made this country a world leader, what despite its many flaws made it the best place in the world to live.

Judaism, Islam and Christianity at their core, are related and deeply connected, we share the same God. In this country “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I dare say if we continue this path of hysteria and paranoia then these truths we hold as self-evident will be a thing of the past and we will have become that which feared.

Oh Rubbish, You have No Power Here

As I sit here writing this blog, I cannot help but feel the intense emotion of pride for our LGBTQ community. Sometimes we mess up and get ourselves over reactive to situations brought to our community. Yet, not this time…this time we did it correctly. This time we allowed our enemies to put their sizable feet right into their mouths.

As every one knows “The National Organization for Marriage” (NOM) found their way to our little part of the world. To say the rally they held was a complete and utter failure is to understate how bad it really was for them.

As has been reported by various sources they were lucky if the number of attendees reached 20 (this is minus reporters, speakers, entertainers, and the Capital police).

Meanwhile across Washington Street, 300 plus of the LGBTQ community and straight allies showed up to give witness to the fact we are diverse, wise and a gentle people.

I say diverse because in that crowd were straight, gay, queer, trans, black, white, Latino, Asian as well as many other ethnic groups.

I say diverse because there were punks, Goths, suburbanites, college students, employed, unemployed, people of faith, people of no faith and there was even a gnome.

I say wise and gentle because when it was first announce NOM was headed this way, leaders in the LGBTQ community got together and discussed, argued, and struggled with how to respond to these bullies.

This process was a beautiful example of how creative the LGBTQ community can be when we decide to act as opposed to re-act.

A two-step approach was decided upon. First, hold our own rally to state our case, to tell our stories and to give support to the community as a whole.

Second, join with the clergy of different faiths to stand in silence and to be a witness to the lies and hatred brought forth by the likes of NOM and other power and control freaks. To give witness to the fact that when a community has truth and love on their side there is not a need to shout down or threaten.

So often the radical right speak as if the LGBTQ community and its allies are not in the room. They tell stories to the media that are sensational and full of the language of fear. Not this particular Saturday in August.

No this Saturday in August while the President of NOM was talking about being attacked, shouted down and otherwise belittle, he had to look across the street and whine to our face. For you see there we stood quietly yet firmly in place giving him his opportunity to be “chicken little”.

In a contrast which was there for the world to see he came off as angry, bitter and at a loss for a good reason why our community should be denied the 1300 plus rights and privileges he gets to enjoy because he’s white, straight and married.

Things only got worse for them when they brought Alveda King, the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the stage. She actually said,

“It is statistically proven that the strongest institution that guarantees procreation and continuity of the generations is marriage between one man and one woman. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to be extinct and none of us wants to be. We don’t want genocide, we don’t want to destroy the sacred institution of marriage.”

By contrast, there we stood witness to the fact we have been here as long as straight people and never in all of that time has the LGBTQ attempted a systematic killing of a racial or cultural group. Nor is the world’s population in danger of extinction because of LGBTQ people. However, a case could be made that NOM and organizations like them would be perfectly happy if the LGBTQ community were the victims of genocide or made to be extinct.

Yes, our community did the right thing on this Saturday. We stood strong, committed and unified in the belief we belong in the room, we have a place in this world that is creative, beautiful and with a moral value. Yes, we are here to stay!

The only thing missing from this particular Saturday was the ability to relive a line or two from the “Wizard of Oz” re-written for especially for NOM, which I am happy to say now:

“NOM: You stay out of this or we’ll fix you as well.

LGBTQ Community: Oh rubbish. You have no power here. Be gone before somebody drops a house on you.”

What a Dog Can Teach Us About the Best Antidote to Fear Ever

Rev. Eugene H. Peterson, who is a “Professor Emeritus” of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver B.C. is the author of one of newer translations 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.”

As most of my readers know, our fair city of Atlanta is about to get a visit from The National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Dr. Peterson could have very easily been talking about them.

After reading and following on the web the rallies these folks are holding, it is really hard for me as a pastor not to speak out, hell shout out. The rallies are nothing more then “shock and awe” events designed to perpetuate the fear of the big bad homosexual agenda is about to destroy life in America, as we know it.

The GA Voice reported NOM’s theme by quoting from a press release,

“We’re excited to get on the road and meet people face-to-face, sharing with them the importance of marriage and how critical the future of marriage is to our country,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president, in a recent press release. “Marriage will be a key national issue once the California Prop 8 battle gets to the Supreme Court. We need Americans to rally behind marriage as the union of one man and one woman and tell the Courts and state legislatures that marriage matters.”

Are you kidding me? This is the theme for a national event?

I really don’t want to take up more written space on why this is a ridiculous smoke and mirrors kind of statement. I spent sufficient space pointing that out in my last blog.

However, this statement and what this group represents are about something far more sinister, evil and dangerous. You see they want you to believe they are representative of “true” Christianity. However, this “truth” is based on a “fear” of God.

If one does any channel surfing with the TV it will not be long before a TV preacher in “full preaching mode” will be seen 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, which does not “fear” the Lord and eradicate this horrible sin against God.

It is the preacher’s use of the word “fear” that always gets my attention.

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

Jimmy Swaggart built a religious empire based on this crap and his message of fear was so deep as to feel it was OK to say he would kill us and then lie to God about it. Think I am kidding…check it out: http://www.spike.com/video/jimmy-swaggart-would/2650343

Let us not forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are always proclaiming 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.

These fools who are coming to Atlanta are no different.

Make no mistake these people don’t give a damn about 2 people being in love and living a full life, they are simply interested in proclaiming a sadistic God who creates humanity gives it a brain to think, reason and a free will only to kill them off when it uses it’s brain, thinks and exercises a free will.

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 teaching of Jesus as a whole.

In fact Jesus made a comment or two on this kind of theology,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Now we should recognize fear is a natural and normal event for human beings, it is part of the creation.

Sigmund Freud had 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 by NOM 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 are alive 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 Wildmon’s “American Family Association” newsletter, this dude has always got his hand out for money over what might happen.

Think about the fact NOM has raised 2.9 million based on their fear message.

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.

Better yet look what fear has accomplished in the state of Arizona.

These same people who bring the message of fear concerning the LGBTQ community also have other fear messages.

This same “fear message” says women must submit to men.

This same “fear message” says one must be pro life and than willingly support the snuffing out the life of another human being by lethal injection.

This is nothing more then late term abortion, but then what do I know.

This same “fear message” says women do not have a place in the pulpit.

This same “fear message” says if their “cash-cow” pastor gets a divorce it is OK to change the rules so the cash keeps coming in.

This same “fear message” makes law that sweep the homeless off the streets and into jail.

We in the LGBTQ community must stop deceiving ourselves. This is not about “gay marriage”. This is about causing sufficient fear so as to control our soul, control the very essence of who we are as God’s people.

Therefore when NOM arrives we must greet them with a different message…

We must speak the truth of God’s love for all people. We must speak this truth as a whole creation of God, rather then some freaky “love that dare not speak its name”.

We must make this claim with the full knowledge that we are uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God.

We must celebrate our gifts because we are gay, lesbian, bi or transgendered and God has something for us to do, something to give back to this world. We must be intentional in pointing out our contributions to our community.

We must claim our history, our heroes. We must act rather the re-act. We must point out that some of the best; the brightest and most articulate people of the world have come from the LGBTQ community.

We must point out that in blighted urban areas, it is our talented and creative community who rebuilds and puts life back into those areas.

We must point out we are the military, teachers, police and fire personal. We are athletes, writers, actors, preachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. We must point out we are woven tightly into the fabric of life.

We must remind them they have been trying to kill us off for centuries and we are still here stronger and more blessed then ever.

We must talk about how in the midst of our young dying that we have taught the world how to die with dignity and to live life to the fullest.

We must confront and refute the blatant lies and fear mongering of these religious bigots. Now is not the time to sit quietly in the comfort of our homes while the LGBTQ people of the world continue to die, get beat to the point of death or drown out who they are in alcohol and drugs.

Finally we must take to heart why NOM’s message of fear will ultimately fail as this wonderful story illustrates…

“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.”

So when NOM arrives I will be there to shout loudly and clearly, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 New International Version)

Look Up in the Sky… It’s a Bird… No a plane… No it’s…

The “National Organization for Marriage”: Protecting Marriage and the Faith Communities that Sustain It.

They will be in Atlanta in early August to attempt through slick lies and fear mongering convince the people of Georgia by allowing our community to get married it will be the end of the world and the precious institution will be ruined.

According to their website the concern is:

“For over a decade, the institution of marriage, the very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning. Now, for the first time since its passage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) is being directly threatened. And probably more threateningly, a federal lawsuit in California is challenging the validity of Proposition 8- a measure passed by voters defining marriage between one man and one woman- on core Constitutional grounds. All observers believe this case is headed for the Supreme Court, where 5 justices could create a “constitutional right for homosexual marriage,” which will put into question what marriage means for every American across the nation.

It is time for the people to stand up and make it clear that they will not let marriage be redefined. Now, more than ever, is the time to rally behind marriage and let our voices be heard. The National Organization for Marriage is launching the month-long, nationwide Summer for Marriage Tour 2010: One Man One Woman. The tour will criss-cross the east coast, mid-west and southern states to hold a series of 20 rallies to encourage supporters to stand up for marriage. Many of the states we are visiting are the key battlegrounds in this critical debate.”

In 2008 these folks raised $2,967, 495. So let there be no doubt these folks are playing hardball and intend to destroy the sanctity of our relationships along the way.

The reason for concern here is because NOM is not just your run of the mill homophobic group. They are taking a new direction by saying our community is taking from them what is not rightfully ours. With a slick marketing campaign they are attempting to throw us out of a room we have been in all along.

The brilliance of their approach is not so much in what they say but rather what they do not acknowledge, either by omission or a distortion of the truth.

On their website one of the talking points is as follows:

“Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is:

“Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. Some modify it to “People have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

Language to avoid at all costs: “Ban same-sex marriage.” Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”

It strikes me this approach is a little like up North where I am from it was the “Civil War” or the “War between the States”. Yet here in the south this same history is described as “The War of Northern Aggression”. Let us be real here, marriage has been redefining itself for centuries.

So let us clarify some things here. Maybe the definition of the word would be helpful. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary marriage is defined as follows:

mar·riage
Pronunciation: ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
Date: 14th century

1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union

Wow, would you look at that the LGBTQ community made it into Webster’s. Folks, that is not we trying to redefine…that is scholarship’s recognition of what is.

NOM says, “The very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning.”

What poppycock. There has been no real clear marriage tradition or understanding of just what exactly marriage is for centuries. One man and one woman? Please, in Old Testament times the more wives a man had the better. Marriages prior to the 20th century had more to do with property rights, business agreements, and certain families being brought together to consolidate political power.

I said earlier they were trying to throw us out of a room we are already in. According to “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Various types of same-sex marriages have existed,[40] ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.[41]

While it is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly used by mixed-sex couples, recent publicity and debate over the past decade gives an impression that civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples is novel and untested. There is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world.[42] It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome,[42] some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history.[43] A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 342 CE prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome, but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.[44]”

The States or the Government didn’t really have anything to do with marriage
until the 1800’s and moving forward to now. Since, the feds have gotten involved there has been an ever steady set of rights and privileges which go along with this thing called marriage.

Today Kathy Belge, from About.com Guide writes:

“According to Lambda Legal Defense, more than 1,400 legal rights are conferred upon heterosexual married couples in the United States. By not being allowed to marry, gays and lesbians are denied these rights. Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:
Joint parental rights of children
Joint adoption
Status as “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions
Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
Crime victim’s recovery benefits
Domestic violence protection orders
Judicial protections and immunity
Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
Public safety officer’s death benefits
Spousal veterans benefits
Social Security
Medicare
Joint filing of tax returns
Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
Child support
Joint Insurance Plans
Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
Estate and gift tax benefits
Welfare and public assistance
Joint housing for elderly
Credit protection
Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

NOM also argues, “Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage.” It is also pointed out by this group that church’s will be forced to do weddings they disapprove of.

Again, this is a flat lie…Church’s have never been forced to marry a couple which did not meet the requirements of a particular church.

I should also note there are several denominations including Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Quaker, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, Reform Jewish congregations, several independent-progressive churches and some Anglican dioceses which now recognize what has become known as “Gay-Marriage”.

So, the debate concerning “gay marriage” continues to new heights of passion and meanness. There is now this national organization helping stir the pot.

NOM says they are concerned about faith communities. Frankly, NOM is just using that as a tool. I suspect the basic reason for this is as with most right wing conservatives is centered on power and control issues.

Those who have defined marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexuals want to continue to control the rules. It is a “Members (who meet the standard) Only Club”.

Marriage in today’s sense is less about two people who love each other deeply and commit to living in a way that will enhance that love.

I find it just a tad ironic our people have always had to choose to be together for the most part because they love each other deeply and now simply desire the Government to recognize that.

After 28 years of “marriage” to my partner I can safely say we made this far not because of any encouragement or support society gave us. We made this far because our love for one another is as wide as any ocean and as high as any mountain.

So I wonder from a faith and spiritual stand point what God is more concerned with, love and commitment or power and control?

We live in a world where marriage vows are usually not worth the paper they are written on. 50% of all first marriages will end in divorce and 60% of all 2nd and third marriages will end before “death do us part”.

If Marriage is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship or from the church point of view a covenant between two people and God then we are talking about the total investment of those involved.

I wonder if God is more concerned about broken promises or covenants that call on people to go deeper in their relationship than simple vows.

Finally, I wonder from a spiritual perspective if a God who by biblical definition is both male and female is really concerned about the gender identity of a couple who are willing to live in covenant with each other.

After all, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, in other words which commandment should be the basis of who and what we are, his reply was, “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 prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If these commandments are where it begins and ends — I believe our God is far more interested in covenants of love regardless of gender identification rather than alleged traditional marriage, which NOM is trying to save, and nowhere in any of their talking points do they address these two commandments for which all the law and prophets hang.

So how about NOM? Maybe take some of that 2.9 million you raised in 2008 and use it to give a drink to the thirsty, or feed the hungry, or cloth the naked or visit the sick and imprisoned. Maybe while you are in town you could provide some beds for the 11,000 homeless in Metro Atlanta. Or better yet how about taking your time, energy and resources and save the building for the “Task-Force for the Homeless”.

Defiantly Inclusive

Did you ever wonder why when something happens to one of our folks in the community it is almost always followed by stories that discredit the victim?

Remember Matthew Shepard? The child was not warm yet in the arms of God when the stories started circulating he may have set himself up for being tied to a fence tortured and murdered.

Remember the fella who got beat up leaving one of our gay watering holes? It didn’t take long for stories to get started that his behavior may have lead to his beating.

Let us not forget the murder, which took place in Piedmont Park. One could have set their watch by how long it took to be pointed out he was there cruising for sex.

Then of course we have the unsolved murder of Precious Armani, who in many accounts was described as a “cross-dresser” for hire.

Now most recently, we have the young man from Savannah hit so hard as to have his brain bruised by one of two US Marines because he may have winked at them?

Straight men better hope and pray women around the world don’t remember this story the next time they wink at the object of their desire!

Again, one could have set their watch by how long it took to publish stories that well maybe he did do something to deserve to be damn near killed.

Could someone please explain to me what an incident of “road rage” and an alleged racial slur have to do with an alleged wink, or squint that results in being knocked out cold in the middle of the street?

No, if the racial slur happened it is not cool…but damn people it is not even remotely connected to this “big tough Marine” having his manhood allegedly offended and his hysterical response.

For those who want to know more about this story, the police report has now been published and if it weren’t such a serious matter it would be “Saturday Night Live” funny.

The police officer found the two tough US Marines hiding in a vacant lot, saying they were waiting for a friend and had just been trying to get away from a homosexual who was harassing them. These two are trained to fight and kill terrorists…damn what power we little old homosexuals have!

Finally, while not as violent physically it certainly was violent emotionally. I got e-mail the other day at the office “demanding” I justify my position regarding homosexuality. Saying they were not trying to be argumentative but were trying to understand. Now mind you I do not know this person or ever had any contact with them until they jumped into my playground…

Well, I fell into the trap and spent 3 or 4 hours writing a response, which clearly stated where I was coming from, how our church operated and what we saw as the main work of the church to be. Here is the response:

“YES AND YOU STILL ARE TWISTING SCRIPTURE! G-D CONDEMNS SEXUALLY IMMORALS! JAMES EVE STATES: 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. [HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE, THE MOST ACCURATE IF YOU ARE SERIOUS OF ABOUT G-D’S WORD]. YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE! YOU MAY BE GENTLE BUT YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE! HEED THE WORDS OF THE MASTER HIMSELF IN MATTHEW 19: 4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” HE MAKES A DIRECT QUOTE FROM TORAH GENESIS 2: 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. AS I HAVE SAID I WAS RAISED JEWISH, I WAS ORTHODOX, I KNOW WHAT THE HEBREW SAYS, I ALSO STUDIED BIBLICAL GREEK AND YOU TWIST THE WORDS! THE ONLY RESPONSE I HAVE TO GIVE YOU IS THIS:
7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur,which is the second death.” (ALL QUOTATIONS ARE FROM THE HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE, THE MOST ACCURATE BIBLE ONE CAN GET)! YOU WILL DIE THE SECOND DEATH, LIVE WITH IT! YOU AND YOU DISGUSTING COCK SUCKING HUSBAND WILL BE IN ETERNAL HELL FIRE! YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS TO EITHER TURN OR BURN! REMEMBER THIS IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE LATE SIXTIES THAT LIBERAL LUKEWARMERS LIKE YOURSELF STARTED TO TWIST WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY TEACHES! ALTHOUGH I AM NOT FOR THE NIV TRANSLATION (IT IS AS BAD AS THE MESSAGE), I WILL SUGGEST THAT YOU PURCHASE FOR YOURSELF THE ZONDERVAN NIV ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE AS IT HAS WONDERFUL ARTICLES IN IT INCLUDING HOMOSEXUALITY IN PAUL’S TIME AND IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST, IF THIS DOES NOT SET YOU STRAIGHT IN YOU FALSE DOCTRINE, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT WILL! YOU ARE A WALKING CURSE AS YOU PREACH FALSE DOCTRINES AND A FALSE GOSPEL! EITHER TURN OR BURN, THOSE ARE YOUR ONLY OPTIONS!”

Yup, that is a response from a “concerned Christian” who felt they had the right not to just shout in this email but to scream at me, (like right in my face kind of thing) and threaten me with eternally death, not to mention set it up so if some wacko shoots me I deserve it.

I got to tell you it feels a whole lot like what happens to women at rape trials or in domestic violence situations. Well, if she hadn’t been where she was…if she hadn’t been wearing what she was wearing…well if she had not drank so much as to be inviting.

Of course usually by the time the defense attorney was done with the cross examination, one would think she had invited the rape or the beating because the victim was of not good character.

The sad truth of this is in our enlighten world is we know and acknowledge the act of rape or abuse is not about sex, but rather is a violent act of power and control.

There has been in our society a prevailing thought that says men are powerful and women are to be controlled, therefore they bear the responsibility for what happens to them. They should know how to conduct themselves so as to not put them in danger. Therefore, women should not smoke, drink, go out to clubs or dress in ways which are inviting or tempting for the male to loose control. Women are responsible for maintaining a “high moral standard”.

We know this phenomenon as “sexism”. Well, a dear college of mine coined a phrase years ago, which explains why those in our community who are victims of violence are so often discredited. Suzanne Pharr wrote a book about the subject entitled, “Homophobia, the Weapon of Sexism.”

This book was written in 1988 and while there has been progress it still rings true.

Our community is truly caught in this trap of sexism. At the bottom of this snake pit of homophobia and sexism is the church…everything from blaming original sin on Eve and Old Testament teachings saying men should not behave like women to denominations saying women much less homosexuals have no place in the church or pulpits.

Yes, I know it is not every church and yes I know there are plenty of churches fighting this crap.

Yet, I got to tell you it is not enough and they are not loud enough. People are dying, being killed, committing suicide, falling into drug use and losing families over this crap not just once a week but every day, yes every day!

A pastor that I find myself working with often in the community who disagrees with me on almost every point concerning homosexuality said,

“All that said, those who engaged in homosexual behavior are people—who need love and forgiveness, and who need to understand the love of God. It is hard to engage in cultural battle and still have people feel that you love and accept them. Ugly rhetoric, inappropriate jokes, ridicule and violence of any kind should be off limits. And most importantly, we need to do a better job in our own marriages so we don’t lose the moral authority to talk about these issues. We obviously have a lot of work to do.”

No sir, with my brothers and sisters dead in the streets and parks, beat up and abused, fired from their jobs, told to not ask and not tell, our gathering places raided by the police on the smallest complaint around neighborhood values Where people feel they are justified in sending emails like the afore mentioned, where the church feels it can stop me from being married, passing on property, visiting my husband in the hospital, and having the right of raising a family and with heterosexual marriage experiencing a 50-60% divorce rate…you have already lost your “moral authority”.

It is time for a new team to step up and be heard.

It is time for the inclusive, affirming and progressive community to like Moses, like Gandhi and like Jesus to stand up to the arrogance of religious authority. Such arrogance presumes to know what is best for others, indeed, even to know what God thinks. Ultimately, such arrogance assumes that some should be excluded from the human community. The response of Moses, Gandhi and Jesus was a defiant reaching out in order to include the excluded. So my friends how defiantly inclusive will you be today?

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