NYC Pride 2015

Dear Jack,

NYC was one of several cities celebrating Pride today. For those who are not aware, there is a history that colors what today means.

On June 28, 1969, as the story goes, police raided a NYC village bar called the Stonewall Inn. Generally, the bartenders would know ahead of time of a raid–but they were not aware. A raid usually meant that men would be lined up and asked of ID, and people dressed as women would be taken and physically identified in a lavatory. Those who were crossdressing would be arrested. There are many theories why, but the patrons did not comply with the police. People were arrested, but the vehicles for collecting them had not arrived. Others were released, but did not leave, and a crowd formed outside. Tensions rose and the crowd stood up for itself against the police, overturning police wagons and cars, many in the crowd were homeless lgbt youth, according to some sources. The crowd stood up to the police and barricaded them in the bar. Police began a sweep and were met with a kickline. Police chased down protesters and cleared the streets by the early morning. But the crowds returned a second night. This was known as the Stonewall Riots–and well worth learning about.

From these Riots rose Christopher Street LIberation Day which has morphed into today’s NYC Pride.

I work for an organization that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth–many of which have been kicked out of their homes by their parents, all in need of mentoring and love. Today I marched with them down Fifth Avenue. I was struck by the many signs that said “We are so sorry for what the Church has done to you” and “Not all Christians hate you”.

I was moved to tears several times. I thought of one of the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I realized that it was the LGBTQ community that is insulted, persecuted, and has all kinds of evil falsely said about it by those claiming to be of Jesus…and how their lives and their seeking of equality, dignity, and love was a Prophetic call speaking to the Church universal–a prophecy as strong as the ancient prophets calling us to see God’s true love without our blinders.

The lesson at Evensong today, turned out to be the Beatitudes.

The other was from Acts 2: In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

I found myself choked up–thinking of the visions our youth have to see–the pain of being kicked out by family, of having to survive on the street, the abuse, the neglect, the deterioration of their dignity. Of the dreams of the folks who protested in Stonewall who are now seeing marriage equality in 50 states, and progress in fronts that surely only seemed like dreams–and of the prophetic message that the lives of the LGBTQ community is sharing with the Church.

It has been a truly moving day for me–and I felt I just had to share.

Sick of White People

Dear Jack

Let me be clear. I am sick of white straight folks saying they are sick of hearing about race…that they think they should have straight pride too. I do wonder if you are smart enough to even grasp how ignorant and out of touch with reality you are.

You do not get to tell people of color to stop talking about how the system that our race set up is adversely effecting them.

You do not get to claim pride at being straight when your straightness has not been illegalized, a cause for termination in most states, warranting death in many countries. It isn’t about just being proud to be gay, but claiming the dignity denied us.

Priviledge In Its Ugliest Forms

Dear Jack,

It is amazing how many white people are sick of hearing about racial inequity…we have the privilege and skin that allow us to not have to be concerned of race of those out ancestors enslaved. I choose not to identify with those who share my race and skin tone who think it is unpleasant to discuss race…who refuse to see the inequality present in our society…who choose to be offended when folks call out this inequality and racism…who choose to not recognize the racism inherent in our legal system, financial systems, and greater society.

What I choose is to recognize evil where there is evil; to respect the dignity of every one; to mourn the loss of life, and to stand up against racism and other inequalities that my race has put in place over centuries. I wish I knew how…for the task is so hard… and my patience for hearing the dribble from folks who do not even see their racism is waning.

Flag Day 2015

Dear Jack,

Today is Flag Day. On one had I have George M Cohan’s anthem, pride in the ideals that formed and shaped America, and a fortunate feeling that providence found me born here. On the other hand I think of the aboriginal people’s we displaced, the slaves we dragged here and oppressed, the immigrants who at one point were the formation of American tapestry who are now met with xenophobia, and the various groups who have had to fight within our country for equality…and how so many still are not equal.

This flag is supposed to stand as a symbol of our liberty, and of the lives who were dedicated to preserving that liberty. I am still waiting for that flag and it’s liberty to represent me as an equal person under the law. And if and when I achieve that…I will be waiting for the flag to represent the others still struggling. And if I am not fighting to bring that flags liberty and equality, then I probably don’t deserve it.

What Wondrous Fear is This?

Dear Jack,

Tonight on a Facebook group page on which I am one of the Administrators, someone posted the often quoted “love the sin, but hate the sinner” adage.   It was in response to gays of course, and used as a justification for being against marriage equality.  It got me thinking about the whole concept, about the religious conversation regarding gays, about the reality of my own experience and revelation of God.

It was just an opinion stated–one that is mired in fear and prejudges based on misinformation and, often, lack of direct experience of gay people as real people, individuals, Children of God.

Here is where we are lucky that it is an opinion. Science has demonstrated in overwhelming studies that same-sex attraction is natural, that it is present in other species, that there appears to be no choice involved in it.  Reason and logic can infer that one cannot truly “love the sinner and hate the sin” yet at the same time not apply that to themselves and their own sins.  If one must point out one particular sin as a judging factor of who a person is, I fear they miss the true meaning of love. I stand by this because generally the same faith tradition that gives us this platitude is also the same one that give uses “all sins are created equal”.  Why point out only one perceived sin? But that’s not really the point of the phrase, the point is to make the person who has this misinformation feel less guilty by wrapping it in religiosity and adding the bow “love”.  Revelation of God’s love in the world shows that God does indeed love all–that he does not list us according to our sins–and furthermore, reveals that God does not find being gay sinful. This is the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the world today–God created us gay, straight, and scales in between. Gay/straight/bi/questioning, we all sin but not in sharing love or seeking blessing on our relationships.

What is sad is that the above opinion of being gay is sinful can be so damaging to a person’s psyche that it causes self-hate; that opinion can be so blinding that people think bashing a person is doing that person good; that sending them to restorative therapy will help them when every leading psychological association says it can do great harm psychologically; that it leaves a lot of people who would otherwise be upstanding members of society on the wrong side of history and God’s love; that with that opinion people justify hateful actions that injure God’s precious creation.

The true sin around the word “gay” is not in those who identify as gay, but in those who act as if it is sinful. For it is in that belief, that so many are led to suicide, that youth are kicked from their homes by their parents, that people find themselves ostracized from their communities, that girls can be kicked out of school because they look to “boyish”, that people beat and kill because someone is LGBTQ, that nations can justify biased laws from calling it “propaganda” to so immoral it requires life in prison or even death, that people will torture others to make them change, rape women out of being lesbian–so MANY SINS THAT IT TURNS THE STOMACH! That is the true sin involved in homosexuality–not the gays and lesbians seeking marriage equality, nor the trans community seeking acceptance to be who they are and live as they feel God created them.

What fear blinds folks so much that they reinterpret God in such a manner, twist holy texts in such a manner, hide behind platitudes like hate the sin and love the sinner while in places like TN put forth laws allowing bullying of gays on the grounds of religious freedom? It it something that I cannot fathom.  What wondrous fear is this that makes so many act in such blind hate and pat themselves on the back as good righteous people for speaking God’s word?

The reality, is that times ARE changing.  Marriage equality will continue to spread.  Sanctions against countries with outdated laws will continue to be enacted. Transgender people will not need to fear being who they are, nor lose their home or job for it. We are on the verge of freedom coming to our communities–and it will be some time until we all have it!

Racism still exists despite the laws that protect one from being discriminated based on race, and many will need to still change as the latency of racism exposes their true nature such as the Stand Your Ground Law.  Sexism still exists despite laws protecting women–hell laws are still being debated that show sexism alive and well.  Homophobia and transphobia will still exist, well after our rights are secured.  And there will likely be a new group of people seeking an end to discrimination.

But we will win in the end–we will all find justice and equality.  For I believe deeper than any other belief, that God indeed is on our side, and that God’s purpose for us as Children of God is not that some are treated in any way other than equally with love.

I hope that our mainline faith traditions continue to see this revelation as well.  I am an Episcopalian, and my church has grown on this issue–it has wrestled with this issue, and continues to wrestle with it. Tons of money, time, prayer, and debate have gone into this diligently, intentionally, and thoughtfully.  And amazingly, the revelation of God in this has been to love, to include, to bless, and to raise up people in the Church of all races, sexes, orientations, identities, abilities, expressions, ages, classes as true “living members of Christ’s body and heirs of his Kingdom” with no outcasts.  And we are not alone–Buddhists, Jews, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans, Muslims, Hindus, and all the rest–there are a great multitude who are moving in this direction and pulling our faith traditions with us into a new world. And I say Thanks Be to God.

Accident Prone Chap Story

Dear Jack,

So it was in the fifties today here in NYC. Due to a snowier winter than normal and few days over 32, the snow piled up. On corners, there were masses of heavy packed snow and ice. Today much was melting, and so one had the choice of wading ankle deep in brown sludge, or risking the slippery icy sides. I risked the slippery sides. The ice mounds, however, had melted from below due to the water eroding the ice along the ground. Thus as I stepped on a 7″ high ice mound to cross, it gave way and my foot sank into 5″ of icey slush.

The Olympic games in Sochi have highlighted the plight of LGBT Russians, the anti-LGBT “propaganda law”, and the growing homophobia in that motherland. Yet, let us not forget that at this same time homophobia is not a solely Russian ailment.

There are laws in much of the Middle East that are harsher to LGBT people. Several countries in Africa are wrestling with laws enacting death penalty or life imprisonment for LGBT people–as well as punitive action to family members, friends, and clergy or doctors who do not report them. In the USA homophobia manifests itself as well–and not just in bigoted ignorant comments by TV personalities or right-wing radical clergy. Daily lives of LGBT people and their friends and family are impaired.

Look at the many who are bullied to the point of suicide; to being homeless because their family has thrown them out; to the rise in trans attacks in even liberal NYC. We need an awakening to the true meaning of human rights–and a mind change that effects all of our hearts. Early Christian immigrants to the US often referred to this land as a city upon the hill–let us be that beacon. Let us live up to the truths professed in our founding documents and truly break asunder the chains of oppression wherever they manifest themselves.

We are on the verge of this change as more and more states bring a level of legal equality in marriage to LGBT people, and the federal government recognizes these state laws. More laws must be passed and enforced–in NY state that means GENDA. However, just as racism has survived past the 13th and 15th Amendments, sexism has survived past the 19th, both past the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so too will homophobia and transphobia survive many years to come. But we have to keep pushing forward.

I think it is our duty as Americans to move forward in this. It is our duty as humans to do this in all countries, and to help those suffering oppression. As is often quoted of MLK, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.