Tag Archives: LGBT

Dear Rev. Turner …

A few years back a good friend of mine who also is a pastor lamented to me one day he wished the “gay community” would just not be so “in your face” about our issues. We had a pretty loud conversation, fight, and argument that ended with me stomping out of his office and back to mine slamming the door as I went.

I had ended this hot debate saying no, I was actually screaming through my tears, that he the straight guy did not have to spend his every waking moment justifying his very existence as a accepted child of God. I was so angry that even this friend didn’t seem to get that the forces of the church were against us in such a way it was a fight every day to continue to see a reason to live. To be fair, he later came to my office opened the door and simply said, “I get your point” and we having been fighting this stupidity together ever since.

For many it really hasn’t changed much…our community is still a political football to be kicked all over the field…Santorum, Gingrich and Romney can’t talk bad about us enough.

Here in Georgia this week, Tanya Ditty, state director for the anti-gay Concerned Women for America went on the record saying we the LGBTQI are right there with pedophilia, necrophilia and a whole list of other vile and disgusting things.

Then there was the conference in the Atlanta suburbs trying to convince our folks that if they really wanted to, they could change. Of course the leader of this organization is on record saying 99.9% of the people who go through this hell in the now program don’t change…they just have to fight off the feelings of sin every day.

We have to watch and deal with a wacko group who goes all over the country protesting at funerals by saying just about the most disgusting things to one could say about another human being.

People in our community are getting the living crap kick out of them, why? Because they can!

People in our community are regularly denied hospital visitation, transfer of property, are fired from jobs, denied housing and denied jobs. Why? Because they can.

Our President, while having done more for our community then any political leader in history, in his own words says he is still evolving with the issue. Evolving? Come on Mr. President we are flesh and blood human beings who contribute to the economy, pay our taxes, defend our country, contribute to our country’s brilliance in mind, heart and spirit and you still are evolving and we are an issue? Like 4/5 maybe? Do you think if you get another term you might see us as 5/5?

Is it any wonder that at least once a week I either get an email or hear a story like what I am going to share now? This letter is from a few years back, but I still get the same kinds of emails and stories today.

So I share this and my response to it because I know many of the readers of this blog have found themselves in the same spot as the email writer at some point, maybe even now:

Rev. Turner:

 

Hello. I have been to your website many times. I just came from there and I decided I needed to send an email. I struggle with my faith, and I need to be held up in prayer by others who are stronger in the faith than me. For many years I have been trying so hard to accept my sexuality as “God-given.” I have spent countless years desperately pleading and begging God to take these feelings away. I have never heard anything from Jesus, and I am scared. I don’t want to be cast into the “lake of fire.” I am so scared; it feels like I have been totally rejected by Christ. Even after giving my heart to The Lord in October of 1997, I still feel that stinging rejection and condemnation. Growing up in the Missionary Baptist ……”

Dear Child of God,
Growing up in the Missionary Baptist Church probably taught you a lot of things about prayer. For instance you may have learned that God usually has three responses to prayer: Yes, No and Not Now. We experience God’s “yes” usually in very obvious ways as whatever it is we have asked for or prayed about changes. We also experience God saying “not now” in mostly pretty obvious ways as well. Opportunities to do this thing that we prayed about do not come about or the things we want to do does not come about without becoming a major project that causes real trouble for us and others. But that answer of “no” from God is more difficult, generally because we don’t want God to say no to us. We don’t want to admit that God knows better. We have been taught and given all the answers so God should never tell us no.

So how does God say No? At least my experience has been by a very stern silence. That silence from God speaks loudly and clearly as opposed to the other responses. “God, please let me have this new bike!” Silence. No bike sales, no birthdays, no one drops a bike in front of your house. The answer is no. You may want a bike but you don’t need a bike.

You have prayed for God to change your sexually orientation. You have spent countless years asking God to change only to be met by silence, hearing nothing. Take the hint! The answer is NO! You don’t need to change.

Just a question for you to ponder. If you are God’s creation why would you try to change what God has created? Jesus died and was raised so that you might live not die. The church may have rejected you, but God most assuredly has not. “Whosoever believes in me will not perish but have life ever lasting.” You believe! You are one of the “whosoevers.”

 

“…preached sermons where he called all homosexuals an “abomination” and rather loudly declared that they would be all cast into an “eternal lake of fire, which is the second death.” How can I overcome these intense feelings of hopelessness and despair? Suicide is always on my mind; it seems like the only “real” solution. I was taught that gay people were “sick and evil” and this has hurt me far more than I can even comprehend. Does Jesus really hate me?”

Jesus just as loudly declared that even what we perceive as wrong, an abomination, God sees differently. Remember the women caught in adultery? Oh yes, she was guilty. Yet Jesus sent her accusers away basically saying they were no better than she was and further he didn’t accuse her either so go.
This preacher has forgotten that Jesus was about saving and not casting people away from God. Jesus spent his entire ministry bringing people back to God. People, I might add, that had been told all their lives they had no place with God. Sound familiar?

See when we get caught up in the fear spewing, money-making, do it my way or burn type of theology we forget that Jesus was about bringing people to God just as they were and where they were.

It occurred to me sometime ago, that when you hear this type of preaching, that if you stop for a second and add it up, these preachers probably really figure no one will ever get to heaven except maybe themselves. Think about it. Who is worthy of their perception of God? No one. Let me share a verse with you that will help you know if someone preaching is of God. This is a verse I keep close to my heart for discernment in these matters.

“But the wisdom which is from heaven is first holy, then gentle, readily giving way in argument, full of peace and mercy and good works, not doubting, not seeming other than it is.” –James 3:17

In other words the wisdom (that which comes from God) is about life not death. Suicide is not a solution in your case but rather an escape. Please understand, once again, God is calling you to live and anyone who would dare tell another where they will end up is in danger of being a false prophet themselves. Does Jesus hate you? He didn’t hate his accusers and those who ran away from him and mocked him. How would he hate you for being what God created?

 

“About a year ago, I tried to “come out” to my parents, but they rejected me and told me that their love was “conditional” upon my renouncing my sexual orientation and asking God to “deliver” me.”

My God, how much more hypocritical can one be? Conditional love? Please. Remember the words of Paul:

“Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; Love’s ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; it takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things.” –I Corinthians 13:4-7

There is no condition to God’s love. Your parents are wrong. They have been duped by the same grotesque message of hate that has brought you to write this email.

 

“I collapsed under my parents’ relentless assaults on me where they would constantly use The KJV Bible to “blast” me and condemn me. I couldn’t hold up under these conditions, and I renounced my sexuality in order to keep their love. I do feel horrible since doing this, but I am not too sure if they believe me or not. They do like to question me >from time to time. They both ask me if “everything is OK, and if that former life of mine is dead and buried.” I have to tell them it is; otherwise I would be disowned and rejected forever.”

My friend, it is far better to be rejected because you were honest and truthful than for a lie. Jesus went to the cross for truth. He died out of love. If your parents reject you because you are honest with them and truthful about whom you are I dare say they have far more problems than you.

Further, who on earth told you or them the KJV version of the Bible was the “word of God”? There are more than 28 different English translations available today. Please, before you do anything that you cannot change, check out the Whosoever website.

“Because it became quite clear to me that if you weren’t going to change, then you would be viewed as a failure, or someone who wasn’t sincerely seeking freedom. I know I have rambled on for far too long, but I cannot help it; I have just been holding this pain in for too long a time. It has to end sometime, or I am afraid that I will give in to my suicidal urges and just end my life. Please help me; I feel battered and unloved by God and everybody else.”

Child of God, Jesus said if you are “weary and heavy burden come to me and I will give you rest”,

“do not be afraid for I have overcome the world”,

“I have come that you might have life”,

and “whosoever believes in me shall not perish but have life everlasting”.

You believe, you know and love God with all your heart soul and strength.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the Gospel message, this is God’s word, this is our hope, and this is our life. No one can take that from you. Know this day you are a creation of God almighty and that is good!

Remember my friends, what Dr. Martin Luther King said:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

So do not give up, justice is within our sight, within our grasp and as God is our witness we shall have it.

The Guise of Family Values

What shall we write about this week? It is not like there isn’t a whole mess of topics to pick from.

There is the whole Karen Handel power grab under the guise of “family values”.

There was some idiot from the political right caught on camera saying that Rachel Maddow was the best excuse he could think for using contraception under the guise of family values.

There is One Million Moms.com (a project of the American Family Association) wanting Ellen DeGeneres fired from being a spokesperson for JCPenney, of course under the guise of family values.

Not to leave well enough alone they are also after Macy’s for selling wedding cake toppers of 2 men, again under the guise of family values.

I could write about the guy running for the presidency of the United States who has been married three times and divorced twice (lets all pray this third wife doesn’t get some sort of serious illness or it may be divorced 3 times) and claims to know more about family values then anyone on the planet.

I was tempted (although it was just a second) to write about the lunatic who has gone from being a Bishop to being crowned King recently, after leading a march through Atlanta under the guise of yup you guessed family values. Shall we talk about those 4 young men…never mind.

There is the “Love Won Out” conference coming to Atlanta next week and in the sheep’s clothing of “reparative therapy,” which will try to convince attendees that even if you can’t get rid of their “gay feelings” they can be suppressed, and family values of America will be safe. Really?

Last but not least I could have written about the young man in Atlanta who was set upon by 3 or 4 men twice his size and beat viciously in broad daylight because he might be gay! Maybe it is a stretch to say this was in the guise of family values, but all this family talk certainly lit the fuse that led to this behavior. One has to wonder where the family values were as while this beating was going on not one call was made to 911…just saying.

So which topic, Reverend? Well actually all of them. Sadly, they are all connected by the “Church” who has decided you and I are not smart enough, wholesome enough, spiritual enough, or sin free enough to to decide for ourselves how to live our lives in full relationship with God. Some factions of the “Church” are desperately trying to convince us that God has not spoken since the last period was translated into the King James Version of the Bible.

When I say the “Church,” I am referring to the extreme religious and political right who have come to the belief they have been chosen by God to save the United States of America. So to my friends of faith and clergy friends, if the “shoe doesn’t fit don’t wear it.”

It goes without saying the “Church” is so fearful of what the Bible really says about sex, family, marriage, community, life and death, that talking about it with any intellect or common sense brings screams of twisting scripture and “Gay Agenda”!

The ultimate power this “Church” claims threatens to cut us off from communion and send us to hell if we did not abide by the lease agreement of faith they gave to us and to sign in our own blood.

Of course, they have made so many people’s lives a “living hell” that we are not as fearful of going to hell as we once were. So, in a political move that would have made Richard Nixon blush, they have developed the “theology of family values”

I love my fellow activists in the community, but they too often forget all of the afore mentioned garbage started because the “Church” and its self-proclaimed leaders have over the years handed down creeds, dogma and rules that were all very narrowly defined as to what was acceptable to Almighty God when it came to matters of sex, our bodies, and love. Step outside those lines and we found ourselves condemned.

All this talk of separation of church and state is hog wash…and the “Church” is the biggest offender of it. They are now trying to force their particular beliefs and family values into the government where we will end up with a theocracy rather than a republic.

On June 25, 2012, my partner and I will have been together for 30 years. As far as we are concerned we are married. We did not need the church or the government for that matter to tell us it was or wasn’t a marriage.

In fact it would be nice if the government would recognize our 30 years and instead of giving us a gold watch, how about the 1,400 plus gifts of law that straight people get for getting married and divorce at the rate of 50% after 7 years?

As you might imagine there has been a lot of discussion in our house about our “marriage” and what it means. I wish I could give credit to whoever wrote what I am about to share, but I can’t find the author; I think we saw it on Facebook. However, it was too good not to share …

True Meaning of Marriage

“The true meaning of marriage is love. By love, I mean not just what we feel but what we do. Love as a feeling is very flimsy an up and down roller coaster. Love is an action! In order for it to become the ultimate force and for us to rediscover the true meaning of marriage, love has to be unconditional. You are not looking for acceptance or validation. You are giving of yourself to another not because of them, but because of your values. A death to ones self so that another may live and benefit from your sacrifice.

This is not an easy road to walk. But it is the most rewarding road however. An old Buddhist saying goes like this, ‘I want peace.’ If you take your ego (I) and your desires (want) out of the equation, i.e., the self, you will have only peace left. The true meaning of marriage is expressing love unconditionally to another. It is an unstoppable force that can endure anything. How do you find it? Within yourself. You have to draw strength from you. Neither seeking validation nor acceptance, just seeking the opportunity to show love.”

Gee, that has nothing to do with the gender of the people involved, but rather, our God given gifts of mind, heart and soul.

So to all those who buy into the political sound bite of family values as authored and structured by the religious and political right, I say this:

  1. If you are opposed to “gay marriage,” marry someone of the opposite gender. If you stay out of my bedroom, we will stay out of yours. If you’re feeling really generous, consider giving up those 1,400 plus laws that benefit you, or failing that, at least share.
  2. To those who think contraception is a sin, we gay folks can show you another couple of methods of birth control.
  3. To those who think Ellen DeGeneres should not be a spokesperson for JC Penny, then don’t shop at JC Penny.
  4. For those of you who have a problem with what Macy’s sells, shop elsewhere and let the free enterprise system work.
  5. For those who want to speak about family values and you have been divorced multiply times and had numerous affairs…find something else to do or just shut up!
  6. For those preachers who would proclaim the title of King, re-read the “red letters” of the New Testament and once again become a servant of God’s people.
  7. To those who think the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God…it is not now nor has it ever been, get over it.
  8. To those who are trying to sell Hell as a place…it is not a place but rather a state of being, enjoy your stay.
  9. For those who think there is some magic prayer which will get you to heaven, there isn’t one…only feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned will put one on a path to a greater and better place.
  10. To those in the LGBTQIA community who feel beaten, batter and worn out… take the words of Ellen DeGeneres to heart: “Let my haters be my motivators.”
  11. To those who think you can beat us, shame us, or kill us…we will hunt you down like the rabid dogs you are and send you to jail for the crimes you commit.
  12. To those who don’t think the LGBTQIA community have any values… chew on Ellen’s statement for a moment or two:

Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need.

Finally, but not least, to those who think you have all the moral answers as to why the LGBTQIA community should not be treated equally: We are who we are and your approval isn’t needed.

Faith Priorities

I was digging around for something to write about for this week’s blog, and came across the blog I wrote for the last election cycle. I am not sure if I am happy to have found it.

We have indeed made history by electing the black person to the office of the President of the United States. This President has done more for the LGBTQIA community then the entire previous President’s combined, so yes I am happy about that, even excited.

While I am excited about these things, it really appears not much has changed in 3 years since it was written. So here is a re-tread with a few edits here and there to bring it up to date.

This election cycle is historic, and we are behaving like a people caught up in a moment of dramatic change. Things are being said and done that go beyond every day politics. The level of sexism, racism, homophobia, nationalism are at a boiling point, all because more change is coming regardless who wins this election.

I have been an un-apologetic activist for a long time. So when the religious and political right started hammering on the President from day one with quotes like, “I hope this President fails”, or “My job for the next 4 years is to ensure Obama does not get a 2nd term”. I knew the President’s desire to bring the county together was in serious trouble.

I also knew the distance between the far right and the middle was as far apart as I have ever seen in my life time. This is also true of the left. In a word “racism” is very much alive and well in our country today despite us patting ourselves on the back for making such great progress. Think I am wrong here?

How about a congressman shouting at the President during a speech to Congress “liar”?

How about commenting publically about the First Ladies posterior?

How about the absolute idiotic claims of the birthers?

How about descriptions of the First Lady as an “angry black woman”?

How about the claims the POTUS is a Muslim, as if that should matter.

How about referring to the POTUS as the “food-stamp” President? Yes, former President Jimmy Carter hit the nail square on the head when he said; there are a lot of “code” words being used in the political world.

Despite the great strides we have made in the LGBTQIA community, “homophobia” is alive and being practiced with great abandon by almost everyone right of center, either spiritually or politically. Think I am wrong here?

How about the Presidential Candidate who said a kid would be better off with a father who is in prison rather then 2 dads who are at home?

How about the Presidential Candidate who has indicated they would put “DADT” back in place?

How about the Presidential Candidate who is so concerned for “family values”, despite having had affair after affair while married and gets pissed off when it is mentioned?

So, as a Pastor I want to say something pastoral, something that will give comfort and peace to folks as they prepare to cast a ballot this fall that will once again has the potential to literally change the course of this country. I was stuck, how to say anything without getting caught in the rhetoric of the political parties, how to teach without exposing my own personal thoughts, preferences and leanings toward one candidate or another?

How does one not vomit over the ignorance, rhetoric and posturing that is so brazenly dressed in theological and patriotic drag?

Then I got into the blog from “08” and see this from Sojourners magazine. This is a weekly e-mail of spirituality, politics and culture. Jim Wallis, who is the editor and is the author of a book called “The Great Awakening”, is very keyed in on the pastoral response to this election.

I have to tell you he put on the screen what I wanted to say but apparently am not gifted enough to come up with on my own. Yet, this is what I hope each of the readers would let sink in during this time in America. So here with his permission is the re-post of pastoral advice he has offered. Not that it matters to him, but I give a loud and excited amen to his article and pastoral words.

Read closely and prayerfully and when you are done come November if you do nothing else that day VOTE. In the mean time do not let yourself be turned back.

My Personal ‘Faith Priorities’ for this Election

In 2004, several conservative Catholic bishops and a few mega church pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of “non-negotiable,” which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word “poverty,” only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of “non-negotiable.” The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.

I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of “faith priorities” that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year — and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of “faith” or “moral” priorities for this election year and take them into the voting booth with you.

After the last election, I wrote a book titled God’s Politics. I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn’t the point. I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying. I was also saying that “God’s Politics” will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God’s politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be “values voters” but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.

In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can’t vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year’s election — very important choices — which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call “the common good,” and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.

I am in no position to tell anyone what is “non-negotiable,” and neither is any bishop or mega church pastor, but let me tell you the “faith priorities” and values I will be voting on this year:

  1. With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.
  2. From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people’s security (everyone having “their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid,” as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.
  3. “Choosing life” is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face — not just one. Thirty-thousand children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and “pro-choice” and “pro-life” mantras from either side.
  4. God’s fragile creation is clearly under assault and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new “green” economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.
  5. Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”
  6. Healthy families are the foundation of our community life and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a “countercultural activity” in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.

That is my list of personal “faith priorities” for the election year of 2008 (2012), but they are not “non-negotiable” for anyone else. It’s time for each of us to make up our own list in these next few months. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.

For me, I would only add a number 7, which is to say I will look for leadership that understands LGBTQIA not as moral alphabet soup from which political hay can be made. But rather, LGBTQIA are Americans who desire to live in a country where the words,

“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”

The Desperate House of Cards Known as “Love Won Out”

Let me start by saying there is no one who is running for the Presidency of the United States on the Republican side of the aisle that is going to be helpful to the LGBTQIA community. In fact, the vast majority of them if they get their way are flat dangerous to our community. We will find all if not most of the progress we have made over that last 30 years washed away in an over whelming wave of fundamental conservatism such as we have never seen.

If one listens closely to their rhetoric, we hear that all that is wrong with the world, ethically, economically, and spiritually, can be traced back to the LGBTQIA community. God, almighty is raging God’s wrath upon the earth because of our desire to have life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

They will never admit the problems we face as a nation are due to greed, arrogance, hypocrisy, and the desire for absolute power. Nope-it is too easy to blame us.

Nor will they ever admit homophobia is a sure moneymaker. As long as they preach their fear of the LGBTQIA community, the donations roll in. The politicians use us as a wedge issue while the Christian churches have conferences designed to put God and us in a box. I will say again both groups use each other with one common goal, our destruction.

As long as the “Christian Church” allows the lies about us to continue and even teaches them, then we will continue to die, get killed, lose our best health care, our mental health, our jobs, our kids, our right to visitation, and our property. We will continue to be thought of as “not God’s best”. That last phrase is where the most powerful lie of the church gets its power; “love the sinner and hate the sin.” Damn it folks our love is NOT a sin.

Can we not see this is all connected? Have we not seen that when we as a community continue to support these fools with our presences, our money, our votes and our membership in their organizations and churches, we are only hurting ourselves?

Next month on February 18th here comes the biggest Christian liar in the country, Exodus International. They will arrive in Atlanta to do another one of their “Love Won Out” conferences. Under the guise of love they will tell anyone who will listen how they can help a person who is unhappy and struggling with their homosexuality.

First, if it wasn’t for people like them and their equine fecal matter, most LGBTQIA folks would not be struggling and unhappy. This group flat knows people’s sexual orientation cannot be changed. The great tool they use is something called “reparative therapy”

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

1. We are called to love gay and lesbian people “struggling with sexual orientation”

2. homosexual orientation is chosen or is the result of bad childhood experiences; and

3. people cannot condone this “sinful” behavior that was chosen by their loved ones, and therefore “cannot accept their gay, lesbian and bisexual family members”.

These 3 points are countered by:

1. Sexual orientation is not a disease. In 1973. The American Psychiatric Association removed the term “homosexuality” from the list of mental and emotional disorders. Therefore, it does not need to be cured.

2. “Reparative therapy” doesn’t work. In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good.

3. “Reparative therapy” is dangerous. In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association stated it was opposed to reparative therapy, stating, “Psychiatric literature strongly demonstrates that treatment attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. However, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”

4. According to the American Medical Association, “most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an un-accepting environment. For this reason, aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.”

5. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (2001) asserts that homosexuality is not “a reversible lifestyle choice.” (Information supplied from: “Reparative” Therapy or “Ex-Gay” Ministries page of P-Flag website: http://www.pflag.org/education/reparative.html)

I would like to note for the record that “struggling with sexual orientation” is a key card in the “house of cards therapy”. To this I will offer this. I am 56-year-old gay man who has been with my partner for 30 years. I also am the Pastor of an inner-city Christian Church, own a home, pay my taxes, contribute to the national economy, vote in every election, and live a full, loving, and exciting life. What struggles I have had are from fighting to have the same rights and privileges of those so-called heterosexuals who think my love is a sin.

It should also be noted this whole idea of “reparative therapy” or conversion therapy is a religious question trapped inside a psychological costume. Since the religious right no longer has a strong theological argument for condemning homosexuality…they have turned to the secular world to help them.

Even Exodus International leader Alan Chambers has been quoted as saying, “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”

“Reparative Therapy” is based upon several religious lies or more correctly “Christian” lies. Examples:

A LIE:
The Book of Leviticus expressly forbids homosexual sex.

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

A LIE:
Sodom was destroyed for the sin of homosexuality.

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

A LIE:
There are scriptures affirming the Biblical condemnation of homosexual sex.

THE TRUTH
Many of the references to eunuchs in the Bible refer to homosexual men, not necessarily to castrated males. Jesus himself said: “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:12). The book of Isaiah holds one of the greatest promises to us. “To the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56: 4-5.)

The Bible is a collection of sacred writings that come from different time periods and are written by different authors trying to explain from their point of view who God is and how we as humans relate to and journey with God. The views of each of these authors are as varied as the authors themselves.

One must always remember that the Bible is a history and guide to a faith. The Bible is not the end- all and be-all on any subject of faith. It may be divinely inspired but hardly divinely written.

One’s psychological sanity and safety should never be set aside for the sake of a particular religious belief, particularly when there is on going evidence for one’s sexual orientation being formed at an early age and having far more to do with genetics then religion. The “religious right” and Exodus International have spent so much time trying to eliminate the LGBTQIA community; they have missed the vast majority of people in the community who lead wonderfully wholesome lives.

If today’s post seems especially cranky, I apologize. However, I am very tired of having to justify my love for my partner. I am in agony over watching people in my community spiritually beaten into submission because of the church’s lack of courage and its sexual insecurities. I hope on the 18th of February there will be many who will express the same thing.

Here We Are Again

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

If these words I write look familiar, they are because nothing has changed since I last wrote them, except some people are more aware.

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

The devastating images of those viciously killed in 2011 for simply trying to be themselves is something we should remember, something that should burn in our souls.

The people we mourn for this day are a part of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but still don’t take seriously enough that folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world. This year’s danger and lethal transphobia is no different from any of the last twenty years.

In fact, in almost (not all) but damn near every community meeting, the plight of the Trans community is brought up as an afterthought, kind of “oh yeah, let’s not forget the T’s”.

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

We still do not take it seriously enough that these children of God find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity. In fact, many in our community, never mind the straight community, think if they would just dress correctly and be happy with how they were born there would be less trouble.

In our fair city of Atlanta, the shelters are still not required to accept those who are in transition unless they are willing to accept being forcible moved backwards in that transition. Again, we arrive at this time of the year and nothing has changed.

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

I am well aware there are some in the neighborhoods who think the Trans folks working the streets are responsible for the crime in the neighborhood and with vicious language have launched a crusade to rid the streets of this so called epidemic.

Let us get real here; if these sisters and brothers could get a job or be protected in the job they have maybe, just maybe they would not have to turn to the streets.

The fact is, most political leaders of the community still see the trans community as nothing more then a “political calculation”. In fact, far too often these people are something to be added or subtracted from the political equation. The political leadership has not and does not have the courage to stand up and say, “Enough!”

Instead, it’s “let’s study the issue, let’s explore what we can do”. News flash: One’s gender identity has zero to do with the administration of equal rights, just do the right thing!

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

I am so sick of hearing that bringing justice, being fair and honorable and less phobic is so complicated when it come to the Trans community. News flash: Gender, just like sexuality, is a very fluid thing and to attempt to fit everyone into the same narrowly defined box is the height of ignorance.

So here we are this year and it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.

Let us not forget that it was these folks who started the whole “gay rights” movement we know today when they stood toe to high heel with the New York City police department at Stonewall.

Let us today acknowledge they have been with us every step of this bloody fight for our rights, our self worth and our very souls.

Let us recognize and have more than a passing thought that each day when they get out of bed and step into the world it may in fact be their last day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again let us ponder the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith,

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

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

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

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

• Let us educate ourselves about transgender issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, but not least, let us turn out en masse this Sunday evening at the State Capital to show the “T” really is apart of LGBTQ and it does not stand-alone. I know it is Sunday night and I know you want to quit reading this every year. So here is the deal:

I will stop repeating this blog when we as a whole community are as enraged as when they raided our bar, as enraged as when Matthew Shepherd was beaten to death or when the fight to pass protective legislation for our community includes the “T” as something other then an afterthought or a political piece to be thrown under the bus.

Fear Doesn’t Live Here

Every year about this time I start having this debate in my head…do we really need “Gay Pride”? Do we really need to go all the trouble and expense of throwing what appears to be a weekend long party? Then something like this crosses my desk:

A gay Tennessee couple was reportedly attacked — physically and verbally assaulted — by a Christian Pastor and his deacons to prevent the same-sex couple from entering the Pastor’s church. Sadly, the pastor is the father of one of the two members of the gay couple. Also sadly, the church members and bystanders did not lift a finger to help the couple or to stop church leaders from perpetrating the crime. Further, initially, local authorities refused to allow the couple to file charges.

Via WBBJ:

“I went over to take the keys out of the ignition and all the sudden I hear someone say ‘sick’em,’” said Gibson County resident, Jerry Pittman Jr.

Pittman said the attacked was prompted by the pastor of the church, Jerry Pittman, his father.

“My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request. My uncle smash me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back,” said Pittman. He said bystanders did not offer assistance. He said the deacon yelled derogatory homosexual slurs, even after officers arrived. He said the officers never intervened to stop the deacons from yelling the slurs.

To make matters worse when the police arrived they really didn’t do anything to stop the beating.

What on earth kind of perverted translation of the bible is this preacher reading? How on earth can this possible be justified? Then it hits me…this is not about the bible, well, maybe on the surface. However, deep down where the heart and the soul intersect it is pure raw fear.

The church universal is so fearful of our community they will justify anything to stop us from being accepted as normal and thriving and contributing members of society.

Now mind you, I am fully aware it is not every church and some churches have made tremendous progress in getting rid of their fear…but if one is totally honest the biggest obstacle to our community is the moderate to conservative Christian Churches who it seems will do anything to stop us.

They are deeply fearful of us…they are in two words, “deeply homophobic”.

Homophobia: Function: noun date: 1969: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Interesting how this irrational fear of the religious zealots of the world becomes their strongest weapon against our friends and us.

The religious zealots of the world are so “fearful” of homosexuals or for that matter anyone that doesn’t fit their definition of gender identity or orientation. They fight so fiercely to throw every manner of fecal matter at the fan and it just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks to us. Some of that crap that we are stuck with:

The fear about where we will end up after death. Not to mention the fear of another Sodom and Gomorrah.

Some people seem to fear that if we pursue the life of our God-given orientation we will end up in this place that some call hell; a horrible place where we will be separated from God for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that this fear and concern are 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 our fears when it comes to sexuality.

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 specify way 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 of the prodigal son to make the obvious choice.

Yet, what we get focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and authority figures that have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homos are given any dignity, acceptance or love.”

So, yes there is a choice to be made.

However, I must say that to believe God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it did not make the choice to follow the law is rubbish.

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 that 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 could live that love.

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

Jesus’ words:

“Be not 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, the hypocritical religious right of center has chosen to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around them, while we have chosen to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

They belong to the church of the Pharisees, Scribes and St. Paul; we belong to the faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for, unconditional love.

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

Fear of what our relationship with God is going to be and look like in the hereafter.

We need no other reason for bringing 300,000 people to Piedmont Park each year then this and to say:

We are not afraid of you, our love cannot be taken away no matter what you do, say or threaten.

To live in fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must listen to, believe and live the words of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!” With the celebration of Gay Pride each year we say loudly and clearly: “Fear Doesn’t Live Here”

Yes, Gay Pride serves our community, it builds our community, it strengthens our community, it expresses our love, but most assuredly it destroys our fear.

Gay Pride allows us to say to the oppressive religious zealots, in the words of Glinda from the Wizard of Oz: “You have no power here, be gone before someone drops a house on you.”

“To Serve and Protect”…NOT

Leave it to the Atlanta Police Department to give me more grey hair, or something to write about or maybe just vent or maybe just bitch or make a call for action.

Seems the Atlanta Police Department is in what is known in the world of sports as a prolonged slump.

Generally, in major league baseball when a prolonged slump gets too long the President of the ball club fires the manager.

In the case of Atlanta, the manager is the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department George Turner and the President is Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mayor Reed appointed Turner chief, after being less than honest during his campaign for mayor by saying he was going to do a national search and get the best person for the job in the country.

Chief George Turner was the Mayor’s man. Really? This choice was best in the entire country? Really?

“The Ramage Report”, Atlanta’s well-informed commentary on policy and politics noted in an on-line article from February 12, 2011, as Mayor Reed was getting ready to do a national TV interview:

Reed’s “police year,” however, began in January 2010 when he appointed former Deputy Chief George Turner as interim police chief with the obvious goal of shoehorning him into the chief’s job—something Reed eventually accomplished by overruling the citizen committee he had appointed to choose Atlanta’s next police chief.

The New York and Washington-based journalists on “Meet the Press” won’t trouble themselves with Atlanta’s public safety concerns. The show focuses on national and world issues and its regular guest journalists make their careers by identifying rising figures on the national political scene. It is no accident that one so often hears them say “Well, as I pointed out, you may recall, back in…” Reed has carefully positioned himself as a rising star in the national Democratic Party. Meet the Press will look more at Reed’s affinity with Gold Dome conservatives—regardless of his long track record of carrying water for the Democrats—than at the effects of hiked permit and parking fees on small local businesses. These talking heads think in terms of ideology, facts be damned, and that is one reason that American politics has become a matter of branding rather than a matter of public service.

They certainly won’t consider the fruit that Reed’s underhanded manipulation of the police chief search has produced.

But for Atlantans, that fruit is undeniable. For the past year Atlanta’s taxpayers have dug into their shrinking bank accounts and shelled out cash for lawsuit after lawsuit filed against the police department: The $1 million-plus lawsuit over the Eagle raid developed almost entirely under Reed despite the raid itself having been carried out under his predecessor; the relatively frugal $40,000 lawsuit over police illegally taking a cell phone from a resident grew out of an incident that happened several months into Turner’s interim tenure; and another lawsuit, this one over officers unlawfully strip searching citizens during a traffic stop, is on tap. And there are others in the pipeline.

Though there are certainly some cops who are simply stupid and evil, at some point we must face the fact that these lawsuits were not a matter of a rogue cop here and there. The reality of the APD is that it is a rogue organization with intelligent, well-trained, ethical police officers who do their jobs not because of the department but in spite of it. They work, to the point of exhaustion, for little pay, without needed equipment or support, under stress generated by supervisors and command staff who promote an environment of ass-covering to the detriment of the citizens’ safety. Cops with about 10 years or more on the force are painfully aware that most of their co-workers are clueless when it comes to criminal procedure. They are also aware that an alarming number of their co-workers are little more than criminals themselves.”

That was just a year into the loosing streak of the APD. Here we are 7 months further along and the Eagle mess is still not settled. Further those officers who committed criminal offences have not been arrested and charged for their crimes.

Like the “gift that keeps on giving” a 2nd lawsuit has been or will be filed soon. The outcome of this lawsuit is sure to once again cost Atlanta taxpayers a boatload of money.

Within the past week or two we have also been let in on a really big secret. Many of the officers of the APD on the streets making arrests, supposedly protecting us from all from the dangerous homeless, the ever present prostitutes, those damn sex driven queers and those awful people who pee outside (tongue firmly in cheek) lack the authority to make those or any arrests because they have not met state requirements for certification.

When the story broke the Atlanta Journal Constitution in an on-line article from August 18th wrote:

“The Atlanta Police Department is still reviewing records but already has found that dozens of officers lacked the authority to make arrests because they had not met state requirements for training.

“The APD administration’s failures have just compromised a ton of criminal convictions and pending cases,” said a past president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Christine A. Koehler. “Somebody’s not doing what they are supposed to be doing over there. … They have big problems.”

At least 51 APD officers had not received the state-required 20 hours of training per year, and that meant they could not make arrests. Maj. Jeff Glazier, commander of the Atlanta police training academy, said Thursday that more APD officers will likely be found deficient as agency investigators still have about 600 files to review — or about one-third of the force.”

Chief Turner says it is not his fault. Really? Really? Who the hell is in charge at the APD if it is not the Chief?

Adding further fuel to the fire we have this little gem reported by Copwatch of East Atlanta which according to their website is a group of civilians organized to protect our communities from police abuse. They monitor police stops, using video cameras to document any brutality or violation of rights. They also educate people about their rights and how to file complaints about mistreatment by the police:

Nearly a dozen officers and medics were surrounding a man who was lying on the street in handcuffs and appeared to be writhing in pain.

Officers poured water on the man’s face and made comments suggesting police had pepper sprayed him earlier.

Officers asked us to step back, and we complied. However they then began to move us even further down the block, using up to four officers and their bicycles to obstruct our view of the person in custody. Officer Basile, told us that it was illegal for us to film the man on the ground. When we asked if he was ordering us to stop filming, Basile replied “yes”.

An ambulance arrived and further obstructed our view, so we moved to the other side of the street. The four officers followed us, continuing to obstruct our view and attempt to intimidate us. At one point, officer T. Dziamba asked if we had media credentials and told us to stop filming if we didn’t.

Although we were pushed to the end of the block, other civilians were allowed to walk through the scene.

As a result of a lawsuit brought by Copwatch, APD now has an official policy of not interfering with civilians recording police. A recent federal ruling reinforces that right. However as this report shows, police on the street are still determined to use intimidation, interference, and lies to prevent the public from seeing what they do.”

Then of course if you live in and around midtown, it appears the APD has given up law enforcement to Midtown Ponce Security Alliance as their newsletter shows;

“During the early morning hours of August 31st, MPSA Patrol responded to a 911 call about an apparently unconscious person in the rear of a property in the 700 block of Piedmont, and found a white male lying face down near a dumpster.”

Make sure you read this quote closely and ask yourself a question; since when does a non-profit security company answer 911 calls? In fact if you read their webpage it reads like they run the operation as if it is a bona fide police force.

Let us not forget the gay men who were cutting through Piedmont Park after spending an evening at Blake’s who were roughed up and arrested by APD.

It should also be mentioned here about the kids who are routinely hassled by APD at Piedmont Park for doing nothing more then dancing…really? For dancing?

Yes, we all know the APD is understaffed and under paid and that is never good for moral or encouraging a smooth operation. However, one would think the Police Chief would be spending his time trying to fix this challenge, however it appears like many other happening within the APD this is not his fault.

So why the reader might be asking at this point is a pastor who is writing a faith blog writing about this?

The answer is simple. The sworn duty of the APD is to “serve and protect” the citizens of Atlanta. It is far too obvious from these brief examples our city is neither being served nor protected by APD. One only needs to read the 2 reports issued concerning the Eagle raid to see and understand our tax dollars are going to an agency that is out of control.

In fact if you read these reports and are not worried about what might happen should you come in contact with APD I respectfully say you are naïve.

We are coming up on the 2-year anniversary of that raid and precious little has been done to correct the situation.

Read what Copwatch of East Atlanta is reporting and it becomes painfully obvious APD does not want to be held accountable for their actions.

What is happening within the APD is without good ethics and is an immoral handling of the power given to them by the citizens of our community.

I think my friend Art Izzard summed it best when he said on his Facebook page:

“Seriously, we’ve had a 92 year old woman shot to death in her living room. Patrons at the Eagle have had their civil rights violated. Men have had cavity searches performed on them in public. 85 officers don’t even have the certification required to perform their duties. Now we learn the APD has denied employment to a HIV+ applicant who was otherwise qualified. How low can this department stoop and for how long will the citizens of Atlanta foot the bill for the never ending lawsuits and settlements?”

Yes how long? How long before the community as a whole and in vast numbers begins to express it’s outrage over the chaos that is APD. How long before we figure out that like in baseball you can’t fire the whole team but you can fire the manager? In this case the Chief of Police.

So here are the questions that are begging for an answer. How many more lawsuits have to be brought to court? How many more unanswered 911 calls? How many more 911 one calls being answered by some other non-profit agency rather then APD? How many more wrong establishments being raided, wrong homes being invaded, or citizens bullied? How many more officers do we have to find without proper certification?

How much more will we take before the Mayor of this city hears a unison cry from the people; Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho this police chief has got to go!

Our Not-So-Secret Secret

Two weeks ago the blog was about an Elephant in the room or as one editor at GA Voice called it: “Did you see the elephant in the room during the raid on the Eagle?”

In case the readers missed it, the point of the blog is that homophobia was at the heart of a police raid on that quiet bar in Atlanta.

So this week as the whole Eagle mess took another turn as if it were some kind of horror soap opera, I was looking for something different to write about. I posted on my Facebook page a request for topics and was caught off guard by this particular request: “queer-on-queer violence (mental, emotional, and/or physical)”

It seems last weeks Elephant might have been the bigger African vs. the Asian variety but regardless the room is getting a little crowded.

This is a subject that does not get much press or community attention but as some research this afternoon made clear this is definitely an elephant in the room and it seems we have good reasons and are doing a good job of ignoring it.

Why?

According to “An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection” it is like an onion with several layers.

“Domestic violence in the GLBT community is a serious issue. The rate of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women. As in opposite-gendered couples, the problem is likely underreported. Facing a system which is often oppressive and hostile towards those who identify as anything other than “straight”, those involved in same-gender battering frequently report being afraid of revealing their sexual orientation or the nature of their relationship.

Additionally, even those who attempt to report violence in their alterative relationship run into obstacles. Police officers, prosecutors, judges and others to whom a GLBT victim may turn to for help may have difficulty in providing the same level of service as to a heterosexual victim. Not only might personal attitudes towards the GLBT community come into play, but also these providers may have inadequate levels of experience and training to work with GLBT victims and flimsy or non-existent laws to enforce on behalf of the victim.

Although much advancement has been made in the provision of services, the enforcement of the law, and the equality of protections available to those in GLBT relationships over the last decade, it is important for you to be aware of your rights and options as they relate to your attempt to escape an abusive relationship.”


See there are indeed 2 elephants in the room and while they are not exactly the same they are surely related.

According to what I was able to find 1 in 4 men are victims of “queer on queer” violence or more traditionally called “domestic violence”. Friends this is a very disturbing figure and one which should give us pause.

According to Dr. Amy Menna, who wrote “Gift From Within – PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caregivers”, our community has a serious problem.

“The number of studies designed to measure domestic violence in the LGBT community pale in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. However, studies indicate the prevalence to be equal between the LGBT community and the heterosexual community. Results from the National Violence Against Women survey indicated that gay males are more at risk than gay females. Approximately 23% of gay males studied reported to having been raped, physically assaulted, and / or stalked by another gay male. Slightly more than 11% of gay females also reported the same circumstances. With a victimization rate of approximately 10 to 25 percent, the statistics for either being abused or knowing someone who has been abused is alarming.”

Sadly there is not a whole lot of data for the women in our community so if this seems like I am concentrating on the men it is not because it is not happening in the women’s community. It is in fact found in both communities and the damage caused to everyone involved is staggering.

“GAY MALE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & REASONS VICTIMS STAY” by J. Michael Cruz (Journal of Men’s Studies), March 2003, No. 3, Vol. 11, p. 309) gives us a glimpse of what is happening;

The limited research that has examined the dynamics of gay male domestic violence (see for example, Merrill and Wolfe, 2000) has found that most experience pushing, shoving or grabbing, with other forms of violence occurring with decreasing prevalence – restraining, punching or hitting, and slapping. The reasons, in previous research, that gay men have given for staying in relationships in which they are being abused include: hope for change, love, fear, lack of assistance, loneliness, loyalty and lack of knowledge regarding domestic violence. Gay men have been found to define domestic violence in similar ways to Heterosexual women with an emphasis on power and control (see Cruz and Firestone, 1998); with some additional factors such as control, jealously and internalized homophobia. Gay men’s constructions of masculinity have also been found to have an impact on gay male domestic violence as well as some of the reasons that gay men stay (Cruz, 2000).


As I write this I am aware there are three potential types of readers. First are those who are victims; second are those who were victims; third are those concerned enough to care and to learn and to help, but were never victimized themselves.

My hope is by then end of this blog each group will find the dignity, freedom from fear and compassionate acceptance each of us deserve and have a right too.

Most of us think of domestic violence as physical assault, but in fact it is far more then that.

Dr. Amy Menna gives the following definition; “…domestic violence is when one seeks to control the thoughts and behaviors of the other partner. It is about power and control. It entails a pattern of violence where one seeks to control the thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of their intimate partner as well punishing the partner for resisting their control. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It often includes physical violence where one person believes they are entitled to such control. Domestic violence often carries no visible signs. Although physical and sexual abuse is common, many types of control are non-physical such as emotional, psychological, or economic abuse.”

Emotional Abuse

· Yelling, screaming, name calling, or other methods of shaming
· Threatening to “out” the other partner
· Threatening to tell someone about their partner’s HIV status
· Isolating the partner from family and friends
· Discouragement of independent activities such as work or taking classes
· Accusations of infidelity
· Constantly criticism of partners weight, physical appearance, or abilities
· Using children to gain control by blatantly undermining partners parenting decisions
· Controls all decision making (i.e. going out to eat or to where to live)

Physical Abuse

· Hitting, kicking, or pushing the partner
· Throwing things
· Breaking things
· Harming pets
· Cornering the partner
· Punching walls

Sexual Abuse

· Making the partner engage in sexual activities that he or she is not comfortable doing
· Inviting a third party without the consent
· Creating video tapes of the partner doing sexual acts then blackmailing them by telling them they are going to show them to others
· Forced sex
· Refusing to wear protection when one’s HIV or STD status is either positive or unknown
· Any acts of aggression or violence during sex without consent

Economic Abuse

· Control of all the finances
· Withholding money and/or credit cards
· Forbidding the partner to have anything in his or her name
· Putting all debt in the partner’s name
· Making the partner account for every penny
· Preventing the partner from working at a job
· Sabotaging the partner’s employment

I can assure you after 25 years of activism and advocacy in our community, the afore mention behaviors are chronic and progressive; they do not go away without intervention.

As one reads down the list it becomes apparent as to why this is a difficult situation to address in the LGBTQI community.

LAMBDA a non-profit, gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgender agency dedicated to reducing homophobia, inequality, hate crimes, and discrimination by encouraging self-acceptance, cooperation, and non-violence, has these points as to what makes this even more difficult for the LGBTQI community:

· It is frequently incorrectly assumed that lesbian, bi and gay abuse must be “mutual.” It is not often seen as being mutual in heterosexual battering.
· Utilizing existing services (such as a shelter, attending support groups or calling a crisis line) either means lying or hiding the gender of the batterer to be perceived (and thus accepted) as a heterosexual. Or it can mean “coming out”, which is a major life decision. If lesbians, bi’s and gays come out to service providers who are not discreet with this information, it could lead to the victim losing their home, job, custody of children, etc. This may also precipitate local and/or statewide laws to affect some of these changes, depending on the area.
· Telling heterosexuals about battering in a lesbian, bi or gay relationship can reinforce the myth many believe that lesbian, bi and gay relationships are “abnormal.” This can further cause the victim to feel isolated and unsupported.
· The lesbian, bi and gay community is often not supportive of victims of battering because many want to maintain the myth that there are no problems (such as child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, etc.) in lesbian, bi and gay relationships.
· Receiving support services to help one escape a battering relationship is more difficult when there are also oppressions faced. Battered lesbians and female bisexuals automatically encounter sexism and homophobia, and gay and bisexual men encounter homophobia. Lesbian or gay people of color who are battered also face racism. These forms of social oppressions make it more difficult for these groups to get the support needed (legal, financial, social, housing, medical, etc.) to escape and live freely from an abusive relationship.
· Lesbian, bi and gay survivors of battering may not know others who are lesbian, bi or gay, meaning that leaving the abuser could result in total isolation.
· Lesbians, bisexuals and gays are usually not as tied financially to their partner, which can be a benefit if they decide to end the relationship. However, if their lives are financially intertwined, such as each paying a rent or mortgage and having “built a home together”, they have no legal process to assist in making sure assets are evenly divided, a process which exists for their married, heterosexual counterparts.
· The lesbian, bi and gay community within the area may be small, and in all likelihood everyone the survivor knows will soon know of their abuse. Sides will be drawn and support may be difficult to find. Anonymity is not an option, a characteristic many heterosexual survivors can draw upon in “starting a new life” for themselves within the same city.

So where do we start? How can we help? What are the resources?

We start by helping an individual who is in a domestic violence relationship via communication and support. Here are some ways to support an individual in a domestic violence situation that have been gathered from several sources;

· Reach out to them. Ask them what type of help they WANT. What they need might not be what you expect.

· Believe them and keep whatever you’re told confidential. More important than anything else, you must maintain their TRUST. If you take actions on your own, even with the best intentions, you may endanger them, and lose their trust.

· Don’t blame them. The abused person is NOT responsible for being hurt and does not deserve to be abused. Wanting the keep a relationship alive is NOT the same as wanting to be abused.

· Take the time to talk privately with your friend or co-worker. Each person needs to tell their story in their own time and space.

· Provide opportunities for them to talk about what’s happening. Ask about suspicious bruises or fights that you know about.

· Validate feelings. Your friend may feel hurt, angry, afraid, ashamed and trapped. Don’t minimize or try to “talk them out of” what they are feeling, even if you don’t understand it or think it’s irrational. What they are feeling and experiencing is reality for THEM.

· Understand that it is difficult to leave a home or someone you love, and that your loved one may go back several times. Remember too that leaving is the most dangerous time as the overwhelming majority of domestic violence murders occur when a victim is trying to leave and within the first 6 months after they’ve actually done so. Your friend has the most information about the abuser, and THEY are the best judge of when and how to best make a break in the safest way. Remember that your friend’s solutions may not be the same as yours.

· Help them plan how to stay safe when violence happens, and for longer-term possible courses of action they might take.

· Avoid badmouthing the abuser or pressuring the victim. This can backfire! Victims may pull away and alienate themselves from those who are trying to help. Instead, help the victim to build confidence in themselves and what actions THEY may be able to take for themselves.

We can also help the batter by referring them to Men Stopping Violence (MSV) is located at 2785 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite 112, Decatur, Georgia 30033.

We can further help by encouraging our places of worship and community support groups to become aware and enlightened to the seriousness of this issue.

Pastors can and should be more then passive prayer partners; in fact we should be raising this subject from our pulpits at a minimum.

As a community we can advocate and support programs in our community that train, educate and promote awareness and action around this issue. We can encourage the political leaders in our community to pass laws, which will offer an easier and a clear legal route for help.

Finally and maybe most importantly we can help those caught in this vicious cycle and ourselves as well by claiming and acknowledging we are of great worth, our dignity is sacred and we have the right to live without fear of being abused in our all our relationships.

As to the resources in Atlanta either locally or via the web here are a few:

http://www.thehealthinitiative.org/index.php for women

http://www.meetup.com/Imanis-Corporation/ for women

http://gmdvp.org for men

http://www.gnesa.org/

http://www.united4safety.org/

If you are experiencing domestic abuse get help today. If you know someone you suspect is experiencing domestic abuse don’t ignore it.

The Elephant in the Room

There is an old story that has been around for a long time and told with many variations to the moral of the story and so today this story sums up the raid on the Eagle Bar, the Atlanta Police Department and some of our brothers and sisters in our community.

One day three blind men encountered an elephant.

Upon touching the elephant’s tail, the first blind man exclaimed, “I declare, an elephant is exactly like a rope.”

The second blind man, bumping into the elephant’s side, said, “No sir, you are wrong. An elephant is exactly like a wall.”

Then the third, having grasped the elephant’s trunk, declared, “You are both mistaken. The elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Yes, it’s all a matter of perspective. And it’s that simple word: perspective that creates one of the biggest disconnects between the police department and the community they are trying to serve.

As everyone in Atlanta knows the official report concerning the raid of the gay bar known as the “Eagle” has been released. After having read the reports prepared by the Office of Professional Standards and Greenberg Traurig it is abundantly clear the Atlanta Police Department at it’s highest levels have no clue as to what the phrase “serve and protect” actually means.

What is also very clear is that there are those in our community who would sell out our community simply because they were pissed off because they didn’t get their way.

It should be noted unless otherwise noted quotes from the APD report can be found in their entirety at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/58976930/Atlanta-Eagle-Raid-Office-of-Professional-Standards-OPS-Investigation

Upon touching the elephant’s tail, the first blind man exclaimed, “I declare, an elephant is exactly like a rope.”

This whole 2-year fiasco started with one, count them one email:

“On May 15, 2009, an email was sent to the Mayor’s Office complaining that wild sex parties were occurring at the Atlanta Eagle and spilling out into the surrounding neighborhood. This email was forwarded to Sergeant Lisa Keyes of the Public Affairs Unit.

May 20, 2009 Sergeant Keyes forwarded the email to Major Khirus Williams, commander of Zone 5,who in turn forwarded the email to Major Debra Williams, commander of the Special Enforcement Section, to handle. Major Debra Williams responded back to Major Khirus Williams that the Special Enforcement Section would look into the complaint and also sent the response to Sergeant John Brock and Sergeant Kelley Collier of the Vice Unit, and copied Lieutenant Tony Crawford, commander of the Vice Unit, on the email.

Sergeant Collier sent an email to Lieutenant Crawford saying He went by the Eagle and didn’t see any illegal activity. Sergeant Collier told Lieutenant Crawford in the email that the Vice Unit would run a detail at the Atlanta Eagle later that evening, once they completed an unrelated detail.

Once the detail went inside the Eagle according to the report some unsavory stuff was seen. However, it should be noted nothing was done. I know there are investigative techniques for gathering enough evidence to go to court, however throwing a light switch with the flash of a badge and an arrest or two on the spot would have saved the city a million dollar settlement. But I digress…APD waits a month and goes back:

June 11, 2009 Under cover officers from the Vice Unit returned to the Atlanta Eagle for a second visit and again witnessed dancers on the bar exposing themselves. There was no sexual activity witnessed by the officers during this visit.


Again I am going to point out a flash of a badge, the arrest of a dancer or two would have saved the city a million dollar settlement. Also to be noted for the 2nd time in 2 months there was no sexual activity witnessed. How much rope did the APD need for their lynching? Apparently 3 months worth as that is how long it took them to go back.

September 3, 2009 the investigation into the Atlanta Eagle was reopened. Undercover officers went into the Atlanta Eagle to determine if illegal activity was still occurring inside the bar. Once inside the Atlanta Eagle undercover officers again witnessed men dancing on the bar and engaged in sex in the backroom. After this visit to the Atlanta Eagle it was determined enough evidence had been gathered to bring the investigation to a close. It was determined the Vice Unit would enter the Atlanta Eagle the following Thursday, September 10, 2009,for the purpose of making arrests on the individuals involved in illegal activity.


I am sure I am beginning to sound like a broken record, however, a flash of a badge (s) arrests on the spot would have in fact satisfied the one email complaint and saved the city a million dollar settlement.

Also, whom were they coming back to arrest the next week? Did they have pictures of those who were seen in compromising positions? Could they not have gone to the owner of the bar after any arrests were made at any point in their observation and issued a warning to put a stop to this? What possible reason could APD have for searching for a length of rope to hang this one small gay bar, which took 5 months to find?

My point here is one can go to any bar in the city and over a period of 5 months find some sort of illegal activity going on. A 5-month investigation when it could have been stopped after the first visit? Come on now we all know there is an Elephant in the room.

The second blind man, bumping into the elephant’s side, said, “No sir, you are wrong. An elephant is exactly like a wall.”

As one reads the reports concerning the raid itself it reads like a mega drug bust in which a major cartel was going down. Police storm the building screaming at people to get down, cussing at people, by some witness accounts guns drawn and pointed at people, doors kicked in, people thrown to the floor, people handcuffed and search without the least bit of probably cause and id’s checked for apparently no other reason then a badge, a gun and a big flashlight with the help of one email says they can.

By the time the carnage was over only the staff and some dancers were arrested. No drugs were found, no charges of illicit sex, hell not even a fire code violation!

I suppose about this time the folks from APD were beginning to recognize they had stepped in it big time. So now the Elephant in the room becomes a wall. Nobody from APD remembers anything, emails disappear, stories of the nights events get stranger and stranger and officers involved in the raid just flat lie about who was doing what to and with whom.

Then there is this little problem of going before a judge to get a warrant and the higher ups in the APD command hiding behind assumptions about whether one was needed or not or just assuming one had been obtained. Damn, don’t you think this might be the one thing you would want to have crystal clear before you start throwing people to the floor and kicking in doors?

If this were not so serious it would laughable as I was in the courtroom for the trial or the hearing of the 8 arrested and the main officer in charge during the raid could not identify even one of the arrestees and what they were doing to cause their arrest. Of course the end result of that was the charges were dismissed.

Then the third, having grasped the elephant’s trunk, declared, “You are both mistaken. The elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Dyana Bagby, of the GA Voice did an excellent job of reporting on how some of the planners of this raid saw this Elephant as a snake.

“Officer Jeremy Edwards (member of the Vice Unit at the time of the raid) for his statement during this investigation said that ‘Seeing another man have sex with another man in the ass, I would classify that as very violent.’

Sgt. Brock stated in the OPS investigation and the independent investigation by Greenberg Traurig that he believed gay people were violent.

In the OPS investigation, Brock, who was a key player in organizing the raid, said he forced patrons to the floor because he believed there was violence associated with being in a leather bar:

“There’s a risk factor involved when you’re dealing with people you don’t know anything about. S&M, that — that has a stigma of some violence,” Brock said, according to the report.

In the Greenberg Traurig interview with Brock, he said he believed gay people were more violent.

“In the past I have as a patrol officer handled calls where there are gay couples living in residence where one is mad at the other, and they slash clothes, furniture, anything they can do. They’re very violent. So, no. I definitely do think there was a high risk there. I think the only safe way — and I think you’re getting towards why I had everybody put on the ground,” Brock said.

When asked if Brock thought gay people are more violent than other citizens, Brock responded that they are.

“My experience, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when they’re — when they get mad, they get really mad. So …,” Brock said.

So, lets take a step back and see the Elephant that is really in the room: Bullying and Homophobia.

Because of some officer’s obvious homophobia, one email and the ability to bully a group of people because they wear leather 60 plus people were terrorized for the better part of 3 hours.

While the Chief of Police has taken quick action after getting the reports, the Mayor of the City has apologized, APD has been ordered to do training and the City settled a million dollar lawsuit…it is not enough.

Those who planned this raid, those who lied in open court and to investigators and those who assaulted the patrons of the Eagle under the guise of following orders should be fired.

If the Chief of Police and the Mayor are serious about not tolerating misconduct on the part of the Atlanta Police Department, if they are serious about not allowing homophobia to fester in the ranks and they are serious about the role of the police is to “Serve and Protect” then send a message which is loud, clear and concise.

The message will be loud, clear and concise when those who planned this raid, those who lied in open court and to investigators and those who assaulted the patrons of the Eagle under the guise of following orders are relieved of duty and no longer allowed to call themselves an Atlanta police officer.

The message will be loud, clear and concise if when the investigation shows evidence of the officers who broke the law, those who slaughtered peoples civil rights and those who assaulted the patrons there that night are charged, arrested and brought to trial for their crimes.

Until this is done this will simple be the story of the 3 blind men who encounter an elephant.

Giving Love A Chance, Part 2

My attempt in Part 1 of this blog was to offer an alternative to the wanton violence both physically and mentally our society seems to glorify. I also wanted to put the previous two quotes in front of us so we might give them more than a passing thought:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength To Love, 1963

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

So love is more than a noun, is in fact a verb, a word of action. I recognized from reading the particular writing again there are some actions which love is clearly not. We must see the two actions together and as one set of behaviors that have the potential to change not only our individual lives, but also the community where we live and the world of which we are a part. Hence part 2…

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Versions)

1) Love does not envy: When one lives in a capitalistic society it is hard not to be influenced by the expression, “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” We measure our success or failure by comparing ourselves to what others have or don’t have. Sometimes it will even get to the point of resenting others for having something we want but don’t have. Even worse for the person of faith, we sometimes reach a point of resenting God for what others have. Envy makes a statement of being more concerned about the well being of self rather than the well being of others.

2) Love does not boast: To boast is to lose perspective of one’s self. Bragging happens when we think we have accomplished something unique. Bragging often is about what we have accomplished on our own. After 25 years of ministry I can report we do not accomplish anything unique, as nothing is really new but rather simply tried or approached in a different way. Most, if not all of our accomplishments come about because of several experiences and complicated factors…even though a snowflake is unique, it takes hundreds of thousands to make a beautiful snowfall.

3) Love is not proud (some translations have the phrase “does not puff itself up”) Being too proud or puffing one’s self up occurs when one looks down upon the homeless, the poor, the uneducated, or people of a different culture, with the attitude of “thank God I am not them”. The whole political argument around “American exceptionalism” while hundreds of thousands of people die from starvation, lack of medical care, clean water or our military drones, indicates we may have become a little puffy!

4) Love does not dishonor others (some translations have the phrase “behave rudely”): Rude by definition of Merriam-Webster is, “offensively impolite or ill-mannered: “she had been rude to her boss”. This has the action of dishonoring the person to whom it is directed. Speaking truth can always be done without dishonoring or being ill mannered.

5) Love is not self-seeking (some translations have the phrase “seek its own advantage”) The action of love focuses on responsibilities rather than privileges. I wonder what happens to white privilege, sexism, homophobia to name just a few, if love is the operative word in one’s life.

6) Love it is not easily angered (some translations use the phrase “lose its temper”): Being angry about something or another is one thing, but being pushed there easily or to lose one’s temper (i.e. control) is to make other peoples’ lives miserable…think how damaging it has been to you when someone has just lost all control and started screaming…out of control anger is anything but love.

7) Love keeps no record of wrongs: In any conversation around love, the key is always about forgiveness. In order to not keep score one has to forgive and let go. I use to marvel at my mother-in-law who, during any disagreement, could bring up an endless list of things you had done wrong… a little forgetfulness might have ushered in some family peace at times.

8) Love does not delight in evil: Evil by any definition is that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction. I think this is pretty self explanatory, don’t you? We need look no further than the sick and twisted logic of Eric Rudolph’s own words to give clarity to the definition. For those who don’t recognize the name, he was the one who set off bombs in Atlanta during the Olympics and also bombed medical clinics and a gay bar, killing one and injuring scores of others.

“Along with abortion, another assault upon the integrity of American society is the concerted effort to legitimize the practice of homosexuality. …But when the attempt is made to drag this practice out of the closet and into the public square in an “in your face” attempt to force society to accept and recognize this behavior as being just as legitimate and normal as the natural man/woman relationship, every effort should be made, including force if necessary, to halt this effort.

This effort is commonly known as the homosexual agenda. Whether it is gay marriage, homosexual adoption, hate crimes laws including gays, or the attempt to introduce a homosexual normalizing curriculum into our schools, all of these efforts should be ruthlessly opposed.”

So when we combine these two blogs it seems we have a viable alternative to the way things play out in today’s world. Yet the challenge remains with the whole concept of love. It is not that it is too difficult to understand; quite the opposite, it is too easy to know exactly what is being asked of us. The problem is being willing to do it.

Maybe this why the only command Jesus ever gave his followers was: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another” John 13:34(The Message)

Isn’t about time to give love a chance?