Tag Archives: Peace/Violence

Are You Listening — Or Just Nodding Your Head?

We all know that feeling of talking to someone who’s not really listening to what we’re saying. They can hear us just fine, but they’re not listening: They’re distracted, they’re not taking it all in. They’re too wrapped up in their own thoughts to listen to ours. They’re nodding their head, but in that vaguely distracted way that means they’re either waiting for their turn to speak — or worse, they actually wish we weren’t saying anything at all.

And right now, that’s how America feels to me: For the most part, we’re vaguely nodding our heads over what’s happened in Ferguson, New York and Cleveland — but there’s not a lot of real listening going on. And there are certainly some who seem as though they’d be happier if no one were talking at all.

I wish that what has gone on recently in this country were something unique, something out of the ordinary. But sadly it is not. In fact, it is business as usual in the United States of America.

An unarmed teenager killed in Ferguson, Missouri. A 12-year-old boy shot dead in Cleveland. A white police officer on video choking a black man to death in New York City.

Furthermore, there has been a book’s worth of these situations sprinkled over the last 30 years of our history. And the explanation for these events has not changed that much. Jim Wallis of Sojourners does a good job of distilling the debate:

Many white Americans tend to see this problem as unfortunate incidents based on individual circumstances. Black Americans see a system in which their black lives matter less than white lives. That is a fundamental difference of experience between white and black Americans, between black and white parents, even between white and black Christians. The question is: Are we white people going to listen or not? White Americans talk about how hard and dangerous police work is — that most cops are good and are to be trusted. Black Americans agree that police work is dangerously hard, but also have experienced systemic police abuse of their families. All black people, especially black men, have their own stories. Since there are so many stories, are these really just isolated incidents? We literally have two criminal justice systems in America — one for whites and one for blacks.

So to say that what is going on with the police in this country is not racial is both naïve and willfully ignorant. What Wallis is saying now is the same kind of analysis applied in the 1960’s concerning the Black and white communities.

What has happened since the 1960’s is 9/11. Our focus has shifted from being in communities trying to figure out how to live together to being in a culture of fear and a complete lack of trust of each other, and that has affected the relationship between the Black and white communities.

Our police have gone from being agencies focused on a mission of “To Serve and Protect” to agencies that look more like military occupying forces. In fact, upon further thought it doesn’t just look like that, it is in fact just that!

Back in the day, there was a reason we separated the military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people. Hence Ferguson, New York and Cleveland happen — and more than a handful of other cities are ripe for the same thing.

I am well aware that not all police officers are like this. The issue is not so much about specific situations or occurrences, but rather about this overall shift in mentality in policing practices in general. Military equipment spreads military mentality. We do not need military mentality on the streets of Atlanta, or Tucker, or Doraville.

Conservative white Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore said this about Ferguson:

In the public arena, we ought to recognize that it is empirically true that African-American men are more likely, by virtually every measure, to be arrested, sentenced, executed, or murdered than their white peers. We cannot shrug that off with apathy. Working toward justice in this arena will mean consciences that are sensitive to the problem. But how can we get there when white people do not face the same experiences as do black people?

Later, in response to the Staten Island decision, he added:

… a government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice… It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another.

The investigations following these tragedies just seemed to add to a more militaristic approach in America in 2014. The decisions from the grand juries followed an appalling national pattern where police officers use excessive and sometimes fatal force against people of color and are frequently not held accountable.

So is there any hope, is there any way out? Has too much happened to fully recover?

The answer is no. However, we must change our way of thinking, we must change the way we do business.

In order to change, we must make a new commitment to listening — not just hearing, but really listening.

Again, Jim Wallis captures this idea fully when he writes:

Are there police uses of force that are understandable and justifiable? Of course there are. If our society wasn’t steeped in a gun culture, many of these shootings could be avoided. But has excessive, unnecessary, lethal force been used over and over again, all across the country, with white police killing unarmed black civilians? Yes it has, and the evidence is overwhelming. But will we white people listen to it? Will white parents try to imagine how it would feel to have “the talk,” to tell their own children that they shouldn’t trust those who are supposed to serve and protect them? That’s hard to listen to, hard to hear, hard to recognize the legitimacy of other parents’ experiences when they are so different from your own. It’s time to listen — for us white Americans to listen to black Americans; for white parents to listen to black parents; for white Christians to listen to black Christians. This may be the most important thing we have ever had to do: to listen, really listen.

Once we are willing to listen as a people of faith, will we go back and once again give our full attention to that one solitary life that indeed changed the world?

Can we once again read Dr. James Allan Francis (from a part of his 1926 book, “The Real Jesus,” while Dr. Francis was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles)?

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.

Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself… While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat.

When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Now that we again have read this, hopefully we are convinced that one person can make a difference. Will we then look deep into the teachings of this “one solitary life” and see a ministry of inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation? Will we call for the unity of our faith?

Will we actually put into practice what we believe and what we say about the unity of “the body of Christ” or not? In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of one body with many members:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…. For the body does not consist of one member but of many… As it is, there are many parts, yet one body… that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Will we again understand these words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which speak a life-giving truth?

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

If we can do this, during our journey through Advent, this Holy Season in which we celebrate the birth of that “one solitary life”, there can be brought about peace.

My friends, it seems to me that we have no choice but to change the way we think, the way we do business — because in the words of Dr. King, “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” 

Are you listening to what’s going on? Really listening? Or are you just nodding your head?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

MARTA Beating: Pastoral Statement and Call to the Community

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

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

I would encourage our community and friends to:

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

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

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

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

God Bless,
Rev. Paul M. Turner

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Just Some Passing Thoughts Entering 2013

July 2012 was the last time I wrote. Did I go on vacation? Quit writing blogs? Run out of things to write about or say?

No, No, and God knows No! Simply put, I just got tired of having to write about the crap the religious and political right keeps lying about. How many times does one have to prove something is a lie before people begin to understand the game that is being played?

I realize one of the many reasons “stupidity” rules is because most people are like lightening. That is they take the path of least resistance. Most, (not all folks) are too lazy or too trusting to really check out information coming their way and so people who are looking to have power and control get it. Maybe one day we will really take hold of the old sayings: “Trust Allah … but tie up your Camel” or today’s translation “Trust But Verify”.

So as we go into 2013 I thought I would do something which will allow me to write about more interesting things and to help the reader not be bored to death with repetitive stuff. With the next couple of blogs I am going to cover the most obscene lies and un-truths the religious and political right continue to say, write, and shout out on almost a daily basis.

This way, you the reader get to read the truth, once. We deal with the fact it is a lie and why, once, and when they bring it up again I can simply refer back to this blog. Sweet! So without further delay here are the lies listed in bold type and my answers or thoughts concerning each.

All the shootings and really bad weather is because God is punishing the country for its acceptance of homosexuality, marriage equality, lack of God in the public square, drug use, prostitution, long hair, short skirts etc.

For all those out there living your lives as if God is some kind of puppet master, controlling our every thought and deed, please stop.

God as part of the process of creation gave humanity a free will, the ability to choose. This means that most of the crisis in the world is our own making and or because we are ill prepared to deal with whatever naturally occurring thing has just happened.

For those who think they know the Bible as an explanation for everything…remember after the great flood God said God was not going to do that again. Then there is, at least for the Christian, this Jesus fella who if we follow his teaching we avoid a whole lot of the crap we do to each other.

People we need to wake up and take responsibility for the stupid stuff we choose to do and stop blaming God because we choose (That ‘Free Will’ thing again!) to be mean and evil to folks.

Do we need a concrete example here? How about the idiot who chooses to have one last drink before leaving the bar? He or she gets in the car and leaves the bar. Before long they are left of center killing 5 people in an awful collision. It was the idiot’s drinking that caused those deaths, not God. In fact I am sure God received those killed into God’s arms with love and compassion for their sudden transition.

Next lie: Guns do not kill people, people kill people.

Let’s get this straight, “People with guns, kill people”.

Guns have one main function, which is to kill. So when this conversation starts I really wish those on the right would quit trying to convince me and others they have their gun for target practice, hunting and protection.

They have a gun because they are willing to use it to kill, period.Don’t respond, just let that float in your head for a second.

For those who say it is our 2nd amendment right, here is the exact wording of the amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

According to Wikipedia, “In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions concerning the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia[1][2] and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment.[3] In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.[4]”

I put this here hoping to force the reader to read for themselves the actual amendment and then read what the Supreme Court said.

After you have read for yourself the amendment and the court rulings, I will just raise with you the real issue. The main function of a gun is to kill something, most of the time it is another human being.

For those of who claim to be Christian and follow the teachings of Jesus we are not given the option of being able to kill another human being only and unless we are sin free. So Christians why do you own that gun again? Don’t respond, just think on that.

Next lie: “There is a full scale war on Christmas”

The only people in the world who believe this crap are Fox News, and followers of the Evangelical TV shows who simply need ratings and donations. How Bill O’Rielly was able to get the attention of the public around this fraud is beyond me.

If there is a war on Christmas, why pray tell do all the Christmas decorations come out in the stores right after Halloween is finished. Why do Churches everywhere begin planning special services and special programs as of the first week in November?

By the way, just for fun let’s do a little truth telling. The vast majority of scholars and historians agree on these facts: Jesus was not born on December 25th. Jesus was born in a cave to an un-wed couple. No inn, no manger, no animals and we wonder why the religious right needed to invent the “war on Christmas”.

Also, here is a full explanation for this lie:
http://www.reverendbitchsir.blogspot.com/2011/12/wag-dog-of-christmas.html

Next lie: “Financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.”

Of course this is the lie that is told by those of the Mega church variety especially those espousing the new prosperity theology.

Of course a close reading of the gospel finds that Jesus never used the words prosper or prosperity. In fact, he taught the exact opposite. To follow and believe this lie is too allow only one person to get rich and it will not be you.

Next lie: The Bible is the inerrant word of God.

http://record.americanbible.org/content/bible-qa/number-english-translations-bible

Of the 900 English versions which is the Word of God without error? Please don’t try to make the case for the “King James” version, as there are more translation errors in this version then holes found in Swiss cheese.

Couple other facts to consider before one believes this lie: We have no original copies of the bible.

In addition the Bible is, and always has been, a selected collection of historical writings by many different people, in many different languages.

Then there are books or writings that were left out of what we call canon starting in 310 AD, “just because”.

The Bible is sacred, it is good for teaching our faith, it is holy and that does not change just because there might be an error or two.

And lastly for this blog, this lie: America is the best thing that has happened in world history as we have brought peace to the world. Or I guess this has to do with the lie of American exceptionalism.

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

War of Independence 1775-1783 Northwest Indian War 1785-1795
Quasi-War 1798-1800 Barbary Wars 1801-1815
War of 1812 1812-1815 1st Seminole War 1817-1818
2nd Seminole War 1835-1842 Mexican-American War 1846-1848
3rd Seminole War 1855-1858 Civil War 1861-1865
Indian Wars 1865-1898 Spanish-American War 1898
Philippine War 1898-1902 Boxer Rebellion 1900-1901
Mexican Revolution 1914-1919 Haiti Occupation 1915-1934
World War 1 1917-1918 World War 2 1941-1945
Korean War 1950-1953 Vietnam War 1964-1973
El Salvador 1980-1992 Beirut 1982-1984
Persian Gulf “Support” 1987-1988 Invasion of Grenada 1983
Invasion of Panama 1989 Persian Gulf War 1991
Somalia 1992-1993 Bosnia 1995
Afghanistan 2002-supposedly set to end in 2014
Iraq 2003-2011

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

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

Killing people seems to be what we do best. We glorify killing, we put it up in the bright lights of Hollywood, we sprinkle it all through our theology and we justify it as “free speech”.

We call a movie with two people “making love” pornography and call it immoral.

We make movies showing people being blown to bits and we give them academy awards.

We are anything but peaceful and if we are exceptional it is because we have become very efficient at killing people and making it look like it is every bodies else’s fault.

Well, this is enough for y’all to digest for a couple of weeks. Imagine how different the world, and this country might be if we hadn’t bought into these 6 lies.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Were Justice and Mercy Served?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta police said the incident occurred February 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we forgotten the 2 lesbians who were shot?

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

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

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

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

This list could get really long…

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are re-acting instead of acting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

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.”

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

The Church-Sponsored Terrorism They Don’t Want You to Know About

“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe it is because I am getting old and my ability to just blow things off takes more energy then I have or it may be because Mahatma Gandhi’s observation of Christianity is right on the mark. Sadly in this day to call oneself a Christian has become embarrassing in the world we find ourselves living.

So if this blog today seems like a rant, maybe it is. However, I would like to think it is a call to those in the Christian faith who see the teaching of Jesus as far more important than the institution of the church, to start speaking loudly and clearly, as it seems the extremists now own the faith. I really think it is due time for those who follow the teaching of Jesus to take back the conversation rather then letting the extremists destroy us.

I find it curious that the extremists in the Christian faith can judge the actions of a few extremists in another faith who do acts of terrorism and label the entire belief system and everyone within it as part of a terroristic faith.

Yet, when some extremist coming from the Christian faith does an act of terrorism it is labeled as an act of a mad man or some fringe element and it is never thought of as the entire faith that we need protection from. Yet, the way our brand of Christianity gets played out we are no better than those we blame for all the terrorism in the world.

Take for example the heinous tragedy in Norway… Many of the extremist commenter’s from the political and Christian right have been quick to point out this was a lunatic, a mad man. Really?

According to an article published by the ADL,

“Breivik’s focus on “left-wing” multiculturalists destroying white European culture in favor of minority cultures such as the Muslim community is common among the far-right and the groups that straddle the far-right and conservative worlds in the U.S. They blame the government, universities, and the media for promoting diversity and minority cultures over European or American culture and accuse them of undermining “Western civilization” or European-American values.”

Damn, that sounds like the same bile being spewed forth by our own Christian extremists.

If this wasn’t so damn serious and deadly it would be laughable that these wing nuts from the Christian right actually set this kind of stuff up with their rhetoric and then act all shocked at how someone can be so extreme.

The anti-choice crowd has always found a home in the extreme Right’s worldview through the church. The results? One look no further than “Anti-abortion violence in Wikipedia”:

“According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.

According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid (“stink bombs”).[9] The New York Times also cites over one hundred clinic bombings and incidents of arson, over three hundred invasions, and over four hundred incidents of vandalism between 1978 and 1993.[13] The first clinic arson occurred in Oregon in March 1976 and the first bombing occurred in February 1978 in Ohio.

The threat of anthrax: The first hoax letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting; since then, there have been 655 such bioterrorists threats made against abortion providers. None of the “anthrax” in these cases was real.

Some of those opposed to abortion have sometimes resorted to very public demonstrations of violence in an effort to achieve their objective of curbing the termination of pregnancy. Those who engage in or support such actions defend the use of force—as justifiable homicide or defense of others—in the interest of protecting the life of the fetus.”

I would also point out the vast majority of people in these affected clinics were there for something other than the termination of a pregnancy.

Type “Christian terrorism” into google and the list is mind-boggling and heart breaking.

Here is some of what I found:

Salem witch trials – Christian (while tradition has this about burning witches this is not historically correct as a dozen plus were hung and one was crushed to death), Waco Texas – Christian, Timothy McVeigh – Christian, Jones Town – Christian, KKK – Christian, Nazism – Christians, Adolph Hitler – Catholic, Serbians – Christian, IRA (Irish Republican Army) – Christian, Iron Guard – Christian, Irish Republican Army – Christian, Christian Patriot movement, Christian Identity Movement (According to Chester L. Quarles, professor of criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, some of the Christian Identity movement’s followers hold that non-Caucasian peoples have no souls, and can therefore never earn God’s favor or be saved.[1] Believers in the theology affirm that Jesus Christ paid only for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah and that salvation must be received through both redemption and race.)

By the way let us not forget the emotional terrorism that is played out by the faithful and churches, which say “believe the way we say to believe or burn in hell for all eternity”!

We need to look no further then Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro folks.

For those who are going to argue that true Christianity does not advocate violence and the Quran does, I would refer you back to Gandhi’s observation.

For while the founder of the Christian movement certainly did not advocate violence and even is quoted at one point saying to a follower, “if they are not against us, then they are for us”, many of those who have followed have been anything but passive, forgiving and loving. In fact if one reads the words of Jesus closely we do very little of what he advocated and we do a whole lot of stuff which he preached and taught against.

Jesus clearly removed “capital punishment” as an option yet the State of Georgia pays no attention to the teaching and continues to execute people at an alarming rate. Even when there is a better than even chance they didn’t do it or the mental capacity was so diminished as to be considered “mentally handicapped”.

Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, but good Christian politicians want to put a gun into the hand of everyone.

Jesus taught for us to be merciful, but mercy is sorely lacking.

Jesus never addressed the issue of being LGBT, but those in the church have spent lifetimes trying to cure us and if that fails, kill us.

In fact the institutional church pays very little attention to some of his strongest teaching:

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

(Matthew 5:3-10)

I wonder how much different our world would be if we became more intentional about just these two teachings of Jesus? I wonder if the bulk of our time, energy and efforts went into seeing that just these two teaching became the norm rather than the exception if we could say, “No Mr. Gandhi we are not there yet but we are really trying”.

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Humanity will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my God! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:31-40

When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.” These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

Matthew 22:34-40

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

Our Collective Denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

One Face Book thread read like this:

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

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

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

Because he’s such a rock star

REALLY WTF IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE ???????:(

THEY ARE A BUNCH OF FING MORONS 🙁

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

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

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

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

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

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

and it was odd
22 minutes ago · Like

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

We’re Here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

NOT LIVING WITH IT

We have just gone through an awful couple of weeks. There was a mass shooting at a mall in the Chicago area and then at a University in Illinois another mass shooting.

If that were not enough a 15 year old boy was shot in the head and killed by a 14 year old boy because he was gay.

Then I came across this:

States with the largest number of nuclear weapons (in 1999): New Mexico (2,450), Georgia (2,000), Washington (1,685), Nevada (1,350), and North Dakota (1,140)

(you know these are the devices that we don’t want Iran to have because it will cause untold danger to us)

William M. Arkin, Robert S. Norris, and Joshua Handler, Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998 (Washington, D.C.: Natural Resources Defense Council, March 1998)

Then I came across this concerning the war in Iraq:

The costs…
$275 million per day
$4,100 per household
Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 60,000 wounded (don’t even get me started on the medical and mental health treatment they are getting when they finally get back home!)
700,000 Iraqis killed and 4 million refugees

Then I came across this piece concerning “Capital Punishment”:

“Wrongful execution” is a miscarriage of justice occurring when an innocent person is put to death by capital punishment.[27] Many people have been heralded as innocent victims of the death penalty.[28][29][30] At least 39 executions have been carried out in the U.S. in face of compelling evidence of innocence or serious doubt about guilt.[31] Newly-available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration of more than 15 death row inmates since 1992 in the U.S.,[32] but DNA evidence is only available in a fraction of capital cases. In the UK, reviews prompted by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have resulted in one pardon and three exonerations for people executed between 1950 and 1953 (when the execution rate in England and Wales averaged 17 per year), with compensation being paid.

Then just for the fun of it I came across this:

Money Spent on the War On Drugs this Year
Federal $2,595,017,000.00
State $3,983,398,000.00
Total $6,578,415,000.00

The number of drug deaths in the US in a typical year is as follows:
Tobacco kills about 390,000.
Alcohol kills about 80,000.
Sidestream smoke from tobacco kills about 50,000.
Cocaine kills about 2,200.
Heroin kills about 2,000.
Aspirin kills about 2,000.
Marijuana kills 0. There has never been a recorded death due to marijuana at any time in US history.

All illegal drugs combined kill about 4,500 people per year, or about one percent of the number killed by alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco kills more people each year than all of the people killed by all of the illegal drugs in the last century. More people have been killed by fighting the drug war than drugs themselves have ever killed.

Source: NIDA Research Monographs

Then earlier this week I get a call from the Questing Parson, who tells me I need to get a copy of Atlantic Magazine the March issue. It apparently is going to have a story concerning Archbishop Akinola primate of the Church of Nigeria, the second biggest church in the Anglican Communion, numbering about 18 million members.

It will among other things have this tidbit:

“In response to the Muslim rioting, Akinola issued a statement in his capacity as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria: “May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation.” … inciting Christian counter-riots against Muslim targets in Nigeria (for example, Christian mobs in Onitsha retaliated against Muslims, killing 80 persons,[14], burned a Muslim district with 100 homes[15], defaced mosques[16] and burned the corpses of those they had killed in the streets[17], forcing hundreds of Muslims were forced to flee the city [18]).

This is the guy for whom some of the Anglican Church is going to because of the consecration of a gay Bishop? These people don’t like gay folks so they are going to line up with a cold-blooded killer?

I am sorry but this little journey of reflection during this Lenten season has caused me to be in anguish and mourning for my faith which seems more set on destroying, excluding, ignoring, denying basic human rights to those who don’t toe the creedal line and if all else fails kill them.

If you start adding up all the money spent in all the afore mentioned quotes how many hungry could we have fed? How many people could we have clothed? How many could we have given drink to? How many of the sick would not be sick? How many of the addicted would be on the road to recovery?

My friends it is really not about money, it is about our attitude. We have become the sin of the “garden of Eden”. We have decided that we can be God, and when so moved kill whoever we don’t like or agree with. Oh we come up with all kinds of justifications for the killing but conveniently forget that Jesus said, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.” Let us not be fooled, this is not about original sin. This is now the 21st century when we should know better for we have the teachings of the Christ.

How can someone be pro-life and yet be in favor of capital punishment. After all is that not a person who is a late term abortionist?

How can we have a President who calls himself a “born again” Christian telling us we have to kill them before they kill us? I mean seriously does that not go against Jesus’ one and only command to us “love one another as I have loved you”?

I got to say we have got it wrong, terribly wrong. They say if you tell a lie often enough that you will begin to believe it…well damn we are there. If you don’t think so read the first part of this blog again. We have made it far easier to kill then to save, far easier to destroy rather then cultivate a sense of dignity, respect…ah hell to even have a modicum of common courtesy.

Read the Questing Parson’s blog called “Please, Do Not Drop Me” posted 02-12-2008.

Or consider this snippet:

“I am a child of the earth.

Please do not drop me.

Two days after the celebration of the birth of the Christ child last year the ethnic cleansing began in Kenya. While some children rode their Christmas bikes and listened to their bright iPod my sister was driven with her mama into the famine and drought stricken wilderness. Thousands of our cousins were driven away with her.

I am a child of the earth.

Please do not drop me.

Ten million of my cousins under five die every year.

Two million of my cousins die every year on the same day they are born.

My cousin is now scavenging through rotting garbage to find something to eat; another is neglected in her own shanty because her mother and father lie on their cots dying of AIDS.

Some of my brothers and sisters did not go to school today. For thousands and thousands there is no school to attend if they had the energy to do so. For thousands and thousands of others they stayed home to avoid others seeing their swollen battered faces after another night on being a punching bag.”

How can we continue to allow our resources to go to blood thirsty, selfish, power hungry despots both religious and secular? How can we not be outraged? How can we not cry out at the injustice of our so-called leaders? How can we not demand something better?

We make the words of Jesus in Matthew 23 truer today then when he spoke them.

We have forgotten that Jesus made it clear how God would view things-Matthew 25:31-40. Honestly this is where our efforts should begin.

It is estimated that two million people per year are homeless in the United States.

A report issued by the Urban Institute in 2000 stated that 2.3 million adults and children in the United States are likely to experience homelessness at least once in a year.

Here is the response, which I am afraid, is far more common then we want to admit.

By REAL TALK

Jan 25, 2008 9:07 AM
“The people need to be locked up or disposed of. They offer nothing to society but a black eye. Many of the “homeless” choose to be so and want to rely on us to pay for everything. This is not what America was built on. This country needs new ideas on how to deal with the homeless. One idea is to euthanize them like dogs. Why not. I went to Georgia State and had to deal everyday with the homeless. They are Terrible. All they offer society is disease, crime, and drugs. Either you have a home, or you go to Jail.”

Cornelius Tacitus (c. 116 A.D.) said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” He might be on to something there…how thick is the Methodist Discipline? Have you tried to read the Book of Roman Catholic Cathecism? This is true in each and every denomination; we have become more concerned about rules then God. And when was the last time you walked into a law library?

I was told by a friend this week to whom I gave a sampling of my blog, “you are really naïve and you are too idealistic, this is the way of the world you need to learn to live with it.”

Now in this moment of reflection I say, “That may be the way of the world but it is not the way of Jesus.” It is not the way of God.

So in the days to come I will not “live with it” instead I will do my best live out my life in the manner of my Savior’s proclamation: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because God has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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

9-1-1

Today we remember and are still deeply saddened by the events in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, which took place 6 years ago. Yes we have changed.

6 years later, we still swing between tears of grief and deep waves of anger not to mention a certain amount of fear of further attacks. Yes we have changed.

Many of us watch, listen and cry out at our country’s continuing bloody and devastating response. Some things never changed.

The devastating images of the Trade Center are burned deeply in our minds and hearts and still bring us to our knees. The thought of thousands injured or dead continue to bring us untold anguish and pain.

The thought of the thousands who continue to be injured or killed burns in agony in our souls. This kind of terrorism still makes no sense at all. This kind of response to it does not make sense with the teachings of our Christ.

This kind of violence while all too common in our world, once again speaks out loudly and painfully of what intolerance, hate and bigotry can do to all of God’s creation. And while there are no answers, our faith leads us to say:

“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

Today may we find ourselves moved to prayer. May these prayers be for all of the victims, their family and friends.

May we pray for our enemies that their tools of war are made into plow shares.

May we pray for our government to find wisdom, courage and a more Christ like response to this insanity.

Let us pray for God’s protection and a calming of our fears. And may our prayers be accompanied by expressions of our faith – that we hold a responsibility to nurture and celebrate God’s creation rather then seek ways to destroy it.

May the spirit of peace find it’s way from our hearts to those actions which we take.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

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