Because I’m a Christian
You know, there’s not anything huge on my mind at the moment, but it feels like a good time to throw this out. StickerMule, my fav company that I use to make my custom pins and stickers sent me a deal this week to make 50 stickers for $19 and I thought, “Hmmmmm, what would I say on a sticker right now?”
This is what came bubbling up… “I support, love, need, appreciate, include, welcome, admire and will defend my LGBTQ friends, family and neighbors because I’m a Christian.” Not in spite of my faith, but fully from within it. We find ourselves in a time in our country when certain people within the Christian faith are taking the time and opportunity to speak out against these friends, family and neighbors, with renewed vigor and probably energized at least in part by our current Administration in the White House.
This trend really bums me out, but that’s almost all the power it has over me, to bum me out. The trend is far more detrimental to anyone who finds themselves on an LGBTQ journey in life. And if anyone finds themselves sidelined or excluded by those Christians, please know that they are not the sum total of our voice, faith or heart for you.
What trending am I talking about? Well there’s the Trump Administration’s targeting of Transgender military service members. And not because they have neglected their duty or underperformed in their service in any way… simply because they are Transgender. In my own church family a local Episcopal Bishop in his state has defied our decision as a national church to fully honor the dignity and right of all people to have access to full participation in the church and its rites. And there seems to be no end to spiteful signs waved in the name of Christ.
So yeah, I love you. I admire your courage to own the journey behind you and to face the journey ahead of you. You should be included because you are a valuable part of the human whole. And no, the Bible is not your enemy, and neither are Christians… at least, they shouldn’t be. So please know you’re welcome in my life, my faith and my journey, not because you necessary need me, but because I need you. Hang in there and we’ll work together to make the best of 2019 for all people.
My Brother Kurt
I had a message pop up in Facebook the other day, my friend Kurt from St John’s had been poking around my blog and reading some of the things I have written on LGBTQ inclusion and acceptance. He correctly pointed out that I was a little out of date… he didn’t say “dude, you’re slacking off,” but he should have. He would have been right.
He also graciously offered me permission to share a short article he wrote this past year for St John’s on what it meant to be asked to help our parish organize a group to march in the annual Pride Parade in DC. He did a great job organizing, by the way… it was my first Pride Parade and I’m hooked.
Here’s the text of his article, and a few Parade photos… please receive it as a gift from Kurt, a brother in Christ, a humble man and a deeply good soul.
Pride Parade Story by Kurt Ellison
It wasn’t long ago that someone stopped me and said, “So what’s the deal with the Pride Parade? Why is St. John’s marching?”
That is no small answer!
As a teenager that grew up at St. John’s, I could tell that we were definitely a church that was not of one mind about the whole gay issue. We had gay clergy, but when it came to choosing a new rector in 1997, St. John’s said overwhelmingly (in its profile survey) that it did not want a gay rector. (Yes, it’s true!)
As St. John’s wrestled with where it was and searched for a new rector, so I was wrestling with who I was – a gay kid who loved my church (and I still do). Living in Chicago as an adult, I found myself at the annual pride parade, and fascinated by the churches that were marching in the parade, and thinking, “Wow, my home church (St. John’s) would never do this!”
Years later, I moved back to the area to look after my ailing parents, I eventually came back to St. John’s and was curious to see how things had changed. Imagine my surprise when Susan Pizza and Sari Ateek eventually asked if I would write a grant for the Norwood Parish Fund to get us to participate in Pride.
I had to think for a while, and pray seriously about it. I was the type of person to watch a parade, not necessarily march in one, much less write a grant proposal, or organize a contingent. In my prayers, I could picture God having a good laugh saying, “HA HA, Kurt! You thought St. John’s would never do this! Now you have to man up!” How could I say no?
I wrote the proposal to the NPF. It got approved (kudos to the NPF folks!). We bought frisbees with the church logo, a banner, and advertised in Crossroads. 25 people showed up to march. We had a blast!
The gay community does not always receive a welcoming message from churches (understatement!). Other churches, while supportive and inclusive are not necessarily putting their message of welcome out there. Marching in the parade tells a whole community that they are welcome at St. John’s. It is a positive risk for the Gospel.
What amazes me still after three years of marching is how grateful people are to see the churches marching in the Pride Parade. All along the parade route we hear time and again, “Thank you for coming!”, and “Thank you, St. John’s!” In 2015 it is no small thing to say, “ALL ARE WELCOME HERE!”
Our pastor, Rev. Sari!
…and the man of the hour, Kurt!
Below is one I took at the Parade in 2016!
You Are Not Alone
You are not alone.
To every one of my Muslim friends and neighbors, you are not alone. The demonizing of your religion will not go unchallenged. Threats to discriminate against you because of your faith will not go unchallenged. You are our neighbors, friends and family. There are so many Americans, so many Christians, who will defend you.
To every immigrant, even those who came to us undocumented, you are not alone. We will still speak of your dignity and worth and celebrate our connection as human beings. You are our neighbors, our fellow humans, and you matter to us. Your children matter, and we will not leave them forsaken.
To every woman who feels that deep pain in their soul when men use and excuse demeaning language like “grab them by the pussy,” you are not alone. We will continue to hold people accountable for their words and actions. We will always speak of your value and we will defend your bodies and rights.
To every LGBTQ friend and neighbor, you are not alone. We have seen important civil liberties achieved in the last decade for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer minorities, and we will not sit idly by when those are threatened. You matter to us, and we will continue to safeguard your life and liberty.
To the millions who have healthcare for the first time, and those who finally have coverage even in the face of preexisting conditions, you are not alone. We will not sit idly by while your health is threatened by political games and rhetoric. We will fight for you and with you to keep the healthcare you so desperately need.
To our non-white friends and neighbors who have been vilified, faced condescension, and suffered demeaning, racist abuses, you are not alone. We will continue to stand with you for equality and truth. We will continue to work for a day when no one’s race or ethnicity is used as a weapon to disenfranchise, demean or discredit them.
To refugees around the world and those who have made it to US soil, you are not alone. We will not allow you to be further victimized by fear and suspicion, but will loudly proclaim your dignity, value and humanity. You are our sisters and brothers.
Those holding public offices change, but some things will never change. We will always stand together to create a better world, a safer world and a more beautiful world where our diverse gifts and shared dignity brighten every dark time. We will work harder each day to embrace love and accept our differences, and we will safeguard one another against all threats. We will stumble and we will misstep, but we will always rise and be better for our shared efforts.
You are not alone.
We Don’t Need More Violence
A four-year-old blog post of mine on preachers inciting violence has been coming to mind lately in light of the recent events in Orlando, and the hate-filled preaching of some pastors. Violence is a sickness, especially violence shrouded in religious piety. More than ever, our world needs those who will love in the face of hate and work to heal the sickness of these preachers. I’m sharing a recent nasty example from a pastor’s Facebook postings, and then linking in my blog from four years ago on preachers who incite violence. Lord, have mercy.
Recent nastiness in the name of Christ…
My post of four years ago: On Preachers Who Incite Violence
We must loudly and strongly, with civil tongues and constant hearts, repudiate these voices and their messages. We must stand against these messages of hate and violence. Silence is not an option, no more than violence. Answer them with sure, true and sincere messages of love. May our voices never cease to sing and weave the story of God’s unending love.
“Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable,
and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.”
Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
This is my response to the Orlando shootings as a Christian and as a human being. I’m making a campaign in response to the deadly act of violence committed against 49 people at the Pulse Orlando night club in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, in Orldando, FL. How do you respond to such hatred? Such violence? Such darkness? You light it up. You light it up with love.
Light Up The Darkness With Love!
Let’s start a movement of people committed to honoring the lives of the people senselessly killed at the Pulse with 50 acts of love. Our acts of love will also honor those injured and can help support them and add to their healing, especially if you are close enough to give blood, hold a hand or be a listing ear.
Many of us are far from Orlando and lack ways to directly respond to Sunday morning’s violence and death, but the world where we live also needs our love. Communities across America and across the world produce mass shooters, hurting people, broken people, pain and darkness. Let’s light it up with our love.
We hurt with the victims of senseless hate and violence. We stand with our beautiful LGBTQ neighbors, friends and family against the hatred and violence that too often targets them. They deserve better and they deserve our support. We stand with our innocent Muslim friends, family and neighbors who now may be targeted for more hatred after the shooting. More hate is not the answer.
Please feel free to share this graphic, use this graphic, spread it far and wide. Let’s all shine some light on the darkness!
Ideas for getting started with #50ACTSOFLOVE…
donate to a charity
volunteer at a local school
reach out to a long lost friend
say something encouraging to someone
help your child with their homework
mow a neighbor’s yard
pick up some neighborhood litter
start recycling at home
volunteer at a local food bank
sit with a grieving friend or family member
post a few positive articles on Facebook
tell someone you love them
send a greeting card to your grandparents
find ways to support (too often homeless) LGBTQ teens
find a local battered women’s shelter and donate time/money
carry an extra $5 bill for the next street beggar who asks
ask if your employer will match your charitable donation
learn more about your Muslim friends and neighbors
learn more about your LGBTQ friends and neighbors
offer an apology you’ve been avoiding
tell someone they’re beautiful today
compliment a coworker on their job
say thank you and mean it
hold the door for someone at the coffee shop
Let’s open up our hearts, minds and imaginations to the potential of spreading love to everyone within our reach. Respond to the hate with love. Shine your light on the darkness. Believe in us.
Transgender Awareness November 2015
I believe we are blessed to live in a time when we are more openly and gracefully speaking of our sisters and brothers who are transgendered, but I also realize that many of our precious neighbors and family members still face stresses, threats and dangers that the majority of us do not recognize or understand.
It’s November, and November 20th is an awareness day to remember our fellow transgendered human beings who have died: Transgender Day of Remembrance.
If you wonder why we have a special day like this, please take a moment to peruse articles that educate us on the threats and stresses facing our trans friends and family: murder, suicide, teen homelessness and violent crime.
The conversation about transgendered men and women has gone mainstream and we all know the names of celebrities and public figures who have made their transition in various levels of public scrutiny: Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and Caitlyn Jenner. Last year for Transgendered Remembrance Day I shared a couple of videos in a blog post, one from Laverne Cox and one from an amazing pastor and preacher, Allysson Robinson.
I have a few simple requests to everyone as we approach the 20th this year:
- Stop posting mean-spirited and discouraging memes and messages on social media about transgendered men and women. You may not think of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition as courageous, but when she receives an award from someone who thinks she shows courage, and you compare her to examples of firefighters or soldiers, you’re not being smart or clever, you’re just being mean and misrepresenting. There is a kind of courage that enables someone to survive media scrutiny and our disdain in the public arena, and it in no way diminishes other types of courage in other areas of life. Drawing unfair comparisons because you don’t like Caitlyn is a distraction and it is mean-spirited.
- Educate yourself on gender dysphoria so that you can stop spreading the demonization and criminalization of transgendered women and men. Learn about Gender Dysphoria in the DSM-5 and a good Huffington Post article. No, trans neighbors are not faking their gender identity to sneak into your bathroom. No, trans neighbors are not immature sexual attention-getters. No, trans neighbors are not out to make you trans, prey on you or your children, or even more likely to be sexual offenders. Please take some time to study the facts on sexual assault and sexual crimes, and you will learn the difference between many myths and many facts, supported by the numbers, like the fact: “sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual men.” Some quick links and sources for your perusal: RAINN, University of Michigan (info for new students and the source of the above mentioned quote), CASA, and this long but important read from UC Davis. These links do often speak to the question of sexual orientation more than gender presentation or transition, but they are still good reads for us as we tend to fear and demonize what we do not understand. We are far more influenced by political spin and the culture war proponents (i.e. gullible) when we are less educated on issues.
- Be graceful and compassionate, practicing empathy and mercy for others. Take a long hard look at the numbers of homeless trans teens who have been kicked out by their families, a long look at the numbers of trans suicide attempts and successes, and a long look at the rates of violent crime against our trans neighbors, and then ask yourself: “Do I want to say or share anything that continues to stigmatize or hurt a group of people who are already under such assault and victims of such hatred and violence?” It’s time we all spent a lot more time owning our words and their impact. It’s time we owned the responsibility to be people promoting and increasing grace in the world. Even if you read every post I linked in this blog and still don’t quite understand gender dysphoria or understand someone’s authentic struggle with their gender identity, you can still be merciful, empathetic and kind. In fact, you must.
As with our discussions around sexual orientation, there’s so much to learn from knowing a person who is transgendered. Knowing people is the best way to break down the stereotypes and prejudices. You may not know someone who identifies as a the gender opposite of their birth gender or sexual organs, but you can listen to the stories and struggles of real people like: Chase Marie, stories from The New York Times, and lots more at TransPeopleSpeak.org.
Life can be real struggle, as we all know. Our paths may be divergent in many ways, but at the intersections we have magical moments when love and grace ignite the wonder of God. Pray this month for the souls of those who die at the hands of our fear and ignorance. Pray for the peace and joy of all God’s children.
The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage
Book review time! The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.
I’ve been meaning to pick this up and read it for a while; I finally ordered a copy on Amazon and have taken a couple of weeks to read it. The cover and title make no equivocations on the author’s view point and end goal: looking to scripture for a faithful understating of same-sex marriage.
I like the way the author begins by telling some of his own story. Maybe it’s because I’m a GenX’er, but I like to know something about an author before constructing my matrix through which to filter her or his words. Just because it’s in a book and even managed to get published, that’s not so big a deal to me. This author seems to be a keeper. He’s a well-spoken (written) gentleman who carries that special evangelical pedigree that makes his book intriguing. I related with him immediately in his spiritual journey within a church tradition that was non-affirming of our LGBTQ neighbors and in his journey of changed understanding on how we read and apply our scriptures to sexuality and life.
I also related to his central angst: the traditional teaching on how to read our scriptures and apply them to the lives of sexual minorities is not working. In fact, that teaching and its application is damaging countless lives and souls, and it’s hard to synchronize that with God’s grace and love. The author doesn’t have a gay child or family member, and he isn’t coming to terms with his own sexuality… he is coming to terms with his faith.
Often those who have not sought and found a way to read scripture that affirms our LGBTQ neighbors will assume that Christians who do accept and affirm sexual minorities have in some way compromised scripture or adopted a value system that places cultural and social understandings above scripture. Nothing could further from the truth. This author is very relatable in his love of scripture and desire to reconcile our reading and application of it with a God of grace and love who is more than the scriptures. I won’t spoil the whole author’s whole story because he tells it better than I can, but I found him very relatable as fellow Christian-in-process.
How To Read The Scriptures
Reading the scriptures is a central focus for the author, and reading them in a way that gives a consistent and coherent framework for understanding God and making a faithful daily life. The first four chapters are about reading scripture in a responsible and faithful way that allows us to better understand God and ourselves, in both the time of the scriptural witness and our own time. I found his critique and response to proof-texting certain passages to be clear and correct. The use of any verse or passage, divorced from it’s context and intent, and haphazardly applied in universal terms, is fraught with danger.
I especially appreciate the way the author expresses his search for a “good-sense” framework for reading scripture and understanding God. It’s more than encouraging, it’s down right life-giving, to relate to a God of good-sense and love instead of an arbitrary set of codified words on a page. And that does not in any way attack or lessen the authority of God. More than anything it invites us into a relationship with God which resonates more with the scriptural witness that the way most of us were taught in our churches. If you were raised like me, our early faith was summed up in a bumper sticker I saw often growing up, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.”
Honoring God and Marriage
Chapters Five through Nine carry us into the way our author makes sense of scripture and life in understanding homosexual orientations and the gift of marriage. He wants to do more than just dig at one passage or two passages; he wants to develop a deeper view of marriage and what it means to share a love with another person in the way that God so totally and selflessly loves us.
Though well thought through, the book is not a large theological treatise or a heavy scholarly work. There’s not a lot of Greek parsing or mounds of historical footnoting to get through. Many will find that a little frustrating, but others will find it refreshing. His writing style is welcoming and engaging, and he enjoys being consistent and logical. His approach comes across as common sensical.
The author loves God, loves scripture and loves and accepts his gay neighbor, and he has shown that our scriptures do not necessarily keep us from doing all those at the same time. His journey is about better understanding God and following the scriptures in a faithful authentic way that makes the most sense and proclaims the best news for all people. I recommend this easy to read book to everyone engaging in the conversation around sexuality and sexual minorities in the church. I especially recommend it to those have struggled to reconcile a disconnect between what they have been taught the scriptures to be saying on sexual orientation and the amazing faith and beauty they see (or hear about) in their gay friends and family.
The Love But Lifestyle
Within my own faith tradition (and maybe yours) God is love, the driving and primary orientation of God toward us is love, the reason for the incarnation of Christ is love and the love of God for us is unending, complete and steadfast, not able to be removed by any other power or circumstance of life. These are some of the assurances from our scriptures about love. Love is the greatest command, the identifier Jesus wanted associated with his followers and the fulfillment (summation, pinnacle, totality, completion) of religious aspiration. Are those just poetic words from our scriptures or actionable realities that people of faith need to weave into life’s fragmentation and pain?
To hear so many of us chattering away on a daily basis, you’d think that “God is love, but…” You might think, from the current divisive posturing and fighting about flags and marriage equality on the internet and around dinner tables, that God’s love for us is on hold, waiting for us to be a little more deserving, a little more compliant, a little more something other than we seem to be.
We are quick to assign hate and happy to alienate. We are quick to be threatened and shameless in our rejection of people in their noncompliance to our assumptions about life. We live the love, but lifestyle so often that we forget rightness isn’t really the point of either faith or of following Christ. The moment we choose a posture of rightness with/from God and others that assumes our deservedness to be sharing that love, it is no longer the love of God that scripture witnesses to us.
I know, we’re talking about love, but and not love butts. Sorry. That was a gratuitous attempt to garner clicks. =) And a way to label a problem we have in our current disagreements around the reading of scripture and history. Rarely has love got a thing to do with the questions we’re posing (or screaming) to one another and the drive to dominate conversations and win arguments. We’re arguing from a love, but position that assumes too much about the “other side.”
Maybe to keep love at the center, we need to move these conversations off the Facebook timelines and away from the dinner table, and chill ourselves out. Maybe we need some quiet time (some really need a paddling & time out, to be honest) to regain our center with the God of love, the love of God, God, Love.
I’d like to offer two suggestions, simple things that can have an impact. We can do these things right now, and start now even if we’ve been running the opposite direction. I have nothing here new and certainly not unique to me or my own life, but these are real, timeless and helpful. They can help us leave behind the love, but lifestyle and reengage with one another in our diversity, imagining new ways forward together.
1. Take a deep breath and celebrate God’s love for you.
Really. This is for everyone, white or black, and every shade of the beautiful human experience. This is for my gay friends, my straight friends and my friends trying to make an authentic life all along that spectrum of orientation. This is for my gender conforming friends and my gender fluid friends. This is for my rednecks, my Democrats, my Republicans and my independents. This is for my Christians, my Buddhists, my Hindus, my Muslims, my Wiccans, my Jews and my atheists. This is for my humans, and any trees or cats that happen to read my blog. This is for all: God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. Anthony de Mello spoke it simply and truly, “You don’t have to change for God to love you.” God’s love does not just pursue you; that love has already overtaken you and is yours right now. Breathe it in. Ignore all the voices that deny this truth. Let your heart be still and calm. Let your soul rest in God’s love.
We each need to begin our day with a reminder that this love is the house in which we awaken, the clothes in which we wrap and present ourselves. It’s the food of our soul throughout the day. We may and often do hear the untruth of not having God’s love during the day, but we can recognize it for the untruth it is, and roll on. Words may still have the power to hurt us and rejection from our fellow humans can still pain us, but we have a reservoir of truth to salve the wounding.
Really, please grab hold of this and make it your own. When someone hates you or mistreats you, that is the lie. Their lack of love or outright hatred is an untruth. It’s not true. Your value and worth are the truth. You are a recipient of God’s love. Their injury to you is not who you are or a true reflection of your value and dignity. When we know the love of God in which we stand we can then recognize the untruth in another person’s words and actions and avoid the danger of our soul feeding on that lie and faltering in health and growth.
Having been able to recognize the untruth in another’s words and actions, we can honestly love them, as they are. Maybe we can move past their hurtful words and see or hear something deeper in them, the pain and hurt that has caused them to be makers of pain and hurt. This is how God loves, without reservation and without any needed reciprocity. Jesus taught this kind of love, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Only by seeing the untruth in others and loving them anyway can we begin to forgive them and avoid letting the untruth take root in our heart and soul.
2. Stop the fighting, all the fighting.
There’s no culture war if we don’t show up on the front lines loaded and ready to get it on! Really, stop viewing everything as a fight and a conflict. Stop buying the rhetoric of political and religious leaders who claim you have to wage a war for your belief and opinion. We’re being herded by powers that deal in human misery when we answer a call to battle our neighbor. Neighbors are for loving. (Jesus said that, too.)
We are not going to wake up tomorrow to a world that agrees with you. You may be in the majority one day and minority the next. Your candidate might win, and yours might lose. Jesus gave us no marching orders to dominate this world… even Paul knew the difference between every knee bowing to Jesus and bowing to us. We are not promised world domination and we are not asked to attempt it.
Every time we speak in competition, every time we speak in conflict, every time we try to win a point, win an argument, out shout or out think or out debate someone, love loses. You know that passage about love from Paul, the one we always read at weddings? Yes, the one from 1 Corinthians 13 that is the “but have not love” and “love is” stuff… it has nothing to do with marriage and weddings. At least, no more to do with weddings and marriage than any and every day of life. That passage is about us sharing the world together, all of us and every day. It does not leave room for power games or cultural wars over tradition and personal opinions. All of the religious posturing about the fragility and offense of our faith is ridiculous and just comes across as a clanging symbol, selfishness and comical self-matyrdom. Claiming your rights over someone else’s on a religious basis is not kind, patient, humble or honoring of others. We fight or we love. What will it be?
Please. Whatever side of whatever issue is most compelling and meme-worthy of the moment, love will outlast it. Love will win. Love will be here. But will we be here? Will there be anything or anyone left on either side of any issue to enjoy the pride and power of dominance? You want to be amazing? You want to make God smile? Love somebody near you like they’ve never been loved before. And if you just can’t love them right now, at least take some quiet time to yourself until you can reboot the heart and catch a breeze of that free-flowing grace that God has woven into our DNA and the very elements of our world.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one anotherhumbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.Paul, Galatians 5:13-15
Grateful for Justin Lee
Today, I’m feeling really grateful for an acquaintance of mine, Justin Lee. He’s the kind of guy I want to say is my buddy, but we haven’t hung out all that much. We did have a chance to sit a few years ago at the Wild Goose Festival and enjoy some beer and pizza one afternoon… and to offset the anemic feel of our just being acquaintances, I’m throwing in a pic of he and I together last year in DC! =)
Justin wrote the book, Torn, and it’s great. He’s the founder of the Gay Christian Network, and he also recently gave an excellent ten minute snapshot of both the predicament in which LGBTQ Christians often find themselves, and the wrong hurtful ways that straight Christians are responding to that predicament. It’s worth so much more than ten minutes of your time! Here’s the link, and Justin’s ten minute remarks begin at the 41 minute mark of the video. Enjoy!
Click below to jump to Justin’s site with the video, and go to minute 41 for his remarks!