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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Open Letter to Kirk, et. al.

In the words of Ronald Reagan: “There you Go Again…”  Add former childhood star and religious mouthpiece Kirk Cameron to the long list of people making comments, religious assertions, and statements about the LGBT community.  You don’t have to go far to read supportive online remarks such as: “He’s just saying what he believes” or ‘Its God’s Words that he is defending”.  This issue rising again juxtaposed with the trial of Tyler Clemente’s roommate (Tyler committed suicide after the roommate spied on and broadcasted his encounter with another man) not only adds the tragedy—but highlights a truth that many who claim to be religious just don’t seem to understand. Their sincere—but misguided-- condemnations of LGBT persons do more damage than they realize. This damage contributes to a culture of intolerance and un-love and that has serious consequences for LGBT community members-- especially those just coming out or just beginning to understand their sexuality.  Most significantly, it is done in the name of religion—when to undertake judgment or condemnation is the farthest thing from what religion itself teaches.

In the song “Which Way Are you going”, Jim Croce sings the words: “You say you love the baby, then you crucify the man.”  This is, in essence, what those who rail about the sin and horror of homosexuality do every day with every word—especially those words spoken in the name of using faith against those in the LGBT community.   And these words have consequences—that turn many away from religion, or, far worse, lead young LGBT people towards lives of self destruction or suicide. From a recent Oregon study comes indications of just how important this is:
Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, but a supportive environment in their schools and communities can make a difference, new research suggests.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults from ages 15 to 24, and lesbian, gay and bisexual teens (LGB) youth are more likely to attempt suicide, according to the researchers. ( [emphasis added]

That is why these words matter—why they need to be called out—and why it isn’t just people defending their faith.  It is actually expressive of something quite the opposite—people using faith to sew seeds of hatred and divisiveness in themselves and in their communities. It contributes to a lessening of the supportive environment that all people to be themselves effectively and to see the beauty in their creation.

Faith teaches us that God creates us in his own image- every single one of us.  Not just the righteous, or people of a certain faith or creed- but everyone.  Further, the two greatest commandments are: Not to Judge and To Love.  Yes, your biblical interpretation may hold to the idea that committing a gay act is wrong.  You may quote Leviticus or the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to the highest mountain as a way to justify your beliefs  But the foundation of your argument fails—for it rests on practicing an even more “deadly sin”—that of judgment. 

Further, you are in judgment not of an action—but of one of God’s creatures.  Just like you.  Have you no sin in your own life to address? Have you no defect to work on in your own path toward God’s love. This is where the true damage begins—by introducing judgment- the opposite of love—you speak a message to those who are Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, or Bisexual are not one of God’s Children.  That they are not deserving of God’s love or made in his own image.  That they are not part of the Divine.  What right do you have to make this determination or to proclaim it as the Will of God?  The answer comes from the Sermon On The Mount:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Is this the message you are providing to countless young men and women—boys and girls. These souls, who deal not just with society’s rejections, now must also address your assumption that they are not loved.  They must deal with your judgment in the name of your interpretation of the Bible—a judgment that the same scripture you selective quote includes the words above.

This leads too many LGBT youth and young adults to feel shame for who they are-- the most damaging of all emotions. Even more troubling is that these are not adults who, after a lifetime of experiences learn (hopefully and eventually) to separate the wheat from the chaff. To hold dear only to the ideas of love and forgiveness.  These are still people in the dawn of life.  The fragile and the unformed—and the inexperienced.  Those who all too often haven’t yet constructed an effective and healthy framework from which to view the world, much less their own sexual orientation.  Influential preacher Joel Osteen speaks to the significance of this view in his boot “Your Best Life Now” with this amazingly powerful passage:

It’s vital that you accept yourself and learn to be happy with who God made you to be.  If you want to truly enjoy your life, you must be at peace with yourself.  Many people constantly feel bad about themselves.  They are overly critical of themselves, living with all sorts of self-imposed guilt and condemnation.  No wonder they’re not happy; they have a war going on inside.  They’re not at peace with themselves. And if you can’t get along with yourself, you will never get along with other people.  The place to start is by being happy with who God made you to be.
[emphasis added] (Osteen, p. 66)

How do you, from your faith, provide love to LGBT people?  How can your words of condemnation be tempered with platitudes such as—Love the sinner but not the sin—when you condemn not the action of the LGBT person—but the very existence of them—or their very nature?  How cruel is to say, you have a right to be gay or lesbian, but not a right to find and be loved—to build a live with someone?  To be “normal”?  What options do you provide them?  And how far away are you from the teachings of true faith—and the presence of true love?

Far too frequently, faced with an unsupportive family environment, or a culture that in many places rejects them, or at least deals with them with less than love—is it any wonder they often turn to drugs, or alcohol, or compulsive sexualized behavior, or, tragically suicide?  They get precious little support finding peace or happiness being who they are “made to be” because too many in the outside world are too busy placing judgment—or finding fault or denying healthy outcomes permitted for the rest of society—when they should only be concerned with providing love!  Even if they disagree—even if they think it’s a choice—even if they find it vile or repulsive—it is still not their battle to fight.  Nowhere in the scripture, even in the brimstone pages of Leviticus does it decree that normal God fearing Christians have the obligation, or the right to be anything but loving towards any person—any child of God—whether they be sinner or saint.   Again the words from the Sermon on the Mount: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7) .

This is in the impact of beginning the discussion with the concept that homosexuality is a sin, that it is a choice, and those who are gay are less than equal to any other of God’s creatures.  You may condemn the action of gay Sex (pre-marital) with the same voice or logic you use to condemn pre-marital heterosexual sex.  You may argue that certain elements of the “Gay lifestyle” may be destructive—but that is the case with all “lifestyles” and immediately express the silliness of there even being such a concept of a lifestyle based on orientation, or area of residence of extent of education or any other concept.

The even greater tragedy lies with the fact that so many people who claim to be religious—God fearing people- fail to see that the very people who’s lifestyle they condemn need most the love that can be expressed through a divine faith.  They seek answers—“why was I made this way”; “Will I find love”, “Why is life so hard”; ‘Why do I feel alone?” These answers can be found in the texts of the scripture of all faiths.  The expression of love that is found in genuine religion—absent of judgment—is exactly what troubled young people need to hear.  Instead they hear, from people who should help them to grown and find peace and love only voices of condemnation—of intolerance and non-acceptance.   

In these moments, faced with the hypocrisy of people of faith expressing emotions and judgments that are so opposed to faith—young LGBT people turn away from what could be their key the real joy, happiness, and love—to entities and people and habits that are the farthest from it. Pain that could be eased it not—love that could be shown is not—and  souls that could be saved are left alone by those who proclaim to have faith.      
People have occasionally asked me why I think God created gay people, and I have asked that same question of others.  My answer has become more resolved over time.  For me, it was a challenge—God’s way of getting me to accept who I am—Love who I am- even though it was different.  Today, I thank God for my orientation—and my opportunity to find my faith though the many questions and difficulties that have been present in my life—but even more so—by finding faith in Love.  Of a Family and friends who accepted me for who I am—of a firehouse that accepted me even though it was not the normal thing to do—and of finding the love in myself and the understanding that I am a child of God.  Created for amazing things and given certain qualities that make me unique and special.

And for those who are out in the world—who are not LGBT—and especially those who do not accept us--members of the LGBT community are God’s challenge to you as well.  That is one explanation for why we all different—the role we have to play in our lives is as much a role in the lives of others. Each of us a piece in a giant 3D puzzle—never to be complete without each soul occupying its predetermined place—serving its role.  To show all people ways to grow—become closer with the one.  Every time someone speaks not to the glory of a child of God—but instead to their intrinsic failure—this takes them, and us as a whole, away from the message—away from their growth—leads that beautiful soul into a land where they see themselves as apart from the one—not a critical element of it. In the words of Joel Osteen:

“Our Value is Intrinsic.  It is not something you or I have earned; indeed we cannot earn it. God built value into us when He created us.  To God, we are his ultimate creations.  That means you can stop obsessing about all your faults and give yourself a break.” [Osteen, Your Best Life Now, p67]

And if you can stop obsessing about your own faults, then by God you can certainly stop obsessing about what you perceive other’s faults to be as well.  Too many people's lives depend on it.  The phrase that so many liked to wear applies here-- not just because it was the "hip" thing but because it was appropriate: "What would Jesus Do?"  When it comes to LGBT teens and young adults-- yearning for Love and Acceptance in their lives-- what do you think the Son of God- the one how walked with the poor and ministered to the misfortunate-- the one who loved all of God's Children-- even those who would crucify him-- what do you think he would have done?

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