Tag Archives: Politics

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”

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/.

A Pastoral Thought

The Occupy Wall Street protest seems to have taken on a life of its own, spreading from Wall Street to many major cities and across the world.

I find it amusing in an ironic way that those who supported the Tea Party folks find the Occupy Wall Street folks as repulsive. One would think both of these movements would literally shout that there is something VERY wrong with our society.

With all the mess going on…and the awful things each side are saying to each other, with the news media behaving like vultures and people jockeying for positions to be called heroes, we now see this embarrassing fighting standing in the way of making sure the folks of our country are protected, secure and safe…

I was doing some meditation time and this particular passage struck a deep nerve.

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

Regardless if one is a Christian or not…it seems to me this is a formula for working through this mess…a way of peace, a way of strength, and a way of walking the talk. A way in which everyone could walk away saying they had a hand in working through the challenge.

I guess I want to ask the question of all; what are you personally doing to help this come to reality? See, I get that both sides are deeply entrenched on their side of the argument; however what is each side doing to make the words of the quoted passage a reality?

I am sitting at my desk wondering if this country and it’s leadership have become so jaded and drunk with power, they have forgotten the basic tenet of our country which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

Maybe it is indeed time for a change. I think this crisis proves what we have known for a long time…the politicians do not really care if you or I can pay the mortgage or rent.

They do not really care if you or I have enough money to pay our bills or put gasoline in our vehicles.

HIV and it’s spread only matters if a large block of voters suddenly die or there is oil in the country.

They do not really care if you live or die unless it gives them some sort of leverage in the power and control game.

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

The recent behavior of the political and religious right and big business proves that all those “so-called Christians” have forgotten a key to their faith…”Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

Yes, maybe now is the time to call for a change…and in the meantime all I can say to our government is:

Shame on you Mr. President.

Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Congressperson.

Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Senator.

Shame on those of you in big business that have lost sight of the people upon whose backs you made your money!!

Finally, but not least by any stretch of the imagination, shame on all those big CEO’s and big business people who forgot why they were in business to begin with,”…that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We are faced with the conservative political right and the religious right constantly beating us over the head with their brand of morals and practice of faith, telling everyone how to think and what the bible says.

We are faced with the political left not listening to the real concerns of folks and the progressive people of faith forgetting it is not a contest of “their way or my way”.

Damn it, folks, read this passage one more time:

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

So the real questions of the day perhaps are these:

What are you doing to find agreement with those around you?

What have you done to become deep-spirited friends?

Are you pushing to the top or are you waiting your turn?

Are you a person who says what you mean and means what you say or are you a B.S. artist?

Have you stepped outside of yourself to help another get ahead?

Are you obsessed with getting your way?

Can you forget yourself long enough to offer a helping hand, without judgment?

Just a passing pastoral thought…

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 Day Fear Paid A Visit and Stayed

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story of that day and what happen was staggering.

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

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

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

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

The statistics from that day are even worse.

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

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

Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343

Number of NYPD officers: 23

Number of Port Authority police officers: 37

Number of WTC companies that lost people: 60

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

Number of employees who died in Tower Two: 614

Number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald: 658

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

Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115

Ratio of men to women who died: 3:1

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

Bodies found “intact”: 289

Body parts found: 19,858

Number of families who got no remains: 1,717

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

Total units of donated blood actually used: 258

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

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

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

FDNY retirements, January–July 2001: 274

FDNY retirements, January–July 2002: 661

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

Number of funerals attended by Rudy Giuliani in 2001: 200

Number of FDNY vehicles destroyed: 98

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

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

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

Days the New York Stock Exchange was closed: 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yes there is a choice to be made.

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/.

Hysteria and Paranoia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the Salem Witch Trials?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Well it certainly has been a while since I wrote anything for the blog. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I guess I have been going through a case of the “pastoral dumps”. “Pastoral dumps” being a kind of depression where one does what is required and not anything beyond. I have more or less aroused from those ashes and I was amazed at how God had a hand in it. I will write more about that later.

The second reason I have not written is because I have been over whelmed with this election cycle. I have found there are things that I have wanted to say and respond to, but I honestly believe that as a Pastor, I couldn’t for fear it would look and sound like I was supporting one candidate or another.

Yet, this election cycle is historical, and we are behaving like a people caught up in a moment of dramatic change. That is to say, 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 change is coming regardless who wins this election.

We in a few days for the first time in our history as a country may elect a women Vice-president of the United States. We may elect a black man as President of the United States. I never in my wildest dreams thought this possible in my lifetime. Of course, I also did not believe for a second that before I left this earth there would be 3 states and more to come who would say the sexual orientation of a couple has nothing to do with the State recognizing a marriage!

I have been an un-apologetic activist for a long time. So when the religious and political right started hammering on Senator Barak Obama’s pastor, I was appalled. First, it gave a clear signal the folks doing the hammering had no clue as to what black church is all about. 2nd, it showed they had no concern whatsoever of quoting fully, accurately or in context. 3rd, I went and listen to the sermon from the beginning to the end of the Pastor in question and I will tell you in 22 plus years of ministry I have either said, thought or supported most if not all of his points. So, news flash to those in my congregation: Don’t run for political office unless you want to be blamed for what I have said. However, it should be noted, I am white and queer so it probably won’t matter. If you can’t see the racism in this then you are not paying attention. Angry black preacher equals “danger”. White queer preacher equals “no one pays attention”.

I was equally appalled by the most recent controversy surrounding Governor Palin and her shopping for cloths. Let’s get real folks this is sexism at its worst…has anybody gotten bent out shape over Obama’s suits, or McCain’s shoes or how many houses he owns? Oh yea there has been a passing joke because he can’t remember the exact number. So of course not, because men in this country can dress anyway they want to and women are to dress according to men’s expectations. Men are supposed to own more property then they know what to do with…the more the better, the bigger the better.

See this is why I haven’t written in a long while. The previous examples are just small potatoes compared to what has gone on for the last year and a half.

I got caught up in the fear, anxiety and anticipation being played out on November 4th, the United States of America is going to change in a way that no one alive today has ever experienced. One would have to go all the way back to the day 13 colonies said enough was enough. I do not think I am overstating what is about to happen.

So as a Pastor I think I need to say something pastoral, something that will give comfort and peace to folks as they cast a ballot that will 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 not to vomit over the ignorance that is so brazenly being thrown around dressed in theological drag.

Then I got a weekly e-mail 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”and 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 my readers would let sink in during this historic time in America. So here with his permission is the article 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 4th if you do nothing else that day VOTE.

 

My Personal ‘Faith Priorities’ for this Election

In 2004, several conservative Catholic bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of “non-negotiables,” 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-negotiables.” 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 megachurch 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, but they are not “non-negotiables” for anyone else. It’s time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.

 

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

 

are a way of life not a far off vision.

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 Politicians Have Lost Their Way

With all the mess going on in Washington…and the awful things they are saying to each other, the news media behaving like vultures and people jockeying for position to be called a hero, we now see this embarrassing fighting standing in the way of making sure the folks of our country are protected, secure and safe…

This particular passage I was reading getting ready for this weeks worship service struck a deep nerve.

 

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

Now regardless if one is a Christian or not…it seems to me here is a formula for working through this mess…a way of peace, a way of strength, a way of walking the talk. A way in which everyone could walk away saying they had a hand in working through the challenge.

I am sitting at my desk wondering if this country and it’s leadership have become so jaded and drunk with power, they have forgotten the basic tennet of our country which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

Maybe it is indeed time for a change. I think this crisis proves what we have known for a long time…the politicians do not really care if you or I can pay the mortgage or rent. They do not really care if you or I have gas. HIV and it’s spread only matters if a large block of voters suddenly die or there is oil in the country. No,the only thing at stake is their position of power, money and comfort,and they would sell their own mother if they thought it would keep them in power.

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

Yes, maybe now is the time to call for a change…and in the meantime all I can say to our goverment:

Shame on you Mr. President. Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Congressperson. Shame on you Mr. or Mrs. Senator.

Finally but not least by any stretch of the imagination, shame on all those big CEO’s and big business people who forgot why they were in business to begin with,”…that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We are faced with the conservative political right and the religious right constantly beating us over the head with their brand of morals and practice of faith, telling everone how to think and what the bible says.

We are face with the political left not listening to the real concerns of folks and the progressive people of faith forgetting it is not a contest of “their way or my way”.

Dammit folks, read this passage one more time:

 

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

 

Do you get it now? Do you see what it is going to take?

Just a passing pastoral thought on this bizarre Friday afternoon.

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/.