Tag Archives: LGBT

Three Reasons Why the Fight for Equality Isn’t About Marriage

Now that the rush of excitement is over and we’ve digested the Supreme Court commentary and maybe even listened to all or part of Question 1 or Question 2, all we can do is wait for the Court to… er, validate our lives.

And while we’re waiting, I’d like to make another case: The case for actual equality. Here’s why:

  • LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing or public accommodations for no other reason than the simple fact of who we are in just about as many states as same-gender couples can now get legally married.
  • Transgender people worldwide are regularly shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured, strangled, hanged or stoned — generally to death — simply for being who they are. It’s why the single biggest transgender-focused event in any community is a day of remembrance to honor those who have suffered in the last 365 days.
  • About 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT. LGB youth are also 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers — and this is in a context where suicide is already the second leading cause of death among young people age 10-24.

And this is to say nothing of adoption rights, wage gaps, transgender underemployment and unemployment… you get the picture.

My point being that, while it will be thrilling to see same-gender love advance from second-class status in America, it’s important for us — and for our allies and observers — to understand that the fight for marriage equality in many ways happened on its own timetable thanks to the courts. So if there is a Big Gay Agenda, it’s not exactly a to-do list and marriage is now at the top.

In fact, the actual Big Gay Agenda is probably not much of a list at all, because it really only has one thing on it: Equality. True equality. The kind that results in less discrimination, violence, despair, scapegoating and loss. Because when we are truly equal, more of us are able to rise up to contribute to our world in all the big and small ways that make everyone richer.

Maybe it would be better for everyone to see equality as the hub of a mighty big wheel we’re all trying to build in order for LGBT people to live with dignity. Marriage equality is just one of an awful lot of spokes that still need to be built if that wheel is going to support all of us. We need marriage equality, but it’s just the latest sprint in a very long and important marathon.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

The Road to Hell is Not Paved with Wedding Cake

On Tuesday I joined hundreds of other souls at the state Capitol to rally against the “religious liberty” bill making its way through the current legislative session — a bill that is clearly designed to be red meat for the conservative base. And by that I mean: It’s a distraction from the real issues the Legislature should be tackling.

Among those for whom this red meat is intended are apparently Christians who would believe that their eternal salvation might hinge on whether or not they baked a cake for a gay wedding. I am not making this up. (And I sincerely wish I were.)

So please add my voice to the growing chorus who say, not in my name. Not only because I do not believe a law like S.B. 129 belongs in Georgia (or anywhere), but also because I can assure you that God is not waiting to damn anyone for baking a cake.

What God is waiting for is for us to do something like this. Because God is already on our side. And by the way, Jesus spoke quite directly to our ability to get lost in a tangle of laws.

That’s my idea of exercising “religious liberty”. If the day ever came that my right to do those things were curtailed, then I would have grave concerns. But for now, I think the best thing we can do for ourselves as people and as a nation is to remember Jesus’ teaching that anyone who is not against us is for us. And in the meantime, there is much real work to do.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

“Erotic Liberty” Pastor Proves He’s Stuck on Stupid

Fair warning to you who are about to read this: It’s written with an “R” rating. It’s not sugar-coated, mealy-mouthed or any of the other indirect, passive-aggressive things you might expect from a pastor. In fact, I’m feeling quite aggressive.

Maybe I’m about to exercise my “aggressive liberty”. Now, if that term doesn’t make sense to you, read on to find out what was done in our names yesterday under the Gold Dome – which is a place that still apparently can be stuck disappointingly on stupid.

Let’s start with the Rev. Bryant Wright. He’s stuck on stupid for sure. But before I go into that, allow me refresh you on how the Urban Dictionary defines “stuck on stupid”: In a prolonged state of being completely clueless or too high to think straight. A second definition is: a person who cannot learn, a fool who repeats their mistakes time and again, a person who constantly screws up.

A bracing definition to be sure, but what happened yesterday in the state Legislature was just as bracing to me – and also hopefully to you. If you’re not sure why, keep reading.

You see, our fine General Assembly was witness yesterday to a “lesson in morals” sermon offered as the opening devotion – or invocation – to their session by a certain Rev. Bryant Wright, senior pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and a former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, who took that opportunity to denigrate the TLGB (transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual) community in the context of showcasing his support for the “religious liberty” non-issue that our fair Legislature apparently now likes to treat with the same perennial faux solemnity that the Christian-identity crowd has lovingly lavished on my other favorite example of seriously misguided Christianity-under-attack thinking: The never-ending fight against the never-declared “War on Christmas”.

AJC statehouse reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin reported via columnist Jay Bookman that the following came directly from Rev. Wright’s lips yesterday:

“It is just one example of what our culture is going to increasingly see as an issue of erotic liberty versus religious liberty,” Wright said. “We’re liable to see this with our military chaplains in the years ahead if they in good conscience believe they cannot perform same-sex weddings and could be kicked out of the military.”

That looming threat, he said, is a reminder of lawmakers’ role in making sure government is “protective of its citizens against evil and is working for the common good.” Religious liberty, Wright said, is a “foundational aspect” of the U.S. Constitution and is for the “common good and welfare of man.”

He urged legislators to remember the nation’s heritage “even though a majority of your constituencies have embraced erotic liberty over religious liberty.”

Erotic liberty?!? I really thought I’d heard it all, and then yesterday was a new day for me, and not in a good way.

Just what in all of God’s green earth does “erotic liberty” mean? And why, in particular, is it cast in opposition to so-called religious liberty? Is Rev. Wright saying that TLGB relationships are void of anything but sexual pleasure? Is he trying to impart that he sees TLGB sexual appetites as being so wildly out of control that sex is seriously all that they are about?

Please tell me people erupted in laughter yesterday in the Gold Trailer. Please.

But I suspect that’s not what happened – in fact I know it without even asking – and that’s just so sad at this late date in our evolution as a civilization. I also can’t decide if I’m more horrified at the thought that Rev. Wright earnestly believes what he said, or that he doesn’t actually believe it but said it because that’s his role as he sees it. Do you get where I’m coming from on that point? Because this is the age of hyperbole, and it’s becoming harder and harder to determine where the line between the real and the exaggerated actually lies anymore.

Maybe Rev. Wright and his ilk need to return all the videos that have been rented from Southern Nights or Inserection as “research material” and understand this: My partner and I have been together for 33 years. The amount of time we’ve spent in “erotic liberty”, I’m afraid, barely tips the scale compared to the amount of time we have spent in practicing “religious liberty”.

And of course, by “religious liberty” I am sure Rev. Wright meant: Going to worship services, leading bible studies, advocating for the abandoned in society, seeking housing for the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, spending time visiting the sick or imprisoned. Does the good Reverend’s definition of “religious liberty” include going to court alongside parishioners, or advocacy for the disenfranchised? Does it also include being a moral compass on race relations, immigration issues, or on unfair banking practices that cause people to lose their homes and livelihoods?

Because if that isn’t the good Reverend’s definition of “religious liberty”, then I really have no idea what it was God called me to be as a minister thirtysomething years ago, now working 60-70 hours a week, 50 weeks of the year. Or is he just stuck on stupid? (And by now I’m guessing you can tell that I’m being rhetorical with that particular question.)

But let’s humor Rev. Wright on one of his other points – i.e., that in the years ahead, if military chaplains in good conscience believe they cannot perform same-sex weddings, they could be kicked out of the military. Where in the world is he coming from on this? It was not that terribly long ago that military chaplains in good conscience would not perform interracial marriages, or interfaith marriages – yet when the military wisely (and perhaps, dispassionately) recognized that all human beings are created equal in the eyes of God, they adjusted for what would best serve their readiness objectives – an adjustment that just happens to be in tune with a higher moral law.

But Rev. Stuck-on-Stupid conveniently glossed over that and in doing so insulted everything America is actually about. And he did it in our state Legislature. Are you angry yet?

How exactly is his marriage, his religious practice, or his ability to preach on Sunday affected because a TLGB person is allowed to express their love, get married, or enjoy the ability to have a job? You can guess my answer: It’s because he’s stuck on stupid.

Please make a note dear Reverend, as perhaps I’m the first person to share this breaking story with you: Most of the country, most of Christianity, most of Judaism and many other faiths – in other words, the majority – are no longer stuck on stupid. The majority is no longer with you.

So what does that mean for Rev. Wright? It means he’s stuck in the past. He’s stuck in a past model of Christian religiosity that has been used to subjugate women, people of color – and really anyone who might have been inconvenient to the patriarchy at any given time. He’s willing to beat that tired old drum of denigrating a minority that he mistakenly thinks is a despised outlier.

Worst of all, he does it in the name of the God of love and the Jesus of redemption – and in the very city that was the capital of a civil rights movement whose members grew up hearing similarly mealy-mouthed broadsides lavished on them by the Rev. Wrights of their day. With the film “Selma” poised to make a fine showing at this year’s Oscars, what a sad day for Atlanta, the capital of the American civil rights movement, that Rev. Wright was given an audience by the state of Georgia just blocks from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. It’s almost surreal when you think about it. It’s like we just don’t learn, ever.

Once you recognize all that, I think you’ll agree with me that calling the good Reverend “stuck on stupid” is really quite nothing compared to the sad truth of who he actually is and how much he sincerely gets it wrong. Rather than being stuck on stupid, I do believe we followers of Jesus are called to be stuck on love – and the Rev. Bryant Wright is decidedly, sadly and regrettably not stuck on that. He is the outlier, not TLGB people or the people who love them.

And by the way, would you like to guess whose side the God of love and the Jesus of redemption are on? But there I go again with rhetorical questions.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Clearing Out the Temple

Since the end of March I have been trying to write my next blog. I know the subject I want to cover, but I have hit that “writers block” which is made of solid brick.

Part of the reason for the block is there is just so much un-Christian like behavior and events going on that about the time I settle into something I want to say or share something else happens and I find myself unable to write anything that makes any sense or is the least bit thought provoking.

While rummaging in my wasteland of a writers mind, a friend and colleague of mine Rev. Lisa Heilig needed to let off some steam concerning the world we live in and the community in which both are Pastor’s. She is one of those Pastor’s that I greatly admire because she is one who has a “pastor’s heart” and wears it right out there for everyone to see and experience. Currently she is on a Sabbatical so she can do further Studies in the Gospel, Culture, and the Transformation of the Church at Columbia Theological Seminary.

She like a lot of us who work so hard for our communities is tired and frustrated and when I read her words I knew what my block was about, what my frustration is and why I feel so helpless in writing about any subject much less anything pastoral.  She hit the old theological nail on the head!
So while I pull myself out of the swamp of unending excuses for not writing, I give you my friend’s pastoral rant.  I will have my mind cleared to write the blog about gun control and gun violence next week.  In the meantime without further delay I hope Rev. Lisa will touch your heart and jangle your nerves.
Warning: rant ahead. But, even though it is a little lengthy, please read to the end.
 I am over it. I am over the sexism, racism, heterosexism, Transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, and classism! I have witnessed, sometimes very closely, all of these happen over the years, but at least once in the last week.
I am over it when a woman says something and it is ignored until a man says the same thing. And, while I’m at it, rape jokes are NEVER funny.
I am over it when people of color are targeted by law enforcement in harsher ways and people in mixed race groupings are stared at.
I am over it that my wife of 19 years and I cannot just go down to the courthouse, but have to plan to go out of state to secure our rights.
I am over it that trans* and gender non-conforming people are victims of violence – physical, emotional, spiritual – so often.
I am over it that derogatory “jokes” based on nationality are considered funny.
I am over it that businesses (including some churches) are unwilling to make even minor accommodations for person with differing abilities.
I am over it that young people and their outlook and opinions are so often easily dismissed and that older people’s experience is devalued.
I am over it people are so concerned about affiliating with people and organizations that are the “right” ones, i.e., middle-class…
I am beyond over it with the ways that violence has been become so commonplace
I am over others saying those of us who share these experiences are “too sensitive” or playing a “card” or that when we hold people accountable for their actions of exclusion, that we are bullies.
While I am in rant mode, let me make this clear:
Just because I look like you, does not mean I think like you. And, just because I do not look like you, does not mean I don’t feel like you.
My parents grew up in a segregated South in the 60’s and probably should have been exclusionary and taught us to be, and yet, they did not.
They taught us LOVE.
Not perfectly, because none of us can. I remember one time asking them, specifically, about racism and how they escaped the worldview they grew up in.
My mother talked about how moved she was by watching the news reports about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement and how that spurred her to read and learn more. My father, A Vietnam vet with a colorful way with words, said that, “When the enemy’s on your ass, you don’t care the color of the person who’s got your back, you just care that they do.” They opened up and learned to know better and did better by their children.
I am not perfect, either, and despite my best intentions, may end up with a negative impact on someone or a group of someone’s – for times I have and will do this, I am truly sorry and beg forgiveness as I strive daily to know better and do better, to bring down barriers and build bridges.
And, in the end, although I am over all of the ways we hurt instead of help each other, I have hope for a world where we walk together in the ways of healing and wholeness for all.
It is a deeply spiritual hope that love will be lived out and peace will prevail, a hope bolstered by my faith in the God of my understanding, which is a God of radically inclusive love.
It is a hope strengthened by other situations that I get to see…
when little girls are praised for their smarts and strength, not just for being a pretty princess, when groups of children play together in harmony with no regard for the skin color of those next to them, when discriminatory marriage laws fall and more and more communities pass inclusive non-discrimination laws.
When trans* actress and activist Laverne Cox graces the cover of Time magazine and is interviewed in a respectful, thoughtful manner,
when the gifts and achievements of peoples of all nationalities are lifted up and honored.
When persons of differing abilities are included in the lives of our communities as a matter of course, when the leadership of youth is sought out and valued, and our elders are listened to and appreciated, when we care less about being affiliated and getting things done in the “right” way and more about coming together for good, and when we indeed come together, even in our pain, and find ways to reason together for peaceful resolutions.
We have so much work yet to do. And the work can seem so hard, but it isn’t really just about us. We tell our kids “It gets better” and it gets better faster if we work together with open hearts and minds, with compassion and kindness, so that when our faith flags, someone else can lift us up and carry us until we find our footing again.
Thank you to so many of you who do that for me. Rant is over,
The way and work of love calls – meet you there…
Amen sister, Amen!
Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

MARTA Beating: Pastoral Statement and Call to the Community

The beating of two transgender women on MARTA on May 20th was despicable and degrading.  But sadly, it happens again and again because the transgender community is laughed at, scorned and made fun of.  In my own community their needs are only dealt with as an afterthought.

In the world we live in today there is no “safe way” to be transgender: Some are living very out lives, and some are living fully “stealth” lives. Some are identifying as male, some as female and some as both and neither. Some live in small towns, and some in our metropolitan area. There are things we can do and must do, if the beatings, assaults and killing is to stop.

I would encourage our community and friends to:

  • Educate ourselves about transgender people and the issues which go with that.
  • Let us be aware of our attitudes concerning people with gender-atypical appearance or behavior.
  • Let us make more than a good faith effort to use names and pronouns that are appropriate to the person’s gender presentation and identity.
  • Let us not make assumptions about transgender people’s sexual orientation, desire for surgical or hormonal treatment, or other aspects of their identity or transition plans.
  • Let us keep the lines of communication open with the transgender person(s) in our lives.
  • Let us become more aware of the things which would make life easier and the transition smoother, i.e., markers on drivers licenses, applications and forms.
  • Let us not just sit on our lack of knowledge and understanding. Let us seek out support in dealing with our feelings. This is the 21st century and there are plenty of resources for us to get help.

I also affirm this day the call put forth by the SNaP Coalition‘s demands:

We are asking that the community bring these men forward and that a process of transformative justice be pursued.  We would demand these men attend a Men Stopping Violence course, are made to do community service in support of an LGBT community organization, and be confronted directly by the women they harmed and the larger community and made to hear the impact they have had.

But most importantly, we call on the institutions who are supposed to protect and serve all of us to take this as a call to action and transform the way they do business.  The City of Atlanta should be deeply disturbed by the acts of harassment and violence endured by trans* women both at the hands of the Atlanta Police Department in Midtown and other neighborhoods that have recently been brought to light and by the general public on trains, buses, and on the streets.  Our lives matter, trans* lives matter and we will no longer be silent or swept aside.  Enough is Enough!

God Bless,
Rev. Paul M. Turner

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Just Saying…

For the person of faith (in this case Christian) there is this standard which says we are suppose to be fair, merciful and be humble in our walk with God (Micah 6:8). 
Jesus taught the greatest love one can express is to lay their life down for another.
Jesus in his entire ministry only gave one command: “A new command I give you, to love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus also spent almost all his time in his active ministry eating with, partying, healing, loving, visiting, and embracing all those folks that the powers of the day and the really anal folks (conservative then Tea Party today) didn’t like and said were a travesty before God.
Jesus has reportedly said that if someone strikes us we should turn the other cheek.  He also said that if we want to kill (capital punishment) someone we ourselves have to be without sin.
Jesus also says that if we really want to be allowed into the Kingdom of God we need to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned.  By the way there are no if’s ands or buts’ about this list.  It is pretty straight forward and has no exceptions.
Not to mention in a post resurrection appearance Jesus very pointedly told Peter to mind his own damn business. (John 21:20-23)
So if we can all agree these are the major, moral imperatives of the faith, then a few questions need to be asked.
How can the State of Georgia House of Representatives and Senate (Many of whom loudly proclaim their Christian faith) say to my partner and I who have been in a blessed and holy relationship (marriage) in the eyes of our church (see GA. Law about what makes a church) for 31.5 years we are not married?
How does abunch of legislators (who also loudly proclaim their love for Jesus, at leastat election time) from the state of Kansas even consider much less “overwhelminglyapproved a measuredesigned to bring anti-gay segregation—under the guise of “religiousliberty”—to the already deep-red state.”?
How does Governor Bobby Jindal (A convert to Christianity) with a straight face say, “No church or church-affiliated organization, or individuals whose business is run in a manner consistent with their faith practices, should be required by the state to take steps in conflict with their religion. Nor should they be legally punished for how they treat marital arrangements outside the teachings of their faith. …”  So I guess we can view this two ways if you take into consideration my first question, but I digress.
How did the President of Uganda (a born again Christian) sign into law a bill thatwill jail LGBT people for life under the excuse given by a “Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo, confirmed that PresidentMuseveni made the decision at a conference of his governing NRM party. He addedthat the president based his decision on a report by medical experts whoreported that homosexuality is not genetic but a social behaviour.”?
How do those who call themselves good loving Christians allow for laws and city ordinances that turn homeless folks into criminals?
How are the good bible Christian folks in this country not simply outraged that the Olympics are being held in a country where LGBT people are being hunted down? Is it not interesting how Russia’s, Putin, is waltzing around Sochi promoting his Olympics just like Hitler did during the German Summer Olympic games of 1936.
Hitler was all the while plotting ways to get rid of the LGBT people in Europe. The atrocities that took place against the LGBT community in the 30s and 40s by Hitler are now continuing to occur in Russia.  By the way in this land it is not only my people in trouble as this is a land where the President laughs at our 1st, 2nd, 4th and 13th amendments, so no one is really safe.
Final question:  Why did a good Christian from GDOT order the bull dozing of an entire tent city of homeless men, women and children? 
Oh OK, one more question, Why did any good faith claiming, bible believing Christian even get onto the bulldozer?
Actually the answers are all in the book which these folks claim to live by but apparently have never read this part.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a]wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.11 The greatest among you will be your servant.12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.”  (Matthew 23:1-36 from the New International Version)

Just saying, yep just saying!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

We Are Not Three-Fifths of a Human Being

Marriage Equality, those two words have become the center of the final battle for gay rights.

How far we have come and how far we have yet to travel.  I remember when I was much younger and first coming to understand my sexual attraction and orientation the thought of marriage was not on my mind.

In fact, my first long term relationship didn’t consider getting married as most of who we were in fact was considered illegal.

The majority of our life was spent trying to get housing which was safe, not to be fired from our jobs and not get the crap kicked out of us for daring to live together.

The early “gay affirming” church called the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches” had a liturgy that was called a “Holy Union”.  This pretty much copied the traditional church wedding ceremonies’ and changed the pronouns to fit the same gender couple.

For a hot second that was enough, that is to have a church recognize your relationship and hold it as blessed in the eyes of God.

Of course the longer we were together with our partners the more we found out that while God may love us and embrace us, no one else was and especially the law.

We had no visitation rights for our partners when hospitalized, because we weren’t married.

We had no rights to our partner’s body when they died, because we were not married.  In the late 70’s and mid 80’s people were dying at an alarming rate.

We had no rights to pass on property without it being contested by family members, because we weren’t married.

If our partner had something catastrophic happen to them, we had no say in their treatment or care, because we were not married.

We could not have children, because we were not married.

We could not adopt children, because we were not married.

We could not be considered for credit together, because we were not married.

The longer a couple was together and the everyday obligations of living life became more and more complicated because we were not married.

As a couple we suffered at the hands of the IRS and tax breaks and credits because we were not married.

The list of discriminatory practices used against gay couples simply because they were not married amounts to thousands of laws both on a federal and state level.

Of course if a couple had an endless stream of cash flow, they could find a good lawyer to write up all kinds of legal documents for protection of the relationship that may or may not hold up in court, because wait here it comes; we were not married.

Thus began the fight for equality.

Now, I could write page upon page of horror stories of what has happened to couples in the 31 years my partner and I have been married in the eyes of our church.

In this journey of time one has heard all the arguments for and against allowing gay people to be treated equal in the church and in the eyes of the law.

We have heard all the negotiations for giving couples some rights by calling our relationships “civil unions”, “holy unions”, “domestic partnerships”.

We have seen the definition of marriage defined, re-defined and re-defined again.

Thanks to straight people the definition of marriage does not hold the same personal life time commitment of fidelity, integrity and love that I am sure we all want it to.

With divorce for first time marriages approaching 50% and 60% of 2nd marriages I failed to see how the gay community gets pulled into the argument of re-defining marriage.

This does not even take into consideration of the new reality TV shows for putting a man and women together or the lunacy of the Las Vegas marriage.  The straight community hasn’t needed us to destroy marriage; they have done very well on their own.

We have more than our fair share of folks in our own community who do not believe marriage is the ultimate goal for our community simple because straight people have been less than good role models of marriage at the minimum and total hypocrites at the worst.

So what is really at the bottom of this snake pit of fiery rhetoric and endless court battles?

Equality!  However, it is not equality the way it is being discussed and debated.  The issue is not about what the church will have to do or not do, accept or not accept.

It is not even about laws that allow for people to live their lives in relative safety and the pursuit of happiness.

What it is about is whether or not our straight counter parts see gay people as equal to them as human beings.

When I saw the movie “Lincoln” there is a piece of dialogue which clarified what actually is going on with “Marriage Equality”.

At some point in the movie Lincoln is in a conversation with a political ally about getting the 13th amendment passed. The ally is trying to explain to the President what the real challenge of the 13th amendment is.

The challenge it turns out is not putting an end to slavery but rather the country with the passage of the 13th amendment will have to give the “negro” the vote.  In other words once one could not hold people in slavery, one must recognize they are full human beings with all the rights and privileges that go with that.

Now I know that didn’t come till much later (100 years to be more exact) but this little piece of prophecy set the stage for the civil rights movement and the definition of “human rights”.

This struggle for “Marriage Equality” is the final argument of whether or not gay people are fully human, are on equal footing with the rest of this creation we call human.

It is the 3/5 of a human being all over again debate all over again.

Oh, I know the religious and political right have not used this exact language, it has been carefully avoided under the cover of morality and ethics of faith dogma or what is natural or not natural.

However, that is exactly what is being said to us.  As long as we are denied marriage equality the so called right can rest in the blessed assurance we are not fully human and therefore do not have to be treated equally under the law.

The conservatives within the Black community say this is not a civil rights issue and our community has taken heat for arguing for what we called our civil rights.

Of course for all the wrong reasons they are correct, this argument, this fight, this pitched battle has never been about civil rights, it is in fact about being seen as fully human, yes that is correct human rights!

My brothers and sisters in my community have gotten sucked into the wrong conversation.  We have been fighting for the right to not get fired, the right to live where we want in relative safety, the right to medical care etc.  Yet, even if we get all of that we will still be considered 3/5 of a human being because our love and expression of that is not equal.

We can now serve in the military, but we are not equal.

We can set up partnerships, but we are not equal.

We can serve in churches, but we are not equal.

We can have our jobs as long as we don’t claim to be equal.

The political and religious right is saying they are 6 foot tall and we are only 3.6 feet tall, so we can never fully have what they have.

They will give us civil unions, but that is not fully equal.

They will give us domestic partnerships, but that is not fully equal.

We can spend thousands of dollars to get legal paper work done, but it will not hold up because we are not fully equal.

We can fight and win the right of job protection, but we are not equal.

We can have hate crime laws passed, but we are not equal.

As long as they can say our relationships are not a marriage, they can continue to say we are not equal.  The religious and political right will find comfort in the phrase from the book “Animal Farm”; all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

I think our adversaries know the moment they let us say “I do”, they have lost the battle.  So they will fight us tooth and nail by giving us a crumb here and there, but not anything beyond 3/5 of a human being.

Understand this; DOMA says we are 3/5 of a human being.

Georgia’s State Constitution says we are 3/5 of human being.

When insurance companies can deny your spouse coverage they are saying you are 3/5 of a human being.

When families can step in the middle of a medical crisis or death and take over it is because by law we are 3/5 of a human being.

Let us no longer be fooled by the crumbs of these so called rights they will eventually give us, but never the full banquet.

We are fully human, and “Marriage Equality” puts us on equal footing with our adversaries.

My partner (husband) and I (also husband) have been “married” for 31 years come June 25th.  In that time we have paid our taxes, voted, served our country,  one in the military, one as a pastor, contributed to our countries economy, played and officiated in the sports world, owned a home, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, given drink to the thirsty, and visited the sick and imprisoned.

In this country that means we have long since passed the expectations of the vast majority of marriages.  I think it is more than past the time of being seen as 3/5 of a human being and being recognized for what we are; fully human in the eyes of God, the church and the law!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Were Justice and Mercy Served?

Sometimes one of the toughest parts of the job of being a pastor and to be considered a community leader is offering counsel to the community when it is apparent there is a deep and sharp divide.

Recently the LGBTQIA community was faced with a deep and sharp divide.

February 4, 2012 a young gay man was savagely beaten as he came out of a store in his neighborhood. This young man by the name of Brandon White became an instant poster child for a hate crime law in Georgia because the idiots who felt they had the right to beat him, filmed it and well the rest is history.

On February 8, 2012 CNN reporter Moni Basu wrote the following about the crime:

“A video circulated online shows three men punching and kicking White after he stepped out of the JVC Grocery and Deli in southwest Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. The men, believed to be members of a gang called Jack City, yelled: “No f—-ts in Jack City.”

The store’s surveillance video shows White, dressed in a purple shirt and black jeans with a cell phone to his left ear, exit the store along with another man. As soon as they step outside, White is accosted by his attackers.

The surveillance video captured eight men standing around watching, two of them with video cameras in hand. One man lunges at White with a tire in his hands.

White told HLN later Wednesday that he went home after the 30-second attack.

“At this point I am beyond mad,” he told Jane Velez-Mitchell. “I actually go back because I wanted to see who they were.”

Atlanta police said the incident occurred February 4.

White said he did not report it right away because he did not want to draw attention to himself. He could not even bring himself to watch the video at first; he was so humiliated and embarrassed.

The video was released on YouTube and WorldHipHop.com, and was posted on The Smoking Gun.

When it went viral, White decided to talk to the police. “Once they put it out there they set themselves up,” he told HLN.

“I feel I was violated,” White told reporters. “The scars run deeper than anyone will know. The physical pain, I can get over that. My thing is: Who’s to say they won’t come after me again? Who’s to say they won’t kill me?”

Now, the sharp divide starts as everybody who is anybody in the LGBTQIA community and politicians have something to say. Rumors start, fabricated stories start and soon the truth of what happen and why gets blurred.

At about this time it seemed to me just observing from the outside that the victim was being “handled”. I will leave it to the reader to decide what that term means in the larger picture… but I assure you the fighting and name calling that went on between some of the leaders of our community toward each other was not pretty.

In the meantime arrests were made for 3 of 4. One is still on the run, and the other three have come before a judge and have been sentenced to 5 years in jail and 5 years probation. Not so bad considering they were potentially facing 50 years.

Ah, but the sentencing was not without drama and plenty of opinion.

A letter was sent to the court by Southerners on New Ground a non-profit group dedicated to building a political home across race, class, culture, gender & sexuality.

I have deep respect for this organization and the work they do. The respect I have for some of the signers is just as deep and in fact a few I would consider s/heros.

The letter said in part: “With great respect to the Court, we must reiterate that we believe the homophobia underlying physical attacks on LGBTQ individuals is not remedied through imprisonment. We are supportive of Mr. Morgane and Mr. William being permitted to regain their freedom by imposing sentences that will hold each young man to account for his actions through probation or community service.”

To say this action set off a fire storm of opinion would be to put it mildly. There was so much controversy caused by the action that SONG posted a statement concerning their action on their website, http://southernersonnewground.org/

In the mean time SONG has been ridiculed and publically chastised for trying to apply a principle every Christian is supposed to apply, that of mercy.

I suppose the best summation of the harsh criticism of SONG came in the form of a response by a reader of a GA Voice article concerning the letter in which they wrote:

“The signatories of the letter seem to be treating this as some kind of disorderly conduct charge.  Beyond belief… I can only hope that the judge will not go along with this kind of thinking when deciding a sentence, especially when we already have a bad situation in Fulton County where too many revolving-door criminals are getting away with way too much. A lenient sentence would convey the tragic message that we are not entitled to feel safe in our communities. That these are not even first-time offenders, and that they perpetrated this brutal act pretty much for the hell of it makes their crime and the sympathy for these thugs exhibited in that letter all the more reprehensible…”

“So Pastor what is your problem?”  “Pick a side and say your piece.” I wish it were that easy.

It is not easy because the brutes that beat Mr. White did what they did because they have been told and have learned that it is perfectly fine to beat the crap out of a person just because they are gay.

We are seeing this happen more often with the advancements our community has made not less.

Have we forgotten the 2 lesbians who were shot?

Have we forgotten the so called pastor who ordered his church members to beat his own son and lover?

Have we forgotten the insane number of transgender folks slaughtered every year?

Have we forgotten the young child that committed suicide because he was being bullied on a daily basis?

Have we forgotten there are churches that commit spiritual violence on us every day by proclaiming we are destroying America?

This list could get really long…

Have we forgotten how hard we have fought to get “hate crime laws” in place to send a message that visiting violence upon our community “just because” is not cool?A law in many other states but not here in Georgia.

So yes, I get the frustration on the part of some in our community concerning this letter.I have felt the white hot anger of being a victim of a gay bashing, I have felt the helplessness.I wanted my beaters to go to jail for a long time.

However, to viciously berate a community group of our own who are trying to advocate for justice and mercy in a world where the justice and prison system are fatally broken is flat wrong.

These young people who committed this crime were lost before they went after Mr. White.

We live in a world were violence is glorified, and we allow the church to sell us a bill of goods concerning sexual orientation.So we are shocked and enraged by this story?

We seem to pick and choose when to get angry and raise our voices…Brandon White is not the poster child for hate; he is just one more victim in a very long history of crap sent our way.

We are re-acting instead of acting.

With that said, I respectfully say to SONG; while I appreciate the efforts, agree with the sentiment, the timing of this letter was awful.

I understand what “Restorative Justice” is supposed to be.  I understand the working definition is;

“Restorative justice (also sometimes called reparative justice[1]) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”.[2] Restorative justice involves both victim and offender and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state.[3] Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.[4]”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice)

So, if I understand the definition correctly the timing was bad for lots of reasons not the least of which was the lack of communication with Mr. White and determining his needs.It does not matter why this did not happen, it just didn’t.

Further, I am not sure just how much remorse there was on the part of the offenders as at least one of them is quoted as saying; “I barely hit him. I was wrong for hitting him but I didn’t hit him to the point of killing him. I was just being young and dumb.”  (ProjectQ)

In fact, I am not sure how much of this working definition actually happened or will come to pass.

Finally, “restorative justice” cannot and will not work in a singular high profile case. We have to totally change the way our justice system works. This means we have to change the laws and the system that enforces those laws…we have to convince the justice system there is a better way before the cases get in front of them.

Until then we are stuck with, “if you do the crime, you will do the time.” That is neither justice or merciful. So my friends there are no easy answers, but I have faith in our community that through all this controversy we will come out better and stronger, because that is how we are!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Blog vs Rant

This is supposed to be a blog, but today suffice it to say it is also a bit of a rant. Is it me or does it seem like the divide and discourse in this country and our community is as bad as it has ever been?

I know it is an election year, but this divide has been getting steadily worse since the beginning of the POTUS term and with every step forward the LGBTQIA makes.

The mess going on in Washington…and the awful things they are saying about and to each other, the news media behaving like vultures and people maneuvering for positions to be called a hero.

We watch with embarrassment the political fighting which stands in the way of making sure the folks of our country are protected, secure and safe…did you know our country has not had an official budget for 3 years!

How either of the leaders from the US House or Senate can stand in front of cameras and speak with any kind of authority is beyond me…the approval rating in congress in at 9% the last I looked.

The leaders from the religious right pretend to be good and loving and kind Christian folk, yet when one tries to work with them to find common ground one quickly finds there is no such thing.

If one does not accept their brand of theology it gets pretty ugly quick!

Of course in our own LGBTQIA community all one needs to do is look southwest of North Avenue or walk down Ponce de Leon and the divides in our community are evident. Funny it is not much different from other leadership, because our leadership has done precious little to make the divides less divisive.

Of course it is not all on the leadership of our community, cause folks, y’all ain’t to excited about changing things either.

So last night I came across these words; I have read these words many times before but last night they sort of stopped me in my thoughts:

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Philippians 2:1-13 (The Message))

Now regardless if one is a Christian or not…it seems to me this is a formula for working through most of our challenges…a way of peace, a way of strength, a way of walking the talk. A way in which everyone could walk away saying they had a hand in working through the challenge. I am sitting at my desk wondering if this country and it’s leadership have become so jaded and drunk with power, they have forgotten the basic tenet of our country which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all… 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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

There are those who say this election is the most critical in our Country’s history. What we are watching and experiencing is something we have known for a long time…the politicians do not really care if you or I can pay the mortgage or rent.

They do not really care if you or I have gas. HIV only matters if a large block of voters suddenly die or there is oil in the country affected by the disease.

No, the only thing at stake is their position of power, money and comfort, and they would sell their own mother if they thought it would keep them in power.

The behavior in Washington and big business over these last months proves that all those “so-called Christians” have forgotten a key to their faith… “Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

So I write this to say; Shame on you Mr. President for playing the game, you were supposed to be different.

Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Congressperson as none of you would know a compromise if it slapped you in the face.

Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Senator, for acting like you are all that when people back home are laughing at you.

Shame on you State of Georgia, for being a bastion of hostility towards anything that is not the republican brand or in agreement with your particular set of religious beliefs.

Shame on you the conservative political right and the religious right for constantly beating us over the head with your brand of morals and practice of faith, telling everyone how to think and what the bible says.

Shame on you the liberal political and religious left for acting as if the other side is the spawn of Satan.

Shame on all those big CEO’s and big business people who forgot why they were in business to begin with,”…that all… 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.”

Shame on the LGBTQIA community for crying about how mistreated we are but doing very little to get past what divides us, we can and must do better!

Damn it folks, read this passage one more time:

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Philippians 2:1-13 (The Message))

Those in the know say the people are restless and angry…you think?

This is not the writing of an old tired bitter queen.

This is a wake up call. Things will only get better when we each take on the reality of those afore mentioned words.

Things will get better when we stop behaving like a bunch of children on the school playground.

OK, my rant is done…I have looked at the words again…I will endeavor to keep them in the forefront of my mind and actions. The question is: Will you join me?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

You Are God’s Child and You Are Not a Mistake! (Part 2)

My mentor of blog writing says one should never repeat a blog post, but in view of some of the emails we received from young people this week at the church, I really feel a need to give this witness again.

The pain and anguish expressed in some of the messages give me pause and the recognition that despite vast improvement for our community, it is still devastatingly hard to grow up gay.

When I was 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, except I was a white kid in an all white school.

As anyone 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 part 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”. What was the problem with this? 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 sexually they did not want to do.

So now let us 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 how vultures circle 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 the statistics around “bullying” are mind boggling. Very little has done to stop it or to provide support when bullying has happen.

Bullying Statistics, which is Home – Info on Preventing Bullying, Harassment, Violence , Online Bullying, and School Bullies gives the following information.

In recent years, a series of bullying-related suicides in the US and across the globe have drawn attention to the connection between bullying and suicide. Though too many adults still see bullying as “just part of being a kid,” it is a serious problem that leads to many negative effects for victims, including suicide. Many people may not realize that there is also a link between being a bully and committing suicide.

The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying

Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person.
 

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 listened to all my shortcomings and confessions. He cried as he listened to my entire story of the rape. He shared in my anger as I tell him of the days of high school. He held 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:

So, this is why I wrote this and now share again. 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.


Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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