An Ex-Christian Sounds Off on the So-Called Christians Who Drove Him Away

exchristian

(As I write this, another article about the churches in a small town refusing to allow the funeral of a young man, simply because of his sexual orientation crossed my feed.  I had to stop and take a break, in order to avoid allowing anger to colour my writing.)

Before we begin, let me start by saying this is NOT an attack on Christianity.  If I was more versed on other religions, I would include them in this blog.

How, exactly does an ex-Christian human rights activist respond to “Christian love?”  By putting those two words in quotations, I’m talking about the vitriolic hatred and bigotry thrown out so may by Christian extremists like Mike Huckabee, the American Family Association, and their former mouthpiece, Brian, (who we definitely haven’t heard the last of.) and of course our buddy Pat Robertson, who hates everyone who’s not an old, ‘Murican, Christian man, like him.  I’m not going to waste anyone’s time, or brain cells quoting these “loving” individuals, we all know what they’ve had to say, and continue saying.

First, some personal background.  I grew up in a Christian family, I counted myself as a believer for the vast majority of my life.  Sadly, I watched the faith I grew up with, one that taught Love, change to a religion that preached that anyone different was to be treated with distrust, and even to be hated.  This was one of the major reason I turned my back on faith, and religion as a whole.  When Canada’s Supreme Court was hearing arguments about Marriage Equality, more than ten years ago, pastors, ministers, priests, etc., were shouting from their pulpits about how gay people were out to destroy Canada.  The “sanctity” of marriage was being threatened.  Read the headlines in states where Equality is being debated, they’re the same tired arguments that we had here.  Extremists have claimed ownership of an institution that vastly predates their religion.

Throughout my life, I was taught to treat others the way I would like to be treated.  This has stuck with me.  It’s my conviction that everyone deserves respect, has value, and has a reason to be here, on earth.  I give to, and support others, not because of a promise of reward, (eternity in heaven) or the threat of punishment if I don’t, (eternity in hell) but simply because it’s the right thing to do.  This is the only life I’m going to get, I want to make the best of it.

So, how do we answer them?  We do it by picking up the weapon they throw at us, and using it as a shield.  For every one of the six bible verses that speak (in certain interpretations) against homosexuality, and Equality, there are a number of verses that speak of Love.  Let’s look at a few.

John 13:34   “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

I’ve spoken about this verse in a previous blog.  In my opinion, this means unconditionally loving each other.  Jesus didn’t say “Love one another, except people whose lifestyle you don’t like.” He simply said “love each other,” wholly, completely, and without condition or exception.

Mark 12:30  “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Again…wholly, completely, and without condition or exception.  Yes, admittedly, there are things about ourselves we may not “love” completely, but as Christians, you are commanded to Love your neighbor.  You’re not allowed to pick and choose which neighbor you love, just told to love them ALL.

John 8:7 “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Who, among the huge number of “Christians,” is without sin?  No body.  Not one.  ‘Nuff said.

Matthew 7:1-3 “1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Who are you to judge?  Who are you to decide what is and isn’t a “sin?”  How dare you?  How can you put yourself in the place of the god you purport to follow, and decide the fate of another person?  If you’re looking for something negative in people, look no further than the closest mirror.  You have no qualms about calling out other people’s differences, yet you can’t even see the faults in yourself.  This is a verse about karma.  That which you give out, will come back to you.  Try to remember that.

Matthew 25:40 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This is the big one.  This is the one that these Christian tyrants seem to forget.  He’s not just talking about the good things you do for people.  This isn’t just about how you lift people, about what sort of, in any, charitable work you do.  This is also about the damage you do.  If you belittle, degrade, or harm another person, you’re doing the same thing to the one person you claim to follow.  So for every LGBT church member, or the members of their family, you bar from your churches, for every gay or transgender whose funeral you refuse to allow in your church, for every kid you force into “conversion therapy,” you’re doing the same thing to Jesus. Is that what you mean to do?

These verses are in my opinion, the real definition of what it is to be a follower of “Christ.”  The people that truly live by them are to me, what Christians should be.  On the other hand, people who use their translation of the bible as a weapon, deserve no respect.  It infuriates me to read that women should be kept in their place, their reproductive rights should be decided by a male dominated government, that LGBT people are “less than” and don’t deserve the same rights as straight people.  (Comments like these have been stated by a number of “men of God.”) What inspires me, is the (slowly) growing number of people of faith that are openly supporting Human Rights. (of all kinds)

Cory Booker said it best:  “Before you speak to me about your religion, first show me in how you treat people.  Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children.”

My addition to his quote:  “Show me you DESERVE to be called a Christian” and someday, I might want might want to be called one again, too.

Ken

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Bible Belt- Let’s Be Friends

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It is coming, the war is almost over, but the battle has just begun. The right for same-sex couples to have the right to marry is finally here. I am gay, and I live in the South at the very center of the Bible belt. Just over three years ago, or even two years ago, I would have never thought two, same-sex people who were genuinely in love would be able to get married, especially in a church. Too my glorious surprise, they are getting married, and yes, inside churches in the South. I am thrilled to know that one day I could walk down the aisle and recite my vows to the man that I choose to marry. Although many people across the nation are turning cart-wheels over this major breakthrough, I know and understand that there are a group of people who feel threatened by this. Having lived in the Bible belt for as long as I have, I know that the idea of same-sex couples getting married scares allot of Christians. In some ways I can understand. I was once in the same boat. I was scared of the LGBT’s just as much, in fact, realizing the gripping truth that I was gay use to literally be my worst nightmare come true, but that only lasted for a season. Now I couldn’t be happier, and I am truly happy for both gays and straights who have been able to find peace and true happiness in their lives.

Still I know that this is a very confusing time for all religious people who still hold on to their ancestor’s traditions, expectations, and standards of how they want the world to be. It is very hard to embrace something that is very foreign too you, and it is even harder to let go and let love in. I know there are a good number of you that may even have gay children. For you that could mean your worst nightmare has come true. You wake up one day to find out that even your own child is one of them. You are obviously very scared, hurt, and confused at this point. I want you to know that your child telling you that he or she is gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or maybe they might not feel like a boy or a girl on the inside, and they have chosen to tell you, that this is a very big step in their life. They have chosen to give you their complete trust. They love you enough to be truly honest with you. I know it’s not what you expected. From the very moment of birth too he or she, you had the perfect vision of what they would be like and become. Many nights while you were rocking your child to sleep you probably envisioned what he or she would look like as an adult, and often wondered what type of husband or wife they would end up with. “Mom, I’m gay… Dad, I’m a lesbian,” is definitely not what you were anticipating hearing come from your own child’s mouth.

I’m not here to judge, and I’m not here to gloat. I just want a small portion of your time to share with you that just because your child is gay or lesbian, or bisexual or transgender, or marriage doesn’t seem fair to you anymore because it’s taking a strange turn, doesn’t mean your life ends there. You are entering a journey that if approached with open arms, could be an amazing adventure. My hope is by sharing with you our side of the scale, that you can be able to find a common ground. All I ask is that you read with an open heart. In the end your decision to embrace what you’ve read in this blog will be of your own choosing.

You’ve heard about us, you’ve read about us in the newspaper, watched us on the television, but I’m sure very few of you have ventured out away from your homeland and into our turf. I want you to know you are more than welcome. In fact I cordially invite you into our humble abode. I have no doubt that you are scared. We must seem very strange to you. A man and a man that are in love? A woman and a woman with a baby How is that even possible? Well, Bible belt, fasten your seat belts, and I will answer all of your questions, and if you will allow me, put your fears to rest.

We all have something that we are afraid of. I know that the LGBT’s right to be married is a major fear for you. You’ve heard so many horror stories, and you feel as though somehow we are trying to take your rights away and convert you all into homosexuality. Right now you are probably very tense and on the verge of getting angry, so, I want you to close your eyes for a moment and re-open them. Now, take a deep breath, as much as your gut can handle, and slowly let it out. Relax all those tight muscles and calm your thoughts, and if you are still reading this, good for you. I want to start by telling a simple childhood story of mine.

When I was a boy, I use to be extremely afraid of escalators. I would only take elevators wherever I went. Escalators were not an option. I saw other people riding them, but they were very strange to me. I thought those people were crazy. Stairs that can move? What if I trip and fall? What if something bad happens when I get to the top? Every time I entered any place that had moving stairs the excuses to condone my fear would begin. One day my grandpa (who has been dead now for 8 years) came for a visit. He wanted to take me to see my first movie (Stewart little). My grandpa didn’t know his way around the city, and the mall was the only place I knew how to direct him that had a theater. We saw the movie and after that I wanted to go to the toy store. The toy store was on the second floor. Normally, I took the elevator, but that day it was out of order. My legs began to tremble when I heard my grandpa’s chilling words. “Well Alan, looks like it’s the escalator for us.” Immediately I started crying. My grandpa was very tender and he quietly and gently took me over to a bench close to my greatest fear. At the angle we were sitting I could see both the escalator and the elevator. I felt his gentle hand on my shoulder and he began to calmly speak to me. “Alan, do you see that elevator?” I looked at my grandpa very strangely. Respectfully I said yes. He smiled at me with his tender blue eyes. “Alan, that elevator you walk into every time has only a single cord holding it. If that cord were to break the elevator would fall, yet you trust in it every time you enter and every time that faithful cord holds you and pulls you to safety. If that elevator can do that don’t you think the escalator will do just the same?” I shrugged my shoulders not really knowing what to say. After that my grandpa took me to the foot of the escalator. I took a deep breath, all the while my grandpa was whispering “you can do it.” I lifted my foot, and one after the other I was on the moving steps. Instantly my fear was squelched. It left me like a swift traveling vapor. I didn’t trip, I didn’t fall, and nothing bad happened when I got to the top. We had a great time at the toy store, and I got the pink power ranger I wanted so badly with my allowance.

For those of you who know nothing of what we are like, or how we live, I imagine we are quite similar to the escalators. You are traveling into a world of the unknown. Although it may seem like storm clouds raging, the sun can shine again if you would allow it. The big secret about the LGBT society (bomb shell) there is no secret. We are really not that much different then you, only we are attracted to the same-sex, or for some, both sexes. I work in the animal field, and I have come across clients who are gay. They are actually quite normal. They get up and go to work just like you do. Their dogs love them, and the people around them who are straight care and trust them entirely. I have a close gay friend right here in Houston, Texas who has just become an Uncle a couple of weeks ago to a beautiful baby boy. His sister and husband trust him completely, and he is a great uncle, and makes his little nephew giggle so much. We all laugh and love, striving so much for the good times. We don’t want to be coddled or be the center of everyone’s conversation, or roll out the red carpet every time we come around. We just want what you all have. Bible belt, I think it is wonderful you all can get married to the person you love. I wish you all the joy in the world, but we would like to share in the joy that you can experience. We simply aren’t wired your way. We didn’t have the same marriage visions you had growing up. We were born into this world just like you were. We didn’t wake up one day and decide to make our life difficult and almost unbearable. We are simply like the escalators. We aren’t elevators; we are a different walk of life. We don’t want you to be gay, we are not pounding on your door with old Cher tapes and Elton John albums saying “here listen to this.” I want you, just like all the wonderful LGBT people I have come to know, too be happy. All we want is to share in your happiness.

So with that being said, on behalf of all of us here at the LGBT club, you are happily invited to pay us a visit. For once put down the Bibles, put down the picket signs (not saying you all do that) and just have an engaging conversation with us, laugh with us, play dress up with us (laughs) you don’t have to do that. Just be yourself when you’re around us. Take a deep breath and just say hi, shake our hand. We want to be your friends if you will allow us.

Suit and Tie Picket Line

Suit and Tie Picket Line
“I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down…”
-Buffalo Springfield

There is a different world in our activism these days, a world where woe unto those who dare to cross the line of the high-rollers, you better look perfectly acceptable to white bread America if you want them to back you up.

Welcome to the world of suit and tie activism.

Dig, this is a true story. Back in January 2014, we were facing HJR-3 here in Indiana. It was the latest attempt by our statehouse in enshrine marriage discrimination into our state constitution. They had been trying it for the last ten years or so and this looked like their last realistic chance to do it. Anyway, they were having a public hearing about the matter there in the statehouse chambers and the call went out to the brothers and sisters through the vine to show up and support equality in Indiana.

So I showed up, decked out in a red Hawaiian shirt (we were told to wear red to show our support) and of course, I had my Pride Flag wrapped around me. I don’t go into a fight without the Colors, you dig? And this young man in a suit who looked like he stepped out of the pages of GQ stopped me and looked at me a bit oddly. He was with Freedom Indiana (the “official” group on our side) and he said to me “I appreciate the enthusiasm, but is there another way you could hold your flag? We don’t want our opposition taking a picture of you looking like that and using it against us.”

I didn’t look like white bread America; I was a flat-out stone-obvious freak, a street activist with the weight of many picket lines around my eyes and this young man was worried how such an image would play out in the papers. Never mind the fact that I was there to show my solidarity, I didn’t meet up to the dress codes standards, so there was no room for me to show my dedication.

That incident really lit a fire under my buddy Mike Shipley. He’s connected with the Outright Libertarians, so he decided to investigate a bit and called the folks at Freedom Indiana and he got this explanation from Megan Robertson (one of the campaign managers), “Freedom Indiana has become a brand in and of itself, while the rainbow flag certainly has a place in this overall movement, our campaign is currently focused on a very small constituency. It is great to have these allies step up, some even to the level of contributing $100,000 to our efforts.”

You hear that, brothers and sisters? This wasn’t a fight for equality, nope, this was a “brand” and all folks like me were good for was ponying up the cash to keep the brand going.

But is this sort of squeaky clean activism without precedent in our history? It is not, many of the early movements in the pre-Stonewall days of the 1960’s were absolutely insistent at marching in conservative suits and ties with the women in respectable skirts. Their demonstrations were completely civil, nothing dangerous, nothing outrageous, just a group of LGBT folks and their supporters marching quietly with their picket signs.

For the time, it was radical in and of itself to march for support of LGBT people, what those people were doing was risky on its own, they believed if they kept it clean and conservative they would have a better chance of making their point. While admirable, they were ultimately ignored by many in the political establishment. It wasn’t until the streets burned in NYC on that hot night in June of ‘69 that people started to take us seriously.

Looking beyond history and even beyond what’s been happening in my home state of Indiana, the corporate activism of the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) is a major part of the national movement. One of our other national fights right now, outside of marriage equality, is the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1994. In 2007, Congressman Barney Frank introduced a version of ENDA known as HR 3685. Many LGBT groups pulled their support from the legislation due to its absence of protections for transgender folks. The HRC didn’t, they continued their support of the legislation. They considered the opportunity too great to pass up and if it meant throwing our transgender siblings under the bus, so be it.

So why did they throw our transgender siblings under the bus? I believe it was basically for mass appeal, to reach the greatest number of potential donors and supporters. We are at a point where gay and lesbian folks can be presented in political advertising as all-American couples, no different than your neighbors next door. Our transgender siblings are not in so great a position, they still strike fear into the hearts of Main Street USA (for whatever reason), and thus they are politically expendable.

It’s a sad thing to see as we march closer to the mountaintop of equality and liberation. The voices on the streets, the vanguard of our revolution, are being told to quiet down, don’t upset the neighbors, don’t make the donors anxious. The HRC are always quick to claim the victory when we win, always quick to pat each other on the back and send out another donor email asking for money to continue the fight.

Who’s gonna ultimately win this war, brothers and sisters? Who gets the party at the end? Is it gonna be the suit and tie folks who use us as bartering chips with donors and legislators? Or is it gonna be those of us who do more than just cut a check, those of us who pick up the signs and banners and march in the streets when the drums roll?

It’s up to you, whose faces will we ultimately remember?

The Stonewall Riots, Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, ACT UP, Queer Nation, landmarks in our history, tales of bravery by countless brothers and sisters armed with nothing but their identities and a sense of right and justice; nothing pretty, nothing fancy, pure unadulterated street action, a bold and desperate move to proclaim our rights and humanity.

Or, some company that puts up a meaningless “workplace equality policy” that shines on paper and soon has high-rollers of the HRC pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and raise a toast to the CEOs and bosses. The high-rollers who brown-nosed a few folks in local government, maybe even scored a congressman or two (er, not in the sex scandal way), and soon, they had those elected officials in their back pocket and the lavender vote locked down for that candidate.

The latter should not be the faces of our legacy. The face of our legacy should be the ones that had to get sweaty and angry and unkempt. Faces like yours and mine.