Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘GLBT and Christians’ Category

I know what happened to John Paulk in terms of logistics, because we are Facebook friends. I know he’s gone from a nerdy looking man to Chef Cuteness in the last 13 years. I know I’d like to cook like him. I know he’s a dedicated father and has gone through deep pain with recent changes in his life. But I’m here to talk about what happened to him…

You see I’m an unofficial expert in the way things look. I can see print and know if it’s off by a fraction of a millimeter. I’ve been given a good eye for balance and what looks right: too many words in a sentence, the balance of flowers in a centerpiece, too much fabric in a dress, and too little grace in our churches.

My Twitter account has been blowing up with all kinds of religiously negative words about John. Everyone has their input, so I’ll tell you what happened to John Paulk: In 2000 he walked into a drag bar, if my memory serves me right. It was in DuPont Circle in DC, I know for sure. He was there for about 45 minutes before he was recognized by someone who told the press. Because of John’s position with Exodus it was a big deal. After that a series of official statements were made by the board of Exodus International—a board from a ministry based on high Christian standards.

This isn’t about Exodus, because I’m very impressed with the willingness of Alan Chambers to listen and embrace the hurt. No, this post is about the board that was overseeing the program in 2000 and what happened to John Paulk…

For a moment I will digress. We conservatives love to point fingers. We say our problems would be solved if only we had an Evangelical President, hadn’t let gay people marry, hadn’t legalized pot, and on it goes. Ironically our fingers never point to ourselves. There’s nothing ever said about getting before the Lord with sack cloth and ashes, and repenting for our sins. The top of our sins should include not being Jesus to others.

Where would John Paulk be today if one of the male humans on that board had been a man and washed John’s feet? What if they hadn’t sent him off into the vast wilderness called “excuses”. I have no idea what happened outside of all their weekly missives of “what really happened that day on DuPont Circle”, but soon John disappeared from our lives. These men went right on with their lives believing they had been the voice of God in the matter. Instead they abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. How could they sever ties as casually as one would unfriend someone on Facebook? But Jesus tells us a story like this in Luke 10. The priest and the Levite have nothing to do with the man wounded on the road, but the Samaritan comes along and helps.

Just recently John Paulk issued a statement about that time and the years since. His words were raw. As I read, I could feel the beat of his heart. Suddenly a new decade of gossips rise up to try to take John down: their words are condemning; their fingers are pointing. Some are close relations and some are self-proclaimed experts, but none are seeing through the telescope of grace. They offer no edification. I suggest they don’t know grace. The grace we saw when the Amish embraced the family of the shooter. The grace we love to see when the Bishop gives Jean Valjean the candlesticks.

What happened to John Paulk happens to countless others in our churches. They probably aren’t associated with Exodus, but they have hurts and stumble, and then we continue to pour salt into their wounds. We must remember that there’s only ONE difference in our faith and countless other religions: Jesus took our sins in an act of grace. We are told to walk in His Steps. Consider the verse below. Consider what would say if it means grace and grace only…

Matthew 28:18-20…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

I think one of the bigger issues this week has been the bill having to do with punishment for people who commit hate crimes. I’ve gotten a couple of pieces of advice from both sides of the debate. I would like to weigh-in a bit on this for my more conservative pals.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you know that when I was ten we moved from the “north” (Kentucky) to an area just south of Tuscaloosa, AL. I had lived my first years where the integration of schools was simply merging a school rather than a political drama. The drama began (after we moved) in 1964 when my fifth grade teacher asked me about going to school with black student…she actually used the n-word. She asked about “them” smelling and biting. I learned that “them” were hated by the locals. As well the locals believed that “them” could be treated in a sub-human way. Members of my father’s church bragged about the terrible deeds they did to “them”. Members of our church harassed my father for refusing to join their local whites-only club called the KKK.

So here we are 45 years later. I’m finding there is a new “them” out there. I’m a school counselor and one of “my” children told me it was okay to hit, stab or kill a person because they were gay. Certainly a nine-year-old doesn’t just go to bed at night and dream this up without a bit of help from a significant adult in their lives promoting this belief.

I’m not much for making comments on hot political issues, but let me throw this one out for you (my conservative pals) to chew on….

Almost eleven years ago we had the opportunity to speak out for someone who had been injured by a crime borne of hate. Matthew Sheppard was brutally killed and I don’t remember one significant conservative pastor opening their mouth to say “this is wrong!” Instead we were silent…I was silent. Maybe we just wanted to be “us” and if we spoke out against what happened someone might think we were “them.” No clue.

Instead, in our silence there was one “Christian” voice–an evil man who said he represented “us” because in his demonstrations of hate he held signs that stated he was a Christian, and was speaking for God. Because we chose to remain silent, he became the face of fundamentalism and in many peoples’ eyes they think he is one of us…

This bill was written to protect people from him. So when we worry about what the hate crimes bill will do to “us”–we need to first think about what happens when our acts of grace remain hidden. Next, take we need to take our “grace” temperature. Are we servants who live like Jesus or do we have a political agenda to protect our rights? Grace isn’t a warm fuzzy…it is dying to self so others can see Jesus at work.

I’ve heard rumor will this take away the rights of pastors/Christians who want to point a finger at sin. The answer I have: a person giving grace won’t lose their rights. When we live like Jesus our “rights” aren’t so important. We will take a bullet for them because we refuse to let “them” be harmed. Jesus did it for us…

I read in the newspaper about conservative churches being picketed by gay groups. I already knew that $73 million was spent on this election on the gay marriage issue. Thought: WWJD with that much money? That’s a lot of warm meals for hungry people poured down the proverbial toilet. We didn’t have that on the ballot in my state; however, if we did, and if the final tally went against my belief I know that when I got up the next day the sun would still come up and nothing would change because God is still in control. But some people forget that and forget about grace.

There are rumors of all kinds of change that might occur if the gay community got the right for same-sex marriage. One of those rumors is that “kindergarten children will be taught about same-sex marriage.” Answer: Kindergarten teachers don’t have time to teach what they have to teach, and certainly won’t take their time to teach about same-sex marriage. However, most teachers already speak to the hearts of their children and make them feel safe. These teachers will do whatever it takes to make their students feel “normal.” Last year a dear ultra-conservative Christian co-worker had a child with two moms, and she always treated those moms with dignity. So Mrs. K was teaching her students that she respected every parent as well as every child no matter what.

I would like to suggest that God’s heart breaks when we conservatives speak such harsh words about people who believe differently from us. I believe that God wonders how we can experience such grace for our lives and not turn around and hand it out to others.

And talk about the things we make up to try to win people to our side…did you ever hear “the one” about how all gay people want to corrupt our kids and make them gay? Sure you have if you attend a conservative church. Guess what…its a lie. Certainly that myth was in my mind the first time I let my daughter spend the night with a girl who was the daughter of a lesbian couple. But she came home and the only thing that she knew was that her mother (me) lived my faith.

I just want to leave you with this parting thought: 3 John 1:9-11 says: I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

In this scripture I believe that God is warning us about gossiping in a manner that hurts people, refusing to welcome brothers, and putting people out of the church; God calls it evil. Therefore, use your words wisely, my dear conservative fellows. God loved us so much that Jesus died for us. For ALL of us.

And $73 million of walls have been built between the conservative community and the gay community. What would Jesus do? Simply read the Gospels and see what Jesus did each and every day.

I’ve been a guest blogger for Practically Paradise with the School Library Journal. Here is the link: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/830000283.html Or you can read it here:

Providing a Safe Environment for All Students to Learn

 

This past summer I was teaching a class of non-white students. It was a marvelous mix of cultures. As we got to know one another, the kids asked the girl from Vietnam if she did nails. Immediately, I realized she was being stereotyped. How many times do we put people into a box? All white people like country music, or all African Americans are good basketball players, or all Hispanics do lawns. The word “all” or “them” implies that someone isn’t part of our group.

 

One of the more controversial social issues in our American society is the conservative vs. gay community. On parent night we may feel uncomfortable greeting two moms or two dads. Our time-honored ideas are being challenged, and as adults we might immediately think: them. But realize children of these parents come under ridicule from other students; traditional families may not want their children associating with these kids. Yet, it goes beyond simply after-school friendship. Kids may believe this gives them liberty to do things that are harmful, either physically or emotionally.

 

One day during a guidance lesson on personal safety, a student remarked “it’s okay to hit a gay person.” You can understand from this statement that gay, lesbian and questioning students (or those who feel they are living in a body that isn’t their real gender) are at risk for harassment or bullying. As school professionals we have a commitment to maintain a safe environment for all our students, and be the catalyst for acceptance by their peers.

 

Sunday, October 12, 2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the crime committed against Matthew Shepard. For those who cannot remember him, he was beaten, tied to a wooden fence and left for dead in a freezing Wyoming pasture—a crime motivated, in part, because Shepard was gay. FBI stats show there are about 1200 hate crimes committed a year against people based on sexual orientation—that’s 16% of the total of all hate crimes. That figure is the actual crime and doesn’t account for countless incidents of bullying and harassment.

 

We have the opportunity to educate our students against prejudice in any form, and help end tragedies like the one that happened to Matthew Shepard and countless others like him. Be proactive to protect valuable children who cry when they are teased and bleed when they are hit—they are not a “them” but students with worth and value. They need your watchful eye, your voice and your concern. Select opportunities such as books, stories, and current news to be proactive.

 

 

Part 2:

School bullying is an epidemic, and to ignore it is to ignore the single common thread among all the school shootings in America. We school professionals have the power and ability to (metaphorically) strong-arm the oppressor by our position. This “strong arm” is to teach our students to respect and value each other in our differences. By doing this we will probably save a life.

 

I experienced being bullied when I was a kid, but it doesn’t compare to the pain of seeing my child being bullied by a group of mean girls in the 4th grade. They stomped her coat and kicked it across the classroom floor (among other things). We told the teacher, but she chose to do nothing. In January we decided to home school because every Sunday night she would become physically ill and would cry herself to sleep. Our beautiful, intelligent daughter felt ugly and stupid, and it took years for the damage of those few months to be put behind her.

 

How can we not see the bullying happen? You know that student who is being tormented: it’s the child who might use any excuse to not be in class. Or one who won’t make eye contact with certain peers. If you can’t see “the bullied,” you can at least see “the bully.” That would be the mean girl who has a little smile when you tell her she’s upsetting someone. It’s the boy who makes fun of and/or calls other boys “gay.”

 

Earlier this year California middle-school student Lawrence King was killed because he was gay (link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/23/us/23oxnard.html). The statistics about harassment of gay students are astounding. According to a comprehensive national study, 86.2% of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students report being verbally harassed, 44.1% physically harassed, and 22.1% have been physically assaulted at school. Grades are lower and the drop-out rate is high for these students. How can we not see these things happening?

 In a wealthy and liberal school district in California, researchers found that GLBT students are bullied and harassed more than overweight or disabled students. Anti-gay bullying has only gotten worse in schools. Teachers generally will only recommend a student shouldn’t say that about their peer. That lack of force further suggests that being gay is wrong. Here are some facts taken from the Palo Alto (CA) High School Online School Journal (link: http://voice.paly.net/view_story.php?id=437):

 

  • 78% of the total student body has witnessed harassment of gay student;
  • 93% report hearing gay epithets (such as “a fag” or “that’s so queer”);
  • 51% report hearing anti-homosexual slurs daily;
  • One-third of these (GLBT) students are harassed due to their orientation;
  • One out of six is beaten where (s)he requires medical attention;
  • Gay kids are four times more likely to be threatened with a weapon at school.
  • Because 40% of all students at some time experience a degree of same-sex attraction, there is a tendency to over-compensation by striking out against gay students as a means of not being perceived as gay. 

 

 

Part 3:

Before I focus on literature I wanted to spend a non-academic moment to address the issue of our belief system. Amid our convictions, we possess prejudices—even if it’s prejudice against prejudiced people. It’s easy to vilify people who don’t believe like we do. For example last night someone stomped the Presidential candidate sign we have in our yard. It is all too easy to get into a “we-them” mentality, because what we believe seems so right.

 

Here’s a far out analogy that takes it from the thought into experience: I’m left-hand, and the first leftie born in the 20th century. My grandfather was the only leftie born in the 19th century. When my aunts taught me how to knit, it was difficult because they could only see it from the way they had done it all their life. They couldn’t identify with my “difference”—but for me it wasn’t a handicap because it was me.

 

The issue of protecting gay students might be offensive to you and cut across the core of your fundamental beliefs. Therefore, it is quite okay to tell a student you don’t understand, but you’re there for them if they need you. See this issue through the lens of protecting a child from being harmed physically or emotionally; certainly that’s on the radar of everyone’s value system. Making school safe for everyone is part of the mandate from your school system, and probably in the mission statement for your school.

 

What if someone comes to you for Heather Has Two Mommies? This child will get comfort from the book because there’s at least one other someone out there who has two moms. His situation is normalized as he turns the pages, even though his name is Joe and not Heather. Undoubtedly there’s no difference than when you give a child a book dealing with any other issue you don’t find “in common” in school. Think about those books: the parent in prison, a mom who is bipolar or a dad who is a gambler; in elementary school you don’t read a book to a class about the dad who drinks, but you certainly have the book tucked away for the child who needs it.

 

Gay teens state they live their life wearing a mask, and they’re in need of a caring adult. Students will look to school librarians to help them find answers. Here is a list of websites and literature you might find helpful (there is a range of literature in here, and some schools and school districts may not permit you accessing it):

  • Gay-Straight Alliance Network (www.gsanetwork.org)
  • GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel (7th grade and up).
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  • Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez, a trilogy for 9th grade up.
  • Gay Christian Network (www.gaychristian.net) is a website for conservative gay Christians. They present both the side for remaining celibate, or to date and find a life partner.
  • For parents who come to you, they may be interested in PFLAG (www.pflag.org). This is a group for families and friends of persons who are gay.
  • GLSEN (www.glsen.org) stands for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
  • Exodus International is a group for people who want to live a heterosexual life (www.exodusinternational.org). My note: This is a faith-based group and the research that supports their claims of same-gender attraction change has been questioned, however many students will ask about this program. 
  • The Advocate (www.advocate.com) is a national, award-winning gay and lesbian e-zine.
  • Tolerance.org (www.tolerance.org) is a project created by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A free Teaching Tolerance Newsletter that is available to educators who are interested in anti-bias issues and new educational materials.
  • Open Lives: Safe Schools a book published by Phi Delta Kappa and edited by Donovan R. Walling. It addresses gay and lesbian issues in education.

This week has been prolific with news about gay students. We started the week with the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, then there was the information about the school in Chicago for GLBT teens, and finally actress Hillary Duff has started a new advertising campaign to help stamp out gay slurs. Here’s a link to the CNN video:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2008/10/16/phillips.gay.ad.campaign.cnn

 

My book—And You Invited Me In—began fifteen years ago when I saw that my nationally-known conservative church was not available when our landlord, and fellow church member, died of AIDS. While I’m conservative, I also strongly believe that no matter what the issue, the law of grace trumps everything. That’s the kind of love we possess when we shield our students from a shooter. Everyday there are “word shooters” in our classes. The words might be a look or a sound but they all say the same thing. Don’t let that happen. Be the change agent in your school. Make a difference and you’ll save a child.

 

…are the words to a popular Christian song. We sang it at CFO. As we sang I started thinking about grace being enough. You know it’s great to have grace extended to us, and (at those times) grace IS enough for us. Grace was and is all about the work that Jesus did on the cross. Yet in our neck of the woods we tend to enjoy meddling in other people’s business. Call it what you will, but we have an opinion on everything and how people need to do it. It might be the dress Sister Bessie is wearing. It may be the way our friends are raising their children. 

Does a worship service consist of three songs and a prayer, or is it an hour of rocking, jumping and swaying as we become deeply connected with the Lord? I personally don’t care much for Southern Gospel genre of music. Last night I went to a concert that was the Southern Gospel equivalent of Country Music’s Fanfare.  There in the middle of rose-scented talcum powder (no doubt applied with a fluffy puff) and Old Spice After-Shave, I found myself experiencing a little bit of heaven on Earth. I was caught up in the richness of harmony that’s sung (generally) with family.

In our Christian homes, sometimes there is a disruption of harmony. Family will be at odds over the silliest things…my closest friend’s sister-in-law was mad at her mother for four years because of dish detergent. Sometimes it is big: a child or sibling or friend announces (s)he is gay. Oh my…then we get all structure and legalistic on our dearest gifts from God. Then grace isn’t enough. At least grace from us—the grace that says “I’ll love you no matter what” to “until you change you can’t come home”. Maybe there’s even a hint that it would have been better had we died.

So if grace is enough, then grace is enough. Grace isn’t “love the shoes, love the dress” when we honestly hate it. That’s lying. Grace is laying down our expectations, desires, wishes and loving beyond reason. That’s what Jesus did, and it was enough.

I think if it was enough for Jesus, then loving beyond reason and when it is most difficult should be enough for us. And when you love beyond reason…heaven will open no matter where you are. Corrie ten Boom was able to tell the world: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Grace isn’t subtly wrapped in rules or ultimatums. His grace is enough!

This is probably part one of a series of thoughts on the heart.

I’ve always been conservative, and keep more of a conservative leash on myself than most people would realize. On the other hand, in the last few years I’ve tried to listen to people on the outside to understand what they’re hearing from us. One thing that continues to pop up in commentaries and newscasts is that we conservative Christians are two-issue people: we’re pro-life and anti-gay. And when it shakes out, that’s about where we stand.

A decade ago the talking heads of conservative religion said that if you were pro-choice or homosexual you were the “doom of America”. Somehow that unbalanced train of thought continues today. What we don’t realized is that something happens when we make those our only issues…I’ll cover those in a minute….

First, Jesus was all about the spiritual. Pharisees and all those like them were going around making sure every mint twig was tithed and Koshered. Jesus ALWAYS spoke about a person’s heart–so we need to remember that in all we do. It was the giving heart of the widow in the “widow’s mite.” It was the heart of the Samaritan. Let’s put a new twist on the Samaritan for today.

There was a man in Hartford, Connecticut who was hit by a car and no one stopped to help. Many people passed him on the street and didn’t want to get involved. Surely there were many church people who drove or walked past. And God looked down and wondered what was wrong with their hearts that they could ignore someone in pain when all of them had so much–health, material goods, jobs, family, and so on.

I don’t know if America is going to fall or rise. If we fall, I can’t say what will be the magic bullet to kill the nation, but since Jesus clearly spoke about the condition of the heart we need to look inside an examine our ways. Because that’s probably why we’re sinking…

Therefore when we isolate a group and make them our scapegoat, then we disenfranchise this group of people. We make them non-people, and non-people become expendable. Once they’re expendable then you hear a grade school child say: well, it’s okay to kill a gay person. (And the child could not understand why I said it was wrong.)

If Jesus were to return today he wouldn’t ask any of my conservative fellows about the political issues of the day and how we changed the world by an amendment here and there. He’d ask if we treated our neighbors with honor–you know the neighbors who’ve just returned from a California wedding. He’d ask why we hadn’t been there to wipe the tears of our child we sent away because (s)he was “living in sin”. Jesus would ask how we could forget about this child’s pain because God never forgets about our pain. He never sends us away. That would be like the people passing the man in Hartford, and God isn’t like that…

Therefore, forget the outside…look at the heart, your own heart. Listen for the heart of the person you don’t understand. Listen for the cry of their heart.

What do you think about the earthquake in China? What about Dafur? What about the starving children in Myanmar? What about the Christians in Laos: the pastor who was killed and now his wife continues his church and preaches grace? What about a certain child I know who is dying and his parents don’t have the money for gas to get to the hospital? These are issues that also need our attention.

As a Christian I think we need to be about the Lord’s business, and that means letting those we love know how much we love them…and we need to love them in more than just words. I’ve often heard the scripture from James quoted: “faith without works is dead.” People used it to emphasize the need to cook meals, witness or whatever to show they were/are working for the Lord. Let me put a new twist on it…

If the foundation for our faith is what Jesus did when he died for our sins. Then our faith is based on unconditional love and grace. “The works” would be showing grace and forgiveness to others. Now is a time to show what Jesus is all about. Here’s what the world is hungry for…

The Amish who embraced the shooter’s family. The church in Colorado who embraced the shooter’s family. The woman in Rwanda who has befriended the man who killed her husband and children. This is what the world is crying out for…the very thing that by passes the mind goes straight to the heart and makes people want to be better to their fellow man.

It is my opinion that my faith is only undermined when I set conditions on love. My children are strong in their faith when I’m acting like the Amish with the shooter’s family. The world wants what I have when my actions are like the Amish with the shooter’s family…

In short, there will begin to be battles now that the California Supreme Court has stepped up to the plate. We conservative Christians can fuss and fight, and maybe win politically, but what will we lose?

NOW is the time for all of us who carry the name of Jesus to step up to the plate. Our acts of grace will go to the heart…think about it…practice it everyday…watch things change.