Loving the Sinner, Not the Sin

While the contraversy continues over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, I find myself continually disappointed with much of the commentary and actions of some LGBT civil rights activists. Whether it’s Geoff Kors turning down his invitation to the event or John Cloud calling Obama a bigot, these are missteps that do not help our struggle.

I think its possible to respectfully voice our concerns and objections about the choice while remaining respectful. There is no doubt that I believe that disappointment and even anger over the choice is justified. What kind of message does it send that Obama has selected someone to bless his historic presidency who supports the ex-gay movement and who has publicly equated homosexuality with incest and pedophilia? Privilege is once again getting in the way of liberal straight people having a clear understanding of just how offensive and hurtful this is to us. Unfortunately, Obama’s choice makes it appear that he condones Warren’s perspective.

While I would urge my queer sisters and brothers speak up and be heard, I would also urge them to think carefully, strategically, and lovingly before doing so. As much as the choice of Warren hurts, we have an opportunity to engage in constructive dialog and make real strides towards civil rights. We can do so effectively by acting with forgiveness, compassion, and love. I am sad to see that some people are fanning the flames of hate and anger by calling people names and shutting people out with a futile all-or-nothing strategy. Indeed this amounts to us shutting our own selves out and setting our movement back.

It is not wrong to ask Obama to reconsider is choice in Rick Warren as Angela Clements did. But we need to have no expectation that he will. It is right to voice objection to giving a national stage to someone whose church’s membership is closed to anyone who lives an openly gay life. And it is right to identify bigotry where it is and call it into the light, but it is important not to conflate bigotry with ignorance.

Ignorance without love leads to bigotry, no doubt, but Warren has said that he intends to act with love. I accept this at face value. While Warren now denies ever saying those ugly things about homosexuality instead of repenting for the sin, to me his denial shows some movement on his part towards recognizing that some of the teachings of his theology are hurtful to people that he claims to love.

For my part, I hope that Warren continues down the path toward repentance for his sins and appologize to the LGBT community for what he has said and taught his flock to believe about us. Meanwhile, the LGBT community needs to keep to the high road of forgiveness and openness, even as we express our anger and hurt. Melissa Etheridge is a role model in how she has reached out to Pastor Warren. The healing is going to be a process, not a conversion experience.

A Place at the Table

Like my queer sisters and brothers, I am very disappointed in the choice of Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the  presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Indeed, he has said things about us that are extremely ignorant, hurtful, and prejudiced. For our civil rights agenda, Warren was the absolutely wrong choice. But I disagree with those who claim that Obama’s choice of Warren is any sort of signal to us that he isn’t leaving a place at the table for us.

Indeed, he has, more than anyone who has come close to holding the Office of the President, sent signals to the gay community that we do have a place at the table. It may not be exactly in the way that we want it, but we have an opportunity to move our civil rights agenda forward in a way that we never have before.

Now I learned today that Geoff Kors, the Executive Director of Equality California, is literally giving up his place at Obama’s table. In a purely symbolic gesture to protest Warren’s invitation, Kors is giving up an opportunity to represent queers and the #1 civil rights issue of our time at one of the most historically significant events ever. This accomplishes nothing positive for us.

We have every reason to be outraged at Obama’s choice, and it is right to point out Obama’s flawed decision. But, it is a mistake for us to squander any of our precious resources on a futile effort to convince Obama to rescind the invitation.

We have been fighting for a place at the table for so long, and now that we finally have one, Geoff Kors is trying to make his attendance conditional with nothing to leverage. The only ones who lose out by his decision to turn down this opportunity is the LGBT community. We can get the message of our disapproval, hurt and anger across without sacrificing this opportunity to represent ourselves and our cause.

Finally, I urge Geoff Kors to ask himself what Jesus would do. The answer is that he would make a place at the table for everyone, including the likes of Rick Warren. We need to do the same.

Protesting True Ugliness

I woke up this morning to find an email on Facebook regarding an action here in Chicago. Fred Phelps was in town to protest the Center on Halstead, and local LGBT activists were organizing to show our strength in numbers. The sign-making was already under way by the time I read my email, so I decided to get down to the Center in time for the protest.

We all kind of waited around for a while, and I ended up making awkward small talk with strangers. The organizers weren’t entirely certain whether or not Phelps was actually going to show up. Regardless, they decided we were going to make a show of force, sending a message to Phelps and the world that hate isn’t welcome here.

We all filed outside to stand infront of the building. Because it was pretty cold out, we walked in a loop in the sidewalk infront of the Center, many of us holding signs or rainbow flags, chanting alternately “Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia’s got to go!”, or “Gay! Straight! Black! White! Marriage is a civil right!, or “Gay! Straight! Black! White! Same struggle, same fight!”

Eventually, someone spotted the Phelps clan in front of the police station down the street, so people strated moving towards them. No one was sure where we were going until we got there. There were at least 200 of us, and there couldn’t have been more than four of them in the Phelps group. I was standing towards the back of the crowd, and I could hardly see them. But I couldn’t mistake their signs: something ugly about “Fags”, and a picture of Obama with horns with the word “antichrist.” One of them was holding a very young child who looked terrified.

They were clearly intimidated. I almost felt bad for them. People in the crowd were really angry, and I think the message was conveyed: Hate is not welcome here.

My fear about this action is that there were many in the crowd who have as much hate in their hearts as Fred Phelps does. As I watched the goings on (and yes, I was glad to see them retreat), what kept running through my mind and heart is “God loves everyone.” I hope that my LGBT brothers and sisters, while they express their anger and their pain at the acts of hate perpetrated by Phelps and his ilk, can find enough room in their hearts to love, forgive, and feel compassion for these most misguided people.

Passive Resistance: Buy Nothing Day

Each year the tradition of International Buy Nothing Day seems to grow, and this year is no exception. Unfortunately, more attention to this movement may be greater this year because of the growing economic crisis. While it is difficult not to get caught up in the anxiety inducing news reports of the growing likelihood of us entering a depression, much less a recession, I think that this may be a good thing, an opportunity for more people to realize that our capitalist consumer economy as it exists now is not sustainable, and perhaps people will be more apt to change their ways. Buy Nothing Day is one of the trends growing in popularity that shows that people may indeed be looking for healthier economic alternatives.

When I hear news about a Wal-Mart employee getting trampled on Black Friday, or Evangelical Christians laying hands on the Wall Street Bull in a misguided and idolotrous petition to God to save our economy, I have to wonder how things got to these insane extremes.

As part of the movement towards building a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and spiritually healthy economy, people around the world reclaiming Black Friday as International Buy Nothing Day. Last year, instead of drawing names and exchanging gifts, my family agreed to draw names and give gifts to charity in each other’s honor. And we are not alone.

Here are some of the many resources availble to support the International Buy Nothing Day movement (these may or may not be directly related to BND, but they are all in the same spirit):

After today’s tragic news about the Wal-Mart employee getting trampled, and the fact that people are still swarming at the malls, it is clear that people are slow to learn and we still have a long way to go. However, the growth each year of the BND tradition gives me hope that people can indeed change their ways.

Protesting Proposition 8 – It’s All About Love

Today, protests will be happening around the country. LGBT folks everywhere are speaking out for marriage eqality. When I stop to think about it, I get chills thinking that Gillian and I were there and witnessed the spark that set all of this off.  Though we’re no longer residents of California, I’m so glad that we can march in solidarity here in Chicago today, and perhaps even bring the movement for marriage equality here with a stronger presence.

For more information about rallies happening around the country, please visit this site.

I will be among many other livebloggers from around the country, and you can follow our tweets here. Also, you can find some video covereage of the action in San Francisco here.

Peace everyone! Let’s remember that this is all about love!